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October 31, 2006

Another opportunity for Lula to learn from Chavecito

From the Beeb, some interesting words on the newly re-elected Lula and what his mandate could mean:

Brazil's newly re-elected President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has set out priorities for his second term.

In television interviews, he said the emphasis would be economic development, the redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, and education.

Lula, as the left-leaning President is known, won more than 60% of the vote in Sunday's poll, beating his rival Geraldo Alckmin.

He interprets that as a mandate to continue prioritising the poor.

Speaking on Brazilian television, the president said a layer of Brazilian society had for centuries been marginalised and if those people could be levered up into the middle class everyone would benefit.

In the coming days Lula's challenge is to assemble a solid coalition in Brazil's parliament, and some commentators are pessimistic about prospects for significant legislation.

"I believe that Lula will have a very difficult time in Brazil for the next four years," said Claudio Cuto, a politics professor at the Catholic Pontificate University of Sao Paulo.

"Governments in Brazil need to change the constitution if they want to govern," he said, adding that the government and the opposition were sharply polarised.

"If you want, for example, to change the tax structures in Brazil you have to amend a constitution and so you need super majorities to do it."

This is not something any one leader, or small cadre of leaders, should attempt alone, as it invariably results in oligarchy and entrenched inequity. Therefore, it might be a good time for Lula to take a leaf from Chavecito's book and convene a constituent assembly, elected by the people, to write a new, more equitable constitution that lets leaders get real work done on the people's behalf.

It did wonders for Venezuela!

Quotable: John Kerry finds his spine at last

"I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy. If anyone owes our troops in the fields an apology, it is the president and his failed team and a Republican majority in the Congress that has been willing to stamp -- rubberstamp policies that have done injury to our troops and to their families.

"My statement yesterday -- and the White House knows this full well -- was a botched joke about the president and the president's people, not about the troops. The White House's attempt to distort my true statement is a remarkable testament to their abject failure in making America safe. It's a stunning statement about their willingness to reduce anything America, the raw politics. It's their willingness to distort, their willingness to mislead Americans, their willingness to exploit the troops as they have so many times at backdrops, at so many speeches in which they have not told the American people the truth.

"I'm not going to stand for it. What our troops deserve is a winning strategy, and what they deserve is leadership that is up to the sacrifice that they're making. Sadly, this is the best that this administration can do in a month when we have lost 100 young men and women who have given their lives for a failed policy. Over half the names on the Vietnam wall were put there after our leaders knew that our policy was wrong, and it was wrong that leaders were quiet then, and I'm not going to be quiet now. This is a textbook Republican campaign strategy: try to change the topic, try to make someone else the issue, try to make something else said the issue, not the policy, not their responsibility.

"Well, everybody knows it's not working this time, and I'm not going to stand around and let it work.

"If anyone thinks that a veteran, someone like me, who's been fighting my entire career to provide for veterans, to fight for their benefits, to help honor what their service is -- if anybody thinks that a veteran would somehow criticize more than 140,000 troops serving in Iraq, and not the president and his people who put them there, they're crazy. It's just wrong.

"This is a classic GOP textbook Republican campaign tactic. I'm sick and tired of a bunch of despicable Republicans who will not debate real policy, who won't take responsibility for their own mistakes, standing up and trying to make other people the butt of those mistakes.

"I'm sick and tired of a whole bunch of Republican attacks, the most of which come from people who never wore the uniform and never had the courage to stand up and go to war themselves.

"Enough is enough. We're not going to stand for this.

"This policy is broken, and this president and his administration didn't do their homework. They didn't study what would happen in Iraq. They didn't study and listen to the people who were the experts and would have told them. And they know that's what I was talking about yesterday. I'm not going to be lectured by a White House or by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who's taking a day off from mimicking and attacking Michael J. Fox, who's now going to try to attack me and lie about me and distort me. No way. It disgusts me that a bunch of these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country, are willing to lie about those who did. It's over.

"This administration has given us a Katrina foreign policy: mistake upon mistake upon mistake, unwilling to give our troops the armor that they need, unwilling to have enough troops in place, unwilling to give them the humvees that they deserve to protect them, unwilling to have a coalition that is adequate to be able to defend our interests.

"Our own intelligence agency has told us they're creating more terrorists, not less; they're making us less safe, not more. I think Americans are sick and tired of this game.

"These Republicans are afraid to stand up and debate a real veteran on this topic, and they're afraid to debate -- you know, they want to debate straw men because they're afraid to debate real men.

"Well, we're going to have a real debate in this country about this policy. The bottom line is, these Republicans want to distort this policy. And this time it won't work, because we are going to stay in their face with the truth.

"And no Democrat is going to be bullied by these people, by these kinds of attacks that have no place in American politics. It's time to set our policy correct.

"They have a stand still and lose policy in Iraq, and they have a cut and run policy in Afghanistan. And the fact is our troops, who have served heroically, who deserve better, deserve leadership that is up to their sacrifice, period."

--John Kerry, D-Gonads

Team Black vs. Team Orange

Just in time for Halloween, kitties in the colors of the day are moshing all over a Double Wedding Ring quilt:

I don't know who won, and I don't care. Too busy laughing my ass off.

Happy Halloween, and please--in all your gorging, don't forget to leave some for the trick-or-treaters!

A quickie double-header

Nikolas Kozloff has responded, after some delay, to Roger Lowenstein's NY Times hit-piece on him, his recently published book, and (predictably) its subject, Hugo Chavez. He takes on the talking points in the same substantive manner as I did some weeks ago. (Hey Nik, no fear, I got your back!)

The Venezuelanalysis piece also includes Ron Jacobs's review (originally from CounterPunch) of Kozloff's book--a much better one in every sense than Lowenstein's little shop of errors. Factual, concise, objective and, most importantly, not reeking of the stuff that makes Lowenstein's nose so brown.

Jeezus, why can't the Times hire more real journalists and writers, and fewer apologists for everything that's wrong with capitalism? I guess the leftish bias of reality is just too much at odds with their editorial line. After all, this is the same paper that savaged Bill Clinton with abandoned glee during the Lewinsky kerfuffle. It's not as if we don't know what side their bread is buttered on!

Astonishing!

A Bloomberg news article, of all things, manages to take an objective, nonjudgmental tone (or something reasonably like it) on the Venezuela-Cuba relationship. It's too long to excerpt meaningfully here, so I'll just give you the link.

October 30, 2006

Catapult the propaganda, baby...

Sometimes, you gotta read between the lines, baby. Like when the Pentagon comes out with shit like this, you need an interpreter to translate it from gibberish into plain English, dig?

The Pentagon has set up a new unit to focus on promoting its message across 24-hour rolling news outlets, and particularly on the internet.

The US Defence Department said it would expand its public relations work to fight "inaccurate" news stories.

Notice how "inaccurate" is in quotation marks? That means it means something other than it normally means, baby. Namely, that the news stories in question are, in fact, quite accurate, to the Five-Sided Hellmouth's collective dismay. Makes it hard to recruit new warm bodies to stuff in the cannons, y'see.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said media manipulation by enemies of the US is the only thing keeping him awake at night.

I'm sorry, y'all, but I have trouble picturing Rumsferatu actually sleeping, never mind losing sleep. He's undead, so all he really does is lie in his coffin in pretended repose, meditating on all the blood out there that he hasn't yet drunk to further maintain his unnatural unlife. So he's lying a bit more squirmily of late; who the hell cares? So his batwings are a bit more itchy than usual. It IS almost Halloween, after all!

Domestic support for the war in Iraq has fallen as US mid-term polls near.

See what I mean about trouble and warm bodies, baby?

The opposition Democrats are trying to win control of Congress from the Republicans.

And they'll probably succeed, too, unless Diebold has something to say about it. In which case, there could well be civil unrest. Now THAT is something for them to lose sleep (or in Rumsferatu's case, suspended animation) about!

The newly-established Pentagon unit would use "new media" channels to push its message, a spokesman said.

"We're looking at being quicker to respond to breaking news," the spokesman said.

"Being quicker to respond, frankly, to inaccurate statements."

Translation: Gotta get that lie around the world before the truth has a chance to put its boots on!

According to the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington, the Bush administration does not believe the true picture of events in Iraq has been made public.

He says the administration is particularly concerned that insurgents in areas such as Iraq have been able to use the web to disseminate their message and give the impression they are more powerful than the US.

All right, now, this is complete bullshit, man. Anyone who's been reading Baghdad Burning ought to know that the Pentagon's biggest worry on the Internet isn't triumphalist missives from the "insurgency" (translation: Iraqi resistance guerrillas and terrorists the US created), since the power grid in Iraq is at best erratic (and Internet access very spotty as a result), but the left-wing blogosphere in Europe and the Americas, which is in league with the forces of Truth.

A Pentagon memo seen by the Associated Press news agency said the new unit will "develop messages" for the 24-hour news cycle and aim to "correct the record".

A spokesman said the unit would monitor media such as weblogs and would also employ "surrogates", or top politicians or lobbyists who could be interviewed on TV and radio shows.

Translation: Fake interviewees to create more fake news.

Gotta catapult that crapaganda, dig?

Keep your Jesus off my...WHAT?

And seeing as I'm female, I say KEEP YOUR ROSARIES OFF MY OVARIES!

October 29, 2006

Be-bop-a-Lula!

He's Brazil's baby!

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been re-elected in a clear victory, polling more than 60% of the vote against rival Geraldo Alckmin.

In a victory speech, Lula said he would govern for all Brazilians and intensify efforts to alleviate poverty during his second four-year term.

"We will give attention to the most needy. The poor will have preference in our government," he said.

Lula narrowly failed to win in the first round, forcing Sunday's run-off.

In a speech in Sao Paulo, Lula promised to boost growth and reduce inequality to put Brazil on track to reach the ranks of developed nations.

"The foundation is in place, and now we have to get to work," he told crowds of supporters who had taken to the streets in celebration, waving Workers' Party flags.

Supporter Danusia Alves said: "For me it is a great happiness because we have a wonderful government. The people who were never taken care of now are being taken care of."

Well, Lula's record is basically good, but a tee-tiny tad mixed. On the one hand, he's taken brave steps to haul people out of poverty. On the other, the biggest causes of poverty--landlessness and illiteracy--are still rampant. And the landless people's movement is deeply disappointed in him.

Let's hope Chavecito can show him the light on his weak points, and maybe transplant a little Chavismo to Brazil. The literacy missions that were a huge success in Venezuela can be applied just as readily there, albeit on a larger scale; this is where Venezuela's oil boom could come in handy to help another neighbor country. And Lula may want to brush up on Chavecito's land-redistribution reforms, too. (Did you know that JFK is the original author of that idea? So much for the "Castro communist" accusation.)

In any event, Lula is on solid ground now, with a Chavecito-like 60% of the vote. That's a mandate, folks. Let's hope it gives him the confidence to make some big changes--and tell the IMF where to shove its "conditionalities".

Sowing distraction, reaping destruction?

Not if you-know-who can help it. Yes, folks, it's Chavecito time again!

First, a nasty little hit-piece from the Miami Herald (you know--BushCo's Latin American propaganda arm?):

Federal officials are investigating whether Smartmatic, owner of Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems, is secretly controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, according to two people familiar with the probe.

In July, a Treasury Department spokeswoman disclosed that a Treasury-led panel had contacted Smartmatic, and a company representative said his firm was ''in discussions'' with the panel. At the time, those discussions were informal. The government has now upgraded to a formal investigation, the two sources said.

Sequoia's electronic voting machines operate in 17 states. In Florida, the machines are used in four counties: Palm Beach, Indian River, Pinellas and Hillsborough.

Miami-Dade and Broward use other technology.

Concerns about Smartmatic are keen on the eve of the Nov. 7 election, given fears that someone with unauthorized access to the electronic system could create electoral chaos. Some critics believe that if the Venezuelan government is involved, Smartmatic could be a ''Trojan horse'' designed to advance Chavez's anti-American agenda.

Note the familiar rhetoric that's oh-so-casually slipped in there: "Chavez's anti-American agenda". Uh, what anti-American agenda? There isn't any! Repeatedly it's been emphasized, both by Chavez and other representatives of Venezuela, that he has no quarrel with the people of the United States, but rather with their government. And seeing as that government has repeatedly tried to dislodge him from his duly elected post, it's not hard to see where that quarrel comes from!

Of course, any charges that Chavecito could be meddling in the Florida elections, either directly or by proxy, are false. But you have to read further down to see that:

The probe stems from a May 4 letter to the Treasury Department by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., raising concerns about Smartmatic's purchase of Sequoia last year. Maloney said she was disturbed by a 2004 article in The Miami Herald revealing that the Venezuelan government owned 28 percent of Bizta -- a company operated by two of the same people who own Smartmatic. Bizta bought back those shares after the article appeared, and Smartmatic now characterizes the deal as a loan.

Bizta and Smartmatic had partnered with Venezuelan telephone giant CANTV to win a $91 million contract to supply electronic voting machines for Venezuelan elections, including the controversial 2004 referendum Chávez won.

Smartmatic categorically denies any link to the Chávez regime. ''Smartmatic is a privately held corporation, and no foreign government or entity -- including Venezuela -- has ever held an ownership stake in the company,'' Mitch Stoller, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail to The Miami Herald.

Again, though, note the dodgy language: "controversial 2004 referendum". As if Chavez's victory were anything other than what it was: freely and cleanly achieved, approved by former US president Jimmy Carter and other outside observers. Whatever "controversy" there was around it was sown by a discredited, US-financed opposition group called Sumate, which did everything it could to rig the results--from signing up deceased persons on the recall petition (the "signers", however, were too dumb to attempt forging the signatures in a handwriting other than their own, so whole pages were full of different names in the same hand) to ginning up poll results that mysteriously flip-flopped the actual figures so that Chavez's numbers magically appeared under the other side's tally, and vice versa. But the Herald won't go into that (it is, after all, squarely in the State Dept's pockets, as Cuba has so recently and embarrassingly shown), so I've helpfully included some interesting links for you to peruse at your leisure and learn the real story.

I'll spare you quotations from the rest of the Herald's lengthy and ultimately meaningless screed (go to the link and read it, if you're of a mind to have your eyeballs glazed), but I will summarize by saying that in all the dreckery lies not one nugget of proof that the Venezuelan government is in any way involved with Smartmatic. Who is involved? Uh, a couple of very wealthy Venezuelans--the demographic most likely to hate Chavez's guts--with, quel surprise, strong anti-Chavez connections.

So sorry! No story. But the alarm and hysteria cranked up by this piece will no doubt resonate with the Miami Mafia, who are always eager to believe the worst about Chavez, even when there's nothing behind it.

Meanwhile, with no evidence of Venezuelan governmental interference in US elections, guess what's happening in Venezuela? If you said US governmental interference in Venezuelan elections, pass Go and collect $200!

In 2004, President Bush tried to impress likely voters who frowned on his long vacations by insisting that he was "working hard." Since then, it has become perfectly obvious that his work ethic has fallen short on key issues from relief after Hurricane Katrina and producing desired results in the "war on terror," to putting forward viable solutions to the US health care crisis or boosting the stagnating economy.

There has been one issue, however, on which the Bush administration has worked diligently: a long and expensive effort to unseat democratically elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. As the December 3rd Venezuelan national elections approach, in which President Chávez is standing for reelection, the Bush administration, in violation of US and Venezuelan law, is providing financial, diplomatic, and strategic support for Chávez's opponents.

Yes, it's hard work, all right. Throwing money at a bottomless pit takes one helluva pitching arm. It also takes one helluva spin machine to characterize all this as "promoting democracy":

Top secret US government documents released through Freedom of Information Act requests show that the administration's anti-Chávez operations may even pre-date the September 11th terrorist attacks and the launch of the "war on terror." According to human rights and international law expert writer Eva Golinger, leaders of the infamous April 2002 coup met with top Bush administration officials at least six months prior.

Golinger, who spoke with Political Affairs from Caracas by telephone, authored the 2005 book The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela. Translated into several languages and sold all over the world, The Chávez Code comprehensively revealed the role of the US government, through its military entities, diplomatic channels, and through funding agencies such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), in helping to plan and execute the coup. Through its role in meeting with coup leader Pedro Carmona, provision of military equipment, and diplomatic pressure on regional governments to accept the coup as legitimate, the Bush administration played a decisive, multifaceted role in those illegal activities.

Documents Golinger unearthed during the investigation for her book showed that the CIA knew the exact details of the coup plan: stage a mass demonstration of political opponents of the administration, use sections of the Caracas police loyal to the opposition to provoke violence by shooting at the crowds, blame President Chávez for the violence, have military detachments with ties to the US military kidnap him, and then claim he had resigned. US government documents show, Golinger points out, that "part of the conspiracy was convincing the public, the media, and other governments that Chávez was responsible and therefore the coup was justified."

Once this plan was implemented, Carmona seized dictatorial power and by decree dissolved all of Venezuela's democratic institutions.

Emphasis added, in case those crucial bits didn't leap out at you all by themselves.

Golinger's book is an eye-popper, and I strongly suggest you pick up a copy if you don't have one already. The labyrinth of US interference in Venezuela is far larger than the not-so-complex money trail that the Miami Herald has traced around Smartmatic.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to say that all this jiggery-pokery will end up coming to naught, as it did in all previous attempts to re-rig Caracas to Washington's liking:

Though diplomatically this campaign has failed, Golinger regards it as another level of interference in Venezuela's election. Bush and Rumsfeld's accusations, as unmerited as they may be, are repeated throughout the US and Venezuelan media. The point of the Bush administration's accusations is not to prove necessarily that Venezuela poses a real danger, says Golinger, but to convince portions of the Venezuelan population that maybe they would be better off with a president that does not provoke such responses from the US government. Indeed, statements from the US government have been carefully coordinated with opposition political campaigns, which have consistently played on fears of the people Venezuela about these issues.

Despite this level of interference, President Chávez maintains a wide lead in public opinion polls (+/- 25 points) and his supporters expect to turn out voters in record numbers again.

For BushCo and the opposition, that's an Ouch.

For the rest of the world, though, it's a Woo-hoo!

Send in the US Supreme Court, that guy's been elected by a majority vote!

When pigs grow wings and fly

The Peruvian prime minister sure put his foot in it recently. Never ask what "it" is; just be thankful it didn't come out of YOUR mouth:

Venezuela rejected on Friday reported comments by Peru's prime minister predicting an end to President Hugo Chavez's support if oil prices fall.

"It is precisely those who continue accusing President Hugo Chavez of meddling in the politics of other countries who end up meddling in our politics," Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said, calling the declarations by Peruvian Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo "unacceptable."

Del Castillo was quoted in Peruvian media this week as saying that Chavez did not present a "stable proposal" and that his government would fail to leave a lasting mark.

"When the price of oil falls, 'Chavismo' ends," Del Castillo reportedly said.

"When the price of oil falls?" BWAHAHAHAHA! Oh stop, Jorge, you're killing me. You seriously believe the price of oil is still subject to the wild market fluctuations of the past? You haven't been paying attention lately, have you?

Listen, Jorge. Reputable scientists are saying we're probably past peak production right now. The easy-to-reach, easy-to-process light crude reserves of Saudi Arabia have been vastly overstated, and the truth about those has been hushed up for a long time. Saudi Arabia is over the hump, and will soon be played out, thanks to its long habits of denial and overproduction.

Iraq? Surrrrre it might pay for its own decimation, if only those companies for whom it was snatched weren't so greedy for profits. The profits of that war are privatized, and its costs socialized--that is, taxpayers will be financing the owners' habitual feast on the world's second-largest proven reserves. Isn't that special?

Iran? Uh, nobody wants to go there. The bulk of Iran's population is now young adults, of prime military recruitment age. If Dubya--or his successor--is dumb enough to start eyeballing Iran, thinking that the world's #3 proven reserves look tempting enough to risk American lives for, millions of young, healthy Iranians will put paid to that idea. And the price of oil will not fall; on the contrary, it will rise to heights that make the current stratospheric levels look knee-high.

Which leads us back to Venezuela. Venezuelan crude is heavy; it's more like liquid asphalt than oil. There's more oil under Venezuela than Saudi Arabia, when you get right down to it; it is not anywhere near its full production capacity. In that, it's one of the few oil countries not past peak. It's not the most lucrative potential target for an oil war, though, because of the heaviness of the oil, so it's on the back burner for Washington right now. Extracting and refining it costs a lot more, but at current prices, it's more than feasible. Remember, Chavez originally figured on a modest price band of $22-28 US per barrel as being optimal for OPEC; this would enable him to produce and profit sufficiently to fund his Bolivarian Revolution. What's the current price, again? (Sheesh...no wonder the project's moving at such a roaring pace lately...)

Now, not to be too hard on you, Jorge--you're probably working with old information here. Perhaps you're thinking of the failures of Carlos Andres Perez, who was president of Venezuela in the 1970s. Perez, you see, had some of the same ideas as Chavecito. Use oil revenues to fund infrastructure and public services--great idea! But Perez's plans foundered when the price of oil plummeted--not so much because of market vagaries per se, but because of weakness and corruption within OPEC, and Venezuela itself. When a member country breaks its own OPEC quota, and other OPEC countries follow suit, can anyone honestly expect the price of oil to remain at a level that makes grand plans feasible?

So Perez got greedy (he made a pretty penny, or should I say bolivar, from oil, during his presidencies), and ultimately Venezuela paid--and suffered. Is this situation looking strangely familiar? I refer you back to Iraq: privatized profits, socialized costs.

Meanwhile, Chavecito has done one thing that you refuse to give him credit for, Jorge--he has learned from his predecessor's mistakes. And he won't repeat them. When the price of oil drops a few dollars a barrel, as has recently happened, he orders a production cut at PDVSA. Presto! Chavismo at work--maintaining control so the market freefalls of the past remain...well, in the past. And so do the blunders that tripped up Carlos Andres Perez.

And how's that Bolivarian experiment going? Well, the results speak for themselves. Chavismo is such a roaring success that it can now be exported. Bolivia is following suit, using its vast natural gas reserves to finance its own projects. And Chavecito has enough left over that he can easily offer deep discounts on CITGO oil to impoverished people in the US, as well as selling to Cuba and several Caribbean countries at a similar discount. Plus, he's bought up Argentina's debt (and turned a profit on those debt bonds!), getting the IMF off that country's neck--for good, one can hope. He's even expanded his mercy missions, offering free medical treatment in Cuba to anyone who can't afford it at home. Thousands all over Latin America have benefited.

And all this was made possible by controlling the production and price of oil, plus the added effects of Peak Oil and Gulf War II (for which there also appears to be no end in sight.)

No, I don't think Chavismo is in any danger of an early fall. Unless pigs suddenly grow wings and learn to fly.

October 27, 2006

Michael J. Fox on Limbaugh and stem cells

Like pretty well everyone who went to high school in the 1980s, I liked Michael J. Fox. Not in a screamy, crushy, posters-all-over-my-wall, die-for-him way (uh, that would have been the guys in Duran Duran), but in a he's-cute, he's-funny, I'm-proud-he's-Canadian way. This was a star who deserved his success. He packed a huge comic talent in a compact frame, with so much energy bristling off him that you could almost see it, the way people's hair stands out around their heads like a halo when they're full of static electricity. He's the little guy with a big personality, who often gets in over his head but, with sheer moxie, manages to haul his cute butt out of every scrape. There is simply no way you could overlook him, and that's what carried him on to success beyond the usual teen-idol crap. On Spin City, he was the manic glue that held City Hall together. As Marty McFly, he went Back to the Future not once, but three times--each movie eagerly anticipated almost before the previous one was out--thus proving to be a real-life time-traveller. On Family Ties, he humanized Alex P. Keaton--a character who was so arch-Republican that he would have been a complete and insufferable snotball, like Tucker Carlson, if anyone else had played him. No one else could play him! Fox's Alex could take a serious pratfall and actually learn from it. It was that rare ability to make and keep Alex real that kept me watching what would otherwise have been just another forgettable '80s sitcom.

Now he's battling a chronic, degenerative disease. Talk about taking a pratfall--only this one's not an act, and it's probably a helluva lot harder for him to pick himself up when his limbs don't quite want to co-operate. But the inner grace that made Michael J. Fox so easy to like, even when he played smart-ass Alex, has served him well, and now that everyday life is full of unintended pratfalls, heaven knows he can use it.

And he does.

He uses it to raise awareness of Parkinson's Disease. And also to garner support for the most promising avenue of future treatment, not just for Parkinson's but for a vast number of previously incurable conditions: stem-cell research. And though he shouldn't have to use it the way he's most recently had to--namely, to overcome the dirty campaigns of the far-right opponents of anything to do with stem cells and reproductive freedom--he's using it there, too, with all the characteristic aplomb of old. If anyone deserved to have the hope of being cured and going back to using his talent the way he did before he became ill, Michael J. Fox is surely that one.

Which is why it's truly disgusting to hear the way Rush Limbaugh slammed him this week, claiming his jerks and wobbles were just an act to gain sympathy--or that he'd deliberately neglected to take his medication in order to look sicker. This obviously is not the case. And that is why it's good to hear from Fox himself what's really going on. You come away with a greater sense of why he's doing what he does--and why what he really wants is not anyone's pity for his victimhood, but a cure. And most of all, you want as badly as he does for the research that could help him to go ahead--not just to see him cured, but so he and and everyone else in that situation can have a complete, healthy life. As he says, that's the REAL pro-life position. And it is unconscionable to let any ideology lay waste that hope.

So, here he is in his own words, talking with Katie Couric:

Hey Rush, how's it feel to get the smackdown from a little guy with more grace in his shaky pinky than you have in your entire corpulent carcass?

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Redemption for the cowboy hat

Hugo Chavez, lord of the llano!

And this head is entitled to the gear. Chavecito is, unlike Dubya, actually from a state where real cowboys ride the range. In fact, his own grandfather, Jorge Rafael Saavedra, was a rodeo worker, a coleador.

The spirit of the great plains lives!

October 26, 2006

Experimenting with YouTubes...

If you can see a CBC/The Fifth Estate video clip on Dick Cheney when you press Play, I've succeeded.

Enjoy!

One more illicit Colombian export...

...shared by, of all places, North Korea:

Colombia and North Korea are the largest producers of fake US banknotes, a report suggests.

The study by the US Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and Secret Service said that one in every 10,000 greenbacks was a fake.

It said more affordable equipment meant counterfeiting was getting easier.

[...]

About $450bn of the $750bn of US currency in circulation is held outside the US, with up to $70m estimated to be fake.

Colombia, the biggest supplier of illegal drugs in the US, was also the number one source of counterfeit money.

It accounted for about 15% of the 56.2 million counterfeit greenbacks in circulation in 2005.

North Korea is known among officials for its so-called supernotes.

"The US Secret Service has determined through investigative and forensic analysis that these highly deceptive counterfeit notes are linked to the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea and are produced and distributed with the full consent and control of the North Korean government," the report said.

Damn that Kim Jong Mentally Il! He sure knows how to hit 'em where it hurts. POW! Right in the pocketbook!

And Alvaro, you got some 'splainin' to do. Wasn't "law and order" a major plank in your recent re-election platform?

I seem to recall so...

How embarrassing!

The anti-woman, pro-death movement wins one in Nicaragua

This is absolutely disgusting. Not to mention unenforceable, unless the state becomes a willingly complicit murderer of women:

Nicaragua has approved a sweeping new law banning abortions, even in cases where the mother's life is at risk.

The national assembly approved the bill by 52 votes to none, and the bill is now likely to be signed into law.

Abortion has become a central issue in the campaign for Nicaragua's presidential elections on 5 November.

Left-wing Sandinistas in parliament supported the bill for fear of alienating Roman Catholic voters before the election, correspondents said.

The former Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was a defender of Nicaragua's limited abortion rights and a critic of the Catholic church when he led a left-wing Nicaraguan government in the 1980s.

He has since been reconciled with the church and has become a strident opponent of abortion.

Ortega, you're a disappointment. You're gonna face hell on Earth for that one, especially if you're elected!

One really must question the necessity for this, given that the situation in Nicaragua was already dire for women seeking to end a pregnancy:

Nicaragua already has strong anti-abortion laws, with women and doctors who take part in abortions facing prison sentences of up to six years.

A section of the bill increasing those sentences to up to 30 years was not approved by the parliamentarians, and so will not be signed into law by the country's President, Enrique Bolanos.

Gee, what will they do now? Give women and doctors life sentences just for an operation? Jail women for miscarrying? For how long? Gotta be consistent with existing murder/manslaughter laws regarding this, you know!

There IS opposition:

The timing of the vote was opposed by Nicaragua's medical association and UN representatives, who warned that the debate had become politicised ahead of the election.

Reuters news agency reports that hundreds of people protested outside the National Assembly in the capital Managua on Wednesday night, saying the law would be a death sentence for the some 400 women who suffer ectopic pregnancies in Nicaragua each year.

"They are forcing women and girls to die. They are not pro-life, they are pro-death," protester Xiomara Luna told the agency.

...and while they are right about all that, I wonder: Are they enough to stand up against convinced fools like this?

Before the vote, Orlando Tardencilla, one of the members of the sub-committee which proposed the bill, said: "Unless abortion is made a crime, then people can simply come out and say: 'I have the right to an abortion, this is my body and I can decide.'

"That's like saying: 'I'm allowed to commit murder because these hands are mine, this gun is mine.'"

What this kind of facile argumentation misses is that murder isn't just killing, it requires malice aforethought--by legal definition. What woman ever had an abortion just because she hated her fetus so much that she wanted it to suffer and die miserably?

And again, as I said: Are women also going to go to jail for miscarrying? Will accidental pregnancy loss be legally characterized as manslaughter under this law? If you're going to define abortion that way, you may as well be consistent about it. That way, you leave a route open for legal challenges to succeed, and clarify, and decide the matter in favor of freedom once and for all.

A tortured silence

Two items on something we're not supposed to talk about. Shhhhh...shhh, the word of the day is TORTURE.

First, from the UK Guardian:

According to a secret intelligence report, the CIA offered to let Germany have access to one of its citizens, an al-Qaida suspect being held in a Moroccan cell. But the US secret agents demanded that in return, Berlin should cooperate and "avert pressure from EU" over human rights abuses in the north African country. The report describes Morocco as a "valuable partner in the fight against terrorism".

Yeah, I'll just bet. Say, isn't Morocco the country Michael Moore said offered an army of trained monkeys to help fight the War on Terra?

Sorry. Digression. Onwards:

The classified documents prepared for the German parliament last February make clear that Berlin did eventually get to see the detained suspect, who was arrested in Morocco in 2002 as an alleged organiser of the September 11 strikes.

He was flown from Morocco to Syria on another rendition flight. Syria offered access to the prisoner on the condition that charges were dropped against Syrian intelligence agents in Germany accused of threatening Syrian dissidents. Germany dropped the charges, but denied any link.

After the CIA offered a deal to Germany, EU countries adopted an almost universal policy of downplaying criticism of human rights records in countries where terrorist suspects have been held. They have also sidestepped questions about secret CIA flights partly because of growing evidence of their complicity.

And to think all this went on while the wingnutters in the US were running their mouths about "Old Europe" and flapping their pyorrheic gums about "cheese-eating surrender monkeys". (Sorry, we can't seem to get away from monkeys here lately. They're flying out of the woodwork at me. Help! Auntie Em!)

The disclosure is among fresh revelations about how the CIA flew terrorist suspects to locations where they were tortured, and Britain's knowledge of the practice known as "secret rendition". They are contained in Ghost Plane, by Stephen Grey, the journalist who first revealed details of secret CIA flights in the Guardian a year ago. More than 200 CIA flights have passed through Britain, records show.

He describes how one CIA pilot told him that Prestwick airport, near Glasgow, was a popular destination for refuelling stops and layovers. "It's an 'ask-no-questions' type of place and you don't need to give them any advance warning you're coming," the pilot said.

The CIA used planes of Air America, a group of private companies it secretly owned, and a second company, Aero Contractors. A CIA Gulfstream V jet, frequently used for the secret rendition of prisoners, flew to Diego Garcia, the British Indian Ocean territory where the US has a large base, the book says. Grey plans to publish more than 3,000 logs of the CIA flights on the internet this week.

CIA pilots, sometimes using false identities and whose planes regularly passed through Britain, ran up huge bills in luxury hotels after flying terrorist suspects to secret locations where they were tortured. But they revealed their whereabouts and identities by indiscreet use of mobile phones and allowed outsiders to track their aircraft's flights.

On one occasion, CIA pilots and crew lived it up in Majorca after rendering Benyam Mohammed, an Ethiopian brought up in Notting Hill, west London, to Afghanistan where he was tortured. Benyam was detained in Pakistan early in 2002, and then flown to Morocco, where he says he suffered appalling torture. He is being held at Guantánamo Bay.

Benyam has said in a statement to his lawyer that he was tortured for more than two years after being questioned by US and British officials. He says that while in Morocco he was shown photos of people he knew from a west London mosque, and was asked about information he was told was supplied by MI5.

The government has consistently denied it has ever actively cooperated in the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" programme". The Foreign Office said yesterday that the government had "not approved and will not approve a policy of facilitating transfer of individuals through the UK to places where there are substantial grounds to believe they face a real risk of torture".

Looks like that much-talked about hushed-up denial is still going on. Rule Britannia? CRUEL Britannia is more like it! So glad I didn't buy into that "We are all Londoners" crap on 7/7/05. I wouldn't want to be one right now, as I'd be hanging my head in shame over that modern Neville Chamberlain, Toady Blair.

Now, for something completely different...uh, not really:

Some countries try to refute criticism over their treatment of prisoners by saying they are only following the U.S. example on handling terror suspects, a U.N. human rights expert said on Monday.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. investigator on torture, told a news conference that "all too frequently" governments respond to criticism about their jails by saying they handled detainees the same way the United States did.

"The United States has been the pioneer of human rights and is a country that has a high reputation in the world," Nowak said. "Today, other governments are kind of saying, 'But why are you criticizing us, we are not doing something different than what the United States is doing.'"

He said nations like Jordan tell him, "We are collaborating with the United States so it can't be wrong if it is also done by the United States."

The United States can do no wrong! They torture, we torture, everybody tortures. Whatsamatteryou? You still believe in those quaint old Geneva Conventions? You must be another surrender monkey. Don't you know that if we don't torture people, even completely innocent ones, the terrorists will win???

Nowak, an Austrian law professor, said the new U.S. law adopted earlier this month, which outlaws rape and most forms of torture, still allows harsh interrogation methods rights advocates say border on torture. And it does not permit appeals in U.S. federal court.

But he acknowledged U.S. difficulties in closing Guantanamo, saying other countries were refusing to accept prisoners and that Washington did not want to send them to countries where torture was certain. In Europe to date, only Albania has offered to accept them.

Albania! Now THERE's a place you don't hear much about. Gee, I wonder why.

And say, isn't freedom on the march in Iraq now that Saddam is gone?

In Iraq, however, Nowak said there were improvements in U.S.-run jails and those of its allies following the torture scandals at Abu Ghraib. But now prisoners say jails run by Baghdad's Interior Ministry and militia are brutal.

"They would prefer if they are in detention to be in the international detention facilities rather than the Iraqi detention facilities," he said.

So, to recap: We don't torture, we don't turn them over to others to torture, we certainly don't send them to other countries to be tortured, and above all else, we do not call it torture. It's "extraordinary rendition", got that?

And if you disagree, we'll waterboard you till you pass out and can't say nothin' not no more.

It's even more disgusting than I thought...

Crooks and Liars has a video of Keith Olbermann and Sam Seder discussing the Rush Limbaugh's nasty, crass, baseless attack on Michael J. Fox. Man, is it something. Olbermann and Seder are their usual awe-inspiring, bang-on selves. But the Pigman? He really takes the bagel. They have footage of him waving his arms and shaking his blubber all over the place as he mocks Fox's involuntary, medication-related movements.

It's gross, I warn you, but you had better see it so you know just how low the enemy will go.

Minutemen make monkeys of themselves

A couple of days ago I blogged on a certain noteworthy Zapatista demonstrating just how easy it is to get past a Minuteman (pronounced "myNOOTman", as in very small and not well endowed) patrol.

Well, today, Raw Story has revealed confirmation as to just what fools these myNOOTmen be--and how foolish they want you and me to be:

The Minuteman Project sent out a press release late Tuesday evening hyping their Web site, which is showcasing 1,000 documents allegedly obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request to the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) by World Net Daily columnist Jerome Corsi. Most widely known for his longtime attacks on Democratic Senator John Kerry's military record, Corsi also co-authored a book about the Minuteman "battle" to secure America's borders.

SPP was launched in March of 2005 as a trilateral effort by the United States, Canada and Mexico to increase the security and improve the quality of life of North Americans through greater cooperation and information sharing. Many conservative critics view the trilateral initiative as a threat to U.S. sovereignty.

"The documents give clear evidence that the Bush administration has created a 'shadow government,'" Corsi said in the press release.

Corsi claims to have "hundreds of pages of e-mails from U.S. executive branch administrators who are copying the e-mail to somewhere between 25 to 100 people, a third of whom are in the U.S. bureaucracy, a third of whom are in the Mexican bureaucracy and a third of whom are in the Canadian bureaucracy."

"They are sharing their laws and regulations so we can 'harmonize' and 'integrate' our laws into a North American structure, not a USA structure," Corsi said.

In plain English, I believe that translates to BOOGAboogabooga! Evil Canadians! Evil Mexicans! We should be dominating them, but instead, they are dominating us! And they do it by pretending to be collaborating with us!

Raw Story continues:

The documents can be viewed on the Minuteman Project's Stop the Security and Prosperity Project page, but there's no mention of any particular "smoking gun" which could proves the contention that the White House has created a shadow government. The anti-immigration group appears to consider the mere existence of communications among bureaucrats from the three countries as proof of their assertions.

One series of letters show U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez writing to North American Steel Association leaders in all three countries thanking them for their "suggestions on enhancing the competitiveness of the steel industry" in North America ....

"The North American industries' recommendations for launching a North American steel strategy were well received and formed the basis for the Committee's discussions on a program of work going forward," Gutierrez wrote to assorted Steel Association chairmen and presidents.

A RAW STORY examination of documents related to the "steel strategy" as presented at the Minuteman Web site did not turn up anything untoward.

But Corsi maintains that the "documentation he received is missing key pieces."

"We received very few actual agreements, though many are referenced," Corsi said. "Many of the work plans described lack the work products which the groups say they produced."

Translation: We got nuttin', but we're still soiling ourselves with fear.

Yes, folks, things is mighty desperate in Wingnuttia right now. They are soiling themselves with stuff they pulled out of their own asses.

(Not that they hadn't always, but they're really reaching for it this time.)

October 25, 2006

One sick Pigman

This bit of blather is exactly what we'd expect of the drug-addled Rush Limbaugh.

The Pigman went over the top again, attacking Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson's Disease rather severely, as "either off [his] medication or acting" when he appeared in an ad supporting a Democratic candidate in Missouri for her stand on stem-cell research. In the video (available at the link), Fox can be seen wobbling back and forth in spasms characteristic of someone with Parkinson's who isn't OFF his meds, but rather on them so constantly that he now manifests another condition in addition to the Parkinson's--namely, chorea.

Now, granted, the Pigman is no doctor, so he couldn't have known that. But Christ, can't that man at least grow ANY decency, if he can't grow a working brain? Fox may have a bad case of Parkinson's, but at least his thinking faculties are unimpaired. Which is more than one can say for Rush Limbaugh.

I sure hope for his own sake that Limbaugh never develops a condition that might require stem cell research in order to find a cure.

Oh wait...scratch that, he's already got one. He went deaf a few years back as a result of recreational drug use, when he was taking massive doses of prescription painkillers containing oxycodone and hydrocodone! Yes, dittoheads, you've been scammed. Your hero is a junkie and has never been off the stuff, by the sounds of things.

Why? Well, I guess reality was just too painful for him to take anymore. Or maybe he just got sick of hearing his own pompous voice; that can happen. (Happens to me every time I hear him prating. Which is why I don't listen unless, as here, I'm doing it in the combined interests of truth and science. But I do it the smart way--everytime he lies, I take a swig of beer.)

I'm sure those dope-shot auditory nerves could be regenerated by using stem cells. But since he's out there bravely drumming up anti-stem-cell support in the interests of saving the cute little white (sniff) Snowflake Babies, we may never know.

At least, not as long as he's alive.

I guess that's the one bit of poetic justice in all this insanity.

October 23, 2006

Making monkeys of the Minutemen

Not that they needed much help, since they are all flying monkeys already. But the ever obliging Zapatista, Subcomandante Marcos, recently demonstrated just how stupid they are...and how futile it is to try to fence off the US/Mexico border:

Subcomandante Marcos crosses the border without permission

Narco News has some insight into what he's really up to.

October 22, 2006

Scary Thought #3: Fred Phelps had sex. Several times.

With a WOMAN. Which is how he produced enough spawn to fill his so-called church. Don't you pity her? (And don't you pity all those brainwashed, mentally abused offspring even more?)

But here's the kind of sex he'd really love to have, if only he weren't so bunged-up in the head...

Fred Phelps Secretly LOVES Fags!

I bet gay men everywhere are praying he dies BEFORE he gets to do it.

More proof that Chavecito is right about Guatemala

Let's face it...if the US hadn't put Guatemala up to it, why would they come out with this now--when they're ahead in the balloting?

Guatemala's foreign minister has said the country may withdraw its candidacy for a United Nations Security Council amid a row with Venezuela.

Gert Rosenthal said Guatemala may withdraw "in time" - but only if Venezuela did not win the seat.

The UN General Assembly has been holding votes since Monday to choose between the Latin American candidates.

Guatemala has regularly polled the most votes, but neither side has got the two-thirds majority needed.

"We will continue the battle and, in time, when we are absolutely convinced that we cannot continue, we will then meet with our regional group and search for another candidate," Mr Rosenthal told a radio station according to news agency AFP.

Representatives of Latin American countries met on Wednesday to find a compromise in New York but their talks were not conclusive.

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela said he would never surrender in what he described as the battle against the United States and its proxy Guatemala.

And it looks like Chavecito was right. Guatemala lacks conviction in itself here, and no wonder. With its sickly human rights record and its long history of US-sponsored dictatorships, death squads and ethnic cleansing, it's a joke candidate at best. The only reason it's gotten as many votes as it has, is because there are that many nations still afraid of the US and the loss of its financial backing.

Freedom to vote one's conscience is a beautiful thing--and who says money doesn't corrupt absolutely? Chavecito was therefore also right when he said the devil had been to the UN before him and the podium still stank of brimstone. He wasn't talking literally, but he was right nonetheless. The devil's trademark is his habit of buying souls, after all. And in the sense that a country's soul is embodied in its UN vote, the devil of the UN has bought up more than a hundred souls via the World Bank, USAID, the NED and the IMF. Chavecito's good nose hasn't steered him wrong yet--read The Chavez Code to see just how much of Venezuela's soul the State Dept. has tried to buy in the past. Maybe the tide is finally turning, and that devilish business initiative is finally going down the tubes--let us pray!

On a personal note: A journalism school classmate of mine used to talk on and on about Guatemala--the poverty, the oppression, the yadda-yadda-yadda. You couldn't have a beer with him and not hear about Guatemala this, that and the other thing. Everytime he did it, I used to groan inwardly, roll my eyes (also inwardly), and think, Oh Lord--Ken's going off on Guatemala again.

Well, now I know where he was coming from. Guatemala is indeed a rat's nest of human misery, has been for a long time, and yes, the US is indeed behind it just as Ken said. That's why I'm gratified to see Chavecito fighting back on humanity's behalf. If he prevails, the people of Guatemala too will win.

Ken, please forgive me for not "getting" it sooner.

October 21, 2006

Death of a President: a review the Right doesn't want you to read

Warning: This entire post is one big, fat spoiler--and I'm not just talking plot. If you really don't want to know what Death of a President is like, stop reading now.

Just saw Death of a President on Google video. It's been available there since October 15. And before anyone screams "piracy", let me tell you that it isn't--if anything, it will promote sales of the film, which got rave reviews at the Toronto Film Festival last month. Why? Because Death is simply brilliant and well worth the money to see in theatres (assuming it gets the broad distribution it deserves), or, better still, buy on DVD. This is a dense, nuanced movie you will want to watch many, many times.

The concept of Death is simple: a fictional movie about the assassination of George W. Bush in October 2007. It is based on an event that not only hasn't happened, but is highly unlikely to happen. It is made in documentary fashion, however, so it looks and feels entirely real. It uses actual news footage of Bush and members of his administration, combining it with fictional "interviews", grainy images from security cameras, and plenty of other authentic-looking faux coverage. This innovative combination creates an effect as shocking as if we were watching the events of 9-11, recapitulated in a 90-minute news special. Thus it manages to avoid the pitfalls of traditional drama, which tends to dwell on the key moments while glossing over the inconvenient little details. And in Death, every least little detail counts--as we eventually learn the hard way. For in this movie, an innocent man is convicted on flimsy but seemingly persuasive evidence, while the assassin takes his crime to the grave before the law can catch up to him.

The film opens with several aerial views of Chicago, set to the voice of a Muslim woman speaking in Arabic, with English subtitles. She is, as we later learn, the wife of the man convicted of the shooting. What she says is the last thing we'd expect to hear, though. Far from applauding either 9-11 or the assassination of Bush, she condemns both as examples of "not thinking or seeing ahead". And she says that if she could speak to the assassin, she would ask him what he was thinking when he pulled the trigger: "How couldn't you think about the consequences of your actions? And what this would do to your son's future? To America? To your country? Did you really not care?"

This opener is just the first of the film's many surprises. Without a narrator to explain it to us, we are left to think the events through for ourselves--and to question everything we see and hear, even when the speaker seems well-meaning, genuine and sympathetic (or not). The conclusions we reach are not the ones we've been primed by the major media to expect, however. Everything we "know", it turns out, is wrong.

In the film, some of those who are most shocked to be caught flat-footed are the ones you'd least expect to be mistaken--the head of the president's security detail, for example. Or the president's speechwriter. (The overconfident Bush, of course, doesn't do anything you wouldn't expect of him; he cockily blunders his way right into the deathtrap per pattern.) These authority figures don't come off as draconian, though; they are all well-intentioned and easy to like on a plain human level, whether you agree with them or not. The police deputy's face doesn't harden immediately when he comes out with what he really feels: "I think there's a new breed of anarchist. These are the people that have the mentality that anything goes, and it's a sad fact but the only way to deal with this kind of individual is with brute force."

It's a chilling statement, but the dissenters he's talking about almost live up to the harsh characterization. There are 12,000 of them--a small crowd, considering that most anti-Bush demos in major cities are at least ten times that size. Most look like the sloppy, fanatical young anarchists we've been told are The Enemy. And their enmity is not portrayed in a sympathetic light. We see their distorted faces in extreme, unflattering close-up as they yell slogans like "Chicago hates Bush!" or "No justice, no peace--fuck the police!" (Some even cheer at the news, later on, that Bush has been shot.) But as unappealing as they may seem, and as confrontational and defiant as they get when the riot police show up to beat on them, none of them turns out to be the killer. Even the one singled out early as a suspect, though he condemns Bush as a war criminal worthy of the death penalty and is just generally arrogant and snotty, is simply not the one. He turns out to be guilty of nothing more than demonstrating aggressively--and wanting to hang an anti-Bush banner.

It's as hard to know exactly who shot J.R.--er, George W.--as it is to even realize at first that he's been shot. We never get a clear view of Bush being hit. Things don't slow down right as the shots ring out. The real-time speed of events shows restraint on the part of the filmmakers--an unwillingness to overdramatize what's going on, which is already dramatic enough. It also adds to the atmosphere of general confusion. This lends it a great deal of verisimilitude. The viewer is caught off guard.

But even the forensics team is ultimately stumped, first by the abundance of forensic evidence, and later by the lack of anything definitive. The gun is soon found, but the serial number is missing and there are no legible fingerprints on it. Hundreds are detained--often on the flimsiest of "probable" causes--in an eerie echo of the very situation that took place after 9-11. One is a Yemeni-American whose father came on a visitor's visa and simply decided to stay. Another is a black Iraq war veteran whose father also served--in Gulf War I. The secret serviceman in charge of security admits that "we looked at Islamic names first" when searching for suspects, but denies it was racial profiling. (In this he may have been telling the truth, since the cocky "anarchist", the first suspect we actually see, is a 28-year-old white man.)

We get another eerie echo of post-9/11 events when a Syrian American, a legal immigrant who was once drafted into the Syrian military, is detained. A fraudulent Syrian "dissident" similar to Ahmed Chalabi makes the rounds of the news-talk shows with a wild tale about Bashar al-Assad and his supposed involvement. The Patriot Act undergoes a new mutation as a result, that makes it even more repressive and abusable than it already is.

Meanwhile, the funeral ceremony for Bush moves ahead. There is the black horse with the reversed riding boot in the stirrup; the fly-past in the "missing man" formation; the flag-draped casket on a gun carriage, escorted into the Capitol rotunda by a military honor guard. If all this looks like you've seen it before, you probably have--it is in fact the footage from the ceremony for Ronald Reagan. The eulogy Dick Cheney gives for Bush is an abbreviated version of the one he gave for Reagan, with the name of the deceased digitally altered to fit.

The scene then cuts from the speechwriter's praise of Bush's "moral commitment" and godliness to a downtown Chicago mosque, just as the muezzin calls the "Allahu Akbar". This mosque, according to the secret serviceman, has a connection to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. The Syrian suspect, Jamal Abu Zikri, attended this mosque, and has been to Pakistan. Is he the one? The FBI investigator seems to think so. And it turns out that Zikri has been to the terrorist camp, but he chickened out when he found out what he was supposed to do as a "defender" of Islam. Nevertheless, Zikri is tried and found guilty, to the dismay of his wife Zahara--the woman whose voice is heard in the opening scenes of the film, talking about how she cried over 9-11 and wishes she could speak to the assassin.

Meanwhile, the FBI investigator has his doubts--he talks of the pressure to perform, and how the lab fitted the results to suit the hypothesis of guilt, rather than the other way around. He resigns in protest. And even the secret serviceman admits he was wrong in his early assumptions. Zikri is not guilty--but he doesn't even have leave to appeal, under Patriot III--the act that supposedly empowers the authorities with more "tools" to investigate. The flawed investigation that results, however, throws doubt onto Patriot III's usefulness as an investigative aid. It seems all the act does is remove the obligation to give every suspect due process.

Then the story shifts to another suspect--Casey Claybon, the black soldier newly returned from Iraq. Casey is disillusioned and bereaved--his brother David, also a soldier in Iraq, died when his Humvee flipped on the road near Mosul. Casey has had marital trouble and drug problems; the day of the assassination, he was in Chicago looking for work--and a fix. Casey is detained as a suspect, then released. As soon as he is let go a few days later, he calls his mother--who is terribly upset and in tears. His father--a decorated major who served in Gulf War I--has been found in his car, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Casey suspects that it's because he never got over David's death. But the suicide note hints at something more complicating: "...there is no honor in dying for an immoral cause. For lies. I love my country, but I love God and the sons he gave me even more. I must do the right thing by you and by David. George Bush killed our David and I cannot forgive him that."

Casey's mother cannot believe her husband did it, and the authorities are quick to assure Casey that his father wasn't their man. But it turns out that Aloysius Claybon was in possession of a detailed map of Bush's movements that day--the exact motorcade route and security arrangements, right down to the letter. Casey comes forward with the truth, hoping to set the innocent man free, but in the end, Zikri is still in prison, unable to appeal--and the identity of whoever furnished Aloysius Claybon with the documents remains a mystery. Meanwhile, chillingly, Patriot III is now permanent law.

Much fuss has been made about Death, most of it by right-wing Bushniks who are more than happy to condemn the film sight unseen. They haven't watched it, and by god, they don't want you to watch it, either. They claim that it sends a dangerous message, and that the terrorists will win if you see it. That's their loss. It shouldn't be yours, though. The message it sends is indeed dangerous, but not to America; on the contrary, it strikes a blow against the notion that arbitrary measures which grant inordinate power to the president will ever protect anyone--even himself--against terrorism. Thus, it harks back to what Ben Franklin once wrote in Poor Richard's Almanack:

"Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power."

Which, come to think of it, is a message very dangerous to the right-wing view of the world--indeed, perhaps the most dangerous one of all, since it undermines everything the Right is about.

No wonder they don't want you to see this movie.

October 20, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: An early valentine

But still, a very lovely one:

Hugo Chavez's love letter to Venezuela

Oil Wars has a translation, so I won't bother writing my own. (You can also see the TV version of the ad there.)

If I could, I'd vote for him in a heartbeat. But since I'm stuck here in the Great North (por ahora) and thus ineligible, I can only put up the following vote of confidence:

I Love Hugo Chavez

There, I said it. And if any of you have a problem with it--that's YOUR problem!

Kick ass in December, Chavecito.

10 million votes, and one little cutie!

Hasta la victoria siempre.

October 18, 2006

Nastier than a baboon's butt

Yessirree Bob...that's John Bolton.

John Bolton, the Ass of BushCo at the UN

And this is why I posted that unflattering, but undoubtedly true, picture of him:

After two days and 22 rounds of voting, Guatemala remains ahead of Venezuela in the contest for a seat as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. However, 124 votes are required to win the seat and Guatemala has only averaged 108, Venezuela trailing with an average of only 76. Tired of the marathon voting sessions, delegates decided to suspend voting until Thursday.

With neither country prepared to back down the voting looks set to continue. It could go on for days until either one of them achieves 125 votes or they both accept there is an irresolvable stalemate. In that scenario a compromise candidate would be agreed between all of Latin America's countries.

The irritation is starting to show at the UN. The Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Nations Francisco Arias Cárdenas today continued to blame United States' "blackmail" tactics for Venezuela's inability to take the lead in the contest for the UN Security Council seat.

But he also implicitly pointed the finger at Guatemala. Holding up the front page of El País, the Spanish daily, which showed US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, whispering into the ear of his Guatemalan counterpart, Gert Rosenthal, Arias Cárdenas said, This is the pressure we are fighting, why doesn't Bolton come to this microphone and declare that the United States will remove the pressure, will withdraw the money and then countries will have the liberty to vote their conscience".

And in case you need reminding of why Guatemala can't be allowed this seat, I cordially submit:

By supporting Guatemala to be on the U.N.'s most powerful body, the international community will be abandoning many of the human rights principles the institution was created to uphold, say Guatemalan activists and their allies in the United States and other countries.

"Having failed to solve its own peace and security problems," they said in a letter to the General Assembly, "our country has very little to contribute to solving problems related to international peace and security."

The letter, drafted by the Guatemalan NGO Association for the Study and Promotion of Security and Democracy and the U.S.-based Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala and signed by nearly 90 other organisations, accuses the Guatemalan government of lacking respect for the rule of law and highlights its continued inability to protect human rights defenders.

A second letter, organised by the Guatemalan Peace and Development Network and signed by over 30 groups and 230 notable individuals from 25 countries, said that the "State of Guatemala has allowed, and occasionally has contributed to, the deterioration of the situation of human rights and the proliferation of violence, again making these issues a matter of profound concern for the international community."

And from the same article, a reminder of just why the US has decided to throw its weight behind such an obvious loser:

The U.S. is supporting Guatemala's candidacy because it does not want to see Venezuela, the other candidate, on the Council. The socialist-leaning government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is a staunch critic of Washington's role in international politics.

With a General Assembly vote scheduled for next Monday, observers say the U.S. is stepping up pressure on many countries in the region that may support Venezuela.

For example, the U.S. has agreed to sell F16 fighter jets to Chile, but, according to the Los Angeles Times, warns that Chilean pilots "will not be trained to fly them if the government supports Venezuela's bid".

Observers say that under increasing pressure from Washington, many Central American governments are expected to vote for Guatemala. However, the U.S. strategy of "carrots and sticks" has failed to produce similar results in the Caribbean region.

Last July at its summit, the 15-member Caribbean Community, whose region controls 14 votes in the General Assembly, publicly announced that it would opt for Venezuela as the non-permanent member of the Security Council.

In South America, both Brazil and Argentina have also expressed full support for Venezuela, whose leaders have said and time and again that, if elected, they would represent the voices of the global south.

I have a strong sense that Chile, which has abstained in the balloting, would have voted its conscience--that is to say, for Venezuela--had Auntie Condi not talked jive-turkey nonsense to the Chilean ambassador. This whole "would not understand" thing is the most unsubtle arm-twisting. So's the F-16 gambit, which they also tried on Venezuela. Chavecito's response? Learning how to say "fuck you" in Russian, and replacing the aging jets with Sukhois instead.

How lucky for the State Dept. that Chile's economy is considerably weaker than Venezuela's right now, and that they don't have gobs of oil money to put into some Russian language lessons of their own. Not to mention, of course, that hideous coalition that gives the right far more influence than it deserves. The same that's maintaining the dead hand of Pinochet-era laws right now, no less. (Hmmm, I bet that's also why the Chilean economy has never quite recovered to where it was under Allende, before Tricky Dick and Henry Kissinger insisted that it be made to "scream". Will some "libertarian" apologist for fascism kindly explain to me how a repressive state can abruptly turn liberal, but only towards abusive big corporations--and how that is supposed to be good for the economy?)

Now, take what happened with Chile, and multiply it by whatever the number of votes is that Guatemala got. And realize that this groundswell of phony "support" has been building for several years already. Nice to know that old dirty wars die so hard...isn't it?

October 17, 2006

Forget "islamofascism"--what about REAL fascist terrorism?

Leave it to the Socialist Worker to get all worked up about this. Where was the rest of the fucking media? Off screwing the pooch again, of course. I mean, what else is there to do on a slow news day when no Muslims get up to mischief and it's only a bunch of white rightards getting their lumpish butts arrested?

Police claimed last week that they had seized what was potentially the largest ever haul of chemical explosives plus a rocket launcher and a nuclear and biological protection suit.

A lawyer acting for the prosecution said the people that the haul was seized from had "some kind of masterplan".

But for once the national media did not react with stories about a plot to blow up a football ground or bring down airliners, or some other gross threat.

There were no lofty editorials about "home grown terrorists".

Home secretary John Reid did not hold a special press conference peppered with Churchillian rhetoric. The entire national press coverage in the first week after the arrests amounted to 52 words.

And the reason was that those arrested were not "Muslim terrorists" but people linked to the Nazi British National Party (BNP).

Robert Cottage, 49, of Talbot Street, Colne, appeared before Burnley magistrates last week charged with possession of an explosive substance.

He was charged under the Explosives Substances Act 1883 (not terrorism charges). Some 22 chemical components are believed to have been recovered from his house.

Cottage stood for the BNP in the May elections in the Vivary Bridge ward of Pendle Council.

And 62 year old retired dentist David Bolus Jackson, of Trent Road, Nelson, was charged with similar offences.

It has been reported that police discovered a rocket launcher, a nuclear biological suit, chemicals and BNP literature at his home.

Unlike the Forest Gate raid in east London in June, which involved 250 police, some of them armed, Lancashire police entered Cottage's home with a handful of unarmed officers.

There was no "air exclusion zone" or assaults on neighbours, no closing down of surrounding streets, and no smear stories about those arrested.

Superintendent Neil Smith instantly moved to reassure residents and stressed, "It is not a bomb making factory." He was able to add that it was not related to terrorism. The pair have now been remanded in custody and will appear at Burnley Crown Court on 23 October.

Emphasis added.

Note that since these are ultra-white, ultra-right, ultra-English terrorists, they're not even labelled as such--not even when the police are raiding their dens of iniquity. And their so-called "party" is allowed to stand in local elections as if it were perfectly respectable, even though it's as fascist as Hitler's ugly little mustache. Do you suppose the same would happen if they were brown and overtly Islamist?

Shit, just look at what happened to this bunch of black guys in Miami. A weird cult, yes. Islamist? No. Dangerous? Not very--and likely to disintegrate of its own accord over time, seeing as poverty and mental instability were factors in the group's coalescence. Set up by the FBI? Sure looks that way. Why? Anyone's guess, although my educated one is that BushCo badly needs fall guys right now to make them look like they're doing something about terror. After all, the War on Terra's not going so great, in case you hadn't noticed. (The media is doing its level best to make sure you don't notice, trust me. They're barely touching this story about a poorly constructed US ammo dump in Iraq being blown up by those supposedly technologically inept brown camel-jockeys.)

Plus, there's a certain racist factor at work in the Miami Seven case. It's no news that the Repugs have long gone well out of their way to deny non-white voters their civil rights at every possible moment they stand to exercise them. Hell, the late SCOTUS hack Rehnquist was one of those who "challenged" black voters, long before his star rose in the federal judiciary. This is what lynching gave way to, once it became apparent that voting-rights laws had been made and were going to be upheld. Jim Crow wasn't really dead, though--he was just in the witness protection program. Anyone who wasn't white and whose English was dodgy, was subject to severe scrutiny by right-wing pollside harassers, and many still are. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to disenfranchisement--election irregularities in the last decade have been stealthy, but they've hit non-whites hard. In electoral terms, it's a virtual genocide.

Gee, what do you suppose those "respectable" British Nazis recently busted for terrorism have in common with the Republicans on this side of the pond?

And what do you bet the media won't be reporting on that anytime soon?

October 16, 2006

Quotable: Che Guevara on poverty

"That afternoon we went separate ways: Alberto following up the doctors while I went to see an old woman with asthma, a customer at La Gioconda. The poor thing was in an awful state, breathing the smell of stale sweat and dirty feet that filled her room, mixed with the dust from a couple of armchairs, the only luxuries in her house. As well as asthma, she had a bad heart. It is in cases like this, when a doctor knows he is powerless in such circumstances, that he longs for change; a change which would prevent the injustice of a system in which until a month ago this poor old woman had had to earn her living as a waitress, wheezing and panting but facing life with dignity. In these circumstances people in poor families who can't pay their way are surrounded by an atmosphere of barely disguised acrimony; they stop being father, mother, sister or brother and become a purely negative factor in the struggle for life and, by extension, a source of bitterness for the healthy members of the community who resent their illness as if it were a personal insult to those who have to support them. It is then, at the end, for people whose horizons never reach beyond tomorrow, that we see the profound tragedy which circumscribes the life of the proletariat the world over. In these dying eyes there is a humble appeal for forgiveness and also, often, a desperate plea for solace which is lost in the void, just as their body will soon be lost in the vast mystery surrounding us. How long this present order, based on an absurd idea of caste, will last I can't say, but it's time governments spent less time publicizing their own virtues and more money, much more money, funding socially useful projects."

--Ernesto "Che" Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries

October 14, 2006

Personal responsibility? No thanks, I'm a conservative.

Poor Mel Gibson. First he makes a sadomasochistically-tinged movie about the death of Jesus, true to the conservative pro-Roman line if not to actual history, that fleeces the evangelicals and reaps a boatload of not so ill-deserved controversy. Then he goes on a drunken tirade in which he makes inexcusable antisemitic remarks. Guess what he blames?

That's right...everything but what he SHOULD blame, which is his own decidedly antisemitic upbringing. That part is sacrosanct, because it's his Faith.

Mel Gibson has said his anti-Semitic outburst in July may have stemmed from resentment over the criticism levelled at The Passion of the Christ.

Gibson's 2004 depiction of Jesus Christ's crucifixion had been attacked by Jewish leaders, who said it could incite hatred towards Jews.

He told US TV's Good Morning America he was "ashamed" of what he said.

"I was subjected to a pretty brutal public beating. I thought I'd dealt with that stuff," he said.

"But the human heart can bear the scars of resentment, and it will come out when you are overwrought and you take a few drinks," he told ABC interviewer Diane Sawyer.

In the interview, screened over two days, the actor and director also said his statement to police that "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" grew out of concerns about violence between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Asked by Sawyer, "what are the Jews responsible for?", Gibson replied: "They're not blameless in the [Middle East] conflict."

[...]

Gibson himself is a conservative Catholic and has been vocal about his opposition to abortion, birth control and divorce.

He also denied being influenced by his father, Hutton Gibson, who has publicly said he doubts six million Jews were killed by the Nazis.

Some would give him kudos for trying to come clean, but I say this attempt won't wash. I find the "not blameless" part about the Lebanon invasion very telling. Blaming the government of Israel (which is predominantly, but not entirely, Jewish) for it is one thing, blaming "the Jews" (a far broader group of people) is quite another! And while responsible commentators say the invasion was the doing of Israel and take pains to make that distinction, Gibson just lumps all the Jews of the world together, in effect. That's very sloppy thinking, and must not go unchallenged.

In fact, sloppy thinking is a conservative hallmark unto itself. It's the same mental indigestion that holds, for example, that the Jews will all burn in hell because they haven't accepted Christ as their savior.

If Mel Gibson is really serious about "trying to heal" himself, as he claims, he'll have to deal with his mucky upbringing and its mental legacy sooner or later, and work to educate himself to the contrary. Otherwise, he'll end up as nothing more than a dry drunk.

Just like a certain other unaccountable, deeply-in-denial prominent conservative I could name here, but won't.

UPDATE: Mel's been analyzed--and found wanting. What a surprise.

October 12, 2006

BTW, Gov. Murkowski--you might want to eat something...

...like your WORDS. I hope you kept them soft and sweet, and went easy on the pepper! Seems that someone in Washington doesn't exactly share your opinion of a certain red-shirted ex-paratrooper in Venezuela...and neither does your country's ambassador!

U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman told Reuters yesterday that he had no objections to Venezuela's discounted heating oil program and wished more companies would follow suit. Similarly, U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, said he applauds Venezuela's position of condemning North Korea's nuclear weapons test.

Energy Secretary Bodman said about Venezuela's discount heating oil program, "I can't find my way clear to object to Venezuela being charitable." To him, it is "a charitable contribution and I wish more companies did it."

Ever since last winter, Venezuela has been providing heating oil at up to 40% discount to poor communities in 17 states of the U.S. Last year it provided 40 million gallons of discounted heating oil and this year the program has been expanded to 100 million gallons, to benefit 1.2 million people. The program is being carried out in a cooperative effort between the Venezuelan owned Citgo Corporation and a wide variety of U.S. community groups.

Bodman had expressed his support for the deal already late last year, when he said, "We view it, as corporate philanthropy. We're all for that. Nobody in the Energy Department, or in the government for that matter, is going oppose that. If that's what Mr. Chavez and his colleagues who own CITGO choose to do, I'm certainly not going to criticize," Bodman told CNN last Dec. 9.

Last year, when heating oil costs were sky-rocketing, the Bush administration had sent out letters to oil companies, asking them to help ease the cost of heating oil in winter. The only company to respond to the call was Venezuela's Citgo. Some commentators and politicians, though, are re-considering their support for the program because of President Chavez's reference to President Bush as "the devil" during last month's opening of the 61st UN General Assembly in New York.

Emphasis added.

I love how Bodman spins it as "corporate philanthropy"; well, whatever floats his boat. If it salves his capitalistic conscience to call it that, who am I to say him nay? At least he's expressed approval, and made an attempt, however backhanded, to shame other corporations into doing the decent thing. (I doubt they'll step up to the plate--too busy wallowing in ill-gotten riches--but at least their greedy gaffe has been duly noted by the next-to-last person I'd expect to see doing so.)

Meanwhile, William Brownfield might soon find his ass recalled to Washington; he's softened his own tone somewhat where Chavecito is concerned:

In another unlikely act of appreciation, the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, said today that he applauds the Venezuelan government's position condemning North Korea's atomic weapons test.

According to Brownfield, Venezuela's position "coincides with the position of the rest of the international community in condemning this nuclear test."

So even Chavecito's foes have managed to swallow a lump of humble pie. Let's hope it sticks to their ribs.

Now, Gov. Murkowski--how's about you bellying up for a slice? You look to me like you could use one.

Now, charitable donations are solicited...

...to finance hardcore stupidity, profiteering and public disinformation in Alaska:

Sent: Tuesday, October 10, 2006 5:14 PM

From: Robert Corbisier robert_corbisier@gov.state.ak.us

To: undisclosed-recipients (i.e. a round-robin email)

Subject: Chavez offer of fuel oil to Native Alaskan villages

Thank you for contacting the Office of the Governor regarding Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' offer to provide home heating oil to villages in Alaska. The Governor asked me to respond on his behalf.

President Chavez offered to have his government controlled oil company, CITGO, provide free fuel directly to consumers in rural Alaskan villages which have a certain percentage of Native households.

Neither President Chavez nor CITGO approached the State of Alaska for consultation, consent, or assistance in providing this fuel. In reacting to villages rejecting this fuel, Governor Murkowski stated, "While the high cost of fuel is something that is heavily impacting rural Alaskans, President Chavez' use of Alaska as a pawn in his international game to forward his dictatorship's agenda is deplorable," and called tribal members who reject the free fuel "outstanding Americans."

In Alaska, the federal government does not have treaties with any tribes, yet we have 229 federally recognized tribes spread through over 100 villages in rural Alaska along with tribes on the state's very limited road system. Alaska has only one Indian reservation. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, passed by Congress in 1971, established a series of regional for-profit corporations along with for-profit corporations in each village.

Individual Alaska natives who were eligible to enroll in their corporations at that time usually received shares in both their local village corporation as well as their regional corporation. In addition, regional non-profit corporations formed to provide a variety of services to the Alaska Natives in their region. The corporations are independent of the federally recognized tribes.

Alaska's rural villages contain a mixture of organized municipal governments and traditional tribal governments, often with these entities coexisting in the same community, and occasionally with these entities merging to create efficiencies.

CITGO approached the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council (AI-TC) to assist in coordinating the free fuel delivery. AI-TC purports to be a statewide organization that represents tribal governments, but many tribes chose not to associate themselves with AI-TC. In turn, the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council approached the regional non-profit corporations for assistance at the local level.

Because the vast majority of Alaska is unconnected by roads or a power grid, most rural communities generate their own power locally using diesel fuel purchased in bulk. Much of this bulk infrastructure has been paid for by the State of Alaska and the United States federal government. Without roads, fuel for the winter is delivered to most of these communities by barge in the fall before the rivers and harbors freeze.

While Alaska produces nearly 20% of US domestic crude oil, Alaska has limited refinery capacity, and depending on the circumstances Alaska will occasionally even import crude oil. Much of our refined petroleum, even in urban centers, comes from refineries on the west coast and is barged to Alaska.

While this makes Alaska a part of the general West Coast market, Alaska's geographic isolation puts it in its own very localized market. Fuel prices may not drop in relation to Lower 48 prices since the barge that brings a particular load of fuel will last several months and competition is less intense, and therefore the price per gallon for the end user reflects the price at the time of the bulk purchase plus delivery costs and markup.

Small communities have limited competition for bulk fuel deliveries and the local end user markets are very small; many of Alaska's villages are less than 100 people. These factors all lead to very high fuel prices in rural Alaska.

This is the third year in a row that Alaskans, and indeed all Americans, have faced high winter fuel prices. No villages have frozen during the last two winters due to fuel shortages. The State of Alaska does have several energy assistance programs for Alaskans. General information about Alaska's energy initiatives can be found at the Alaska Energy Authority's website at http://www.aidea.org/aea/index.html/

The Power Cost Equalization program is a subsidy to provide fuel for electricity generation to communities at rates that are closer to those rates paid in Alaska's larger communities such as Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau.

Communities can apply for the Bulk Fuel Revolving Loan Fund, which is a low-interest loan for bulk fuel purchases. Governor Murkowski created the Bulk Fuel Bridge Loan for communities with a poor credit history that cannot obtain a loan from the Bulk Fuel Revolving Loan Fund, funded the Municipal Energy Assistance Program for grants to municipalities, and pushed to add state funds to federal grants under the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Recently the Alaska Legislature passed the Governor's proposed change to Alaska's oil tax system, which triggered a $183 million payment to endow the Power Cost Equalization program.

While Alaska does have $34.5 billion in the Alaska Permanent Fund, the Alaska Constitution prevents government from using the corpus of this fund for state services. The Alaska Legislature annually appropriates the earnings from the fund to pay a dividend to Alaska's residents, many of whom depend on this money to help them with the high cost of fuel.

While Alaska also receives significant money through federal appropriations, this is due to the federal superintendence that the federal government maintains over Alaska's land and resources. Specific federal appropriations, such as the funding to connect the hub-community of Ketchikan (a city of 8,000 which serves an area of nearly 14,000 and maintains daily jet service from Alaska Airlines via Boeing 737) via bridge to Gravina Island which contains its airport, comes with restrictions which would prevent spending those funds on other projects such as purchasing fuel.

Information on the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, the regional non-profit corporation where the villages of St. Paul, St. George, Nelson Lagoon, and Atka are located, can be found at http://www.apiai.org/ That organization has established an account to receive donations for fuel purchases. According to the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, donations to assist the affected villages can be made at Key Bank through an account titled " Unangan Energy Assistance Fund" C/O Key Bank # 729681009001

Donations can be made at any Key Bank Branch Nationwide or Can be mailed to:

Unangan Energy Assistance Fund

c/o Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association

201 East Third Avenue

Anchorage, Alaska 99501

or

Unangan Energy Assistance Fund

c/o Key Bank

P.O. Box 110420

Anchorage, AK 99510

For further information regarding donations or charitable deductions, please contact the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association directly.

I hope this information was helpful.

Sincerely,

Robert W. Corbisier

robert_corbisier@gov.state.ak.us

Special Staff Assistant

Office of the Governor

Emphasis added.

As you can see, Alaska is in an awful mess. Can you make hide or hair of that incorporation system? I can't--except that the words for profit jumped out at me. Basically, that tells me that each community there is something of a profiteer's private fiefdom. No wonder so many people there are fucked in the head and willing to believe any accusation of dictatorship that they hear coming out of a Repug governor's lying mouth.

And, despite all the profiteering, there's still not enough to go 'round. And worse, there seems to be all kinds of red tape involved in receiving federal or state funding for heating, electricity generation, etc. This means that those who've stuck their necks out for Bushie and frozen off their noses to spite their faces, are now reliant on charity. And that means a lot of overextended fellow-citizens, who themselves can ill afford to spare the cash, are now being called on to give till it hurts. Hardcore stupidity with a vengeance!

To those Alaskans who aren't fooled and are accepting the CITGO offer: YOU are the outstanding citizens. Keep on keepin' on.

UPDATE: Dr. Robert Millward has written a letter back to the office of this gentleman, chastising him severely for his ideological drivel. It's a thing of beauty. Go see!

October 11, 2006

Scary Thought #2: George on George

George (Washington) on George (Bush)

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

-- H. L. Mencken

Some people never learn history's lessons...

Alas, Argentina has its Hardcore Stupid too. And they're not only stupid, they're fascists who celebrate a criminal regime:

Some 5,000 right-wing demonstrators rallied in the capital, showing support for the former military dictatorship that waged a brutal campaign against suspected leftists.

The protesters gathered at a plaza in downtown Buenos Aires, chanting slogans and saying that the bloody tactics used by the dictatorship were justified in the fight against subversive groups.

"No soldier will ask for forgiveness," said Ana Lucioni, a member of the Commission to Honor the Victims of Subversion, one of the groups that organized the rally.

Official estimates blame the 1976-83 military regime for the disappearance of some 13,000 suspected leftists, though human rights groups put the figure at about 30,000.

Carrying signs with slogans such as "Victims of terrorism are never remembered," the protesters criticized leftist President Nestor Kirchner's efforts to bring those responsible for human rights abuses to trial.

Under Kirchner, a number of dictatorship-era human rights trials have been reopened that could send military officials — most of them retired — to prison.

Leftist organizations staged a counterprotest two blocks away to demand "trial and punishment for genocide." Police kept the two groups apart.

A similar rally by pro-dictatorship protesters was held in May. Several active military officers who attended were fired soon after.

And here are some of the victims of the dictatorship, seeking justice for one of their own:

More than 12,000 people demanding the safe return of a "Dirty War" prosecution witness missing since mid-September marched peacefully through the Argentine capital Friday night.

Led by the Mothers of the Plaza — a group still searching for loved ones missing from a 1976-83 military dictatorship — demonstrators jammed the downtown plaza outside the offices of President Nestor Kirchner, calling for the return of former torture victim Jorge Julio Lopez.

The protest, the latest in a series, was more than twice as large as one on Sept. 27, which drew about 5,000 people. Police stood guard and no incidents were reported.

"We are looking for justice, we are looking for Julio!" the crowd chanted, calling for prosecutors and judges to step up trials of suspected human rights violations from the dictatorship.

Lopez, 77, vanished on the eve of the Sept. 19 conviction of a former police investigator in the first "Dirty War" trial since the Supreme Court last year overturned a pair of 1980s amnesty laws shielding many former state security agents from prosecution.

Former officer Miguel Etchecolatz was convicted by a federal court of "genocide" and sentenced to life imprisonment for the disappearances of six people during the dictatorship.

Nearly 13,000 people are officially listed as killed or missing in what prosecutors have described as the dictatorship's systematic crackdown on dissent, known as the "Dirty War." Human rights groups say the toll is closer to 30,000.

And I suppose, to the bloodthirsty fascists who label all the victims of the dictatorship as "terrorists", that latter number is just not high enough. And human-rights activists are "terrorists, too!

October 10, 2006

Daniel Ortega gets an oil-powered boost

And guess who he's getting it from...

A Chavez supporter in Nicaragua cheers as Daniel Ortega's helicopter touches down near an oil depot

Yes, once again, a certain Venezuelan saves another country's day:

Venezuela was due to ship 350,000 barrels of oil to Nicaragua yesterday in an effort to boost the election campaign of Daniel Ortega, who hopes to lead the Sandinistas back to power next month.

The heavy diesel was intended to alleviate power cuts in the impoverished central American country and to show the benefits of friendship with Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez.

Mr Chávez has openly backed Mr Ortega, a fellow leftwing critic of the United States and frontrunner in the November 5 vote. The former Marxist revolutionary led a Sandinista government in the 1980s which fought a Washington-sponsored insurgency. The prospect of this cold war foe returning to office has alarmed the Bush administration. Its ambassador to Managua has warned Nicaraguans not to vote for Mr Ortega.

Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, has struggled to import enough fuel and experiences regular power cuts.

Alejandro Granados, refining vice president of Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA, said yesterday's consignment would ease the blackouts. The South American nation has one of the world's biggest oil reserves.

Under the deal, struck in April, Nicaragua's association of municipalities - as opposed to the central government - agreed to pay 60% of the cost and pay the remainder over 25 years at 1%, in hard currency, grain or beans. A tanker with a separate shipment of 84,000 gallons reached the Nicaraguan port of El Rama at the weekend. It was welcomed by Mr Ortega, who said it was the same port to which Fidel Castro sent aid to the Sandinistas in the 1980s.

Originally the oil was to be distributed to Sandinista-run towns and municipalities but now it will go first to regional power plants.

Whether this will swing the election to Ortega remains to be seen. He was already leading in polls before this move, and it probably won't hurt his chances any!

And in any case, I'm sure Nicaraguans are relieved to be seeing an end to the blackouts and brownouts.

Freezing their noses off to spite their faces--and for WHAT?

A misplaced sense of patriotism--misplaced because they've chosen to stand by a fake president who lied to and betrayed them, rather than a real one from elsewhere who's painfully honest--and only trying to help:

In Alaska's native villages, the winter cold is already seeping into plywood homes, many of the villagers are poor, and heating-oil prices are high.

And yet a few villages are refusing free heating oil from Venezuela, on the patriotic principle that no foreigner has the right to call their president ''the devil.''

The oil is offered by a company controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, President Bush's nemesis.

While some of Alaska's Eskimo and Indian villages say they have no choice but to accept, others would rather suffer.

''As a citizen of this country, you can have your own opinion of our president and our country. But I don't want a foreigner coming in here and bashing us,'' said Justine Gunderson, administrator for the tribal council in the Aleut village of Nelson Lagoon.

Nelson Lagoon residents pay at least $300 a month per household to heat their homes along the Bering Sea. Unemployment is rampant as salmon fishing slumps.

The Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association rejected the offer because of the insults Chavez has hurled at Bush. Chavez called Bush ''the devil'' in a speech to the United Nations.

Hardcore stupidity in Alaska, folks--it's frozen solider than a poopsicle outside an igloo.

Hope the high cost of your heating oil is worth it to you, folks--it's going to pay for a war based on lies.

And if your nose falls off from frostbite, hey...just remember, you did it to spite your face.

The next Chavecito?

Could be...

Rafael Correa makes his grand entrance on the political stage

Meet Rafael Correa...the Ecuadorian come-from-behind candidate who's got Washington majorly rattled:

Rafael Correa's surge in the polls from a distant third a month ago to first place caused investors to dump Ecuadorean bonds last week amid fears the former economy minister would move the South American nation into a leftist alliance with Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.

Both U.S. officials and Chavez — apparently wary of tilting the race with ill-advised comments — have been studiously silent about the rise of the 43-year-old Correa, who last month called President Bush a "tremendously dimwitted" president and vowed to oppose trade talks with Washington.

[...]

"There's no way of denying that a Correa victory in the second round would be a very significant assault against Washington's Latin American policy," said Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington. "And it would certainly bring in a new recruit for the Chavez bloc at a time when that bloc very much needs one."

Correa's candidacy follows that of other Chavez allies, including President Evo Morales of Bolivia, elected last year on a platform of opposing U.S.-backed anti-drug efforts in the region, and Ollanta Humala, the nationalist who came close to winning Peru's presidency this year.

Birns said the Bush administration doesn't want to "slam the door in Correa's face," or inadvertently help his candidacy with a response that might fuel already strong anti-U.S. sentiment.

For his part, Chavez could hurt Correa's campaign by openly backing him. Chavez has been accused of meddling in elections this year in Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua, and "his backing can be the kiss of death to a candidate," Birns said.

That was the case with Peru's Humala, who won the most votes earlier this year in the first round, but was handily defeated in the June runoff by center-left President Alan Garcia, who adroitly painted his rival as a radical Chavez pawn.

Correa, who has a Ph.D in economics from the University of Illinois, opposes resuming stalled free-trade talks with Washington and says he would not extend a treaty scheduled to expire in 2009 that lets the U.S. military use the Manta air base for drug surveillance flights.

He also wants to cut ties to international lending institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and has threatened a moratorium on foreign debt payments unless foreign bondholders agree to lower Ecuador's debt service by half.

[...]

University of Illinois economics professor Werner Baer, who was on the committee that approved Correa's doctorate, told The Associated Press last month that his former pupil's anti-U.S. spiel was probably a ploy to get votes.

"I doubt that he would be virulently anti-American like Chavez," Baer said, predicting Correa would likely follow the more moderate lead of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil.

Vote-getting ploy or not, I think it's an economically sound move to get the World Bank and the IMF off Ecuador's neck. By now it should be common knowledge that those two institutions poison everything they touch. Every country they've offered to "help", ended up ruined beyond recognition. Only those who've sent them packing have managed to thrive. And those who've stood up to them have gained respect. Just look at Chavecito; he practically wrote the book on it.

As for Chavecito being "virulently anti-American", he only seems that way if your idea of "American" equates to Washington ruling the world with an iron fist full of blood-stained dollars. To anyone who's been paying proper attention, though, he's shown quite clearly that his animus is not with the people of the United States, but with the undemocratically selected fools in charge. He stands up to them and calls them by their right names. Nothing wrong with that. Hell, even his abrasive way of doing so has actually gained more approval than not, if you ask around outside the corridors of toadying-to-power of Washington...

And if Ecuadorians decide that they'd rather have an intelligent young Chavecito-type who can accurately peg Dubya for what he is, than a truly dictatorial far-right relic like this one, well--who is anyone in Washington to boss them around anymore?

October 7, 2006

Toe-sucker Morris puts foot in mouth...again!

Too bad the end result is just as obscene as what he did with that hooker:

Your friendly neighborhood Citgo station is really the branch office of Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez's government: The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of El Loco's state oil company. Having recognized the connection, 7-Eleven Inc. is dropping Citgo as its gasoline supplier at more than 2,100 of its stores. .

Alex Baker, chief executive of AIG Baker Shopping Center Properties LLC, said his company would no longer patronize Citgo. Florida state Rep. Adam Hasner is exploring banning Citgo stations from the Florida Turnpike.

Chavez recently called President Bush the "devil" at the United Nations; he said the lectern smelled of sulfur after Bush used it for his own speech to the General Assembly. But, more to the point, El Loco is trying meddling in elections across Latin America — hoping to create more anti-American allies.

At home, he has gradually eroded civil liberties and now threatens to run the nation for the next 20 years.

He buys popularity in Venezuela by distributing massive amounts of oil revenues to the poor. While careful to keep them in poverty by repelling business and deterring foreign investment, he uses his petrol wealth to distribute free food and to pay for imported Cuban doctors in the barrios.

Yet a goodly proportion of his revenue comes from us when we buy our gasoline at a Citgo station. Why continue to subsidize the Chavez regime and its anti-American activity? That is a question each of us must answer each time we gas up.

Yes, indeed, this is a question you must answer--but not the way this piece of propaganda would have you do. Why? Because as usual, Dick Morris is full of well-financed right-wing lies.

Firstly, 7-11 did NOT cancel the service contract with CITGO; it was the other way around. Turns out that the contract was costing CITGO money that they would rather have put to good use, like helping the people of Venezuela and the many impoverished Americans in the good ol' US of A who have benefited from the cheap-oil program. (Oops, there goes that "anti-American" charge. D'oh!)

Plus there's the fact that under Chavez and Rafael Ramirez, the head of PDVSA (CITGO's parent company), the profits are way up--even with all the oil giveaways and the waste that the 7-11 contract was generating! Oh, those wacky socialists--their hard-headed, soft-hearted policies are so bad for business!

Then there's the "eroded civil liberties" hogwash--easily debunked by a simple read through the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela, which offended the right-wing oligarchy AND the Catholic church by being too civil-libertarian for their collective liking!

And how about that "threatening to remain in power for the next 20 years"? Some threat--he's actually putting it to a referendum to remove the term limits from the presidency, so the people can decide whether they want to elect whomever they like for however long they like! And if it just so happens to be him again and again for the next 20 years, well--what's so bad about that? He's done his country a world of good. Far from driving away foreign investment, as Morris insists, Chavez has actually increased it--and this has not kept Venezuelans poor, but is helping them out of poverty at an astonishing rate, because the money is being plowed into Venezuela and not back into oilmen's coffers. A feat which, I might add, his conservative opponents couldn't bring themselves to accomplish in the 40-odd years they remained in power. Under the Puntofijistas, Venezuela suffered an economic decline even worse than Africa's. Chavez is reversing that with policies that actually seem to hit the mark! If this is merely "buying popularity", as the Dickster calls it, then let's have more of it. It sure as hell works better than trickle-down economics. (Never ask what trickles down. And plug your nose, the smell is atrocious.)

And speaking of atrocious smelling trickle-downs: this dude is not only a toe-sucker, he's also an election fucker. Funny that he should mention Chavez "meddling" in Latin American elections--get a load of what Dick Morris did in Mexico! Hmmm...project much? At least Chavez confined himself to merely speaking ill of candidates he didn't like--and there's no law against that. But I'm pretty sure that what Dick Morris and Rob Allyn did was not legal in Mexico!

It's no wonder that the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz has written: "Morris's finger-in-the-eye approach is that of a political operative, not a journalist, since he often hurls charges without proof." This is one of 'em, folks. And with the Right Wing Noise Machine squarely behind him, paying him unreal sums of money for easy-to-debunk but seldom challenged drivel like this, I sadly don't see it ending anytime soon.

Who's the prostitute now, eh Dick?

Quotable: George Carlin on the American Dream

"It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it."

--George Carlin

All that and a bag of hamsters

Republicans are all perverts!

Yes, I know. I'm sick.

But they're perverted.

CubanaBomber Death Watch, Chapter 1

Well, I'll be god-damned. Looks like the CIA has a massive embarrassment on its hands.

Actually, how about a steaming pile of its own ca-ca? Because that's what Luis Posada Carriles is...and you know what they say about steaming piles of ca-ca. Good luck trying to wash off that smell, Lady Macbeth:

The US Justice Department has blocked the release of a Cuban-born exile wanted by Venezuela and Cuba in connection with a plane bombing.

The department opposed a court ruling that anti-Castro activist Luis Posada Carriles should be freed from a Texas detention centre pending deportation.

A department spokeswoman said he might abscond and pose a security risk.

The Cuban plane exploded over Barbados in 1976, killing all 73 people on board - including Cuba's entire fencing team.

The bombing occurred exactly 30 years ago and Cuba is holding a remembrance ceremony on Friday.

Mr Posada - a former CIA operative - is being held in the US for crossing illegally from Mexico after serving time in Panama for plotting to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro.

You know it's bad when the Beeb comes right out and calls him a CIA operative. That news agency is so neutral, they make Switzerland look biased.

But wait! There's more:

Venezuela has intensified its calls for the US to extradite one of its nationals who it blames for the bombing of a Cuban plane 30 years ago.

The country's foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, demanded the immediate extradition of Luis Posada Carriles, calling him a dangerous terrorist.

[...]

In contrast to Cuban officials, Venezuela's authorities are satisfied that Mr Carriles remains behind bars in the US following a decision by the US Justice Department late on Thursday.

Though they are still far away from putting Mr Posada on trial here, there is now a sense that things could be going their way.

At a news conference, Mr Maduro said that for the first time in history, US justice officials had publicly recognised that Mr Posada could have been involved in acts of terrorism and that if released, he would pose a danger to the community at large.

Mr Maduro said a recent speech by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at the UN had put public pressure on the US not to release the terror suspect.

But the diplomat also said that Mr Posada was, in his own words, the Bin Laden of the Americas - backed by the Bush family.

Emphasis added.

And that leads me to the salient points here that should not be missed:

1. "Venezuela's authorities are satisfied that Mr Carriles remains behind bars in the US". So much for the notion that the evil, tyrannical Chavez regime wants to extradite him to Venezuela just to torture him. What they want is to see justice done at long last, and to see Posada Carriles tried and sentenced for terrorism. And that's all they want. They don't care whether it happens up here or down there, as long as it happens.

Which leads me nicely to...

2. "...[F]or the first time in history, US justice officials had publicly recognised that Mr Posada could have been involved in acts of terrorism and that if released, he would pose a danger to the community at large." Just this admission alone is a huge victory for Venezuela. And a vindication for Cuba, especially the families of the bombing victims. They've waited 30 years to hear anything that sounded even remotely like an admission of responsibility from the US. Now, suddenly, someone is forced to own up to the fact that this bomber is indeed their boy, and yes, he likes to play with matches just a tee-tiny tad too much.

Sweetest of all, though, is...

3. "Mr Maduro said a recent speech by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at the UN had put public pressure on the US not to release the terror suspect." So much for the idea that Chavecito's "brimstone" joke at the UN might have been to his discredit. Or that his speech on the whole was ignored, for that reason or for the simple fact that BushCo is scared shitless of him. Sounds to me like someone took him seriously--whether because of Maduro's recent run-in with the Homeland Gestapo (complete with false accusations of past terrorism) or because Chavez raised the issue of Bush Crime Family's terrorist ties in front of what essentially amounts to the whole world--or at least, its duly constituted UN representatives. How terribly embarrassing...especially since it's all true!

No wonder the media in the US are hyping the Mark Foley scandal for all it's worth. A kid-diddler is an easy sacrifice to throw under the bus, especially when the Big Boss's family reputation is at stake.

Never fear, Gentle Readers; I'll be following the demise of Luis Posada Carriles as it unfolds. I'm sure there are many more chapters yet to come.

October 6, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Nope...still not a suit!

But Evo is certainly looking sharp here:

Evo--soon to be Chavecito's rival for best-dressed leftist?

Rrrrrrowrrrr.

October 5, 2006

See Scott. See Scott whine.

Poor Scott.

His beloved border brownshirts get booed offstage at Columbia University, and poor persecuted Scott gets all pissy. Sez that no conservative would ever do anything so mean, and rude, and...and...and...tsk!

Nawwww. Of course they wouldn't. They would only hold a Brooks Brothers Riot in Florida, rather than let a democratic recount take place that would actually result in a fair election rather than a fascist selection. Or maybe they'd eavesdrop illegally on the dissenters, infiltrate them with police, and when the time is ripe, beat the shit out of them and then round 'em all up and send 'em to Gitmo. Heck, they could always rape the dissenters' kids in Abu Ghraib if that won't make 'em talk about their subversive activities. Or maybe just outsource them to someplace where truly nasty tortures take place...like Egypt or Syria.

Yeah, conservatives would never be so rude and uncivilized as to express actual dissent and send a fascist packing!

Wimpofascism--it's what's for lunch!

I mean, what else would you call this?

A Denver-area man filed a lawsuit today against a member of the Secret Service for causing him to be arrested after he approached Vice President Dick Cheney in Beaver Creek this summer and criticized him for his policies concerning Iraq.

Attorney David Lane said that on June 16, Steve Howards was walking his 7-year-old son to a piano practice, when he saw Cheney surrounded by a group of people in an outdoor mall area, shaking hands and posing for pictures with several people.

According to the lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court in Denver, Howards and his son walked to about two-to-three feet from where Cheney was standing, and said to the vice president, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible," or words to that effect, then walked on.

Ten minutes later, according to Howards' lawsuit, he and his son were walking back through the same area, when they were approached by Secret Service agent Virgil D. "Gus" Reichle Jr., who asked Howards if he had "assaulted" the vice president. Howards denied doing so, but was nonetheless placed in handcuffs and taken to the Eagle County Jail.

The lawsuit states that the Secret Service agent instructed that Howards should be issued a summons for harassment, but that on July 6 the Eagle County District Attorney's Office dismissed all charges against Howards.

The lawsuit filed today alleges that Howards was arrested in retaliation for having exercised his First Amendment right of free speech, and that his arrest violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful seizure.

Two democratic constitutional amendments, violated over one little throwaway remark that hurt the Big Dick's poor, delicate feelings.

I'd say that calls for the coining of a new term, don't you?

A man, a plan, a canal--NICARAGUA?

Hey wait...that's not a palindrome. Damn. Uh, I believe this would fall under the general heading of WTF???

Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, plans to construct a $20bn rival to the Panama canal to enable the largest tankers and container ships in the world to pass between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The mega-engineering project is expected to take more than 10 years to build but could redraw the map of world trade by opening the east coast of North America, Europe and Brazil to large-scale sea traffic from burgeoning Pacific rim countries including China and South Korea.

The new route would cut 500 miles - or at least a day - off the route between California and New York, and could considerably shorten and cheapen the journey from China to Europe for large ships.

Yesterday's formal announcement of what is known as the Grand Inter-Oceanic Nicaragua Canal was greeted with trepidation by nearby Panama, which is also planning to widen its canal. It fears that its main source of income will be seriously affected if Nicaragua builds a rival.

If built, the Nicaraguan canal would allow 250,000-tonne tankers and container ships to pass through the isthmus that divides the two oceans, compared with the Panama canal's 79,000-tonne boats. Even if an expected $5bn (£2.6bn) upgrade of the Panama canal goes ahead, it is expected to only accommodate 120,000-tonne boats.

Okay...this just smells of Bhad Nhews all around. Does anyone think much of the environmental impact of the Panama Canal? Or how the deforestation it caused is now ironically threatening the canal's own existence? Shit, no! Profits come first, last and everywhere in between. Fuck the environment--who needs ecology when economy alone is supposed to save the day?

The Nicaraguan president, Enrique Bolanos, said at the weekend that there is room for two major canals. "There's a lot of business to share. We know that for every 100 ships that come to the Americas, only seven use the Panama canal. If a Nicaraguan canal were built, it would bring an economic effervescence never seen before in central America," he said.

But a spokesman for the Panama Canal Authority, the semi-independent body that runs the Panama canal, said there was insufficient ship traffic to support both a widened Panama canal and a canal through Nicaragua. "If the widening goes forward, [the Nicaraguan project] is not feasible," he said. "Our analysis shows that if our project is approved, there would not be enough demand to pay for the two, and they would have to have a cost structure much higher than ours."

The project, which has been backed vigorously by Mr Bolanos, has been under active consideration for at least a decade, but has been held up by financial negotiations. Nicaragua, whose GDP is only 5% of the expected cost of the venture, is expected to have to link up with major global companies, including Chinese and Japanese banks which stand to gain the most by exporting more easily to the west.

In engineering terms the new waterway would be one of the most ambitious attempted anywhere in the last 20 years. The route is expected to take ships in a series of giant locks 105ft (32 metres) up to Lago Cocibolca (Lake Nicaragua), the second largest lake in Latin America. In total, the route would be about 170 miles long and would largely follow the San Juan River, requiring massive cuttings and earthworks. It would also have to negotiate Mt Momotombo, an active volcano. It is thought that a major new port and tourist developments would be built at both ends.

And this would be a good thing HOW?

A canal through Nicaragua has been a dream of many countries and entrepreneurs for more than 400 years, since the Spanish conquistadors saw the potential of a sea route to the East Indies.

The idea was raised by businessmen in 1849 during the California gold rush and then again in 1884 when political agreement was reached between the US and Nicaragua. American business owners invested in land, expecting a canal to be built in the country, and in 1916 the US paid Nicaragua $3m for an option in perpetuity but the deal was never signed after the Panama canal was chosen.

Ten years ago, the idea of a rival to the Panama canal surfaced again when a consortium of eight large European, North American and Japanese construction companies and ports, including the British firm Wimpey, carried out feasibility studies. It was estimated then that 20,000 workers would be needed.

Ironically, this is fewer than the number killed (22,000 estimated) building the original Panama Canal. I guess that's progress, of a sort...but then again:

The Nicaraguan canal would need to take much of the Panama canal's traffic to be remotely profitable. The Panama canal currently carries about 5% of world shipping, handling 14,000 transits and shipping over 275m tonnes of cargo in 2005, mainly between Asia and the east coast of the US. The canal earns Panama 8% of its revenue but is now near its capacity, with freight traffic sometimes backing up for days or weeks during maintenance.

Gee, that doesn't sound like it's worth sacrificing Nicaragua's ecological well-being for. And a lot of Nicaraguans agree:

Nicaraguan environmentalists and grassroots groups played down the plans, saying there had been a long history of plans for routes between the Pacific and Atlantic but no action. "A canal, a rail, a road link and a pipeline link have all been proposed, but nothing ever happens. If this 'wet' canal does ever go ahead we would expect it to provide a few temporary jobs but little long-term benefit for the ordinary Nicaraguan," said Katherine Hoyt of the Nicaraguan network in Washington.

"The bankers love the idea. It is using Nicaragua's strategic position to benefit world trade. But it would be an ecological disaster, destroying large areas of forest. It would also open up the interior of the most forested country in central America to exploitation," she said.

"There are also security implications. I cannot imagine the US wanting Chinese or foreign investors having a controlling share in a canal so close to its border."

Others maintain that the proposed deep-water ports would ruin magnificent coral reefs and fishing grounds, distort sea turtle breeding and migratory patterns, and occasion widespread poisoning and pollution through oil spills and waste discharge.

A long history of such plans? Yeah...about 200 years old, at least as far as halfway serious business proposals are concerned. More like 400 in all. And it's never proved feasible to build a canal through Nicaragua in all that time, either. Panama was chosen because the Isthmus of Panama is the narrowest strip of land in the Americas. The Panama Canal is fewer than 50 miles long, and its location was chosen for that very reason. Nicaragua didn't make the original cut because it's just too wide.

Meanwhile, the post-Panamax ship size isn't necessarily a step forward, either. Supertankers, for example--nobody likes them except the shipping company owners. Captains and crewmembers are another story. These floating cities are not only unwieldy to steer (and dangerous ecologically--especially supertankers), they're also deathly tedious to work on; rates of alcohol, drug and domestic abuse among persons working aboard superships are high. And no wonder: you can go for literally months without seeing dry land. It makes life on a navy sub look tame. Human relations suffer under such stresses, to say the least.

And to top it all off, the widening of the Panama Canal that's currently underway (and which will theoretically increase the size that's considered Panamax) isn't exactly going to benefit Panamanians, either. Martin Torrijos isn't as progressive a president as his father, the late Omar Torrijos, who's best known for wresting the Canal out of the US's hands (and paying for this act of economic sovereignty and defiance with his life). He's still too beholden to the IMF; ask John Perkins what the dangers of defying the IMF are.

Global trade...what the fuck has it done for the globe? Nada.

Let's hope that Nicaragua stands firm against this nonsense. The second-poorest country in Latin America needs at least 100,000 PERMANENT, WELL-PAYING jobs--something this new canal won't come anywhere near to delivering, especially if it follows the path originally taken in Panama and most of the Canal Zone workers turn out to be imports. Maybe the upcoming election of Daniel Ortega will help on all fronts.

October 4, 2006

Crapaganda 3, Journalistic Integrity 0

I guess we now know where the Miami Herald's priorities lie!

The shill-ridden paper fired three of its so-called reporters last month after it was revealed that they had been taking thick stacks of taxpayer money to produce anti-Castro propaganda for the US government. Now they're back, and the paper's publisher has quit in disgust:

Jesus Diaz, who had said the reporters violated the paper's sacred trust, said his position was now impossible.

The Herald blamed the decision to rehire on poor internal communication about conflict-of-interest policies.

The issue dominated the Miami Herald's front page on Tuesday.

The same was true last month when the paper announced in an equally prominent and public way that it was sacking the three journalists.

It said they had accepted in some cases tens of thousands of dollars to appear on radio and television programmes of TV Marti and Radio Marti.

In a statement on the paper's front page on Tuesday, Mr Diaz, publisher and editor, said the events of the past weeks had made it impossible for him to remain in the post.

Those events included very public pressure from prominent Cuban exiles, who led a campaign in favour of the sacked journalists, which included a petition signed by hundreds of leading exiles.

The paper makes no reference in its statement about that pressure from the Cuban community.

Yes, that just about tells us all we need to know about the Miami Herald: its credibility is nil, because it's squarely in the pocket of the right-wing Cuban mafia.

Adios, Maldito Herald.

And viva Jesus Diaz for having the integrity to get the hell off that sinking ship.

October 3, 2006

Scary Thought #1

There are actual women out there who find THIS sexy:

Rummy, head of the Dept. of Fascism

Insert appropriate Sylvia Plath poem here.

October 2, 2006

Quotable: Mark Foley on sex addiction

"It's vile," said Rep. Mark Foley, R-West Palm Beach. "It's more sad than anything else, to see someone with such potential throw it all down the drain because of a sexual addiction."

--Rep. Mark Foley, R-Pederasty, on Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky

October 1, 2006

Working on a logo...

I've been messing around a bit lately, using this handy-dandy "official seal" generator. Since this site lacks a logo, and I have very minimal artistic and photoshopping skills, I figured this was as good a way to go as any.

Here's my first attempt:

Working for Peace, Justice and Truth

I liked the old-time socialist look of it, but the masculine figure and the color scheme didn't quite jibe with my own gender, or the overall look and tone of this site. So I picked a custom orange scheme instead, went with a Keltic knotwork border, and traded the worker for a sassy witch (who looks a bit like me, figure-wise!) and swapped the dead-serious motto for something more fun:

Where Bad Lies Go to Die!

I'm not sure whether I'll go with this one yet, or just mess around some more.

Thoughts?