« October 2006 | Main | December 2006 »

November 30, 2006

An orange alert

This appears in the comments on the entry below, but I'll repost it just so those who don't read comments will still know:

Venezuela's opposition is planning an "orange revolution". It is important that we get this circulated before Sunday's election. This link is to my Guardian column. It would be great if you could post it on your blog. Thanks.

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/calvin_tucker/2006/11/post_723.html

Anyone who wants any more info can contact me on calvintucker@hotmail.co.uk

Thanks, Calvin, for the heads-up.

November 29, 2006

Quotable: Michael McCaughan and Che Guevara on class myths

"All across Latin America the poor majority have been conditioned to view their social status as the inevitable outcome of a free, competitive society where winners and losers rub shoulders with no hard feelings. The occasional rags-to-riches story is presented as proof that anyone can make it if they combine persistence with hard work. The business sector creates the nation's wealth and jobs trickle down to the poor. Anyone who questions the consensus is quickly bundled out of view, like a naked man streaking across the Superbowl stadium."

--Michael McCaughan, The Battle of Venezuela

"We get on much better with simple sailors than with that middle class which, rich or not, is too attached to the memory of what it once was to pay any attention to two penniless travellers. They are as ignorant as the next man, but their petty victory in life has gone to their heads, and the banal opinions they utter come with the arrogance of being proffered by them."

--Ernesto "Che" Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries

Fidel's still not well, but Evo's been a busy boy!

From the Beeb, two items of note. First, from Cuba:

Frail Cuban leader Fidel Castro has stayed away from the opening ceremony of his 80th birthday celebrations in Havana on doctors' orders.

A message apparently written by Mr Castro was read out saying he was not yet strong enough to attend the event.

President Castro underwent emergency intestinal surgery at the end of July and has not been seen in public since.

He then temporarily handed over power to his brother Raul, and was last seen in a video on 28 October.

Since falling ill, he has only been seen in officially-sanctioned photographs and videos.

Reports in the US suggest that officials in Washington now believe Mr Castro is suffering from terminal cancer and may never recover.

It would be just like the old boy to keep 'em guessing...and trip them up. Sick or well--don't underestimate Fidel!

Then, from Bolivia:

The Bolivian Senate has approved a controversial reform bill proposed by President Evo Morales to redistribute under-used land to rural communities.

A week-long stand-off ended when three opposition senators broke ranks with their conservative parties to vote in favour of the bill.

Thousands of indigenous protesters had marched on La Paz on Tuesday to put pressure on the senate to pass the law.

It could lead to the redistribution of up to 20m hectares of land to the poor.

[...]

News that the law had finally been approved late in the evening surprised even the president's own supporters camped outside the senate, the BBC's Damian Kahya in La Paz says.

Shortly after signing the bill into law, Mr Morales told a jubilant crowd that it was "not possible to have so much land in so few hands".

"This is the struggle of our ancestors, the struggle for power and territory," he said. "Now, the change is in our hands."

The new law states that only unused or corruptly obtained land will be targeted.

The government argues too much land is owned merely as security on loans or to be re-sold.

A recent survey by the Catholic Church found that just 50,000 families own almost 90% of Bolivia's productive land.

Opponents accuse Mr Morales of trampling on democracy in his desire to advance his reform agenda.

Meanwhile, not a peep out of them on how many people they trampled to get so much land into so few hands. Astonishing!

But what gets me the most about this is Evo's capacity for building consensus, and getting even critics and opponents onside. Anyone who thinks he's just a simple farmer who landed the presidency by accident had better think again. Behind that gentle exterior lies a fierce will and a persistence not to be underestimated. Remember, he helped lead the water protests that drove Bechtel out of Bolivia. He will drag the landed oligarchy kicking and screaming towards progress, and there won't be a damn thing they can do that they're not doing already.

I wonder if he'll end up being too busy to attend Fidel's official birthday party as planned!

November 27, 2006

Remember Reagan?

Gil Scott-Heron does:

He remembers him as a B-movie actor who co-starred with a chimp.

"The monkey was all right. The monkey was cool."

And now, the monkey is president and some of us, who never thought we'd see the day, wish it were Reagan.

November 26, 2006

Looks like a square of dark chocolate is in order...

...because Ecuador seems well on the way to getting its own Chavecito!

Ecuador's presidential candidate Rafael Correa has claimed victory in Sunday's run-off election.

Three exit polls and an unofficial quick count indicated Mr Correa had gained around 57% of the vote while Alvaro Noboa polled about 43%.

But of course, true to right-wing fashion, the loser is claiming that exit polls mean nothing.

Mr Noboa has said he won the election and if necessary will ask for a recount after official results are announced.

But if this goes as I suspect it will, it will be good in more ways than one.

He said he will try to rejoin the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) which Ecuador left in 1992.

He also named leftist economists Ricardo Patino and Alberto Acosta as his economy and energy ministers, Reuters news agency said.

[...]

An economic aide to Mr Correa said he would not pay some of Ecuador's "illegitimate" foreign debt and would not sign a free trade agreement with the United States, Reuters said.

While campaigning, Mr Correa said he wanted to renegotiate contracts with foreign oil companies.

Like I said, shades of Chavecito. Who, as luck would have it, wrapped up his own re-election campaign on a high note this week.

Now: Lindt "Ecuador", here I come! (Just reading about chocolate makes me hungry...)

They call THIS blasphemy?

Via the Revealer, I found out that the American Family Fascist Association is up in arms over a concert video showing Madonna, wearing a crown of thorns, first rising up on and then slowly stepping down off a glittery, mirror-tiled cross. The reason? IT'S BLASPHEMY! O, the HORROR!

Following the lead of Rosie O'Donnell and ABC, NBC has decided to join in the bashing of Christians by airing a Madonna special in November. A specific date has not been released.

In the show, Madonna, wearing a fake crown of thorns, descends on a suspended mirrored, disco ball-type cross. When some Christian leaders complained about the mockery, NBC ignored their concerns.

Making mockery of the crucifixion of Christ has been a trademark of Madonna for many years. In 1989 she had a video for the hit song "Like A Prayer." The video featured burning crosses, statues crying blood and Madonna--representing Jesus--freeing a saint from his sexual repression by seducing him. This is the same Madonna who once said, "Crucifixes are sexy because there's a naked man on them."

Kevin Reilly, an executive at NBC, said Madonna considered the scene mocking the crucifixion of Christ the highlight of her show. "We (NBC) viewed it and didn't see it as being inappropriate." Madonna considers mocking the crucifixion of Jesus the highlight of her show and NBC agrees.

The AFA goes on to ask "Christians" to mailbomb NBC with requests to cut the Christianity-offending segment. Which NBC, in true wussy whore-media fashion, did. After all, Wildmon & Co. are all about defending Christianity from all manner of blaspheming enemies. If it's not the witches and secularists, it's the Jews. And when it's not the Jews, it's other Christians who just don't pass fundie muster. Some of whom happen to be rather famous.

Meanwhile, the Revealer has this to say about the AFA's strange choice of reasons for making such a flap:

Tight black leather, OK. A stripper-style pole dance on an over-sized horse saddle, OK. Half-naked, svelte sweaty bodies, marked with Stars of David and Crescent Moon, OK. Just no mock Roman executions. One almost wants to give credit to the many NBC affiliates around the country that had some problems with the overall package and decided simply not to show the tour special at all.

The article then goes on to discuss the history of what the word "blasphemy" means. Its conclusion? Not bloody much; depends whom you ask. Apparently, "blasphemy" is a fluid concept, which makes it well-nigh meaningless in the final analysis. We do, however, learn that "blasphemy" is a charge more likely to be levelled by fundie Protestant leaders than Roman Catholics. Which is revealing in itself, since Madonna, though she's adopted snippets of other spiritualities along the way, is a lifelong Catholic and her use of the iconography of Roman executions here is in line with the beliefs she grew up following. (This may surprise some who call her a blasphemer, but I'd wager they haven't been actually paying attention to her, only taking orders from a not-so-good shepherd who has his own unholy reasons for leading his flock astray.)

Actually, this "mock Roman execution" is very mild when you compare it to the sadistic (and hideously commercialized) treatment Jesus suffered at the hands of Mel Gibson. I would even go so far as to call it downright reverent, since Madonna isn't mocking Christ at all, but rather seems to be finding new meaning in his words, imitating him, and urging her audience to do the same.

How do I know that's what she's doing? Watch the entire performance:

I found it interesting how Madonna recycles an old hit, "Live to Tell", whose chorus goes:

A man can tell a thousand lies

I've learned my lesson well

Hope I live to tell the secret I have learned--

Till then

It will burn inside of me...

Wildmon never mentions THAT.

The song also contains the words "I was not ready for the Fall/Too blind to see the writing on the wall." These are biblical allusions, but not blasphemy by a long shot. In fact, they are quite reverent, as they relate the words of scripture to modern life in general, and her own life in particular.

As the performance progresses, we come to see why she picked this particular song to open the show--and sing from a cross, doing a modern and literal Imitation of Christ. In another version of this performance (videotaped from further off by an amateur in the audience), you can see a digital counter over her head, spinning faster and faster until it reaches 12 million. Then it stops and the number lights up. That's when the spotlights temporarily dim. Then she steps off the cross, moves downstage, and sings the bridge:

If I ran away, I'd never have the strength

To go very far

How would they hear the beating of my heart?

Will it grow cold,

The secret that I hide?

Will I grow old?

How will they hear,

When will they learn,

How will they know?

As she sings it, we learn that the number on the counter is the number of African children orphaned by AIDS. (Item: Madonna recently adopted a boy from Malawi whose mother died soon after his birth.) Pictures on the screen behind her show the searching eyes of African children; the reinterpretation of the song seems to ask the audience to spare a thought for them. Above, the words "For I was hungry and you gave me food...I was naked and you gave me clothing...Whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers..." flash. Another biblical reference.

By coming down off the cross, kneeling and averting her face as if the sight of so much suffering is too much to bear, taking off her crown of thorns and placing herself at human level (at the end of the song she actually prostrates herself on the stage, like a priest or nun at the taking of the vows), Madonna is not-so-subliminally telling people to get off their high horses, their holier-than-thou attitudes, and get better acquainted with "the least of my brothers", the orphans of Africa. In so doing, they might find some redemption--or a little more meaning--in their lives.

Maybe that is what gets Donald Wildmon's bloomers in a wad; he's about doing just the opposite, you see. To him, AIDS isn't a tragic, indiscriminate disease that kills young parents and leaves beautiful, innocent children orphaned; it's God's righteous punishment on the homo-sex-you-alls. That is the message he's repeatedly preached to his flock. And damn that scarlet harlot Madonna for having the effrontery to say it isn't so, and to remind people of what Jesus actually said. There wasn't a word in it about punishing the gays; there were, on the other hand, plenty of admonitions to be thy brother's keeper and look after those in need!

Yes, I can see why a fundamentalist would call that blasphemy. Heaven forbid that a pop star might be sincere when she gets off her glitzy disco cross to deliver a message laced with the New Testament, not the Old. Or that she might just be a better Christian than the Reverend Furnish-My-Church-With-Silver. How many African AIDS orphans has Wildmon helped, I wonder? Or does he secretly think that they, too, somehow deserve to be punished by a plague of biblical proportions, for being non-white?

Someone famous is bashing Christianity, all right, but it sure as hell ain't Madge.

November 25, 2006

The unthinkable occurs

Well, kinda sorta. Augusto Pinochet admits his guilt, but refuses to admit that he is guilty. You don't follow? Read on.

Chile's former military ruler Augusto Pinochet has said he takes political responsibility for everything that happened during his 18 years in power.

In the statement read by Gen Pinochet's wife on his 91st birthday, he defended his bloody 1973 coup, saying he had acted in Chile's best interests.

More than 3,000 people were killed or "disappeared" while Gen Pinochet was in power from 1973 to 1990.

He is facing indictments in two cases of human rights abuses and tax evasion.

"Today, near the end of my days, I want to say that I harbour no rancour against anybody, that I love my fatherland above all," the statement read by his wife Lucia Hiriart said.

"I take political responsibility for everything that was done."

The general said his bloody overthrow of the democratically-elected Salvador Allende had "no other motive than to make Chile a great place and prevent its disintegration".

[...]

His statement condemned the ongoing trials of military officers, including himself, for the human rights abuses committed under his rule.

He said they had prevented a political and economic crisis.

"Thanks to their courage and decision, Chile moved from the totalitarian threat to the full democracy which we restored and which all our compatriots enjoy."

Now, how's that for funky tap-dancing? He created a political and economic crisis to save Chile from a political and economic crisis! He became a totalitarian threat to prevent a totalitarian threat! He destroyed democracy to create democracy! He robbed the country in order to enrich it! Yes, just like the exquisite rationalizers who wiped My Lai off the map, the heroic General Pinochet destroyed a village in order to save it.

Now, to give you some idea of what he destroyed it in order to save it, here's Greg Palast:

In 1973, the year the General seized the government, Chile's unemployment rate was 4.3%. In 1983, after ten years of free-market modernisation, unemployment reached 22%. Real wages declined by 40% under military rule.

In 1970, 20% of Chile's population lived in poverty. By 1990, the year "President" Pinochet left office, the number of destitute had doubled to 40%. Quite a miracle.

Pinochet did not destroy Chile's economy all alone. It took nine years of hard work by the most brilliant minds in world academia, a gaggle of Milton Friedman's trainees, the Chicago Boys. Under the spell of their theories, the General abolished the minimum wage, outlawed trade union bargaining rights, privatised the pension system, abolished all taxes on wealth and on business profits, slashed public employment, privatised 212 state industries and 66 banks and ran a fiscal surplus.

Freed of the dead hand of bureaucracy, taxes and union rules, the country took a giant leap forward … into bankruptcy and depression. After nine years of economics Chicago style, Chile's industry keeled over and died. In 1982 and 1983, GDP dropped 19%. The free-market experiment was kaput, the test tubes shattered. Blood and glass littered the laboratory floor. Yet, with remarkable chutzpa, the mad scientists of Chicago declared success. In the US, President Ronald Reagan's State Department issued a report concluding, "Chile is a casebook study in sound economic management." Milton Friedman himself coined the phrase, "The Miracle of Chile." Friedman's sidekick, economist Art Laffer, preened that Pinochet's Chile was, "a showcase of what supply-side economics can do."

It certainly was. More exactly, Chile was a showcase of de-regulation gone berserk.

Yep, that's some salvation from the evils of democratic socialism, all right. At least 3000 people died and thousands more were tortured just so Chile could have the wonderful liberty of fascist rule, and the prosperity of an economic ruination from which it has yet to fully recover. Folks, this is a thug who used to brag that he buried his corpses two to a coffin to save on nails. This is what he and his backers, including Ronald "Grenada" Reagan and Maggie "Milk Snatcher" Thatcher, called "democracy".

All the evidence is mounting against that old bastard, and he's still walking free and spewing a fuckload of doublespeak.

The mind boggles.

November 24, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Batter up!

Play ball!

Batter up--Chavecito!

Now at bat for the Red Team, it's Chavecito. He's batting 1000...

Batting 1000 for Venezuela

And he always steps up to the plate.

Chavecito waving

Will he hit a home run in December? Survey says yes.

Meanwhile, it's Thanksgiving weekend in Gringolandia. In honor of the august occasion of the turkey-pardoning, Swamp Rat has prepared a visual feast, consisting of Wild Turkey shot in the Bush:

Mmmmmm Bush TURKEY!

And everyone's sweet potato, Adam Sandler, has a little Thanksgiving song for you:

To all my US friends: Gobble gobble!

And to Dubya and the Big Dick: Get stuffed, you turkeys! No pardons for you!

November 22, 2006

One more big, black mark on the CIA

And this one's downright treasonable. At least three operatives were present at the scene of Bobby Kennedy's shooting--allegedly by a lone nut named Sirhan Sirhan.

Maybe the nut wasn't so lone--or so nuts!--after all, suggests the evidence...

New video and photographic evidence that puts three senior CIA operatives at the scene of Robert Kennedy's assassination has been brought to light.

The evidence was shown in a report by Shane O'Sullivan, broadcast on BBC Newsnight.

It reveals that the operatives and four unidentified associates were at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles in the moments before and after the shooting on 5 June, 1968.

The CIA had no domestic jurisdiction and some of the officers were based in South-East Asia at the time, with no reason to be in Los Angeles.

Kennedy had just won the California Democratic primary on an anti-War ticket and was set to challenge Nixon for the White House when he was shot in a kitchen pantry.

A 24-year-old Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan, was arrested as the lone assassin and notebooks at his house seemed to incriminate him.

However, even under hypnosis, he has never been able to remember the shooting and defence psychiatrists concluded he was in a trance at the time.

Witnesses placed Sirhan's gun several feet in front of Kennedy but the autopsy showed the fatal shot came from one inch behind.

Dr Herbert Spiegel, a world authority on hypnosis at Columbia University, believes Sirhan may have been hypnotically programmed to act as a decoy for the real assassin.

There has long been abundant speculation that Sirhan was some kind of "Manchurian Candidate", and this report appears to confirm it. Whether you believe the bit about the trance or not, you can hardly refute what a ballistics report says about the position of the shooter. Sirhan would have to have been a real Stretch Armstrong to shoot Kennedy!

The Pasadena Weekly's in-depth look at Sirhan through the eyes of his brother Munir is an absolute must, BTW.

This sober BBC report, then, makes me certain that Sirhan was nothing but a convenient patsy, and the three CIA men--who were all in the wrong place at the wrong time--become automatic suspects. Especially light of this:

Three of these men have been positively identified as senior officers who worked together in 1963 at JMWAVE, the CIA's Miami base for its Secret War on Castro.

David Morales was Chief of Operations and once told friends:

"I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard."

Uh, I can only conclude that the "son of a bitch" was the great JFK, and the "little bastard" was his honorable, mafia-busting younger brother, Bobby--both of whom are deeply mourned to this day for the great potential for social change that was lost along with them.

This incredibly sordid quote from the inappropriately named agent Morales also leaves me in no doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald was likely not the only shooter in Dallas, if indeed he was a shooter at all--which I now doubt very much was the case. (Oswald's biographical info alone casts severe doubt on such assertions.) I'm inclined to believe Oswald was indeed telling the truth when he famously protested that he was just a patsy for the CIA. He was certainly a very convincing case-in-point for the anticommunists to expound the evils of the left, if treated as a lone nut gunman, rather than a much more complex double defector (first from capitalism, then Soviet communism), which he in fact was. Suddenly, the Zapruder film doesn't seem so inexplicable anymore, now does it?

I also doubt very much that agent Morales (nickname: El Gordo, the Fat One) was in Dallas and LA just by coincidence on both occasions--or for the simple pleasure of seeing the two men he clearly despised.

And above all, this confirms my deepest suspicions--that JFK was killed because he was contemplating a rapprochement with Fidel Castro, the very thing the right-wing Cuban mafia in Miami didn't want. Neither did the CIA, which we know has been in cahoots with all the worst scum of Latin America since its inception in the late 1940s.

Motive, means, opportunity--and now, one member of the CIA has been placed at the scene of both crimes, and two more definitely placed at the scene of Bobby Kennedy's murder. Luuuuuucy, you got some splainin' to doooooo!

But wait...that's not all.

Gordon Campbell was Chief of Maritime Operations and George Joannides was Chief of Psychological Warfare Operations.

Joannides was called out of retirement in 1978 to act as the CIA liaison to the Congressional investigation into the JFK assassination. Now, we see him at the Ambassador Hotel the night a second Kennedy is assassinated.

[...]

Paul Schrade [...] was walking behind Robert Kennedy that night and was shot in the head. He believes this new evidence merits fresh investigation:

"It seems very strange to me that these guys would be at a Kennedy celebration. What were they doing there? And why were they there? It's our obligation as friends of Bob Kennedy to investigate this."

Ed Lopez, a former Congressional investigator who worked with Joannides in 1978, says:

"I think the key people at the CIA need to go back to anybody who might have been around back then, bring them in and interview them, and ask - is this Gordon Campbell? Is this George Joannides?"

I think Lucy got lotsa splainin' to do, si?

What a pity Morales and Joannides are both now deceased, and Campbell's whereabouts are unknown. I am certain all three literally got away with murder.

Memo to all right-wing radio ranters...

Shut the fuck UP!

This has been a public service announcement, brought to you by the Unfiltered News Network. Thank you, and remember: every time you listen to right-wing talk radio, God kills a kitten!

November 21, 2006

Preach it, sister...

I never saw YayaCanada's site until today, but I think I'll be visiting it (along with 21st Century Socialism) more often. This lady is SANE. Get a load of what she said about the scariest movie of the year, "Jesus Camp":

If the "apostle" Paul lived today, he'd be an American TV evangelist. He'd have 33% of the population believing that Christ came to him in a vision and told him what to say. He'd rant on and on about hellfire and damnation, about how women need to know their place, and about sexual temptation and perversion, and he'd rake in lots of dough.

But Jesus didn't dwell on any of those things. And he certainly didn't sell fire insurance. He offered love and liberation from guilt; he described a means of personal empowerment through the mental process of "knowing" by which one could seek and find a path out of one's own slavery to the opinions of others, and to false ideas and false views of self and God. He placed God's Kingdom squarely in the present, within all of us and spread out upon the earth. He counselled living fully in the current eternal moment, leaving the future and the past to God.

And something else - something that Christians unaccountably don't seem able to get through their heads - Jesus counselled praying in private, not in public in the manner of show-off hypocrites!

Sadly, Jesus is only a buzz word for Becky Fischer. Beyond that, she's into enforce mode, big time. She's into public prayer - as raucous and showy as possible - over everybody else's sins. Rotund Becky tells the kids that most Christians are "fat and lazy" and aren't getting their act together about abortion, gays, and "dirty talk". The only answer lies with training children to sacrifice their very lives for the ruthless extermination of everything Becky hates. "This is war" she hollers. "This is war."

She trots out a lifesize cardboard cutout of President Bush and encourages the kids to bless him. Technically, they don't actually worship Bush, as some people are saying. The kids' arms are raised toward God. But the message of loyalty to the state as well as to Becky's fanatical goals are brought home in the oaths she orders them all to swear loudly on the Bible.

Yes, the same Bible wherein Jesus said, "Swear not at all." Matthew 5:34.

I bet Becky Fischer thinks that phrase just refers to four-letter words, not to making absurd vows you are guaranteed to break. Guaranteed, not because human nature is so inherently sinful as she would have you think, but because those vows are out of step with reality, humanity and above all, the selves of the children whose will she is there explicitly to break.

Becky Fischer is a sinful woman. I mean that not in the sense that she is some kind of harlot (although there is certainly something kinky about what she does for money; she's a dominatrix without the fetishy trappings, for sure.) I mean she is sinful in the sense expounded by the Toltec healer, don Miguel Ruiz, in his book, The Four Agreements:

Religions talk about sin and sinners, but let's understand what it really means to sin. A sin is anything you do which goes against yourself. Everything you feel or believe or say that goes against yourself is a sin. You go against yourself when you judge or blame yourself for anything. Being without sin is exactly the opposite. Being impeccable is not going against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself.

From this point of view, the whole concept of sin changes from something moral or religious to something commonsense. Sin begins with rejection of yourself. Self-rejection is the biggest sin that you can commit. In religious terms self-rejection is a "mortal sin," which leads to death. Impeccability, on the other hand, leads to life.

Emphasis added.

You see what I mean by sinful? Becky Fischer is committing mortal sin with every child she is encouraging to reject him- or herself. With every brow-beating, guilt-instilling sermon, telling the kids they are sinful and wicked and must atone by being washed with bottled water in the name of Jesus (and preaching to strangers in bowling alleys), she is sinning up a fire-and-brimstone shitstorm.

She is certainly not being impeccable with her word; she can't tell the truth to herself. And so she peddles some outrageous lies to the children, including this one:

The fact that Bush lied to the American people is not an issue for Becky; his professed born-again status is paramount. She never stops to wonder if he might be a wolf in sheep's clothing, the evil one who only pretends to receive instructions from God. In full confidence, Becky makes it clear to her kids that if they don't support presidents like Bush, they will fall victim to Satan who has unimaginably horrific plans for them.

Becky talks about how Bush appoints judges that will save the country from gays, abortionists, and other evil beings. In no time, she has the kids screaming over and over, with upraised fists and tears running down their faces, "Righteous judges! Righteous judges!"

And in case you wonder whether that really happens in the film, it does. Watch:

This is certainly not impeccability with one's word, for those "righteous" judges are actually word-twisters themselves. In other words: sinners in the first degree, according to don Miguel.

Yaya goes on:

As a special treat, Becky introduces a man who cheerily opens a box of tiny, pink baby dolls, each one smaller than the other, and he places them in the hands of Becky's key kids while the other kids look on in awe, to illustrate all of the potential playmates they have lost through abortion. How crafty to make abortion into a personal loss for these children. How diabolical.

Then he places red tape over the kids' mouths, with the word "Life" written on each piece, to demonstrate the silent screams of the fetus.

Obviously, in these times of professed sensitivity to child abuse, hitting kids is not allowed, nor is sexually exploiting them, but psychologically abusing the hell out of them in Jesus' name is sanctioned and/or ignored by both church and state.

Emphasis added.

Aside from the questionable morality of indoctrinating kids with one's own prejudices about abortion at an age when most of them haven't the first clue as to what sex is or how babies are made (shouldn't those be discussed first?), there is the hideous immorality of silencing them. Could anything be more sinful than gluing kids' lips shut so you can put your own words literally upon them? Not only are they making kids go against themselves with their own words (i.e., making them sin), they are actually shutting the kids up so that no authentic, impeccable words can come out. Talk about a literal condemnation to hell on Earth!

And apparently, Yaya agrees that this is hell too, for she goes on:

At a time in their lives when they ought to be carefree and having fun, Becky's kids are constantly on the alert, having been told that children are Satan's prime targets, and that he will trick them into sinning. You should see the looks on the faces of the kids when they heard that. They were not having a fun time at camp; they were horrified. They were not learning anything; they were shocked into obedience, and set up for for Becky's antidote to their inherently evil natures.

[...]

One of Becky's key prodigies says on screen that he has accepted the idea of literally "dying for Jesus". One wonders how many of these kids will eventually commit suicide, or murder an abortionist, or beat a gay person to death.

Souls in torment. Quod erat demonstrandum, baby.

Yaya has a parable for us, by way of dire warning, of the way such people really do end up. For being sinful--for being inauthentic, untruthful, for going against themselves with their word, this is what these people get:

Becky at one point orders the kids to "speak in tongues". Tongues is another lie. I've been there and I know that it's fake, fake, fake. Pentecostals are expected to do it, so they comply.

When I was a kid there was a simple farm woman in our church who liked to sit near the front, and if the minister got on a good roll and worked up the congregation enough, she would give a shout and stand up and begin babbling incomprehensible syllables. Then the pastor would pretend to translate what she said - usually dire warnings from God about the wages of sin. He was a prolific tongues speaker himself, saying over and over the same set of syllables which I recall to this day included (phonetically) the "word", "Sha-goon-dria". Anyone out there know what language that is? If so, I'd love to get a translation.

By the way, the farm woman eventually lost all of her marbles, as do many religious fanatics when they begin to age.

If I may hazard a guess, that poor woman probably lost her first marble when she was taught to speak in a "tongue" not extant on Earth. She probably had no idea what she was "saying" when she first learned that to babble gibberish is to find favor with God--or rather, his self-styled intermediary the preacher-man.

Now, that is a truly tragic case of sinning with one's word. For that matter, it also goes against the words of the New Testament. Christ explicitly tells people NOT to pray in public like hypocrites, but rather in their own little rooms (Matthew 6:5-6). Not only was this sound safety advice at a time when his followers were likely to be persecuted by the centurions of imperial Rome, it was also sound spiritual advice, as it guarded against vanity and the urge to show off one's righteousness before others. (Bet Becky Fischer forgot all about that in her frenzy to appear holier than thou.)

Not only that, but in the book of Acts, the gift of tongues was only given to the disciples so that they could travel throughout the world, teaching others what Christ said (to pray in their own little rooms!) in their native tongue. I gather that they were able to understand what they were saying; they would have to, if they were to pass along the good word accurately. And they would have to have been speaking in a language spoken somewhere on Earth. So the gift of tongues was not the gibberish that the farm woman babbled in church! It was surely never granted for the purpose of displaying one's own righteousness in public like a hypocrite.

It's not surprising, either, that the farm woman who spoke gibberish went mad. Scientists have found that glossolalia (as "speaking in tongues" is also called) is a state very much like madness, or some organic disease of the brain. There is decreased activity in the frontal lobes, which are normally involved in voluntary self-control. This may be why the kids in Jesus Camp are seen falling down and having what appear to be convulsions, in which their bodies thrash uncontrollably. Perhaps they are suffering from a kind of religiously induced epilepsy--brought on by surrendering their self-control to something outside themselves. In this case, they have surrendered indeed--to what they think is God, but is really only a frightfully nasty woman named Becky Fischer, who is trying for her own selfish glorification to turn them into the Christian American Taliban. Those convulsions we see are not evidence that God is in control of those kids, but rather that they have gone to the extreme of going against themselves. They have not been possessed by Christ; rather, they have surrendered their bodies and souls to the terrible intoxication--literally a poisoning--of a hell on Earth that is created by the likes of Becky Fischer. Who have been poisoned themselves, incidentally, and who mistake it for their divine mission to pass that poison along!

Thank Goddess, then, for the antidote--uppity women like Yaya, who claim to speak for nobody but themselves. Ironically, in so doing, they speak for so many others, who have lost their voices to the madness of Jesus Camp. Maybe one day, all those poor souls will again feel free to speak for themselves, to become impeccable with their word once more.

Let us pray.

November 19, 2006

"Sir! No, Sir!" A must-see preview!

12 minutes of radical brilliance. Can't wait for THIS to come out on DVD.

Jim Webb impresses me...

And the Wall Street Journal has just amazed me by their willingness to publish...well, THIS:

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Incestuous corporate boards regularly approve compensation packages for chief executives and others that are out of logic's range. As this newspaper has reported, the average CEO of a sizeable corporation makes more than $10 million a year, while the minimum wage for workers amounts to about $10,000 a year, and has not been raised in nearly a decade. When I graduated from college in the 1960s, the average CEO made 20 times what the average worker made. Today, that CEO makes 400 times as much.

In the age of globalization and outsourcing, and with a vast underground labor pool from illegal immigration, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. Trickle-down economics didn't happen. Despite the vaunted all-time highs of the stock market, wages and salaries are at all-time lows as a percentage of the national wealth. At the same time, medical costs have risen 73% in the last six years alone. Half of that increase comes from wage-earners' pockets rather than from insurance, and 47 million Americans have no medical insurance at all.

Manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Many earned pension programs have collapsed in the wake of corporate "reorganization." And workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.

Emphasis added.

Now, doesn't this read just like something you might expect to see coming from, say, Hugo Chavez (or any writer at Venezuelanalysis), describing the economic situation in Latin America? Or maybe from Noam Chomsky, writing for Zmag? Certainly it's not the norm for the op-eds at the WSJ, which is usually rah-rahing its pom-poms off for all things "free market"! It's easily on a par with what Warren Buffett said to Lou Dobbs: "It's class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn't be."

And I must admit to being pleasantly surprised to see that this came from Jim Webb, who, in case your memory slips, is the recently elected senator from Virginia, who beat out George "Macaca" Allen in a very acrimonious, and suprisingly close, race. Now, it's axiomatic, at least in the whore media, that the winners of close races had to scrape votes from their opponents by moving closer to their side of the ledger politically, but is that really the case? Not always; the sentiments Webb expresses here are easily more germane to those of an ultra-progressive leftie like me than to those of a far-right wingnut like Macaca Man, who blatantly pandered to the worst in the southern white mentality--and in any case, was prepared to do absolutely NOTHING to challenge the elite's victory in the class war. (Frankly, I'm only surprised that Macaca didn't lose by a much wider margin.)

Now, I could be wrong; maybe Webb will turn out to be one of those dreaded (and dreadful) "centrist" (read: CONSERVATIVE) Democrats after all. I hope not, though. Rather, I hope he goes on as he does in this vein:

This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation's most fortunate. Some shrug off large-scale economic and social dislocations as the inevitable byproducts of the "rough road of capitalism." Others claim that it's the fault of the worker or the public education system, that the average American is simply not up to the international challenge, that our education system fails us, or that our workers have become spoiled by old notions of corporate paternalism.

Still others have gone so far as to argue that these divisions are the natural results of a competitive society. Furthermore, an unspoken insinuation seems to be inundating our national debate: Certain immigrant groups have the "right genetics" and thus are natural entrants to the "overclass," while others, as well as those who come from stock that has been here for 200 years and have not made it to the top, simply don't possess the necessary attributes.

Most Americans reject such notions. But the true challenge is for everyone to understand that the current economic divisions in society are harmful to our future. It should be the first order of business for the new Congress to begin addressing these divisions, and to work to bring true fairness back to economic life. Workers already understand this, as they see stagnant wages and disappearing jobs.

Sit back and savor it a moment, won't you, folks? This man--arguably the one who decided the tilt of the US Senate to Democratic, NOT Joe Lieberman--just handed racism AND predatory capitalism their collective ass. I am loving this!

And yes, he does go on in this vein:

America's elites need to understand this reality in terms of their own self-interest. A recent survey in the Economist warned that globalization was affecting the U.S. differently than other "First World" nations, and that white-collar jobs were in as much danger as the blue-collar positions which have thus far been ravaged by outsourcing and illegal immigration. That survey then warned that "unless a solution is found to sluggish real wages and rising inequality, there is a serious risk of a protectionist backlash" in America that would take us away from what they view to be the "biggest economic stimulus in world history."

More troubling is this: If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest. Up to now, most American workers have simply been worried about their job prospects. Once they understand that there are (and were) clear alternatives to the policies that have dislocated careers and altered futures, they will demand more accountability from the leaders who have failed to protect their interests. The "Wal-Marting" of cheap consumer products brought in from places like China, and the easy money from low-interest home mortgage refinancing, have softened the blows in recent years. But the balance point is tipping in both cases, away from the consumer and away from our national interest.

The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet. But this election cycle showed an electorate that intends to hold government leaders accountable for allowing every American a fair opportunity to succeed.

With this new Congress, and heading into an important presidential election in 2008, American workers have a chance to be heard in ways that have eluded them for more than a decade. Nothing is more important for the health of our society than to grant them the validity of their concerns. And our government leaders have no greater duty than to confront the growing unfairness in this age of globalization.

What a satisfying conclusion!

It's clear to me that Webb has no intention of playing the nicey-nice "centrist" who won't rock the greedheads' boat. It wasn't "safe" for him to say this, but he stuck his neck out and said it anyway. And he said it in the most unlikely place. This gives me hope that things are indeed about to change for the better, not only in the US, but worldwide if this new Congress affects foreign policy in the ways it should. It's time to crack down on outsourcing, on sweatshops, on all forms of exploitation. It's time to bring in FAIR trade, and forget about "free" trade.

As for the purported virtues of "trickle-down", this photo sums it up best:

The Executive Washroom of Trickle-Down Economics

The emperor is naked, folks--time to face it, even on the pages of a publication that routinely touts the viewpoint that he's never been better dressed. Jim Webb deserves a hearty round of applause for pointing that nudity out.

Afterword: Milton Friedman, arguably the author of all the misery Webb denounces, died recently. A singular synchronicity indeed, since his thinking is also proving to be in its death throes now. The Beeb notes that "[i]t was said that he never lost an argument", but I think reality, that famed bastion of liberal bias, has just had the last word.

November 18, 2006

How clueless are the pop tarts?

Even if no one asks, they'll still tell.

Unfortunately.

President Hugo Chavez, who claims to be a socialist and abhor anything "capitalist", has weakened his stance in a hypocritical move to cater to Shakira. He even stated that he might just go undercover in order to watch Shakira get her shake on. He said he might have to wear a wig so no-one would recognize him.

Last month, Shakira cleaned up at the Latin Grammy awards and has been traveling worldwide on her "Oral Fixation" tour. Chavez has referred to Shakira as a "sister of this great Latin American homeland" — he's even lent her an airfield in Caracas, which until now has been used exclusively for nefarious government purposes.

Shakira is backed by Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Epic Records. In the blogosphere, however, there have been rumors that this may only represent Chavez's first steps towards a more capitalist Venezuela and that secret talks between Chavez and BMG are currently underway to establish a chain of sweat shops in order to save costs on printing CDs in China.

Music VIXEN says...

Tsk, tsk, Hugo. You need to keep it real.

Hey, unoriginally named "Music VIXEN": How's about you getting real (before you start on about "keeping it real") by educating yourself a bit more on Hugo Chavez first?

Chavecito never said anything about outlawing commercial music in Venezuela--his country is, as always, open to even the worst Sony BMG drivel (which I must say is very big of him; were it up to me, I'd outlaw it on the grounds that it bores me to sleep). But then again, he's promoting Venezuelan music and culture to compete with it, so there is no reason for him to be threatened or "abhor" anything, as you falsely claim he does. He's not a communist (there's a difference between that and a socialist--look it up!)

And capitalism was never illegal in Venezuela, even under him. You probably don't have the foggiest clue that he inherited a god-awfully capitalist country from his predecessors, and has not jarred it by making sudden changes to everything as did Fidel Castro. Chavez's Bolivarian process is one of evolution and gradual social change, and it is creating greater wealth for all. He has repeatedly emphasized that industries will only be nationalized if they fail to comply with laws that were on the books even before he was in office (and which, in case you're wondering, provided for such a move, even if they were never enforced before he came along).

BTW, the "nefarious government purposes" of that airfield he opened for Shakira's concert are the same as those of any other military airbase in the world. How disingenuous of you, unless of course you're alluding to the fact that he was shipped to an island, La Orchila, from that same nefarious base by the fake "government" of coup-mongering fascists of 2002, who wanted him either deported or dead. (No doubt they preferred the latter, but the soldiers ordered to shoot him had other ideas. Democratic popularity is such a bitch!)

What, then, is this "stance" you claim he's "weakened"? I think you must have imagined it, since it exists nowhere but in your own head. And it certainly bears no resemblance to anything I've heard Chavez talking about.

So, you ask, what is Chavez about? It's called mixed-economy socialism--look into it sometime before you start preaching about "hypocrisy"!

And who constitutes this "blogosphere" you're prattling on about as your source for this ridiculous accusation you make? The least you could do is provide some links so your story can be verified. It's called responsible reporting--again, look into it sometime.

Finally, you've got a whole slew of links to the most downright commercial junk-music on your site, and judging by what your grovelling toon-chick is almost wearing, you sure do look to me like a capitalist whore in the first degree. Who are you to blather about sweatshops "in order to save costs on printing CDs in China"? (Hmmm, surely not a hypocrite?)

Tsk, tsk, yourself, MV. You don't even know what's real. Maybe you should do some more research into it, so you'll be more qualified to write about it in future!

Ban the burqa! (Even if nobody wears it.)

I always thought the Dutch had more sense than to do this.

I guess I was wrong:

The Dutch cabinet has backed a proposal by the country's immigration minister to ban Muslim women from wearing the burqa in public places.

The burqa, a full body covering that also obscures the face, would be banned by law in the street, and in trains, schools, buses and the law courts.

The cabinet said burqas disturb public order, citizens and safety.

The decision comes days ahead of elections which the ruling centre-right coalition is expected to win.

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, who is known for her tough policies, said it was important that all people in the Netherlands were able to see and identify each other clearly to promote integration and tolerance.

Last year a majority of MPs in the Dutch parliament said they were in favour of a ban.

An estimated 6% of 16 million people living in the Netherlands are Muslims.

But there are thought to be fewer than 100 women who choose to wear the burqa, a traditional Islamic form of dress.

And get a load of this little bit of Orwellian doublethink (with emphasis added):

Ms Verdonk insisted the burqa was not an acceptable part of public life in the Netherlands.

"The Cabinet finds it undesirable that face-covering clothing - including the burqa - is worn in public places for reasons of public order, security and protection of citizens," she said.

Critics of the proposed ban say it would violate civil rights.

The main Muslim organisation in the Netherlands, CMO, said the plan was an "over-reaction to a very marginal problem", the Associated Press reported.

But the minister told the BBC that social interaction would be easier if faces were not covered.

"It is very important that we can see each other and can communicate with each other. Because we are so tolerant we want to respect each other."

Doubleplusungood. Also doubleplusunnecessary!

But then again--that's conservatism for you. Make it look like you're doing something by using a sledgehammer to swat a mosquito!

November 17, 2006

I don't know who Calvin Tucker is...

...but I think I like him. He just handed Phil Gunson his ass over all that anti-Chavez crapaganda:

In contrast to Rory Carroll's rich man's paradise, Phil Gunson paints a picture of Venezuela as a sort of modern Orwellian nightmare, where the population has been cowed into submission by an authoritarian state. Nothing could be further from the truth. Millions of previously excluded citizens are directly involved in organising and administrating their own communities, social programmes, co-operatives and political movements. This is genuine participatory democracy and is light years ahead of the model of liberal democracy promoted by Gunson, which promises everything in theory and delivers little of substance in practice. Ask a Venezuelan.

Space does not permit me to counter all of Gunson's half-baked allegations, but typical of his approach is his attack on Chávez for having led a failed military-civilian rebellion in 1992. No mention is made that this uprising was a response to the mass slaughter of 2,000 slum dwellers in 1989 who were protesting against the neo-liberal programme of President Carlos Andres Pérez, nor that the action was supported by the vast majority of Venezuelans. Neither does Gunson mention the racism and contempt for the working class and the poor (Manuel Rosales calls them "parasites"), which typifies the opposition and makes them unelectable.

Gunson criticises the pace of economic reform in Venezuela and compares it unfavourably with Roosevelt's New Deal and Attlee's 1945 Labour government, whilst ignoring the different historical context. In today's neo-liberal world, redistribution and public ownership are revolutionary concepts. Gunson fails to acknowledge the obvious; that the key achievements of the Chávez administration - a million more kids in school, free health and education, subsidised food markets - were opposed tooth and claw by the United States and the Venezuelan elites who wielded huge economic power and controlled the civil service, the media, and large sections of the police force and army.

Gunson knows all this, and yet he writes as if Chávez has a magic wand and faces no opposition. Chávez may not be a magician and possibly Bush may not really be a devil. But if you grew up in a shack on the hills surrounding Caracas and have seen your life transformed for the better, it probably feels very much like they are.

He also skewers one Rory Carroll--another semi-informed disinformer.

Good stuff, and heaven knows correctives like this are badly needed--especially when the bullshit starts infiltrating otherwise responsible news sites like the Guardian!

Too bad Jon Stewart is married

I wonder if he'd still consent to have my baby...if I asked him nicely. Pretty please?

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Rock 'em, sock 'em, Chavecito!

As Venezuela's election day, December 3, draws near, Chavecito sightings abound. And sometimes it's not even him in the picture...or is it?

A giant Chavecito balloon hangs over a barrio in Caracas

This Chavecito's just full of hot air, unlike the original, but then again, he's a giant balloon. Clearly, the people of the barrios around Caracas are pumped to greet their president on one of his campaign stops...

Socky-boppy Chavecito toy

The opposition campaign is nasty, full of lies and false promises, but if this boppy toy is any indication, you can't keep a good man down. It even says so on his belt.

But not only can Chavecito roll with the punches, he can dish 'em, too:

Chavecito silhoutted against the sky, doing his famous palm-punch

And when he's not been rallying the troops, he's been inaugurating important projects, such as this bridge over the Orinoco, with his good friend Lula of Brazil, who supplied engineers to help with others:

Chavecito and Lula open a bridge at Ciudad Guayana

And as part of the fun and festivities, of course they just had to ride across the more than 3km span in Venezuela's own big, bad-ass answer to the Humvee--the Tiuna:

Chavecito and Lula in a Tiuna

Meanwhile, his ratings are so far through the roof that Chavecito commands more than double the percentage of decided voters as does Manuel Rosales, his closest (cough, snicker) challenger. No wonder he's all smiles lately...

A very droll Chavecito, holding a map of Mercosur countries

And wouldn't you be, if you knew that your own election back in '99 was what turned the tide of South America to the left--and is also helping to create continent-wide economic integration?

November 15, 2006

Quotable: Amy Poehler on regime change

"In an ironic turnaround, Iraq brought regime change to the United States."

-- Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live

But I thought "we" didn't negotiate with terrorists!

I guess that's all changed. From, of all stinky sources, the WingNutDaily, the terrible truth about the connections between FUX Snooze...and terror:

Palestinian terror groups and security organizations in the Gaza Strip received $2 million from a U.S. source in exchange for the release of Fox News employees Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, who were kidnapped here last summer, a senior leader of one of the groups suspected of the abductions told WND.

The terror leader, from the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees, said his organization's share of the money was used to purchase weapons, which he said would be utilized "to hit the Zionists."

He said he expects the payments for Centanni and Wiig's freedom will encourage Palestinian groups to carry out further kidnappings.

Officials associated with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party and its security organization, the Preventative Security Services, confirmed to WND money was paid for the release of the Fox News reporters.

A senior leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group, the declared "military wing" of Fatah, said the group received a small percentage of the $2 million, which all parties interviewed said was transferred in cash.

Centanni and Wiig were released last August after being held hostage by terrorists in Gaza for nearly two weeks. Shortly before their release, a video was issued showing the two dressed in beige Arab-style robes and appearing to convert to Islam. Wiig, a New Zealand citizen, gave an anti-Western speech, with his face expressionless. Centanni later explained he and Wiig were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint.

[...]

A sum of about $20,000 was provided to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group, the Committees leader said, explaining the organization was paid to avoid conflict with militants from Abbas' Fatah party. The Committees is closely associated with Hamas, while the Brigades is a member of the rival Fatah party.

A leader of the Brigades in the northern Gaza Strip confirmed the money was received but maintained his group was not involved with the kidnappings.

The Popular Resistance Committees leader said aside from the large cash transfer to the Dugmash section of his group, the Committees as an organization received about $150,000.

He said the money was used to purchase weapons.

"We used 100 percent of the money for one precise goal — our war against the Zionists," the Committees leader said.

He said weapons purchased included rockets.

Well, there goes that "we don't negotiate with terrorists" thing. I guess "we" somehow mysteriously doesn't include the rightards who say those very words!

BTW, how's this for labyrinthine:

A spokeswoman for Fox News Channel told WND she could not provide an official statement about whether Fox was aware of money paid to free its two employees.

A source at Fox told WND many parties were involved with the freedom of Centanni and Wiig, including the U.S. government, and that it was possible money was paid.

A State Department spokesman said his agency did not pay for the release of the Fox News employees.

The senior Committees leader and members of Fatah's Preventative Security Services told WND that as part of the cash transfer, leaders of the Security Services pledged to ensure against further kidnappings of Americans in the Palestinian territories.

But the Committees leader balked at the promise.

"This is just so the Americans can turn the affair into a beautiful thing by saying they have a pledge," said the terror leader.

"Maybe the Preventive Security Services took the promise but we didn't. They have no way of enforcing it. The Palestinian groups can still kidnap Americans. Maybe for a short period the groups will not kidnap Americans to show respect for the promises, but if there is an escalation, we will not hesitate to kidnap Americans."

We didn't do it--THEY did it! No--THEY did! Back and forth the finger-pointing goes. It was FUX! No, the State Dept.! No, Hamas--no, Fatah! Shit, people, will SOMEONE please step up and claim responsibility for that bare ass lying there on the pavement? You're all an embarrassment to terrorists everywhere, you buncha fuckin' Keystone Kreeps.

Most beautiful of all, though, is how this is one arm of the White House propaganda octopus savaging the other. They're no longer in lockstep; GOOD. I love it when they eat their own--saves me having to chew 'em up and spit 'em out.

Rightards of all stripes would be so entertaining if they only weren't out to destroy the world!

What is Phil Gunson smoking?

Whatever it is, he needs to put it down. It's messing with his head, and the result ain't pretty:

Tariq Ali thinks the "Bolivarian" regime of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela is "reminiscent of Roosevelt's New Deal and the policies of the 1945 Labour government". This is a bit of a stretch. Let's do some compare-and-contrast.

Unlike FDR or Clement Attlee, Chávez is an unrepentant (albeit a failed) coup leader who holds representative democracy in contempt, despite having used it, tactically, to obtain power. A former lieutenant-colonel, he treats elections like wars: one of his slogans in the current campaign is "vencer o morir" ("win or die").

Roosevelt was, it is true, elected to a record four consecutive terms (dying in office at the beginning of the fourth). But he governed within the framework of a liberal democracy. Even so, this triggered the passing of the 22nd amendment to the US Constitution, setting a limit of two terms.

In its wisdom, Congress considered that indefinite re-election threatened to end in dictatorship and the subordination of all branches of government to the executive.

Chávez, who has been in office for nearly eight years, and is seeking a further six-year term next month, has promised a referendum to abolish term limits altogether, and says he intends to rule until 2030.

In Venezuela, all branches of government are already, in practice, subordinated to the executive. It is unthinkable that the legislature could act independently to curb executive power.

Ugh...and that's only the first lump of ca-ca he lays on us. Nevertheless, let us fact-check his false "contrast" view of Tariq Ali's apt comparison.

First, about that coup: Nice job of ignoring what prompted it, Phil. When a government turns a country's army against its own people, what the hell kind of response do you think it's going to reap in the end? And what do you think is the appropriate thing for that army to do--go on obediently massacring people at the will of an oligarch, or turn its guns on the oligarch, to oust him and usher in a more democratic alternative? In the sense that it brought about radical change, leading to a more open democracy in Venezuela (under Chavez the coup leader, no less!), this coup was not a failure but the inauspicious beginning of a resounding success. Most interestingly, by the time Chavez was in power, the case was tried by an international human-rights tribunal--and Chavez, on behalf of the Venezuelan government, did not contest the court's verdict. So tell me, Phil, what does Chavez have to "repent" of, if this is the outcome of his actions? The fact that he turned his gun on a rotten, undemocratic "leader" who murdered over a thousand of his own countrymen--and then, in his presidential capacity, held the government accountable?

As for Chavez's "holding representative democracy in contempt", well--if you knew Venezuelan "democracy" like most Venezuelans did, Phil, you'd hold the "representative" form of it in contempt, too. The people were NOT being represented; they were being dictated to. The Punto Fijo pact was no democracy; it was a farce, a duopoly. The same shit came out of two sets of assholes with very little to distinguish between them. Who wants to be "represented" by one of two assholes, both of whom are full of identical shit?

As for the military connection, much ado has been made of the fact that Chavez used to be an army officer, and not a peep out of the Phil Gunsons of this world about what Chavez has done with the Armed Forces of Venezuela since becoming their civilian commander in chief. Plan Bolivar, Phil--look into it! A president commanding the army to help the poor instead of massacring them? Heresy--everyone knows a "representative democrat" type of Latin American leader only ever calls out the troops in order to crack down on those uppity peasants. Were Chavez a Pinochet-style far-right military dictator, the US would support him, and Phil Gunson would be tripping over himself to find ways to praise his "freedom-loving" regime. But Chavez is no tame dictator; he's a wild democrat, so Gunson doesn't think he's to be trusted. Goes to show you where the Miami Herald's pet shills' sympathies lie. Let's face it--if former military men are not fit to be elected presidents, where does that leave Ike Eisenhower--another sane ex-army leader, duly elected as a civilian, who warned about the dangers of the Military-Industrial Complex and spoke out for socially responsible government?

I suppose Phil Gunson would say it's a good thing that Ike was limited to two terms, unlike that evil, evil FDR who preceded him. I say people should thank their lucky stars that he had a good man like John F. Kennedy to succeed him. Kennedy, incidentally, is the one who said that those who made peaceful revolution impossible, made violent revolution inevitable. (Yo Phil, you might want to study up on Carlos Andres Perez, and find out what kind of man he really is, so you know why Chavez tried to depose him in the way he did.)

There is no proof, incidentally, to Gunson's contention that "indefinite re-election threatened to end in dictatorship and the subordination of all branches of government to the executive" in the case of the United States, nor that it would also do so in Venezuela. And his contention that "[i]n Venezuela, all branches of government are already, in practice, subordinated to the executive", is a bald-faced lie. To be fair, though, he's not the only US journalist to fall into that trap. All the mainstream media ones repeat the same drivel, ignoring the reality. I guess the Venezuelan National Assembly is not as sexy as Chavecito--certainly it's not as out-there. Or maybe they haven't been to Venezuela, or at least, not outside of the richer parts of Eastern Caracas. No wonder they miss out on what it's up to. (Maybe someone should point them to Aporrea, and tell them to learn Spanish!)

Now, about that referendum thing. Something is certainly funny about Phil Gunson finding it funny that a president pondering removal of term limits would put it to a popular vote, rather than just decreeing it? I mean, how dictatorial is that? Uh, wait a second...not very, actually! In fact, it's downright...wait for it folks...D-word incoming...DEMOCRATIC! The people get to say if he stays or goes, and how long he stays before they want him to go. And no one BUT the people decides it--certainly not he, and not some cadre, or junta, or...man. That democracy shit is DANGEROUS!

And, speaking of shit: onward, onward with the ca-ca...

As Britain struggled to recover from the devastation of the second world war, the Attlee government built a million houses in five years. Despite the biggest oil boom in his country's history, Chávez hasn't managed a fifth of that in eight years - and Venezuela's massive housing deficit has grown every year he has been in office.

Aneurin Bevan created a national health service, in 1940s Britain, that was the envy of the world, and free to all - regardless of political affiliation - at the point of delivery. Public hospitals in Venezuela are falling apart, starved of resources while the government sets up a parallel health system as part of its clientilistic "missions" programme.

Whilst they have undoubtedly led to a transfer of cash and welfare benefits to large numbers of poor Venezuelans, the "missions" raise major issues of cost, sustainability and political bias which have yet to be addressed.

The New Deal was notable, among other things, for massive public works projects to combat unemployment. Chávez is only now, in many cases, after years of delay, completing projects planned under previous administrations.

Several of these, such as the commuter train from the capital to the nearby Valles del Tuy, have been inaugurated before they were fully operational, despite the risk to users, in order to boost the president's re-election prospects.

Much of the country's infrastructure, including the main highway connecting Caracas with its air and seaports, is in a lamentable condition due to poor planning and maintenance.

Meanwhile, unemployment stands officially at just under 10%, while almost half the workforce subsists in the "informal economy". Over half the country's manufacturing companies have closed down, and despite a dozen or more emergency employment plans, few real jobs have been created.

Roosevelt's public works programme didn't solve the unemployment problem either. Perhaps that is the comparison Tariq Ali is trying to make.

Or perhaps not.

Actually, the "massive housing deficit" is due to the fact that Chavez is building for quality, not quantity. That takes longer than just slapping together a bigger, better shantytown, like his predecessors (hola again, CAP) did. Plus, there is a land reform program at work that Gunson won't mention, but I will. The housing shortage, like the disintegration of the public hospitals in Venezuela, began long before Chavez even entered the political scene; it's what happens when the kleptocrats who toady to the IMF are busier enriching themselves than they are in providing the necessities. So much for "projects planned under previous administrations", eh Phil? "Planning" is cheap; DOING costs, and those past presidents were too busy stuffing their own pockets. (Notice, gentlefolks, how Gunson offers no proof that previous presidents made good on their many promises, nor does he mention that Carlos Andres Perez was impeached for misuse of public funds.)

There is likewise no proof that Barrio Adentro is "clientilistic", whatever that's supposed to mean; no one checks your party affiliation at the clinic door. They're all too busy practising medicine! The Cuban doctors are there to help everyone who was out in the cold before, thanks to prior administrations' neglect of those crumbling public hospitals. (BTW, Phil, you might want to see what Chavecito's been building lately besides good quality housing. Your myopic eyes might just pop.)

And how about that slap at the New Deal as just a make-work project? FDR must love being damned with such faint praise. Actually, it was responsible for a huge leap forward in infrastructure, including highways and electricity. Had that been left to capitalists, people might still be waiting. Rural areas were wired for the first time since electric power had been harnessed decades earlier, interstate highways were built, and great hydroelectric dams which still generate electricity today all had their origin under FDR. That project not only generated jobs, it modernized an America in danger of being left behind.

Likewise, Chavecito has some impressive projects to his credit. New airports and railway stations are growing like weeds. So are big bridges. The Valles del Tuy railway line which Gunson maligns, incidentally, is not in fact known to be anything less than sound; does anyone seriously suppose that such a project would be inaugurated before it passed inspection? It isn't the old Venezuela anymore, Phil. The tyranny of the US automakers is over. No bojote--"don't mess around"--is another of Chavez's slogans, borrowed from Che Guevara, but you won't hear Gunson quoting it. Too businesslike; it would undermine his thesis that Chavez is (a) incompetent, (b) totalitarian, and (c) dangerous. The Caracas/La Guaira highway, too, has since been replaced with a fully functional bypass while the new viaduct is being constructed. (Yes, it's already well under way!) So while it takes a bit longer to get from one city to the other, it's not so dire as Gunson makes it out to be.

As for the neglect and unemployment Gunson cites, chalk those up to legacies of Punto Fijo. More than 40 years of that can't be cured in just 8 years. (Why do I get a strange feeling that if another puntofijista arrived on the scene and did nothing but abuse the people as the old ones did, the Phil Gunsons of the world would look the other way, or, if that were impossible, strive to minimize the trouble, praise the perps to high heaven for their obedience to the IMF, and then pretend surprise when it all went kerplooey?)

But wait, the worst is yet to come. Hold your noses, folks, Mr. Gunson is about to let a real stinker go:

A more precise comparison, however, in the case of the United States, might be with the McCarthyite era in the 1950s, when dissenters were blacklisted, labelled agents of a foreign power, and denied employment.

The Venezuelan government runs a blacklist, known as the Lista Maisanta, which would make Joe McCarthy green with envy. At the last count it had over 12 million names on it, classified (at the click of a computer mouse) according to their political affiliation.

If your name does not come up red (for chavista) then you may be denied not only employment but government services, grants, loans and contracts. Even Venezuela's national library checks your political affiliation before issuing passes.

Until recently, this type of political discrimination (which violates the law, the constitution and any number of treaties to which Venezuela is a signatory) was denied by the government. Now it is official policy.

In a recent speech (clandestinely filmed) energy minister Rafael Ramírez - who is also head of the state oil company PDVSA - told company managers that any employee who was not fully behind Chávez should "give up his position to a Bolivarian".

"We removed from this company 19,500 enemies of this country," Ramírez said, "and we're ready to go on doing that, to ensure that this company is aligned with, and corresponds to, the love that our people has expressed towards our president."

A couple of days later, the president praised him for the speech, inviting him to repeat it "100 times a day". As to the uproar over the incident, Chávez wondered, "what they would say if they could hear what I tell the military". In the same speech, he reiterated his threat not to renew the concessions of opposition TV companies.

Tariq Ali seems to want to extend this system of blacklisting beyond the borders of Venezuela. He accuses those of us who dissent from the government line of a "massive disinformation campaign", the proof of which is our dissent itself. Sound familiar? Senator Joe would be proud.

Peeeeee-EW!

That McCarthyesque "blacklist" is nothing of the sort. In fact, Chavez has worked explicitly against such a blacklist, as has Luis Tascon. The Tascon List was actually compiled so that people could verify whethor not their names had been fraudulently added to an opposition petition to have Chavez removed in 2004. Yes, folks, the Chavez-haters are well known for their dirty trickery in that signature drive, including signing whole sheets of names in identical handwriting, coercing employees to sign on (or lose their jobs--there's a blacklist for you!), and adding the names of the dead. I wouldn't be surprised if a few thousand people's pet dogs also ended up on the list.

BTW, who would want to give a government job to anyone known to be a supporter of coups, sabotage and treason? I sure wouldn't. Why then expect it of Chavez? He would have to be an extraordinary masochist. He is within his rights to deny jobs to those who would only abuse their power anyway. McCarthy went after people merely on suspicion of communism, remember. There was no proof that any of them ever used their affiliation to do harm. Chavez's opponents, however, are often on record as being not only rabidly anticommunist (like McCarthy!), but very much interested in sabotaging Chavez at every step of the way.

And nowhere was that sabotage more apparent than at PDVSA, the state oil company. PDVSA was a big target, due to its crucial status as a source of funding for the Bolivarian revolution. After the first coup attempt of 2002, PDVSA's bloated managerial corps tried to drive Chavez out of office by waging a lockout and hacking and stealing PDVSA computers. The campaign did billions of dollars in damage to the entire Venezuelan economy; people in all but the wealthiest sectors suffered. That's inexcusable. That's why Rafael Ramirez, who presided over PDVSA's most profitable period to date, demanded loyalty and Chavez supported him for doing so. It's not too much to ask of a public servant. Treason, like dereliction of duty, is grounds for a legitimate firing.

Likewise, the news media have a duty to the public to provide accurate, truthful information, not propaganda and lies as the major commercial media in Venezuela are notorious for doing. And if they refuse to do their duty, why not revoke their broadcast licences? Any civilized country--Canada, say, or most of Europe--has similar laws on its books. Good in Canada, bad in Venezuela?

BTW, Phil, way to put words in Tariq Ali's mouth. "Seems to want" is sheer projection on your part; you seem to want it to be so, when in fact it ain't.

Now, for the final flatulent salvo:

The only media campaign I am aware of is the one run by solidarity groups, which treats all critical reporting on Venezuela as evidence of a sinister plot to bring down the government.

As for "disinformation", the writings of the solidarity press are marred by serious errors of fact and interpretation, and Tariq Ali's article is, unfortunately, no exception.

There have not, for instance, been "three attempts ...to topple Hugo Chávez", unless you consider that fulfilling the constitutional requirements for a midterm recall referendum amounts to a coup attempt.

A genuine debate as to whether authoritarian petro-populism is a "beacon" for the world's poor would be welcome. But that would require, on both sides, respect for the facts, intellectual honesty and tolerance of a variety of opinions.

None of these conditions looks likely to be met any time soon by the Chávez regime's foreign supporters, who seem to prefer hurling abuse. But, as the Venezuelans often say, hope is the last thing to die.

Wow, look at that projection! And that spin!

Ladies and gentlemen, once more I call your attention to the fact that Mr. Gunson works for a well-known Miami propaganda outlet with a well-established bias against Chavez. So anything he says on "critical reporting on Venezuela" has to be taken with a truckload of salt. (Preferably road salt, seeing as this is a major snowjob.) Would he report critically on, say, Maria Corina Machado, the bee-queen of Sumate, who was welcome in Bush's Washington even as Chavecito remains persona non grata? Or Patricia Poleo, demagogue and murder-plotter extraordinaire? Or joint-ventures magnate Gustavo Cisneros, who hates Chavez so much that he has no compunction about dumping milk into rivers in order to starve out the Chavistas--or at least, their children?

Didn't think so.

No, critical reporting on Venezuela consists solely of criticism of the Chavez government and what it's doing wrong--and if it's not doing wrong, you get to make shit up, or at least uncritically cite shit some fat-cat oppositionists made up. But the oppostion itself? Untouchable. Everything they do is A-0K. Even when they plot coups and 15 post-coup years of dictatorship.

Phil may be right about there not having been three attempts to topple Hugo Chavez; I'm sure there have actually been many more, if failed plots are counted. One of them was recently scotched in Zulia, home state of Chavez's most touted current foe. But you won't hear much about that from this Miami stenographer, I'll bet...he's too busy whitewashing the anti-Chavistas.

If Phil Gunson wants to pontificate about "hurling abuse", he should take a harder look at those people--and the bearded visage in his own mirror.

November 13, 2006

Quotable: Sir Elton on the dangers of organized religions

"I love the idea of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the beautiful stories about it, which I loved in Sunday school and I collected all the little stickers and put them in my book. But the reality is that organised religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate."

--Sir Elton John

Did Israel "mini-nuke" Lebanon?

According to Italy's RAI News, it smells suspiciously like it...

The special report was triggered by the radioactivity measurements reported on a crater probably created by an Israeli Bunker Buster bomb in the village of Khiam, in southern Lebanon. The measurements were carried out by two Lebanese professors of physics - Mohammad Ali Kubaissi and Ibrahim Rachidi. The data - 700 nanosieverts per hour — showed remarkably higher radiocativity than the average in the area (Beirut = 35 nSv/hr ).

On September 17th, Ali Kubaissi took British researcher Dai Williams, from the environmentalist organization Green Audit, to the same site, to take samples that were then submitted to Chris Busby, technical advisor of the Supervisory Committee on Depleted Uranium, which reports to the British Ministry of Defense. The samples were tested by Harwell's nuclear laboratory, one of the most authoritative research centers in the world. On October 17th, Harwell disclosed the testing results - two samples in 10 did contain radioactivity.

On November 2nd, another British lab, The School of Oceanographic Sciences, confirmed Harwell's results — the Khiam crater contains slightly enriched uranium. Rainews24 also took a sample taken by Dai Williams for testing by the Department of Earth Sciences of the University of Ferrara. The testing - which is still ongoing - found an anomalous structure: the sample's surface includes alluminium and iron silicates, normal elements in a soil fragment. Yet, looking inside, estremely small bubbles can be found with high concentration of iron. Further testing will clarify the origin of these structures: what seems to be certain at the moment is that they are not caused by a natural process.

What kind of weapon is this? What weapon leaves traces of radiation and produces such lethal and circumscribed consequences?

Researcher Dai Williams believes this is a new class of weapons using enriched uranium, not through fission processes but through new physical processes kept secret for at least 20 years.

Physicist Emilio del Giudice form the National Institute of Nuclear Physics came to the same conlcusion: "There are two ways to explain the origin of the enriched uranium found in Khiam:

1) this material was present already in the structure of the bombs, but I am puzzled since one should explain the rationale of the use of a material which is both expensive and dangerous, because of its enhanced radioactivity, to people handling it, including military personnel of Israeli Army.

2) the enrichment has been the consequence of the use of the bomb; this possibility is hardly compatible with the known effects of conventional nuclear weapons and should imply that some newly discovered nuclear phenomenon could be at work.

According to my friend Kris, who posts as SensiScholar at Unfiltered News Network and is a former US Marine, this was indeed a "mini-nuke"--and deployed for no reason but pure malice:

We know depleated uranium was used because we saw the photos of the sabot rounds as they were being off-loaded. Considering sabot rounds are designed as anti-tank rounds, hence the need for depleted uranium to penetrate the armor, and we know Hezbollah doesn't have any tanks I thought it was just cruelty to shoot that shit into place where people live.

IMO shooting sabot rounds at targets that aren't armored tanks is a form of bio warfare because of the long-term health effects those munitions cause.

This bunker buster may have had depleted uranium.... only a shitload more of it than a 105mm tank projectile.... instead of 10lbs of it this might have had over 100lbs.... who knows.... the bunker buster itself weighs either 2000 or 5000lbs....

He later added:

What's even sicker about depleted uranium rounds is I don't think it's "necessary" and here's why....

The Army and Marines have an artillery piece called MLRS... Multiple Launch Rocket System. MLRS was nicknamed "steel rain" by Iraqis in Desert Storm because it would air burst and rain steel over combatants and innocents alike.

After considering collateral damage Lockheed Martin developed GMLRS with the "G" represented Guided. These 227mm rockets fly over 70km and have sensors and GPS that after the airburst these "bomblets" fall to earth scanning the ground in a circular motion to find "hard targets" and once found another rocket motor fires scattering submunitions onto the targets. Once above the targets the munition explodes and shoots molten copper that penetrates EVERYTHING and destroys tanks in seconds.... faster than white phosphorous.

Now, if the military can take out a tank with molten copper then why do we need to use depleted uranium and damage the environment in the area where the rounds were detonated?

I'm sure Lockheed- martin would be happy to sell our allies these rounds at $1,000,000 each... so why use a weapon with biological consequences that kills long after the combatants are taken out?

Cruelty is my guess.

Not exactly on the scale of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, but still devastating and disturbing, especially since depleted uranium has a half-life of four billion years. The damage DU rounds can do is not exactly unknown, although its proponents are eyeball-deep in denial (remember all the apologists, government and otherwise, for Agent Orange? Same idea.) That's not only biowarfare; that's GENOCIDE against the Lebanese people.

And worthy of a war-crimes trial, too. Were I the prosecutor, I'd also be laying criminal charges against the makers of those rounds.

And were I the judge, I'd impose hefty punitive damages--enough to do to the war profiteers what they did to Lebanon.

November 12, 2006

If this is purity, give me DIRT!

Why don't boys have to covenant to abstain, Mommy?

Because if they do, Jimmy, they'll turn QUEEEEEEER.

What's QUEEEEEEER, Mommy?

Trust me, Jimmy, you don't want to know. Now take off your sister's tutu and put it back in her closet before she finds out it's missing.

Fehhh. I hate it when I channel fundies.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to take a shower. Preferably with some earth in it, since "purity" of this sort creeps me the hell out.

Chavecito, you need more stadiums...

One more infrastructure project to put that well-earned political capital (and oil money) into, eh? Well, if it prevents "emergencies" like this, it will be worthwhile...

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has opened a military air base which was at the centre of a failed coup in 2002 for a concert by Latin pop star Shakira.

The Colombian singer, 29, had not been able to find a venue in the country, Mr Chavez revealed in a televised speech.

He decided to open the La Carlota base in Caracas after receiving a letter from Shakira's promoters.

Mr Chavez also joked that he wanted to attend the concert. "Maybe I'll put on a wig and go see Shakira," he said.

Wouldn't that be a hoot? Probably a taste of old times for him, too, since in the early, clandestine days of his Bolivarian movement, Chavecito routinely had to move around in disguise, according to his extended interview with Aleida Guevara:

On occasions I came to Caracas. I was virtually undercover. I couldn't go to the military school because that would be a black mark against my comrades, jeopardizing their safety. For basic secrecy reasons I couldn't openly contact the troops in the barracks. The top brass were monitoring me--wanting to know who I was speaking to. Wherever I went I had to try and throw them off my trail. When I came to Caracas I would go out quite openly with friends, have a drink, play softball. But late at night, I would put on a wig; can you imagine me in a wig? I would disguise myself, and would even be smuggled around in the trunk of a car, always changing my disguise, always moving around in the middle of the night.

Yup--good times! He'll feel like a young army officer all over again.

And since Venezuela is fast on its way to first-world status, it's only fitting that it should have the appropriate venues for all the performers it will in time attract.

I have to admit this next passage pissed me off, though, as being unworthy of the Beeb--which is normally more objective than to print drivel like this:

The La Carlota air force base has been reserved for military use since 2002's attempted coup, which saw Mr Chavez temporarily forced out of power.

Hundreds of Venezuelans surrounded the base hoping to see the former president leaving the country.

But he was reinstated within 48 hours after a post-coup government collapsed in the face of a rebellion by loyalist troops and massive protests.

"Hundreds of Venezuelans" were there in the hopes of seeing their duly elected president abducted and spirited away? That's pitiful when you consider that hundreds of THOUSANDS of other Venezuelans protested that same act of treason and demanded the return of the man they'd put in Miraflores. I guess, though, that poor folks from the hillside barrios around Caracas count for less with the foreign media than do a wealthy, privileged few who want to run the country like a private plantation complete with slaves--and the helping hand of Uncle Sam.

And that "post-coup government" was nothing of the sort. It was a junta of fascist pretenders with no democratic mandate whatsoever. The "rebellion" of the troops was nothing of the sort, either--it was the lawful and just restoration of democratic order according to a pre-arranged emergency measure, not a military coup.

It's irresponsible wordings like this that encourage all the delusional wackos out there in their repeated calls for the violent overthrow of a leader who is not only democratically elected, but whose reforms all have the overwhelming support of the people--just as he does.

November 11, 2006

Germany wants a piece of Rummy

I think I may have to start holding up my German head again.

This might just make up for 12 DISASTROUS years of Nazism--and certainly tells me that someone has learned history's lessons well:

Donald Rumsfeld, who quit as US defence secretary this week, may face criminal charges in Germany for alleged abuses in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq.

A complaint has been launched by the US-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, representing a Saudi detained in Cuba and 11 Iraqis held in Baghdad.

German law allows the pursuit of cases originating anywhere in the world.

The centre made a similar request in 2004 but German prosecutors dropped that case.

The Centre for Constitutional Rights argues that Mr Rumsfeld was instrumental in abuses committed at Guantanamo Bay and at Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad.

The lawyer group alleges that Mr Rumsfeld personally approved torture to be used to extract information from the prisoners.

It is also seeking to prosecute US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former CIA director George Tenet, among others.

The group's complaint will be filed to German federal prosecutors on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the group said.

And this time, it could well prove different. I have a feeling the prosecutors won't drop the ball as they did last time. The scope is broader, for one thing; Torquemadito Gonzales is now among the defendants, as are George Tenet (CIA fudger-in-chief); Jay Bybee, who wrote Dubya's first excuse note for torturing prisoners; John Yoo, another legal excuse-maker; Stephen Cambone, another noted intel fudger. And on the plaintiffs' side, a heavy hitter in the witness box: Fmr. Brig.-Gen. Janis Karpinski.

The plaintiffs in the case include 11 Iraqis who were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as the so-called "20th hijacker" and a would-be participant in the 9/11 hijackings. As TIME first reported in June 2005, Qahtani underwent a "special interrogation plan," personally approved by Rumsfeld, which the U.S. says produced valuable intelligence. But to obtain it, according to the log of his interrogation and government reports, Qahtani was subjected to forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions, sleep deprivation and other controversial interrogation techniques.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that one of the witnesses who will testify on their behalf is former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the one-time commander of all U.S. military prisons in Iraq. Karpinski — who the lawyers say will be in Germany next week to publicly address her accusations in the case — has issued a written statement to accompany the legal filing, which says, in part: "It was clear the knowledge and responsibility [for what happened at Abu Ghraib] goes all the way to the top of the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ."

Here's Sy Hersh's coverage in the New Yorker from two years ago. As you can see, the general hasn't wavered in her story that the abuse here is not the result of a few bad apples in the ranks, but goes straight to the top.

Rummy, a baddie on either side of the Atlantic

Impeachment: "off the table", but...

(Note: I just created a new category here--BushCo Death Watch. I have a feeling there will be many entries in it as this administration goes lame-duck. I retroactively added two more entries, seeing as the death watch has actually been under way since the elections four days ago and the fallout began almost immediately thereafter.)

I admit it, I was (and still am) mad at the Congressional Democrats for not wanting to utter the unspeakable I-word, even though there is more than enough to warrant proceedings. But here are a couple of heartening items I just had to share.

First, from Democracy Now, a prominent former Congresswoman and the author of The Pentagon Papers are spearheading a citizens' drive for impeachment. Here, Elizabeth Holtzman and Daniel Ellsberg tell why they're doing it, as well as the historic background of the Nixon resignation and the failed attempt on Bill Clinton:

AMY GOODMAN: What's your response to the Speaker in waiting, Nancy Pelosi, saying it's off the table?

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: Well, it's very understandable. It was off the table to the Democrats in 1973, when the Democrats controlled the House and the Senate, and you had Richard Nixon as president.

AMY GOODMAN: He had won by a landslide victory in 1972.

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: Correct. He had won by a landslide, and impeachment was off the table then. Nobody -- no Democrat was pushing for it. And, in fact, as the revelations came out, it still wasn't on the table. It took the American people, after the Saturday Night Massacre, sending a clear message to the Congress --

AMY GOODMAN: The Saturday Night Massacre being?

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: The firing by Richard Nixon of the special prosecutor who was investigating him. It took that clear signal from the American people, who said, "Enough is enough. We are not a banana republic. A president cannot be above the law. He cannot stop an investigation into possible criminal behavior by him or his top aides. And we want Congress to hold him accountable." So it came from the American people. It didn't come from the Congress.

It's understandable that congressional leaders, members of Congress, will be very reluctant to take this enormous step to protect our Constitution and our democracy. But the American people still -- we have a democracy. You saw what happened at the polls. Members of Congress will get it, if the American people want it.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Of course, in the Clinton scandal, it wasn't a demand that came from the American people for impeachment, it was one that came directly from the Congress itself.

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: Correct.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, of course, that was the level of alleged crimes there was certainly not at the level that we're talking about here.

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: Well, remember, under the Constitution, first of all, you don't need a crime to commit an impeachable offense. It doesn't have to be a crime. A high crime and misdemeanor is really an archaic British term that means an abuse of power. It's a political offense, not a criminal offense.

President Clinton did very bad things, but they were not abuses of power. They did not threaten our democracy, and the American people got it. They understand what impeachment's about, and that's why they in the end supported the impeachment of Richard Nixon, because what he was doing was an abuse -- involved an abuse of power. What he was saying was that he was above the law, and the American people said, "No, we don't want that kind of abuse of our democracy."

And I think the same thing can happen again. Of course, you can't have a top-down impeachment. You can't have a partisan impeachment. If an impeachment happens, it has to be done, I think, the way we did it in Watergate, which was bipartisan, to include the American people, to have a process that was extremely fair, nobody could question the fairness of it.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain how it worked, because Nixon resigned. He wasn't impeached.

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: Nixon resigned, because the process was so fair and so thorough and so honorable that he was going to have no support. Maybe one or two people would have voted for him to stay on as President in the House, and maybe one or two people would have voted for him in the Senate. He had lost all support in the Congress. And that's why a delegation of top Republican leaders, including Barry Goldwater, went to see Richard Nixon and told him, "You have no support in the House or the Senate. You can go through an impeachment trial. You will be surely impeached in the House, and you will be surely removed from the Senate," because what happened was, all the members -- our first vote on the House Judiciary Committee was a bipartisan vote. We had members of the Republicans, as well as Democrats, including very conservative Democrats, voting for impeachment.

Then, the smoking gun tape was released by order of the Supreme Court. That's a tape that showed that Richard Nixon, from the get-go, had ordered the cover-up, an obstruction of justice. And once that tape came out, every Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, even those who had initially voted against impeachment, said he has committed impeachable offenses. So --

JUAN GONZALEZ: Let me ask you, --

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: -- it was clear.

JUAN GONZALEZ: -- John Conyers, who would head the House Judiciary Committee, certainly is not one who is afraid to begin these kinds of investigations. What was the relationship in the House Judiciary Committee then between the chairs there and the leadership?

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: Well, it was first the American people that galvanized Congress into action that lit that fire. That's what happened. The House Judiciary Committee, the leadership had a key decision to make: was it going to be the House Judiciary Committee that undertook this or was there going to be a special select committee? That was the first, I think, strategic and important decision.

They said, "Okay, it's going to the Judiciary Committee, because if we create a special committee, the American people will say we have stacked the cards. We're going to take the existing committee and use that committee, and that's the committee that -- warts and all, brand new members and all -- that was the committee that was given this assignment. But we never -- I never was given any instruction from any member of the leadership or by the chair of the committee, as to how to vote.

AMY GOODMAN: Nancy Pelosi would be president -- she's third in line --

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: Correct.

AMY GOODMAN: -- that is, if President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were impeached. But what are you talking about when it comes to Vice President Dick Cheney?

ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: Well, my view right now is that I'm not sure we have the overwhelming evidence. That's not to say he hasn't committed impeachable offenses, just that we don't have the same level of evidence that we have with respect to President Bush. On the illegal wiretaps, for example, it's President Bush who repeatedly and admittedly signed these orders directing wiretaps in violation of the explicit language of the statute. We don't have Dick Cheney signing that. I mean, that's a very good example of how we have President Bush, but we don't see Vice President Cheney's fingerprints. That's not to say he wasn't part and parcel to this, but we don't see that, so --

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to former Congress member Elizabeth Holtzman, who has written a book on impeachment. Daniel Ellsberg is also with us, perhaps the country's best-known whistleblower. leaked to the press the Pentagon Papers, the 7,000-page top-secret study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam that set in motion actions that would eventually topple Nixon. He recently published an article in Harper's magazine about Iran. It's called "The Next War." How do you tie this in, what your campaign is now, which is not exactly impeachment, Daniel Ellsberg?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: I think the impeachment process, starting with investigations, is very important, but it's not the only important thing right now. Actually, Maurice Hinchey introduced a bill on June 20th this year calling for Congress to cut off any funds, to deny any funds of the appropriation bill for an attack on Iran, unless that had followed, as in Article 1, Section 8, from a decision by Congress. And it was a very brief little discussion in the night of June 20th. Two hours later, there was a vote. He had 158 votes in favor of that, somewhat surprisingly. That is the way the Vietnam War was stopped. I don't think they'll stop the Iraq war very quickly that way. It takes a long time for a congressman to face the charge that he's taking money away from the troops, no matter how long, and whether they should be there or not.

But the Iran War has not yet started, and a measure to prevent it before it starts has, I think, a lot more promise, and I think that approach with the new Congress has real promise. But even so, you would need, I think, a crucial aspect of that would be information from inside the government, and this applies both to the impeachment process and to measures like this. If you rely entirely on the administration cooperating by providing the documents you're asking or the witnesses you're asking, that's not going to happen. They've promised already. I think it's Cheney who said "a cataclysmic fight to the death," before they will let these documents get out.

Now, a process like that is what finally emboldened Congress or enraged Congress to the point where, in fact, they did begin to cut off the funds for the war and they did seriously begin to look at impeachment. If the President was going to totally subordinate their role, rule it out of the Constitution essentially, that finally got their backs up. That could happen here, as investigations start, on a variety of reasons, which should happen, including Cheney. You'll get the facts on the table from leakers. The facts you'll get will be unauthorized.

And now, an unauthorized disclosure, a leak, has a chance of being acted on by Congress, which in the last several years, people have gotten discouraged. They've put out the truth to Sy Hersh and to others, and we can all see, not much happens. Congress, the Republican committees are not interested in hearing that. They don't want to act on it. Now, it's a challenge. If somebody inside the government gives information either on criminal wrongdoing by their bosses, which bears directly, or, you know, terrible high crimes and misdemeanors, which bears directly on impeachment, if they give that to Congress and the press, Congress can't -- Congress now led by the Democrats cannot just ignore it, at least not if we let them. We can demand that they do act on it, and that's a great inducement to get.

JUAN GONZALEZ: So, what you're saying in essence is that another Daniel Ellsberg is needed, and then maybe even another John Dean, to come forward from the inner circle.

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Both of those and more are needed, and we need them in a more timely way than either of us did it. Dean knew about the burglary of my psychiatrist's office years before he revealed it under pressure. I knew about what was happening in Nixon years before I finally saw the light, that it had to be given not only to Congress, which was sitting on it, but to the press. And I'm sorry it took that long, but when it comes to impeachment, say I have a full disclosure here to make, it was crimes that Nixon did against me, in part we learned by leaking, that were a major part of the impeachment process, that you were looking at, that he was committing those crimes.

If Dean had not revealed them in order to cop a plea himself in the process and not told the truth, they would not have called other people back to the grand jury and discovered they had enough basis for an impeachment. And likewise, if I hadn't put the documents out, Nixon wouldn't have been so afraid of me as to commit the crimes to shut me up.

I don't suppose I've made Bush as afraid of me then, I'm sorry to say. If he has committed crimes against me, I don't know them yet. If I have been listened in on warrant-less wiretaps -- I imagine I have, but it may be a while before I learn it. But there are others who could supply the names of who -- which Specter was not able to get from the President. Republican head of the Judiciary Committee was not able to get the names or even the programs. There are people in NSA who could tell him that. And if a Democrat now wants to hear that, which Specter didn't, he can call those people, he can put them under oath, and he can hear their testimony, people like Sibel Edmonds, Russell Tice, and people in NSA, who know the crimes that have been committed.

Links to other Democracy Now interviews added; DN has been covering the impeachable offences of BushCo for as long as they've been going on, as they've happened. Several important people, sure to be key in the investigations to come, have come forward to them since the major media are not covering the stories.

And speaking of "investigations to come", let's hear it for Congressman Henry Waxman of California:

The Democratic congressman who will investigate the Bush administration's running of the government says there are so many areas of possible wrongdoing, his biggest problem will be deciding which ones to pursue.

There's the response to Hurricane Katrina, government contracting in Iraq and on homeland security, political interference in regulatory decisions by theEnvironmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, and allegations of war profiteering, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

"I'm going to have an interesting time because the Government Reform Committee has jurisdiction over everything," Waxman said Friday, three days after his party's capture of Congress put him in line to chair the panel. "The most difficult thing will be to pick and choose."

Waxman, who's in his 16th term representing West Los Angeles, had plenty of experience leading congressional investigations before the Democrats lost control of the House to Republicans in 1994.

[...]

Republicans have speculated that a Democratic congressional majority will mean a flurry of subpoenas and investigations into everything under the sun as retaliation against the GOP and President Bush.

Not so, Waxman said.

"A lot of people have said to me, `Are you going to now go out and issue a lot of subpoenas and go on a wild payback time?' Well, payback is unworthy," he said. "Doing oversight doesn't mean issuing subpoenas. It means trying to get information."

Subpoenas would be used only as a last result, Waxman said, taking a jab at a previous committee chairman, GOP Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, who led the committee during part of the Clinton administration.

"He issued a subpoena like most people write a letter," Waxman said.

Waxman complained that Republicans, while in power, shut Democrats out of decision-making and abdicated oversight responsibilities, focusing only on maintaining their own power.

In contrast to the many investigations the GOP launched of the Clinton administration, "when Bush came into power there wasn't a scandal too big for them to ignore," Waxman said.

Among the issues that should have been investigated but weren't, Waxman contended, were the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, the controversy over the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name, and the pre-Iraq war use of intelligence.

He said Congress must restore accountability and function as an independent branch of government. "It's our obligation not to be repeating with the Republicans have done," Waxman said.

The dreaded A-word--like the I-word, unspeakable for the last five years--is finally on the table.

And where the one goes, can the other truly be far behind?

November 10, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: The Last Man on Horseback

A musical tribute from Chavecito to his legendary great-grandfather Pedro Perez Delgado, a.k.a. Maisanta:

I don't know what impresses me the most here: that Chavecito has honest-to-Goddess revolution in his blood (with great-grandpa a shit-disturbing guerrilla, it's historically inevitable); the fact that he managed to commit Andres Eloy Blanco's epic poem to memory (the original audio recording, as set down by Carlchucho, clocks in at over 20 minutes--and this one's just under 10); the enormous lung capacity it takes to recite all this at the top of 'em (it indubitably helps that Chavecito's a nice solid armful); or, when the camera pans over the theatre, you can see it's packed to the rafters with happy Bolivarians who are obviously loving every bit of this.

Can you blame them?

November 9, 2006

Time to put down the Sheepdog

...not resurrect this distempered mutt, as BushCo is trying to do at the eleventh hour:

John Bolton's prospects for staying on as U.N. ambassador essentially died Thursday as Democrats and a pivotal Republican said they would continue to oppose his nomination.

It was another blow to President Bush, two days after Democrats triumphed in elections that will give them control of Congress next year. On Wednesday, Bush had announced that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, a polarizing figure and face of the Iraq war, would step down.

On Thursday, the White House resubmitted Bolton's nomination to the Senate, where the appointment has languished for more than a year. Bush appointed him to the job temporarily in August 2005 while Congress was in recess, an appointment that will expire when the Congress adjourns, no later than January.

Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., who was defeated by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse on Tuesday, told reporters in Rhode Island that he would continue opposing Bolton. That would likely deny Republicans the votes needed to move Bolton's nomination from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to the full Senate.

"The American people have spoken out against the president's agenda on a number of fronts, and presumably one of those is on foreign policy," Chafee said. "And at this late stage in my term, I'm not going to endorse something the American people have spoke out against."

God bless Lincoln Chafee, quite possibly the only unrepugnant Republican still in office, for abiding by the will of the electorate--who are, at the end of the day, the real power-brokers in Washington, as it would behoove BushCo to remember.

Bolton, the Flying Monkey's Ass

The Pigman wallows

Awwwwww. Poor Rush Limbaugh! Methinks that man is just about to drown his corpulent sorrows once and for all in a cocktail shaker full of OxyContin, Lorcet and Vicodin. Get a load of his latest incoherent ramblings...

Now, I mentioned to you at the conclusion of the previous hour that people have been asking me how I feel all night long. I got, "Boy, Rush, I wouldn't want to be you tomorrow! Boy, I wouldn't want to have to do your show! Oh-ho. I'm so glad I'm not you." Well, folks, I love being me. (I can't be anybody else, so I'm stuck with it.) The way I feel is this: I feel liberated, and I'm going to tell you as plainly as I can why. I no longer am going to have to carry the water for people who I don't think deserve having their water carried. Now, you might say, "Well, why have you been doing it?" Because the stakes are high. Even though the Republican Party let us down, to me they represent a far better future for my beliefs and therefore the country's than the Democrat Party and liberalism does.

I believe my side is worthy of victory, and I believe it's much easier to reform things that are going wrong on my side from a position of strength. Now I'm liberated from having to constantly come in here every day and try to buck up a bunch of people who don't deserve it, to try to carry the water and make excuses for people who don't deserve it. I did not want to sit here and participate, willingly, in the victory of the libs, in the victory of the Democrat Party by sabotaging my own. But now with what has happened yesterday and today, it is an entirely liberating thing. If those in our party who are going to carry the day in the future -- both in Congress and the administration -- are going to choose a different path than what most of us believe, then that's liberating. I don't say this with any animosity about anybody, and I don't mean to make this too personal.

[...]

No, I'm not lying. Snerdley's concerned. I've not lied about anything I've said. Let me try this a different way. (sigh) I'm going to have to think about this. I tried to make it as clear as I can. I'm not going to eat my own, and I'm not going to throw my own overboard, particularly in a campaign, and particularly when the country is at war -- and I'm not going to do it for selfish reasons, and I'm not going to do it to stand out, and I'm not going to do it to be different. I'm not going to do it to draw attention from our enemies. I'm not going to do anything I do so that the Drive-By Media will like me or think that, "Ooooh, Limbaugh has changed! Ooooh, Limbaugh is coming around!" That's not my thinking. My thinking is: the left doesn't deserve to win. My thinking is: the country is imperiled with liberal victory. We may not have the best people on our side, but they're better than what we have on the left. But it has been difficult sometimes, when these people on our side have not had the guts to stand up for themselves, have not had the guts to explain what they really believe and why they're doing what they're doing. When they haven't had the courage to be who they are, when they haven't had the courage to be conservatives.

It has been a challenge to come in here and look at some of the weaknesses and some of the missed opportunities and try to cover for them and make up for them and make sure that the opportunities are not totally lost. But at some point you have to say, "I'm not them, and I can't assume the responsibility for their success. It isn't my job to make them succeed. It isn't my job to make elected Republicans look good if they can't do it themselves. It's not my job to make them understandable and understood if they can't do it themselves -- not in perpetuity, not ad infinitum." So all I can tell you is I feel a little liberated, and I think this is all going to result in a lot of cleansing in a number of areas.

Gee, what a shame. All that crapagandizing, all that taking advantage of Reagan's murder of the hairy, scary Fairness Doctrine, all that shameless boosting of Repugs while neglecting to actually VOTE for one until the oversight is pointed out by a reporter...all for nothing.

Try not to choke on your own vomit, Rush. We all know that contrary to what you say, you ARE lying, and this IS about you. Isn't it always? Why else all the self-important harrumphing, attempting (and failing) to claim the moral high ground, and posing for pseudo-macho, faux-patriotic shots like this?

Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Poseur

Blecch.

Why bother even to fake the patriotism anymore, since you as much as admit to having faked the partisanship all along, Rush? Are you now biting the hand that feeds you because you want more than you're getting from it?

Jim Derych, of the Huffington Post, thinks the real reason Rusty's so bitter is because he never believed his own smack to begin with:

This confirms what many of you have heard me say before. Given the nature of my book, folks ask me all the time "do you think Rush really believes this crap?" And now the answer that I gave has been confirmed. No. He doesn't believe what he says. He'll say whatever he has to say to keep Republicans in power. You can not believe a word that comes out of his mouth.

That may well be the case. Anyone who's sat through so much as a minute of the Pigman knows he's a hopelessly vain self-promoter, as well as a pompous know-nothing who pretends to more sagacity than he will ever possess. He will literally say anything so long as it draws attention (and, one surmises, money) his way. Look at his promo merchandise, and even his so-called charity--all of it is sickeningly self-referential. So it's natural that he'd hitch a ride on the bandwagon with the biggest pile of moneybags and the largest mass of glitzy, ditzy people hanging off it. If the left were like that--and thank mercy it's not--he'd be a leftist. He'll go wherever he thinks the wind is blowing. He's not content to be merely rich and famous; he's gotta milk his dumb sheep for all they're worth. (Which is less than a lot of them like to think, but enough about them. It's all about HIM, remember?)

And the Pigman isn't above profiteering from the suffering of others, either. (How's that Club Gitmo shit of yours selling lately, Rush?) Hell, even when it costs him a job (how'd that ESPN gig work out, again?), he can't resist tearing a strip off someone else--gratuitously, scurrilously, even spuriously--in order to assert his fraudulent top-dog status. There's not a vein of bigotry he won't shamelessly suck--at least until it runs dry and leaves him sputtering.

Derych again:

Ever notice how people only feel the need to clarify the stuff that they've said that was stupid--Macaca, lazy firefighters, botched jokes, etc? Those guys didn't do to well with the "let me be clear" setup.

[...]

It's a political philosophy that his at it's core the racism of the old Republican Southern Strategy. In my book I talk about how Rush has made 'liberal' the new 'nigger.' Now I've been around plenty of racists in my time. One of the mantras of a true, Klan-like racist belief is that the lowliest member of your race is still better than the best member of the race that you hate. Well, here we have Rush saying that basically the worst Republican is better than the best Democrat, and that he's going to endorse accordingly. While I've always thought this to be the case, I'm a little surprised to hear Rush say it so candidly.

You know the Pigman's admitting defeat when...

Actually, I'm not surprised. The Repugs have been very good to Rush; bear in mind that he could not have flourished unless Reagan abolished all legal requirement for the media to be honest and fair--and opened the door wide for the Big Money while slamming it on the nose of everyone else (to the detriment of society). Nor would he have had such a ready-made audience of white male bigots without their infamous Southern Strategy. In fact, according to Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice, there is a very compelling reason El Rushbo has been "carrying water" for the party so long:

The tragedy is that there was a time when Limbaugh was an entertaining, satirical independent conservative thinker — back in the days of the first President Bush. That seemingly changed after the then-President — who was being lambasted by Limbaugh — invited the mega talk show host to stay over at the White House and sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom. After that (coincidentally or not) the tone of his program changed and he became above all the defender of the GOP establishment and promoter of whatever its current line was.

In the journalism biz, editors sometimes warn reporters about being wined, dined and treated by news sources who figure such friendly treatment will soften potentially critical reporting. That is seemingly what happened to Limbaugh. He became the party establishment's powerful long-range wattage voice.

And now that they've gotten an unequivocal non-confidence vote, he backs and fills quite bitterly, claiming they haven't been properly conservative when in fact they've been conservative unto the point of fascism (which is conservatism's logical and inevitable end). Richard Viguerie has recently chimed in on a similar note, to the same laughable, belief-defying effect. Conservatism on the whole has taken a body blow--it has proved idiotic, repressive and ultimately unworkable.

Oh yeah, and it's also undesirable. As Jim Derych says,

Arnold Schwarzenegger ran as a liberal and won. Harold Ford Jr. ran as a conservative and lost. Different states, different races, but if we're talking about the victory of one ideology over the other, I think conservatism just got its taint handed to it.

Indeed.

Well, Repugs, you may as well get down there with your chief propaganda piggie. Since he's tripped and spilled the water he used to carry for you, and the ground is now fully saturated, why not join him in the smelly, muddy wallow you've made for yourselves? It's not as if you'll be getting back up on the high ground anytime soon.

Iran-Contra comes back to bite the Bush Crime Family

Barely is Rummy's political carcass cold, but we have a new scandal. It's really an old one, buried like Poe's Tell-Tale Heart--but, just like it, come back to haunt its murderous perpetrators! In case anyone doubts that the Bush Mafia isn't going to let a newly elected Democratic congress stand in its way--a pox on both its houses, sez Dubya--here's the glittering prize he picks for his new secretary of defence, meaning to rush the nomination through in the teeth of all opposition (as he also did with the hateful John Bolton).

So, gentlefolks, with no futher ado, I ask you to please give it up for Robert Gates. This old spook's not only CIA, he's Iran-Contra.

Robert Gates, George W. Bush's choice to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary, is a trusted figure within the Bush Family's inner circle, but there are lingering questions about whether Gates is a trustworthy public official.

The 63-year-old Gates has long faced accusations of collaborating with Islamic extremists in Iran, arming Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq, and politicizing U.S. intelligence to conform with the desires of policymakers — three key areas that relate to his future job.

Gates skated past some of these controversies during his 1991 confirmation hearings to be CIA director — and the current Bush administration is seeking to slip Gates through the congressional approval process again, this time by pressing for a quick confirmation by the end of the year, before the new Democratic-controlled Senate is seated.

If Bush's timetable is met, there will be no time for a serious investigation into Gates's past.

Fifteen years ago, Gates got a similar pass when leading Democrats agreed to put "bipartisanship" ahead of careful oversight when Gates was nominated for the CIA job by President George H.W. Bush.

In 1991, despite doubts about Gates's honesty over Iran-Contra and other scandals, the career intelligence officer brushed aside accusations that he played secret roles in arming both sides of the Iran-Iraq War. Since then, however, documents have surfaced that raise new questions about Gates's sweeping denials.

For instance, the Russian government sent an intelligence report to a House investigative task force in early 1993 stating that Gates participated in secret contacts with Iranian officials in 1980 to delay release of 52 U.S. hostages then held in Iran, a move to benefit the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

"R[obert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration of Jimmy Carter, and former CIA Director George Bush also took part" in a meeting in Paris in October 1980, according to the Russian report, which meshed with information from witnesses who have alleged Gates's involvement in the Iranian gambit.

Once in office, the Reagan administration did permit weapons to flow to Iran via Israel. One of the planes carrying an arms shipment was shot down over the Soviet Union on July 18, 1981, after straying off course, but the incident drew little attention at the time.

The arms flow continued, on and off, until 1986 when the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal broke.

[...]

Gates also was implicated in a secret operation to funnel military assistance to Iraq in the 1980s, as the Reagan administration played off the two countries battling each other in the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq War.

Middle Eastern witnesses alleged that Gates worked on the secret Iraqi initiative, which included Saddam Hussein's procurement of cluster bombs and chemicals used to produce chemical weapons for the war against Iran.

Gates denied those Iran-Iraq accusations in 1991 and the Senate Intelligence Committee — then headed by Gates's personal friend, Sen. David Boren, D-Oklahoma — failed to fully check out the claims before recommending Gates for confirmation.

However, four years later — in early January 1995 — Howard Teicher, one of Reagan's National Security Council officials, added more details about Gates's alleged role in the Iraq shipments.

In a sworn affidavit submitted in a Florida criminal case, Teicher stated that the covert arming of Iraq dated back to spring 1982 when Iran had gained the upper hand in the war, leading President Reagan to authorize a U.S. tilt toward Saddam Hussein.

The effort to arm the Iraqis was "spearheaded" by CIA Director William Casey and involved his deputy, Robert Gates, according to Teicher's affidavit. "The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to Iraq," Teicher wrote.

Ironically, that same pro-Iraq initiative involved Donald Rumsfeld, then Reagan's special emissary to the Middle East. An infamous photograph from 1983 shows a smiling Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein.

Teicher described Gates's role as far more substantive than Rumsfeld's. "Under CIA Director [William] Casey and Deputy Director Gates, the CIA authorized, approved and assisted [Chilean arms dealer Carlos] Cardoen in the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs and other munitions to Iraq," Teicher wrote.

Emphasis and link added.

Yes, folks, this gruesome tale comes a little late for Halloween, but none too soon considering Rummy's ignominious and, we now see, strangely strategic departure. Looks to me like Brutus has fallen on his sword to make way for Cassius. Meet the new assassin--even meaner than the old one, if such things are possible. How incestuous of them, too, to make Rummy's old handler his new replacement!

And, to add to the fun, Helen Thomas reports that the Bush II administration is working assidously to cover up the criminality of its Reagan-Bush I predecessors--which include, not coincidentally, a certain former deputy CIA director:

Remember the Iran-Contra scandal of the late 1980s in which Reagan's aides sold arms covertly to Iran and used the proceeds to illegally fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua? It led to congressional hearings and criminal indictments that tainted the Reagan-Bush administration in its final years.

The new far-reaching order, obviously designed to block historic revelations, covers most records and state secrets in the White House files. You can be sure they will stay secret if this order is upheld in the courts. The Bush order declares that documents subject to release after 12 years that are not covered by "constitutionally-based privileges" will fall into the category of freedom-of-information requests. That will permit the Archivist of the United States to withhold them, too.

So, what exactly is it that we are not supposed to know? Surely not anything that will taint Bush II even more deeply than it did his old CIA director daddy?

Mr. Gates has done his best to dispel the doubts that forced him to withdraw when he was first nominated in 1987. He has seemed contrite and open-minded and cites his broad experience and future vision. But senators would do well to consider at least three criteria.

Whether his past performance shows him to warrant their trust. . . whether he has earned the confidence of agency employees . . . and above all, whether he, an insider, is the right person to lead the agency into uncertain times. On each count, Mr. Gates falls short.

David Boren, the committee chairman, commends Mr. Gates for forthrightness. Yet he overlooks occasions when Mr. Gates helped skew intelligence assessments and was demonstrably blind to illegality. The illegality concerns the Iran-contra scandal. Mr. Gates contends he was `out of the loop' on decisions about what to tell Congress. And he defends his professed ignorance on grounds of deniability--that he was shielding the C.I.A. from involvement. These contentions defy belief.

The testimony of other puts Mr. Gates, on at least two occasions, very much in the loop. He supervised preparation of Director William Casey's deceitful testimony to Congress about the scandal. And one C.I.A. analyst, Charles Allen, says he informed Mr. Gates, before it came to light, of three unforgettable details: Oliver North's involvement, the markup of prices of arms sold surreptitiously to Iran, and diversion of the proceeds into a fund for covert operations. In a telling lapse of his reputedly formidable memory, Mr. Gates could not recall the details when Congress asked two months later.

The second criterion concerns intelligence estimates. Incorrect forecasting should not be disqualifying; estimates can be wrong for the right reasons of political expediency, that's 'cooking the books.'

The hearings have documented at least three cases of such slanting: a May 1985 estimate on Iran, estimates of Soviet influence in the third world, and assessments of Soviet complicity in the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. Mr. Gates has responded to their testimony but not refuted it. He evidently went to great lengths to manipulate the process, because highly reticent career officials testified against him in public. That electrifying development demonstrates how little confidence Mr. Gates enjoys in the agency.

It can be argued that his experience makes him well suited to lead the C.I.A. into the future. As a former Deputy Director and deputy national security adviser, he knows how intelligence assessments are put together and what policy makers need. And he knows the U.S. will not keep spending $30 billion a year on intelligence.

But it is more reasonable to think the agency would be better off with a director unbound by William Casey's dark legacy--the conviction that the agency knows best, a barely concealed contempt for Congress and a belief that anything goes including evading the law.

Oh, sorry--that's from an OLD New York Times editorial, dated October 18, 1991! Yet it sounds like it could have been written today, with just a few details changed--like the position Gates is nominated for. The modus operandi of Gates, Bush I, everyone, sounds woefully familiar--even dopplering back at us from 15 years ago. It all goes to show us just how little things have changed in the Bush Crime Family. They are all still as crooked as ever they were during the height of the slaughter of campesinos in Latin America.

Add one more reason to the ever-growing pile of evidence of war crimes and impeachable offenses for BushCo.

November 8, 2006

Rummy--out, out, OUT!!!

It wasn't quite enough that the editorials of all the major US military newspapers were calling for him to resign or be fired.

Rummy gets a hotfoot

Nor did the defections of several noteworthy neo-cons (even as long as two years ago!) make any appreciable impact. Now, is that any way to treat those who put him in the Pentagon?

You know your ship is sinking when...

And heaven forfend that international public opinion (including that of Rummy's German relatives) should make any difference.

Rummy, the German evildoer Rummy the Evildoer

No, since Dubya was The Decider, and The Decider had decided that Rummy was doin' a heckuva job, Rummy wasn't going anywhere...

Rummy, Devil in a Blue Dress

...until a little, tiny straw came along and broke his back.

Rummy's nemesis

It's called PUBLIC OPINION, and it is the backbone of DEMOCRACY.

RumsFAILED!

And it has sent Rummy packing, so as not to be impeached or convicted of war crimes by a newly non-compliant Congress.

Rummy's impeachable offence?

And that has left The Decider looking rather, well...INDECISIVE.

Because maybe, just maybe, he could now be next. If Nancy Pelosi cuts the crap and finds her spine, that is.

"If I wasn't Muslim..."

Best takeoff on "If I were a rich man" (from Fiddler on the Roof) I've ever seen:

Trenchant social commentary on bigotry, xenophobia, ignorance and fear from a European Muslim viewpoint. This one's from Bosnia, where ethnic cleansing has long been a source of unrest.

Someone, please send this to Mark Steyn, that fearmongering fascist purveyor of the "Eurabia" meme. And tell Maclean's to dump the terror-baiting fraud, whose racist rants and inane excuses therefor (no excuses, bitch!) should have no place in Canada, let alone its leading news magazine.

November 7, 2006

I guess someone wasn't a true believer!

Not to mention that she broke the law of the land, as did her entire crazy-ass church:

A southeastern Kentucky woman was bitten by a snake during a church service and later died, a law enforcement officer said. Linda Long, 48, of London died Sunday at University of Kentucky Medical Center, said Brad Mitchell, a detective with the Laurel County Sheriff's Office.

Long died about four hours after the bite was reported, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Officials said Long attended East London Holiness Church. Neighbors of the church told the newspaper the church practices serpent handling.

Lt. Ed Sizemore of the Laurel County Sheriff's Office said friends went with Long to a local hospital Sunday afternoon, and she was taken to UK.

"She said she was bitten by a snake at her church," Sizemore said.

Handling reptiles as part of religious services is illegal in Kentucky. Snake handling is a misdemeanor and punishable by a $50 to $100 fine. Police said they had not received reports about snake handling at the church.

Snake handling is based on a passage in the Bible, in the Gospel of Mark, that says a sign of a true believer is the power to "take up serpents" without being harmed.

Consider this to be one part Lords of Karma, and another part Jesus whacking his fans upside the head and telling them not to take the bible literally.

A questionable success

I'm not sure Vietnam won't live to regret this:

The leader of Vietnam's Farmers' Union, Vu Ngoc Ky, has published hundreds of poems. On the day I interviewed him, he had just finished another, written in honour of his staff.

In it, he calls on farmers to make the country rich, so it can catch up with the rest of the world.

This is the dominant feeling among Vietnamese officials and business people: that war and economic sanctions held the country back for half a century and now it's time to catch up with the Asian tigers.

That is why they want to join the WTO.

But unusually for a senior Vietnamese official, Vu Ngoc Ky is candid about the downside.

He says a third of the country's farmers could lose their jobs as a result of modernisation and competition from imports.

"At the moment, we have 32 million rural labourers, and we can say about 10 million of them are underemployed," he says.

"So the most important thing now is to provide training for them so they have better skills, which will satisfy the requirements of the service industries."

Some farmers - particularly rice exporters - should gain from WTO membership. But livestock farmers will face tough competition from Europe, the US and Australia - and few are well-prepared.

Nguyen Duc Tu herds cattle a few minutes walk from the international convention centre, which will host the Asia-Pacific summit next week.

"I've heard about the WTO, but I think that it's government business and I'm just a farmer," he says.

Those who lobbied for Vietnam to be okayed, or rather KOed, by the WTO are counting on just such innocence in the unsuspecting farmers. Lambs for the slaughter mustn't know what a fleecing they're in for, you see.

Vietnam is already a major garment and textile exporter (this is its predominant source of foreign trade), so this won't make much difference to that sector. Labor there is already pretty close to rock-bottom in terms of wages. Check your closet; if anything in there says "Made in Vietnam", you probably know--or SHOULD--that most of what you paid for that did NOT land in the pockets of a garment worker. In fact, the bulk of that money probably never made it any closer to Vietnam than, say, an offshore bank in the Caiman Islands. You may feel a twinge of guilt, combined with dreary inevitability; you're not making enough to buy goods made here under better conditions. But you bought it anyway; such are the vagaries of the global market.

The extreme irony of the situation is that we're being sold on such dubious notions with grand talk of "greater choice" and "freedom" and all that cal; meanwhile, most of us are finding our choices drastically curtailed by the fact that we have less cash to spend than ever before. (Was your job outsourced? Thank the WTO, it was probably behind that. Opening markets to other countries so their workers too can earn less--how altruistic of them!)

The upshot? You're buying something made for near-slave wages in a country where life and labor are both held cheap. This rather puts the lie to the insistence that "market reform" results in any political gains in countries where it's rammed through. Hell, what's it ever done for YOU--really? Cut your wages and benefits, and lengthened your hours, most likely; also, increased your job stress, upped your dosage of ulcer or blood-pressure medication, etc., etc. ad nauseam. Hasn't it? I bet it has!

But spare a thought anyway for Vietnamese farmers, who until now have been somewhat shielded from the ravages of the market, and are about to feel it in a BIG way. They're already scratching for a living, and the recent bird-flu outbreaks haven't done them any favors. Their big entree into the global markets could so easily go bust on a dime--if not through bird flu, then foot-and-mouth disease in their cattle, or another flu strain in pigs, or failure of the rice crop. Their lives are so precarious as it is; they're not ready for this. And now there is one more layer of fuckery-from-above coming down on them. And they don't have the clout of an agricultural powerhouse like India to demand more fairness, either. (BTW, India still lost out.) Therefore, I doubt many of them will be rejoicing of their admission to the WTO anytime soon, if ever.

But hey, at least one PNAC thug should be pleased. Rejoice for the charming Robert Zoellick, folks--at least until someone calls for his ugly head on a pikestaff. Which might be the beginnings of a fair trade for many years of grief brought on by "free" trade.

November 6, 2006

Quotable: Two from Azar Nafisi

On terror alerts and the futility of color-coded systems:

"I wonder at what point in my life, and after how many years, the echo of the red siren--like a screeching violin that plays mercilessly all over one's body--would cease in my mind. I cannot separate the eight years of war from that shrill voice that several times a day, at the most unexpected hours, would intrude into our lives. Three levels of danger had been established, but I never managed to differentiate between the red (danger), yellow (possibility of danger) and white (danger has stopped) sirens. Somehow, in the sound of the white siren, menace still lurked. Usually the red siren sounded too late, after the bomb had already been dropped, and in any case, even at the university we had no real shelters to repair to."

On discontent:

"We were unhappy. We compared our situation to our own potentials, to what we could have had, and somehow there was little consolation in the fact that millions of other people were unhappier than we were. Why should other people's misery make us happier or more content?"

--Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

November 5, 2006

I am SO SHOCKED...

...Haggy the Hypocrite DID have sex with that man, Mr. Jones!

Disgraced US evangelist Ted Haggard, a vocal opponent of gay marriage and poster boy for conservative causes, admitted on Sunday that he was guilty of "sexual immorality."

Haggard, under fire since last week when a male escort said he had a sexual affair with the preacher, said in a letter read at his New Life Church that he was ashamed.

"I am guilty of sexual immorality ... I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life," Haggard said in the letter, which was reads by a church overseer during a Sunday morning service.

"... from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach," he said.

Haggard resigned as president of the influential National Association of Evangelicals Thursday after the male escort made his accusation.

Haggard also agreed to step down as senior pastor of the New Life Church, a 14,000 member "mega-church" that he founded in 1985 and where he is known as "Pastor Ted."

Haggard, 50, had initially denied the allegations but began backpedaling on Friday when he admitted to seeking the man at a Denver Hotel for a "massage" and contacting him to buy the drug methamphetamine. He said he had thrown the drug away.

Jesus doesn't like it when you lie, Ted!

And speaking of the Jewish hippie carpenter, I wonder what skeletons he's gonna make fall out of James Dobson's closet? I'm sure there must be several.

But the sweetest bit is this, which comes near the end:

The scandal has shaken New Life Church and the evangelical community in Colorado Springs.

"I will never set foot in another church again. How will I tell gay people or those who have sinned about Jesus if this is the way the church treats them," said a sobbing Cindy Whitehead, a 55-year-old grandmother, after she stormed out of New Life as the letter was being read during the second morning service.

Please, Jesus, let this be the beginning of the end for fundamentalism and conservative politics in general, forever and ever. Amen.

November 4, 2006

Well, who indeed?

Who botched a war?

Vanity Fair nails neocons to the wall!

Jesus. I have to start reading that mag NOW. Look what they did to the whores who merged PNAC with the Republican party:

I remember sitting with Richard Perle in his suite at London's Grosvenor House hotel and receiving a private lecture on the importance of securing victory in Iraq. "Iraq is a very good candidate for democratic reform," he said. "It won't be Westminster overnight, but the great democracies of the world didn't achieve the full, rich structure of democratic governance overnight. The Iraqis have a decent chance of succeeding." Perle seemed to exude the scent of liberation, as well as a whiff of gunpowder. It was February 2003, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the culmination of his long campaign on behalf of regime change in Iraq, was less than a month away.

Three years later, Perle and I meet again at his home outside Washington, D.C. It is October, the worst month for U.S. casualties in Iraq in almost two years, and Republicans are bracing for losses in the upcoming midterm elections. As he looks into my eyes, speaking slowly and with obvious deliberation, Perle is unrecognizable as the confident hawk who, as chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, had invited the exiled Iraqi dissident Ahmad Chalabi to its first meeting after 9/11. "The levels of brutality that we've seen are truly horrifying, and I have to say, I underestimated the depravity," Perle says now, adding that total defeat—an American withdrawal that leaves Iraq as an anarchic "failed state"—is not yet inevitable but is becoming more likely. "And then," says Perle, "you'll get all the mayhem that the world is capable of creating."

According to Perle, who left the Defense Policy Board in 2004, this unfolding catastrophe has a central cause: devastating dysfunction within the administration of President George W. Bush. Perle says, "The decisions did not get made that should have been. They didn't get made in a timely fashion, and the differences were argued out endlessly.… At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible.… I don't think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty."

Perle goes so far as to say that, if he had his time over, he would not have advocated an invasion of Iraq: "I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.' … I don't say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct. Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have."

Gee, what have we here? Looks like an unholy blend of arrogance, blame-gaming and unaccountability. I've underlined the most glaring bits, in case you hadn't noticed them yourself.

But Perle is not alone in his wallowing in the morass:

Having spoken with Perle, I wonder: What do the rest of the pro-war neoconservatives think? If the much caricatured "Prince of Darkness" is now plagued with doubt, how do his comrades-in-arms feel? I am particularly interested in finding out because I interviewed many neocons before the invasion and, like many people, found much to admire in their vision of spreading democracy in the Middle East.

I expect to encounter disappointment. What I find instead is despair, and fury at the incompetence of the Bush administration the neoconservatives once saw as their brightest hope.

To David Frum, the former White House speechwriter who co-wrote Bush's 2002 State of the Union address that accused Iraq of being part of an "axis of evil," it now looks as if defeat may be inescapable, because "the insurgency has proven it can kill anyone who cooperates, and the United States and its friends have failed to prove that it can protect them." This situation, he says, must ultimately be blamed on "failure at the center"—starting with President Bush.

Kenneth Adelman, a lifelong neocon activist and Pentagon insider who served on the Defense Policy Board until 2005, wrote a famous op-ed article in The Washington Post in February 2002, arguing: "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Now he says, "I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional."

Fearing that worse is still to come, Adelman believes that neoconservatism itself—what he defines as "the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world"—is dead, at least for a generation. After Iraq, he says, "it's not going to sell." And if he, too, had his time over, Adelman says, "I would write an article that would be skeptical over whether there would be a performance that would be good enough to implement our policy. The policy can be absolutely right, and noble, beneficial, but if you can't execute it, it's useless, just useless. I guess that's what I would have said: that Bush's arguments are absolutely right, but you know what, you just have to put them in the drawer marked can't do. And that's very different from let's go."

I spend the better part of two weeks in conversations with some of the most respected voices among the neoconservative elite. What I discover is that none of them is optimistic. All of them have regrets, not only about what has happened but also, in many cases, about the roles they played. Their dismay extends beyond the tactical issues of whether America did right or wrong, to the underlying question of whether exporting democracy is something America knows how to do.

The Web piece goes on to list several snippets from well-known neo-cons who are eager to blame the failure of their policy strictly on the incompetence of BushCo. (Read the rest after this, please--you'll get an eyeful.)

Now, here's why no one should buy their arguments. Make a note of their names and the things they say about BushCo, then check them against the signatories of this letter. Interesting, no? Before they blamed Bush for failure on Iraq, they blamed...yes, Bill Clinton, and his penis too. (A lot of them still want us to believe the Clenis was to blame. Too bad they can't get it straight exactly which baddie we're supposed to blame the Clenis for--Osama? Saddam? The atheist who killed the Tooth Fairy? They would like us to believe that they are all somehow linked, but the evidence all points otherwhere.)

Perle is a noteworthy liar, and it's fitting that the piece starts out with him. Remember, he's the one who claimed--FALSELY--that Saddam had met with Mohammed Atta before September 11. This line was picked up by every fucking wingnutter and his dog, like a bone, and dutifully slung in the faces of progressives like Yours Most Sincerely. (I wasn't buying it then, either.)

But don't take my word for it; just google the terms Osama, Saddam and neo-cons; you'll soon see just how many of them were all squawking that Bush must, MUST invade Iraq, that it was gonna be a cakewalk, that it could be done on the cheap (and result in lower gas prices too!), that oil revenues alone would pay for everything, etc., etc. ad nauseam. You'll see that the neo-cons were BushCo's policy consultants, in it right up to the eyeballs. In fact, many of them occupy key positions in the Bush administration, so they have built a seamless bridge between neo-condom and BushCo. There's plenty of blame to go around, and the neo-cons might want to sit down at the big table with the very people they're now trying to disown, and eat a healthy serving of crow. BushCo couldn't have fucked up so bad without what Dubya called "good advice from great advisers".

My only complaint is that it's taken this long for a major publication like Vanity Fair to catch this ball and run with it. The independent, progressive alternative media has been on the case for ages already.

Still, better late than never. And what impeccable timing, too--right before a midterm election that's shaping up to be the make-or-break moment of the Bush Diktatur. Amid a welter of scandals--everything from soup to nuts, sex to money--the Repugs are on the ropes. That's the big bright light in these dark times.

Oh, and don't forget to pick up your copy of Vanity Fair at the newsstand, if you're not subscribed. The whole story promises to be a hum-dinger.

November 3, 2006

Quotable: Gore Vidal on the whore media

"Who cares what the media says about anything? They are bought and paid for a thousand times over. They couldn't tell the truth if they could find it."

--Gore Vidal

Things that really, REALLY piss Jesus off...

...like, oh, say, hypocritical preacher-men:

The leader of the 30-million-member National Association of Evangelicals in the US has resigned after being accused of paying for sex with a man.

The Reverend Ted Haggard said he would also temporarily step aside as head of his 14,000-strong New Life Church while his colleagues investigated the claims.

Mr Haggard, who is known as a vocal opponent of same-sex marriages, denies the accusations.

The claims were made by a man during a radio show in Denver, Colorado.

In a statement to the New Life Church, Mr Haggard said he could "not continue to minister under the cloud created by the accusations".

"I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity," he said.

In an interview with KUSA-TV, Mr Haggard said he "never had a gay relationship with anybody".

"I'm steady with my wife, I'm faithful to my wife," he said.

In the sense that he's not carrying on an affair with another woman, he has a point there. And, in the sense that regular appointments to have sex-for-pay, gay or straight, do not exactly constitute a relationship, he may also have a point. But remember, kiddies, this very, very peculiar preacher-man has some very, very definite ideas on who gets into heaven and what they can expect to find there.

Meanwhile, back down to Earth, we get guys like this, making a living hell of it for women:

A Republican congressman accused of abusing his ex-mistress agreed to pay her about $500,000 in a settlement last year that contained a powerful incentive for her to keep quiet until after Election Day, a person familiar with the terms of the deal told The Associated Press.

Rep. Don Sherwood is locked in a tight re-election race against a Democratic opponent who has seized on the four-term congressman's relationship with the woman. While Sherwood acknowledged the woman was his mistress, he denied abusing her and said that he had settled her $5.5 million lawsuit on confidential terms.

The settlement, reached in November 2005, called for Cynthia Ore to be paid in installments, according to a person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal is confidential. She has received less than half the money so far, and will not get the rest until after the Nov. 7 election, the person said Thursday.

A confidentiality clause requires Ore to forfeit some of the money if she talks publicly about the case, according to this person and two other people familiar with elements of the case.

It is common in settlements for payments to be made in installments and for the parties to be held to confidentiality.

Sherwood admitted no wrongdoing, a standard provision in such agreements, this person said.

Sherwood, a 65-year-old married father of three who is considered a family-values conservative, had one of the safest seats in Congress until Ore sued him in June 2005, alleging he physically abused her throughout their five-year affair.

Ah yes, I knew there was a reason this all looked so familiar. This is another of your "family values" hypocrites who deny it all, even in the face of so much evidence that yes, they are guilty as sin. And in this case, of paying mucho hush money to keep it from hurting a political career built around this particular brand of hypocrisy.

Oh Lord...sweet Jesus...I feel a song coming on:

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Does this love bug you?

Too effin' bad, gringo! Carlchucho rules!

Compared to all the dirty trickery going on in the US (and, with Washington's hefty financing, on the side of the anti-Chavistas as well), this is one helluva contrast.

Or, as yer grandma might say, it's a case of catching more flies with honey than vinegar. (Unless, like the right-wing opposition, they're fruit flies--in which case there is no accounting for taste!)

November 1, 2006

Isn't he pretty in pink?

Perhaps they should have set this to a background of The Psychedelic Furs:

Quotable: Henry Kissinger on criminality

"The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer."

--Henry Kissinger

Why the Mexican elections were stolen

It's the oil, stupid!

Even as popular pressure grows around Latin America for a stronger state hand in developing natural resources such as oil and gas, Mexico's president-elect Felipe Calderón may be forced to consider putting more power in private hands.

The country's flagship oil company Pemex, has been a point of pride since the industry was wrenched from foreign hands and nationalized in 1938. Its revenues alone cover one-third of Mexico's budget.

But prosperity from years of record oil prices has allowed Mexico to postpone what most agree are much-needed reforms. And now, as production at Pemex's top oil field declines, pressure to find new fields is mounting. But industry analysts say Mexico's constitutional restriction on foreign direct investment will hamstring costly exploration efforts, and possibly disrupt the flow of oil, 80 percent of which heads to the US.

Indeed, with his fragile political mandate, Mr. Calderón may find that oil becomes the issue that will define his presidency.

Translation: If he doesn't co-operate with the privateers, he's gonna find a horse's head on his pillow and a replacement in his chair.

This is an important first battle," says Benito Nacif, a political scientist at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CRTE), a Mexico City think tank. "In the industry sector, there is a consensus that this reform is necessary, that you have to open it up [to the private sector]. The question is: 'Will [Calderón] be able to build sufficient [political] consensus?' "

Many industry analysts had hoped that outgoing President Vicente Fox would be able to push through energy-sector reforms to open up Pemex to more private direct investment, in order to boost exploration and production.

Mexico is the second-biggest supplier of oil to the US, favored because of its proximity and relative political stability.

For "relative political stability", read stolen elections favorable to US-backed candidates.

In the end, Mr. Fox didn't push through a consitutional change, largely because trying to privative Pemex, even partially, is so politically unpopular.

Gee, I wonder why!

Also, when Fox came to office in 2000, capacity at Cantarell, the world's second-largest field and Mexico's most important, was not in question. The complex, located in southern Gulf waters, actually increased production during Fox's term, peaking in 2004 with 2.1 million barrels a day.

But since then, production has been dropping off at Cantarell. David Shields, an independent energy expert in Mexico City, says production declined by 10 percent in the first six months of 2006. He contends that Pemex is in much worse shape than is publicly expressed. "Pemex says everything is great," he says. "But [Cantarell] is going to run out, and they [in the long-term] don't have other things to replace it."

Earlier this month, the state monopoly announced that crude output from another offshore field, Ku-Maloob-Zaap, was expected to double in 2009. That, Pemex officials said at a press conference, would help maintain oil production at an average 3.2 million barrels a day, and offset losses from Cantarell.

George Baker, an energy analyst at the consulting firm Energia.com in Houston, says he is not surprised by Pemex's announcement. "Pemex has a way of making magic," he says. Still, he says that potential finds in the Gulf of Mexico, similar to Chevron's recent announcement of a big discovery in US waters, are currently out of reach because Pemex does not have the technical know-how or money to undertake such exploration. The issues have been here all along, says Baker, but now that Cantarell is facing declines, "the slope downward is slipperier."

This is bullshit--it's what the vultures all say. Public sector backward and inefficient, private sector innovative and can-do!

Bullshit.

Experts say that American companies are watching oil production in Mexico, but because of politics, cannot interfere by pushing for more foreign participation. If the US needed to purchase oil from more-distant countries, additional transportation costs would be passed onto the consumer, Baker says.

Notice how they never contemplate taking it out of the CEO's pay or the shareholders' profits? Pray tell me, what is investment about if not to help a company realize its goals?

Oh yeah...to make profit for investors. Yo, heave ho.

So far, Calderón has reiterated that he will not consider private direct investment. "There will be deliberations that we Mexicans will have in Congress to find the means by which Pemex can access the probable reserves, particularly in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico," he said at a September press conference. "But, for now, I will be very respectful of national legislation on the matter, which doesn't permit foreign investment in petroleum extraction...."

In its legislative agenda, his incoming administration has also remained unclear when it comes to its energy plans, focusing on the need to "modernize" and increase investment in Pemex.

"These things are very vague, one could interpret them as minor fiscal reforms, or ... major constitutional reforms," says Allyson Benton, an expert on economics and politics at the CRTE in Mexico City. "They want to wait to see what kinds of coalitions can be built around these things."

When it comes to obtaining gasoline here, drivers have only one, decidedly Mexican, choice: the green and red pumps at Pemex. That's the way many want it. Calderón barely squeaked out a victory in the July 2 election, winning by just half a percentage point. While his rival, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, disputed the race this summer, López Obrador used many of his protest gatherings to rally supporters about keeping foreigners out of the energy sector. Each appeal brought wild applause.

Indeed, the divided electorate means that Calderón is unlikely to find the political capital to challenge nationalization, even partially. "It is too much of a political danger for them under the conditions they won," says Miguel Tinker-Salas, an oil and politics expert at Pomona College in California.

Mr. Shields puts it more starkly, saying that allowing international companies back into Mexico is tantamount to letting "the invader back in," he says. "There will be a revolution before there is foreign direct investment."

Yep, Calderon knows he's a dead man either way. If he strives to please the people of Mexico, the privateers will ensure that the SOA-trained Mexican military puts a bomb on his presidential plane and makes it look like an accident. If he pleases the privateers, the people of Mexico will revolt.

And now, for something truly surprising:

Those against foreign investment received a boost this month when businessman Carlos Slim, the third-richest man in the world according to Forbes magazine, announced that Mexico did not need foreign help to reach deep-sea oil.

Some analysts say that more foreign investment is not the only solution for Pemex. Mr. Tinker-Salas, for example, says that with more oversight, Pemex could become more efficient.

Ms. Benton says that Calderón might have the most room for change by addressing fiscal reform. One option would be to lift the heavy tax burden from Pemex, which sees nearly half of its earnings go to government coffers, so that Pemex can focus on daily operations. The budget is so stripped, she says, that Pemex has to import a significant portion of its refined products.

So...someone please remind me again of why privatization is the supposed only solution? Doesn't look like it is...doesn't even look like it's a solution at all. So why bother even contemplating it, then?

But some still hope that Calderón will be able to open the industry to more private participation, beyond the current flat-fee subcontracts that foreign companies can participate in. The long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), for example, moved to the right of the spectrum on the issue this election, says Mr. Nacif. The PRI is also more likely to cooperate with the Calderón administration because it is in a weaker position, having dropped to the third-largest party in Congress.

But more than anything, the reality of dwindling oil production may help to change sentiments. "One of the factors that drives policy change everywhere is the deterioration of the status quo," says Nacif, "and the perception is that the status quo is worsening. It's going to help [Calderón]" move toward opening the industry up to private firms.

Translation: Do as we say, or Guido lets da boid have it.

And that's why the Mexican elections were stolen. That, and the fact that they could be stolen, unlike the Venezuelan elections.

Any questions?