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December 31, 2006

Headline Howler: Men in India have WHAT???

Finally, the greatest source of shame for India's men is addressed!

Small Pecker Condoms

The only question now is, who's gonna be caught buying THESE?

Someone needs to say a few Hail Marys

And while they're at it, they need to stop getting priests to lie for them.

Try to imagine Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, dressed up as a bishop — the head bishop — of his own state-sponsored church.

According to media reports coming out of Latin America, President Chavez is considering a proposal that would establish him as the high priest of his own form of evangelical Christianity, convert his cabinet members into bishops of a lower rank, and submit church activities to the civil and military power of his government.

It is still unclear who is behind the proposal. Publicly, it has taken the form of a petition by leaders of "Centro Cristiano de Salvación" (Christian Center of Salvation). The association claims to represent 17,000 evangelical churches and 5,000,000 Venezuelans. Their request is simple: make their denomination the country's official religion, teach it in all public schools and pay the pastors from government coffers. In turn, they will make Chavez their head bishop and promise to submit absolutely to his authority.

Uh, the "media reports out of Latin America" he's referring to come from just one source, and this is it. As you can see by the date, it is over five years old. And that will surely make a laughing-stock out of FOX's "Father Jonathan", who cites (but doesn't appear to have interviewed) a former deputy whose own conduct in office is highly questionable, democratically speaking (scroll down to the bottom section of this piece).

Why would a priest, of all people, feel compelled to repeat a lie? According to Luigino Bracci, a Venezuelan bloguero, this is just one of a wave of anti-Chavez pieces, each more preposterous than the last. It's being pushed by the international media in an effort to delegitimize a very legitimate president whose electoral mandate has grown, and whose policies have overwhelming support among his people. Meanwhile, the opposition has run out of fresh baloney, and must make do with recycling the old. Luigino describes how the truth was discovered, in true Chavista fashion, through co-operative effort:

A few hours ago I wrote about the anti-Venezuela manipulation of news by the Mexican agency NotiMex, discovered by our friend Carlchucho.

Then our friend Dalila Benedetti and other members of the Aporrea forum uncovered the most recent media manipulation against our country: an agency called "ACI" (Catholic Information Agency, based in Lima, Peru) released a wire story this past 14th of December, claiming that a group of Protestants were petitioning President Chavez as their "archbishop" and proposing a "Law of Evangelical Ecclesiastic Power", in which they asked that "Protestant beliefs be incorporated into all levels of the educational system". The item was immediately broadcast by various Catholic websites, such as NoticiaCristiana.com, the Agencia Catolica Argentina, and the Catholic channel EWTN.

But the note contained an interesting little detail: it affirmed that the deputies Dario Vivas and Edgar Zambrano were in charge of writing the law. As we know, Zambrano was an AD deputy until the year 2005, when the opposition withdrew from elections, and the parliamentarian is still out of work.

Dalila and friends began an investigation, and discovered the truth: the news item cited by ACI was originally published on July 9, 2001, by the evening paper El Mundo, and even today, five years later, you can read it in its entirety on this web page.

The ACI agency, and all the Catholic media which echoed it, owe a big apology to their readers for this inexcusable lack of journalistic rigor. The apology should also be extended to President Chavez, to the Protestant community, and finally, to their God, who has on innumerable occasions enjoined them against lying and deceit.

(Translation mine; links his.)

Luigino has taken the words right out of my mouth. They do, indeed, owe many apologies. (Whether they will make them is another matter entirely; knowing the Venezuelan opposition and its shamelessness, I doubt it.) It's amazing what lies get perpetrated in the name of political gain--even by those claiming to be on the side of God!

But no matter who's claiming what, you must always consider the source of the claim. This piece comes from a conservative Catholic news agency. That alone should tell you something about its author's biases. Hugo Chavez, though very much a Catholic himself, has been at odds with certain members of the church hierarchy ever since he convened a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution. Seems that some bishops don't like it when the people's elected representatives, rather than the Vatican, determine what Venezuela's separation of powers should be. And no wonder: thanks to the Constituent Assembly, the church found its political powers considerably reduced, along with its state funding. For example, here's a juicy tidbit from Michael McCaughan's excellent book, The Battle of Venezuela:

The Catholic Church cried foul when news leaked that in the revised constitution abortion might be permitted under some circumstances. "I knew something fundamental had changed when I heard the swish of cassocks and saw several bishops running up the stairs of the presidential palace," recalled Maria del Mar, who sat on the women's rights commission. "They would normally send their subordinates to dictate their orders." In the run-up to the vote the church openly opposed Chavez. "If the Yes vote wins then peace and democracy will be endangered," said Bishop Roberto Luckert, adding, "we may succumb to a constitutional dictatorship which is worse than a military dictatorship because [Chavez] will have absolute power legitimized through the constitution." [...] The Catholic Church subsequently faced a cut in state education subsidies, a key factor in its enduring hostility to the Chavez administration.

Despite Bishop Luckert's claim, peace and democracy were not threatened in the least by the passage of this radical new constitution; rather, the democratic situation improved for the once disenfranchised majority of Venezuelans. But for the minority accustomed to a covert de facto dictatorship by such traditional powers as the church, the military high command, the business sector, certain cronyish union leaders, and the corrupt old political parties AD and COPEI, it was as though a bomb had gone off in their faces. Suddenly faced with the loss of their once unquestioned power (and the ready access to the nation's coffers that had gone with it), they plotted a bloody revenge in an effort to set things back. You can see who the real threats to peace and democracy are; some of them appear in The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

Who are those smiling churchmen, talking on cellphones and patting the backs of the conspirators who suspended Venezuelan democracy for two days? Carlchucho identifies two:

Carlchucho notes the prominence of the late Cardinal Ignacio Velasco (second video, 7:55) when dictator Pedro Carmona, in the style of the imperial Napoleon, swears himself in as "interim president". Velasco also appears at 1:28 in the first video. He is believed to have tried to persuade Chavez to sign a letter of resignation, which Chavez refused to do.

At 1:50 in the first video, you can also see Monsignor Baltasar Porras, of the Episcopal Conference--another prominent churchman. Porras has gone on record accusing Chavez of being a personality cultist of the Hitlerian variety, and of trying to control the Catholic church. The fact that both of these spins are inaccurate (not to mention insane) seems to have eluded the monsignor. The truth is that Hitler used the Catholic Church to his own ends, and more reprehensibly, the church let him. In fact, more than a few German churchmen openly backed him, just as these Venezuelan churchmen backed Carmona.

Is this what "peace and democracy" amounts to for the ecclesiastical hierarchy in Rome and Venezuela? A blessing for the total demolition of democracy, not to mention the bloodshed that both preceded and followed the Carmona Decree? Is this what "Father Jonathan" has in mind when he repeats the opposition's drivel without questioning its source? Or when he writes hilarious things like this?

The Catholic Church, representing more than 90% of the population, has been a thorn in the side of President Chavez. For many years, the local body of Catholic bishops has reminded the president publicly and in no uncertain terms, of a politician's responsibility to defend human rights, reject corruption and seek the common good of all citizens.

Actually, Chavez is the thorn in the side of the church. He continually reminds them of their responsibilities to the people, and they don't like that, particularly when he points out their many obvious shortcomings. The cut in education funding is one example of his willingness to fight back against an antidemocratic, reactionary faction within the church. But that doesn't make him a heretic. As we have seen from his joke at the United Nations, he is still very much a Catholic; he crossed himself against the sins of a certain dubious (and purportedly Protestant) leader of the United States, something you won't see anyone but an observant Catholic do. Chavez is also highly respectful of Liberation Theology, which is more in line with the teachings of Christ than the Empire of Rome. In fact, it informs his own thinking to a great extent. In that sense, he's a better Catholic than the churchmen who presume to lecture him!

Nor is he in the pocket of any evangelical lobby; in fact, he recently ousted an evangelical group, the New Tribes Mission, from Venezuela, because it was interfering with the religious freedom of the indigenous peoples. Chavez has also alleged CIA espionage via the front provided by the New Tribes group; certainly their practices are highly suspect. And don't even get him started on Pat Robertson.

There is no corruption or dictatorial intent at work behind Chavez's actions, no matter how hard Father Jonathan tries to create the impression that there is. Nor is there a full-on war between the church and the state, as he would like us to believe. Near the bottom of the piece, the padre (who, despite his collar, looks more like a FOX news anchor than a sacerdotal celibate) has to make the self-contradicting admission that "Catholic leaders have taken a more conciliatory tone and the new Cardinal Archbishop of Caracas, Jorge Urosa Savino, has succeeded in building a relationship of mutual tolerance, if not respect."

Now, that is a tiny bit closer to the truth, but it doesn't do much to allay the fears he consciously raises in his sensationalistic opener--or the final paragraph, which hastily reverts to the same old anti-Chavez line for which FOX, like the major Venezuelan media, is rightly infamous. Perhaps Father Jonathan should take a closer look at what Cardinal Urosa Savino himself has said about Chavez. The "conciliatory tone" of the church is not the only mitigating factor; Chavez has been open to dialogue all the way down the line, even when, as in the months before the coup, certain churchmen rejected the opportunities he offered them to sit down and talk. The worst he has done is to criticize them publicly. But you'd never know that to hear it from Father Jonathan!

If anything, the Bolivarian Revolution is simply about equality. That means freedom of religion for all Venezuelans, regardless of belief. Even FOX's pet priest half-heartedly acknowledges that "a wide range of denominations has been free to worship and operate independently of government control." Well, duh! That is what is written in the constitution. A law boosting evangelical powers, however, is conspicuously absent even now, five years after that first false story surfaced in the press.

Yes, Luigino is right...someone owes their readers a big apology. And while they're at it, they may want to say a few Hail Marys and make a good Act of Contrition, as is customary in their faith--because Jesus doesn't like it when you lie.

December 29, 2006

This just in...

Saddam Hussein has been hanged.

And this is going to resolve...what?

Certainly not THIS:

Quotable: Henry Kissinger and Lily Tomlin on power as an aphrodisiac

"Power is the best aphrodisiac." --Henry Kissinger

"Just look at the carpet-bombing of Cambodia to see what it took for him to get it up..." --Lily Tomlin

(What a pity Viagra was not on the market yet during those days. Could have saved the old boy so much trouble.)

Festive Left Friday Blogging: RCTV's number is up!

Video, courtesy of Aporrea and VTV (the Venezuelan government channel.)

Here, Chavecito addresses a military gathering about the fact that coup-supporting channel RCTV (Radio Caracas Television) is facing loss of its broadcast licence for its role in the coup of 2002. (Story here.)

Despite what the opposition claims, though, this is NOT an attack on freedom of expression. Not one reporter has been jailed in Venezuela since Chavecito came to power. At most, he is working to bring Venezuela's libel laws in line with those of the rest of the developed world. But the private media have indulged shamelessly in the "freedom" to lie to their audiences and readers, and fomenting civil unrest. Consider this yet another chapter in their sordid saga.

RCTV, like all the private mainstream media, was actively treasonous, calling for an illegal lockout at PDVSA, the national oil company. It was also one of several opposition-owned stations that urged people to turn out against Chavez in April 2002, the better for opposition snipers to kill them. It also broadcast false information during the coup, attempting to legitimize the illegitimate. RCTV was so deeply instrumental that the coup plotters even thanked it on the air, by name, for its part. Then, when the coup collapsed, it refused to broadcast any news at all. The viewing audience was denied all information by order of the Carmona dictatorship and its US backers. Instead, cartoons were the order of the day.

RCTV's antics so disgusted its news director, Andres Izarra, that he resigned. Izarra was out of work for some time, but ultimately got the last laugh--he's now working for Telesur, the pan-South American progressive news channel. I'd say he upgraded his resume rather nicely. See what happens when you have principles?

Meanwhile, looks like Chavecito will be laughing last in his own battle with the lying liars of RCTV. And, as with all aspects of the Bolivarian Revolution, this one too will be democratic, principled and lawful. Which is more than anyone can say for the opposition's various unentertaining song-and-dance numbers.

December 26, 2006

Scary Thought #5: This is really not much of a joke.

TIME's real Person of the Year

I guess I'm bound for a long and healthy life...

...and all for exercising my reproductive autonomy so effectively that I've never been pregnant. From the Beeb:

US researchers looked at 21,000 couples living in Utah between 1860 and 1985, who bore a total of 174,000 children.

[...]

The researchers, from the University of Utah, analysed nineteenth century data from the Utah Population Database.

They found that the couples had an average of eight children each, but family size ranged from one to 14 or more children.

The data showed that the more children a couple produced, the higher their risk of early death.

The situation was worst for women, because they were affected by the physical costs of bearing the children.

Fathers' mortality risk increased the more children they had, but never exceeded that of mothers.

The team looked at deaths after the last child was born and found mothers were also more likely than fathers to die after the last child was born.

They found 1,414 women died within a year of the last child's birth, and another 988 by the time the child was five.

In comparison, 613 men died in the first year after their last child was born, with another 1,083 dying within five years.

And the larger the family, the more likely children were to die before the age of 18, particularly if they were among the youngest.

The last-born of a large family is logically the weakest link in the chain. Which is not surprising when you consider how many of a mother's physical resources have been drained before that child was even conceived. Aside from her age, there is nutrition to consider, not to mention the fatigue of having borne, nursed and tended umpteen other sprogs before the runt gets whelped. An older first-time mother, or a one-time mother of any age, is sure to be in better physical shape than a younger one who's had several children, all other things being equal, simply because she hasn't been sucked dry by multiple pregnancies and the strain of rearing a steadily growing family. And a non-mother is, by logical extension, the healthiest of all, because she's never faced that kind of resource drainage.

This all sounds like a "no shit, Sherlock" to me. I'm the oldest of six kids, a situation which in itself would have been enough to make me seriously consider swearing off motherhood, though it would not have been the only reason. Firstborns often end up overburdened in large families, having to become, even early in childhood, super-responsible. Some are virtually second mothers or fathers to the brood that the parents cannot raise alone. I was not quite one of these bedraggled little unpaid nannies, but I certainly felt the weight of my responsibility; I have not been an only child since my brother was born, a week after my first birthday. Not that I don't love my siblings, but I often wished my parents had been less--oh, how to phrase this?--ambitious.

Add to this my essentially unmaternal nature, except maybe where cats are concerned; I prefer kitties over kiddies. I have no idea what baby hunger feels like, and I don't particularly care to find out; the alarm was left out of my biological clock, and I like it that way. It's not that I don't like kids; I like them fine, but I can live without 'em quite happily, and have consciously chosen to do just that.

My decision was basically cemented by two things: a car accident at 14 that left me with a broken, permanently deformed pelvis, and the sense of my own mortality that fell hard on me soon after that. Needless to say, I had no trouble abstaining from sex in high school. By the time I was 19, I had seen all I cared to see of motherhood, and was relieved to be headed off to university where, for the first time in eighteen years, I would be responsible for no one but my brainy little red-headed self. (And where I also went on the Pill, primarily to regulate my periods, with my mother's knowledge and blessing.)

Part of me was actually surprised I had made it through my teens alive. And also wondering why I had a dramatic spate of nightmares at 18, all about being married off to a much older man I didn't love, and forced to have children against my will. I had these nightmares even though I don't come from a culture that explicitly inflicts such horrors on girls. Until recently, I had trouble putting a finger on exactly why that was, but now I think I know.

The team, led by Dr Dustin Penn and Dr Ken Smith, say the findings do shed light on human reproduction which are still relevant today.

Humans are one of the few species where the female goes through a menopause which ends her reproductive years.

The researchers say: "Menopause appears to allow mothers to live longer and rear more offspring to adulthood, and this unusual life history probably evolved in our species because, as we found, offspring so extremely depend on their mother's survival."

They add the findings also suggest why women now tend to have fewer children.

"If women have generally incurred greater fitness costs of reproduction, this could explain why they generally prefer fewer offspring than their husbands and reduce their fertility when they obtain more reproductive autonomy."

I imagine this is why I was deeply relieved at my mother's reaching menopause while I was still at university. You don't wanna lose your mama till you're good and ready to let her go, and a woman who makes it to the Change is a lucky lady indeed, even if she doesn't necessarily see it that way while all the hormonal havoc is going down.

But menopause is actually nature's great gift to women, especially mothers. It may seem ironic to the True Believers in the "Quiverfull" movement, but it's actually better for life in general when a woman stops being able to birth more of them babies. You might even call it pro-life, in the broader sense that has nothing to do with abortion.

What a tragedy, then, that we're still hearing the meme that a menopausal woman is just a worthless husk, all dried up, fit only to be shucked off for a younger, spiffier (and still fertile) female. No wonder so many menopausal women in the developed world go physically and mentally to pieces, even when there's no biological reason for it. In this, our sisters abroad are better off; cultures that embrace menopause and respect the senior woman, interestingly, also report fewer menopausal health problems.

Now, I'm still in my fertile years, although I'm also voluntarily, surgically sterile. I suspect I am also closer to menopause than to menarche. How many more years I have before my ovaries stop kicking out eggs and estradiol, I do not know or care to speculate. I'm quite content to drink my (hormone-free) milk, take my supplements, keep up to date on science, and exercise faithfully, knowing that my efforts today will pay off in better health and a longer, more productive (though not reproductive) life tomorrow.

And I'm also hoping that by the time I do face my own menopause, I'll be ready to handle it...and science will have advanced our society to the point where the older woman is properly revered once more. That would make my life not only long and healthy, but happy, too.

A posthumous "fuck you" to Pinochet

From the bottom of Chileans' hearts, or the hearts of their bottoms, comes the following magnificent salute to a dearly departed dictator (translation mine; original in Spanish at Aporrea.org):

Diverse Chilean political sectors today rejected the letter in which the deceased ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet attempted to justify the military coup of 1973 and the human-rights violations commited under his rule.

Leaders of the governing coalition and the rightist opposition showed similar opinions, with nuances, referring to the legacy of the dictatorship in point of human rights. There were more than 3000 victims.

The president of the rightist National Renewal Party, Carlos Larraín, told journalists today that the violent repression unleashed during the dictatorship corresponded with Pinochet being "a crude man" and "a soldier prepared for war".

Larraín also said that it had been unneceessary to use violence against those opposed to the dictatorship (1973-1990) that followed the military coup.

"I do not believe that any form of opposition should have been faced with such brutality and harshness," he stressed.

In the evening, the senator and president of the ultra-right Independent Democratic Union (UDI), Hernán Larraín, said that abuses and excesses could occur in all wartime conflicts, but deplored the fact that in his message, Pinochet had said nothing about what occurred from 1974 onward regarding "the assaults on human rights, the tortures and disappearances, which could not have happened without the conditions of 1973."

Meanwhile, the senator and director of the Socialist Party, Ricardo Núñez, said today that "the unpublished result is that the dictator evades responsibility by qualifying the disappearances and deaths as military excesses."

According to Christian Democratic senator Jorge Pizarro, Pinochet's letter is irrelevent to Chileans, since "there is nothing in it but praise and condemnation for whatever he has already expounded."

The Social Democrat Sergio Bitar, meanwilee, said that the text "is a historical cover-up" and an attempt to whitewash the image of the ex-dictator, under whose regime more than 30,000 people were tortured and 200,000 went into exile.

The Pinochet letter came to light two weeks after his death and in it, the general ruled out that the human-rights violations were an institutional policy.

He also recognized that his destiny was "a kind of exile and solitude which I never thought of and wished for even less."

Such a lack of forethought is rather remarkable, considering in what detail the coup of '73 was planned. And such excuse-making for the human rights abuses that followed is positively contemptible. The Concertacionistas are right to come out in condemnation of this letter. I'm amazed that nothing about it is anywhere in the media up here, but maybe I shouldn't be; after all, we all know that the Washington Post is very complicit in helping to whitewash the bloody hands of this vile corpse.

But while Pinochet may have died with self-congratulatory impunity, his followers might not get off so lucky, at least if President Bachelet has her way:

Gen. Augusto Pinochet died this month without ever being held legally accountable for human rights abuses that occurred during his dictatorship. But his subordinates are now facing a new threat: President Michelle Bachelet is pushing to invalidate an amnesty law that for nearly 30 years has exempted them from prosecution on murder and torture charges.

General Pinochet originally decreed the amnesty in April 1978, four and a half years after he seized power in the coup that overthrew an elected president, Salvador Allende. According to official reports of government commissions, his dictatorship was responsible for the deaths of at least 3,200 people, the bulk of which occurred before the amnesty edict, and the torture of 28,000 more.

"This government, like other democratic governments before it, maintains that the amnesty was an illegitimate decision in its origins and content, form and foundation," Ms. Bachelet's chief of staff, Paulina Veloso, said in an interview at the presidential palace here. "Our conviction is that it should never have been applied at all, and certainly should never be used again."

Ms. Bachelet, a Socialist, took office in March in the fourth consecutive victory for a center-left coalition of Christian Democrats and Socialists since General Pinochet was forced to step down in 1990. In the past, pro-Pinochet right-wing parties have been able to block congressional efforts to overturn the amnesty, but Ms. Bachelet's coalition has a large enough majority in both houses to make passage of such a bill almost certain.

Despite the amnesty, there have been some prosecutions over the years, as investigative judges and prosecutors found ambiguities in the law that permitted them to move against people suspected of human rights abuses.

Since the late 1990s, prosecutions have occurred in cases of people who disappeared in the early years of the dictatorship and are presumed dead, thanks to judicial rulings that such disappearances are really a form of "permanent kidnapping" and not covered by the amnesty.

Courts have convicted more than 100 people of crimes including disappearances, killings and torture; 35 former generals are among those who have already been sentenced or are facing trials. But human rights advocates and government officials estimate that if the amnesty were revoked, the number of people suspected of human rights abuses who could be prosecuted would more than double.

Ms. Bachelet made her intentions clear in mid-October, during a visit to Villa Grimaldi, a notorious secret detention and torture center here that has recently been turned into a memorial to the victims of General Pinochet. It is her obligation as president, she said, to support "measures to ensure that the Chilean state acts in accordance with international law."

The issue has special relevance for the president because she and her mother were imprisoned and tortured at Villa Grimaldi in 1975, before going into exile. Her father, an Air Force general who had served in the left-wing Allende government and opposed the 1973 coup, died in another prison in 1974 after being tortured.

In late September, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the Pinochet "self-amnesty," as critics here refer to the measure, was incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights, a treaty created by the Organization of American States that took effect in 1978. Because Chile has signed that agreement and others, it is theoretically bound by provisions of international law that prohibit any amnesty for crimes against humanity.

"Until now, the government has taken a hands-off approach, and the courts have had to circumnavigate the law," said José Miguel Vivanco, a Chilean who is the director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch. "But now the government and Congress have to bite the bullet. To her credit, Bachelet has embraced this opportunity and has been busy consulting human rights experts and jurists to work out the most effective option."

Proposals have already been offered to Congress, calling for the amnesty to be repealed, nullified or modified. The right-wing opposition has made it clear that it intends to challenge any change in the courts.

"The executive branch wants the law completely toppled because of the international impact that would have," said Juan Bustos, a Socialist deputy who introduced a bill that would tinker with the amnesty to exclude crimes against humanity or war crimes. "But I favor a mixed solution because I want to see these cases resolved quickly, before those responsible die, and that can't be achieved if we're tied up in the courts."

A posthumous "fuck you" to Pinochet? Sweet. May it pass soon.

And if it doesn't, and the intended monuments to the fascist are erected after all, I hope they all become instant spittoons, as did his coffin, recently:

Just 10 days after the remains of the ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet were cremated, the only Chilean who spat on his casket in the Military Academy, Francisco Cuadrado Prats, has lost his job.

Cuadrado Prats is the grandson of the ex-commander in chief of the army, Gen. Carlos Prats, assassinated in 1974 in Buenos Aires along with his wife, Sofia Cuthbert, by secret agents of Pinochet.

The young man, who is also the son of the current Chilean ambassador to Greece, worked as an advisor to a councillor in the municipality of Las Condes, where Pinocet lived for 17 years.

The mayor of Las Condes, Francisco de la Maza, who also proposed renaming a street or square in honor of "President Pinochet", fired Cuadrado Prats and said that "there is no ideology behind this."

"It seemed to me that Cuadrado Prats acted in a way inconsistent with a public servant connected to Las Condes," he added.

The decision was criticized by representatives of the government, who characterized it as a political persecution. The spitting of Cuadrado Prats, praised and criticized in the local press, was described in some sectors as "an act which reflects the dignity of all Chileans."

The young man was accompanied by two people when he joined a long queue on the 11th at Pinochet's wake. When he reached the coffin, despite the presence of security guards and numerous partisans, he spat on the glass that covered Pinochet's face.

Some "pinochetists" attempted to assault Cuadrado Prats, who was detained by military police and later released.

He's a hero in my book. I'm sure his action speaks for a lot more people than it could ever offend.

December 25, 2006

Quotable: Tommy Douglas on internal espionage

"Setting people to spy on one another is not the way to protect freedom."

--Tommy Douglas, Greatest Canadian and victim of RCMP spying

Merry Christmas, Baghdad...

Or maybe not.

The spirit of Christmas is still alive in Iraq, but it's tucked away behind the closed doors of Christian families, who represent about three percent of Iraq's 26 million people.

Most of the fighting in Iraq involves Sunni and Shiite Muslims, but Christians have also become targets. Church bombings and other sectarian attacks spiked amid a wave of anti-Christian anger over comments by Pope Benedict XVI in September that seemed to link the prophet Muhammad's teachings to violence.

In October, a priest in the northern city of Mosul was kidnapped by a group demanding that he retract the pope's statements. He was eventually found beheaded.

According to the United Nations, more than a million Iraqis have fled since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, with about 3,000 people now leaving daily. About 40 percent of those leaving are Christian, the U.N. says.

Umm Salam, who goes by her tribal name meaning "mother of Salam" out of fear she will be targeted if she reveals her Christian name, said Sunday she has no choice but to keep her religion a secret.

"We cannot show our happiness (about Christmas) to neighbors. But every single Iraqi has his own wounds, and life must go on," she said. "Happiness is for the children when they will awake tomorrow and find their gifts near the tree."

It wasn't always like this. Umm Salam's daughter, Um Mawj, recalls more peaceful times, when Christmas celebrations went on for days.

"We use to go to the clubs, and all the relatives and friends were there. Those years are unforgettable, but they have faded," the 38-year-old said.

Her brother used to own a liquor store in Baghdad, but converted it into a grocery store when other alcohol vendors were attacked by Islamic militiamen. He sells Christmas trees, Santa dolls and colored lights at this time of year, but business is not as good as it used to be, Wisam Wadie said.

"Violence has kidnapped our happiness and joy on this great occasion, and planted fears in our hearts," he said.

Looks like Peace On Earth won't be coming to that particular corner of the planet anytime soon.

December 22, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Feliz Chavidad, 2006

Dear Santa,

This year I want

a doll...

I want a Chavecito doll for Xmas!

...a book...

Chavecito book

...a teddybear...

Give us a hug, Chavecito!

and peace on Earth.

Yes, I know--it's a tall order, especially that last one. But a girl can always hope.

I've been very good this year, as always.

Love, 'Bina.

December 21, 2006

Fahoo forays, dahoo dorays...

Let's see how long this stays up before YouTube yanks it:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, all 25:17 minutes of it. Enjoy!

Edit, December 25: The Grinch has stolen the video. You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

Dubya, take note...

Absolute rulers who claim a higher authority are not immune to being "called home" suddenly. And if no one's there to take their place, and the contingency plan was scrapped by the ruler's megalomania, well...just read this as a cautionary tale.

Turkmenistan's authoritarian president Saparmurat Niyazov, who ruled the Central Asian country for 21 years, has died aged 66, state TV has reported.

Mr Niyazov, who named cities and airports after himself in a personality cult, left no designated successor.

Turkmenistan, which has large gas reserves, now faces an uncertain future with rival groups and outside powers scrambling for influence, analysts say.

Mr Niyazov died at 0110 local time (2010 GMT Wednesday) of a heart attack.

Last month, the president publicly acknowledged he had heart disease.

His funeral is set to take place on 24 December in the capital, Ashgabat.

BBC correspondents quote witnesses as saying the capital has been quiet since the news broke, with many people staying at home, shocked and unsure of what may happen next.

Deputy Prime Minister Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has been named head of the commission handling the funeral, state television said.

According to Turkmen law, the president is succeeded by the head of the legislative body, the People's Assembly. But this post was held by Mr Niyazov himself.

Turkmenistan has called an emergency meeting of its highest representative body for 26 December to decide on Mr Niyazov's succession, the government said.

Mr Berdymukhamedov has also been named acting head of state until then, according to government sources.

The real credit for the absence of chaos at this moment lies with the people of Turkmenistan, who I gather have no taste for riots and disorder. Given that most of them are poor despite the energy wealth of the country, it's not so surprising, either--when you've got hardly anything, the inclination is to sit tight on what you do have until you know what's coming next. And if anyone comes to take it away, THEN you fight--to the death.

Dubya, pay attention. This relates to you, whether you want it to or not. Iraq ringing any bells? How about Afghanistan? NO?

Oh, of course not...all-powerful Deciders never hear the bells. Even when they toll "time's up for YOU, old boy".

Gold, myrrh...and Frankenpot?

I always knew marijuana was a remarkable weed, but this is ridiculous.

Soldiers trying to seize control of one Mexico's top drug-producing regions found the countryside teeming with a new hybrid marijuana plant that can be cultivated year-round and cannot be killed with pesticides.

Soldiers fanned out across some of the new fields Tuesday, pulling up plants by the root and burning them, as helicopter gunships clattered overhead to give them cover from a raging drug war in the western state of Michoacan. The plants' roots survive if they are doused with herbicide, said army Gen. Manuel Garcia.

"These plants have been genetically improved," he told a handful of journalists allowed to accompany soldiers on a daylong raid of some 70 marijuana fields. "Before we could cut the plant and destroy it, but this plant will come back to life unless it's taken out by the roots."

The new plants, known as "Colombians," mature in about two months and can be planted at any time of year, meaning authorities will no longer be able to time raids to coincide with twice-yearly harvests.

The hybrid first appeared in Mexico two years ago but has become the plant of choice for drug traffickers Michoacan, a remote mountainous region that lends to itself to drug production.

Yields are so high that traffickers can now produce as much marijuana on a plot the size of a football field as they used to harvest in 10 to 12 acres. That makes for smaller, harder-to-detect fields, though some discovered Tuesday had sophisticated irrigation systems with sprinklers, pumps and thousands of yards of tubing.

"For each 100 (marijuana plots) that you spot from the air, there are 300 to 500 more that you discover once you get on the ground," Garcia said.

Genetically modified pot, folks...think of the implications.

I wonder if it gives you the munchies for Frankenfoods.

Oh boy, just what I always wanted for Yule...

Um, no.

Not really.

And if this sleazy concept isn't the ultimate in dealbreakers, the white socks/loafers combo surely must be.

Edit: Broken link now repaired. Er...enjoy.

December 19, 2006

Oh, fergawdsakes!

Barely is the dictator cold in his grave, and already the would-be hagiographers are calling for a monument (or several) to this sick-ass freak...

A group of right-wing politicians has proposed erecting three monuments to Chile's former military leader, General Augusto Pinochet, who died this month.

The main monument, for which plans have been put to parliament for approval, would be in the capital, Santiago.

BBC correspondents say the government is unlikely to pass the bill. Thousands died during Gen Pinochet's 17-year rule and he was accused of rights abuses.

But his supporters believe he put Chile on to a path of strong economic growth.

According to the bill presented by politician Ivan Moreira and others, the principal monument to Gen Pinochet would be built outside Chile's presidential palace, La Moneda.

It would stand in the same square as a monument to Salvador Allende, the elected president overthrown in Gen Pinochet's 1973 coup.

The other two monuments proposed would be in the northern city of Iquique and in Gen Pinochet's birthplace, Valparaiso.

Mr Moreira, a Pinochet loyalist, told reporters that if Mr Allende had a monument to him, then so should Gen Pinochet.

Translation: We want a Fair and Balanced ode to fascist dictatorship, dammit! Never mind that in actual fact he ruined the country from top to bottom, economically, socially, politically, spiritually--in the name of Fairness and Balance, we demand that he be hallowed!

If such monuments are erected, they will soon become unofficial public urinals--I guarantee it.

And THAT would be the only true fairness and balance about the whole farce.

Toady Blair, suicide bomber

Does this man enjoy being Bush's bitch? He must, because there is simply no other explanation for THIS:

Tony Blair has defended Britain's relationship with the US, after claims he had failed to wield any significant influence over President Bush.

Mr Blair said moving away from the US would have a devastating impact on the UK's international standing.

Speaking in Dubai he said the close relationship was a "strength" and had been a cornerstone of policy for years.

The Chatham House report said his legacy would be the "disaster" of Iraq and his failure to influence the US.

Mr Blair, who is on a tour of the Middle East focusing on the peace process, said he had not read the report by Britain's leading foreign policy think tank.

But he said that one of the greatest myths in politics was that close ties with America harmed Britain's attempts to solve problems in the Middle East.

"People know that, whether it's Israel/Palestine, or it's sorting out the economic problems of the region, or it's on any of the major challenges that face our world today - from climate change through to world trade through to global poverty through to the fight against terrorism - whether in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere - it can't be done without America."

He added: "If you back away from [the relationship with America], and give it up because you get under pressure from parts of the media or public opinion, we'll pay a very heavy price in the future.

"That's my belief as prime minister and, if you really want to know, I think that most people when they're actually in the position, having to take the decisions, will come to the same view".

Sounds to me like that view is distinctly myopic--or--what's the medical term for tunnel vision, again?

Since Toady is convinced that future glory will be his if he straps himself to a bad foreign policy that is doomed to blow up in his face, I can only assume that he is no less a suicide bomber than any of those headbanded fanatics reading out their last communiques on Islamist sites.

Bad Prime Minister! No rewards in heaven for you!

Porno by BushCo

No nudity, but still obscene.

December 18, 2006

I bet they're already sorry they started this

I, however, feel more like laughing my ass off. But then, as a Witch, I always do find it amusing when witch-hunters start eating their own.

An executive staff member at New Life Church in Colorado Springs has resigned after admitting to sexual misconduct and other mistakes - the result of an examination of the staff's moral makeup after the ouster of senior pastor Ted Haggard, a church official said Sunday.

Christopher Beard, who headed a ministry that trained young adults in leadership skills, stepped down Friday after admitting to "a series of decisions displaying poor judgment, including one incident of sexual misconduct several years ago," said Rob Brendle, an associate pastor at the 14,000- member church.

[...]

Beard, a New Life employee for nine years, was not married at the time of the incident but is now, Brendle said. Beard could not be reached for comment Sunday.

After Haggard's fall in a drugs-and-gay- sex scandal last month, the senior leadership of New Life asked its outside board of overseers to take a closer look at the "spiritual character" of its 200-member staff as a precaution. Brendle said Beard's disclosures came during a meeting with the board, which is made up of four pastors from other congregations.

Brendle said Beard's resignation was voluntary and is another step toward making sure the "disordered moral life" demonstrated in Haggard's fall is "excised from the church."

I wonder where this will end. I mean, an awful lot of things can fall under the heading of "sexual immorality". The actual biblical definition, however, is remarkably narrow.

It will be interesting to see how all this shakes out, what the church considers to be immoral, and just how many "immoral" people the dragnet will catch before the whole cult implodes under the weight of its own, er, "sin".

My educated guess, however, is that the real sins--the nonsexual kind--will be left untouched.

TIME has a problem with Chavecito

What's wrong with this picture?

Time Person of the Year screenshot

It's obvious that there is a clear winner to this poll. As in the Venezuelan elections two weeks ago, Chavecito is way out ahead of his closest challenger. Considering that this is an eight-way race, to pull more than a third of the vote as he has done is pretty convincing. Yet, in what can only be called a slap in the face to the voters and the readers, TIME magazine has denied him what they would give him. Instead of exploring the remarkable realities of Chavecito, they've decided to play it safe and hand it to...

...drumroll please...

...the Internets.

Now, how frackin' lame is that?

Oh sure, they say they're giving it to "you". Yay! Feel good!

Never mind that it's totally meaningless. Never mind that "you", or at least 35% of the "you" who responded to TIME's online poll, voted for Chavecito. Never mind what they themselves say about the Web--"It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter." The small contributions of those who voted in this poll were brought together only to be discarded. The choice really isn't up to YOU, it's up to THEM, same as it was in the pre-Internets era when they handed it to Hitler. Or that they gave it to Dubya even when most of the people on the Internets had other thoughts. You don't really matter--don't you get it? They just want you to think you do!

So, yippee-skippy for You, the incredibly vague and pseudo-important subject of a year-end puff piece. Try not to let it go to your head.

Now, why do you suppose they copped out of making Chavecito their dude of the year-that-was? Is he in the same league of baddie-ness as Dubya and Hitler? Why, no--quite the contrary. He's an international hero, using oil and its revenues to put paid to poverty. He's realizing Simon Bolivar's 200-year-old goal of unifying Latin America and freeing it from the dead hand of imperialism. He's pioneering a most innovative and effective form of fair trade with neighboring lands. He's inaugurated huge infrastructure projects all over the place. He's singlehandedly resurrected socialism--prematurely pronounced dead by neo-con pundits and think-tank "experts". He's made education available to all Venezuelans, and wiped out illiteracy there in the space of just a few short years--something that the mighty capitalists who preceded him unaccountably failed to do. Honestly, the worst thing he's done this year is liken Dubya to Satan and get laughs and applause for it--at the UN. Unlike either Dubya or Hitler, though, he's democratically elected, and by a clear majority. And every big change he's made in Venezuela was also democratically ratified by direct vote.

One would think TIME would be salivating to make a note of all that, seeing as it's very big news, but noooooo. Their official editorial line is that Chavecito is "anti-American". And the unwritten subtext of that is, they must downplay his Bolivarian Revolution, no matter how effective it is. And above all, they must NEVER let on that it has even had a helpful bearing on a good many people right in the United States. That would be unthinkable, since they, like all the rest of the Crack White House Press Whores, are under express instructions to conflate Dubya with America, and America with God. The unsubtle subtext: Dubya is God.

So, by extension, the rest of the world doesn't count. And that includes you.

PS: TIME's Canadian newsmaker of the year? Harpo. Pathetic, but predictable.

PPS: The Talent Show has figured out what part of Left Field this came from. So glad someone could clear it up for us!

PPPS: However, InternetWeekly reminds us that it could have been MUCH worse. Thanks, guys. You're peaches.

December 16, 2006

Toronto does it again...

...in diabetes research.

First there were Frederick Banting and Charles Best, with their discovery of insulin as an effective treatment for diabetes (mostly for type 1, although some type 2 sufferers also depend on it). They made that discovery at U of T.

Now, researchers at Sick Kids think they may be onto something even more exciting. Not a treatment, but a CURE:

In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body's nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions of Canadians.

Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.

"I couldn't believe it," said Dr. Michael Salter, a pain expert at the Hospital for Sick Children and one of the scientists. "Mice with diabetes suddenly didn't have diabetes any more."

[...]

"I've never seen anything like it," said Dr. Hans Michael Dosch, an immunologist at the hospital and a leader of the studies. "In my career, this is unique."

Their conclusions upset conventional wisdom that Type 1 diabetes, the most serious form of the illness that typically first appears in childhood, was solely caused by auto-immune responses -- the body's immune system turning on itself.

They also conclude that there are far more similarities than previously thought between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and that nerves likely play a role in other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as asthma and Crohn's disease.

[...]

About two million Canadians suffer from diabetes, 10% of them with Type 1, contributing to 41,000 deaths a year.

Insulin replacement therapy is the only treatment of Type 1, and cannot prevent many of the side effects, from heart attacks to kidney failure.

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to shift glucose into the cells that need it. In Type 2 diabetes, the insulin that is produced is not used effectively -- something called insulin resistance -- also resulting in poor absorption of glucose.

The problems stem partly from inflammation -- and eventual death -- of insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas.

Dr. Dosch had concluded in a 1999 paper that there were surprising similarities between diabetes and multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease. His interest was also piqued by the presence around the insulin-producing islets of an "enormous" number of nerves, pain neurons primarily used to signal the brain that tissue has been damaged.

Suspecting a link between the nerves and diabetes, he and Dr. Salter used an old experimental trick -- injecting capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot chili peppers, to kill the pancreatic sensory nerves in mice that had an equivalent of Type 1 diabetes.

"Then we had the biggest shock of our lives," Dr. Dosch said. Almost immediately, the islets began producing insulin normally "It was a shock -- really out of left field, because nothing in the literature was saying anything about this."

It turns out the nerves secrete neuropeptides that are instrumental in the proper functioning of the islets. Further study by the team, which also involved the University of Calgary and the Jackson Laboratory in Maine, found that the nerves in diabetic mice were releasing too little of the neuropeptides, resulting in a "vicious cycle" of stress on the islets.

So next they injected the neuropeptide "substance P" in the pancreases of diabetic mice, a demanding task given the tiny size of the rodent organs. The results were dramatic.

The islet inflammation cleared up and the diabetes was gone. Some have remained in that state for as long as four months, with just one injection.

They also discovered that their treatments curbed the insulin resistance that is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes, and that insulin resistance is a major factor in Type 1 diabetes, suggesting the two illnesses are quite similar.

While pain scientists have been receptive to the research, immunologists have voiced skepticism at the idea of the nervous system playing such a major role in the disease. Editors of Cell put the Toronto researchers through vigorous review to prove the validity of their conclusions, though an editorial in the publication gives a positive review of the work.

"It will no doubt cause a great deal of consternation," said Dr. Salter about his paper.

It also makes me wonder if people who love their hot peppers--like me--are naturally less susceptible to diabetes of both types, since capsaicin is a natural painkiller and travels everywhere in the body via the bloodstream (ask anyone who eats chillies just to get that hot, hot natural high. For that matter, just ask me--I eat it for my rheumatism, which I've had since I was 15.)

It stands to reason that a good portion of the capsaicin we eat would land up in the pancreas, quite possibly very soon after ingestion. That would have a powerful prophylactic effect against diabetes, and it would be so easy to incorporate into anyone's daily diet, too.

Whatever else may come of it, this research has opened up multiple--and intriguing--possibilities.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen claims this is edited...

...but it sure doesn't look that way to me. From the mouth of this congresscritter (R-Crazybitch), strange and vile things sure do have a way of popping out:

It sounds just like she's calling for murder, does it not?

By the way, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, do you also welcome the assassination of your own president? He's unelected. He's also oppressing more people now than Fidel has done in all his long career. And a substantial number of the oppressed are your fellow Americans, whom he's sending to die on the basis of lies.

Which brings me to another video:

Much as we hate them, though, you won't hear us howling for their blood. We'll gladly settle for a well-deserved impeachment, war crimes trial, and perp-walk in shackles past a crowd flinging slaughterhouse refuse at them.

Meanwhile, Chavecito has some sad news for Rep. Crazybitch:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday that Fidel Castro is not dying of cancer, saying he had spoken with the ailing Cuban leader by phone and he is well enough to tell jokes.

"Fidel doesn't have cancer. I'm very well-informed … he's instructed [Cuban officials] to inform me of all the details of what is happening," Chavez said during a speech in Caracas.

"Nobody knows when Fidel is going to die," Chavez added.

"[Yet] we are very optimistic. Yesterday, I found him to be in a very good mood, well enough to compare my parrots to [President] Bush," Chavez continued, describing the way Castro had told him his pet birds were more talkative than their "northern neighbour."

He said the two leaders had spoken twice on Thursday and had discussed a series of new projects between Venezuela and Cuba, including plans for joint oil expeditions.

Chavez reiterated previous comments that Fidel's recuperation is going "slowly" and that Castro is fighting "a great battle" to regain his health after suffering what he described as a "serious illness."

Call me kooky, but I choose to believe Chavecito; he has it on much better authority than the unnamed US officials who keep insisting that Fidel is dying of cancer. I doubt very much that Fidel is on speaking terms with them, let alone concerning his health.

December 15, 2006

Oh, what a tangled web they weave...

...when building fences to keep out the very people they're panting to employ for substandard wages!

A fence-building company in Southern California agrees to pay nearly $5 million in fines for hiring illegal immigrants. Two executives from the company may also serve jail time. The Golden State Fence Company's work includes some of the border fence between San Diego and Mexico.

After an immigration check in 1999 found undocumented workers on its payroll, Golden State promised to clean house. But when followup checks were made in 2004 and 2005, some of those same illegal workers were still on the job. In fact, U-S Attorney Carol Lam says as many as a third of the company's 750 workers may have been in the country illegally.

Golden State Fence built millions of dollars' worth of fencing around homes, offices, and military bases. Its president and one of its Southern California managers will pay fines totaling $300,000. The government is also recommending jail time for Melvin Kay and Michael McLaughlin, probably about six months.

It is exceptionally rare for those who employ illegal immigrants to face any kind of criminal prosecution, let alone jail time. Earlier this week, for example, immigration raids on six meat-packing plants netted almost 1,300 suspected illegal workers. But no charges were leveled against the company that runs the plants: Swift.

Golden State Fence's attorney, Richard Hirsch, admits his client broke the law. But he says the case proves that construction companies need a guest-worker program.

Oh, the irony. The delicious, delectable irony. Just jumped right up and bit them in the ass, it did...

Actually, this all proves not the need for a "guest worker program", but the bottomless greed of Corporate America, which wants only to go on paying substandard wages--and is quite willing to exploit vulnerable, undocumented immigrants in order to do so. They don't need a legalized way to exploit those people; they need a swift kick in the pocketbook.

And for anyone who thinks fencing off the border is a viable solution, just ask Subcomandante Marcos how well that works:

Subcomandante Marcos makes monkeys of Minutemen and mockery of border barriers!

Let's face it--for every barrier one person builds, another will find a way through, around, over or under it.

And sometimes, the builder and the one who worms his way through are one and the same.

Holy effin' crap, Tony Blair LIED!

Um...this is news? I knew he was doin' it from the moment he became Bush's poodle.

The Government's case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.

In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests."

Mr Ross revealed it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq that any threat by Saddam Hussein had been "effectively contained".

He also reveals that British officials warned US diplomats that bringing down the Iraqi dictator would lead to the chaos the world has since witnessed. "I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed)," he said.

"At the same time, we would frequently argue when the US raised the subject, that 'regime change' was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos."

Official Secrets Act? There's one to make you shudder. It ought better to be called the Official Bum-Covering Act, because whenever there's a murderous lie to be sold to the public or an ethic to be breached, guess what covers it all and the embarrassingly naked and pimply rump of its perpetrator?

Toady Blair, Bush's Bitch

This all ties in rather nicely to another thing I've long suspected--that Tony Blair tried to talk sense to Dubya, failed, and came out of the meeting with his pants around his ankles, rubbing his sore bottom. But rather than hitching up what was left of his dignity, he decided he liked the rough stuff and would rather hang for a sheep than get the hell out of the pasture while the getting was good. After that, what was there left to do BUT lie, haul out fraudulent stories of WMD, people shredders, and heaven only knows what all else? Blow all kinds of smoke just so people don't notice that lingering aroma of Merde de Mouton.

And now Toady's really gonna hang for a sheep. A whole flock of them, actually, including this one:

Mr Ross's evidence directly challenges the assertions by the Prime Minster that the war was legally justified because Saddam possessed WMDs which could be "activated" within 45 minutes and posed a threat to British interests. These claims were also made in two dossiers, subsequently discredited, in spite of the advice by Mr Ross.

His hitherto secret evidence threatens to reopen the row over the legality of the conflict, under which Mr Blair has sought to draw a line as the internecine bloodshed in Iraq has worsened.

Mr Ross says he questioned colleagues at the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence working on Iraq and none said that any new evidence had emerged to change their assessment.

"What had changed was the Government's determination to present available evidence in a different light," he added.

Mr Ross said in late 2002 that he "discussed this at some length with David Kelly", the weapons expert who a year later committed suicide when he was named as the source of a BBC report saying Downing Street had "sexed up" the WMD claims in a dossier. The Butler inquiry cleared Mr Blair and Downing Street of "sexing up" the dossier, but the publication of the Carne Ross evidence will cast fresh doubts on its findings.

Oh boy, there's that dodgy dossier again, and the suicided scientist to boot. Plus the blood of how many British soldiers and Iraqis on his hands?

Start scrubbing, Prime Minister Lady Macbeth.

And good luck getting THIS blood off your hands.

PS: John Kampfner writes in the Guardian's Comment is Free section that Toady's poodle tendencies have landed Britain in still deeper shit for future generations. Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it has. Check it out!

Quotable: Dubya on how truly human he isn't

"I must tell you, I'm sleeping a lot better than people would assume."

--George W. Bush, cold-blooded mass murderer, trying hard to improve his image

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito brings down the house in Bolivia

Even when pouring the chicha at a traditional indigenous Bolivian blessing ceremony to open a summit in Cochabamba, Chavecito can't resist hamming it up...

Chavecito scares reporters with a jug of chicha!

"Hey, you with the camera--be sure you catch my good side, or you're toast--and I don't mean the drinking kind!"

Splash!

But when he finally gets down to business, he gets it right...

Big Splash!

...as do all his friends except maybe Alan Garcia of Peru, who appears to need to watch and make sure he's getting it right. (Let's hope he copies Chavecito on other fronts too, now that they've finally shaken hands and made up after the electoral quarrels of the past year.)

Another Chavecito hand kiss!

And of course, it wouldn't be Friday without a charming Chavecito shot. No wonder he's so popular everywhere he goes!

December 13, 2006

The Washington Post is Pinochet's bitch

Even though the dictator is dead, his Big Lie lives on. And who "better" than the Washington Post Whore to keep that odious Energizer Bunny from Hell drumming and drumming and drumming? For they have written a very slimy apologia for Pinochet, and of the most cowardly kind...the unsigned editorial. Implying that the WaHoPo endorses him even in death, even not denying what he did. This is, of course, entirely in line with the fact that they are NO liberal paper at all, but a "my country, right even when wrong" one.

AUGUSTO PINOCHET, who died Sunday at the age of 91, has been vilified for three decades in and outside of Chile, the South American country he ruled for 17 years. For some he was the epitome of an evil dictator. That was partly because he helped to overthrow, with U.S. support, an elected president considered saintly by the international left: socialist Salvador Allende, whose responsibility for creating the conditions for the 1973 coup is usually overlooked. Mr. Pinochet was brutal: More than 3,000 people were killed by his government and tens of thousands tortured, mostly in his first three years. Thousands of others spent years in exile.

One prominent opponent, Orlando Letelier, was assassinated by a car bomb on Washington's Sheridan Circle in 1976 -- one of the most notable acts of terrorism in this city's history. Mr. Pinochet, meanwhile, enriched himself, stashing millions in foreign bank accounts -- including Riggs Bank, a Washington institution that was brought down, in part, by the revelation of that business. His death forestalled a belated but richly deserved trial in Chile.

It's hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15 years, Chile's economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its poverty rate has been halved. It's leaving behind the developing world, where all of its neighbors remain mired. It also has a vibrant democracy. Earlier this year it elected another socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, who suffered persecution during the Pinochet years.

Like it or not, Mr. Pinochet had something to do with this success. To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle -- and that not even Allende's socialist successors have dared reverse. He also accepted a transition to democracy, stepping down peacefully in 1990 after losing a referendum.

I've added emphasis here so you can see what they're doing. Notice the sly dig at Salvador Allende, whom no one on the left actually has called a saint, and who might not even enjoy the status of martyr today if not for Washington's unwelcome interventions. Notice also how they completely gloss over the connivings of Henry Kissinger, the real architect of the pre-coup economic collapse. And also the small fact that those fifteen years of "success" happened ONLY due to Pinochet's stepping down.

And of course, there's complete ignorance of the economic WRECK he made of Chile in order to "save" it for the half-assed "success" it "enjoys" today. The implication being that if you want to "succeed" in the global market, you should not "act irresponsibly" by electing your own leaders, but accept Washington's bitter medicine--even if that means thousands of your countrymen (and even some noteworthy Americans!) dead, tortured or disappeared. The implication being, a nation turned into a singular chamber of horrors is a small price to pay for a little taste of economic "success".

The Post-Harlot has done something truly bizarre here: it has both admitted that Pinochet is an unpunished criminal, AND falsely credited him for a slight economic recovery which owes nothing to any action of his except perhaps his abdication.

Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there:

By way of contrast, Fidel Castro -- Mr. Pinochet's nemesis and a hero to many in Latin America and beyond -- will leave behind an economically ruined and freedomless country with his approaching death. Mr. Castro also killed and exiled thousands. But even when it became obvious that his communist economic system had impoverished his country, he refused to abandon that system: He spent the last years of his rule reversing a partial liberalization. To the end he also imprisoned or persecuted anyone who suggested Cubans could benefit from freedom of speech or the right to vote.

Notice a few more of the dirty girl's tricks here: Castro is not Pinochet's "nemesis", as he never went to war against him or brought him to justice. "Killed and exiled thousands"? How many killed, really? They fudge over that, probably because the number who died when Castro overthrew Batista doesn't approach Pinochet's belt-notch count--it was in the hundreds, not the thousands. And let's not forget that those executed were not innocent; they were the minions of Batista, who was Cuba's own real Pinochet. As for the "exiles", no one exiled them--they fled. When offered compensation for their soon to be expropriated estates as part of Castro's agrarian reforms, the richest simply packed up and buggered off to Miami. There they attempted several coups against him, none of which succeeded, even with the CIA's help. They never accepted a cent--and so Castro, a lawyer by training and a shrewd businessman despite limited means, wound up nationalizing their lands for free. And then there was the Mariel Boatlift, an economic migration which Castro did not oppose but permitted to proceed in good order. It was the United States that imprisoned those "refugees" upon arrival. Funny how the Post never mentions a word of that!

Notice too how they never mention that the REAL reason Cuba was left behind is because THE US EMBARGOED IT FOR DECADES. They just use Fidel Castro as a handy foil to show how much less evil Pinochet supposedly was. Again, they gloss over the fact that Chile under Pinochet was far more "freedomless" than Cuba is now; Cuba, at least, has municipal and national elections, though no presidential ones--yet. Political dissidents in Cuba get jailed, yes--but in Chile there were far more of them, and their fates were far worse, and all just for saying pretty much the same things as the Cuban dissidents. Meanwhile, how many state-murdered, tortured and disappeared people has Cuba got to be ashamed of? As it currently stands, the "freedom-loving" US is the world's largest per-capita prison state, keeps pro-Castro Cubans prisoner, and has kept more political prisoners in Guantanamo Bay since 9-11 than Cuba has in total since 1959!

But never mind all that; it's just trivia. The Washington Lady-of-the-night has one last dig of the shiv to get in before she slinks into the shadows on her too-high heels:

The contrast between Cuba and Chile more than 30 years after Mr. Pinochet's coup is a reminder of a famous essay written by Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the provocative and energetic scholar and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who died Thursday. In "Dictatorships and Double Standards," a work that caught the eye of President Ronald Reagan, Ms. Kirkpatrick argued that right-wing dictators such as Mr. Pinochet were ultimately less malign than communist rulers, in part because their regimes were more likely to pave the way for liberal democracies. She, too, was vilified by the left. Yet by now it should be obvious: She was right.

And of course, note the way they whitewash that antidemocratic whore Kirkpatrick. She was wrong and a bitch, but dammit, she's OUR bitch and that makes her right, runs the unspoken (because illogical) reasoning. Pinochet didn't "pave the way" for anything; the way was actually paved by Allende, as Greg Palast makes clear. Pinochet's highway had been paved for two decades already; the only good thing he did was to hit it. A damn shame he wasn't run out of town on a rail instead.

By the way, this editorial is titled "A Dictator's Double Standard". The irony of it is, this paper just showed what subscribers to the double standard they themselves are! Pinochet killed people, killed jobs, tortured people, tortured the economy, imprisoned people, shackled the economy to a point it has yet to recover from--yet he is, inexplicably, a saint to the Post, which would rather go on tarring and feathering Washington's favorite whipping boy than look honestly at all the gangsters she's been in bed with.

A whore with a heart of gold she most certainly ain't.

December 11, 2006

Fun with Photoshop: Chavecito and Evo have a message for Dubya!

Up yours, Mr. Danger!

Thanks to Dana for the cutest flip-off I've ever received!

December 10, 2006

Ding, dong...

...a son of a bitch is DEAD.

Augusto Pinochet, the former military dictator of Chile who was revered by supporters for leaving behind the most stable country in Latin America but reviled by critics who say he ruled with a complete disregard for human rights, died Sunday. He was 91.

Pinochet suffered a heart attack a week ago, and an announcement by the Santiago Military hospital said his condition worsened suddenly on Sunday.

He was one of the most controversial political figures of the 20th century and had been in poor health in recent years, suffering from diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and the effects of at least three mild strokes that his family said had left him with mild dementia. Before his death, the retired general lived in virtual seclusion and was seen in public rarely, walking with a cane and the help of bodyguards.

Pinochet will be most remembered for leading a military coup that toppled the world's first democratically elected Marxist president, Salvador Allende, on Sept, 11, 1973. Allende had named Pinochet commander-in-chief of the armed forces just 18 days before the coup.

In recent years, declassified U.S. government documents have shown that the Nixon administration began a program to destabilize the Allende government, which had earned President Richard Nixon's wrath by nationalizing U.S. copper mines and other foreign-controlled businesses, rural estates and banks and recognizing Cold War foes of the United States such as Cuba, North Korea and North Vietnam. Led by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Washington financed labor strikes, propaganda and military plotters, paving the way for Pinochet's rise to power, some historians have argued. "It is not part of American history we are proud of," former Secretary of State Colin Powell said in 2003.

Gee, Unka Colin, isn't that the understatement of the decade. As is that "controversial" bit. I'm surprised anyone could see a controversy about him, as he was unquestionably despicable and irredeemable. Controversy? Shyeah.

I'm also surprised there is anyone left who could actually feel sad about this, but Maggie Thatcher, bless her clattering tin heart, will oblige us by squeezing out a few crocodile tears:

Former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher is "greatly saddened" by the death of Augusto Pinochet, said a spokesman.

Chile's former military leader, who has died aged 91 in hospital, backed the UK during the Falklands conflict.

Baroness Thatcher also pressed for his release after his arrest in London in 1998 over alleged human rights abuses.

He was an evil, fascist wretch who murdered and disappeared thousands, not to mention tortured the father of the current Chilean president to death, but since he backed Britain in the senseless squabble over the Malvinas (who should have declared independence from both the imperialists and the dictatorial junta), he was an okay guy. She even had tea with him before objecting to those nasty, unmannerly Spaniards for daring to arrest him on human rights charges. What a grand, impeccable lady that ol' Milk Snatcher is!

If there is indeed a hell, they're gonna have to build a couple more extra-hot furnaces just for those two.

PS: God/dess bless CBC. The announcer just read out that "Augusto Pinochet is dead...and it's a safe bet how most of the world will remember him!" Yeah, I'll say! They're also reporting riots in the streets, and showing jubilant people dancing in celebration. They're also noting that he overthrew a democratically elected leader, and that the US backed him.

20 questions for the rightards

1. If you conservatives are so compassionate, why has your "compassion" only created more problems, and exacerbated, but not solved, any of the existing ones?

2. If your foreign policies are the answer to all the world's problems, why do they most often result in violence--or chants of "Go Home!"?

3. If your trickle-down economics really work, why are more people now OUT of work as a result--or not being paid enough to live on for the hard work they do?

4. If you claim to be a Christian, why do you follow so few of the teachings of Christ?

5. If AIDS is God's punishment for gays, why are so many heterosexuals and their children dying of it? And why, conversely, do so few lesbians get AIDS--are they any less gay than the males?

6. If you believe so strongly in God, why do you have so little faith in humanity?

7. If freedom isn't free, why aren't you paying your share, and making sacrifices for it?

8. If history has ended, why does it keep repeating--and coming back to bite you in the ass?

9. If capitalism is really the best way for all, why is the majority of the world's population so poor after so many centuries of it?

10. If men are the stronger sex, why are only women capable of giving birth--in addition to being able to do virtually everything a man can, other than maybe write our names in the snow?

11. If you're not racist, why won't you vote for a black person, and why do you support policies that directly harm non-whites?

12. If war builds character, why does it wreck so many minds?

13. If you're so big on manners and civility, why are you so damn rude to those who disagree with you--especially if they're from another country?

14. If the private sector can do everything better, why not just pay the Mafia to be your police and fire department?

15. If you don't want other people's hands on your money, why are you still driving on public highways, visiting national parks, and just generally availing yourself of benefits bought with other people's tax dollars?

16. If God is your co-pilot, why do you keep going so horribly off course?

17. If Muslims are the enemy, why have most of the more than one billion of them never done you any harm?

18. If the market can take care of all our needs, why can so few people actually afford the market rate--and why does it keep failing to provide even the basic essentials?

19. If liberals are "fascists", why do liberal and liberty share a common linguistic root?

20. If you are always right, why does insecurity reek from your every pore--often exploding into violence at the flick of a match like this, which I have struck merely to give you light?

December 8, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Need a good laugh?

I got one for you right here:

Hugo Chavez laughing

I love it when Chavecito laughs. His whole face gets in on the fun. There aren't nearly enough shots of him laughing, and that's ridiculous, because right now he's got so much to laugh about.

December 7, 2006

The people have spoken...

...the doors are staying OPEN!

But the parliamentary debate on same sex marriage is now officially CLOSED. And the vote not to re-open it wasn't even close! Even twelve Conservatives broke party ranks to vote against this absurd motion. The final tally? 175-123 against.

That means that this law permitting equal marriage rights stays on the books, and those right-wing Chicken Littles who oppose it will have to admit that the sky hasn't fallen since it was passed, and is in no danger of doing so. (Guys, just suck it up already. Nobody's making you marry someone of your own sex.)

Have I mentioned yet today how proud I am to be Canadian?

Where's Mr. Blackwell when you need him...

...to dress down the socialites who make fashion faux pas?

Actually, this is a faux pas in more ways than one. Three women besides Pickles spent $8500 US each, only to look like a big red SOFA? I mean, those outfits weren't so much tailored as upholstered!

Ladies, take it from Audrey Hepburn: You really can't go wrong with a little black dress, especially in an UNquilted fabric.

Thoughtlessly, with surprising absent-mindedness

Funny how often the alternative media gets a story right before the rest of the world catches on.

More than a year ago, I was outraged to hear on Democracy Now how a couple of Parisian teens were chased to a horrible death by electrocution at a transformer station in a festering suburb.

And now, the Beeb reports what the authorities long denied. Namely, that Democracy Now's eyewitnesses, cultural observers, and local sources were dead right.

An internal report by the French police has confirmed that police were chasing two youths whose deaths sparked riots across the country, a lawyer said.

Jean-Pierre Mignard, who is representing the boys' families, said the report criticised officers for failing to prevent their deaths.

Teenagers Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna were electrocuted at a sub-station in a Paris suburb in October 2005.

Their deaths triggered three weeks of violence in suburbs across France.

Mr Mignard said the report, by the police investigation service IGS, found officers had behaved "thoughtlessly, with surprising absent-mindedness".

The report confirmed - based on radio exchanges at the time - that police chased the boys into the electricity sub-station in Clichy-sous-Bois, something police had initially denied.

It said officers took no action to ensure the boys' safety in the site - including alerting power provider Electricite de France, although it says that this might not necessarily have saved their lives.

[...]

During the clashes - between youths of mainly North African origin and police - more than 10,000 cars were set ablaze and 300 buildings firebombed.

This also confirms something else which Democracy Now covered before anyone else did (and the Beeb has yet to plainly iterate): that racism is endemic in post-colonial French society, and so is prejudice. And so, for that matter, is police incompetence and brutality--especially in light of how community policing was abolished by the anti-immigrant Nikolas Sarkozy (who is now contemplating a run for the presidency, God help us all). To say they acted "thoughtlessly, with surprising absent-mindedness" is surely the understatement of the year.

Rockin' House-o-Lights

Normally, I puke when I see people overdo the holiday decorations, especially if there's prize money involved.

But this is kinda cool:

Note the peace sign.

December 6, 2006

Remember, remember, the 6th of December...

Victims of the Montreal Massacre

I know it's not "rational" to be filled with rage when I hear yet another man saying that feminism has victimized his entire gender, boo-hoo. Or to be damn near ready to blow up at assholes who make a tidy cottage industry out of their hatred for women in general and feminists in particular. Or to think that guys who rant about the evils of "gun grabbing" (because they need that AK-47 under the bed, bitch!) are just fucking nuts. Surely it's not rational to insist that women are still victims of sexism, or that gun control is still necessary in Canada, say the whining oil slicks.

Well, yeah. It must not seem rational, unless maybe you're a woman. A woman with not so distant memories of what happened in Montreal on this day in 1989.

I was a student in Kingston, Ontario at the time, so the Montreal Massacre hit me especially hard. I volunteered at the Queen's University Women's Centre--a small office in a grey house on campus that was home to a couple of other student groups as well, including a gay rights/support/social group. We had occasional policy meetings and potluck suppers, but that wasn't the main part. Mostly what we did was sit at the desk, taking phone calls (the few we got), draft occasional press releases and letters to editors, sign out books to borrowers from our small reference library, and read. I did a lot of reading. It was the most peaceful volunteer job I ever had.

Until.

I got a phone call at home one night from Bridget, a fellow volunteer. She wanted to know if I'd heard the news from Montreal. A gunman had walked into a classroom in a Montreal engineering school, separated the women from the men, then opened fire on them, screaming that he was "at war against feminists". He then went into a cafeteria and shot some more women. Fourteen women were killed, and numerous others injured, before the fucked-up freak did what he should have done without fanfare in the first place, and turned the gun on himself.

How do we know this was a hate crime against women? some apologists still ask, sneering. How do you know this wasn't just some deranged guy shooting the place up at random?

Well, there's the suicide note he left. It includes some pretty unambiguous language:

Please note that if I am committing suicide today ... it is not for economic reasons ... but for political reasons. For I have decided to send Ad Patres [Latin: "to the fathers"] the feminists who have ruined my life. ... The feminists always have a talent for enraging me. They want to retain the advantages of being women ... while trying to grab those of men. ... They are so opportunistic that they neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men throughout the ages. They always try to misrepresent them every time they can.

The "knowledge accumulated by men throughout the ages", bitch! Yours doesn't count. YOU don't count. You have no right to an education. Suck my cock, bitch! And if you won't suck my cock, you can suck my fucking GUN!

Notice how this loser never takes responsibility for anything. It's always some woman's fault. He doesn't have anger-management problems; it's "feminists" who "always have a talent for enraging" him. He didn't putz away his own piss-pathetic life; the feminists "ruined" it. He's not the stupid one; it's the evil wicked feminists, who "always try to misrepresent" all the "knowledge accumulated by men throughout the ages". They robbed him of the higher education he thought he was entitled to, simply by possession of a penis, when they took all those university slots in engineering.

It never occurs to him that even if women had remained debarred from university, he probably still would not have gotten in. Penises may entitle the bearer to a great many unfair advantages in life, but when it comes to Higher Learning, regardless of the penile status of those who "accumulated" it, your grades and test scores, not your genitalia, are the ultimate deciding factor. Or at least that is how it works here in Canada.

But this guy couldn't see an elementary thing like that. No, he wuz robbed, and it was the feh-muh-nists whut robbed him! Damn uppity women must DIE!

And die they did, 14 of them. You can see their faces and names above.

I wonder how many of those women would have proudly called themselves feminists, as I was doing then, and still do today. I'm guessing not all; in fact, it probably never even occurred to most of them to think of themselves that way. Their minds were on their jobs, on their classwork, their friends, their families. They were just women, making their way in a world which was gradually beginning to open more doors to them.

A world which Gamil Rodrigue Gharbi didn't want opening doors to anyone who didn't possess a penis.

I dare anyone to tell me what's "rational" about THAT. Or what's not rational about women fighting back. Because baby, we are going on fighting until the last misogynist goes to his own damn "fathers" and ALL the world's doors are open to us, forever.

Harry Potter Harry Potter Harry Potter!!!

I'm not sure I like Harry's extra-short haircut here (I preferred him with a floppy forelock, which he needed to conceal the scar Voldemort inflicted on him as a baby, anyway.) But I do love that they have Helena Bonham Carter for the sexy-spooky villainess, Bellatrix LeStrange. And Professor Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) promises to be even more sweetly sickening than she was in the novel. Yuck, and YUM!

Who's yer daddy?

That question is rhetorical, BTW. It took two days to get the final count in the Venezuelan election, but it's a whoppa:

President Hugo Chavez has been declared the winner of Venezuela's presidential election in a ceremony in the capital.

Mr Chavez received nearly 63% of the final vote, 25 points ahead of his main rival, Manuel Rosales.

Addressing supporters in Caracas, he said there would be complete freedom of expression and political participation during his next six-year term.

He praised his opponents for accepting defeat, and said his win showed support for a radical turn towards socialism.

"Those who voted for me didn't vote for me. They voted for the socialist plan, to build a profoundly different Venezuela," Mr Chavez said.

"The path of this republic is a revolution, a democratic revolution, a social revolution, a political revolution, an economic revolution," he said.

The final results showed Mr Chavez won 7.2 million votes out of about 12 million cast. During his campaign, he said he aimed to poll 10 million votes.

25 points ahead of Rosales? Ouch, that's gotta hurt--especially for one who arrogantly campaigned on the slogan that he was the choice of all 26 million Venezuelans, not the 10 Chavecito was aiming for--and this while simultaneously referring to Chavez supporters as "parasites" AND at the same time, trying explicitly to buy their votes with the "Mi Negra" card. (There's also a hilarious video out there of him kissing an actual "negra" and wiping his mouth immediately afterward.) Yup, Rosalito now has some idea of what it feels like to be toast. Even Zulia, his home state, went overwhelmingly rojo-rojito for Chavecito. This despite all the money the US has been pumping into an anti-Chavez "separatist movement" there. If I were him, I'd be looking over my shoulder during the next round of gubernatorial elections.

But you know who's hurting worse? Someone in Washington surely has a red ass tonight...

US Ambassador William Brownfield congratulated Venezuelans on a peaceful ballot, and voiced Washington's willingness to seek a less fractious relationship with Mr Chavez.

"The president was re-elected by the decision of the Venezuelan people," Mr Brownfield said in a radio interview on Tuesday.

"We recognise that and we're ready, willing and eager to explore and see if we can make progress on bilateral issues."

While the US is the most voracious consumer of Venezuelan oil, tensions have often precluded dialogue between the two nations.

Mr Chavez accuses Washington of backing a 2002 coup against him and has referred to President George W Bush as "Mr Danger" and "the devil".

Something tells me Brownfield is about to be called home and on the carpet. He's not supposed to make nice to Chavecito, he's supposed to be ramping up to the next coup like his predecessor Charles Shapiro did, at least before HIS ass was called home out of sheer embarrassment (probably at his miserable failure, not his undiplomatic romping with Pedro the Brief.)

But back to Rosalito...it really is too priceless:

President Chavez - who won elections in both 1998 and 2000 - triumphed after a campaign in which he characterised his rival as a lackey of the US.

Mr Chavez has vowed to boost the social programmes that have won him support among millions of impoverished Venezuelans.

He is also expected to reform the Venezuelan constitution to remove limits on how many times he can be re-elected, enabling him to run again in 2012.

And we know now, considering the overwhelming mandate Chavecito got, that this amendment will pass public muster in a big, BIG way. And you know what that means, eh kiddies? Yup--Rosalito, or anyone else who tries to run as Washington's man in Caracas, will get solidly thumped for as long as Chavecito can draw breath in those capacious lungs of his.

Who's yer daddy, Bushie?

December 4, 2006

If they talk about morals, cover your breasts and run!

Because, as we all know, the biggest lechers are those who preach the loudest.

Polish prosecutors are investigating claims that Deputy Prime Minister Andrzej Lepper employed a woman on condition that she had sex with him.

A former local councillor for Mr Lepper's Self Defence party made the claim in the Gazeta Wyborcza paper.

Mr Lepper denies he had sex with the woman and says her claim is "insane".

The BBC's Adam Easton says the scandal will embarrass Polish PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski, elected last year promising a "moral revolution".

[...]

According to the paper, Mr Lepper invited the woman to a hotel room in the Polish parliament complex five years ago, after she was promised a job in a regional party office.

The woman says Mr Lepper made it clear the job was hers if she agreed to have sex with him.

"I tried to refuse [to have sex] but when I said 'no' he [Mr Lepper] said there were hundreds of other girls to take my position," the woman is quoted as saying.

The woman says she accepted the offer because, as the single mother of two children, she needed the money.

The woman says she was also required to have sex with a local party official, and other female employees also faced harassment.

Isn't that always the way of it? A single woman, working to support her children, is being made out to be fair game for what my dear departed grandpa would call a Lustmolch (that's German for "old letch"). The mode of coercion? "If you don't do it, someone else will."

Of course, this is how working women have been over a barrel for decades, if not since time immemorial. No sex, no job. In theory, that should only apply to prostitutes and porn stars, whose jobs ARE sex, but it's actually shockingly commonplace for any woman working in a male-dominated place.

And nowhere more so than among the moralists. After all, they're the ones who think all decent women should stay home and make unpaid sex their job, along with cooking, cleaning and shutting up.

How I wish, just once, that the tables could be turned against them, so they know how it feels to have to "perform", whether they're up for it or not. But since we don't have recourse to THAT, anti-harassment laws will just have to do.

The Sheepdog goes to pasture

As my dad said this morning, it's like the rats are all leaving the ship. Whatever could it mean? I told him it was obvious: BushCo is a rotten ship ridden with rats, from King Rat George the Dubya on down.

Well, one more is now in the drink, and frantically paddling as fast as his four legs will take him. Only he looks more like an Old English Sheepdog than a rat.

The controversial US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, is to leave his post, the White House says.

Mr Bolton looked unable to win the necessary Senate support for him to continue in the job, which he had obtained on a temporary basis.

Critics have questioned factors including his abrasive style at the UN.

Mr Bolton's move comes after US defence chief Donald Rumsfeld resigned following the Republican defeat in last month's mid-term elections.

The incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Senator Joe Biden, said he saw "no point in considering Mr Bolton's nomination again".

The White House said President George W Bush had "reluctantly" accepted Mr Bolton's move to step down at the end of the current Congress session in January.

Mr Bush said he was "deeply disappointed that a handful" of senators were blocking Mr Bolton's confirmation.

The departure would disrupt US diplomatic work at a sensitive time, the president said.

The news comes days before a bipartisan panel is expected to suggest the US should begin talking to Iran and Syria, an initiative Mr Bolton has opposed.

Trust the bass-ackward Bushies to appoint an undiplomatic clod like Bolton to be their country's chief diplomat to the world. Anyone with a brain would not even have him on their list, but remember, kids, this IS BushCo we're talking about.

"Controversial" is really not the word for this choice, either; there is no controversy about his being utterly unfit for the job.

Correspondents say Mr Bolton personified Washington's view of the UN as an institution that was viewed as being wasteful and ineffective at best - and inimical to America's wider global interests at worst.

Mr Bolton's critics said a man who once declared there was "no such thing" as the UN was hardly a suitable choice to join the body.

His nomination incensed many former US ambassadors - 102 of whom signed a letter urging senators to reject his nomination.

When career diplomats say you're no good for the job, trust me--you're no damn good. These are people who've built their working lives around the delicate business of not pissing other countries off, and then along comes the Sheepdog, basically lifting his leg on the entire planet. Especially those parts of it that are well within their rights to say the US is imperialistic and at best hypocritical. Good luck getting them back onside! He's undone what it's taken those ambassadors decades to do--build up trust in the US as an ally.

Who wants to trust a country whose leader is stupid enough to appoint someone who basically advocates terrorism against the United Nations as a mode of "reform"?

Bolton is a Monkey's Ass

Quotable: John Ball on southern racism

Sam thought carefully for a minute before he asked his next question. "Virgil, I'm going to ask you something you aren't going to like. But I want to know. How did they happen to take you? No, that isn't what I mean. I want to ask you point-blank how come a colored man got all those advantages. Now if you want to get mad, go ahead."

Tibbs countered with a question of his own. "You've always lived in the South, haven't you?"

"I've never been further than Atlanta," Sam acknowledged.

"Then it may be hard for you to believe, but there are places in this country where a colored man, to use your words for it, is simply a human being like everybody else. Not everybody feels that way, but enough do so that at home I can go weeks at a time without anybody reminding me that I'm a Negro. Here I can't go fifteen minutes. If you went somewhere where people despise you because of your southern accent, and all you were doing was speaking naturally and the best way that you could, you might have a very slight idea of what it is to be constantly cursed for something that isn't your fault and shouldn't make any difference anyhow."

Sam shook his head. "Some guys down here would kill you for saying a thing like that," he cautioned.

"You made my point," Tibbs replied.

--John Ball, In the Heat of the Night

December 2, 2006

Scary Thought #4: Unspeakably terrifying thoughts about Danny and Dubya

You want scary? Watch this...and then think.

Even drunk off his ass, as here, actor Danny DeVito is more coherent, cogent and intelligent than Dubya is when (allegedly) stone cold sober.

"Utilized! That's the word!"

December 1, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: I'd never wash my cheek again

Hugo Chavez kisses a reporter hello

'nuff said.