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January 31, 2007

Quotable: Molly Ivins' famous last (published) words

"We are the people who run this country.

We are the deciders. And every single day,

every single one of us needs to step outside

and take some action to help stop this war."

--Molly Ivins, sorely and sadly missed

A tale of two marches

Tell me, dear friend: have you heard about the March for Life? You know--the one that took place this year, as it does every year, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade? It is awfully hard to miss an annual display of in-your-face anti-choice propaganda when even the president of the United States has proclaimed this date to be National Sanctity of Life Day.

But I guess you probably haven't heard of it after all. Because to hear Donald Wildmon and his trusty sidekick tell it, the event wasn't even covered by the liberal-biased mainstream media!

Well, of course not...except for Fox News, which just happens to be the largest mainstream media company in the United States, if not the entire planet. But they're a lonely bastion of fairness and balance in a sea of secular liberalism...and even their most recent story on this worthy cause is more than a year old!

Oh wait, maybe I spoke too soon. The Washington Times also has an announcement out. But maybe Mr. Moon's money-losing propaganda sheet also doesn't count as a real media outlet, any more than all those other "Christian" news sites out there.

I guess the lack of mainstream media attention is to blame for the fact that the March for Life only drew a mere 20,000 expected attendees, as opposed to the 500,000 who attended a recent peace march. But you'd never know that to hear the way Wildmon hypes it. To him, the numbers were reversed, and it was hundreds of thousands marching for fetus fetishism while only a paltry ten thousand or so were marching for the right to life of soldiers wrongfully deployed overseas. And the mainstream media, dad-gummit, is covering all that up!

I think Wildmon's a damned ingrate, and that he should be thankful for whatever distortions he can get. The media's alleged liberal bias was certainly not in evidence in their reporting of the United for Peace march. Not only are the folks at Associated Press playing the numbers down, the Washington Posties are fixating on the fact that Jane Fonda Was There. Not to mention how an outlet no less august than the New York Times ran with the story of the Iraq War vet who allegedly got spat at. There are serious questions, which the Times failed to ask, about the hard-faced youngster's veracity. He's a freeper with ties to none other than Dick Cheney, and they never reported that. Nor did they report how a pro-peace veteran was arrested in Washington. This is liberal bias? They could scarcely be taking more cues from the Wingnuttia if they'd been simply reprinting Matt Drudge's blog entries. Somehow, though, that's just not good enough for Mr. Wildmon.

Let's face it, folks, the Culture of Life is hurting, bad. It has zero credibility and its biggest proponents are practically admitting as much. They can sing, they can shout, they can tapdance up and down the Capitol steps with tambourines a-jinglin', but they can't get the media's attention anymore unless they start using disabled vets instead of mangled fetal remains.

Which I guess makes it even more pathetic when you consider how some poor souls are making a point of it, not once a year but once a month, to call with menstrual regularity for "life"--which, by their definition, is the right to be brought to birth of every fertilized ovum, whether wanted or not, healthy and viable or not. That's zealotry for you, courtesy of the Amurrican Taliban. Everytime a woman gets her period, an angel weeps tears of blood. Meanwhile, no mention whatsoever of what all that depleted uranium is doing to the unborn children of Iraq.

But what's truly nauseous is that these "pro-lifers" are really quite happy to exploit death to their own ends. Whether it's that of a half-formed fetus or a full-grown soldier, it seems death is just fine by them as long as it serves their ideological purposes. For people who claim to abhor abortion, they sure own a lot of pictures of its bloody results. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they masturbated over them; this is their kiddie porn, which they hoard under a pretense of morality. They can't justify an abortion under any circumstances, but by God, the war was justified because those godless commies--er, sorry, I meant to say Christ-less sandmonkeys--still owe somebody for 9-11.

And anyone who says otherwise is a hellbound secular humanist, and is probably spitting on legless vets, too.

January 30, 2007

Okay, this is really stupid, but...

...I just couldn't resist this headline: "Scott Baio Blames Pam's Breasts for End of Their Relationship".

I shit you not.

Former teen heartthrob Scott Baio says his relationship with Canadian beauty Pamela Anderson ended when she decided to get her breasts enlarged.

"One day Pamela came home and said, 'I'm thinking of getting my boobs done.' Admittedly, I was surprised. My initial response, 'Reduced?' She already had large, beautiful, natural breasts," he recalls. "At that moment I knew our relationship would soon begin to crumble. Pamela had finally gone Hollywood — or whatever it is that happens when a woman becomes a hot celebrity."

Wow...that must have been really early in her career, because I can't recall a time when Pamela Anderson was anything less than 100% artificial. She's so wholesomely chock-full of additives, preservatives, and...well, whatever chemical category silicone falls under. (I suspect it's carcinogens.) She's got nothing natural left now, from her not-born-blond hair to her Lee press-on toenails. But hey, it's kinda nice to know somebody knew her before she was famous just for being Hollywood's #1 extreme-makeover casualty.

But that's not the only eye-opening bit of waa-waa-waa he has to serve up for our collective delectation:

In BaioWatch: How I Dated and Loved Hollywood's Most Beautiful Women and Ended Up Alone, Baio blows the lid off his relationships and sexual exploits with stars like Brooke Shields, Nicolette Sheridan, Heather Locklear, Erika Eleniak and Nicole Eggert.

Baio recalls losing his virginity to Erin Moran, who played his girlfriend Joanie on Happy Days.

"I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to say after we got naked. So for the first five minutes, maybe less — hell, it might have been the first twenty seconds — I'm doing it and thinking, man, this is really uncomfortable," he says, adding that his penis was actually between the sofa cushions. "Instead of being inside Erin, I was humping a corduroy sofa!"

So...Joanie really did love Chachi, in more ways than one. But how cringe-inducing! And I thought my first time was, well, kind of banal? Suddenly, I feel like I lucked out--at least my then boyfriend knew where to go, though, alas, not what to do when he got there. Unlike Mr. Teen Sex Symbol, who was apparently sub-par even when it came to teen sex. Chachi, Chachi, Chachi--what would the Fonz say?

Probably "Whoa!":

Baio also tells of meeting actress Beverly D'Angelo at a party and commenting on the sexiness of her overbite. He claims D'Angelo replied: "I don't have an overbite, dear. I have a c**ksucker's mouth."

Oh, my. I have a cute little overbite too, but somehow, I just never thought of it in quite those terms. I'm sure that's a sad commentary on the general state of affairs in Hollywood.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go take some Angostura for my upset stomach. I don't call this celebrity blah-blah The Nausea for nothing, folks.

Why are they doing this?

Uh, this must be part of that "culture of life" I always hear right-wingers babbling on about.

The city of Miami is planning an official celebration at the Orange Bowl for whenever Cuban President Fidel Castro dies.

Discussions by a committee appointed earlier this month by the city commission to plan the event have even covered issues such as a theme to be printed on T-shirts, what musicians would perform, the cost and how long the celebration would last.

Such a gathering has long been part of the city's plan for Castro's death, but firming up the specifics has been more urgent since Castro became ill last summer and turned over power to his brother, Raul.

City commissioner Tomas Regalado, a Cuban-American, came up with the idea of using the Orange Bowl, noting that the stadium was the site of a speech by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 promising a free Cuba, and that in the 1980s it served as a camp for refugees from the Mariel boat lift from Cuba.

"Basically, the only thing we're trying to do is have a venue, a giant venue ready for people, if they wish, to speak to the media, to show their emotions. It's not that we're doing an official death party," Regalado said Monday.

Oh, of course not. That would be vulgar and obscene, not to mention morbid. No, better to couch it as an exercise in free speech; that always gets better airplay. Funny, though, how this sort of laudable venue for free speech would require such an, uh, unusual occasion to facilitate.

I have an idea: why doesn't the local planning commission put up a permanent "Speaker's Corner", such as CityTV has in Toronto, so people can spill their guts to the camera and so get their say in the media whenever the show goes to air? Or, more humbly and publicly, how about the original Speakers' Corner, in Hyde Park, London? Surely it wouldn't take much cash outlay, or nearly as much organization, as this "good riddance, Fidel, you fucking bastard" bash is taking now.

Oh, I know, I know...Miami is too busy organizing other worthy things, like single-payer healthcare or decent public schools, affordable housing, a better standard of living, tackling poverty and homelessness, and building the middle class. Isn't it?

What? It isn't?

Well, holy crap! That just blows my mind. I thought people came from Cuba to America for FREEDOM. I must have a different concept of freedom than they do, though, because to me, the word means the following:

  • democratic government (by, of and for the people, preferably participatory to the greatest possible extent; representative government tends to be problematic on the grounds of whom it often ends up representing.)
  • a social safety net, comprising among other things:
  • single-payer medicare
  • public education
  • affordable housing
  • a decent standard of living for everyone
  • low crime rates, especially murder and guncrime
  • publicly owned and operated utilities
  • living wages for all workers
  • a living welfare rate for all who can't (or won't, for whatever reason. Note that I said a living rate, not a luxurious one like what your basic big corporate CEO enjoys at taxpayer expense for not working.)
  • women's right to full reproductive choice
  • ecological sustainability
  • peace, whether on Earth or of mind
  • a bill of rights and oh yeah, FREEDOMS.

As you can see, my concept of freedom is one of freedom from tyranny, want, abuse and fear. Not one of "freedom isn't free", which demands that those who have the least must consistently give the most (particularly their lives in war.) Not one of "freedom for me, but not for thee". And certainly not the "freedom" of the flibbertigibbertarians, either, who think private ownership of everything, with no commons whatsoever, is the way to go. At that rate, everyone will live in his own prison, but hey, at least he owns the cell and has the convenient illusion of control over it--until, invariably, the Invisible Hand of the Market sticks in its thumb and pulls out a plum! And above all else, my concept of freedom is not "I get to do whatever I want, damn the consequences and fuck you."

No, my concept of freedom is clearly not dependent on the vagaries of the market or the foibles of human nature. Nor is it dependent on the charity of the religious (laudable though that may be.) It does not elevate the rights of the individual above the greater good of all, because I frankly do not believe that any individual's rights mean a damn if the greater good of all is not in place first. Self-realization cannot happen in a vacuum, no matter what any flibbertigibbertarian may say. A system that facilitates self-realization is needed; no one can pull himself up by the bootstraps unless he first has boots. And for that, there has to be a system in place--a boot factory, as it were. Consider a democratic society with a social safety net to be that factory. And please spare me the argument in favor of a "free market" boot factory, which generates a great deal of faddish, expensive landfill but not boots that you can walk very far in. I don't buy that crap, no matter who's selling.

But if I'm not buying, hey howdy, Miami is. They buy a lot of fashionable crap there, which no doubt explains the great social inequities that are visible even on a map. (The fashionable crap sells less well in the poorer neighborhoods, oddly enough--must be that lower purchasing power those huddled masses have, that I'm hearing so much about.)

I read Los Blogueros regularly, and here's what the female half of the pair has to say about it all:

I know many people who left Miami because of the poor quality of the schools, the crime rates, the pollution and other quality-of-life problems...well, with such leaders of reason nothing gets regulated.

Oh, and they also complain about the lack of freedom in the zone where no one speaks ill of Fidel Castro, or where they defend, however indirectly, whatever has happened in Cuba since 1959.

Translation mine.

La Bloguera includes a picture of a black man begging on a glitzily-lit street of Miami, pithily commenting that "this is something you won't see in Havana". I suspect she doesn't mean that it's for lack of freedom there, either.

Speaking of things you won't see, here are a couple of things you won't see in the mainstream US media, that bastion of freedom:

"Chavez follows Cuban energy saving model". Um, this would fall under ecological sustainability, would it not? That's one of my tenets of freedom right there. Imagine being free from blackouts, and reasonably free from pollution, too. Can the self-regulating "free market" boast of that? Shockingly, no!

"Cuban biotechnology working for healthcare". Heavens, how is this possible with no corporations or profit motive whatsoever? Not only does Cuba have a working public health system which is both preventive and efficient in treating illness (and envied throughout Latin America), it also has a biotech industry that's logged several impressive successes. (I've blogged on these, by the way; see here and follow the easy, convenient linkies.)

Granted, Cuba is not perfect either, but on more than one front, they do have Miami licked. And like it or not, they couldn't have done it without Fidel. I hope those planning to celebrate his death bear in mind what would have happened if Batista had remained in power.

Or, at the very least, to be fair, they should celebrate the freedom and independence of the unacknowledged 51st US state--Puerto Rico!

January 29, 2007

A song that says it all

January 28, 2007

Hey, hey, get outta my way...

...I just got here from the US of A!

And as you can see, punk-ass Humvee Macho Man is one helluva driver. When he gets sick of running them off the road from his own lane, he just veers into the oncoming one and starts all over.

With an attitude like that, it's easy to see how BushCo is winning the hearts and minds of the Middle East!

January 26, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito in Brazil

Hugo Chavez, medalist!

Score one more award for Chavecito: the Tiradentes Medal.

When he wasn't busy receiving awards for humanitarian service to the cause of democracy, or in a tete-a-tete with his good friend Lula...

Chavecito and Lula chatting

...or bestowing a little tenderness on local youngsters...

Chavecito kisses a boy in Brazil

...Chavecito had this to say about a local right-wing paper that bad-mouthed him:

"O Globo, O, O, O..."

O, what a hoot!

Time (reluctantly) gives Chavecito credit where due

Oh, my gawd. What is it with Time magazine's attitude toward Hugo Chavez? They couldn't make him their Person of the Year; that privilege is reserved for actual dictators and nonentities like "you", not admirable democratic socialists out to change the world for the better. But at last, they searched their groins and found the gonads to print something somewhat true about him, although you'd never know it to look at the title: "Is Chavez Becoming Castro?"

To read the opening paragraph, you'd swear the answer was a resounding yes:

Hugo Chavez has gone through more chiefs of staff than Venezuela has had Miss Universes — which is quite a few. So when the Venezuelan President tapped his older brother Adan for the job last year, few outside Miraflores Palace took notice. They should have. Adan, since then appointed education minister, is Hugo's chief Marxist consultant — and a driving force behind Chavez's harder-than-usual left turn since his re-election last month. Chavez has announced plans to shut down an opposition-run TV network and nationalize Venezuela's largest telephone and electricity firms, while pushing his rubber-stamp Congress to allow him to run for re-election indefinitely and rule by decree well into 2008. It's no wonder Chavez watchers compare Adan to Latin America's other conspicuous First Brother, Raul Castro, who would succeed Fidel.

To many in Washington, the emergence of Adan is one more reminder of Chavez's autocratic urges — and of the possibility that Chavez himself is Fidel Castro's real successor in Latin America. His nationalization scheme evokes the seizure of private businesses in Cuba after Castro's 1959 communist revolution: it ousts U.S.-based companies like Verizon, part-owner of the Venezuelan telecom giant CANTV, and the AES Corporation, which controls Venezuela's main power utility. Chavez asserted this week that while he'll compensate both U.S. firms, he won't pay them a market rate. And when the Bush Administration raised concerns about his burgeoning presidential powers, Chavez replied, in his usual charming fashion, "Go to hell, gringos!"

An impression hardly contradicted by the sidebar links, either:

RELATED

Stifling Dissent in Venezuela

The outgoing Central Bank director disputes Chavez's nationalization policies. But he's one of the last willing to speak out

Chavez Extends His Grip

The Venezuelan strongman lurches even closer to one-party — and one-man — rule, roiling democratic waters and spooking the stock market

Venezuela's Opposition Concedes: Chavez Is Here to Stay

How big was the leftist leader's reelection victory? So big his opponents didn't even cry foul

Got a slight case of the schizo, have we? I mean, how else to explain a "strongman" who still manages to get himself so cleanly elected that his opponents "don't even cry foul", even though he's "roiling democratic waters and spooking the stock market"? (As if the stockmarket were an arbiter of democracy. Boo fucking hoo!)

And it's a mystery to me how a bank director can "dispute Chavez's nationalization policies" and still be an example of "stifled dissent". I mean, Time managed to talk to him and find out that he disputed a policy. How stifled is that?

Where was I? Oh yeah, Time searched its ass and finally found its brain--sorta. You'll have to look three paragraphs down and ignore that stupid sidebar before you get to it:

Yet, by objective standards, Chavez is still not Castro. Says one Chavez official, "We're a hell of a long way from a [Castro-style] regime." Chavez gushingly admires and subsidizes Castro. But many officials in Caracas, especially younger ones, wince when you equate the two. They insist their democratically elected commandante is hardly poised to snuff out free speech and free enterprise or stoke armed revolution abroad. Chavez may control the hemisphere's largest oil reserves, but they believe he can't afford to squander a more valuable commodity — his democratic legitimacy, something Castro never had and which gives Chavez the ability to blunt U.S. efforts to cast him as the Caribbean's new communist caudillo.

Even if Chavez were to turn Caracas into Havana, there is little Washington could do. The U.S. depends on Venezuela as its fourth largest foreign-crude supplier, which all but precludes swinging the trade embargo stick Washington has used against Castro for 45 years. Political isolation is a weak bet, too. In a region with the world's widest gap between rich and poor, Chavez's gospel of Latin American self-determination has spawned a resurgent left and unusually coordinated anti-Yanqui sentiment, evidenced by the region's rejection of President Bush's hemispheric free-trade proposal. Warns Luis Vicente Leon, head of the independent Caracas polling firm Datanalisis, "Every time the U.S. tries to demonize Chavez, it makes him larger than he really is."

I did say they were reluctant to give the man his due, did I not? Well, here's an example of just how reluctant. They admit that he's no Castro--but then turn around and assume that like Castro, Chavez's success at home must be due to his demonization by the Yanks. Or his demonization OF the Yanks. Neither of these is the case. The real reason probably has a lot more to do with the fact that the economy is booming (even in the non-oil sectors) and that people have it better now than they did in the 40 years of faux democracy that preceded Chavecito. Oh, and of course, there's the little matter of a growing independence from gringo rule, too; you can rest assured that even if the economic imperialism in the region came from the Brits and the Dutch, as has been the case to a lesser extent, the people would be against that, too. No Yanks necessary.

Of course, the fact that the Yanks are omnipresent, especially when it comes to backing actual dictators, is one which somehow escapes the closer scrutiny of the Newsmagazine of Record. No, better to keep the focus tight on Chavez and his alleged democratic deficits. The fact that they're all imaginary and that the proof of his "autocratic" tendencies is strangely thin, is of no consequence. Even now, as the truth slips out, Time must still adhere to its official line that Chavecito is "anti-American" or face the wrath of the government censor. Time, like so many other US media outlets, has been a blatant cheerleader for the anti-Chavez forces--even when it's evident that they haven't a democratic bone in their carcasses.

And when it hasn't been cheerleading for the US's wealthy Venezuelan toadies, Time has been actively blowing smoke, trying to confuse the reading public into an irrational fear of Chavez. (I refer you once more to the schizophrenic sidebar above. Confused? I would be too, if I didn't know better than to take such things seriously.)

The real question is not how much longer the Venezuelan people will tolerate Chavez in power; they've already demonstrated repeatedly that they like him enough to keep him in for as long as he's willing to stay. Rather, it is how much longer Time magazine will keep backflipping and waving the pompoms for a cause (foreign investment as the cure for all domestic evils) that was actually lost long before Chavecito came to power.

"Perhaps if we don't treat Chavez like Castro, the new theory suggests, the Venezuelan leader may be less compelled to become Castro", goes the last line in the piece--but it misses the fact that if Chavez really wanted to be Castro, he could have done it long ago. The fact that he hasn't, shows that he's learned from the Maximo Leader's self-admitted mistakes. He's prepared to give the people what they really want, not to mention the means to achieve it for themselves. The region, let's face it, is out of Washington's hands, and looks likely to remain so for good, because they're fast developing a taste for real democracy (especially since it works).

Now, when will Time learn from its own mistakes, acknowledge the real facts up front, and stop publishing gobbledygook?

January 25, 2007

Talking to Americans, Australian edition?

Rick Mercer, watch out. Here's a comedian claiming to be Prime Minister John Howard--and NO ONE catches on. But they sure do say the darndest things.

More on 21st Century Socialism

Earlier this week I translated and commented on part of an Aporrea article on Venezuelan political scientist Haiman el Troudi and his recommendations for what the elusive creature of Hugo Chavez's visions should look like. Here's more:

Capitalism is broken. El Troudi is convinced that capitalism is not a viable model, "because it claims we can all be rich, but for that, we need five Earth-like planets so that we all can achieve it!"

He listed a series of "anti-values" which capitalism promotes, and which 21st Century Socialism must displace with its own distinctive traits: exploitation of human beings, consumerism, the cult of materialist fetishism and corruption, etc.

According to El Troudi, the goal of 21st Century Socialism is to drive society upwards, "so that we can all be middle class." But he emphasized that this class must be removed from the anti-values of capitalism.

He pointed out that the model sought for Venezuela, seeks to build a new humanity and a new society.

He called for a system of infinite democracy, based on popular power; social inclusion, protection and security; harmonious decentralized development of all territories (so that all those living in them will have equal opportunities); internationalism (so that other countries can also apply the model); and an economy with new productive relationships.

IT SHOULD NOT BE:

  • State capitalist (it should move toward socialized production companies);
  • Paternalistic populist (it must eliminate the "Father knows best" state culture);
  • Excessively centralized democratically;
  • Castrator of popular participation;
  • Totalitarian;
  • Messianic;
  • A military-industrial complex (there must be no confusion with necessary defence budgeting);
  • A one-party state;
  • Based on extrapolation of models;
  • Marked by a division between the ruled and ruling classes.

As you can see, El Troudi's vision is a practical one. It owes not so much to "Marxist" theory as it does to the simple realization that the old static political models are all clunky--including the old capitalist one!

Moreover, it is rooted in a realization of what went wrong with the old political system in Venezuela. This system was centralized, such that Caracas held sway over all regions of the country, dictating to them rather than responding to their wishes and needs. The face in power changed often, as did the party colors behind it, but the nature and behavior of that power did not. Always, the new face was presented as a "messiah", a Dear Leader come to save the day, characterized by a mini-cult of personality designed to pacify the masses by assuring them that this time, "change" would come. Meanwhile, again, the people's needs were ignored as oil money was squandered and disappeared, and local industry and farm production sank while imports rose. 20th-century capitalism is clearly to blame for all this misrule, as a brief slice of history will show.

After oil was discovered in the area around Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela went from an agrarian economy and net exporter of food (primarily cacao) to an industrialized one, with some 80% of its food imported by large multinational firms. This benefited the owners of the corporations and their local partners, but not the consumers; food costs shot up even as the purchasing power of the bolivar went down. Junk food consumption rose; nutrition lagged. Fresh local produce became virtually unavailable as farmlands fell idle. The campesinos who used to work the land were displaced as absentee landlords took it away from them; most landed up in the slums that creep up the hillsides around Caracas. This only contributed to the centralization problem, not to mention the poverty problem. Can anyone be surprised that this is a populace with a "messiah complex" in their politics? Or that, by 1989, it was all beginning to fall apart? Or that when Lt.-Col. Hugo Chavez launched his failed coup attempt in '92, there was no condemnation, but rather great popular support for the jailed paratroop commander? (This last, while it has been ascribed to messianism, is actually nothing of the sort. It is a popular response to two things: Chavez's willingness to try something radical, even if it failed; and his taking responsibility for it when it did fail. No "democratic" Punto Fijo president would ever have declared himself publicly responsible like that. He was, in short, a radical departure from messiahs-as-usual.)

Incidentally, Venezuela knows from totalitarianism, too; just ask the gentleman who blogs as Gringo in Venezuela. He has an excellent little history lesson in Venezuelan dictatorships, faux-democracy, and their connections to Big Oil at his site. (He calls them "democracy prevention", as accurate a term as any I've ever seen.) So it's not surprising that 21st Century Socialism wants to get away from that pitfall. The history of authoritarianism and its US backers shouldn't be lost one anyone. And neither should the fact that far from being enemies, capitalism and fascism are actually close allies. (The corollary, of course, is that socialism and democracy--which are the economic and political sides of the same coin--are the antidote.)

Paternalistic populism too gets a short shrift, mainly because whatever its benefits, it has a sad way of failing to outlive the benevolent father figure. Worse, it's been done--by right-wing capitalists looking to buy support. Why adopt the behavior of one's worst enemy?

By now, it should be obvious why Haiman el Troudi refers to capitalist tenets as "anti-values". There is only one thing they are not against, and that is money. This monomania makes them all extremely cynical at their cold, shrivelled heart. And if anything should give us all hope, it's that there IS an alternative to all that, and that in Venezuela, people are talking about how to put it in place right now.

One more reason to stop the Surge

It's called "Baghdad Brutality". 9:11 minutes of evidence that things have degenerated to utter madness. And that far from stopping sectarian violence, the US presence in Iraq has actually encouraged it.

Video courtesy Raw Story.

Dissidents, schmissidents!

Long Live Castro!

I suspect there is more truth in this than anyone realizes.

I also suspect that Cuba's real democratic future will come by way of Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American allies, not Miami or Washington.

January 24, 2007

Shades of Davos at the "anti-Davos"!

Oh, the irony. When a luxury meal is served at a summit dedicated to fighting social inequalities, look what happens:

Dozens of street children have invaded a five-star hotel food tent and feasted on meals meant for sale at the World Social Forum in Kenya's capital.

The hungry urchins were joined by other participants who complained that the food was too expensive at the annual anti-capitalist get together.

The police, caught unawares, were unable to stop the free-for-all that saw the food containers swept clean.

The gathering in Nairobi is discussing social problems, including poverty.

A plate of food at the tent being operated by the prestigious Windsor Hotel was selling for $7 in a country where many live on less than $2 a day.

The children, who had been begging for food, launched the raid after being told they would have to pay for the food.

Of course, no one at the luxury meal tent asked them if they had means to pay. That would have been so horribly embarrassing. Rich people don't talk about money, you know--that would be vulgar!

Even more embarrassing, though, is how this object lesson in problems the market failed to solve, somehow missed its mark. And if that's not vulgar, what is?

But if the catering hotel comes off looking like shit, at least the organizers of the forum were able to drag themselves a little ways out of their own latrine:

Two days ago, World Social Forum organisers were forced to waive entry fees for participants after Nairobi slum dwellers staged a demonstration against the charges.

Participants were originally being asked to pay a 500 Kenyan shillings ($7) accreditation fee.

"We are now not charging anybody, the event is free so that many people can participate," Boniface Beti, the event's media officer, told the BBC.

Mr Beti also said hawkers had recently been allowed in to sell cheap food to participants as up until a few days ago five-star catering firms had dominated business.

My question is, why were fancy catering firms even being hired at all? Isn't the point of the gathering to make sure those who can't pay a penny, still get heard?

Or is it something else altogether, something I'm obviously missing here?

21st Century Socialism defined

Courtesy of Aporrea.org, we finally have a working definition of the goal of the Bolivarian Revolution:

21st Century Socialism must drive the betterment of society, in such a way that all citizens satisfy their needs and form one middle class, theoretician Haiman el Troudi said yesterday at the opening of the First Forum on 21st Century Socialism in Venezuela.

"The order must be: Let's push upwards, let's all be middle-class", said El Troudi, speaking from the auditorium of the Medical College of Caracas, in response to the myth that socialism intends to do away with wealth and equalize society downwards.

In the search for a defintion which would drive president Hugo Chavez's model, El Troudi said that 21st Century Socialism "is a society governed by the power of the people, in a democracy profoundly participative and protagonistic, with material and cultural equality in which everyone can receive from society in accordance with his or her needs and contribute according to his or her capacities in the quest for integral human development."

El Troudi, who was chief of dispatch for the Presidency of the Republic in 2005 and 2006, said that 21st Century Socialism must not devolve into state capitalism, the total control of society and the usurpation of popular power by the elites, as occurred in the former Soviet Union.

So much, then, for the notion that what Hugo Chavez is aiming for is just another form of old-style Soviet "communism", which was nothing of the sort at all but rather a form of state capitalism (I choose, here, to use the oldest, and in my opinion truest, definition of the term--namely, that used by the 1918 Left-Communists). Actually, 21st Century Socialism, as set forth by Haiman el Troudi, means to do for Venezuela in the 21st century what mixed-economy socialism in the 20th did for Canada: create a culture in which the middle class is the strongest in terms of numbers, and thus holds the balance of power in electoral terms.

Actually, I think Venezuela might even go further, since we Canadians only have a representative democracy, not a participative one. Which is to say, we hire Members of Parliament through our elections, and these MPs in turn vote--theoretically on our behalf, but in practice, not always so--on pieces of legislation in Parliament. We do not directly write or ratify our own laws; our representatives do. Our input is limited--typically to our acceptance or rejection of a given party platform on election day, and to writing to our MPs thereafter. However, it is still a matter of their own discretion whether or not they will ultimately heed the will of their constituents! Parliament is not so much the power of the people as it is the intermediary between power and the people. It often lags behind popular sentiment, and it is at the mercy of special interests (and, I daresay, it lags behind popular sentiment precisely BECAUSE it is at the mercy of special interests.) We have not written or ratified our own constitution; the greatest event in its history is Pierre Trudeau's patriation of it in 1982. Thus, Venezuela has already gone us one better on constitutional grounds, by having an elected Constituent Assembly to write the Bolivarian Constitution--and once again, by submitting the final draft to direct public vote during its ratification in 1999.

Since then, Venezuela has been through about a dozen popular votes. If Bolivarianism and Hugo Chavez have received overwhelming support in them, it is certainly not because they were the only game in town. Venezuela has literally dozens of political parties at the moment. And even if Chavez's call for a unified party of the left--the PSUV--were to be fulfilled, it still wouldn't be a one-party state. It would simply mean that all the diverse parties that support the Bolivarian agenda are now operating as one, rather than the old conglomeration of dozens of splinter groups, each with its own system and agenda. This would, in turn, speed the process and facilitate the move toward participatory democracy, according to Chavez and others in the movement. The parties of the right would still be as numerous as they are now, and if none of them get into power, it's because they have not earned the trust of the majority of the people, or because they have not expressed the majority's wishes. But no one is stopping anyone from voting for them, any more than they are stamping them out of existence. Their legal rights are guaranteed, and are the same as those of the rest. The Venezuelan right is just as free to try to consolidate its base as the Bolivarian left is talking of doing. They have done so already, in a sense; they fielded a unity candidate in the last presidential election. (Manuel Rosales lost fair and square.)

As you can see, Venezuela's Bolivarian society looks nothing like the oppressive bureaucracy of the Soviet state--nor, for that matter, "Castro-communism", the booger-bear of the Venezuelan oligarchy. In fact, the popular, participative and protagonistic approach El Troudi speaks of would probably resonate with the popular progressivism of, say, Thom Hartmann. The key difference being that in the eyes of liberals in the US, capitalism and corporations should still enjoy more privilege than they would under Bolivarianism, where co-operatives and public ownership of the service sector would be the predominant model. The reasons behind the Bolivarian preference are self-evident: capitalism and corporations tend to create oligarchies, not democracies. They concentrate money and power both in too few hands.

To create a true participatory democracy, then, you have to break down that old power structure and, as Chavecito says, "give the power to the poor", which in turn empowers them to raise their status and become the middle class. No capitalist or "communist" (state capitalist) system has ever done that--both are oligarchic and run from the top down.

But a socialist system can do that, because socialism is to economics what democracy is to politics--in both cases, real power lies with the people, not the elites claiming to represent them. It worked to some extent here in Canada, thanks to the influence of Tommy Douglas, our first elected socialist leader. Thanks to his pioneering work on universal healthcare, education, welfare and unemployment benefits, the working class and the poor rose up and became the middle class which still predominates today. But without the will of the people-- participating in democracy!--that power would rapidly dissolve into corporate ownership of not only the government, but ourselves.

This is why I find the Bolivarian project in Venezuela so interesting. It's an effort to do with an entire country something which has never been taken to its full potential yet, even here. We Canadians have much to be proud of but we can't afford to take it for granted--because our mixed economy, for all its strengths, has the built-in weakness that it still gives too much weight and power to the forces of oligarchy.

Headline Howler: Only 40 years and 55,000 corpses worth of difference...

But other than that, who's counting?

Jim Webb's son is WHERE?

Memo to CNN: You can call it Vietraq or Iraqnam if you like. I certainly do.

Even his supporters are violent

This is the kind of sentiment Luis Posada Carriles--a.k.a. the CubanaBomber--inspires in the Miameros who support him. They claim to be peaceful, but it sure doesn't take much to light their fuse, as a group of young Bolivarians found out all too clearly. One of the pro-terrorist crowd even threw a bullhorn at the free-speech activists.

(Raw footage, showing the unprovoked attack in full, here.)

January 23, 2007

Throng me no throngs

It's axiomatic in the US mainstream media that the bigger a pro-democracy demo in the "free world", the more you play down its numbers in an effort to make it look like no one came.

But get a load of what happens when one of the "liberal" sites covers a faux-democracy demo in Venezuela:

Blowing whistles and waving flags, hundreds of Venezuelans protested Tuesday against a congressional measure that would grant President Hugo Chavez the power to pass laws by decree in areas from the economy to defense.

Some 400 to 500 protesters stood in a Caracas plaza and shouted in unison: "Faced with authoritarianism, more democracy!"

Not a "throng", but "throngs"! Wow, behold the power of a couple hundred! Pray tell me, how many "throngs" go into a hundred, anyway?

The protest came as lawmakers in the entirely pro-Chavez National Assembly announced they would postpone until next Tuesday a session to grant final approval of a so-called "enabling law" allowing Chavez to enact laws by decree during an 18-month period. Chavez is seeking special powers to quickly push through changes from nationalizing electrical companies to imposing new taxes on the rich.

Many protesters said the measure would give Chavez carte blanche to legislate in a list of vaguely specified areas without checks or balances.

"It gives him total power," said Greys Pulido, 40. "We don't want a dictatorship."

Chavez, who was re-elected by a wide margin last month, says he is committed to democracy and is overseeing changes that will give a greater voice in decision-making to poor Venezuelans.

That, of course, is what this "throng" is protesting against: Chavez decreeing that the poor should enjoy more power. (What--you think he's just doing this for his own enrichment? Read. And then read some more.)

I wonder, too, if this "we" happen to be the same 400 or so people who showed up at Miraflores for this little shindig?

That's what a "throng" of 400 looks like, folks. They could fit them all into one room.

You'll also note that they achieved their "democratic" vision by abolishing all the major democratic institutions in Venezuela. No small feat for a 400-strong "throng" of usurpers!

Fortunately, millions of true democrats sent them scurrying like rats:

Chutzpah they may have, but brave people they are not. (Who could be, seeing themselves so hugely outnumbered?)

Note the actions, too, of the soldiers in the video. They are the presidential guard, and they are all loyal to Chavez. Yet they don't fire a shot. They let the coup-mongers escape. Does that look like the actions of a dictator's shock troops to you?

I think it speaks volumes that even the far-right Townhall.com, normally dedicated to publishing the ravings of Ann Coulter and other brownshirts, saw fit to pick up this "liberal" media story. What we are seeing here is yet another desperate lunge for legitimacy by the fraud-ridden Venezuelan right, and the toadyish US media is playing right along.

Shame on them all!

January 19, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Thumbs up!

Chavecito gives samba school the thumbs-up

Chavecito's in Brazil right now for the Mercosur summit, reaping the praises of his friends there as he urges a break away from the Washington consensus. Looks like he, Evo and Lula had some fun with the samba, too.

Rafael Correa: Thumbs up

Chavecito and Evo were also on hand in Ecuador this past week for the swearing-in of their amigo, the newly elected Rafael Correa (centre, also with thumb up--although if you wanna know what gets my thumbs-up, it's Correa's cool shirt!)

It's doubtful whether Washington will give such rave reviews to what's been going on at either event lately, though, as a sharp turn toward solidarity is on the agenda. But if you have any doubts about what the people are saying and how much Washington is out of tune with it, listen to the crowds in Zumbahua, Ecuador at the symbolic swearing-in ceremony of the new president:

It's in Spanish, and just under an hour long; Evo addresses the crowd first, talking of indigenous struggles across the continent. Cuba and Castro get loud cheers when Evo speaks of them in the same context. There's also a lot of applause for his remarks against "neo-liberalism" and in favor of resource nationalization.

Then it's Chavecito's turn, and of course, he's very poetic and eloquent (as usual.) He pays tribute to a very particular Ecuadorian lady: Manuela Saenz, the companion of Simon Bolivar on his military campaigns to liberate South America from the Spanish empire. This goes over well with the crowd. You can hear the people chanting "Chavez, amigo, el pueblo esta contigo" (Chavez, friend, we're with you to the end). Chavecito tries to get them to do the same for Correa! He also says the voice of the people is the voice of God--something the "God-fearing" folks in Washington would do well to hear. Especially when the "voice of God" starts chanting "Alerta, alerta, alerta que camina/La espada de Bolivar por America Latina" (Watch out, the sword of Bolivar is on the move in Latin America!)

And that sword certainly seems to be on the move--the unity of the peoples is growing daily. Much to the dismay of Washington, naturally. Because this is one sword that can't be stopped once it starts swinging.

January 18, 2007

Beginning of the end for BushCo?

Don't let the numbers fool you. This is big--because the troops aren't supposed to speak out against Preznit Chucklenuts.

President Bush's plan to send additional troops to Iraq is facing public opposition from a slice of the American population that rarely speaks out: the military rank and file.

A group of service members came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday armed with signatures from more than 1,000 military personnel who oppose the war.

"We will not be silent while thousands die," said Sgt. Liam Madden, 22, an active-duty Marine and Iraq war veteran who is helping lead the effort to organize resistance to the war from inside the military.

Madden and other service members leading the campaign, which they are calling Appeal for Redress, urged Congress to stop the troop escalation and find a way to begin bringing forces home from Iraq.

The 1,000 signatories represent a tiny fraction of the military personnel who have served in and around Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

But according to the group, those who have signed the appeal include around 100 officers. About 70 percent of the signatories are active-duty military, while the rest are reservists or members of the National Guard, said Madden, who added that the group will not reveal the names of the signatories to protect them.

Support the troops, folks--especially when they say enough is enough.

January 17, 2007

Why is the Pentagon selling to the Axis of Evil?

You tell me. All's I know is, this is supposed to be a major no-no.

Fighter jet parts and other sensitive U.S. military gear seized from front companies for Iran and brokers for China have been traced in criminal cases to a surprising source: the Pentagon.

In one case, federal investigators said, contraband purchased in Defense Department surplus auctions was delivered to Iran, a country President Bush has branded part of an "axis of evil."

[...]

Federal investigators are increasingly anxious that Iran is within easy reach of a top priority on its shopping list: parts for the precious fleet of F-14 "Tomcat" fighter jets the United States let Iran buy in the 1970s when it was an ally.

In one case, convicted middlemen for Iran bought Tomcat parts from the Defense Department's surplus division. Customs agents confiscated them and returned them to the Pentagon, which sold them again — customs evidence tags still attached — to another buyer, a suspected broker for Iran.

"That would be evidence of a significant breakdown, in my view, in controls and processes," said Greg Kutz, the Government Accountability Office's head of special investigations. "It shouldn't happen the first time, let alone the second time."

[...]

The Pentagon recently retired its Tomcats and is shipping tens of thousands of spare parts to its surplus office — the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service — where they could be sold in public auctions. Iran is the only other country flying F-14s.

"It stands to reason Iran will be even more aggressive in seeking F-14 parts," said Stephen Bogni, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's arms export investigations. Iran can produce only about 15 percent of the parts itself, he said.

If this stinks of hypocrisy to you, pat yourself on the back. It IS hypocrisy of the rankest sort. Remember, this is the same bunch that reneged on a decades-old contract with Venezuela to service and supply spare parts for its aging fleet of F-16 jets. According to Slate, that contract arose during the Reagan era, when then-president Luis Herrera Campins got behind Reagan's SOB in El Salvador. As you can see, loyalty has its rewards.

Unfortunately, the current president of Venezuela is a rather independent-minded guy. He won't get behind Washington or any of its sons of bitches anywhere. So, in an effort to render him impotent, Washington has decreed that he can buy no more plane parts, or any other military hardware, made in the USA. Anyone who sells US war junk to him is up to the eyeballs in ca-ca. So he went and bought Russian planes instead.

Item: said independent minded president of Venezuela is on rather friendly terms with fellow OPEC nation Iran. Hmm, maybe they can negotiate a deal with these middlemen for Chavecito. Could it possibly hurt to try? After all, the Pentagon seems to think it's fine for middlemen to sell to Iran!

Remind me again: Why did Saddam hang?

Hmmm...for the killings at Dujail, no?

Good thing for certain Westerners, then, that he didn't get a chance to be tried for THIS, too:

(Hat tip to my friend Corey for the link.)

According to JeffAmerican, who posted this at YouTube, this is a clip from a documentary called "Saddam Hussein: The Trial the World Will Never See". It was made for French TV by a former "60 Minutes" producer, Barry Lando. You can read more about it, and also see video footage of the Halabja Massacre and the western companies linked to it, at AlterNet.

This is no news to me; I've repeatedly posted the link to this story at the National Security Archive of George Washington University. Rumsfeld sold Saddam his WMD. Not all of it, just all that came courtesy of the good ol' freedom-and-justice-loving US of A.

Not only that, but the US also winked at the gas massacres Saddam committed. And why not? After all, he was using their own proudly manufactured product.

We all know who won't hang, because that would only have been an outcome of the trial that the US, via one of its own judges, managed to avert by handing Saddam over for his insta-hanging. But guess what, folks: The US knew about Dujail, too. And yet, they saw perfectly fit to send Rummy there a year and five months later, to restore full relations with Iraq and sell Saddam the weaponry with which to commit even MORE murders.

Why is THAT not making the news?

Oh lord, how did I manage to miss THIS?

Happy belated Festive Left Friday (or jump on the next, if you prefer.)

Courtesy of Carlchucho, the YouTube of Chavecito swearing in for a second consecutive full term:

If this were anyone else, the ceremony would be tedious and perfunctory, just another changing of the guard while more of the same old same old goes on. Yawn.

But Chavez being Chavez, it's charming, touching, and loaded with significance. Not only because he turns his oath of office into a very eloquent and highly personal little speech. It's also because he switches the sash over from the right shoulder to the left, in keeping with the big left turn going on all over Latin America (you can hear the velcro ripping as he takes off the old and puts on the new!) And then there's a beautiful choral/orchestral rendition of the national anthem (whose lyrics, significantly, refer to a "brave people who cast off the yoke"--not only of empire, but slavery.) The youth orchestra are all wearing the same kind of flag jackets that Chavecito has often worn to his political rallies. The whole thing is very colorful, and I found it incredibly moving. Most of all because he's the first president who represents a real change, not just a changing of the same old guard. Carlchucho notes that he's the first re-elected president in Venezuelan history, and that in itself should tell you something about Chavecito.

Richard Perle gets his pee-pee whacked

And so nicely, too!

Brava to this gentle lady for saying what the rest of us are just dying to say to him. (And what over 3,000 US troops never got the chance to say, themselves.)

What a good thing he wasn't Delphic this time either, or he'd have seen this coming and managed to duck.

I hope this military wife doesn't become a widow. She deserves to get her man back safe and sound (and SOON!), if ever anyone did.

January 16, 2007

Attention wingnuts: This is satire!

Yes, I know...sob...it sounds so real to you. That's because it confirms your prejudices. But it's fake news. You know, like what Jon Stewart does?

Now quit snivelling and change into a dry pair of pants. Please.

January 15, 2007

Two more reasons to condemn the Iraq hangings

One of them basically because it's too grotesque for words.

Iraqi officials have shown journalists video footage of the hanging of two of Saddam Hussein's aides, during which one of the men was decapitated.

The film shows Barzan Ibrahim - Saddam Hussein's half-brother - and Awad Hamed al-Bandar hanged side-by-side.

Barzan, former intelligence chief, and al-Bandar, former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, were convicted over the killing of 148 Shias in 1982.

The government said Barzan's beheading was accidental.

The latest hangings drew expressions of concern from among the international community.

Speaking on a visit to Egypt, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said while the executions were an Iraqi process, "we were disappointed there was not greater dignity given to the accused under these circumstances".

The UK prime minister's spokesman said it was "clearly wrong" if the executions had not been carried out in a dignified way.

The other grotesque things? Auntie Condi's response, and that of the unnamed aide to Dubya's poodle. To call THIS undignified is surely the understatement of the year:

The BBC's Andrew North in Baghdad says the video first shows both men being prepared for execution standing next to each other.

They were both dressed in orange boiler suits.

Executioners in balaclavas placed hoods round both men's heads, then the noose.

A short while later the footage, which is silent, shows both men fall.

Almost immediately the rope that was round Barzan's neck flicks upwards, the body dropping below.

The cameraman then shows the pit below and a headless body, bloodied at the neck and what officials say was Barzan's head still covered by a hood.

Al-Bandar's body was still hanging above, said one official who was present at the execution.

Our correspondent says officials say they are not planning to release the footage publicly.

That said, I predict it'll be YouTubed in 48 hours or less.

And I'm sure all the warhawks out there will be salivating over THIS:

Witnesses said Barzan and al-Bandar were shaking with fear as they approached the gallows.

One of those present, public prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi, told the BBC that when the trap door opened, he could only see Barzan's rope dangling.

"I thought the convict Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti had escaped the noose. I shouted that he's escaped the noose, go down and look for him. I went down a few steps ahead of the others to see: I found out that his head had separated from his body."

Dignity? Schmignity. We don't need no stinkin' DIGNITY!

By the way, here's who got decapitated:

Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein's half-brother, was the former head of Iraq's notorious secret police.

Known as the Mukhabarat, the intelligence organisation was believed to have tortured and murdered thousands of opponents of the regime.

The Baath party official was taken into custody by US forces in April 2003. At the time, he was described as a presidential adviser with in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Barzan was a leading figure in the Mukhabarat from the 1970s, later taking over as director. A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity at the time of his capture, said that during his time in the secret police, Barzan had played a key role in the Iraqi regime's execution of opponents at home and assassinations abroad.

The US official said that Barzan was also known for his ruthlessness and brutality in purging the Iraqi military of anyone seen as disloyal.

It's worth noting that these abuses occurred while the US and Iraq were allies.

So, when will this abuser's enablers get THEIR day on the gallows?

The threat of a good example

More must-see viewing: a 1983 documentary by British journalist John Pilger on Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. (You'll need RealPlayer installed to view it.)

If the situation in it looks strangely familiar, it should: One of Hugo Chavez's many inspirations for his Bolivarian Revolution happens to be Sandinista Nicaragua--a broad-based, largely peaceful revolution with universal healthcare and education, a mixed economy, multiparty pluralism, democratic elections, and a firm opposition to imperialism and dictatorship.

This is what the United States armed, trained and paid the Contras--illegally--to overthrow. The reasons given were vague and various, but all to the effect that the Sandinistas represented a communist threat, connected with either Moscow, Cuba or both. You'll hear one Nestor Sanchez (of the Pentagon) in the documentary, claiming in all seriousness that Nicaragua--which had neither a navy nor an air force--somehow posed a threat to the Gulf of Mexico, from where aid would flow to western Europe (and NATO) in the event that war should break out between it and the then-communist nations of the Warsaw Pact. (It's to Pilger's credit that he managed to keep a straight face while listening to all that. I'm having trouble doing the same for the ravings of present-day extremists.)

The real threat of the Sandinistas, though, was a different one altogether. It was not the threat of creeping communism, but, as Pilger found, that of a good example. Heaven forfend that what the Sandinistas accomplished in Nicaragua should spill over to, say, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc.--and that all these banana republics, with dictators installed and approved by various US administrations, should overthrow unjust and corrupt leaders in favor of freely elected candidates who actually care about the people! No, better to just stick in "our son of a bitch" and call it democracy. Better a lipstick-smeared pig than the threat of a good example.

TPM Cafe infiltrated by right-wing nutters?

Sure smells that way. And if I were them, I'd be a little more concerned about the credibility of the site, and not let anything like this go up without a big, fat disclaimer--or better still, a hazardous-waste warning label:

Whilst the typical armchair-American relaxes in front of the 'Telly' and devours another quality segment of prime-time reality, there are nations across the world - diverse in language, religion, and culture - that share one common bond, one multi-threaded scheme; the dismantling and utter destruction of the United States of America.

What used to be an assortment of unhinged 'evil-doers', widely spread rogue-nation-states, jungle-loving revolutionary rebels, militant extremist political parties, radical Islamofascist fundamentalists and a whole ensemble of freelance terrorist and anarchist summer camps are now uniting under the auspices of Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez, the self-declared savior from the ravages of American imperialism.

El Presidente Chávez obviously must have a script, a master 'evil doer' plan else how on earth can he keep up with all the associations, promises, obligations, check-writing and planned speeches he has to deliver to each of his ministries of hate? His reach is quite impressive:

- For the 'Axis of Evil': He has reached out to and supplied each of the 'Axis of Evil' member states (Iran, Syria, North Korea) with offers of political support, economic aid, oil-pacts, military investments or a whole piñata full of anti-American speeches and provocations.

- For China: massive oil-pact, military purchase programs and intelligence-sharing enterprises against American interests around the world.

- For central and South American nations: the establishment of a trade pact called ALBA - 'Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas' - to counter the US-pushed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)

- For revolutionary rebels in Central and South America: Financial and military aid to communist militant groups in settled democratic countries throughout the region.

- For the São Paulo Forum: An informal association of socialist and extreme left-wing political organizations from all across the Americas with one shared ideology and ambition; to influence regional elections to encourage the establishment of socialist governments throughout the region.

- For the Islamofascist terrorists: the offer of aid and comfort in a warm climate - with sandy beaches, wide-open space for exercise facilities and spiritual retreats.

- For the worlds arms industry: the opportunity to sell state-of-the-art weaponry at petrol-dollar inflated prices. This includes arms-dealers from Russia, China and even Israel!

- For low-income families in New York and New Jersey: heavily discounted heating oil delivered by Venezuela's CITGO as witnessed by progressive politicians and timely reporters and TV crews.

- For Cindy Sheehan - mother, ignorant and immoral peace-activist: hugs and an ATM check card.

As Cuba's Fidel Castro lays sick and potentially dying - Hugo Chávez has assumed the mantle of leadership from the Godfather of communism and, with the aid of Venezuela's massive oil income, is building influence and uniting every anti-American entity for one sole ambition, the destruction of the United States of America and the irradiation of its global influence.

These poorly written, bombastic rantings are not the product of extensive research or deep thought, obviously. They are no more than regurgitations of the usual racist rat droppings you'll find if you have the stomach to go dumpster diving anywhere in Freeperlandia. I wasn't a bit surprised, on checking the profile of the author, that he's only been on TPMC for a week and a day. That's the hallmark of the 101st Flying Keyboard Division: shit and run.

What's truly rich, though, is that this freepish lout isn't the usual flag-waving Yank. He's a Brit, recently naturalized. How to tell? Well, even if he didn't come out with it lower down in the comments section, the penchant for briticisms like "whilst", "petrol" and "telly" is a pretty good giveaway, as is the persistent usage of single quotation marks, rather than the standard American double quotes. A redcoat playing Paul Revere! Monty Python would surely have a field day with that.

But why should he care if Chavez is "anti-American" (which, by the way, he has gone to considerable lengths proving he is NOT)? If he's so scared of the menacing Mr. Chavez, why not pack it in and go back to the relative safety of Merry Old England, instead of soiling himself all over what's supposed to be a PROGRESSIVE blogsite? Perhaps we're supposed to find this Chickenhawk Little more convincing if he cheeps with a plummy British accent. But I wouldn't lay good odds on the veracity of "opinionist", as he styles himself, until I see evidence that this self-righteous accuser of "armchair-Americans", no doubt comfortably opinionizing from his own armchair, has had his arse shot off fighting terror someplace other than his own muddled head.

Oh, you think I'm being too harsh on the poor widdle bloke? Look. He's trying so hard to convince us that "Islamofascism" (a strictly imaginary bird) is in league with "Castro-communism", which is supposedly still a menace even though ol' Fidel is unwell and Cuba is coping with heavy economic restrictions. That, my friends, is muddleheadedness right there.

Moreover, Islam and fascism are not allies any more than fascism and communism ever were. If there is any fascism to be found in today's world, it is squarely aligned against Islam, not with it. Likewise, any communism still extant today would be aligned against fascism, and vice versa--not with it! Think it through, people: two diametrically opposed political ideologies, plus one religion that has nothing in common with either. What common ground could they possibly share? America? Oh, puh-leeze--America itself is under the dominion of the most fascistic White House squatter ever. To believe, therefore, that fascism, communism and Islam are now banding together in some kind of grand alliance of evil is to be a nutter of the nuttiest degree.

What is really going on is not the world "uniting against America", but country after country rebelling of its own accord against the de facto dictatorship of Washington and multinational corporations. The non-aligned countries are still just that. But now they are aware that their lack of alignment is their worst vulnerability, and they are looking to close the gap through trading and diplomatic alliances with one another, so they will be less dependent on the would-be monopole of the "free" world.

Add to that the fact that Latin American nations are reforming themselves, not through violence and communist indoctrination as our doomsayer fears, but through peaceful, democratic revolutions in which the people are electing not only radical presidents, but also assemblies who will rewrite their constitutions on more egalitarian lines. Happened in Venezuela, is happening in Bolivia, and is now about to happen in Ecuador as well. Dangerous? Only in the delusional brains of those with deeply antidemocratic tendencies.

The fact that these countries are also conducting trade with Cuba, rather than acquiescing to a US-mandated embargo against it, is nothing to be alarmed about. If, as I suspect is the case, Cuba is on the verge of transitioning to full democracy (rather than the current limited degree), it will be with the help of Latin American friends, not through the barrels of Yankee guns. And it will be conducted peacefully, with diplomacy and fair trade, and probably a great deal of consultation with political advisors from those lands. Who could object to that but--well, a muddle-head?

I thought capitalist rightards were supposed to be all in favor of democracy, trade and international commerce, but apparently that's only the case if the advantage is all to the United States as the sole, undeclared owner of the country in question. But if too many locals benefit, and there's a disconcerting lack of peasant exploitation and authoritarian crackdown, presumbly that's evil wicked communism. Or evil wicked terrorism. Or some unholy combination of both--take your pick. Our "opinionist" seems to have trouble making up his mind as to which it is--again, evidence of a sorely muddled head.

Most intelligence-insulting of all, though, is the claim that Chavez is harboring Islamist terrorists. In Venezuela, where they are presumably sitting poised to attack on his command with dirty bombs. How on Earth does he manage to do that--in a country which is predominantly Catholic and where even his most ardent supporters are undoubtedly very suspicious of any Islamist element? He must be an incredibly subtle plotter, for there's absolutely no evidence of it anywhere. Except of course in the fever-ravaged brains of nutters who are trying to do on progressive sites what professional crapagandists are doing in the mainstream media.

January 14, 2007

Prisoners of Katrina: A must-see documentary

"Katrina blew the system apart, and made it so that we were so disconnected, we simply could not function."

Who are the bigger criminals--the inmates, or the authorities?

What is worse: the crimes that put people in jail, or a system that makes disproportionate sentencing commonplace?

This video will totally invert your preconceived notions about good and bad.

January 13, 2007

It came from Vega...

And then it did unspeakable things to my tofu.

Larry Weald returned home yesterday to a scene of chaos in his refrigerator.

"It was as if someone had taken a scalpel to the takeout box," Weald said of his mutilated order of steamed tofu. Neighboring containers of soy sauce and low-calorie dressing were unharassed.

Police investigation of the refrigerator uncovered heightened levels of radiation. "My pocket sandwiches had fully cooked in the freezer compartment," Weald said.

"Whatever did this must have come through the walls," said Weald.

Police confirm that Weald's security system, deadbolt, and chain lock functioned perfectly throughout the night of the mutilation.

Efforts to conduct video surveillance at the crime scene have been frustrated by darkness inside the refrigerator.

However, NASA researchers believe that the tofu mutilators' origin may be otherworldly.

"There have been increased reports of crop circles in soybean fields, and of UFO sightings near the star Vega," a NASA source revealed.

Investigators say that Weald's is the strangest kitchen incursion since the Beef-Stock Mutilations of 1979, which claimed over 150 Nebraskan bouillon cubes.

Luckily, though, this time the cattle (and all meat protein products) escaped unharmed. Why? Because, as everybody knows, Vegans only eat tofu!

Comment is free, and so is bullshit

"We had a deadly weapon: the media."

--Vice-Admiral Hector Ramirez Perez, on the coup of April 11, 2002

As Hugo Chavez's mandate widens, and his Bolivarian Revolution deepens, we're bound to see more rubbish about him in the English-language media. There's even a predictable twist to the latest: an attempt to appeal to leftist egalitarianism, as espoused by most readers of the UK Guardian. But it relies on "facts" from sources which are notably removed not only from the Left, but from reality altogether. The piece's author, Francisco Rodriguez, uncritically repeats the wildest accusations of rightists with all the usual axes to grind. He tosses out a shamelessly self-referential nugget of dummy data, which he published at Foreign Policy, a rightist Washington propaganda website:

There is a broad gap, however, between what the government says it is doing for the poor and what is actually going on. Did you know that the percentage of underweight and underheight babies has actually increased in Venezuela during Chávez's administration? That, once you take out social security - which, in Venezuela, benefits mostly the middle and upper classes who work in the formal sector - the fraction of social spending in the government budget has actually decreased? That, despite the government's claim of having eradicated illiteracy, its own Household Surveys revealed more than one million illiterates in Venezuela at the close of 2005, barely down from pre-Chávez levels?

Ugh. If you're going to cite bad analysis, at least cite someone else's bad analysis, Professor!

Then Rodriguez goes a step further: likening Chavez to two other leaders who could not be more different from him in all ways except maybe one.

Yes, Chávez just won reelection by a wide margin. So did Alberto Fujimori in Peru in 1995 and Carlos Menem in Argentina that same year. They won not because their policies were pro-poor, but because they produced very high rates of economic growth. In the case of Menem and Fujimori, the growth came from huge capital inflows generated by the support that the World Bank, IMF, and financial markets gave to their economic reforms. In the case of Chávez, it has come from a five-fold expansion of oil revenues, which has allowed his government to enjoy double-digit growth for the last three years.

So...if Chavez's growth rates came not from foreign lenders such as the IMF, the World Bank, and other assorted multinational jackals, but from endogenous sources--the sale and taxation of Venezuelan oil--why make such an absurd comparison, Professor Rodriguez? Is it to suggest, ever so subtly, that Chavez, like Menem and Fujimori, is nothing but a self-glorifying authoritarian brute whose re-election is a sinister augury of crackdowns to come?

It must be. Get a load of the next paragraph:

But there is a dark side to chavismo which should not be discounted. If you believe the government's claim that it has respected freedom of speech and other political liberties, I suggest you take a minute to look up the case of Angel Pedreañez, a 20 year old soldier who was burned alive in a Maracaibo fort prison. According to his family's attorney, this was in retaliation for having signed the petition to hold the recall referendum against Chávez. Francisco Usón, a former Chávez finance minister, is currently under 5 years imprisonment for insulting the Armed Forces when he said that the soldier's death could not have come about, as the government claimed, from smoking in his cell.

Well, Professor, I took your advice--up to a point. I looked up this case, but not on the blog you linked. Caracas Chronicles is not what I'd consider a reliable source for news from Venezuela; it might be more accurate (and for me, charitable) to call it a tar pit. That is, if you stumble into it unaware of its true nature, you get stuck in a slew of noxious goo.

I went to Aporrea.org instead. There, I did a search, inputting only the name of the deceased soldier. A great deal of interesting stuff came up, most of it sourced to the independent, privately owned Maracaibo daily, Panorama. None of it is as sensational, or as indicative of governmental repression, as the professor would have us believe. But the story of a tragic accident, as this death was finally ruled, certainly got bent out of shape by a media eager to lay blame where none belonged. The very first page I clicked has this preface, which Aporrea's editors felt some need to append to the sad story:

Regarding the events at Fort Mara, we consider it to be in the highest national interest that the respective investigations come to their conclusions. On this page we wish to express our sadness to the family and friends of the soldier Pedreáñez. We hope that his suffering will not be exploited by the yellow journalists who abound in our country.

Translation mine.

Obviously, this plea for common decency went unheeded. Both the rightists who frequent CC, and Professor Rodriguez who refers us to them as if they were any kind of objective source, are parroting the Venezuelan commercial media's usual spin: Chavez is responsible for this! This is murder! This is persecution!

Actually, this incident is nothing of the sort. From the mouth of the dead man himself, to (of all things!) the opposition-slanted Maracaibo daily La Verdad, here's what really happened:

"There was a group of comrades who wanted to get out of the cell, and as a means of pressure, they decided to set the air mattresses on fire. That was how the fire got started and we got burned." Those were the first words spoken by Ángel Ciro Pedreáñez Mendoza over what took place on March 30 at Fort Mara.

[...]

When the mattresses were placed one on top of the other in a pile, the soldiers set them on fire with the sole intention of getting their superiors' attention and being moved from that cell to another place with better conditions.

Again, translation mine. Quite the contrast from Rodriguez's version, no?

The article also notes that the eight soldiers in the cell were "under disciplinary custody for various reasons". Curiously, though, it notes absolutely nothing political at all to do with the incident; very strange for an oppositionist paper not to mention something like that! Usually, such a publication would lose no time in exploiting a tragedy to political ends if they felt they could do so. Yet this one didn't--why?

Meanwhile, regarding the "persecution" of Francisco Usón, I found an interesting item at Venezuelanalysis:

[C]ontrary to popular opposition opinion that Chavez controls all branches of government and that such changes in the penal code are part of Chavez's master plan to impose a dictatorship in Venezuela, Chavez himself objected to some of the penal code changes and now the Attorney General is challenging practically the entire penal code reform in the country's Supreme Court, on the basis that it is unconstitutional, largely with the same arguments opposition legislators have used.

The example of the enforcement of this law mentioned at the hearing was that of General Francisco Usón, who was convicted for more than five years for "insulting the military" after speaking about an incident in a Venezuelan military prison where prisoners died in a fire, which may have been intentionally set by military personal. His case, while horrific, was tried in a military court under a law that far pre-dates the Chávez administration, rather than the updated civilian criminal code. And this is similar to US law, where military officers also lack many rights of free speech.

Oh dear. That doesn't bolster the professor's anti-Chavez case at all, does it? (Do read the whole thing; it goes a long way toward refuting him on numerous points.)

But wait, it gets crazier. From twisted exploitation of a tragedy, Rodriguez's hit-piece veers off into the realm of pure hallucination:

Indeed, what is most worrying about Chávez's repression is how systematic it has become. The government has built a detailed list - the Maisanta database - that documents the political leanings of 12.4 million Venezuelan registered voters. The list is routinely used to deny opposition supporters access to public jobs and government social programs. Last week, the government confirmed that it will not renew the concession of RCTV, the nation's oldest TV station, which is closely associated with the opposition. During his inauguration, President Chávez promised to abolish more than 200 mayoralties, thus "paving the way for one communal city where municipalities and mayors will not be needed, only communal power." Chávez's intolerance of dissent is so high that he has even ordered the nation's Communist Party to disband itself, in order to become a member of the government's "Unified Socialist Party."

The link he gives leads us to Vcrisis.com. Now, if Caracas Chronicles is a tar pit, that place is a snake pit. Its author has noteworthy Pinochetist sympathies (and, I strongly suspect, psychopathic tendencies.) But for some reason, both Francisco Rodriguez and Marc Cooper (who, for shame, used to work for Salvador Allende!) see fit to cite this one-man electronic lunatic asylum as a legitimate source of democratic oppositionist viewpoints. Que pasa?

By the way, if you haven't already guessed, the Tascon list is also not as sinister as it's been painted. I won't bore you with the intricacies of where it originated and how it was used and/or abused, but here's a list of stories on it you can peruse at leisure. You'll notice the authors are by no means monolithic in their opinions and analyses, but they at least strive to get the facts right.

Which is more than one can say for the young professor. Just like the coup plotters of '02, he's got no problem exploiting the media as a weapon against someone he opposes. Only this time, it's a leftist, not a rightist, media outlet he's exploiting, hoping to twist the minds of impressionable readers. And since anyone can post to the Guardian's comment pages, it's just ripe for that kind of blatant propaganda. May no one fall into the tar pit, the snake pit--or the bullshit.

January 12, 2007

Fancy a spot of tea?

If you're in zero-G, you can eat it with chopsticks!

With tea goes snack--and what could be yummier than honey, peanut butter, and crackers?

(Note the interesting things the honey/peanut butter mix does when pulled up with chopsticks!)

After all this snacking, though, you may find yourself with a case of space heartburn. Wanna see what happens to your Alka-Seltzer when you put it in a ball of water?

Burp.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: A flurry of festivity!

You thought the holidays were over? Well, maybe so--but for me, the fun's just begun.

Hugo Chavez, re-inaugurated yet again!

The hardest part of the swearing-in this week of my favorite democratic socialist was finding the perfect Chavecito pic. Not because there was any shortage of great ones, but because there was a veritable glut. Big smiles, killer dimples and droll gestures abounded:

Hammy Hugo, hand on heart Hammy Hugo, praying Hammy Hugo singing Hammy Hugo gets the last laugh on Rosalito!

Let's face it--he's just more fun than his rightist rivals could ever hope to be. On top of everything else.

Chavecito was also on hand to see another amigo sworn in:

Chavecito with Daniel Ortega

Here, it was Daniel Ortega wearing the sash, but what's that around Chavecito's neck? Surely not a little token of thanks for all the help he's giving to Nicaragua as it prepares to enter ALBA?

And, as promised, here's a shot of the left's latest Nobel nominee, too:

Evo Morales in Managua

Nope, still no suit for the unlikely trendsetter. But I do love the subtle trim on Evo's jacket.

But wait! Are all these celebrations wearing on Chavecito and General "Tao"? Perish the thought:

Chavecito and Gen. Baduel, mopping in tandem

They just can't help it if they're too hot to handle!

January 10, 2007

Evo has been nominated!

From Aporrea.org, some exciting news out of Bolivia:

The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, was nominated today for the Nobel Peace Prize by representatives of local social movements and other nations. Morales arrived in Managua this morning to attend the swearing-in of Nicaraguan president-elect Daniel Ortega.

Translation mine.

It couldn't happen to a nicer fella, unless maybe you count what happened with Chavecito last year.

Congratulations, Evo, you deserve it!

(And come Friday, you also deserve to be festively blogged!)

January 9, 2007

Many, many more reasons to condemn Saddam's hanging

And, according to the London Telegraph, they are all Shia.

Saddam Hussein's execution has inspired a gruesome cycle of revenge, with scores of Shia Muslims found hanged from lampposts in Baghdad.

The residents of the city's Haifa Street will long remember the events of Sunday morning. As shop owners raised their shutters and stall holders set out their stock, three minibuses roared to a halt.

Gunmen jumped out and pulled blindfolded prisoners on to the street. Ropes were tied to lampposts and electricity poles. Those hostages who resisted were shot. Others who were still alive had nooses tied around their necks and were then suspended in mid air to choke to death.

All were left hanging, and the victims received little sympathy from those who witnessed the events.

"We watched as all these blindfolded men were hung up and some were shot in the head," Imad Atwan, a supermarket worker said.

"Altogether there were 23 bodies. We are all Sunni people here so we supported the gunmen. Some of them are the guards of our neighbourhood.

"Somebody called the police and the guards waited to shoot at them when they arrived.

"Half an hour after the police fled, they came back with the army and took the bodies away."

Capt Mohammad Salim, of the interior ministry, said: "We have gathered 102 Shia bodies and believe that 90 per cent of them were taken hostage for Saddam Hussein's execution and then found hanging from poles by ropes."

BTW, the child death toll from mock Saddam hangings now stands at seven.

Are we feeling triumphant yet?

Saddam's real arms dealer

Oh, you think I'm fucking around?

Quotable: General Sherman on the hell of war

"I confess, without shame, that I am sick and tired of fighting--its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands, and fathers ... it is only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated ... that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation."

--General William Tecumseh Sherman

War is hell, Dubya!

Another incriminating Bush/Abramoff photo surfaces...

Jack Abramoff did indeed have relations with that man, Mr. Bush

CREW's blog has the details:

As we saw as recently as last Friday, the Bush Administration has gone to great lengths to prevent any access to information documenting a relationship with Jack Abramoff. But that relationship exists. CREW was provided a photo of President Bush and Jack Abramoff taken at a campaign fundraiser in December 2003. The White House did not want anyone to see this photo. So, that begs the question: What else are they hiding?

Well, let's see: Bushie-Boy just got lawyered up with one of Tricky Dick Nixon's old pals, so it must be something unspeakably hideous. In fact, it's probably SEVERAL unspeakably hideous things.

Meanwhile, back to the incriminating photo. This is not the first time a picture has surfaced of the terrible twosome schmoozing it up (see here). It seems that Jack Abramoff himself tried to "shop" pix of himself and Dubya to the media just as the scandal was hotting up, says Raw Story:

Appearing on MSNBC, Newsweek correspondent Michael Isikoff reported that it was indeed Abramoff who floated the photographs to Washingtonian.

ISIKOFF: As a general rule, if you're the president … you don't like pictures out there of you with convicted felons. It sounds like … there's at least one picture of him with at least one convicted felon and another indicted, so it's probably not a picture the White House is eager to have out there. The other interesting aspect of this is, while the White House hasn't put these out, Jack Abramoff has clearly shown them to people. I don't know anything about Time sources, but I do know that he showed them to Washingtonian magazine, which suggests he may be playing a little bit of a game here. He has, of course, pled guilty already to the Justice Department. But it does raise a question in my mind at least as to whether Abramoff is maybe sort of sending some sort of signal out here: "Hey, I've got this stuff." Maybe he wants something from somebody at the White House, or he wants someone at the White House not to do something, and just sort of subtly playing with people here.

More likely, it was an "if I'm gonna go down, I'm gonna take some of these other punks down with me" kind of thing.

Nice to know that not only does the scum so often rise to the top, it also has a funny way of sticking to all the other scum. Here's what MSNBC says about the fiscal relations of the two crooked sticks:

Abramoff helped raise more than $100,000 for Bush's 2004 re-election campaign. He is serving nearly six years in prison for a fraudulent Florida casino deal and is cooperating with the FBI in a bribery investigation involving members of Congress and the Bush administration.

Over $100,000? Why, that should put him squarely in Pioneer territory, if I'm not mistaken. And sure enough, his name is right at the top of the list! Another hundred-thou, and he coulda been a Ranger. Awww! Guess Jacky didn't buy quite enough influence to keep his ass out of a sling. Bet he treasures the cufflinks, though. (Gee, I wonder if this was him?)

The horror...the HORROR!

That evil Chavecito. He's out to undo all the good work the IMF's faithful servants did in days of yore (she said, dripping with heavy sarcasm)...

President Hugo Chavez has pledged to nationalize key Venezuelan companies, as part of plans to transform the country into a full socialist state.

Mr Chavez said he wanted to see major Venezuelan power and telecoms companies come under state control.

He also called for an end to foreign ownership of lucrative crude oil refineries in the Orinoco region.

[...]

Mr Chavez said Venezuela was moving towards "a socialist republic" that required "deep reform of our national constitution".

"We are in an existential moment of Venezuelan life," he said. "We're heading toward socialism, and nothing and no-one can prevent it."

Mr Chavez demanded an end to the current autonomy of the country's central bank and said he would ask Venezuela's parliament to grant him additional powers to legislate by presidential decree.

His calls for nationalization appeared in particular to affect Electricidad de Caracas, which is currently owned by US firm AES, and CA Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela, the country's largest publicly traded company.

"All of that which was privatized, let it be nationalized," Mr Chavez said.

"The nation should recover its ownership of strategic sectors."

Emphasis added, so that the more easily panicked of my cowardly little right-wing lurkers will realize what is actually being said here, instead of just blindly soiling themselves as they usually do.

First, note the language. Chavecito is saying all those things "were privatized"--which means that once upon a time, they were public services. Then, they got sold off to--no, not the highest bidder, but often at fire-sale prices. What you know 'bout that?

Secondly, Chavecito is saying that this is a job for the nation. Not Chavecito--the nation. Meaning, he's not the Great Dictator looking to own all that--he's seeking to take it out of the hands of its present, not so rightful owners, and give it back to those from whom it was taken. Namely, El Pueblo.

It may sound alarming that Chavecito is now asking for the power to decree this, rather than leave these decisions up to the legislature to debate, but actually he's done it before, and to good effect. There is nothing wrong with cutting red tape once in a while, especially when you've got an overwhelming mandate to do just that. Other presidents have also invoked enabling laws, albeit not with such good intentions--or effects. Gregory Wilpert of Venezuelanalysis explains:

Enabling law (ley habilitante), which Chavez referred to as the "mother law" of the project. This law would allow Chavez, over the period of one year, to pass laws on specified issues as decrees. This type of law has been given to Venezuelan presidents on several occasions before, such as during the first presidency of Carlos Andrés Perez (1974-1979) and early in Chavez's presidency, following the passage of the 1999 constitution, to bring the country's laws up to date to the new constitution.

There were 49 "Habilitante" laws, all of them benefiting not the richest Venezuelans but the poorest, under Chavez's decree. This was a sea change from the previous order. They reformed everything from lands ownership and fishing rights, to how the oil industry was run. They passed in 2001--the same year the US began bombing Afghanistan in the wake of 9-11.

This strange bit of timing is no coincidence. Suddenly, "terrorists" were everywhere, including, it seems, the seat of democratic government in Caracas. However, BushCo, now well known for backing bad horses in every race on which it has ever laid a wager, chose to back a real terrorist as a model democrat, while making a real democrat out to be a terrorist. Greg Palast unwraps the true terrorist and the motive for his crime:

I interviewed [Pedro] Carmona while I leaned out the fourth floor window of an apartment in La Alombra, a high-rise building complex. I spoke my pidgin Spanish across to his balcony on the building a few yards away. The one-time petrochemical mogul was under house arrest - the lucky bastard. If he had attempted to overthrow the President of Kazakhstan (or for that matter, the President of the US), he would by now have a bullet in his skull. Chávez, in a gracious if strained nod to the ultimate authority of the privileged, simply confined Carmona to his expensive flat.

In response to my question about who gave him authority to name himself president, coup leader Carmona responded, 'Civil society'. To him this meant the bankers, the oil company chiefs and others who signed his proclamation.

Most telling were Chávez's laws to which Carmona and coup leaders objected. The prime evil was the Ley De Tierras, the new land law which promised to give unused land to the landless, land owned by the government but also properties held out of production by the big plantation owners for more than two years. But Chávez's tenure would not have been threatened had he not also taken on the international petroleum giants. Chávez's crimes against the oil industry's interests included passing a law that doubled the royalty taxes paid by ExxonMobil and other oil operators from about 16 per cent to roughly 30 per cent on new finds. He had also moved to take control of the state oil company PDVSA - nominally owned by the government, but in fact in thrall to the foreign operators.

Chávez had almost single-handedly rebuilt the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) by committing Venezuela to adhere to its OPEC sales quotas, causing world oil prices to double to over $20 per barrel. It was this oil money which paid for the 'bricks and milk' programme and put Chávez head to head against ExxonMobil, the number-one extractor of Venezuelan oil.

This was no minor matter to the US. As OPEC's general secretary Alí Rodriguez says: 'The dependence of the US on oil is increasing progressively. Venezuela is one of the most important suppliers of the US, and the stability of Venezuela is very important for [them].' It was the South American nation that broke the back of the 1973 Arab oil embargo by increasing output from its vast reserves way beyond its OPEC quota. Indeed, I learned from Alí Rodriguez that the 12 April coup against Chávez was triggered by US fears of a renewed Arab oil embargo. Iraq and Libya were trying to organize OPEC to stop exporting oil to the US to protest American support of Israel. US access to Venezuela's oil suddenly became urgent.

It is very important to note that US access to Venezuelan oil was never in jeopardy; rather, Big US Oil's right to set policy for an entire foreign country country was. Suddenly, that oil was in the hands of all Venezuela, not a few heads of US-based oil companies. The oil was for sale now, not free for the taking, and its extraction was to be fairly taxed, rather than granted for a song. A great many poor, rather than the usual wealthy few, suddenly stood to benefit. This is why Carl Ford of the US State Dept. and George Tenet of the CIA were sounding so many alarm bells about Hugo Chavez not having US interests at heart, and why Colin Powell was mumbling all sorts of ominous claptrap about Chavez's "understanding" of the meaning of democracy.

But Chavez understood it all just fine, and he was operating within Venezuelan democratic rule when he asked the National Assembly to grant him the right to legislate by decree for a limited time, with the consent of at least 60% of the assembly. He was clearly not operating in the interests of wealthy landowners, international fisheries, the US or Big Oil, but the Venezuelan people. And he was operating not at the pleasure of the unelected oligarchy, but rather by permission of democratically elected representatives.

ZOIKS!

But wait...the scariest chapter is still to come. At Aporrea.org, I found this:

The president of the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference, Monsignor Ubaldo Santana, recognized that 21st century socialism may be a "good and effective answer for the people of our country, who undoubtedly need to overcome the neoliberal and capitalist schemes that have caused so much poverty in Venezuela and Latin America."

Translation mine.

You know things are going badly for the opposition (and BushCo!) when even the leading churchmen in Venezuela are conceding that Chavecito is onto something good. Since the Catholic Church used to be squarely in the opposition's pocket, something like this is a major embarrassment to them.

Oh, the HORROR!

January 6, 2007

Quotable: John Stuart Mill on predator capitalism

"I confess that I am not charmed with the ideal of life held out by those who think that the normal state of human beings is that of struggling to get on; that the trampling, crushing, elbowing, and treading on each other's heels, which form the existing type of social life, are the most desirable lot of human beings."

-- John Stuart Mill

Farewell, Mr. Noodle...

If long noodles bring long life, as the Chinese proverb insists, then Momofuku Ando has certainly proved that right. He was 96 when the Great Noodle Factory in the Sky called him home.

Mr Ando said the inspiration for his product came when he saw people lining up to buy bowls of hot ramen noodle soup at a black market stall during the food shortages after World War II.

He developed his first instant noodles, Chicken Ramen, in 1958.

The product came out as Japan recovered from the ravages of World War II and began a long period of economic expansion.

It was the masterstroke of providing a waterproof polystyrene container for the noodles that made his Cup Noodle an instant success in 1971.

Nissin has led the global instant noodle industry since then, selling 85.7 billion servings every year, according to Agence France Presse.

His firm also developed a version of Cup Noodle for Japanese astronauts to eat on the space shuttle Discovery in 2005.

In 1999, Mr Ando opened a museum in Osaka devoted to instant noodles.

He retired as Nissin's chairman in 2005.

Japanese newspapers and business people have been paying tribute to Mr Ando.

"He was a self-made man who developed an epoch-making instant noodle product and spread it to all corners of the world," Akio Nomura, chairman of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Kyodo news agency.

Mr Ando remained active until just days before his death, giving a New Year's speech to Nissin employees and having a lunch of Chicken Ramen with company executives.

Like just about every hungry university student at some time since instant ramen was invented, I've eaten Mr. Ando's quick, cheap and yummy invention many times. Even now, if I close my eyes, I can remember that rich, salty taste and the way the hot broth splatters all over everything when you slurp the noodles. It's a great way for a busy brain to stay fueled, as I found out. And if you get the kind that you cook in a pot, you can vary it for a balanced diet, adding meat, eggs, tofu and veggies as you please. In any case, it's ready in 15 minutes or less. I ate "Chinese noodles", as we called them, almost every day. It cost maybe $3 a day (an ENTIRE day!) to eat if I had ramen. It was a favorite of mine and I could still scarf it down to this day.

Rest in peace, Mr. Ando. You gave the world a wonderful thing indeed.

One more reason to condemn Saddam's hanging

Or three, as if we needed more. From El Nuevo Diario, of Managua, Nicaragua, we get this incredibly sad item:

A 10-year-old boy of Guatemalan origins killed himself accidentally while imitating the hanging of Iraqi ex-leader Saddam Hussein after seeing images of the execution on television, the Houston Chronicle reported on Thursday.

The boy hanged himself on New Year's Eve, by jumping off a bunk bed, a short time after viewing the images, according to the newspaper.

[...]

In Pakistan, a nine-year-old boy died on January 1 while re-enacting the hanging in a game.

With the help of his sister, 10, he attached a rope to a ceiling fan in his home and then hanged himself.

In eastern India, a 15-year-old girl hanged herself on Thursday, depressed by the execution of the ex-dictator, according to family and police.

"She said they had hanged a patriot. We didn't take her seriously when she said she wanted to experience the pain Saddam Hussein felt during the execution," the girl's mother, Manmohan Karmakar, told Agence France-Presse via telephone from the city of Kharda.

Translation mine; link added.

How many more senseless tragedies will this madness reap?

Hat tip to Los Blogueros for the link.

And here's why I call it the Chicken Noodle Network...

Quick, what's the biggest thing going on in Chile right now, according to CNN?

If you guessed that a distressed US sailor has been found safe and sound, you're only half right. That's the English version. In Spanish, THIS is the REAL news:

From Aporrea, this is what's going on:

A man who lost his house to a bank due to a mortgage debt ended up with burns after setting himself on fire in front of the Chilean presidential palace, La Moneda, according to police.

The man, identified as Jacinto Montecinos, 41, sprayed himself with a flammable substance and set himself afire, but then threw himself into a pool of water.

Montecinos, who said he was trying to get the attention of President Michelle Bachelet, received first aid from three police officers, one of whom suffered burns to his hand.

After being pulled from the water, Montecinos cried, "They took my house. I'm not a delinquent. I want to see the president and they took me prisoner."

The police took him into custody and transferred him to a hospital, where he was confirmed as suffering from light burns.

The man is said to belong to a group of debtors who for some months have been engaging in protests, and they accuse President Bachelet of not helping them in their demands for a solution to their problems with the banks.

The government, which has assisted communities in a similar situation, but whose debts are with the state, refused to intervene in this case, because it is a private sector problem.

The undersecretary of the Interior, Felipe Harboe, called Montecinos's action "a desperate measure" and promised that the government would maintain "a permanent dialogue" with the debtors, but reiterated that "pressure tactics like these will not bring about any kind of solution."

Harboe called upon the public to raise matters with respect for their own well-being and that of others.

Translation mine.

Now, why do you suppose they're not reporting that? It's got everything: tragedy, drama, a man on fire, a social crisis. It's certainly a much more relevant and engrossing topic than a stranded sailor who's out of danger. If it bleeds, it leads--right?

Well, no.

You see, the lucky sailor is a US citizen; this unlucky guy is just a Chilean. The sailor is, like anyone who can afford a sailboat and the time to man it, probably quite financially secure. This poor soul, on the other hand, just lost his house to the bank--probably after working his ass off for the better part of his young life just to put that now-gone roof over his head.

But most of all, this story didn't make headlines in the US because it's a direct blow to the still prevalent notion of the Chilean economic miracle--the myth that Chile, virtually alone in all of Latin America, is doing great, thanks to the combined efforts of Henry Kissinger, Augusto Pinochet, and the Chicago Boys. Presumably, Chileans now have an "Ownership Society", where private enterprise flourishes, privatization is the answer to everything, the market is God, and anyone who's not doing well, probably just isn't trying hard enough. Victims of circumstance? People who fall through the cracks? They don't exist under that model. They can't exist--because if they did, they would smash the whole model to smithereens by virtue of their sheer numbers. And with that model would go Chile's status as a poster child for the Chicago School of Economics. Chile would then become to the Chicago School what Argentina is to the IMF--a vaunted brilliant success that morphed into a miserable failure at the drop of a market.

And you know what comes next, right? Fingers would point in the direction of Chicago, and US citizens would finally join the growing chorus from all over the world:

"YOU FUCKED UP, UNCLE MILTIE, YOU SON OF A BITCH!!!"

And if Uncle Miltie weren't already dead, they would surely kill him for selling them a dream and screwing them out of a reality.

No, can't let that happen; can't put a stake in the heart of that blood-sucking myth. So the Chicken Noodle Network comes to the rescue by bringing us more of the usual pablum: a nail-biter replete with Courage and Endurance, a telegenic, worried family, and a happy ending that was never truly in doubt.

For, after all, the successful must not only triumph, but be seen to triumph--otherwise, George Carlin would be proven right about the American Dream. You'd have to be asleep to believe in it. Which is why CNN is doing its damnedest to ensure that you never, EVER wake up.

January 5, 2007

Yes, rich girls do THAT, too.

How do you think some of them got so rich in the first place?

For years, Lisa Ann Taylor's neighbors suspected something was going on behind the doors of her white-columned, million-dollar mansion in one of suburban Atlanta's most exclusive neighborhoods.

Scantily clad women were seen posing for photos in the driveway. Cars and trucks came and went at all hours. And there were loud parties.

Despite repeated calls to police about the suspicious goings-on, there was no evidence of a crime. That is, until six weeks ago, when authorities were tipped off to a Web site showing Taylor — a former Penthouse Pet of the Month — sprawled topless on an ottoman and brazenly advertising services ranging from $300 one-hour photo shoots to "dream dates" that included a one-hour "show."

Police raided the red-brick mansion Wednesday and found what they described as a high-class brothel and the headquarters of a call-girl ring whose customers received favors limited only by their imaginations and their ability to pay.

Among the services offered was sex with the centerfold and other women for an entire weekend for $10,000, District Attorney Danny Porter said.

"Whatever was asked for had a price," Porter said.

[...]

Porter could not say for sure how long the illegal activity was going on, but neighbors have been complaining for at least three years.

Among other things, neighbors thought it was odd that all the basement windows were blacked out. Also, they saw lots of modest-looking cars and trucks that appeared out of place in the well-to-do neighborhood. In addition, scantily clad women were seen in the windows of Probert's house in nearby Lawrenceville.

Taylor — a 1985 Penthouse centerfold who used the name Melissa Wolf professionally — also held lavish Halloween parties, which were advertised in fliers passed out through the neighborhood and included fireworks, costumed characters, professional decorations and a haunted house for children. But some parents declared the house off-limits for trick-or-treating.

"The neighbors told us they wouldn't let their kids go to the house because they were afraid of who might answer the door," the district attorney said.

[...]

Carol Northcutt, 49, who lives a block away, said many neighbors knew Taylor was in the adult entertainment industry. Northcutt said she once saw a photo shoot in Taylor's driveway with scantily clad women posing in a convertible.

"I knew she was in adult films and that there were cars in and out," she said. But prostitution? "Did I think for a minute it was that? No."

Amazing. All those blindingly obvious signs, and some neighbors still had no idea that she was in the Oldest Profession? That makes me wonder if the rich are, among other things, not like the rest of us when it comes to common sense.

Judge Rehnquist: Thug on drugs

Well, this was a shocker. Heh.

Newly-released FBI files have given more details on William Rehnquist's dependence on strong painkillers while he was a US Supreme Court judge.

Mr Rehnquist, who later became chief justice, is said to have been taking up to three times the prescribed dosage.

When he stopped taking Placidyl, he suffered withdrawal symptoms. The records say he tried to escape from hospital in his pyjamas.

[...]

Mr Rehnquist went into hospital in 1981, after his doctor tried to substitute Placidyl with other prescription drugs.

The judge - who appears to have suffered from chronic back pain and insomnia - had said the new medication was not strong enough, his doctor told the FBI.

The doctor is also reported to have said that Mr Rehnquist had taken Placidyl for about 10 years and that his increased consumption may have coincided with his wife's treatment for cancer.

The FBI files also reveal that his withdrawal symptoms included imagining that the CIA was plotting against him.

According to the Beeb, Rehnquist was nominated to the SCOTUS after "his problems with the prescription drugs had ended"--which is a nice way of saying after he got into detox.

But once an addict, always an addict, and who knows what he was on when he did this?

Let's begin at the beginning. Rehnquist bragged about being first in his class at Stanford Law School. Today Stanford is a great law school with a diverse student body, but in the late 1940s and early 1950s, it discriminated against Jews and other minorities, both in the admission of students and in the selection of faculty. Justice Stephen Breyer recalled an earlier period of Stanford's history: "When my father was at Stanford, he could not join any of the social organizations because he was Jewish, and those organizations, at that time, did not accept Jews." Rehnquist not only benefited in his class ranking from this discrimination; he was also part of that bigotry. When he was nominated to be an associate justice in 1971, I learned from several sources who had known him as a student that he had outraged Jewish classmates by goose-stepping and heil-Hitlering with brown-shirted friends in front of a dormitory that housed the school's few Jewish students. He also was infamous for telling racist and anti-Semitic jokes.

Then again, he may have been proverbially, judicially sober at the time. Either way, it's reprehensible--as is this:

The guy called himself Bill. He knew the law and applied it with the precision of a swordsman. He sat at the table at the Bethune School, a polling place brimming with black citizens, and quizzed voters ad nauseam about where they were from, how long they'd lived there -- every question in the book. A passage of the Constitution was read and people who spoke broken English were ordered to interpret it to prove they had the language skills to vote.

By the time Pena arrived at Bethune, he said, the line to vote was four abreast and a block long. People were giving up and going home.

Pena told the guy to leave. They got into an argument. Shoving followed. Arizona politics can be raw.

Finally, Pena said, the guy raised a fist as if he was fixing to throw a punch.

"I said 'If that's what you want, I'll get someone to take you out of here' "

Party leaders told him not to get physical, but this was the second straight election in which Republicans had sent out people to intellectually rough up the voters. The project even had a name: Operation Eagle Eye.

Eagle Eye, eh? Sounds more like Addled Eye to me.

More dirt on Hizzoner at ThoughtCrimes.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito rings in a new year

And a happy new year (and mandate) to his Brazilian amigo, too:

Videos courtesy of Aporrea.

January 4, 2007

Wow, socialism really IS good for capitalism!

UPI, normally a Moonie mouthpiece, actually reports something amusing rather than antagonistic about Chavecito for a change:

A Mexican restaurant in a trendy part of Chicago is using some unlikely spokespeople in its print advertisements.

Marcos Rivera, manager of the Las Palmas restaurant in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, has run several recent advertisements featuring quotations from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The advertisements picture Chavez with his hand in the air, proclaiming "Long live the socialist revolution!" the Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday.

Several people have criticized the ads, which have also featured quotations from protestors in Oaxaca, Mexico. Over the past two years, Las Palmas has run ads in Chicago publications featuring Latin American authors and filmmakers, as well as John Lennon and Coretta Scott King.

Rivera, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico, told the newspaper that the ads are "a forum that I have. It's something that's important to me." Rivera means to educate the public through the ads about some prominent "freedom fighters," but admitted that he has been afraid to run them sometimes, fearing backlash.

I don't know who those "several people" are--probably they aren't "several" at all, but just a very whiny few. In any case, bravo to Marcos Rivera for using his clout to teach the public about the good guys of this world.

I wonder if he can send delivery orders to Canada; I could do with some fajitas.

Too little, too late, Too Stupid!

If you ever wonder why so many people are calling Dubya "Too Stupid to be President", here--have a clue-by-four:

US President George W Bush has said he wished the execution of ex-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had been more dignified but insisted that justice was done.

Mr Bush said he expected a "full investigation" of the way the execution had been carried out.

But he said Saddam Hussein had been given justice that "the thousands of people he killed had not".

Incredible, isn't it? "It doesn't look nice, but it was still justice, so nyaaaah." That's what he's really saying here. He's not condemning the execution, he's not denouncing the kangaroo court that rushed it through--he's just all defensive because it makes him look like a wet pile of dog turds. It was supposed to be a triumph, and instead it became Saddam's last pissing match with a bunch of fellow thugs. Oh, the humanity.

Speaking of leaders who've killed thousands, what justice do you suppose HE'll get? Probably the same that Pinochet got, at the rate things are currently shaping up. He ought to get down in front of Nancy Pelosi and lick her shoes for taking impeachment off the table, but this arrogant worm will probably get her to shine his wingtips instead.

Amazing how even lofty words like "justice" get sullied when a Bush utters them.

January 3, 2007

Quotable: Adolf Hitler, closet American

"Above all, it is the young who succumb to this magic. They experience the triumph of the motorcar with the full temperment of their impressionable hearts. It must be seen as a sign of the invigorating power of our people that they give themselves with such fanatic devotion to this invention, an invention which provides the basis and structure of our modern traffic."

-- Adolf Hitler

Transportation Policy

So much for the right-wing canard that Hitler was a socialist. A real one would be promoting the tangible benefits of a well-run system of public transportation, not "fanatic devotion" to an invention that depletes resources and drives wedges between classes and individuals.

Headline Howler: A slip-up worthy of FUX...er, FOX!

Only this time, it's the doing of the ChuckleNuts Network:

US broadcaster CNN has apologised after mistakenly putting the name of US Senator Barack Obama as a caption on a story about Osama Bin Laden.

An advertisement for a feature about the whereabouts of the al-Qaeda leader carried the caption "Where's Obama?" over images of Bin Laden.

CNN has apologised for "a very bad typographical error".

A spokesman for Mr Obama, a potential presidential hopeful, said he accepted that it was an innocent error.

"Though I'd note that the 's' and 'b' keys aren't all that close to each other, I assume it was just an unfortunate mistake," his spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

The error happened on Monday night during presenter Wolf Blitzer's news programme "The Situation Room".

But if you thought CNN was the only fucker-upper here, wait...the BBC might also have some explaining to do as it wraps up this story:

Mr Obama, tipped by some to become the country's first black president, admitted in October that he was considering a White House run in 2008.

He has always been ready to deal with questions about his unusual name.

"When I first started to work in public life... people would ask: 'Hey brother, what's with your name? You called Alabama or Yo' Mama?'"

He has also acknowledged that his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, is not ideal for someone involved in politics.

Maybe not for someone involved in American politics of the early 21st century. But here in Canada, we wouldn't even bat an eyelash. To us, "Hussein" is just a name, not an indicator of sinister predilections.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

First, the sublime: Talk about your true Canadians! As if it weren't impressive enough that we still have three surviving veterans of the Great War among us, now their unselfishness and dedication to democratic ideals is truly beyond compare. From the Beeb, a little item that will leave you misty-eyed:

It all seemed to have been settled.

Towards the end of last year Canada's parliament responded to a huge public petition for a state funeral to be held for the last of the country's World War I veterans.

The parliamentary vote in favour of the idea seemed to decide the matter.

But there is a snag. None of the surviving veterans wants a state funeral.

The eldest, Lloyd Clemett, is 107. His niece and guardian, Merle Kaczanowski, says he just wants a simple funeral.

"He himself feels that there should not be attention to the last person but the attention should be given to all of them," said Ms Kaczanowski.

"There is always a possibility that people change but I don't really see that for Lloyd," she added.

This is the kind of solidarity that marks our country, folks. They fought not for anyone's individual privilege, but for the rights of all--and that is why they want a collective remembrance for all their comrades, rather than special treatment just for being the last to fall.

It is this one-for-all, all-for-one spirit that undergirded the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (later the New Democratic Party), whose hymn goes:

A call goes out to Canada

It comes from out the soil—

Come and join the ranks through all the land

To fight for those who toil!

Come on farmer, soldier, labourer,

From the mine and factory,

And side by side we'll swell the tide—

C.C.F. to Victory!

As you can see, the early socialist movement that eventually changed the face of Canada had a definite military flavor, albeit a peaceful one. The soldier was on an equal footing with the civilians, the farmers and workers. His ties were not to the crown, but to the land and his brothers and sisters. Co-operation, not conquest, was the order of the day.

This same spirit later found its echoes in the modern Canadian tradition of sending our soldiers--not to fight someone's wars for selfish gain, but to make and keep peace in troubled countries all over the world.

It is no coincidence that Canada rose to full stature even as the British Empire was crumbling under its own weight. And it is also no coincidence that the first stirrings of this triumph came during the Great War, when Canadians did England's scut work and took Vimy Ridge--a feat impossible for the "superior" British troops. England was quick to claim that victory, but Canada never forgot, and today the credit goes where it is due: not to Empire, but to the Canadian troops, working together for a common good.

Perhaps this is why the last three Great War vets don't want a state funeral or any special recognition. The Canada they fought to build--egalitarian, democratic and yes, socialist--would be tainted by the Orwellian notion that some animals are more equal than others.

Now, keep bearing that sublime thing in mind, because here comes the ridiculous.

First, my friend Dave has blogged an absolutely mind-blowing fact he found at CTV's website:

By the time most Canadians drag themselves into work on Tuesday after the holidays, the country's highest-paid CEOs will already have earned the average employee's annual salary.

By 9:46 a.m. Tuesday, the 100 highest-paid private-sector executives will have earned an average Canadian's salary of $38,010, says a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

For minimum-wage workers, the country's top earners made their entire salary average of $15,931 by New Year's Day.

"When you say that the average CEO made $9 million in 2005 and the average Canadian made ($38,000), the comparison between those things is so far into the stratosphere that I think people have trouble just coming to terms with what the comparison means,'' Hugh Mackenzie, an economist with the independent research institute that focuses on issues of social and economic justice, told The Canadian Press.

Yes, that's right--the New Year was barely a day old, and already the top 100 capitalists have sucked as much slop from the trough as you little piggies are apt to see all year. This is what our three remaining Great War vets have lived to see, folks.

And, on a related note, Bill Tieleman at Straight Goods delivers a kicker:

Here's what kind of a year in politics 2006 has been: No one wanted to be caught dead in federal Conservative International Trade Minister David Emerson's shoes — except maybe BC Liberal Finance Minister Carole Taylor.

That's because while Emerson entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest political defection ever, Taylor caught heat for introducing the provincial budget in a $600 pair of Gucci pumps.

But one thing is clear — they both stepped in it!

After January's minority Conservative election victory, Liberal Vancouver-Kingsway Member of Parliament Emerson took all of 48 hours to become a card-carrying Tory.

And Emerson, who swore to voters he would be Stephen Harper's "worst nightmare," instead sucker punched his constituents and joined the Conservative cabinet. De-elect Emerson signs will last longer than Rona "Clean Air Act" Ambrose will as environment minister.

Meanwhile, in February Taylor took the tradition of finance ministers wearing a new pair of shoes on budget day to unheard-of extremes. The $600-Guccis, plus $84 in tax, cost far more than a month's worth of social assistance for the poor. Marie Antoinette, eat your heart out!

If such political cynicism makes you sick, go to a medical clinic — a private one. 2006 was year of the for-profit physician, with controversial private healthcare booster Dr. Brian Day becoming the president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association and BC doctors Mark Godley and Don Copeman opening new private facilities.

Day, who actually said before his election that Medicare was a "health monopoly that Bozo the Clown could run" and that a "Berlin Wall" stops patients from getting medical treatment, will become the voice of all Canadian doctors.

Now let's remove that lump from the area around your wallet!

Notice a common theme here? These people, or rather these beasts, are actively doing their best to unravel the victories our veterans of war and peace fought for. They haven't the courage to put on a uniform and dig a rat-infested trench to do it, though; they are doing it stealthily, in true cowardly predator fashion. One might even say they are doing it collectively, although I'm sure their souls (rendered cirrhotic by too much of Ayn Rand's meretricious drivel) would shrink from that word. No doubt all of them preen themselves on the false notion that they are fine, innovative, freethinking individuals. They are not--they are collectively and to a one, DELUDED. And they are as un-Canadian as the "farmer, soldier, labourer" CCF are arch-Canadian.

And they make me feel as mortified that I've lived to see this day as those last three vets must be at the notion of being singled out for special treatment after death.

Are Hal Turner and Patwa in cahoots?

Sure smells that way to me. First, from the Virginian-Pilot, we get this cute little item...

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson cited communications with God in predicting Tuesday that horrific terrorism aimed at the United States will result in "mass killing" during the second half of 2007.

"The Lord didn't say nuclear, but I do believe it'll be something like that - that'll be a mass killing, possibly millions of people, major cities injured," Robertson said.

"There will be some very serious terrorist attacks," he said. "The evil people will come after this country, and there's a possibility - not a possibility, a definite certainty - that chaos is going to rule." Robertson did not say where the attacks would occur.

Then, from the WingNutDaily, there's this:

A radio talk-show entertainer whose earlier statements that he "may" have to assassinate members of Congress if the wrong people were elected Nov. 7 now has set a timetable for those killings.

In a statement on his website, Hal Turner noted that a newspaper has reported that a bill granting amnesty to illegal aliens is expected to be enacted in January, when the Democratic Party takes control of the U.S. Senate and House.

"ANY MEMBER OF CONGRESS WHO INTRODUCES, CO-SPONSORS OR VOTES IN FAVOR OF ANY SUCH AMNESTY WILL BE DECLARED A DOMESTIC ENEMY AND WILL BE CONSIDERED A LEGITIMATE TARGET FOR ASSASSINATION," Turner posted on his website.

"Members of Congress and the Senate will NOT be permitted to BETRAY our nation by simply GIVING AWAY the most cherished aspect of America, Citizenship, to millions of people who cared so little for what Citizenship means that they came here against our law," he continued.

Hey, for once Patwa may be onto something. Hal Turner, as a white supremacist who routinely incites his listeners to hate and its associated crimes, certainly fits any sensible definition of a terrorist, and the actions he's plotting could certainly be called terrorism, no?

Besides, Patwa could do with an accurate prediction for a change; his god hasn't been very forthcoming with the prognostications in recent years. In fact, it's been going so pathetically for him that he's been forced to stretch a bit:

Robertson said in May that, "If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed" by "vicious hurricanes." He predicted that "there well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest."

No hurricanes struck the U.S. coast in 2006. Three tropical storms hit the country.

No tsunami occurred in the Pacific Northwest, though parts of Washington state saw record-setting rains, floods or drought during 2006, said Josiah Mault, the assistant state climatologist.

In January 2004, Robertson said, "I really believe I'm hearing from the Lord it's going to be like a blowout" re-election for President Bush.

Bush won 51 percent of the vote that fall, beating Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

In 2005, Robertson predicted that "Bush is now positioned to have victory after victory and that his second term is going to be one of triumph." Robertson said Bush's Social Security overhaul proposals would be approved and "he'll have conservative judges on the courts."

Senators confirmed Bush's 2005 nominations of John Roberts Jr. and Samuel Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court, making it more conservative in the view of many observers.

But the president's Social Security initiative stalled, and Republicans lost control of Congress in the latest election amid voters' unhappiness with Bush's Iraq policy.

For those keeping score, Patwa's only had "hits" on maybe one out of every two predictions. Maybe. You could get as good a result by flipping a coin. A tropical storm is rather a lesser beast than a "vicious hurricane", and heavy rains are not "something like a tsunami". Plus, I'd say the judge confirmations didn't exactly need divine whisperings to be a foregone conclusion; with a Republican-stacked congress and a lot of wishy-washy tame Dems onside, even such egregious yahoos as Roberts and Alito could skate by, doing triple axels all the way.

Come to think of it, even a coin-flipper could do better than Patwa for prognostications. I know I can, and I don't even have to pray first!

Hey, maybe Hal can help Patwa plot the assassination of Hugo Chavez again. That is, if they're not both in solitary confinement by year's end.

Cardinal supports Chavecito!

Sky falling! Film at 11...

From Aporrea:

"The respect expressed by Cardinal Urosa for the decision of the Chief of State to not renew RCTV's broadcast licence is a positive sign of peaceful compliance with the law and the legitimacy of the decisions of the National Executive," affirmed Communications Minister William Lara, when asked about the declarations of the Archbishop of Caracas, who also asked for the possibility of reversing the decision to be examined.

Minister Lara confirmed that the issue was of an irreversible constitutional fact, a legal and solidly incontrovertible regulation.

The minister assured that Cardinal Urosa had nothing to be concerned about respecting the plurality of information in the land. "The increase in the number of radio and television stations, newspapers, magazines, websites, and the diversity of political orientations they represent, is the most reliable guarantee that Venezuelans have abundant access to information every day, amid the freedom of expression and information in Venezuelan democracy," he added.

Translation mine.

Oh dear, what was it again that Father Jonathan was saying about repression in Venezuela? Damn, it's getting so hard to find solid evidence of that sucker!

The ugly truth leaks out

Damn the Internets. First you get this, and then this:

The Iraqi government has launched an inquiry into unofficial mobile phone footage showing the execution of former leader Saddam Hussein.

The mobile phone footage showed he exchanged taunts and insults with witnesses at his hanging on Saturday.

The grainy video showed the former leader being told to "go to hell" by someone attending the hanging.

One of the trial prosecutors who saw the execution said he threatened to halt it if the jeering did not stop.

Munkith al-Faroon - who can be heard appealing for order on the unofficial video - said that he had threatened to walk out.

This could have halted the execution, as a prosecution observer must, by law, be present.

Mr Faroon also said he knew "two top officials... had their mobile phones with them [at the execution]. There were no mobile phones allowed at that time."

The Iraqi authorities fear the footage, released on the internet hours after the execution, could contribute to a dramatic rise in sectarian tensions between Iraq's Sunni and Shia communities.

Well, it certainly did that. Saddam's supporters have vowed revenge, and they are blaming the Americans for the hanging. The violence has already claimed dozens of Iraqi Shia victims. (Sorry, I can't seem to find a precise death toll published on a reputable news site, probably because it's so high as to be embarrassing.)

Worse, Saddam and his sons Uday and Qusay, killed by US troops in 2003, are now seen as martyrs. If this is supposed to help get Sunnis onside in the political process, it's just another miserable failure for the man whose name is now synonymous with Miserable Failure.

And those are not the only things wrong with this kangaroo-court execution:

A U.S. judge on Friday refused to stop Saddam's execution, rejecting a last-minute court challenge.

U.S. troops cheered as news of Saddam's execution appeared on television at the mess hall at Forward Operating Base Loyalty in eastern Baghdad. But some soldiers expressed doubt that Saddam's death would be a significant turning point for Iraq.

"First it was weapons of mass destruction. Then when there were none, it was that we had to find Saddam. We did that, but then it was that we had to put him on trial," said Spc. Thomas Sheck, 25, who is on his second tour in Iraq. "So now, what will be the next story they tell us to keep us over here?"

Emphasis added. Please note that it was up to US authorities to clear the way for the Iraqi execution. This proves rather conclusively that the government of Iraq is a puppet one, operating at US pleasure. The real head of state is not Nouri al-Maliki, but George W. Bush. And even the common soldiers aren't fooled. Considering that they have now lost more troops to this war than the entire death toll of 9-11, it's surely no coincidence. And can you believe that Dubya hasn't learned a thing from all this--that he's planning to send even more troops to their death?

Still, what's most startling here is the hypocritical condemnation, by the politicians, of the snuff video. They haven't the decency to condemn the hanging; the official line is that this was a Good Thing. The media, meanwhile, must show celebrating Iraqis and thus still somehow legitimize the war, even when a shocking number of Iraqis actually oppose it, and with it, the death of Saddam.

But they'll never do the right thing. They were on the wrong foot starting out; why change now? About all they can do is condemn the one unedited piece of footage that revealed the ugly truth. That ought to tell you something about what kind of people they really are.

January 2, 2007

Fidel's wickedness knows no bounds!

I mean, just look at what he once told Evo!

President Evo Morales said Friday that his close ally Fidel Castro once advised him to shun arms for his populist cause and change Bolivia through democratic means.

The Cuban president, who once tried to spread armed revolt throughout South America, "never told me that you have to take up arms, never," Morales said in an interview Friday with Bolivian radio network Fides.

Morales, who was democratically elected in 2005, said Castro urged him three years ago not to follow his own example of rising to power through armed revolution. Instead, Castro urged Morales to pursue a democratic revolution similar to the one Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claims to be leading.

"At the beginning of 2003, when I was invited to a big conference in Cuba, (Castro) said, 'Don't do what I did; don't have an armed uprising,'" said Morales. "'Lead a democratic revolution, like Chavez's, with a constitutional assembly.'"

Sounds like the old boy not only learned from his own mistakes (and the loss of his comrade Che, who significantly perished in Bolivia), but is making up for them now by giving solid advice to his friends. That's more than you'll ever hear from the likes of, oh, say, Augusto Pinochet, whose only apparent regret about his own coupmongering was that it had made him horrendously unpopular (oh, woe is he.)

So much, too, for the panic of wealthy oligarchs in Venezuela who would have us believe that Chavecito is out to create another Cuba there. The fact that the Cuban "maximo leader" is pointing to Chavez and not himself as an example of how to make revolution, should tell us something right there about the veracity of THAT little piece of propaganda.

What was it that Fidel said again, about history absolving him? I'd say he has done a pretty good job of it himself already. Glad he isn't waiting, like Pinochet, for death to make him unaccountable, and writing his own excuse notes from Hades in the meantime.

January 1, 2007

Scary Thought #6/7: You know you have a bad president when...

...people would probably dance in the streets if this fake news item were real:

Borat Replaces Bush!

And why is that really scary? Well...

Bundy vs. Bush

When there's a striking resemblance between your president and one of your country's worst serial killers, AND the serial killer is the one you'd sooner meet in a dark alley...need I elaborate?

Vive le Grump!

Only in France would they come up with THIS way of ringing in the New Year:

Hundreds of protesters in France have rung in the New Year by holding a light-hearted march against it.

Parodying the French readiness to say "non", the demonstrators in the western city of Nantes waved banners reading: "No to 2007" and "Now is better!"

The marchers called on governments and the UN to stop time's "mad race" and declare a moratorium on the future.

The protest was held in the rain and organisers joked that even the weather was against the New Year.

The tension mounted as the minutes ticked away towards midnight - but the arrival of 2007 did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm.

The protesters began to chant: "No to 2008!"

They vowed to stage a similar protest on 31 December 2007 on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris.

Actually, I can totally get behind that. What a novel idea: A New Year's tradition that's actually fun--because it addresses the ambivalence and even rage we feel at seeing another year go down the tube, minus the usual anesthesia. It sure beats waking up hung over and wondering why the hell you fell into that trap yet again--and feeling all the loathing and then some. Also beats spending a fortune on champagne, oui?

So, mes amis en France, I salute you with joie de vivre en anglais, courtesy of Adam Ant:

"In the night when things go bump,

Think of me,

Think 'here comes the Grump'..."

No more Taps for teens!

My friend Corey sent me this. While it is extremely gentle, with no violence or blue language, it's also a shocker sure to bring tears to your eyes.

Yes, you heard him correctly. He's offering to go to Iraq in place of a teenager.

When you consider that the average US soldier in World War II was in his mid-twenties, but that by Vietnam, that median age had slipped to 19 (it is the same for Iraq), it should give you pause. The same kids who are going to de-funded public schools (BushCo tax dollars at work!), are also ending up disproportionately represented among the troops bound for Iraq.

Meanwhile, who's underrepresented among the dead? Generals. And who won't you see, ever, among the kids being killed in Iraq? Why, those of wealthy Republicans.

I'm perfectly sure the Bush Twins are as capable as anyone of fighting in their daddy's war. A year-long tour of duty would be just the thing. It would teach both of them an invaluable lesson about statecraft, certainly more than they have learned in the past year by undertaking mysterious dealings in Paraguay, or getting purse-snatched in Buenos Aires.

C'mon, girls, whaddya say? You're both over 21. You've got the best education money can buy. And you're both clearly spoiling for lack of real-world work experience. Why not give a couple of less privileged teens a break, as this gentleman is offering to do? Don't you think your country is worth it?