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July 30, 2007

Why they're howling for Chavecito's blood

I've gotten so much crapaganda from the lamestream media in my inbox lately. All of it about how the Venezuelan opposition is feeling persecuted lately.

Um, you might want to start learning how to spell PROSECUTED, lamestreamers, because anyone who supported the April 11 coup by showing up at Miraflores the next day to support the illegal "provisional government" of Pedro Carmona--and maybe make money or get jobs off it--is definitely complicit in high treason and should therefore NOT be eligible for US citizenship. Let alone of a preferential fast-track variety while real refugees are turned away. No, the only asylum these people deserve is the mental kind, because their thinking is clearly delusional. It's pretty obvious to anyone not mentally impaired that the coup was not democratic but antidemocratic--every democratic institution was declared null and void for two days, and every freely elected official's legal status was blatantly disregarded. Many elected Chavistas feared for their lives and had to go underground or be "arrested" in what amounts to REAL persecution. (And they didn't flee on luxury yachts to Curacao, either.)

And as a glance at the timeline of that coup will clearly show, the entire thing was all about money, money and more money. (It will also show that the army, still under Chavez's orders, took pains not to use violent measures against the opposition even when it was most justified in doing so.)

But then again, being lamestream, mainstream US media people just don't grasp little nuance-y things like that. Nor will they give you an honest look at the "democratic" Venezuelan opposition. They much prefer to reprint whatever PR bullshit comes into their office over the wires. It saves them having to report and do any digging of their own, you see. (And it also saves them from all risk of having to go off the message the State Dept. wants Americans to get.)

So of course, I figured Chavecito must be doing something right again, and indeed he is. But you have to be able to read Spanish, and keep your eye on oil and money, to know just how right. So, with no further ado, here's a little something from Aporrea:

The application of a true concept of sovereignty to petroleum, in five steps, on the part of the current government, has permitted it to increase its revenues by 5.8 billion dollars US this year (ca. 12 billion bolivares.)

President Hugo Chavez Frias explained it as follows during the 288th broadcast of his program, "Alo, Presidente", from La Cabrerita, in the state of Anzoategui.

He indicated that the first revolutionary measure was adopted on October 11, 2004, in order to incrementally raise well taxes on petroleum from the Orinoco region, which had been set at 1% since 1943 and which had been raised to 16.6%. This generated revenues of 1.9 billion dollars annually.

Secondly, as of the 24th of June, 2005, taxes were raised to 30% on excess production. Chavez noted that the so-called "apertura" ("opening", or attempted illegal privatization) of petroleum in the 1990s set such taxes at just 16.6%.

Chavez indicated that the additional income from the tax hike came to $1.6 billion annually.

The third step in the "petroleum liberation" began in May 2006, when the extraction tax was set at 33% for all petroleum in the country, which brought in an additional $400 million yearly.

The fourth step came in October 2006, when it was established that all oil industries located in the Orinoco region would pay a 50% oil income tax. Chavez noted that up until then, oil companies had paid only 34%, the rate for commercial enterprises less lucrative than petroleum.

This sovereignty measure resulted in an additional 100 million dollars annually for the state coffers.

Chavez also emphasized that the fifth legal measure was adopted on February 26, 2007, with the nationalization of the Orinoco reserves, which had until then been in transnational hands.

"Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) used to hold a 40% stake in those projects and now, as a result of this increase, we hold a 78% stake, which has brought in an additional 800 million dollars," Chavez explained.

The Bolivarian leader commented that these monies have been distributed via the reactivation of strategic industries in Guayana and Venezuela, via aluminum production, lumber and cement, as well as the air-defence system, the schools, the Bolivarian high schools, the new universities, the health systems of the Barrio Adentro program, and the student assistance program, Fundayacucho, as well as other national development programs.

"Previous governments could not do these things because they were in the pockets of the US," Chavez concluded.

Translation mine.

Sorry about all the numbers, but as you can see, those numbers are eye-popping. That's a lot of money coming into Venezuela from transnational oil interests--money that used to be pocketed by the oil companies, or disappeared by many of the same people now taking refuge in the United States. According to Venezuelan author Luis Britto Garcia, the amount the oily oligarchy sent out of country before some of them were sacked (just four days before the coup of '02!) was some $40 billion US per year. Coincidence? Ha! I'll gladly lay odds that if you googled for anti-Chavez rhetoric in the US media for each of the months that one of those five steps to petro-sovereignty took place, you'd find a sharp spike. Greg Palast, for one, has noted how the rhetoric about a "Chavez dictatorship" crescendoed before and during the above-mentioned coup, as well as the follow-up attempt a few months later.

You'd also find that oil, the elephant in the room, goes completely unmentioned; instead, the rhetoric would fixate on Chavez's alleged democratic deficits while ignoring the many real democratic progresses Venezuela has made under his leadership. Not a word about the empowerment of communal councils, which are aimed at making democracy more directly accessible to all. And not a kind word about the healthcare and education missions, or Chavez's programs to make sure poor folks in the US got cheap heating oil from CITGO. No backgrounder whatsoever about the old "democratic" Venezuela, where the only thing that trickled down was not oil wealth but shit. Instead, I guarantee you'll see plenty of alarmism about Chavez's military career, especially his failed attempt to overthrow the discredited Carlos Andres Perez (who has threatened that Chavez must "die like a dog"--proving just who is a real tyrant in "democratic" guise).

And on and on and on.

All this is painfully predictable, and even more so when you consider the State Dept.'s numerous false rationales for war in Iraq. Much was made of Saddam's ghastly human rights record; in many cases his tyranny was grossly inflated or even falsified (the famed "people shredder", that so many neo-cons trumpeted about, turns out to have been a fake.) Had Saddam's hanging earlier this year not cut things rather abruptly short, the trial would have revealed some horribly embarrassing facts about just how complicit the US--particularly under the three most recent Republican regimes--was in Saddam's crimes against humanity. (Don't believe me? Then ask Barry Lando, he knows.)

But here's the rub: While Saddam did his worst with impunity as a US puppet dictator, Chavez has done nothing verifiably antidemocratic at all. And he is not a tame fascist dictator, but an unruly, democratic socialist. And a highly popular and effective president.

But there is one thing that Saddam and Chavez have in common, and it's spelled O-I-L. Gobs of it. Iraq's reserves were estimated as the second-largest after Saudi Arabia's, but that's not taking the Orinoco extra-heavy crude into account. Were that factored in, Venezuela would be the oil-richest country in the world.

It is no coincidence that this massive crapaganda campaign is happening under King George the Dubya. He is a failed oil man, and he has a lot of rich and powerful oil interests to placate for having bailed him out, not to mention pay back for their investment in his political campaign. So of course, it makes sense that he and Condi "Chevron tanker" Rice are eager to demonize any leader who stands in the way of their ultra-rich oil cronies. And to rub him out at the first opportunity they get.

Bluntly put: The war in Iraq is being waged for oil and for profit. The oil war on Venezuela can't go ahead yet, either because so far nothing can be made to stick to that pesky Chavez--or, more likely, because the harder-to-extract heavy Venezuelan crude is simply not as profitable--and thus not as high a priority as Iraq's lighter crude. But at some point in the not so distant future, as the Saudis' rapidly dwindling reserves run dry, it will rise to the top of the agenda. Remember, oil floats.

And that is why the good doggies of the US media are already out in force, pre-emptively howling for Chavecito's blood right along with all the disociados and terrorists fleeing Venezuelan justice.

Dubya and his media lapdogs

July 29, 2007

Stupid Sex Tricks: Blame the gays (again!)

I think this is satirical, but it's strangely depressing anyway.

The Peruvian tyrant apologizes

Although, if you ask me, I'd say his tears are of a distinctly crocodilian variety...

Peru's President Alan Garcia has said his government has not done enough to improve the lives of the poor.

In a speech marking his first year in office, Mr Garcia - who has seen a sharp decline in his popularity - urged Peruvians to show patience.

He promised that increased investment would cut poverty before the end of his term in 2011.

Peru's economy is booming, but correspondents say the poor are yet to feel the benefits of its growth.

Some would call that surprising, but anyone who's seen the IMF/World Bank "shock therapy" at work, would recognize the symptoms right away. It's positively incredible how many "economic miracles" of that nature are in fact illusions--and human disasters.

Mr Garcia has faced protests by several different trade unions in recent weeks.

He has apologised for calling some of the demonstrators "communists" and "parasites".

"I would have loved to do a lot more," he said in a speech to the country's Congress.

He promised to build houses for 1.2 million Peruvians before he leaves office in 2011, and said increased investment would "change the social face of Peru".

Mr Garcia's popularity has dropped from 63% a year ago to 32%, a recent poll suggests.

He urged the US Congress to push ahead with a Free Trade Agreement with Peru, saying such a deal would help the poorest Peruvians.

So you can see how he's had such a precipitious drop--if you've got eyes, that is. Calling those who campaign for social justice "parasites" and "communists" is one sure way to lose popularity.

Another, less obvious, is to follow the money--to your own defeat. Foreign investment, so often touted as the economic panacea for underdeveloped nations, turns out to be the surest way to keep them poor and backward. Clearly, Garcia has learned nothing from the past, when he attempted to negotiate with the IMF and World Bank, and wound up with his tail between his legs.

What Garcia hasn't recognized yet that the "communists" and "parasites" have, is that investment takes out more money than it brings in. That is its nature. It was designed that way for a purpose: to make sure the foreign investors get richer while the poor locals get nothing but a diminishing return. And of course, their national coffers take a major hit. All the money that could go to things that truly build a country up, like universal healthcare and education, ends up down the toilet of debt servicing.

There is simply no negotiating with bankers unscrupulous enough to make such insane demands. The best thing to do with the IMF and World Bank is what Botswana did years ago--tell them to fuck off.

But I don't seriously expect Garcia to do that, or he'd have done it already. Instead, it's his fearsome counterparts in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador who are doing it.

Meanwhile, apologies won't put food on anyone's table.

July 27, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Happy Birthday, Chavecito!

What do you get the guy who's got...well, pretty much everything?

A nice trophy, like this replica of the Copa America?

Chavecito with a replica Copa America

Or maybe the key to the city of Managua?

Chavecito with the key to Managua

Or maybe this time it's just best-wishes-only?

Chavecito with well-wishers in Nicaragua

Well, whatever it is...tomorrow is Chavecito's birthday. Hope it's a happy one. And don't overdo it with the cake, ya big lug.

July 26, 2007

Bullshit is Bullshit

Ahem. To the tune of Depeche Mode's "People Are People":

CHORUS:

Bullshit is bullshit

So why should it be

I should give a fuck about what's on TV?

Bullshit is bullshit

So why should it be

I should listen to the drivel spewed at me?

Now the working day is ended, I turn on my TV

Hoping to see something good but what do I see?

More pundits and more gibberish, more sanitized views

Of something that could only loosely be called the news

I ain't got no clues

What makes the news

Such a fucking snooze

Please give me some clues

(CHORUS)

The news tonight is bomb threats and a terror alert

And Paris Hilton's lame attempts to banter and flirt

The president's an asshole and the veep is a dick

And the Botox in the water system's making us sick

I ain't got no clues

What makes the news

Such a fucking snooze

Please give me some clues

(CHORUS)

So I'm sitting on my sofa and I'm watching the tube

Wondering why in God's name do I feel like a boob

The news is superficial, it's all drama and hype

Why am I sitting up late just to watch so much tripe?

I ain't got no clues

What makes the news

Such a fucking snooze

Please give me some clues

(CHORUS)

I ain't got no clues

What makes the news

Such a fucking snooze

Please give me some clues

(repeat, fade)

July 25, 2007

More double talk from Alvaro

Contradictions between right-wing assertions and fact are such fun, especially when they're blatant. Check out, for example, the gulf between this assertion...

President Alvaro Uribe said Friday that Colombia's institutions are now free of infiltration and corruption by right-wing militias blamed for some of the nation's worst human rights abuses.

In a nationally televised address, Uribe said his government has "overcome paramilitarism."

"Today paramilitarism no longer exists because combat against leftist rebels is now, in practice, the exclusive work of our democratic institutions," Uribe declared in the speech to Congress marking Colombia's independence day.

...and this fact:

A group of jailed right-wing Colombian paramilitary leaders have indefinitely pulled out of the peace process.

They are protesting against a recent Supreme Court decision to try them as common criminals, rather than for political crimes.

As part of the country's controversial justice and peace law, they were entitled to special treatment.

[...]

Some 31,000 paramilitaries demobilized under a 2003 peace pact with Uribe's government, though an associated scandal has questioned its integrity.

Looks like paramilitarism is not so "overcome" after all. Those guys are the shit that will hit the fan the instant they leave jail. And you know what happens when shit hits a fan, don't you?

And I wouldn't be so sure the institutions of Colombia are clean now--need I remind you all of the connections between the president's own cousin, a senator, and the paramilitaries? Or those between the brother of the foreign minister and the paramilitaries? Not to mention the direct ties between the president himself and the paramilitaries? That's the scandal.

Frankly, I don't think Colombia will see an end to paramilitarism until two things happen: a leftist is elected, and everyone in his government is clean of all subversive ties. That ain't the case with Double-Talkin' Alvaro!

And this is who Harpo wants to forge free trade agreements with? Ugh. Why not just openly take up with a mafia don?

Bolivar Bolivariano...

An homage to the Liberator, on the 224th anniversary of his birth. The ballad is by Ali Primera.

Stupid Sex Tricks: How NOT to prevent AIDS

From Indonesia, an unfortunate meeting of First World technology with Third World thinking...

Lawmakers in Indonesia's Papua are mulling the selective use of chip implants in HIV carriers to monitor their behaviour in a bid to keep them from infecting others, a doctor said Tuesday.

John Manangsang, a doctor who is helping to prepare a new healthcare regulation bill for Papua's provincial parliament, said that unusual measures were needed to combat the virus.

"We in the government in Papua have to think hard on ways to provide protection to people from the spread of the disease," Manangsang told AFP.

What exactly is a monitoring chip supposed to do to stop AIDS, anyway? Will it pipe up to remind the infected carrier to use a condom when s/he is about to knock boots with a new partner? And if no condom is forthcoming, will it then bleep and shout "ATTENTION, ATTENTION, THIS PERSON HAS HIV, DO NOT SLEEP WITH THIS PERSON"? And if that warning goes unheeded, will it then send a distress call to the local Gestapo to haul the naughty fucker away to the nearest concentration camp?

July 23, 2007

Palestine is Still the Issue

John Pilger's documentary of several years ago is still relevant today:

Warning: extremely explicit and gruesome. Does not show the Israeli military in a good light, but in an honest one.

What really grabbed me here was how much the illegal Israeli settlement (in Palestinian territory!) looked like a concentration camp in reverse--there is an electric barbed wire fence around the perimeter, but the prisoners are outside, while the "guards" live in relative luxury within it. Why anyone would want to live in such a sterile jail is beyond me. But then again, the settlers seem locked in a prison mind-set of their own. It is exactly like South African apartheid (which, as Pilger notes in another documentary, is still far from dead).

What gives me hope about all this? The fact that some Israelis, even those who've lost relatives to Palestinian suicide bombers, are thinking this through--and coming to the hard truth that it takes an awful lot of despair to become a suicide bomber. And that those thinkers are growing in number. They are drawing the once-unacceptable conclusion that repression does not work--and in fact, will only spur more and more violent uprisings.

Truth first, and justice--and only then reconciliation will be possible.

July 21, 2007

Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre

A half-hour video exploring the use of napalm (which nobody calls it anymore, but which in fact it is) at Fallujah.

July 20, 2007

Fine young chickenhawks

Max Blumenthal infiltrates the College Republicans...

...none of whom will go fight "Them" over there so you won't have to fight "Them" here.

Aside from a surprising number of individuals with health problems (of an invisible nature, no doubt, since they all look fine to me--except for the several chubbies who would slim down fast in the event of a real war), there's the fact that there's a culture war going on here, and SOMEBODY's gotta fight it.

The fact that all this is at odds with BushCo's "fight Them over there so we won't have to fight Them over here" doctrine of pre-emptive war, somehow magically never occurs to these brain-trusters.

But hey, they're, like, very, like, patriotic, and, like, you know.

Oh, and they're definitely NOT gay. Isn't that just so, like, comforting?

Festive Left Friday Blogging: What Chavecito thinks of Dubya

Finally, Chavecito lets slip what he REALLY thinks of Mr. Danger:

Chavecito says Bush is loco!

See that gesture? That's another way of saying "he's muy loco in the coco!"

And considering all the nutty hijinks in the White House of late, can you blame Chavecito for this burst of frankness?

July 19, 2007

New low for neo-cons?

I think so. This screed by Bill Kristol is not only indescribably stupid, it generated 261 pages (and counting!) of critical comments.

How much longer before the PNAC gallery all commit seppuku? Or are they all so far beyond shame that such an option never occurs to them?

Well, whatchoo know 'bout dat?

I wonder what else about Gulf War II will prove to be fictitious.

A senior operative for al Qaeda in Iraq who was caught this month has told his U.S. military interrogators a prominent al Qaeda-led group is just a front and its leader fictitious, a military spokesman said on Wednesday.

Brigadier-General Kevin Bergner told a news conference that Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq, which was purportedly set up last year, did not exist.

The Islamic State of Iraq was established to try to put an Iraqi face on what is a foreign-driven network, Bergner said. The name Baghdadi means the person hails from the Iraqi capital.

Bergner said the information came from an operative called Khalid al-Mashadani who was caught on July 4 and who he said was an intermediary to Osama bin Laden.

He said Mashadani was believed to be the most senior Iraqi in the Sunni Islamist al Qaeda in Iraq network.

"In his words, the Islamic State of Iraq is a front organization that masks the foreign influence and leadership within al Qaeda in Iraq in an attempt to put an Iraqi face on the leadership of al Qaeda in Iraq," Bergner said.

U.S. military officials in recent weeks have been pressed to explain the link between al Qaeda in Iraq and bin Laden's global network given the military's heightened focus on al Qaeda in Iraq as the biggest threat to the country.

Hmmm...are they really sure al-Q itself is not a CIA/Karl Rove co-production? Because these guys have a funny way of "turning up" wherever there's oil that a certain Senor Arbusto would like to grab for his own.

And isn't it interesting, too, how BushCo always ratchets up the scare when there is something unsavory it has in its own pipes that it wishes to pass unnoticed?

BTW, they have done this with other countries, too. Venezuela has faced numerous accusations of harboring al-Q terror cells that have proved about as genuine as a $3 bill. Do I really need to tell you why? (Oh, what the heck...let Chavecito do it in his own words.)

I just wonder when they plan on announcing they've found al-Q cells in Alberta. Probably the day someone there decides to nationalize the tar sands.

I'm worried about my American friends...

...because this explains so much about what's wrong with the world they live in.

Rugged American individualism could hinder our ability to understand other peoples' point of view, a new study suggests.

And in contrast, the researchers found that Chinese are more skilled at understanding other people's perspectives, possibly because they live in a more "collectivist" society.

"This cultural difference affects the way we communicate," said study co-author and cognitive psychologist Boaz Keysar of the University of Chicago.

The study, though oversimplified compared to real life, was instructive. Keysar and his colleagues arranged two blocks on a table so participants could see both. However, a piece of cardboard obstructed the view of one block so a "director," sitting across from the participant, could only see one block.

When the director asked 20 American participants (none of Asian descent) to move a block, most were confused as to which block to move and did not take into account the director's perspective. Even though they could have deduced that, from the director's seat, only one block was on the table.

Most of the 20 Chinese participants, however, were not confused by the hidden block and knew exactly which block the director was referring to. While following directions was relatively simple for the Chinese, it took Americans twice as long to move a block.

"That strong, egocentric communication of Westerners was nonexistent when we looked at Chinese," Keysar said. "The Chinese were very much able to put themselves in the shoes of another when they were communicating."

The results are detailed in the July issue of the journal Psychological Science.

This might also explain why the Chinese (and Asians in general) have that reputation for being wily and inscrutable.

Above all, it tells me a lot about why Dubya can't seem to see his own errors. Maybe he literally doesn't!

Lord? Ha, ha.

One more comedown for Conrad Black, coming right up: NDP member of Parliament, Charlie Angus, has moved that he be stripped of his Snowflake.

"Your felony tarnishes the reputation of the Order of Canada, so end of story," Angus said in an interview yesterday.

"We need to maintain the integrity of the office. People who are chosen for the Order of Canada represent the best and the most noblest of our aspirations," he said.

Indeed, Black's original citation for the honour said his various business ventures "have enhanced Canada's visible presence internationally."

"Given the conviction in Chicago, that pretty well nullifies the original reason he was given the award," said Angus (Timmins-James Bay).

Out of the more than 5,500 Order of Canada honours awarded over the last 40 years, only two have been rescinded — aboriginal leader David Ahenakew for anti-Semitic comments and hockey czar Alan Eagleson after his conviction on fraud charges.

Links added.

I love Charlie Angus. Wish he were my MP. Unfortunately, I'm stuck with one of those Harper Tories--Rick Norlock.

Meanwhile, Angus is far from alone in his call for the stripping of the Order from Lord Black of the Big House:

The wheels are in motion to revoke Conrad Black's Order of Canada, which would make him only the third person in the history of the honour to lose membership in the elite club.

Marie-Paule Thorn, an information officer for Rideau Hall, confirmed Tuesday that the Chancellery of Honours has received requests to revoke Lord Black's membership in the Order of Canada, to which he was named an officer in 1990.

"People have written in," she said. "The situation is being monitored and the comments from the public are shared with the advisory council of the Order of Canada."

Edward Greenspan, a Toronto lawyer who represents Lord Black, called the move "indecent."

"Leaving apart [that] when someone is given an Order of Canada it's something that they have earned, I have my doubts about whether or not it should ever be taken away," he said.

"Minimally they must wait until the entire appeal process is completed."

Anyone can write to the chancellery requesting that an individual lose the Order, and criminal conviction is listed as grounds for consideration.

I should say that this is NOT "indecent", as the unpleasant Mr. Greenspan insists. Indeed, since Conrad Black is now a convicted felon, the only decent thing to do is yank the Snowflake as quickly as possible. He should have lost it years ago, when he first attempted to flout the 1919 law forbidding foreign titles to Canadians, then deserted his home and native land for a membership in the House of Lords; that was certainly not an enhancement of Canada's international presence. It was a slap in the face of every Canadian.

No, the truly indecent thing to do would be to let this kleptocrat keep the medal. That would be just one more in a long list of thefts on his part. And one more black mark (pun intended!) on Canada's increasingly Tory-blotted escutcheon.

July 18, 2007

An opportunity for Evo...

Will he take it? Story from Aporrea:

27 years after the bloody coup d'etat of Luis Garcia Meza, relatives of the victims are demanding that President Evo Morales declassify the archives of the State, the armed forces and the police, and demand that the criminals no longer be hidden "in the apparatus of power."

Human rights activists presented the Bolivian congress with a law project proposing the opening of those secret archives, along with the creation of a Commission for Truth and Justice in order to clarify facts and responsibilities concerning the violation of human rights between 1970 and 2005.

They referred to those actions "imputable to governments, constitutional and unconstitutional" which, according to records, amassed more than 10,000 victims of human rights violations, most of them during the military dictatorships of the 1960s and 70s.

The initiative comes from the People's Ombudsman, the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights of Bolivia, and other organizations, as a reminder that the Garcia Meza coup was part of Operation Condor, which co-ordinated the dictatorships of the Southern Cone as of the early part of 1971.

A government by, of and for the people "must do away with the impunity of military assassins and torturers", who killed 96 persons and tortured and disappeared 26, said Olga Flores, sister of the late parliamentary deputy Carlos Flores Bedregal, who fell victim to the same outbreak of violence in which the military shot dead the socialist leader Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz in front of the Bolivian Workers' Centre, during the Garcia Meza dictatorship.

On the 17th of July, 1980, Garcia Meza overthrew Lidia Gueiler and prevented the elected president, Hernan Siles Zuazo, from taking office.

Even though Garcia Meza is imprisoned at Chonchocoro for 30 years, his accomplices are still free. But the family of Carlos Flores has been at work since 1999 seeking justice for his killers, and persist in this despite numerous death threats.

Translation mine; links added.

This is a golden opportunity for Evo to really shine as a human rights leader in the region, and who knows what will happen if he does? A lot of previously immune killers, torturers and kidnappers could finally get their just deserts. And that means fewer Pinochet-like bastards living out their lives free and with impunity.

Let's hope Evo heeds the call!

Harpo's asinine strawman argument

You can't make this shit up.

Some South American countries are at a crossroads because they falsely believe their only choice is between socialism or the American style of capitalism, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday.

Speaking at the Canada-Chile Chamber of Commerce in Santiago, Chile, Harper said Canada will play a bigger role in Latin America and the Caribbean, but one that is different from what the United States plays.

"Too often some in the hemisphere are led to believe that their only choices are — if I can be so bold to say — to return to the syndrome of economic nationalism, political authoritarianism and class warfare, or to become, quote, just like the United States," Harper said, in what appeared to be a reference to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. "This is, of course, utter nonsense."

"Canada's very existence demonstrates that the choice is a false one. Canada's political structures differ substantially from those in the United States," said Harper, who is on a six-day, four-country tour of South America and the Caribbean.

"Our cultural and social models have been shaped by unique forces, and we've made our own policy choices to meet our own needs."

He said Canada and Chile are both models of free market economies that retain the independence of their social and political lives.

Bullshit, bullshit, and once again BULLSHIT!

Let's tackle the ass end of his argument first. Canada is NOT a "free market economy", it is a MIXED economy socialist state. And the so-called free markets are NOT free; anyone who's seen how tiny the oligarchy at the top of the food chain is, knows how unfree they are. It's not socialism that made them so, however; it's predator capitalism, which is now trying for an unprecedented level of control over the world that bids fair to make all government irrelevant.

Secondly, the unmentioned elephant in the room is what Harpo secretly fears as much as Dubya does, namely that other mixed-economy socialist work-in-progress, the ALBA. When those countries are done reforming their respective systems, they might end up with something a lot like Canada--single-payer healthcare, universal public education, and a social safety net that actually catches people before they hit the ground and go splat. But as in Canada, their tiny, whiny oligarchies will remain happily untouched. All they'll have to do is actually pay income taxes for a change, and be just as subject to the laws of the land as every common peon. Oh, the horror. The HORROR!

Thirdly, Harpo really should shut his pie-hole about the false dichotomy the Latin American countries face. It's not between "economic nationalism, political authoritarianism and class warfare, or to become, quote, just like the United States". Because when it comes to economic nationalism, political authoritarianism and class warfare, baby, the United States leads them all. They are nationalistic towards their own economy but "free-traders" when it comes to everyone else's, and to prop up this system they've been more than happy to install and support dictators wherever there is some resource for one of their corporations to vacuum up. Just ask any banana republic. If those countries wanted to become "just like the United States", the United States would declare war on them and squash them like so many cucarachas. That's why so many of those countries, like Chile for example, are still cowering in fear of another CIA-backed coup today. It is no sign of freedom to have an open-veins economy; it is a sign of oppression. It takes solid steel cojones (fuck brass) to stand up for one's country, and in solidarity with one's neighbors, as Chavecito, Evo and Rafael Correa are doing.

But then again, I'm not surprised by this. Harpo is engaging in a classic right-wing sleight of hand: it's patriotism for me, nationalism for thee. And of course, the former is always good, the latter always evil. It's never nationalism when "we" do it!

As for Canada playing a bigger role in Latin America but one different from the United States--well, I would hope to shout! The last thing they need down there is imperialism from us in addition to them. And make no mistake--"free trade" is just imperialism by another name.

What I don't hear a peep about from Harpo is the importance of setting a good example. Canada could so easily do that; our system is, after all, an early model of how a working socialist government could look. Tommy Douglas was the first elected socialist leader in North America. He is the father of everything from medicare to our unemployment-insurance system. He is also, by popular vote, our Greatest Canadian. What the ALBA leaders are all doing is essentially what Tommy Douglas did fifty years ago; to say they are following in his footsteps is both an accurate assessment and a major compliment. Yet Harpo snubs them and won't even breathe their names or that of Tommy Douglas; what a coward. Whom does he praise as models of democracy? The very countries who are still lagging behind because their politicos are not clear on the concept.

It seems that Harpo is not terribly good with concepts either, or else he'd recognize what a strawman argument he has constructed. Wouldn't be the first time he's done so, either. He has quite a habit of building them in his ongoing attempts to tear down everything that's good about Canada.

Grab your torches, folks, it's time to burn the scarecrow.

July 17, 2007

I am cringing as I type this

And why not? This is the most embarrassing show of prime-ministerial hubris I've seen in a while.

Stephen Harper became the first Canadian prime minister to visit Colombia this week, and dismissed criticism that Canada is putting trade ahead of human rights.

Colombia continues to struggle with Marxist guerrillas and a flourishing drug trade.

"When we see a country like Columbia that has decided it has to address its social, political and economic problems, it wants to embrace economic freedom, it wants to embrace political democracy and human rights and social development, then we say we we're in," Harper told reporters Monday in Bogota.

The prime minister went on to announce that Canada has started free-trade negotiations with Colombia, considered the most violent country in the western hemisphere, and Peru.

Oh great. Not one, but TWO countries with lousy leadership and dodgy human rights records. Both of whom, I might add, are currently embroiled in vast campaigns of repression for capitalism's sake. This is at least as arrogant and disgusting as the Spraypec incident, in which pro-democracy protesters got pepper-sprayed at the APEC summit attended by dictator Suharto of Indonesia. It was an affront to democracy that he set foot on Canadian soil, and even more of an affront that his presence was welcomed while protest against it was violently suppressed. Are we not a democracy anymore?

Shit, no. We're a capitalist-imperialist people-eater first and foremost. Didn't you get the memo?

Human rights and other non-governmental groups in Colombia were quick to attack the free-trade talks.

"Around the country we have 30,000 that have been detained or disappeared in last 10 years, three million internally displaced people; thousands have been killed," responded Lilia Solano, the director of Project Justice and Life.

"So how can someone say, 'OK, all this blood is running but business goes first.'"

She also criticized Harper for trading with a government allegedly linked to violent paramilitary squads.

"Sometimes the multinationals hire the army and they subcontract the paramilitaries, and this is a long history," she said.

Get a load of Stiffy's response to that:

"We're not going to say 'fix all your social, political and human rights problems, and only then will we engage in trade relations with you.' That's a ridiculous position."

Get that? We're officially not interested in seeing Colombia get serious about cleaning its own house. All that matters are trade relations. That's spelled M-O-O-L-A-H, kiddies.

I've blogged before on how trade with Colombia has not assuaged that country's problems one whit--and in fact, since reading Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America (highly recommended!), I've become all too aware that "free" trade is the problem, not the solution. The entire thing is rigged to favor the already rich, and further impoverish the already poor--and if you think such things are an accident, you are hopelessly naive and beyond help. There are no accidents in capitalism, least of all when it results in oppression. It is all by design, as this unhappy man makes all too clear:

Jairo Castillo Peralta should be a dead man, either from his former exploits as a paramilitary or his current role as a prolific snitch who has rocked Colombia's government, sending no less than eight corrupt lawmakers to prison.

Instead, the 39-year-old continues to work with investigators from the safety of his home near Quebec City to detail the shady links between politicians, wealthy landowners and the hired guns who have carried out their will over the years, often with deadly efficiency.

"I was a farmer and was forced to join the paramilitary group. I was with them, but under pressure," he said in a telephone interview translated by his wife, Clara. "It was to save my life and the lives of my family also."

It was in 1995 that the 27-year-old farmer was coerced into joining the local paramilitary group in his hometown of Antioquia, in the northern province of Cordoba. He was a chauffeur and a bodyguard and a liaison with government military forces in the area.

He claims not to have engaged in violence and never to have killed anyone, but he was witness to high-level meetings that, almost a decade later, would come back to haunt Colombia's right-wing leader, President Alvaro Uribe.

Among the lawmakers caught in the former foot soldier's net is the president's cousin, Senator Mario Uribe, who allegedly attended two 1998 meetings with the paramilitary, both attended by Castillo.

"The president's cousin asked them to kill the farm owners so that he would have land and all the power. It's that that he was looking for, power," he said.

See what I mean by design?

And by the way, the president he's talking about is the same one Harpo is all buddy-buddy with. The same one whose obvious shortcomings we are being asked to overlook in the name of Free Trade:

Repeated incidents of current and historic corruption, his militaristic fight against the left-wing guerrilla groups and an amnesty for paramilitaries that have terrorized the country for four decades prompted Democrats in the U.S. Congress to block a proposed free-trade deal between the two countries.

Citing concern about the continued violence, the impunity, lack of investigations and prosecutions of wayward politicians and admitted paramilitaries, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier this month that "there must first be concrete evidence of sustained results on the ground in Colombia."

"Issues of this nature cannot solely be resolved through language in a trade agreement," she said.

Jesus. If even the otherwise too timid Nancy Pelosi isn't backing down on this, what excuse do we have? There must really be a lot in it for us, if Stiffy is so willing to overlook the obvious democratic deficits of Colombia.

And exactly what is in it for Canada?

Apart from flowers and coffee, among the hottest of Colombian exports to Canada are refugees. Statistics show more than 4,500 were admitted to the country in 2006, making Colombia the largest source country for Canadian refugees.

Flowers, coffee, refugees...and unofficially, COCAINE. Yep, it's really solving Colombia's problems!

And it's sure bound to do wonders for Canada, too, at this rate. Hey, it's not as if our reputation couldn't stand a bit more tarnishing; after all, we're being left to clean up Dubya's poo-pile (and our soldiers are being killed over it at an ever increasing rate) in Afghanistan; we're now on al-Q's shit list; we not only failed to condemn the US-backed coup against Aristide in Haiti, we actively contributed to it. Shit, what's one more reason to hang our heads in shame? We've already got so many, I'm starting to lose count.

Therefore, on behalf of all Canadians, I apologize to my brothers and sisters in Latin America for our national nimrod. I didn't vote for him, obviously, and neither did most of us. A pity that this knowledge probably won't mitigate the screwing you're about to get if this goes the way Dubya, Stiffy Harper and Alvaro the Nasty, Brutish and Short want it to. Just please be aware that a solid, silent majority of Canadians do not want this any more than you do. And please, don't judge us by the idiots we have in power. Like you, we have less power over it than we really want. Let's make common cause against these bastards first--and when we are free, THEN let's talk trade. FAIR trade.

Luchemos unid@s. Hasta la victoria siempre.

I always suspected they existed...

...and I'm not happy to be proven right. But this probably explains a lot, especially on those conservatard boards. Where else would paid trolls come from, or go to make it look like the right-wing blogtoilet is bigger than it really is?

Hey guys, I see you. I'm onto you, and have been for a long time. Your site is hereby filed for future reference.

And if you try anything on this blog, or any board I'm on, prepare for scorched ass--YOURS.

Have a nice day.

July 16, 2007

30 years for Lord Fraudulent of No Fixed Address?

Oh, let us pray...

U.S. prosecutors are expected to ask that Conrad Black be given a virtual life sentence of at least 30 years in prison, sources familiar with the case told the Star, even though a government lawyer suggested in court last week that the 62-year-old fraudster might face 15 to 20 years behind bars.

A 12-member jury convicted him Friday on three counts of mail fraud and one count of obstruction. Each fraud count carries a maximum five-year sentence while the obstruction charge, related to Black's removal of documents from his Toronto office in May 2005 despite a court order to the contrary, carries a possible 20-year term.

Let's hope they decide to run those terms consecutively, with no time off for good behavior. (Conrad Black and "good behavior" just don't go together nohow!)

At a court hearing Friday to discuss bond and bail issues, assistant U.S. attorney Eric Sussman told Judge Amy St. Eve that the government considers Black to be a flight risk since "even in the most conservative estimate" he is facing 15 to 20 years behind bars.

Black has surrendered his British passport and will attend a hearing this Thursday when St. Eve will decide whether he must wait in prison for his Nov. 30 sentencing hearing, or alternatively, whether he can return to Toronto. The judge could order Black to remain in the United States until sentencing four months from now.

Let's pray they do THAT, too.

Above all, let us pray that it doesn't enter his head to do a Kenny Boy between now and that fateful day. Remember, Conny Boy is in the same age bracket. And he looks none too fit. He could very easily pop off with a few good steak dinners and some strategic neglect of any prescribed medication. That would be the ultimate in flight risks.

Things like this make me wish they'd give him a speedier sentencing:

In the months leading up to the four-month trial, then during the proceedings, Black has often been a lawyer's nightmare.

He scorned prosecutors for pursuing a case he called a "toilet seat" around their necks. Black called the four Jewish lawyers who formed the government's trial team "Nazis" and called the indictments against him "a smear campaign."

Genson said he didn't begrudge Black the chance to claim he was wrongfully convicted.

"I'd rather he didn't say anything but the guy has a right to defend himself," Genson said.

Last week, Black was photographed giving the finger at news media covering the trial.

"He's acting like a mob boss on trial rather than a CEO of a major corporation," former federal prosecutor Kirby Behre remarked shortly before the jury returned.

And at one point during the trial, St. Eve, who has discretion to decide Black's ultimate fate, called his lawyers into her chambers and said, "If you can't control him ... I'd be happy to do it."

Several white-collar crime experts agreed Black's incendiary comments out of court might hurt him at sentencing.

"Most judges don't take a shine to defendants who act like they shouldn't be there and treat the system with disdain," said Samuel Buell, a former prosecutor with the Enron Task Force.

"After all, the judge and a lot of other people believe they're working very hard to afford this person the benefits of arguably the fairest and most rights-respecting criminal justice system in the world," Buell said.

"It's understandable why people subjected to prosecution would be mad at the system, but no one likes an ingrate."

No one likes a robber baron, either.

Frankly, I can think of no better way to take the wind out of him than to sentence him as if he were no more than a common criminal--quickly, and with the shackles on. Treat him as if he were black (not Lord Black) and caught with crack (not a crack team of high-priced attorneys.)

After all, contempt of court deserves the contempt of the court, does it not?

Henry Rollins never relents

And in spite of the mechanical gestures and weird camera angles, he's still talking my language.

I think I'm in love.

Oh darn, there's that Peruvian tyrant again!

Alan's back, run!

(Translation: "Alan's back, let's get out of here!")

And now he's got the entire country on strike against him, not even one year after taking office for the second time in his very checkered career. This has got to be some kind of record.

Nationwide protests and a general strike have brought Peru to a near standstill over the last week.

Thousands of people in every major town and city took to the streets, and three people are reported to have been killed in clashes around the country.

The protests are widely seen as a show of disapproval with the government of President Alan Garcia.

They come just a fortnight before President Garcia completes his first year in office.

And look who else is rearing his head:

President Garcia appears to have inflamed the protests by launching insults at union leaders and dismissing them as left-wing radicals.

But the opposition leader, Ollanta Humala, and several MPs have also joined the demonstrations.

They accuse Mr Garcia of reneging on his campaign pledges and say social development and working conditions have not improved, despite Peru's booming economic growth.

Bet somebody's sorry now that they held their nose and voted for Garcia instead of Ollanta Humala when they had the chance!

Interestingly, the Beeb is still neglecting to mention that Alan Garcia has shut down opposing media outlets, something Chavecito is often accused of but has never in fact done. Oh well, I found something anyhow. And something else. And just for good measure, I found another interesting thing. And I also found evidence that Garcia, like so many of Chavecito's critics, is a big fat hypocrite.

Man, it's amazing what one can find if one only takes the trouble to look!

July 15, 2007

State Dept. ratchets up the crapaganda

Against whom? Oh, the usual suspect down in Venezuela.

A top U.S. State Department official criticized Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Thursday, decrying a "politics of fear and division" that impedes progress.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, on a one-day visit to Brazil, told reporters that most countries in the region agree that "the way forward is not through the politics of fear and division but democracy, social justice, poverty alleviation, trade, integration in the Americas and good relations with the United States."

"This is not in Chavez's agenda," said Burns, who later addressed the closing session of a U.S.-Brazil innovation conference.

But Burns also downplayed Chavez's influence in the region.

"Leaders tend to gravitate to other leaders who have a positive and constructive role," Burns said, naming Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Chile's Michelle Bachelet. "I could name 10 other leaders, but Chavez is not one of them."

Naturally, he said all this without actually going to Venezuela, without talking to anyone from there (the wealthy "exiles" in Miami and Washington don't count, as they are now gringos and have always aligned themselves economically with the gringos rather than their own country anyway), and without a shred of credible proof to back himself up.

This is all the more laughable when you consider the following:

Venezuelan unemployment dropped to 8.3 percent in June from 9.7 percent in the same month last year, the National Statistics Institute said on Friday.

The country's unemployment rate was 8.0 percent in May.

President Hugo Chavez's massive social spending in the OPEC nation has given the economy a boost and helped gradually lower unemployment, though 12-month inflation in June was the highest on the continent at 19.4 percent.

People, that is the best economic performance in Latin America. I defy any of Mr. Burns's pet presidentes to do better. Until they reach Chavecito's level of popularity, though, they probably won't get anywhere near his success rate, either. They need more seats in their respective parliaments before they can even start to make a dent in their nations' problems.

And one US-trained economist, now president of Ecuador, knows to appreciate as much:

Leftist Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has scored major victories over his rivals with a combative style similar to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, but he is much less of a radical when it comes to implementing policies.

Correa's tough anti-U.S. rhetoric and his battle against Ecuador's old-guard politicians have stirred concern in Washington that he is in Chavez's pocket and will join him in trying to push socialism to other South American countries.

Unlike Chavez, however, Correa does not have huge oil revenues to finance ambitious social programs and he needs to tread carefully in an unstable country where street protests have toppled three presidents in the last decade.

Uh, what the Reuters article isn't telling us is that Ecuador is unstable precisely because it has for so long been in the pocket of US economic interests in the region. And that at least one of those three previous presidents drummed out of office was stupid enough to do what the reporter is trying to intimate Correa must also do: campaign from the left, but reign from the right. Presumably, since Ecuador's oil reserves are nowhere near as big as those in the Orinoco region, he has no other choice.

Only it's not quite like that. Correa, remember, is an economist by training and profession. He has no intention of repeating the mistakes of his predecessor, Lucio Gutierrez--originally hailed (or reviled, depending who you ask) as "another Hugo Chavez". Gutierrez talked a good game on the hustings but flip-flopped under economic pressure once in office. That must never happen again.

For another thing, Ecuador's oil reserves are in fact vast. Some have even described them as rivaling those of the Middle East. (Venezuela's already outstrip the Middle East by far, if the Orinoco extra-heavy crude is factored in, as I feel it should be.)

If anyone has seen the reasons for the discrepancy between Ecuador's potential and its reality, it would be Rafael Correa. He has accurately diagnosed the IMF and World Bank as primary causes of the malaise, and is sending both packing. He is also taking cues from Chavecito, who is making sure more oil revenues stay within the country, and get put to work there. That's a radical departure from the past, and regardless of the dollar difference in oil revenues between Ecuador and Venezuela, it is every bit as significant for the former as for the latter. The hope that oil "investment" by the multinationals would bring economic development and prosperity to Ecuador has turned out to be one helluva pipe dream (pun intended). And if you need to know the reason why, I suggest you read John Perkins, who was essentially sent by the State Dept. to make sure exactly such a debacle occurred. And when the then president of Ecuador wouldn't go along, the CIA jackals were not far behind.

Meanwhile, Rafael Correa, no dummy, is watching the neighbors very closely. He knows that if he wants to succeed at his own post and make Ecuador's oil serve Ecuador, he must copy Chavecito's successes at making Venezuelan oil serve Venezuela (which are also, little by little, Evo's successes in making Bolivia's resources serve Bolivia). And that means overcoming a corrupt bureaucracy, an equally corrupt judicial system, and above all, the blandishments of the State Dept., which undoubtedly has economic hitmen in Ecuador right this moment.

The constitutional reforms taking place in Bolivia and Ecuador are first steps toward sovereignty and self-determination, just as the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela was the first step for Chavecito. Once a nation's constitution is rewritten by the people, for the people, it will finally become a constitution OF the people. Not by, of and for the foreign money. That is a key distinction here, folks.

And it is one that the State Dept., for all its talk of democracy, wilfully keeps missing. One wonders why.

PS: According to Aporrea, Rafael Correa is currently sitting at a very comfortable 63.5% popularity rating, six months into his term. The reason? His decision to start constitutional reforms, including public elections for a Constitutent Assembly to write the new document. Clearly, his taking leaves from Chavecito isn't hurting him one bit, and he looks very unlikely to follow Lucio Gutierrez into the political boneyard anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Chavecito's own popularity is at a staggering 70%, according to a survey cited by Aporrea. Talk about a guy who must be doing SOMETHING right.

Dominionist bigotry at its ugliest

Yep, you know you've got religious freedom when the fundies feel free to disrupt the first-ever Hindu prayer opening a session of the US Senate.

July 14, 2007

Cindy Sheehan swats a flying monkey

Looks like Fucker Carlson. Talks like an inbred. Believes all the shit Bush shovels at him. Won't serve even though he can.

Ewwwwwww.

Rudy Giuliani's urban legend

New York firefighters (and bereaved relatives of dead firefighters) shatter the myth of the then mayor's "heroism" on 9-11:

The terrible truth is, Giuliani did not even meet the minimum standards of acceptable conduct. The non-functioning radios that cost over 300 brave souls from the FDNY their lives are just the tip of the iceberg. The disposal of their bodies in the Fresh Kills "landfill" (that's a garbage dump in plain English!) and the strange business with the Scotiabank gold (worth more than firefighters, dead or alive?) is certainly damning.

Any Repug who thinks he can run on his 9-11 record can now think again. The party that made 9-11 the disaster it was, from start to finish, should frankly be buried in Fresh Kills along with all those firefighters.

July 13, 2007

Conrad Black: Guilty! Guilty!! Guilty!!!

It's Fitzmas in July...in Chicago and Canada.

Media tycoon Conrad Black has been convicted of three charges of fraud and one of obstructing justice.

Black, 62, was cleared of racketeering and tax evasion but could face 35 years in jail when sentenced on 30 November. His lawyers said he would appeal.

He was facing 13 charges over claims he stole $60m (£29.5m) from investors in newspaper firm Hollinger International, which used to own the Daily Telegraph.

The Chicago jury also convicted three of the UK peer's associates of fraud.

Judge Amy St Eve adjourned Black's bail proceedings until Thursday to allow his defence team to consult Canadian lawyers. Black was allowed to remain free on a $21m bond.

He also handed over his UK passport to the court and will remain in the Chicago area until next week.

Heh. This time he can't bugger off to Bora Bora on a Hollinger private jet, either.

Hey Conrad, does your Savile Row tailor do orange coveralls? Might be worth looking into. After all, your next big vacation destination is not Club Fed!

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Evo Morales is WHAT?

No...seriously? You don't say.

Evo covered in phallic symbols

I would never have guessed it in a million years. I mean, it's not as if he's covered in phallic symbols or anything.

July 12, 2007

Pirates of the Great North?

Well, actually...no. Michael Geist and Daniel Albahary explain why Canada is NOT a pirating country:

...and lay out who's REALLY behind those bogus charges and cries of rip-off. (Surprise, surprise: it's Big Industry. AGAIN.)

July 11, 2007

Ratzi puts his Prada-clad foot in it again

Yikes.

Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.

Benedict approved a document from his old offices at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that restates church teaching on relations with other Christians. It was the second time in a week the pope has corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that modernized the church.

On Saturday, Benedict revisited another key aspect of Vatican II by reviving the old Latin Mass. Traditional Catholics cheered the move, but more liberal ones called it a step back from Vatican II.

Benedict, who attended Vatican II as a young theologian, has long complained about what he considers the erroneous interpretation of the council by liberals, saying it was not a break from the past but rather a renewal of church tradition.

One-True-Wayism--lovely.

This is why I am not a Catholic, and in fact is the source of all my trouble with Christianity as currently constituted. Telling people they will never be "truly saved" unless they join your cult is not only cruel, it's a lie. The only thing we need saving from is our own stupidity, and the only way to do that is to use our heads. In fact, one of Vatican II's own documents says pretty much that. How could Pope Ratzi miss this?

9. We must get to know the outlook of our separated brethren. To achieve this purpose, study is of necessity required, and this must be pursued with a sense of realism and good will. Catholics, who already have a proper grounding, need to acquire a more adequate understanding of the respective doctrines of our separated brethren, their history, their spiritual and liturgical life, their religious psychology and general background. Most valuable for this purpose are meetings of the two sides--especially for discussion of theological problems--where each can treat with the other on an equal footing--provided that those who take part in them are truly competent and have the approval of the bishops. From such dialogue will emerge still more clearly what the situation of the Catholic Church really is. In this way too the outlook of our separated brethren will be better understood, and our own belief more aptly explained.

10. Sacred theology and other branches of knowledge, especially of an historical nature, must be taught with due regard for the ecumenical point of view, so that they may correspond more exactly with the facts.

It is most important that future shepherds and priests should have mastered a theology that has been carefully worked out in this way and not polemically, especially with regard to those aspects which concern the relations of separated brethren with the Catholic Church.

That last paragraph is particularly noteworthy. Funny how Ratzi missed it, or rather, is blatantly ignoring it. What is there NOT polemical about saying, in effect, "You are not real Christians. You won't be saved unless you come back to Rome, bow down and kiss my hem"?

The sad irony of it is, the Church went down this road LONG before Vatican II. In fact, the very first of the "separated brethren", Martin Luther, never intended to organize a separate church, but to correct the glaring errors he saw in the Church of his day from within it. He nailed 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral in the year 1517 CE, thinking to spur a debate and, ultimately, reform of what was undoubtedly a greedy, corrupted, labyrinthine church. He was lucky to get a hearing rather than a beheading for his pains, but the outcome was never in doubt: the Church wanted him to take it all back. And that was not Luther's intent. "I cannot and will not recant," he said.

The rest is history.

Meanwhile, it's clear to me that Ratzi would like to drag the world back to where it was right before Luther opened his yap. Namely, the ass-end of the Middle Ages, in which no one was permitted to question the Official Version and get away with his skin intact. And if that's not a big mistake, think of how riddled with errors the Church of the day was. Galileo proved this so conclusively that even today, traditionalists are still spinning their wheels trying to prove that the church was right after all. (And yes, Ratzi too is grinding his gears over that.)

The Official Ratzinger Version of Everything (TM) also contains such laughable lapses as this:

On May 13, while speaking to Latin American and Caribbean bishops, the pope demonstrated an amazing ignorance of the history of the violent cultural and religious oppression of indigenous peoples in the New World by European Christians. Benedict stated that the native people had been "silently longing" for Christ and were seeking God "without realizing it." He said that their conversion was not a conquest but an "adoption" that made "their cultures fruitful, purifying them…. "

Benedict further demonstrated his misunderstanding of the "civilization" and massacres of natives in North, Central and South America when he stated that the church had not imposed itself on indigenous peoples, that Christianity had not been detrimental to their way of life.

"In effect," he said, "the proclamation of Jesus and of his Gospel did not at any point involve an alienation of the pre-Columbus cultures, nor was it the imposition of a foreign culture."

Funny, the indigenous peoples of Latin America sure don't feel that way. Evo Morales, a full-blooded native, doesn't agree. Neither does Chavecito, who is part "Indian" and all proud of it. And of course, let's not forget those who had to endure this indignity on their own turf--the Brazilian Indios.

In fact, a good hard look at the Vatican's history itself contradicts Ratzi's wishful-thinking version:

Religious institutions have excused, aided and abetted crimes throughout history. Indeed, the church has much to atone for. There are three bulls (edicts, or executive orders, if you will) issued by the Papacy with which we should concern ourselves. The Dum Diversas, issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1452, authorized King Alfonso V of Portugal to reduce any "Saracens (Muslims) and pagans and any other unbelievers" to perpetual slavery, thereby ushering in the West African slave trade.

The Romanus Pontifex, also issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1455, sanctioned the seizure of non-Christian lands, and encouraged the enslavement of non-Christian people in Africa and the Americas. Specifically, it gave the green light to "invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed," all for profit, and in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Inter Caetera, signed by Pope Alexander VI in 1493, states, "... we (the Papacy) command you (Spain) ... to instruct the aforesaid inhabitants and residents and dwellers therein in the Catholic faith, and train them in good morals." This papal law sanctioned and paved the way for European colonization and Catholic missions in the New World.

These three edicts opened the floodgates for everything that followed, the raping, pillaging, kidnapping, genocide and enslavement of millions. They established the groundwork for the global slave trade of the 15th and 16th centuries, and the Age of Imperialism.

Ouch.

If the Pope could get such basic theological history wrong, one wonders what other highly, er, unique interpretations of historical Vatican documents he has up his expensively tailored sleeves.

And it's not just indigenous peoples who've suffered the slings and arrows of Pope Ratzi's outrageous blundering:

In his speech at Regensburg University, the German-born Pope explored the historical and philosophical differences between Islam and Christianity, and the relationship between violence and faith.

Stressing that they were not his own words, he quoted Emperor Manuel II Paleologos of the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Christian empire which had its capital in what is now the Turkish city of Istanbul.

The emperor's words were, he said: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Benedict said "I quote" twice to stress the words were not his and added that violence was "incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul".

"The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application," he added in the concluding part of his speech.

"Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today."

Dialogue, eh? As I see it, Pope John XXIII strove to open the door for reform, modernization and honest dialogue; Ratzi has never missed an opportunity to slam it shut, despite all his protestations to the contrary. If you doubt me, get a load of what he did as grand inquisitor.

His record includes:

•Theologians disciplined, such as Fr. Charles Curran, an American moral theologian who advocates a right to public dissent from official church teaching; Fr. Matthew Fox, an American known for his work on creation spirituality; Sr. Ivone Gebara, a Brazilian whose thinking blends liberation theology with environmental concerns; and Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, a Sri Lankan interested in how Christianity can be expressed through Eastern concepts;

•Movements blocked, such as liberation theology and, more recently, religious pluralism (the drive to affirm other religions on their own terms);

•Progressive bishops hobbled, including Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle, reproached by Rome for his tolerance of ministry to homosexuals and his involvement in progressive political causes, and Bishop Dom Pedro Casaldáliga of Sao Félix, Brazil, criticized for his political engagement beyond the borders of his own diocese;

•Episcopal conferences brought to heel on issues such as inclusive language and their own teaching authority;

•The borders of infallibility expanded, to include such disparate points as the ban on women's ordination and the invalidity of ordinations in the Anglican church.

That last one really gets my goat. Since when is any man infallible, least of all one who so blatantly insists on perpetuating old fallacies that were debunked--one should have thought--long ago? And what gives him the right to declare himself infallible when his own fallibility keeps popping so inconveniently to the fore?

The best road to progress, if Ratzi is really serious about it as he claims to be, is not to step back (with the possible exception of revoking Pius IX's dreadful doctrine of infallibility, the one step backward I'd be in wholehearted agreement with.) It is to accept that Vatican II was, like it or not, a call to move forward.

And yes, Ratzi, that means using your feet for something other than inserting into your mouth--or for filling those extravagant ruby slippers from Prada.

July 9, 2007

Bush Over a Barrel

Greg Palast takes a trip to Venezuela and gets a load of Chavecito:

And what a load it is. Don't miss the appearance of Eva Golinger, who's been doing excellent work uncovering the State Dept. and the CIA's interference in Venezuela!

We think you're crazy

Americans' real duty to the people of Iraq

Dr. Dahlia Wasfi, a Jewish/Iraqi American, lays it out clear as can be:

"Our soldiers don't sacrifice for duty, honor, country--they sacrifice for Kellogg, Brown & Root."

July 8, 2007

Quotable: Albert Einstein on capitalist tyranny

"Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital, the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights."

--Albert Einstein, "Why Socialism?", Monthly Review, 1949

July 7, 2007

FBI: J'accuse!

Puerto Rican reggaeton group, Calle 13, calls out the FBI for the cold-blooded murder of Puerto Rican independence activist Filiberto Ojeda Rios.

There is no more blatant expression of imperialism than when the federal police of the United States show up in full SWAT drag in a foreign country, and kill its most prominent independence fighter on the very anniversary of the day that country rose up against another imperial nation. Some call it a botched arrest attempt, but if that were true, they wouldn't have left him to bleed to death for 12-15 hours from what need not have been a fatal wound. They would have taken him right then and provided him with medical attention. He might still be a prisoner today--but he would be alive.

Did the FBI take up openly what the CIA does covertly? I do believe it did.

July 6, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Hmmmm, nice sabre!

On his recent trip to Russia, Chavecito got a warm welcome, complete with a Cossack sabre...

Chavecito with a Cossack sabre

...whose heft and balance he seems to be checking here. Will it do for hacking through a jungle of archaic, backward legislation that's still holding his country back? Let's hope so.

July 5, 2007

Greg and Bobby's excellent presentation

Greg Palast (of the BBC) and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (of Air America radio) dissect the ills of America today, in a meeting in New York on May 1 of this year:

Greg unravels how the Republican Party destroyed democracy in the United States, while Bobby explains the need for reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, rips corporatism, and diagnoses the diseases of the major media (which are also infecting Canada, albeit on a somewhat lower level--but still alarming.)

Worth quoting from Bobby: "80% of Republicans are just Democrats who don't know what's going on!"

Well worth an hour of your time...after all, what's on TV? Glorified game shows? Paris Hilton's latest stupidities? That diaper-wearing NASA astronaut/stalker getting her panties in a bunch?

Two fresh bombshells on the Keystone Koup of 2002

First, there's this little gem from La Hojilla, VTV's excellent news-dissection show:

...in which the host, Mario Silva, has great fun at the expense of two journalists. One, Mayela Leon, is from the anti-Chavez news channel Globovision; the other is from Venevision, also an oppositionist channel. Leon is particularly dumb in the way she incriminates her employers, not to mention herself. She admits that her station was complicit in the coup; however, she makes an absurd claim: that the ten coup-mongering military commanders didn't name in advance how many deaths had happened as a result of the staged violence on April 11. (In fact, the "trial" recording made by CNN's correspondent, Otto Neustadt, quite specifically shows they pegged the toll as "six dead and dozens injured"!)

Silva is particularly amused at how a set of microwave equipment owned by the Venezuelan people--namely, the transmission towers on Mt. Avila--was made to serve not the people, but the coup. Since the collaborating "journalists" (and by now, that term should ONLY be applied to them in the loosest sense) used public property in a coup d'etat against a democratic leader, that makes them guilty of treason. RCTV has already paid the price for its role in that high crime. Globovision and Venevision, however, are still on the air, even though both are no less at fault. (When do their licences come up for renewal, BTW? Anyone who knows, please drop me a comment--thanks.)

Then there's this:

Patricia Poleo, rabid opposition "journalist" (again, note those snarky little quotation marks) confesses that the commercial media all showed up at the presidential palace on April 12, the day after the coup, to receive instructions from the new "government" (again, note quotes) on how to slant their news. The order: no pro-Chavez anything. No word on the massive protests mobilized to bring Chavez back. No word on the fact that most of the military was not behind the rebel officers. Only pro-coup, pro-Carmona news allowed.

And when the coup was obviously falling apart like a well-ripened Roquefort cheese? Then they were under orders to show no news at all. Only movies and cartoons.

The people, in other words, had no right to be informed, only mindlessly "entertained"--if not propagandized and lied to at every turn.

Yeah, tell me those "journalists" were objective. Yeah, tell me that the non-renewal of RCTV's licence was an affront to free speech. Yeah, yeah--blah, blah. Exactly what was the media's complicity in this antidemocratic act, if not the worst attack on free speech since Hitler illegitimately seized power in Germany--or Bush illegitimately seized power in the US? Shit, this is the exact sort of thing one would have expected to see in the old Soviet Union--but most certainly not a newly "free and democratic" (again, note quotes) Venezuela!

So, where are those "democratic free-speech advocates" now, when it's been revealed beyond all doubt that your heroes are liars? Let's hear from you, if you have anything worthwhile to say. I promise that I will publish every stupid thing you say, unedited--in the name of free speech, of course.

July 4, 2007

Quotable: Harry S. Truman on the CIA

"For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the government...I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak-and-dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment that I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda."

--Former US president Harry S. Truman, interviewed by the Washington Post, December 21, 1963

So nice to know so little has changed!

Oh Brazil. I thought this sort of thing was supposed to have ended...in 1888!

More than 1,000 labourers have been freed in Brazil by the government's anti-slavery team.

They were said to be working in inhumane conditions on a sugar cane plantation in the Amazon.

An ethanol-producing company which owns the plantation has denied allegations of abusing the workers.

Human rights and labour organisations believe that between 25,000 to 40,000 people could be working in conditions akin to slavery in Brazil.

Many farmers in the Amazon region who incur debts are forced to work virtually for free in order to repay the money they owe.

This is a situation eerily similar to that described by Eduardo Galeano in his book, Open Veins of Latin America--published in 1971:

The Brazilian Northeast is today the most underdeveloped area in the Western hemisphere. As a result of sugar monoculture it is a concentration camp for 30 million people--on the same soil that has produced the most lucrative business of the colonial agricultural economy in Latin America. Today less than a fifth of Pernambuco's humid zone is used for growing sugar; the rest is not used at all. The big sugarmill owners, who are also the biggest planters of cane, permit themselves this luxury of waste. It is not in the Northeast's arid and semi-arid interior that food conditions are worst, as is erroneously believed. The sertao, a desert of stones and sparse vegetation, has periods of hunger when the scorching sun produces drought and the semblance of a lunar landscape, forcing the people to flee and sowing crosses along the roadsides. But in the humid littoral--that coastal fringe still so ironically known as the "forest zone" in tribute to the remote past and to the pitiful remnants of forestation surviving from centuries of sugar--hunger is endemic. Where opulence is most opulent, there--in this land of contradictions--misery is the most miserable; the region nature chose to produce all foods, denies all. The sugar latifundio, a structure built on waste, must still import food from other areas, particularly from the centre and south, at escalating prices. The cost of living in Recife is the highest in Brazil, well above Rio de Janeiro. Beans cost more in the Northeast than in Ipanema, the capital city's most luxurious beach resort. The price of half a kilo of manioc starch equals the wage an adult sugar-plantation worker recieves for working from sunrise to sunset: if he complains, the foreman summons the carpenter to measure the man for the length and breadth of the boards that will be needed. In large areas the owner's or administrator's "right of the first night" for each girl is still effective. A third of Recife's population lives in miserable hovels; in one district, Casa Amarela, more than half the babies die before they are a year old. Child prostitution--girls of ten or twelve years old sold by their parents--is common in Northeastern cities. Some plantations pay less for a day's work than the lowest wage in India.

[...]

Like sugarcane, cacao means monoculture, the burning of forests, the dictatorship of international prices, and perpetual penury for the workers. The plantation owners, who live on the Rio de Janeiro beaches and are more businessmen than farmers, do not permit a single inch of land to be devoted to other crops. Their managers normally pay wages in kind--jerked beef, flour, beans; when paid in cash, the peasant receives the equivalent of a litre of beer for a whole day's work, and must work a day and a half to buy a can of powdered milk.

[...]

Today Sao Paulo is the most developed state in Brazil, containing thte country's industrial centre, but its coffee plantations still teem with "vassal inhabitants" who pay rent for their land with their and their children's toil. In the prosperous post-World War I years the coffee growers' voracity virtually ended the system under which plantation workers could grow food crops on their own. Now they can only do it by paying rent in the form of wageless labor.

This is the situation we see at work right now. I feel like we're living in a time warp when I read things like this. And I sure hope Lula can kick the Brazilian senate's collective ass to see that something gets done.

However, I also know just how a certain pundit would fart it...

What Bill Oh-Really would say to Lincoln about slavery today

...if this were 150 years ago.

July 3, 2007

Flying witches in Mexico?

Personally, I think it looks like a balloon...or a scrunched-up black garbage bag full of helium. People, I am a Witch, and if I want to fly, I have to do it by plane--the same as everyone else!

July 2, 2007

Bandar bin Bush is in trouble...

Plus, his sickly expensive house is still on the market.

The Aspen, Colorado home of Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan is still up for sale, one year after it was given the biggest price tag in US history.

The Hala Ranch has a price tag of $135m (£67m), which made it the most expensive single family home in the US.

The main residence has 15 bedrooms and 16 bathrooms and at 56,000 square feet it is bigger than the White House.

It also features its own hair and beauty salon, an indoor swimming pool, steam room, gym, and heated stables.

The estate has its own water treatment plant, garage facilities including petrol pumps and a car wash and extensive security facilities.

It is located in a fashionable ski resort that has been the home to many celebrities.

But the housing slowdown in the US seems to be causing problems for even the richest of house sellers, as the house has been on the market for a considerable period of time.

But...butbutbut...I thought the Bush Crime Family was supposed to be good for the economy.

Well, yeah. It was. For a certain sector of the economy, anyway...

The BBC and the Guardian newspaper say that BAE Systems made payments worth hundreds of millions of pounds to Prince Bandar as part of the Al-Yamamah arms deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia in the 1980s.

...namely, the arms huckster sector. (Links added.)

Now we know how Bandar bin Bush managed to be able to afford such a fucking outrageous crib.

One only wonders if BAE feels it got value for its money.

The EU--who knew?

Would you believe this is a PSA?

Holy. Mother. Of. GOD.

July 1, 2007

Quotable: Paul Waldman on progressives

"Progressives do not lack for policy experts or committed activists. What they need is an infrastructure whose purpose is not fighting conservatives on this or that issue but battling conservatism itself."

--Paul Waldman, "Being Right is Not Enough"