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August 31, 2007

The War on Democracy

John Pilger's latest. Runs an hour and a half.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Manu Chao in Chiapas

"Radio Bemba", with special guest appearance by the EZLN (Zapatista) guerrillas.

August 30, 2007

Stupid Sex Tricks: We are not amused

Some people just pop a Viagra. Some pop a...well, a popper. This guy decided to pop the weasel in a less than appropriate location.

A couple having sex on a "Super Spiral" ride at York's Wild Kingdom "horrified" a mother with young children who witnessed the act at "Maine's largest zoo and amusement park," say police.

As a result, Adrian Levy, 26 — a native of Jamaica and amusement park employee — is charged with one count of indecent conduct, said York Police Sgt. Tom Baran.

Wild Kingdom general manager Amy Wheeler said Levy, a ride operator, was simply "dirty dancing with a girl" and was not charged by police on amusement park grounds. He was however, fired immediately and sent home, she said.

Police were called to the Route 1 amusement park the evening of August 24 and after interviewing witnesses, charged Levy, who is in the country on a work visa, with the class E misdemeanor. Baran said the park was open for business when the alleged crime occurred and officers charged only Levy because "he's an employee, she's not."

Both are adults and the act was consensual, said Baran.

"The complainant had young children who observed the incident," said the police sergeant. "It is a serious incident, it's very inappropriate and it's against the law."

I love how they mention that he's Jamaican. As if that had anything to do with the price of tea in China!

August 29, 2007

An uppity woman rears her fair head

Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Dr. Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia and winner of this week's Buzzflash "Wings of Justice" award:

I am writing to inform you that I am returning my Presidential Citation dated 2/02/06 and awarded to me by then President of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Gerald Koocher. I have struggled for many months with this decision, and I make it with pain and sorrow. I was honored to receive this award and proud to be a member of APA. Over the years, I have spoken at national conventions many times and had enjoyed an excellent relationship with the APA and its staff. With this letter, I feel as if I am ostracizing a good friend.

I do not want an award from an organization that sanctions its members' participation in the enhanced interrogations at CIA Black Sites and at Guantanamo. The presence of psychologists has both educated the interrogation teams in more skillful methods of breaking people down and legitimized the process of torture in defiance of the Geneva Conventions.

The behavior of psychologists on these enhanced interrogation teams violates our own Code of Ethics (2002) in which we pledge to respect the dignity and worth of all people, with special responsibility towards the most vulnerable. I consider prisoners in secret CIA-run facilities with no right of habeas corpus or access to attorneys, family or media to be highly vulnerable. I also believe that when any of us are degraded, all of human life is degraded. This letter is as much about us as it is about prisoners.

What was that all about? Well, Dr. Pipher was registering her protest against a serious ethical breach in the best way she knew: by returning an award given her by an organization tainted by its part in the torture scandals of BushCo.

As anyone who's ever been scarred for life by it knows, mental torture is far worse than the physical kind. You can recover from physical injuries much sooner.

And kudos to Dr. Pipher for pointing that out!

August 28, 2007

Well, that didn't take long...

Looks like that whole immunity-for-ex-paramilitaries thing isn't working out so well in Colombia. Whatta surprise:

A US court has requested the extradition of former Colombian paramilitary boss Carlos Jimenez.

The move comes a few days after Jimenez, alias Macaco, was stripped of his preferential prison treatment afforded to demobilised fighters.

Colombia said Jimenez violated a peace agreement by continuing to organise cocaine shipments and run a criminal empire from prison.

Jimenez is wanted in the US on drug trafficking charges.

On Friday, Jimenez was transferred to Colombia's most secure prison, Combita, to be tried as an ordinary criminal.

He is the first jailed warlord to lose benefits agreed under a 2003 peace deal which led paramilitary leaders to surrender and demobilise 31,000 of their men in exchange for reduced jail terms and extradition protection.

It wouldn't be the first time that this ill-conceived scheme backfired, either. In fact, from the outset, this plan has been fraught with dreadful embarrassments. Even the green-fuels movement has been tainted by paramilitary violence and deal-breaking. Pretty soon biodiesel will replace marching powder as Colombia's most murderous export. (Hey, Terra-Free Fuel Fools, are you paying attention?)

Now, add that to the ongoing para-politics scandal in Colombia, and you can see that any offer of immunity (or impunity) to hardened professional thugs is somewhat of a bad idea, hmmm?

But it isn't nearly as bad an idea as re-electing Alvaro Uribe yet again. The first time he jacked the ballot box might be diplomatically called a hideous mistake, the second a sinister coinkidink. Vez numero tres will be proof positive that a fix is in, and that the corruption and impunity of the Colombian right both go all the way to the top (and beyond.) Don't forget that this pile of poop fell out of his baby's diapers. (Ever wonder why he conceived that bastard in the first place?)

It's like what Eric of BoRev.net said--Uribe's move to eliminate term limits and consolidate his own less than legitimate power is just fine 'n' dandy with the same tame US (and UK) media that constantly castigate a certain truly popular, democratic Venezuelan leader for doing the exact same thing. (Well, except for the part about legitimacy, of course.) You'd almost think they had an agenda, or something.

What sickens me, though, is the sheer bullshittery of all the Uribe apologia I've seen in the press. And the lack of deeper digging or closer scrutiny. (Yes, WaHoPo, I'm talking to you. And your syndicated columnists, too.) Why, for example, do things like this not get so much as a bat of the eyelash?

A failure in Washington would nevertheless be a blow to Uribe. Throughout his tenure he has gotten intimately involved in bringing foreign investors to his stigmatized country. "I have worked all my life with the private sector," he says, "and I consider that the state is the most important private enterprise."

The state as private enterprise? As in fascism? Only a bidness rag would dream of spinning such a blatantly antidemocratic remark as a positive plus, one would think. Well, that's how it used to be. Now, the mainstream media have all adopted that, er, unique approach. But anyone with more than a reptilian hindbrain realizes that a democratic state belongs to the people, and that its elected head is a public servant--or ought to be.

Just how much of this will the lamestream media have to get their noses rubbed in before they finally admit that this pencil-necked geek isn't worth propping up anymore?

August 27, 2007

Oh no, now they're provoking thought!

The Montreal Gazette is shocked, SHOCKED that what I've long known--that it's never a riot till the cops show up to get the violence started--might actually be true:

Every time protesters gather at such meetings - notably at Seattle in 1999, Quebec City and Genoa in 2001 and Miami in 2003 - there are rumours of state-paid agents provocateurs whose job is to tar non-violent protesters with a reputation for violence and anarchy.

Thanks to the SQ [Surete de Quebec], these rumours will now take on new life and credibility. The SQ officers were got up like members of Black Bloc, a loosely organized group that first came to North American attention in 1999 in Seattle when they smashed storefronts of stores like Gap, Starbucks and Old Navy during the anti-World Trade Organization demonstrations.

While Black Bloc has done a great deal to undermine more serious and legitimate protests, now the SQ has done the Black Bloc an unexpected and undeserved favour: Because of Montebello, fair-minded people might now be tempted to conclude the people they thought were hooligans could eventually turn out to be police undercover officers.

Oh noooooo, now the sheeple might wake up to the fact that this happens all the time. And that the violence serves a very convenient purpose: to discredit a legitimate, democratic protest movement and provide a pretext for fascistic crackdowns on anyone who doesn't buy what global capitalism is selling.

What next--sheeple learning to think, and question authority? And also to question any other frequently propagated media myths about the politics of the left?

O, the humanity!

Stupid Sex Tricks: More AIDS ignorance in New Guinea

This is what happens when you don't educate the public enough about AIDS.

Some AIDS victims are being buried alive in Papua New Guinea by relatives who cannot look after them and fear becoming infected themselves, a health worker said Monday.

Margaret Marabe, who spent five months carrying out an AIDS awareness campaign in the remote Southern Highlands of the South Pacific nation, said she had seen five people buried while still breathing.

One was calling out "Mama, Mama" as the soil was shoveled over his head, said Marabe, who works for a volunteer organisation called Igat Hope, Pidgin English for I've Got Hope.

"One of them was my cousin, who was buried alive," she told reporters.

"I said, 'Why are they doing that?' And they said, 'If we let them live, stay in the same house, eat together and use or share utensils, we will contract the disease and we too might die.'"

Okay, this is just wrong on so many levels. First, AIDS isn't highly contagious; you need either sex or blood-to-blood contact to spread the virus. Second, people with AIDS stand a far greater chance of becoming sick themselves from shared utensils, etc., than well people ever would of contracting the virus.

This is just one more shocking example of how ignorance is worse than the disease itself. I wonder what these people would say if they found out that they are a greater danger to their sick relatives than vice versa!

9-11 Press For Truth

With Spanish subtitles.

Try to keep your eyes dry.

August 24, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Evo gets nominated

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy:

Bolivian author Nestor Taboada ("Tierra Martir - Martyr Land") stressed the importance of Bolivian President Evo Morales' candidature for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize does justice to all Latin American farmers, poor people and indigenous communities.

"Evo Morales is at the same level as Benito Juarez or Nelson Mandela," he said.

Taboada said he proposed this recognition for Evo Morales to the Nobel Foundation on February 7, 2006, and 1980 Nobel Peace Prizewinner Adolfo Perez Esquivel presented the official candidature in December 2006.

The initiative has been supported by different personages, social movements and organizations in defense of human rights, including 1992 Nobel Peace Prizewinner Rigoberto Menchu (Guatemala).

Among those supporting Morales' candidature are writers Eduardo Galeano and Mario Benedetti (Uruguay), Italian philosopher Toni Negri, French activist Jose Bove, and former Sandinista Nicaraguan Foreign Affairs Minister Miguel D'Escoto and Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff.

Or a nicer looking one, come to think of it:

Evo with Bolivian flag

Speaking of nice, check out this firsthand account. The famous down-to-earthness isn't an act. Talk about a humble guy moving up in the world!

He does his flag justice...and his country proud.

Congratulations, Evo!

Headline Howler: Hurricane Dean blows mixed messages

Poor Yahoo News. They're so confused. On the one hand, they report that "Dean leaves Mexico relatively unscathed"; on the other, "Hurricane robs Maya of vital fruit trees".

What are we to make of this, other than that, as usual, Mayan people don't count for a whole lot in Mexico?

(See also the un-starlike treatment Rigoberta Menchu--Mayan, activist, Guatemalan presidential candidate and Nobel prizewinner--recently got there. Ouch.)

August 22, 2007

Police provocateurs unmasked in Montebello

Provocateurs policiers? En Canada? C'est impossible.

Non. C'est bien possible:

Story from the Toronto Star:

Protesters are accusing police of using undercover agents to provoke violent confrontations at the North American leaders' summit in Montebello, Que.

Such accusations have been made before after similar demonstrations but this time the alleged "agents provocateurs" have been caught on camera.

A video, posted on YouTube, shows three young men, their faces masked by bandannas, mingling Monday with protesters in front of a line of police in riot gear. At least one of the masked men is holding a rock in his hand.

The three are confronted by protest organizer Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. Coles makes it clear the masked men are not welcome among his group of protesters, whom he describes as mainly grandparents. He urges them to leave and find their own protest location.

Coles also demands that they put down their rocks. Other protesters begin to chime in that the three are really police agents. Several try to snatch the bandanas from their faces.

Rather than leave, the three actually start edging closer to the police line, where they appear to engage in discussions. They eventually push their way past an officer, whereupon other police shove them to the ground and handcuff them.

Late Tuesday, photographs taken by another protester surfaced, showing the trio lying prone on the ground. The photos show the soles of their boots adorned by yellow triangles. A police officer kneeling beside the men has an identical yellow triangle on the sole of his boot.

The Torontoist explains the significance of the boots:

Those triangles, by the way, almost certainly denote Canadian Standards Association—approved footwear for "light industrial work environments"——because, really, if you intend to fight cops in riot gear, you're gonna want toe and puncture protection.

Link theirs.

Maybe I shouldn't write what I'm about to write, because it will help police provocateurs improve their act, but...silly cops, everyone knows that REAL anarchists (and British bobbies) wear Doc Martens!

Still, the brave union leader who blew their cover wasn't looking at the provocs' feet when he sniffed their scheme; he was looking at their eyes. When he accused one of them of being a cop, he says, the guy's eyes just "glazed over".

Intuition is such a bitch, ain't it?

Meanwhile, here's a little something from Starhawk explaining the hows and whys of police planting and riot provocation.

Yeah, tell me it's not fascism.

UPDATE: CBC reports that the Quebec police admit that there were, indeed, three undercover officers attempting to infiltrate the demo. No doubt the same that were unmasked by the union protesters. (The burly builds and bullish stances of the fake anarchists were a dead giveaway--real anarchists are neither so bulky nor so swaggery.)

It's just as I thought.

Fortress North America, a.k.a. the Security and Prosperity Partnership? It's a fascist power grab. And just as it worked out all peachy for PNAC, the Reichstag Fire 9-11 provided the perfect pretext for these people to create a three-way Anschluss between us, the US, and Mexico.

For anyone naively thinking this will lead to warmer and fuzzier trilateral relations, I have bad news: it won't. Our borders will not be easier or safer to cross for business, shopping, pleasure, or just spending time with relatives on the other side; they will be meaner and nastier and far more nerve-wracking. Already, Canada's border guards are armed and dangerous; meanwhile, Mexico is getting an apartheid fence and a passel of racist pottymouths and useful idiots from El Norte to "defend" the boondoggle from the Yanqui side while the corporatists keep laughing all the way to the bank (having built a portion of it using the very people they claim they are trying to shut out).

What it all means: Canada and Mexico will still be on the ass-end of the "free trade" sodomy, only this time it will be a much harder, nastier bum-fucking than ever before. But at least we're united in one concrete way. After all, we're both taking an unfair amount of blame for terrorism--never mind that 9-11's triggermen got in quite legitimately through US international airports, NOT across our borders! How about that...they were LEGAL aliens.

Now, kindly 'scuse me while I scope around for some Scope. I think I just threw up in my mouth. No, don't send me any get-well cards. I'll be okay. It's a logical reaction to the devil's brew of racism, fascism and corporatism we're all having jammed down our throats.

August 20, 2007

The Queen of Mean has left the scene

Who mourns for thee, Mrs. Helmsley? Not me.

US property tycoon Leona Helmsley, who was famously quoted as saying "only the little people pay taxes", and was later jailed for tax evasion, has died at 87.

Mrs Helmsley died of heart failure at her summer home in Greenwich, Connecticut, her publicist said.

Mrs Helmsley and her late husband Harry had run a multi-billion dollar real estate business that included managing New York's Empire State Building.

In 1992, she was convicted of tax evasion, spending 21 months in prison.

The Helmsleys - who also owned some of New York's finest hotels - were accused of listing personal purchases as business expenses.

A judge ruled that Mr Helmsley was not mentally competent to stand trial, but Mrs Helmsley was convicted of evading $1.2m in taxes.

During the trial, Mrs Helmsley's former housekeeper famously testified that she had heard Mrs Helmsley say: "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."

Mrs Helmsley denied ever saying that.

However, she was noted for her tough management style and became widely known in the US media as "the queen of mean".

That's the abbreviated version. For a more in-depth look at the outrageous Mrs. Helmsley (and exactly why what she did was such an outrage), click here.

And now, the funny bit of her obit:

In announcing Mrs Helmsley's death, her publicist Howard Rubenstein said he was "very proud to represent her for so many years".

"Leona was a great businesswoman in her own right who created a tremendous brand and success with Helmsley Hotels and was a wonderful partner and wife to Harry Helmsley," he said.

"She was extremely generous as a philanthropist and she gave tens of millions of dollars to charity right up until the last months of her life," Mr Rubenstein said.

Trust a publicist to spotlight the ass-covering and claim that's the real Leona, and not her ugly-but-candid words. (Hmmm, where have I heard that before?) If she was so damn charitable, it wouldn't have killed her to keep her business and personal expenditures separate, let alone pay taxes on the renovations of her palatial home, and pay the contractors who did them properly. With an estimated fortune of $2.5 billion US, it's hardly as if she couldn't afford to.

Rot in hell, Queen of Mean. And be sure to give the devil his due this time!

Maradona is a Chavista!

Here he is, guest of honor on Chavecito's show, Alo Presidente. He's adorably awkward and shy. Chavecito calls him "El Che Maradona" and, after a music video celebrating their friendship, the audience honors "El Che" with a round of cheering that I'm sure must bring back the best memories of his soccer victories.

August 17, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: The art of Chavecito

No, this is not one his own paintings. I just find it interesting how once in while, Chavecito crops up in a work of fine art:

Chavecito in an art poster

I can't remember where I found this on the Internets, but it's a very cool poster. He seems to have a halo composed of news clippings, and the artist has emphasized the black part of his heritage, right down to the power salute. His features are more Africanized, and his complexion is a bit darker than it is in reality. The message is clear: Chavecito stands with, and for, the oppressed peoples of the world--particularly those of color.

Quotable: Agatha Christie on war

"One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one."

--Dame Agatha Christie, from her autobiography, published in 1977.

Stupid Sex Tricks: I love my bike

...but not THIS much:

(BTW, the lady in the car is saying "Next time, we'll take our bikes!" in German.)

August 16, 2007

Down with Dick!

You know your name is mud when even your neighbors are protesting you.

August 15, 2007

Blame communism!

Jeezus. Just when I thought Alan Garcia could sink no lower...he sank lower. Aporrea explains:

The president of Peru, Alan Garcia, celebrated the failure of a police strike promoted "by communists" today. He made this statement without proof, and without identifying either organizations or persons involved.

The statement was rejected by the secretary-general of the Peruvian Communist Party (PCP), Renán Raffo, who denied that his organization had anything to do with the matter, and said that the accusation was a piece of sophistry to cover up Garcia's governmental ineptitude in the face of social problems.

The president made the declaration while asserting that the police were on duty as usual, in spite of reports of a 24-hour strike by a supposed clandestine "Peruvian Police Union".

According to Garcia, "Communism has failed in its attempt to create disorder and chaos" by way of a police strike.

Translation mine.

Isn't this just so typical? It's like a play lifted verbatim from the manual of a corporate kleptocrat. When it becomes obvious that you're a bungler--blame communism! Capitalism sucks? Blame communism! Your glorious neo-con economic panacea isn't working? Blame communism! For every failure of the "free market"--blame communism!

Blaming communism is wonderfully convenient, after all. It means you never have to say "I'm sorry. I was wrong. I made mistakes. I am accountable. I will change my ways." It also means you never have to acknowledge that the measures you claimed were infallible...are very fallible indeed.

But wait. I thought communism was dead as of 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell. Everyone says so. So why blame a dead and discredited political ideology, then? Could Garcia be tacitly admitting that communism is not so dead after all?

Or is he just trying to tar a not-so-dead rival with the communist brush?

Without referring to any organization, Garcia claimed that the political current had taken up confusing positions, seeking to end economic and social advancement, and was attempting to attack national security and order.

Using a series of anticommunist ideological attacks, he claimed that communism "is surely being financed by briefcases and envelopes full of money from abroad."

He later added that "certain politicians, those who don't know how to give up, are knocking on barracks doors to see how to destroy alternatives in Peru."

He was apparently alluding to the retired lieutenant-colonel, Ollanta Humala, leader of the opposition Nationalist Party, which denied any involvement in the rumored police strike.

Aha...I thought so. Ollanta is on friendly terms with Chavecito, and everyone "knows" what a communist HE is! Even before Ollanta lost the elections, Chavecito offered him leadership advice and even presented him with a replica of Bolivar's sword, just as he did with Evo Morales. Ergo, Ollanta must be a communist too!

Only, of course, that's bullshit. Chavecito heads up the newly formed United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which is a conglomeration of several older, smaller leftist parties. The well-established Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) is still a separate party, although it supported Chavez and still does. The PCV remains separate due to fundamental ideological differences with the PSUV. Therefore, Chavez is not a communist. He may have electoral support from communists, but that is not the same thing as actually being one himself.

(And please, spare me the tired guilt-by-association-with-Fidel argument. If that were true, Canada would have to be "communist", too. Our late, great prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was also friends with Fidel, despite their sharp political differences. Some wackos may claim that all Liberals are communists, but they're forgetting that we have at least three communist parties up here--all of them tiny--and they all agree on one thing: that they hate the Liberals with a passion.)

Likewise, Ollanta Humala is no communist. He's not in the Peruvian Communist Party, but heads up a very different one: the Nationalist Party. A Nationalist AND a Communist, at the same time? Um, yeah. Riiiiiiiiight.

What Garcia doesn't want to admit is that the opposition to him runs much deeper than just a few radicals in the police, or a few radical ex-army officers, or a reconstituted guerrilla movement ostensibly declared dead in the 1990s. The progressive movement in Peru is decades old and rooted in ancient economic injustices, and one of its most prominent faces is a soldier Chavecito greatly admires: General Juan Velasco Alvarado.

Of course, Velasco also was friendly with Fidel, and in resistance to US imperialism in the region (with which he was all too familiar, as a graduate of the SOA), he wound up buying military hardware from the only other party selling it, namely the Russians. Who, at that time, were known as the Soviets.

Oh nooooooo, COMMUNISM!!!

See how easy it is to fall into that mindset? Never mind that Velasco was no communist himself. Associations alone, it seems, are enough for some people to level that accusation.

And when they can't do that without compromising credibility in hysterical diatribes, they do what this carefully veiled neo-con page does: claim that Ollanta, another progressive former soldier, will succumb to the following Velasco's "disastrous macroeconomic policies, failed agrarian reform, and...nationalization of inefficient industries." They forget that Ollanta now has a much more successful, and recent, example to follow in that hellacious quick study, Hugo Chavez. (Contrast that to Alan Garcia, who seems to have learned nothing in the years since he was last disastrously in power!)

Another thing the neo-cons won't acknowledge is why Velasco's policies failed: Not because they were such bad ideas in general (they weren't), but because the ailing general picked the wrong battles in particular, and then had to go into debt to finance his mishandled reforms. This ultimately lost him the support of the people.

But as always, it behooves us to follow the money. The IMF and World Bank, as we're all well aware by now, are not the most disinterested lenders. They have a tendency to attach all kinds of odious "conditionalities" to their loans. One of them is privatization of what was nationalized. (Apparently, nationalized industries are too "communist" for the Bretton Woods people's liking!)

And of course, what no one is talking about is how Velasco's "democratic" successors (one of whom was the very ex-president he overthrew) fucked up. His reforms were dismantled by the very people who promised to deepen them and get them right. And let's not forget that the cute, cuddly little neo-con, Alberto Fujimori, made the existing debt a great deal worse with his own corruption. Alejandro Toledo squandered opportunities to do real good by bowing down to the IMF. The business class loved him, but they were the only ones who did by the end of Toledo's tenure. Everyone else was hopelessly alienated.

Don't anyone look for significant improvement from Alan Garcia; we already know what bag he comes out of. He is wilfully blind to the broad, popular unrest that poverty creates where no amount of left-wing propaganda ever could. He thus fits an existing pattern of blaming unrest on "subversives" rather than his own failed policies.

And all his shouts of "Communism!!!" won't change that.

August 13, 2007

Eat this and weep

Chow down!

Organic foods protect children from the toxins in pesticides, while foods grown using modern, intensive agricultural techniques contain fewer nutrients and minerals than they did 60 years ago, according to two new scientific studies.

A US research team from Emory University in Atlanta analysed urine samples from children ages three to 11 who ate only organic foods and found that they contained virtually no metabolites of two common pesticides, malathion and chlorpyrifos.

However, once the children returned to eating conventionally grown foods, concentrations of these pesticide metabolites quickly climbed as high as 263 parts per billion, says the study published February 21.

Organic crops are grown without the chemical pesticides and fertilisers that are common in intensive agriculture.

There was a "dramatic and immediate protective effect" against the pesticides while consuming organically grown foods, said Chensheng Lu, an assistant professor at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

These findings, in addition to the results of another study published in Britain earlier this month, have fueled the debate about the benefits of organically grown food as compared to conventional, mass-produced foods, involving academics, food and agro-industry executives and activists in the global arena.

According to the new British analysis of government nutrition data on meat and dairy products from the 1930s and from 2002, the mineral content of milk, cheese and beef declined as much as 70 percent in that period.

"These declines are alarming," Ian Tokelove, spokesman for The Food Commission that published the results of the study, told this reporter. The Commission is a British non-governmental organisation advocating for healthier, safer food.

The research found that parmesan cheese had 70 percent less magnesium and calcium, beef steaks contained 55 percent less iron, chicken had 31 percent less calcium and 69 percent less iron, while milk also showed a large drop in iron along with a 21 percent decline in magnesium.

Copper, an important trace mineral (an essential nutrient that is consumed in tiny quantities), also declined 60 percent in meats and 90 percent in dairy products.

"It seems likely that intensive farming methods are responsible for this," Tokelove said from his office in London.

[...]

Organic fruits and vegetables had significantly higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants, according to a 2003 study in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The organic plants produced these chemical compounds to help fight off insects and competing plants, researchers said.

A 2001 report by Britain's Soil Association looked at 400 nutritional research studies and came to similar conclusions: foods grown organically had more minerals and vitamins.

"Modern plant breeding for quick growth and high yields could also be affecting the nutritional quality," says Katherine Tucker, director of the nutritional epidemiology programme at Tufts University in the northeastern US city of Boston, Massachusetts.

Lower levels of minerals in food we eat is cause for concern, she says, stressing that "magnesium, calcium and other minerals are very important for proper nutrition."

Good nutrition and exercise are the major factors that can make a difference in the incidence of many diseases, including cancer, according to Tucker.

She recommends eating unprocessed foods, meat from free-range animals, and grains, fruits and vegetables grown organically or at least using more natural farming methods.

Farmers in other parts of the world should not adopt the intensive farming practices of North America or Europe, says Ken Warren, a spokesman with The Land Institute, based in the central US state of Kansas.

"It's an unsustainable system that relies heavily on chemical fertilisers... to keep yields high and produces 'hollow food'," Warren told Tierramérica.

"Hollow food" contains insufficient nutrition and is suspected in playing a role in the rapid rise in obesity, as people may be eating more in order to get the nutrition they need, he said.

Suddenly, the tendency to overeat junk food is no longer so surprising. I've suspected this for years--when I ate a lot of fast food, prepared supermarket crap, ramen and other student staples, I gained weight but still felt undernourished and depleted.

Things like this make me glad I've been eating (and growing) my own organic food lately. My tomatoes, squash, cukes and peppers are especially beautiful and tasty, even if they ARE more demanding in terms of pest control (hand-killed bugs and caterpillars anyone???) I feel better, and I could swear I'm starting to lose weight, too. (Surely the energy spent digging, hoeing, watering, weeding, feeding and composting is also contributing to that...)

I'm also making note of which varieties of veggies are the easiest to grow organically. So far, the "White Queen" variety of heirloom tomatoes (which, as their name indicates, ripen as white rather than the usual red) is a robust winner and grows nice and tall with minimal caging or staking; the fruit are still unripe, but look very promising. Tasty, but hard to cage, are the yellow hybrids, "Lemon Boy" and "Golden Girl", which make a lovely pasta toss when combined with shallots, any red variety, garlic and either green or purple basil. They are VERY prolific, especially "Golden Girl", which produces fruits that are large (a double handful!) as well as abundant in number. The Italian-type red tomato "Health Kick" ripens fast but is not a very prolific fruiter, unfortunately. (I hope it will start to bloom again once the current crop is all picked, but if not, I'm uprooting them and devoting that bed to Russian Red kale for winter.) Still waiting for my "Roma", "Glamour" and "Celebrity"; some trouble with the heirloom "Mortgage Lifter", but the other heirloom red, "Moneymaker", is growing happily, though rather small of fruit. Next year, I may try out other heirlooms; there are some wonderful weirdies out there that have piqued my curiosity.

I'm also looking forward to putting in lots more shallots next spring--those humble onions, which originated in the ancient city of Ashkelon, recently turned out to be a cancer-fighting nutritional champ! (Gentlemen, you may want to take a cue from your Chinese counterparts and eat more green onions, too--they turn out to be good at preventing prostate cancer. Chop 'em up raw and sprinkle them over everything.)

I just wish organic meat, eggs and milk were the only game in town. Right now they are available, but expensive and relatively scarce. My family and I are making do with "the other kind", but we're not happy about that. Organic beef is very tasty, and I much prefer it over the supermarket kind.

I'll bet it's far more nutritious, too.

Evo's double score

Two items of note. First, from Prensa Latina:

Bolivia completes on August 13 the second and last payment of $56m to the Brazilian oil company Petrobras that transfers two refineries to Bolivian management.

Guillermo Aruquipa, president of state-run Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), said the transaction improved national income from refined oil and gas exports.

Bolivia signed on June 10 a deal with Petrobras to pay $112 million for the refineries "Guillermo Elder Bell" and "Gualberto Villarroel" as part of the fuel nationalization decree of May 2006.

Then, from Aporrea:

The approval rating for the government of Bolivian president Evo Morales is much higher when taking into account the preferences of rural areas, says polling firm IPSOS.

In accordance with this study, the approval rating of the president could rise from 62 to 76%.

Polling directro Luis Garay explained that previous polls did not always take into account rural populations, where the presidential approval rating is greater than 90%.

Translation mine.

You don't suppose Evo's larger than expected approval rating has anything to do with the nationalization of the gas (one of his key campaign promises)--do you?

And as a side note: Isn't it interesting how only now they're admitting that previous polls were badly skewed towards urbanized areas, where the oligarchy that so rabidly opposes Evo tends to clump up like a nest of mating rattlesnakes? No wonder there were all those news stories painting such a bleak picture for him.

Why, next thing you know, they'll be forced to admit that those oligarchs are a minority, and that the odds of their regaining power are slim...just as in you-know-where, regarding you-know-who.

Do you suppose they'll dare to chance it?

I say he's guilty

Big news today: Unka Karl is resigning!

Karl Rove, architect of President George W. Bush's two election victories, on Monday resigned after six years as one of the most powerful and influential political advisers ever to have served in the White House.

His departure at the end of this month comes after a torrid year of political setbacks for the Bush presidency and mounting scrutiny of Mr Rove's role in a series of scandals and controversies surrounding the administration.

Mr Rove is the latest of several senior officials to leave the White House this year as Mr Bush's second-term agenda has ground to a halt amid resistance from a Democratic-controlled Congress and deepening chaos in Iraq.

The Texan, nicknamed the "Boy Genius" because of his skills as a political strategist, said he was leaving to spend more time with his family after 14 years of service to Mr Bush in Texas and Washington.

Uh-huh. Funny how they all suddenly remember their neglected families when the law is breathing down their necks. I'll spare you all the boring blather about how Dubya thinks he's such a great guy and just cut straight to it:

Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, vowed to continue the investigation into Mr Rove's role in the controversial firing of several federal prosecutors last year. "Mr Rove's apparent attempts to manipulate elections and push out prosecutors citing bogus claims of voter fraud shows corruption of federal law enforcement for partisan political purposes, and the Senate judiciary committee will continue its investigation into this serious issue," he said. "There is a cloud over this White House, and a gathering storm."

Mr Rove was also embroiled — but never indicted for wrongdoing — in the CIA leak case — an investigation into the leaking of a covert CIA agent's identity as part of the Bush administration's attempts to make the case for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to vice-president Dick Cheney, was convicted of perjury in connection with the case but had his jail sentence commuted by Mr Bush last month.

You all know what this means: He's guilty as sin. And since he's still of interest to Sen. Leahy, the same inquisitive man the Big Dick once famously told to go fuck himself when questioned on Halliburton's no-bid contracts in Iraq, I think it's very likely that the long-suspected goods are about to come to light.

Will someone please send Novakula home to HIS family, too?

Stupid Sex Tricks: Big Brother is watching you

And while these guys are spending all this time fixating on "fornication in a convertible" (actual words--gotta love that copspeak!), God only knows how many burglaries, robberies, carjackings and break-ins are going unnoticed.

So much for the safety of a surveillance society.

August 12, 2007

The Big Dick's big flip-flop

Gee. What a difference less than 10 years makes. Dick Cheney went from counselling against invading Iraq in 1994, to pushing for it as soon as BushCo was in the White House. Maybe even before then...

What do you suppose changed his mind?

24/7 Wall St. bullshit

Courtesy of one "Douglas A. McIntyre", a little piece of absolute hogjaw twaddle:

The prevailing wisdom is that oil prices will move down. They have already dropped from over $78 to $72, and most observers think that is only the beginning. Troubled financial markets and the potential of a slowing global economy should being demand down.

Don't tell the president of Venezuela, nut job Hugo Chavez any of that. He wants the world to believe that he can control the price of crude, which is only partially true. According to Reuters: "I've always said that oil prices are headed straight to $100 per barrel," Chavez said during a televised speech. His argument is simple. Supplies are dwindling and consumption is still going up.

Meanwhile, speaking of simple arguments: This guy is about as simple as they come. He claims that the drop from $78 to $72 a barrel for oil is a sign of a trend? Pfffft. One day's or week's variation in the market does not a trend make, Mr. MacIntyre. "The prevailing wisdom" is neither prevailing, nor is it wisdom; it is wishful thinking all the way. This drop is short-term, and should therefore not be seen as indicative.

Nor is there any validity to the idea that "the potential of a slowing global economy should bring demand down." Oil is one of those things that keep right on selling whether the economy is up or down; the demand remains constant. It is not (yet!) a luxury item. People commute to and from work every day; plastics production goes on; oil is integral to far too many processes to be dispensed with altogether. But the oil supply is dwindling, and that is a fact. As it dwindles, its price will rise accordingly. One need not be an economist to understand that. But if you want an economist's view, here is a British government study to prove it.

Of course, let's not forget that Mr. MacIntyre is misquoting Chavez, who is not setting those rising prices (he has no control over that; he is not a commodities trader but a president, hello!) Here's what was actually said:

World oil prices are headed for $100 per barrel, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez predicted on Saturday, and said he will cut supplies to the United States if the U.S. government "attacks" the South American nation again.

"I've always said that oil prices are headed straight to $100 per barrel," he said during a televised speech. "We should prepare ourselves for those prices of one hundred dollars."

Chavez said high oil prices were the sign of a "global crisis" in energy caused by voracious consumption that has vastly reduced available oil reserves.

Chavez has accused the United States of plotting a bungled coup that ousted him for two days in 2002, though Washington denies the accusations, and has repeatedly made conditional threats to cut off oil sales to the United States that historically account for 12 to 15 percent of U.S. imports.

"No one should think that we're going to stop sending oil to the United States, no -- unless they attack us again," Chavez said during a speech to leaders of Caribbean nations meeting in Caracas for an energy summit.

"If they attack us again like they did in April of 2002 ... there will be no oil."

I guess this is what prompted the misquotation: Chavez is watching the long-term trend and making a plausible prediction based on what he has seen. Let's not forget that since he came to power in 1998, Chavez has seen the price of oil skyrocket from less than $10 US a barrel to its current all-time high. And, as president of an oil-producing country, he knows full well that as the more easily available reserves of light sweet crude in other countries peter out, his own country's heavy crude will replace them. And since that heavier crude is harder to extract and costlier to refine, of course the price will go up. One need not be an oil industry expert to grasp those basic facts!

Nor does one need a crystal ball to see what the implications are for the US if they try to stage another coup for oil. Chavez is right about that, too: the first one was indeed an oil grab. It came right when there was talk in Venezuela about using oil revenues to serve the people, rather than privatize PDVSA and let Big Foreign Oil take over. And of course, right after the two coups of '02 were reversed, that oil money did indeed go to the social-welfare missions, where to this day it is doing good work.

Some "nut job" that Chavez is, eh? I'd call him crazy like a fox.

I sure pity anyone who relies on this site for its vaunted "insightful analysis and commentary"; I see no such thing. Only ad hominem bullshit ("nut job"--how insightful and analytical!) from a know-nothing who fancies himself a pundit-in-waiting, and is too cowardly to acknowledge any facts which contradict him--or let anyone else respond with same.

August 10, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito's whirlwind tour of duty

Chavecito has been very busy again lately on the front of Latin American integration. Talk of continent-wide energy integration is topmost on the agenda. He's been in Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador; now he's in Bolivia. Here's some video from his visit to his other amigo--Evo.

He got full military honors, as you can see. And a big hug from Evo, and lots of cheering from the crowd.

Looks like the Bolivarian project is also marching forward at a brisk clip!

August 9, 2007

Chavecito in Uruguay

It was a working visit, but all the same, he took the time to chat with all the ordinary folks in Montevideo who just showed up to let him know how much they admire him and love what he's doing. In fact, he put them ahead of the journalists and the people with whom the meeting he attended here was scheduled! How's that for class?

August 6, 2007

How to enable a tyrant

How else but with a "free" trade agreement?

Congress will give priority treatment to approval of a trade pact with Peru when it reconvenes in September, the head of the House Ways and Means Committee said Monday.

"It is a priority when we return to the Congress in September," Rep. Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York, told reporters after meeting with President Alan Garcia.

Rangel was accompanied on his visit to Lima, Peru by Democratic Reps. Sander Levin from Michigan and Allyson Schwartz from Pennsylvania.

Rangel said he was bringing "the total support" of the leaders of both parties in the House and the Senate for "for moving this free trade agreement forward."

Peru and U.S. trade negotiators agreed on a trade pact in April 2006 and it was ratified by Peru's Congress two months later. But its approval has been held up in the Democrat-controlled Congress, where some lawmakers worry that pending trade deals with Peru and other countries could jeopardize American jobs.

Peru has been working to appease Democratic congressmen about their doubts over what they see as a lack of protection for Peruvian workers.

Rangel said he had been favorably impressed with Garcia's commitment to labor rights.

I guess Mr. Rangel wasn't there when Garcia cracked down on unions, and called strikers "communists" and "parasites". The whole country is now on strike against him, but Garcia, strangely, is a pro-labor darling to the Dems now, as well as a pro-capitalist darling to the Repugs. Que pasa?

But then again, what are human rights when there is money to be made? I guess that by the standards of "para-politics" Colombia, Peru must look like a vast improvement--but by the lights of Canada (or even Venezuela), it's piffling.

Color me underwhelmed.

Dump Dick

Ava Lowery compares two Dicks and finds some remarkable similarities:

BTW, if you click on the video itself, it'll take you straight to the YouTube entry. Give it five stars. This girl is working hard for the money to finance her documentaries, and there is prize cash at stake!

August 3, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Who loves me?

Clearly, all my friends at UNN do. And they all show it in various ways. But Tony "T-Bone" Jones, our multi-talented producer of the Talk and Action (yes, that's T & A for short) progressive women's podcast, has really outdone himself:

OMG, it's Chavecito porn!!!

...with an outstanding bit of photoshopping.

I should have known someone would send me Chavecito-porn on my birthday. Or is that Chavecito cheesecake? Any way you slice it, it's a hoot. Had me laughing so hard I bumped my head on the wall behind me, and scared my cats. Thanks, Tony! (I owe you several rants, amigo.)

(I have no idea whose body that really is, BTW.)

Lord Ta-Ta and the Magic Disappearing Money

Oh, too bad. Oh, so sad. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm GLAD Conrad Black can't come back to Canada!

Conrad Black cannot leave the US while he awaits sentencing for fraud and obstructing justice, a judge has ruled.

Canadian-born media tycoon Black was found guilty last month in Chicago of swindling shareholders while running newspaper firm Hollinger International.

He had asked to return to his Toronto home until 30 November, when he could be jailed for up to 35 years.

But Judge Amy St Eve said she thought Black would try to stay in his native country and fight extradition.

Ah, Judge St. Eve...was ever anyone more worthy of the title "Your Honor"? I kneel and kiss the hem of your judicial robe, madame justice.

And here is why:

Conrad Black was barred from returning to Canada during a bizarre day in court yesterday that saw an Israeli private investigator allege the former newspaper baron has secretly funnelled some $60 million to a number of offshore bank accounts.

Judge Amy St. Eve ordered Black to remain in either Illinois or Palm Beach, Florida, where he owns a $35 million (U.S.) seaside mansion.

The same day, Toronto's Hollinger Inc., the centrepiece of Black's former newspaper empire, filed for bankruptcy protection, after settling various class-action lawsuits related to allegations of corporate mismanagement.

The judge said she denied Black's request to return to Canada because his lawyer Edward Greenspan failed to allay her concern that Black, who has pledged to be at a Nov. 30 sentencing hearing, might change his mind and fight extradition. "With no additional assets and the uncertainty of the extradition process, I am not convinced that you have met your burden," St. Eve told Black and his legal team.

This by-the-book judge was prudent to say what she did; it means Black has no "out" now. Going strictly by the letter of the law, she picked the safest reason to bar him from coming back here and fighting extradition (and shaming us as a nation in so doing). But if the Israeli PI's allegations prove true, and Blackie does have several more million salted away in the Bahamas (or wherever), it means he is undoubtedly a flight risk. After all, it would make sense for him to decamp to wherever he's got that money stashed, and it doesn't matter where his British passport is. For all we know, he has other ones--from all the places where he's doing his secret banking.

Onwards...

While St. Eve said it didn't factor in her decision to thwart Black's attempts to return to Canada, private investigator Juval Aviv's report took centre stage through much of yesterday's 90-minute hearing.

The investigator claims to be a former Israeli commando and secret-service agent. He now heads Interfor Inc., an international corporate intelligence and investigations company based in New York.

Aviv's report on Black's finances was prepared last fall. It was introduced in court yesterday when Black requested to return to Canada to await his sentencing hearing in November after being convicted of fraud and obstruction.

In an affidavit signed July 26, Aviv claimed he had been hired in September 2006 by Toronto law firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg to "conduct an in-depth asset investigation of Conrad Black and his related companies." The law firm is known to act for Hollinger Inc.

Aviv said in his court filing that he has "developed and interviewed sources close to `the target' and his family as well as sources who assisted `the target' with his finances."

Aviv, whose spokesman declined to comment when contacted yesterday, alleged Black has moved at least 40 million Euros ($60 million Cdn) since 2005 from Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. to bank accounts in Gibraltar. The funds, Aviv alleged, have been transferred through financial institutions in Luxembourg, the Caribbean, the U.K. and the Channel Islands.

Aviv said at the time of his hiring, he was advised of three of Black's accounts, one with the National Westminister Bank in Jersey in the Channel Islands. One was under the name Black Amiel Management Inc. and the other, Moffatt Management Inc., was in Barbados.

Aviv wrote, "I have determined that Conrad Black has continued to transfer millions of dollars between his accounts outside North America since Sept. 29, 2006."

I sure hope Aviv has written evidence of everything he's alleging, because this is explosive stuff, and Black has the most notorious (and narcoleptic?) defence attorney in Canada on his team.

Meanwhile, Hollinger has filed for bankruptcy protection, which means no money for anyone Black ripped off...unless, of course, all that offshore cash can be verified. In which case, it would be jolly good fun to see it seized and returned to its rightful owners, what?

Incidentally, $60 million is exactly the amount that Hollinger International has accused Black of stealing. What an odd little coincidence!

The Conrad Black file at the Toronto Star is ever growing, an there are many little gems in it. So, if you're up for a little light reading, I recommend an oldie-but goodie, The Temptress and the Bore. My favorite passage is this one:

Amiel, on the other hand, is the preternaturally young (she turns 66 next month), impossibly chic temptress. It is Amiel's lusting relationship with Manolo Blahnik shoes and her delayed love of spectacular jewels — not to mention private jets and San Simeonesque real estate — that has lured Black down a much more profligate path than he would have otherwise travelled. Or so one theory goes.

And as she has made her career as a journalist, she has, like Little Red Riding Hood, left a trail of breadcrumbs against which Bower can attempt to judge her. And so she writes of the tax conviction and prison term meted out to Leona Helmsley, the New York hotelier oft referred to as The Queen of Mean. "Even after you've paid £38 million ($82 million) in taxes as she did, the impulse to withhold that last £678,000 ($1.45 million) cannot be alien to any of us," wrote Amiel. "Many entrepreneurs find it difficult to see the distinction between personal and business expenditure."

Bower documents the Blacks wall-to-wall lavishness, from the refurbishment of homes in London and Manhattan and Palm Beach — replete, writes Bower, with a $4.4-million elevator — to the infamous getaway in Bora Bora. "On the journey they ate with silverware recently purchased at Hollinger's expense for $3,530. The total cost of the flights was $530,000. Half was charged to Hollinger." In Bower's account, Amiel is consistently embarrassed by anything less but the very best, turning to her mate in one scene and snapping, "Why haven't we got a helicopter, Conrad?"

And Bower casts her as frequently, and nastily, ill-tempered, screaming, he writes, at her senior butler: "Andrew! The towels are in the wrong place!"

This recalls Leona Helmsley foaming over water droplets on the lettuce, Martha Stewart excoriating her husband for failing to stack firewood with precision and Joan Crawford's murderous anger should anyone make the mistake of placing a wire hanger in her closet.

It is, writes Bower, Andrew the butler who would take new household staff up to the roof of the home at Cottesmore Gardens in London. "Make sure the landing lights are on at all times," the butler would instruct, "because Madame takes off from here on her broomstick looking for cats. She needs the lights to guide her return."

Small nit to pick: "Replete with $4.4 million elevator" is wrong. It should read "complete". "Replete" means "full"--and whoever could live in a mansion that was all full of elevator?

Well, all right...except for queens-of-mean who fly on their Nimbus 2000s o' nights scouring the streets of London for cats, and who have trouble distinguishing between business and personal expenditures. Just as their men have trouble distinguishing between company and personal money.

(Other nit: It was Hansel and Gretel, not Little Red Riding Hood, who left a trail of breadcrumbs. Get your fairy tales straight, you sloppy book reviewer!)

I guess Bitchy Babs isn't flying so high now. Neither is Lord Ta-Ta.

Pity...(she wrote, dripping huge crocodile tears...)

The war drums just got louder

When you hear things like this, you know the Military-Industrial Complex will once more press for its pound of flesh...

Sustained oil prices close to $80 a barrel could hit US economic growth, Energy Secretary Sam Bodman has said.

The US economy has never faced such high prices for "an extended period," Mr Bodman warned.

There is concern about whether oil supplies can meet global demand and Mr Bodman urged oil producing nations to increase output to avoid shortages.

Oil prices have fallen back slightly after hitting a record intraday high of $78.77 a barrel on Wednesday.

Analysts say that a price rise above $80 is inevitable, raising concerns about the effect of energy costs on inflation.

Higher oil prices drive up the costs for businesses who pass those increases on to customers. And with the price of petrol at the pump close to $3 a gallon, it is feared that higher fuel bills will begin to dent consumer spending.

Mr Bodman said that the high oil prices had inflicted only a "modest" impact on the economy but he was unsure that this was sustainable.

"I am concerned that where we are operating, in the ranges that we're talking about now," Mr Bodman said.

"I am concerned for each uptick (in price)."

And he called on the oil producers cartel Opec to "look carefully at the facts".

Aha. There's that four-letter word again: OPEC. The devil Ronald Reagan thought he'd banished (illegally!) to Hades forever. Surpriiiiiiiiise! The very same demon was resurrected by none other than Chavecito.

You know what this means, don't you?

It means that Chavecito had better pray the full shipment of Sukhois arrives early, and the planned Kalashnikov factory will have to be constructed post-haste. Bodman is hot for his bod, man!

August 1, 2007

Who owns you?

George Carlin knows.

Crony conservatism? We got it.

Who is Stiffy Harper's little red crony?

I guess there's not that much separating us from the Americans after all.