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October 31, 2007

Oh those uppity Chilean women!

They dare to defy the Catholic church? And to order pharmacies to fill orders for the Morning-After Pill? What next, a female president?

Oh wait. They have one already. Never mind...

The Chilean government has warned pharmacies refusing to sell the morning-after contraceptive pill that they could face stiff fines or closure.

Major pharmacy chains have not been selling the pill recently, arguing they could not buy stocks locally.

The government responded by importing supplies and said the stores now had no excuse for not selling the pill.


Deputy Health Minister Lidia Amarales warned that the government would be prepared to close a pharmacy that refused to sell the morning-after pill.

One of the chains, Salcobrand, said the government's actions were a violation of its freedom of opinion about the pill which it said was abortive. "We express conscientious objection to being forced to sell a product that can have that effect," a Salcobrand company statement quoted by the Associated Press said.

On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI said in Rome that pharmacists had the right to conscientiously object to dispensing emergency contraception or euthanasia drugs.

"Pharmacists must seek to raise people's awareness so that all human beings are protected from conception to natural death, and so that medicines truly play a therapeutic role," the Pope said.

We can see here that both Salcobrand and the Pope are still buying the hype about the Pill--namely that it can abort a pregnancy.

This is bullshit.

Every brand of the Pill that I've ever taken--and I've used three or four--specifically states in the consumer health leaflet in every packet that "this product will not terminate an existing pregnancy", or words to that effect. Women who think they may be pregnant are advised not to take the Pill, but not because it can abort anything; rather, because it will not prevent what's already happened, and because the hormones it contains can have unintended health effects on the fetus. And pharmaceutical companies, ever on the lookout against lawsuits, want to make sure no woman ever sues them for being the cause of her child's birth defects, even if they had nothing to do with the Pill she was on.

The Pill works by preventing ovulation; as my doctor explained to me when I first went on it, it tricks a woman's body into thinking it's already pregnant. Once pregnant, there's no need for it to release another egg, so for the duration of the pregnancy, the ovaries go into hibernation. Ergo, if you can trick a woman's body into thinking it's already preggers, you can stop ovulation. The way to do this is to elevate her estrogen and progesterone levels to roughly the same place they'd be if she were really pregnant. That's why the combination Pill is so effective at preventing pregnancy--if 100 women took it as directed for a year, 99 would not get pregnant. But even if it's taken as is typical--occasional missed doses, for example--only two women out of every hundred, at most, get pregnant. That means 98 or 99 out of 100 women on the Pill have successfully tricked their ovaries into taking an extended snooze.

The Morning-After Pill works on the same basic principle. If taken within 72 hours of intercourse, it can either prevent ovulation, or cause changes in the lining of the uterus that make it impossible for a fertilized egg to implant. In other words, it prevents pregnancy.

But for some strange reason, preventing pregnancy = abortion in the eyes of the Church. That's because the Church subscribes to the misconception that a fertilized egg = a child. Even if it's just one little cell swimming lonesomely down the Fallopian tube, it's already a complete human being, says the Pope. And if the womb rejects it, that's an abortion!

Never mind that as many as two-thirds of all fertilized eggs are just naturally lost that way, as I was surprised to learn in second-year university biology. Never mind that the woman never knew she had a zygote or a blastocyst whitewater-rafting down her tubes. Never mind that the Red Tide just naturally washed it all away before she could ever have known she was knocked up. That, says the World's Foremost Celibate, is an abortion!

Um, no. Actually, it's not. Non-implantation of a fertilized egg, whether natural or Pill-associated, is not an abortion. Abortion--or miscarriage--only happens after implantation has taken place. The fact that natural rejection of fertilized eggs is so commonplace that it passes theologically unremarked should tell you something about the Pope's biological understanding.

And this is leaving out all the implanted pregnancies that are also naturally lost--which means that a solid majority of all conceptions never make it to birth, even if medically induced abortion is left out of the picture.

And you know what that means, in theological terms?

God is the biggest abortionist there is.

Of course, the Pope would call that heresy. But hey, that's life. Life itself is a heresy because it doesn't live up to theological misconceptions.

And if Chilean women want to reduce the number of conceptions that won't make it to birth anyoldhow, that's fine with me. And it should be fine with anyone who really cares about life, because unwanted pregnancy is a major killer of young women, especially in countries where abortion is illegal. (Are you paying attention, Daniel Ortega?)

As for those "conscientious" pharmacists who won't sell the Pill--I think they need a refresher course in basic biological science. And if that doesn't work, maybe they should seek another career, one that doesn't tax their misinformed consciences. Chile still has high unemployment rates, and I'm sure there are plenty of Chileans who would, with training, happily take the place of an unscientific ex-pharmacist.

October 29, 2007

Stupid Sex Tricks: Straight is the new gay

The new gay stereotype

And for confirmation of the above, check out Wonkette's account of what sex with Larry Craig was like 20 years ago, at least for one then-young, naive lad unfortunate enough to experience it.

(Actually, it rings rather true, given that this IS a deep-closet toilet troller we're talking about. He and everyone around him are still in ye olde denial mode.)

Guns don't kill people...

...unless you just add dog.

A man out hunting in Iowa was shot in the leg after a hunting dog stepped on his gun, authorities said.

The accident happened after James Harris, 37, put his gun on the ground to retrieve a fallen pheasant.

One of a pack of hunting dogs following behind stepped on the trigger, and up to 120 birdshot pellets hit Mr Harris in the left calf at short range.

A local official told a news agency the injury was "not life-threatening, but will give him trouble for a long time".

Alan Foster, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, told AFP it was not uncommon for hunters to be shot by their dogs.

"I hear about it a couple times a year," somewhere in the country, he said.

"They'll step on the trigger assembly and, if the gun for whatever reason wasn't on safety, it doesn't take a whole lot to trip a trigger."

Harris was treated at Grinnell Regional Medical Center and later transported by helicopter to University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City, following the accident in Poweshiek County on Saturday afternoon.

I wonder if this man bit his dog for doing that to him.

Maybe he should kick himself for being so careless.

Hmmm, where have we heard THIS before?

And for that matter--when? It all sounds terribly familiar...

France and the US have dismissed a finding by the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog Mohammed ElBaradei that there is no evidence of Iran building a bomb.

French Defence Minister Herve Morin challenged Iran to allow UN inspectors unlimited access to sites.

A White House spokeswoman said Iran was "enriching and reprocessing uranium, and the reason that one does that is to lead towards a nuclear weapon".

Mr ElBaradei said on Sunday that Tehran was years away from developing a bomb.

Gee, this sounds just like that smoking gun that was supposed to turn into a mushroom cloud. But did it? I don't remember, I was too busy watching Dubya crawling around on all fours looking for WMDs.

Well, at least they can't piss all over the French this time. C'est la guerre!

Okay, I need a cute nickname for Rafael Correa.

Because this guy just majorly endeared himself to me with the following novel approach to an urghly problem:

The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, today invited the young Spaniard, Sergi Xavier M. M., who assaulted a young Ecuadorian girl on a train in Barcelona, to visit Ecuador and receive help to overcome his problem.

"We invite him to come to Ecuador so we can show him what it is to love, what it is to be in solidarity, and we are ready to help him overcome his troubles," said Correa in his regular Saturday radio show.

The president insisted that the violent attitude of the youth against the immigrant "absolutely does not represent the Spanish people."

"They are extraordinary. They opened their arms to us. In most cases, our emigrants are very well treated" in Spain, said President Correa. He added that when it came to Sergi, "we should not feel rage, we should feel sorry."

Translation mine. Link added.

Any suggestions for an endearing nickname?

BTW, if you need inspiration, look at this picture...

Rafael Correa--yummy president

Then this one:

Christopher Reeve as Superman

You have to admit there's quite a resemblance. Except that El Superpresidente Correa has groovier shirts.

PS: I just gave him his own category, since it seems that he has become someone well worth watching, in more ways than one. It's still relatively small, but it is Ecuadorable As Can Be.

October 28, 2007

FOX News...or porn?

Take the Radar Online test and see if you can tell a FUX Snoozer from the Debbie who Did Dallas.

I admit I only got 3 out of 10 right. The porn stars all looked so much nicer and more professional than those FUX 'hos.

October 27, 2007

A group of bishops is NOT the Church!

Leave it to a humble padre in Venezuela to shame his higher-ups in the hierarchy. While the bishops are busy dissing Chavecito in a manner most ungodly, this priest felt it necessary to issue a timely reminder of just who is the Church.

The parish priest of Las Mercedes in Zulia state, Father Vidal Atencio, rejected the document "Called to Live in Freedom" from the Venezuelan Episcopal conference, which called the constitutional reform proposals "morally unacceptable in light of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church".

"This document is political, not pastoral--it puts forth an ideological perspective from the side of capitalism," said Fr. Atencio, criticizing a group of less than 50 persons for giving their opinion in the name of the Church.

"They are interfering with a sacred thing, the human conscience, by alluding to anthropological elements like freedom and conscience," he said.

Fr. Atencio lamented that "we have seen the danger that can be caused by living under a capitalist system" and affirmed that the church hierarchy has interjected a "perverse" criticism of socialism.

"They intend to get an out-and-out 'No' vote [against the reforms] from the people. This is one of the biggest campaigns in favor of 'No', or against 'Yes'," he added.

Atencio placed special emphasis on how the bishops previously took the oppositionist line, but that now, it appears that the document was created ahead of the publication of the reform proposal.

"When the figures of the far right come out to give their declarations in defense of this document, it is as if they said 'this is ours and we have to defend it'," he added.

He also criticized how, with the pronouncement, the bishops discounted the opinions of those who are believers, but still are in favor of the constitutional reforms.

"The Church must promote a sincere dialogue. We don't want to create another Church. We are not demanding a new pope or other bishops, but another attitude," Fr. Atencio said during a visit with the editors of Ultimas Noticias. He pointed out that those priests who disagree with the position of the Catholic hierarchy are speaking out as individuals, but also activating mechanisms by which the people can express themselves, such as radio and TV programs, or over the Internet.

He said that he is not a Chavista, but that he still agreed on many points with the President.

"If anyone is in agreement with the social doctrine of the Church, it's the government of President Chavez," he affirmed.

He added that if he had to face any disciplinary measures as a result of his position, he would do so.

Translation mine.

This coincides nicely with an article by Charlie Hardy in the Narco News:

When people ask me about the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, I respond that the Church is very supportive of him.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Samuel Ruiz, the former bishop of Chiapas, Mexico. After visiting with him for more than an hour about the Zapatistas, I asked him if we could talk about the Catholic Church. He replied, as best I recall, "I thought we were talking about the Catholic Church. If you want to talk about us bishops, that's ok, but we are not the Church. We are only a part of the Church."

In Venezuela, it is the people who live in the barrios and the countryside that make up the majority of the Catholic Church. Hence when I tell people that the Catholic Church is very supportive of Chávez I am speaking of them; and, I follow by adding that most of the bishops, however, are not.

On October 19, the archbishops and bishops of Venezuela issued a statement with the title, "Called to Live in Freedom." It is a document very critical of the proposed constitutional reform in Venezuela and ends up saying that the bishops consider the reform to be "morally unacceptable in light of the social doctrine of the church."

Those are pretty strong words. "Morally unacceptable" to me is the same as saying the reform is immoral. Wow! I've read the statement a few times and I wonder if the bishops have the same copy of the proposed changes that I have. For example, they speak of a Marxist-Leninist state, but I can't find any mention of Marx or Lenin anywhere in the proposal.

They also say that "a socialist state is exclusive and implies the cessation of pluralism, political liberty, and freedom of conscience for the citizens." Personally, I don't see the connection. Especially when one reads in the proposed change of Article 158: "The state will promote as its national policy the preeminent role of the people, transferring power and creating the best conditions for the construction of a Socialist Democracy."

I won't go on criticizing each line and paragraph. What the bishops have done is construct a straw man that they can knock down. They speak about how constitutions in democratic countries are the result of wide consultation. Baloney! The constitution of the United States, like most constitutions in the world, was the work of a handful of men. To the best of my knowledge, only Venezuela has had such large participation in the matter. In 1999 all voting citizens had the right to accept or reject it. I think it was the first time in the history of the world that such an event had taken place.

However, I would like to raise a question that I feel puts the matter in perspective: what right do the archbishops and bishops have to speak about democracy, when the Roman Catholic Church is one of the finest examples of an organization that has nothing to do with democracy?

Blammo! Another humble padre shames the hierarchy for talking out the backside of the ol' cassock. (Hardy is a former priest; he left the priesthood in order to marry.)

It's a pertinent question he asks, by the way, as is the issue Fr. Atencio raises. I don't imagine either of them will get a particularly meaningful answer out of the bishops, though; we already know what side they've taken, and by the looks of Hardy's piece, their hive-mind was made up about what all these reforms meant, even before they were written!

The pertinent question I have, which I don't expect will get an answer either, is this: Who made up their minds for them? Surely not they themselves. This stands in stark contrast to what will happen in December, when the reforms come up for a vote in a public referendum. The people will then read the proposed changes to the Venezuelan constitution, and vote either yes or no to them, and whatever the outcome, so will it stand.

Somehow, I don't get the impression the rules of the church hierarchy work the same way.

I do, however, like Hardy's modest proposals for the bishops:

If I were Chávez, I would go through their statement and apply everything they criticize about the proposed reforms to the hierarchy themselves.

Here is part of one of their paragraphs: "The true subject of the Constitution is the people, not the state and even less the government; for this reason it should express the agreement of all sectors, currents and ideologies. It cannot be the consecration of the ideas or political propositions of a determined partial group. Consequently the "Carta Magna" should be supported by the widest consensus possible."

Ok, try this: "The true subject of the Catholic Church is the people, not the Vatican and even less the hierarchy; for this reason it should express the agreement of all sectors, currents and ideologies. It cannot be the consecration of the ideas or theological propositions of a determined partial group. Consequently the basic teachings of the Catholic Church should be supported by the widest consensus possible."

Oh my. Nothing like turning things back around to point out the inconsistency there, eh?

Hardy's criticism of their doubtful "democratic" leanings is also a point well taken:

The bishops say that they are "carriers of the shouting and concerns of many communities and persons," but I don't recall that they made much effort to consult anyone outside their own group in preparing the statement. They had a committee, made up of their own members, that drew it up. I didn't see any consultation after any Mass that I attended in Venezuela. There simply was not wide consultation of "the Church."

On the other hand, there has been wide consultation on the part of the Venezuelan government. As in 1999, all Venezuelans of voting age will have a chance to vote on whether or not they accept the changes.

Back in the 60s there was a Vatican Council and there was consultation of the people in what went into the documents that the bishops finally issued. None of the current hierarchy in Venezuela participated as bishops at that time. But I, as a Catholic, felt I participated because our bishop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, (yes, little Cheyenne, Wyoming) was asking us what we thought the bishops should say each time they returned to Rome for their meetings.

Today the bishops would like to forget that the Second Vatican Council ever happened, except to pull out a phrase or two from time to time to serve their purposes. The ideals that were put forth there about the "People of God" have been forgotten. I think that might be why the proposed constitutional reform so grates on their nerves. It is intended to give power to all the people.

I will not deny that the reform will give more power to the president of Venezuela, at this moment Hugo Chávez. But if it is approved, it will be because the majority of Venezuelans feel they will have more power because Chávez will have more powers. And, it will be they who will have given him the power and who will hold him responsible for exercising it accordingly.

In the case of the bishops, it will be God alone who will hold them responsible. I'm just not sure that God had anything to do with making them the "legitimate" shepherds to lead in the anti-socialist society they want.

Slam dunk.

A group of bishops is indeed not the Church. That would be the people, the members, the rank and file. But in Venezuela, as at the Vatican, the hierarchy have a strange way of forgetting that. Their strangely selective memory makes me wonder whether they can be trusted to pronounce on just what is a democracy, and what is not.

Especially since they are historically so antidemocratic themselves.

The Great Hugo Chavez Media Hatefest continues...

I am so confused. I don't know who to believe--those who claim that the "unpopular" Hugo Chavez can be used as a secret weapon to push even more unpopular "free" trade agreements through ("You don't like him? Great! Vote for this and stick it to him!") or those who admit, however reluctantly and backhandedly, that Chavecito (or anyone who shares his ideas) actually enjoys considerable popularity outside Venezuela.

Damn crapaganda whores, can't they at least agree amongst themselves on a coherent story?

October 26, 2007

You may have noticed...

...the little "Buzz It" button at the bottom of each post now. This button will take you to Buzzflash.com to tell them about my site.

Here's how to use it:

1. Control-click the "Permalink" in orange, which you'll see right between the time stamp and comments link at the bottom of each entry.

2. Select "copy URL" (or whatever your menu says).

3. Click on the "Buzz It" button and paste the permalink URL in the box they provide.

4. VERY IMPORTANT: Do NOT use the sabinabecker.com URL, even though it does appear by default on their site; that's the main directory for this blog, and will only link to the front page. My front page varies from day to day and may confuse readers who came looking for only one story. Erase that link, and paste in the permalink instead. Always use the permalink to buzz a specific entry!

If you're not already a Buzzflash member, sign up first at their site; it's free. (Use your real address, or you won't be able to verify your account!) Once you're a BuzzFlasher with a verified account, come back here; grab the permalink from the post you want to buzz, then go to the Buzz It page and paste the permalink from my site into the URL box they provide.

Please follow their instructions to the letter and make sure you're not duplicating any of the other "buzzed" stories! It will save me a heartache and you a headache.

Now, let's get this site buzzing and fight ignorance together.

The Big Dick's little nap

Yup, nothing like sleeping on the job to let displaced Californian fire victims know you care.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Double vision

Say, this guy looks familiar...

I'm not Evo, but I played him in a movie!

Is that Evo???

Nope--it's Valerio Queso, an actor, who plays Evo in a newly released bio-pic. Here he is again, right behind the REAL Evo:

Here's the real Evo

You must admit the resemblance is striking.

Well, whaddya know...

Premier Stelmach paid attention!

First it was Venezuela. Now, Nigeria is reviewing its relationships with international oil companies and the oil-rich Canadian province of Alberta is set to announce a decision Thursday on increasing royalties from the energy industry. It's a move the industry warns could devastate Alberta's oil patch.

At least once analyst compared Alberta to Venezuela last month after a government-appointed panel called for the province to boost its total take from the energy industry by 20 percent a year, or roughly $2 billion.

Under President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela raised royalty and tax rates on foreign oil companies, then later took majority control of all oil projects as part of a larger nationalization drive of "strategic" economic sectors. Chavez says those policies are ensuring that oil benefits Venezuelans instead of foreign corporations and governments.

Russia and Bolivia have also asserted greater state control over their oil or natural gas assets in recent years.

A report by Alberta's provincial panel says royalties have not kept pace with world energy markets — a barrel of crude oil has reached record levels of more than $90 recently. It says all projects in the booming oil region should pay more because "Albertans do not receive their fair share from energy development."

"There's definitely been a trend over the last year or two, a lot of countries looking to nationalize oil reserves," said Kyle Preston, an oil and gas analyst with Salman Partners. "It's a function of higher commodities prices. Oil companies are making more money and governments want a bigger share."

Quite a change from the tone under Ralph Klein, that. I guess I may soon have to take back every mean thing I ever said about Alberta.

Well, almost every mean thing. Except the ones I actually meant.

BTW, anyone else not buying the "this could backfire if they try it" meme? It didn't exactly hold true in Venezuela. ConocoPhillips is now hurting because it picked up its ball and went home. It was the only oil company that did. Everyone else sucked it up and renegotiated their contracts. They're still making money hand over fist.

Why does the right have all the dumb guys?

I'm not surprised...

Probably for the same reason the left has all the pretty girls. (No shit, this guy actually says that in here...)

The long world boom, driven by cheap money and resulting in high commodity prices, has had one overwhelming disadvantage: it has empowered a series of economic fruitcakes - national leaders and private sector investors who operate on principles that make no economic sense.

Without Schumpeteran "creative destruction" there is no force separating the sound from the unsound, the valuable from the insane. The long-term destruction of wealth through this process will be far greater than the short-term profits such people think they are creating.

For example, the Center for Economic Policy and Research last week presented the Bolivian Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energy, Carlos Villegas. Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia, is a follower of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, but appears to be considerably less of a thug than Chavez.

He also claims to be the first person of indigenous ancestry elected president of Bolivia, which if true indeed shows that the country has been run in the 180 years since independence largely in the interests of the Hispanic-ancestry governing class. If so, they've done a lousy job, as Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America, in spite of having considerable natural resources, which of course is a large part of the problem. As British prime ministers from Sir Robert Walpole to Lord Liverpool could have told you, it's perfectly possible for an oligarchy to rule in the interests of the country as a whole and enrich everybody, including themselves, by doing so.

Villegas was in town to give a vigorous defense of Bolivia's nationalization of its oil and gas resources. All 12 of the foreign oil companies involved were happy to continue providing services to Bolivia without ownership of the oil, he claimed, while doubling production within five years would allow the Bolivian government to provide welfare to the poorest in Bolivian society, including those of indigenous origin. Fifty percent of hydrocarbon revenues were to flow to the Bolivian government and the remainder, net of payments to international oil companies for services, would flow to the recently renationalized Bolivian state oil company, YPFB. Bolivia intends to build a 1,500km gas pipeline into Argentina, which rations gas prices at about 50% of market price, in order to avoid the vulgar necessity of piping gas to the much closer Chilean coast, as had been agreed by the previous Bolivian government.

Since I was surrounded by True Believers, some of them distractingly beautiful (why do the left-of-center think tanks have all the pretty girls?), I decided against asking an aggressive question. Instead I merely inquired politely what Bolivia would do if the oil price dropped back to say $40, twice its level as recently as 2002. Villegas replied that I was foolish to believe that the oil price would ever drop back; demand from India and China meant that it might stabilize, but could never significantly retreat.

And that's just the first third of what this pompous windbag, who styles himself "Martin Hutchinson", has to say.

I could tell him why all the "pretty girls" (or, in my case, fiercely beautiful women) are shying away from him and his silly rightard ilk, but why bother? He'd never believe me. He's too busy thinking Chavecito is a thug (he really needs a primer in what true thuggery is) and that world oil prices will someday drop back to $40. (Even if they did, it's instructive to remember that Chavecito's economic policies were originally designed to work with an oil price band of just $22-28 US a barrel--his initial proposal for OPEC.) Oh, and that the CIA should have killed the "thug" when it bloody well had the chance:

Hugo Chavez, after all, has been in power for nearly a decade in Venezuela. The previous governments had been so corrupt and so economically unsuccessful (lowering national productivity by more than 25% in the period 1970-1998) that the vast majority of Venezuelan voters knew a change was needed, but in 1998 they chose the wrong one. Chavez was in severe danger of being ousted in 2001-02 and indeed was temporarily removed by a coup (which in the good old pre-Watergate days of the James Jesus Angleton CIA the US would have supported properly).

I put in a link there so you can see just what kind of sexy beasts the "James Jesus Angleton CIA" really were. (And ladies, if that doesn't make you want to throw 'em down on their backs, mount 'em and hump their devious, paranoiac brains out, maybe this will.)

Well, at least he tacitly admits that the CIA is an assassination squad, and that it was involved in the coup. Many rightards won't. (Neither will a surprising number of otherwise intelligent people, whom I guess I must call leftards--because they deny it all in the face of overwhelming evidence.)

On the off chance that Mr. Hutchinson is lurking and reading this, I'll point out a few salient facts that he missed, in the form of Socratic questions:

If Hugo Chavez is a "thug", why did he not declare martial law after the coup of '02 was thwarted? Why were the human rights of all the arrested conspirators guaranteed, rather than stripped? Why was Pedro "Two-Day Lou" Carmona only placed under house arrest, rather than summarily executed (along with every last traitor who signed his decree with full knowledge that it was antidemocratic)? Why does this "thug" Chavez keep getting himself re-elected? And why are those who violently overthrew this democratically elected leader for 48 hours NOT called thugs?

Why is Venezuela's economy booming after nearly ten years of "the wrong man", and why is a former World Bank economist praising his unorthodox economic policies? Conversely, why was it slumping after twenty-some years of "much-maligned neo-liberalism", which Hutchinson apparently thinks was the correct way to go?

And why no mention of the real thuggery that neoliberalism unleashed, ten years BEFORE Chavez was elected--the Caracazo?

For that matter--why no mention of the thuggery of Carlos Andres Perez, the author of the Caracazo? And why no mention of the fact that it was his flip-flop to neoliberalism, after getting himself elected on an anti-neoliberal platform, that made him the author of his country's misfortune?

Martin Hutchinson missed all this and then some. Seems to me that he can't handle the truth; no wonder he prefers to retreat into dogma. If someone as able and intelligent as Evo's energy minister can't set his head straight, no one can.

BTW, if you get to the bottom of his article (please feel free to skip the intervening drivel--I did), you will see that he also wrote a book called Great Conservatives. Please, stop laughing--even if it does sound strangely reminiscent of that other obscurantist classic, Everything Men Know About Women.

Mr. Hutchinson would do well to remember Oscar Wilde's famous dictum: "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." Chavecito and Evo fit in the former category.

Guess who fits in the latter.

October 23, 2007

Venezuelan bishops still talking out the bottom of their cassocks

And the odds are that the major media, like the Catholic news site that published this, will eat that right up...

The Bishops' Conference of Venezuela has announced its official position regarding the constitutional reform undertaken by President Hugo Chavez, who seeks to turn the country into a Socialist state.

In their exhortation, the bishops warn that the reform plan "harms the fundamental rights of the democratic system and of the human person, endangering freedom and coexistence. We consider it unacceptable in light of the Social Teachings of the Church."

The bishops went on to note that the Chavez proposals, "due to the radical and profound changes they would bring to the structure of the State, go way beyond reform." They emphasized that the proposal of a "Socialist State" would violate Venezuela's Constitution, exclude those with opposing views from the political process and restrict freedoms.

"In this proposed Socialist model, the State and the government would be led by a president who could be continuously re-elected, with extremely wide powers that would allow him control over institutions, property and resources. A Socialist, Marxist, Leninist, Statist model is contrary to the thinking of the liberator Simon Bolivar and is also contrary to the personal nature of the human being and the Christian vision of mankind, because it establishes absolute dominion of the State over the person."

The bishops pointed out that the experience of other countries that have adopted such systems has led to oppression and the loss of personal freedoms, as well as economic hardships and increased poverty. They also reiterated that the "solution to the drama of poverty, to social injustice and hurtful inequalities is found neither in unrestrained capitalism nor in Marxists Socialism, but in the practice of social justice and effective charity."

Of course, this completely glosses over the fact that the Catholic church hierarchy is too often on the wrong side of the social justice issue. The Venezuelan Bishops' Conference is squarely in the rich right-wing oligarchy's corner, as has the Vatican been throughout Latin America. Isolated priests and nuns, and even the occasional honorable bishop like Juan Gerardi or Oscar Romero, have been killed for striving at real social justice, while liberation theologians have been silenced by the Vatican. Not to mention the church hierarchy's shadowy role in the Dirty Wars of South America, particularly those of Argentina and Chile. And now, we have the same pope who, as head of the Inquisition (which is no longer called that), silenced the dissident voices in an effort to re-medievalize the church and pull Latin America back from the brink of actual progress. What a stellar track record.

As for "effective charity", that's a laugh. They've had what--2000 years?--to use charity to solve the world's problems, and the poor are still with us, in greater numbers than ever. This even though charitable foundations have mushroomed, and some are very effective--at least in lining their own pockets. And sometimes the church's own poor box gets pilfered. (Hey, charity begins at home! Besides, those people need jobs, it'll trickle down to those who need it eventually, yadda yadda.)

Maybe, if the Vatican were to rethink its idea that every pregnancy, even if caused by rape or incest, is "God's will", and to accept that birth control and medical abortions are Good Things when you can ill afford another mouth to feed, there would not be so many poor with us...and consequently, not as much need for the church and its less-than-effective charity. Mind you, that would also spell fewer tithe payers, and might put a lot of right-wing bishops out of work, but I could live with that. Seems a small price to pay when you consider what some of them have done to children outside of their mothers' wombs. (Could this be why they hate the notion of a stronger state? They certainly had no problem with statist rule when they associated with Nazis and defended fascism. Are they afraid the Vatican itself could one day be subject to prosecution, say by Italy, instead of going on enjoying its current levels of impunity as a state-within-a-state?)

Finally, I would like to bring it to the attention of the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference that both Canada and Sweden are socialist countries, and not only have we not gone to the dustbins of "Socialist, Marxist, Leninist, Statist" history, we are thriving. That's because we know the difference between mixed-economy socialism and state capitalism (a.k.a. "communism"). We even have Catholic bishops and right-wing nuts, all of whom can go their merry way not the least bit inconvenienced by the fact that we have a socialist system (except some clergy who are saying that Catholic politicians who don't do the church's bidding should be excommunicated or denied communion). That's one where everyone chips in a bit, according to means, so everyone benefits, according to needs. That, by definition, is not just socialism but communism, as preached by none less than Jesus himself.

Are they going to call their own professed lord and savior a totalitarian? Because that's what this rhetoric basically amounts to.

I think what they're really afraid of is that what Chavez is paving the way for--greater self-rule by communities, and greater access by communities to federal monies (power and wealth redistributed, in other words, from the rich to the poor)--will edge the church out of the picture altogether. If these constitutional changes are voted into permanence by the people, they will still be in effect after Chavez is gone from power; some totalitarianism!

No, forget the pretense--the church doesn't give a damn about totalitarianism. The fact that it never excommunicated Hitler, even on Mussolini's request, should tell you all you need to know about that. What it does care about, is erosion of its own unquestioned authority. That's why they're raising the usual bogus concerns about "dangers to democracy" in Chavecito's Venezuela. Those reforms are dangerous. The people will be making their own decisions, and where will that leave the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference? Out of power along with the rest of the old oligarchy--that's where!

And heaven forfend that the will of the people ever override that of the church. Must keep talking out of the bottom of that cassock, lest the public catch on to the merits of that crazy Chavez's ideas and keep electing him of its own free will.

PS: Don't miss Carlos Pietri's scorching article on the hypocrisy of the bishops at Vheadline.com. I think he nailed 'em to their own cross.

Oh look! The vandals have changed their name.

The brownshirts who violated Che's monument in Merida are now the "Paramo Patriotic Front", according to the Kansas City Star!

Unfortunately, renaming an asshole doesn't mean it stops shitting. Nor does being unable to determine its true name, come to that:

Police said they had yet to identify those responsible. The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional published a copy of what it said was a flier found by the monument signed by the previously unknown "Paramo Patriotic Front."

"We don't want any monument to Che, he isn't an example for our children," the flier read. It called Guevara a "cold-blooded killer" and said the government should raise a monument in Chavez's hometown of Sabaneta, in the nearby lowland plains, if it wants to commemorate the Argentine-born revolutionary.

The local mayor, Jesus Maria Espinoza, suggested the vandals came from elsewhere.

I suspect His Honor the Mayor is right. They're probably from some well-to-do part of Caracas, regardless of the "local" name they claim.

The hilarious irony of this is that these noble haters of "cold-blooded killers" used bullets to do their "patriotic" deed. Yup, there's nothing like repudiating a so-called killer by shooting his glassed-in picture. Really makes you so much better than him--as does that snotty "suggestion"!

(PS to Chavecito: Next time, make sure you use bulletproof glass, mmmmmmmkay?)

Quotable: Studs Terkel on hope in a hopeless world

"I once wrote a book called Hope Dies Last. I believe that. I might feel hopelessness, except for one thing: the young. I don't mean the young as they're portrayed in TV commercials: whores, bimbos and dummies. There are many who do not fall into those categories. The big problem is that there's no memory of the past. Our hero is the free market. People forget how the free market fell on its face way back in the Depression. And how the nation pleaded with its government and got help. Today, all these fat CEOs say we don't need government. And these fat boys get away with it, because of our collective Alzheimer's, and the power of Rupert Murdoch and CNN. There is despair in this country, sure. At the same time, we are waiting."

--Studs Terkel, interviewed in the UK Independent

October 22, 2007

It's National Character Counts Week!

Yes, it is!

Do you know what your wealthy right-wing media robber barons are doing this week? Well, one of them is getting divorced from Trophy Wife #2. It is delectably messy, and there's too much juicy stuff to excerpt here, so I'll just give you the linky to clicky. And remember, character counts!

Meanwhile, speaking of character, you may also want to check out what Jonathan Schwartz of Tom Tomorrow has found on the company King George the Dubya keeps. Not for nothing is Hosni Mubarak's crypto-dictatorship in Egypt credited (or blamed) for the rise of the terrorist wing of Islamism. When a country's leadership has no problem ordering the drugging, sodomy and execution of 13-year-olds, a backlash is just bound to arise. Character counts!

You might also enjoy Joan Walsh's laundry list, on Salon.com, of GOP flip-floppers. Once again, character counts!

Also on Salon: Gary Kamiya's devastating dissection of the real character of Dubya, by way of examining what he's done in the name of "moral clarity"--surely THAT has something to do with character, does it not? Remember, by their fruits shall ye know them--and character counts!

Finally, you know all you need to about the character of these people when they gang up to attack 12-year-olds. Character really counts there.

Quotable: Marjane Satrapi on obscene trends

"Why do all the women get plastic surgery? Why? Why? Why should we look like some freaks with big lips that look like an anus? What is so sexy about that? What is sexy about having something that looks like a goose anus?"

--Marjane Satrapi, interviewed by the New York Times

Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq

John Pilger's documentary, broadcast on British channel ITV in 2000, explores just how old the "Saddam had WMDs" fallacy was, and how destructive. And also how hypocritical was all the tut-tutting on the part of the US and Great Britain. Both countries were responsible for the ascension of Saddam as well as for the WMD stockpiles he did possess--the same ones which were destroyed later on under the UN's eyes.

Judging by the sudden jumps in cancer rates and birth defects, related by the doctors you see here, it's a no-brainer that Iraq was nuked with the ultimate dirty bomb--the "depleted" uranium shell. Yet another layer of Anglo-American hypocrisy reveals itself. Just who were these people to try to starve out Iraq in the name of eliminating a dictator they created and armed? And what right had they to use WMD on Iraq--in the name of eliminating Saddam and his WMD, which they themselves supplied?

Bear in mind that this is the country PNAC urged Bill Clinton to bomb in 1998, feeling that what was going on, though devastating to ordinary Iraqis, was just not devastating enough. Clinton declined to bomb--but over half a million sanctions-related child deaths were, apparently, quite acceptable to Madeleine Albright's State Department. Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein and his cronies were demonstrably NOT affected in the slightest by the sanctions. Gee, maybe PNAC was right about bombing and full-scale war (i.e. more death, more destruction, and even less humanitarian aid getting through) being needed to dislodge him.

Oh wait, there was bombing, too. It was still not enough to appease PNAC. Maybe because the targets were a few shepherds, their children...and sheep.

And don't forget, this all happened BEFORE Gulf War II and the current occupation.

October 21, 2007

Scary Thought #9: Oral Roberts on sex

The Young Turks take on an old jerk--Oral "I need $8 million or God will call me home" Roberts:

You can tell he really put a LOT of thought into that sermon.

A lot of icky, icky thought.

Now, look at his photo, and imagine someone letting him put his "man's male organ" in the place where he claims is the only part of a woman designed for it.

That's a pretty damn icky thought too, no?

October 20, 2007

An election issue, you say?


It may be more than a year away, but Americans already think they know what the big issues of the 2008 presidential election will be.

On the thousands of web pages, acres of newsprint and hours of airtime already devoted to the long race to the White House, two subjects get most attention: how and when to end the war in Iraq and how healthcare should be paid for.

But another issue is gaining prominence, one which is of much greater significance to the rest of the world.

Indeed, it is one that could have profound implications for the global economy.

The issue is free trade.

President Bush devoted his most recent weekly radio address to lauding the benefit America gets from free trade deals.

"Millions of American jobs depend on exports," he said.

"More exports support better and higher-paying jobs - and to keep our economy expanding, we need to keep expanding trade."

So nice to see that "free trade" is blipping on people's radars. And as an election issue, yet? Bravo! The public certainly deserves to be informed on the candidates' opinions about this all-important matter, although whether it will get very much to choose from between the final two remains doubtful.

Of course, it bears remembering that, comme d'habitude, Dubya is talking out his ass here. Especially when it comes to the matter of "better and higher paying jobs" through "expanding trade". Jobs have gone south, and so have pay rates, since NAFTA began; so has the standard of living for working Americans. It's also fueled the already severe problem of another major wage-buster, undocumented immigration. And it's going to get even worse if free-trade deals go through with various central and South American countries under CAFTA.

As one of my online friends once wrote, NAFTA and CAFTA have given everyone the shafta.

Ironically, Canada hasn't fared as badly in all this, if only because the Big Three automakers really, really like our "socialized" medicare system. It saves them literally thousands on workers' insurance premiums per car they produce, which is why they have moved so many of their former US operations north of the border. (For now, I won't talk much about how they then dick us out of jobs by moving operations to Mexico onaccounta it being cheaper and there being fewer pesky environmental and human-rights laws to hold them back. It's positively amazing how often they've done it when workers dared to make demands that the companies have been able to meet, but not exactly willing.)

But it's only a matter of time before Canada realizes, too, that we've been sold short by the SHAFTA agreements. Harpo stuck his foot in it earlier this year when he tried to sell an FTA with Colombia as a bringer of human rights. (To Colombia? Stiffy, WTF were you smoking--basuco?)

Well, all right, he didn't exactly try to sell it. He knew no one was buying. So he just proclaimed it, like the sovereign monarch he ain't and shouldn't try to be. Just like King George the Dubya, whose autocratic manner seems to be his model, he expected the public to swallow it all like good little loyal subjects. Which they also didn't do. All across our fair domain you could hear the jawbones hit the floor with a clatter, from sea to sea to sea (yes, we have three--look up, WAY up, Sparky, to that increasingly iceless Arctic Ocean!) The proclamation was followed by a chorus of mass projectile retching.

Meanwhile, speaking of mass choirs of projectile retching, let us return to the good ol' US of A:

America, it seems, is experiencing a revival of protectionism.

Almost all of the candidates vying to be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee next year have adopted stances that flatly contradict the current president's fondness for free trade deals.

Front-runner Hilary Clinton wants all free trade deals to be revised every five years, including those that were negotiated by her husband's administration.

John Edwards, currently placed third among the Democratic hopefuls, has gone so far as to question how committed Americans really are to global trade.

"Trade has become a bad word for working Americans," he recently declared.

That, of course, is campaign rhetoric designed to appeal to Democrat voters.

What of the Republicans? Surely they share their president's belief in the benefits of free trade? Perhaps not.

A recent Wall Street Journal poll found 60% of Republican voters think free trade is bad for America.

In contrast to the Democrats and their close ties to the trade unions, the Republican Party has a long tradition of pushing the agenda of American business.

So if two-thirds of Republican voters do not think it is a good idea, then the cause of free trade could be in real trouble in the world's biggest economy.

Emphasis added.

Mind you, everything that has gone under the rubric of "free trade" has, in fact, carried hidden elements of protectionism. That is, the interests of US corporations have been protected, even as those of their workers have been steadily eroded. It shouldn't escape anyone's notice (and read Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America if you don't believe me!) that under FTAs, the systems of the other countries have invariably been rigged to funnel profits and resources to, you guessed it, the US. But not to everyone in the US. Neither US workers nor local ones have benefited from this arrangement, but the fat cats at the top of the food chain have gotten downright morbidly obese as a result. Never mind how great a wage and standard-of-living increase it works out to on paper for some economist in a right-wing think tank somewhere. The common people are not seeing it.

And don't think the common people haven't noticed. In fact, don't think some of their bosses haven't noticed, either:

If economists are so convinced of the benefits of free trade, why aren't American voters?

The answer, of course, is that those combined benefits are not necessarily felt by individuals.

Instead, what many Americans, including US business owners, notice is that trade with other countries can make them poorer.

Take Brian O'Shaughnessy, head of Revere Copper, which makes copper products for industrial customers around the world.

Mr O'Shaughnessy's company was founded in 1801 and is, he says, the oldest manufacturer in the US.

But the grand heritage has not saved it from the problems that have ravaged the American manufacturing sector.

This year, one of Revere's two plants has closed and Mr O'Shaughnessy has had to lay off 85 workers.

He believes this was a direct result of US policies, which make it too easy for foreign competitors to sell their products in America at his expense.

"I believe that there is no such thing as free trade", Mr O'Shaughnessy said.

"I believe that trade must be rules-based and that the rules must be fair."

To him the free trade deals negotiated by the US government are patently unfair.

While they may have lowered tariffs, he is appalled by what he sees as foreign governments' use of other means to promote their industries at the expense of America's.

"The USA continues to negotiate free trade agreements without recognising how its trading partners simply bypass the tariff reduction measures by raising or initiating new taxes."

Granted, this guy looks at it in the usual business-sector terms of tariffs and taxes, but I'll bet he didn't feel any too good at having to dole out the layoff notices, either. The very fact that a corporate owner feels that trade must be fair, and that there ain't no such thing as free trade, is an encouraging thing in itself.

Let's hope there's more of this kind of talk, and that the candidates are getting the message--and that they won't backtrack on the issue once elected.

What part of "No Anorexia" don't they understand?

All of it, apparently.

Italy's advertising watchdog has banned an ad campaign for a fashion label showing a naked anorexic woman, saying it breached its code of conduct.

The image "commercially exploited" the illness, the advertising body said.

The image, bearing the words "No Anorexia", was first displayed during Milan Fashion Week in September.


The Publicity Control Institute (IAP) ruled that the image breached articles one and 10 of its code of conduct.

Article one states that advertising must be "honest, truthful and accurate. It must avoid anything that could discredit it".

Article 10 states that advertising must not offend "moral, civic and religious" beliefs and must "respect human dignity in all its forms and expressions".

Well, let's see if they have any solid points here. A nude picture of an anorexic woman looking scrawny, sickly, sad and wasted is certainly honest, truthful and accurate. There isn't much to discredit about the statement it makes--namely, that anorexia is not sexy, and should therefore not be dignified in any way by the fashion industry.

And as for offending "moral, civic and religious beliefs"--how could it possibly? Yes, it's a nude shot, but I dare anyone to show me what's sexually provocative about a hollow-cheeked, zombie-eyed face staring back at the camera over a pair of bony shoulderblades and the full length of a knobbly spine descending into a derriere reminiscent of a plucked chicken! The only part of me that's offended by such a sight is the lining of my stomach. But my moral, civic and religious beliefs are in no way troubled. Why? Because, whether morally, civically or religiously, I believe anorexia is a disease, and what it really does to its victims--predominantly female--should be exposed as openly as possible.

Right now, there is this disgusting movement going on out there, in which anorexics and bulimics are using the Internets to promote the very diseases that are killing them. They refer to their revolting conditions as "Ana" and "Mia"--nice, chummy, feminine-sounding names that obscure the fact that anorexia and bulimia are the two deadliest mental disorders going, and that nine out of 10 victims are female. These "pro-Ana" and "pro-Mia" sites don't point the way to real help for eating-disorder sufferers; instead, they carry life-threatening "advice" on how to undereat, overexercise, purge, vomit, conceal evidence of any or all of the above, and resist the efforts of family and friends trying to push the victim into treatment. Oh, and they provide beaucoup photos of "rexy" models as "thinspiration"--to push the idea that anorexia = sexy.

Never mind that nothing less sexy could possibly be imagined...

No Anorexia

...at least, not by someone who is mentally healthy.

The kicker? All this hoopla comes as Milan's fashion week is already over--and with it, the ad campaign in question.

And, oh yeah, the fact that the government liked the idea: "Italian health minister Livia Turco backed the billboard, saying it could 'promote responsibility towards the problem of anorexia'."

Gee, maybe the idea of healthy, well-fed young women, who menstruate, are fertile, and have interest in sex and other intellectual pursuits, is the thing that's really offending the "moral, civic and religious beliefs" of those who object to the message that "No Anorexia" sends! Suddenly, it all makes sense. No, we can't have uppity women running around looking all plump and rosy, using their heads for something other than obsessing over calories, and shaking their shapely, unemaciated butts! Must keep those sinful females down! Must keep pushing the idea that only a human hatrack can be fashionable! Must stop women from taking over the world!

(Must keep my spirits up and my breakfast down.)

Yup, they ARE brownshirts.

And I defy you to tell me differently.

A group of Venezuelans shattered a glass monument to Cuban hero Che Guevara built by the government of leftist President Hugo Chavez, an area mayor told state television on Friday.

Jesus Espinoza, a municipal mayor in the mountain state of Merida, said "on Wednesday night (a group) from outside of the municipality inconsiderately destroyed the monument to Che Guevara."

Local media reported that a group identifying itself as the Patriotic Command of the Plateau took responsibility for destroying the 8-foot-(2.4 meters-) tall glass monument inscribed with a message to honor the Argentine-born icon of Cuba's 1959 revolution.

"We do not want a monument to Che, he is not an example for our children," the group said in a note left at the scene of the monument shattered by six gunshots, according to the El Universal newspaper.

Oh, of course, Che is not an example for THEIR children; that would be Adolf Hitler. Che, on the other hand, fought against fascism, which is something these bogus "patriots" would be only too happy to impose--by brownshirt measures, as we can see. Antifascism--such a dreadful example! Better to set the ineffably noble example of thuggery, eh?

I wonder who this "Patriotic Command" will ultimately be unmasked as being, and who their financiers and weapons suppliers are. My bet is that the backers and commanders will turn out to be big cheeses in the opposition, and the so-called "command" will be just small-time mercenary hoodlums on the make (or is that the take?)

The dangerous thing is that this band of brigands might just end up aping their idols, the German Freikorps, and turning into a real brownshirt army at the disposal of powerful capitalist interests (and the would-be political leaders they endorse). Gotta love how the Reuters article fails to mention the rather stark similarities they've got going on there.

I love, too, how the Reuters article closes with a weak attempt to qualify this act as somehow representative of a grand democratic trend: "But polls show close to 40 percent of the population opposes [Chavez's] self-styled socialist revolution." Nice backhanded way of saying that more than 60%--a landslide, in other words--is in favor of Chavez, and does not support the self-styled "Patriotic Command" of the opposition! Way to tip your hand in favor of the brownshirts, Reuters!

October 19, 2007

Stupid Sex Tricks: What, is flying not exciting enough for ya?

Apparently not.

The crew of a Ministry of Defence helicopter broke low-flying rules, causing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to a Sussex mansion, so that they could spy on an au-pair who was sunbathing, the High Court was told yesterday.

Barry and Anna George, owners of the Old Stables, in Eastbourne, East Sussex, claimed that the 14-tonne Merlin hovered at lower than 500ft (152m) so that the crew could "communicate" with their au-pair. The couple's barrister, Daniel Crowley, said that the downdraft damaged their glass conservatory. The Georges are claiming £250,000 in damages for what Judge Jonathan Foster, QC, described as an "alleged frolic". The eight-day case is likely to generate hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal costs. If the MoD loses, the taxpayer will foot the bill.

This is almost enough to make one yearn for a return to the days when the British were sexually repressed. Maybe helicopter pilots need to get their testosterone levels checked before they're cleared to fly?

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Hasta la victoria siempre!

I'm a little late in paying tribute to Che Guevara on this blog, but better late than never. Here's a rap song dedicated to El Comandante Amigo:

How do I hate the Coultergeist? Let me count the ways...

Better still, let the Rude Pundit enumerate the ways he would NOT have sex with that ghoul.

"Perfect" THAT, bitch.

October 18, 2007

Quotable: Tori Amos on archetypes

"What do I say to people who don't know how to interpret my songs? You don't read the Bible literally. I thought parables were very clear, yet a lot of people have problems with them when they pop up today. I can't tell people that maybe they need to read some books, brush up on their archetypes. They could probably go on a website and figure it out. But literalizing is very much part of the patriarchy. If you want something made concrete, I'll give you some shoes and pour some cement in them and we'll drop you off in the river."

--Tori Amos, from the introduction to Tori Amos Piece by Piece: A Portrait of the Artist: Her Thoughts. Her Conversations.

Shamelessness, thy name is Goni!

The arrogance of some people, even after they've been given a well-deserved boot out of office, never ceases to astound me. Take, for example (PLEASE!) this recent bit of boo-hoo-poor-me from one Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada, formerly president of Bolivia:

Bolivian prosecutors have brought formal charges of genocide against the country's exiled former president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.

The move came on the fourth anniversary of Mr Sanchez de Lozada's resignation following violent street protests at plans to export natural gas.

The charges, denied by Mr Sanchez de Lozada, relate to the deaths of at least 60 people killed in the unrest.

The Bolivian government is seeking his extradition from the United States.

The Bolivian attorney general, Mario Uribe, presented nine charges, including genocide, against Mr Sanchez de Lozada to the Supreme Court in Sucre.

Eight members of his government and five high-ranking military chiefs were also charged with a range of crimes, including murder and torture.

Mr Sanchez de Lozada has denied allowing security forces to use violence against demonstrators.

His lawyer in the US, Howard Gutman, told the Spanish news agency Efe that the charges were due to "the incessant political campaign to punish the political rivals" of Bolivia's current leader, Evo Morales.

Now, that is just such a typical bit of shuck-and-jive right there. "I wasn't an evil dictator, but this new guy is--because he's got it in for me!"

What a masterstroke! Deflect attention from your own shortcomings and criminal tendencies by projecting them onto someone who doesn't have them. Brilliant!

Only problem is, we've heard this refrain from Goni before. Back in 2003, when he was turfed out on a most ignominious note, he blamed "a conspiracy of sedition by armed groups, 'narco-syndicalist' groups, terrorist groups and cartels who created a confrontational situation, leaving me no way out but to resign."

What actually happened? Well, something whose unpopularity was a foregone (or fore-Goni?) conclusion.

Mr Sanchez de Lozada fled to the US after the protests brought down his government in October 2003.

The crisis had grown as more and more people took to the streets to demonstrate against his free market policies, including plans to export natural gas.

Troops were deployed to help combat the growing civil unrest, including strikes and road blockades, and dozens were killed in several weeks of violence.

Goni, as the US-educated president was often called, came to power in August 2002 with just 22.5% of the vote, and remained deeply unpopular.

The man who came a surprise second in that election, Evo Morales, played a central role in the demonstrations demanding the nationalisation of the energy sector.

Mr Morales was elected president in December 2005.

We can now see why Goni's so eager to lash back at Evo. The humble coca farmer and trade unionist (so that's what Goni meant by "narco-syndicalist"!)) was an important leader in the protests against Goni's wholesale sell-off of the Bolivian water utilities, which resulted in monstrous water rate hikes...and brutal repression. It was suddenly forbidden to collect rainwater; every drop had to be paid for, and foreign conglomerates stood to make out like bandits--along with the paid-off local bottom feeder (ahem, that would be Goni.)

Anyone who stood up to that intolerable situation was bound to become a hero. Evo was probably the biggest single thorn in Goni's side, since he organized blockades at Cochabamba and at El Alto, near La Paz. Those were the protests that ultimately brought Goni down and kicked Bechtel out of Bolivia.

But Evo didn't remain just another protest organizer; he was subsequently elected to the Bolivian congress, and in December 2005, Evo became president--a very popular president. Unlike Goni, who had less than a quarter of the popular vote, Evo had more than half.

That's why Goni's latest round of false accusations ring so hysterically funny now. Evo still enjoys great approval ratings, so he doesn't have to punish his rivals with anything; they are punishing themselves. Their own unpopularity is self-explanatory--they are still trying to salvage a system that is guaranteed to fail, and has been proven to do so many times already. Goni's unpopularity, in particular, comes as no surprise--since he had to punish his opposition with blasts of machine-gun fire.

Funny how, ever since Evo's been in office, none of that has happened. But that won't stop sinverguenzas like Goni, who seems to be taking his cues from the failed old guard of Venezuela, from claiming it is so. Or, it seems, from starting riots for no good reason--other than to get rid of "that shitty Indian" who just so happens to be turning things around big-time.

And Evo seems likely to go on doing so, in what must truly be a welcome departure for notoriously unstable Bolivia. He's already pulled Bolivia out of the School of the Americas, in a welcome step for human rights; another will be the trial of Goni, a known human rights abuser. It can't come any too soon; the age of neoliberalism is over, and the age of shamelessness is historically destined to follow it into the grave.

October 17, 2007


Don't look now, but it appears that Chavecito's economic ideas have some support from a, shall we say, highly unexpected quarter:

The Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has endorsed an ambitious plan by Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, to create a pan-regional bank for Latin America. Professor Stiglitz, a Washington insider and former World Bank chief economist, said the Bank of the South would benefit the region and give a welcome shakeup to western lending institutions.

The bank, known in Spanish as Banco del Sur, is due to be founded next month in Venezuela's capital, Caracas, with start-up capital of up to $7bn from seven South American countries. It represents a victory for Mr Chávez, who conceived the project and drove it through numerous obstacles. Mr Chávez, a self-described socialist revolutionary, argued that the bank would wean the region off Washington-dominated prescriptions and help to deliver economic independence.

Ay caramba, wouldn't it just. It would also drive a final nail into the coffins of all those "experts" out there claiming--against all the evidence that just keeps mounting against them--that the Bolivarian Revolution isn't spilling over into neighboring lands, isn't having any effect, is doomed to fail, blah blah blabbity blah blah. You don't even have to compare the BoRev to what preceded it--although it undoubtedly helps get the point across to the Hardcore Stupid--to see how it is succeeding where so-called neoliberalism failed. You just have to know where to look, as Mr. Stiglitz undoubtedly does.

We'll try not to snigger, though, at his contention that this is about "competition in the market". The fact is, the neoliberal institutions have no intention of competing. And even if they did, they'd fail. The IMF, the World Bank, and their odious "conditionalities" have already failed the big test of the marketplace of ideas. They have nowhere to go but the dustbins of history, and not a moment too soon. It is high time that there were a development bank that actually made developments beneficial to the people--and lifted the masses up rather than squashing them further and further down. That's something you won't catch the IMF or the World Bank doing anytime soon.

One more reason to love Evo

He just pulled Bolivia out of the School of the Americas.

We are very excited to announce that President Evo Morales announced Tuesday that Bolivia will gradually withdraw its military from training programs at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as the School for the Americas (SOA). Bolivia is now the fifth country after Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela to formally announce a withdrawal from the school!

"We will gradually withdraw until there are no Bolivian officers attending the School of the Americas" said Morales. Questioning the U.S. government foreign policy he noted that "they are teaching high ranking officers to confront their own people, to identify social movements as their enemies."

It's a bit unfortunate that he's taking a gradual approach rather than just going for one quick clean yank, but hey--I welcome any news that another country is leaving that training camp for torturers and assassins. Especially since Evo did it in direct response to calls from SOA Watch and torture survivors.

You gotta love a leader who listens to the oppressed and their supporters, rather than the big money.

IAPA is at it again...

And this time, it looks like they may have the otherwise useful and non-idiotic Editor and Publisher on side:

Top officials of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) believe pressure from the Hugo Chavez government is behind a Venezuelan hotel's sudden cancellation as the press freedom group's spring 2008 meeting.

IAPA's executive committee will discuss changing the site of its mid-year meeting next March after a hotel in Maracaibo, Venezuela, withdrew its offer to be the meeting venue.

IAPA had already moved the meeting to Maracaibo because the host committee of Venezuelan publishers were unable to book hotels in the capital Caracas or on Margarita Island.

The host committee told IAPA the hotel in Maracaibo backed out "due to the prevailing situation in the South American country."

Actually, I'll bet it's because the hotel owner (unnamed, how convenient!) is of the oligarchy--or is afraid of the adverse publicity a pro-oligarchy meeting like this is bound to generate. Either that, or it's just the IAPA's usual "Chavez hates democracy" claptrap being spun from a non-event whose non-eventitude was a foregone conclusion. Anyplace in Venezuela trying to host an IAPA "event" will surely get all kinds of well-deserved public criticism and picketing. The Venezuelan people, not being stupid, already know all the dirty tricks being played by the media against their president. This is just another in a long series, and there is plenty of reason to believe that this "unfortunate" pull-out was planned in advance to generate publicity and to further the Big Lie. (Please note that there is NO report that the Venezuelan government has actually moved in a concrete way to stop the "event"--by denying visas to the participants! Coincidence? Turn up your speakers really loud, and you might just hear the sardonic chuckling coming from my end.)

One thing is for sure, though, the always fair and balanced IAPA made no secret of which side its bread is buttered on:

At its mid-year meeting this March IAPA delegates adopted a resolution "to denounce before the international community the dictatorial violation of freedom of expression by the regime of Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela."


"Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez"--not PRESIDENT Hugo Chavez, no, never that. Never mind that he retired from the military soon after he landed up in the calabozo for attempting to overthrow that lousy-excuse-for-a-president that was Carlos Andres Perez (who was forcibly relieved of his own posting by the Venezuelan congress soon thereafter). Never mind that Chavez was subsequently pardoned by Rafael Caldera. Never mind that he was democratically elected with a solid majority subsequent to that. No, for some strange reason, according to the IAPA, the long-since-civilian President Chavez is still wearing his military rank along with his old uniform (which it appears he has since outgrown, or at least had let out in a major way to accommodate all that sadly necessary Kevlar.)

Meanwhile, we get the following unsubstantiated allegation by way of explanation for this non-story about a non-event:

IAPA President Rafael Molina, editor of the daily El Dia in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, said he believed the hotels had been pressured by the Chavez government.

"We regret, in the name of freedom of the press, democracy and the Venezuelan people, that they are closing the doors on us in such an inelegant and indirect manner," Molina said Thursday.

He said he believed, but he offered no concrete reason for his belief, that the hotels "had been pressured by the Chavez government"? And again--no one thought to get the owner of the hotel for HIS comments? By that standard, we might as well concede that there is an Easter Bunny, simply on the basis of somebody's belief therein.

And all this was allowed to pass by the various editors and publishers, without benefit of even a rudimentary fact-check? Wow! What stellar reporting from these incredibly measured and nuanced journalists! Somebody please toss them a trophy! (And be sure you aim for the whites of their eyes.)

But don't anyone feel too sorry for the IAPA...they've already picked up their whiffle ball and slunk off to their true home:

IAPA's 63rd annual General Assembly gets underway Saturday in Miami.

And of course, the crowning non-event of the non-event will be...drumroll please...

Among the topics of discussion will be the Venezuelan government's shut down of Radio Caracas Television in May. The station was critical of Chavez, and, many charge, sided with the officers who briefly ousted the president in a coup in 2002.

At the Miami meeting, IAPA will present its Grand Prize for Press Freedom to the television network's president, Marcel Granier.

Nice of E & P to put the "many charge" in there. I guess that is their sop to fairness and balance. But this is not a question of mere "charges". The facts are indisputable and on video for anyone interested to see--RCTV not only "sided with the officers" (and oligarchy) who made the attempt on Chavez's life, they actually called for his overthrow. They put out nonstop calls for protest in the street, they made no secret of who and what they were promoting, and when the coup fell apart (on account of vast popular support for Chavez, not the coupmongers), they refused to put out any news at all of the sudden reversals. And to add insult to injury, Granier had the gall to lie about it all later. (Which he has yet to stop doing.)

This is the "press freedom" that IAPA is now strewing laurels upon? Color me underwhelmed.

And what is the matter with E & P, repeating a lot of their unsubstantiated drivel and not questioning it? Right now, of all American media-analysis sites, it seems that only FAIR is covering Venezuela with any eye to setting the record straight.

And some people wonder why I have such disdain of the mainstream media, and why I say it's conservative as a motherfucker. Yeah, I wonder too. I also wonder why it's so hard to find any news from Venezuela that doesn't somehow try to work in a smear against its democratically elected president.

October 16, 2007

Did anyone miss me?

No, I didn't die, although it certainly feels like I just came back from the dead. My high-speed modem kacked out on the night after the provincial election. Hence, no FLFB (or any other B for that matter.) Meanwhile, I'll be playing catch-up...AGAIN. Let's hope this is the last of the computer emergencies for this year (or any other.) I hate being offline!

On the off chance that anyone missed me--thanks, your concern is aways appreciated.

October 9, 2007

They could learn a thing or two from Venezuela

From Straight Goods, two interesting articles on Alberta and its oil.

Numero Uno notes that Ontario's oil addiction is fueling Alberta's polluting ways, and reviews a bomb-throwerish book whose basic thesis is that Albertans are stupid for polluting so much and not giving a shit. Of course, it's not as if our entire country isn't car-dependent to a fault, and it's not as if that isn't feeding into the nasty state of affairs in Alberta. And it's not as if there aren't conservative politicians all over it doing their damnedest to keep it that way--because, they say, jobs depend on it. (Someone kindly clue them in to the radical notion that protecting the ecology is also good for the economy--environmentally-friendlier technology CREATES jobs. Someone also inform them that green politics are taking hold in Alberta even as the pollution problem goes from bad to worse--precisely because there IS a pollution problem, and the ranchers aren't so happy with the oilpatch. Remember, farmers feed cities!)

Numero Dos is even more interesting. Finally, word is getting out that the way Alberta's oilpatch does business...is not sound business. Alberta's public sector is suffering because oil is treated as a private-sector purview, which it shouldn't be. And the fact that the oil industry is still crying poor, has Ricardo Acuña of the Parkland Institute calling foul:

For example, one of the report's most flawed recommendations is that no changes be made in the practice of only charging a royalty rate of 1 percent until a project's construction expenses have been paid off.

Although this policy may have made sense 20 years ago when there was little-to-no industry interest in the oil sands and the price of oil was low, there is no reason for it when oil is at $80 per barrel and international corporations are literally lining up to buy oil sands leases.

Industry would have us believe that there is tremendous risk involved with oil sands projects. The realities are: that we know where the resource is; the cost of production is less than $25 per barrel; the demand for the resource is virtually guaranteed; and the market price will go nowhere but up in the foreseeable future.

Where exactly is all the risk?

The panel's recommendation to increase the base royalty rate from the existing 25 percent to 33 percent is a step in the right direction, but still grossly inadequate. Although this move would increase Alberta's total share (royalties and taxes) of tar sands revenues by some 40 percent, it would still leave the province firmly entrenched in the bottom half of jurisdictions around the world in terms of rent collection.

With countries like Norway and Venezuela obtaining 78 percent and 90 percent respectively, Alberta is far from being a leader in this regard. And contrary to industry threats of late, these countries are experiencing no shortage of oil companies wanting to invest in their resources.

Not only that, but Venezuela is experiencing a boom as a result of government investment of those oil revenues--into communities, co-operatives, agrarian reform, environmental protection initiatives, scientific research, healthcare, education, national defence...the list goes on and on. Instead of letting Big Oil make out like a bandit forever at Venezuela's expense, Chavecito has them paying to play...and play they still do. The few who refuse, will soon find themselves out of fields to export, as the Middle Eastern stocks wind down, the war in Iraq grinds on, and Africa becomes too unstable. And by the time they find it out, they'll be kicking themselves for being so damn greedy and unreasonable.

Are you paying attention, Premier Stelmach?

Pierre Trudeau's energy plan, it turns out, was not only bang-on, but ahead of its time. Looks like Alberta could learn a thing or two from Venezuela--and if Albertans are smart, they'll stop slagging off on Trudeau, too. It's time to renationalize Petro-Canada in its entirety and restore it to what he intended it to be. And dust off the ol' NEP--it could end up saving at least one province's badly underfunded ass.

October 8, 2007

Larry Craig's strange habits, pegged


Floaters in space

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield explains how space toilets work. Stick around till the end and you might learn something about, er, meteor showers.

A faith-based flipflop...flops

Oh, how I wish our neighbors to the south were taking notes right now. This, folks, is an example of how NOT to mix religion and politics.

Did John Tory lose the Ontario election away back in June when he announced that a Progressive Conservative government would extend to all religious schools the same public funding that Catholic schools have long enjoyed?

Looking back, I think he did.

Tory had his reasons, back then. He had made a commitment during the 2004 Conservative leadership campaign to extend funding to non-Catholic religious schools. He felt bound to honour that commitment. How could he attack Premier Dalton McGuinty's record of broken promises if he did not keep his own word?

He undoubtedly felt, as he has said many times, that fairness and equity demanded that other faith-based schools receive equal financial treatment with Ontario's constitutionally-protected Catholic schools.

Tory had been principal secretary to Premier William Davis in the early 1980s, when funding was extended to grades 11-13 in the Catholic system, and he had lived through the outcry then (an outcry that may or may not have contributed to the Conservatives' defeat in the 1985 election). He had to anticipate that there would be a fuss this time, too.

He may have assumed that an announcement made in June would fade from voters' consciousness by the time they tuned into the campaign after Labour Day. If so, he was sadly mistaken. An Environics poll on Friday found that that opposition to faith-based funding had increased from 44 percent to 58 percent between Labour Day weekend and last week.

Finally, he may have calculated that opposition to his policy would be offset by new support among Muslim and Jewish voters in and around Toronto. We won't know for sure until election night, October 10, but that, too, appears to have been a miscalculation.

According to the opinion polls, Conservative support is weakening across the province. The two major parties were locked in a virtual tie as late as mid-August. Since then, the Liberals have gradually opened a lead — five points in Friday's Environics poll, 10 points in an Ipsos Reid poll on Saturday.

Maybe someone should clue the Tories in to a very basic notion: that "separate but equal" does NOT constitute fairness. And that funding private religious schools with public money starves the public system and is ultimately divisive.

Is it any wonder that Tory's faith-based flip-flop...has flopped?

Does democracy suck?

The Beeb asks a not-so-pertinent, but provocatively phrased question: Why Democracy?

...And then falls flat on its fanny with the usual obtuse conclusions I've already seen ad nauseam from people who call themselves the intelligentsia. They are too windy and too flaccid for me to excerpt here.

Why Democracy, indeed. When Democracy is just a smokescreen for capitalism and profiteering, why ask why? Drink Bud Dry.

And stop complaining about the hangover. After all, you bought a round and boozed it up with all the rest of them.

Silly Beeb, it's not about democracy at all. Haven't you twigged to that yet? Just ask Alan Greenspan. It's all about capitalism having its way: the oil in Iraq, and the pipeline in Afghanistan. No war the US has fought since WWII has been about anything else.

Who believes that anyone in the White House seriously gives a shit about who rules Burma, and how? Wake up. They've had since 1990 to get their self-righteous butts in there and roust the military junta, if democracy is indeed their noble goal. The Cold War was over, and The Free World had supposedly won it for the Gipper. They had ample time, money and resources to invade Burma and set things right and wipe off some of the tarnish from their military brass. The reason they haven't bothered? The SLORC, as it used to be called (what is its name now?) saw to it that the Burmese oil and natural gas kept right on flowing to the multinationals, so democratization just wasn't a priority. Aung San Suu Kyi could stay under house arrest, unable to accept her Nobel Prize, unable even to visit her dying husband or attend his funeral, let alone govern as she'd been elected to do. Meanwhile, ordinary Burmese could languish and starve, seeing none of those vast oil and gas profits trickling down their way.

The Beeb's problem is the same as that of every other mainstream media source in the Western Hemisphere. It seems to think western-style capitalism should be a sure and certain road to democracy, and that free markets must equal free minds and free people. But lo: China has lotsa capitalism, and zero democracy. Russia, with its steady backslide into old police-state patterns even as capitalism flourishes, is further proof that it can't possibly work the way the right-wing think tanks keep claiming it should. The Beeb is bewildered, and automatically assumes that it must be some fatal flaw in Democracy that is to blame. Maybe the fact that it's just too...well, too democratic, blah blah...

Oh, who are we kidding?

Capitalism and democracy aren't friends, and we should all stop pretending they are or even fondly hoping that they might be. A system that equates money with power, and whose objective is to concentrate the largest amounts of money in the fewest hands, is inherently anti-democratic. Given half a chance, Capitalism would not only kill Democracy, but sell off its corpse to the highest bidder.

Besides, as old Joe Stalin (that state capitalist par excellence) astutely observed, it's not the votes that count, but who counts the votes. This should set off alarm bells in the "democratic" US of A, where private, for-profit companies are the vote counters. It should set off even more alarm bells when you see that the vote-counting companies have all sorts of ties to one particular political party.

But there is no chance that we would ever get to see an honest examination of that in the news; what would the commercial sponsors think?

The Beeb gets it even more wrong when it lays out the "lessons from the Burmese uprising"--you know, the same that was brutally put down by the military to the tune of thousands of dead dumped in the jungle and left to rot (many of them Buddhist monks, the most peaceful souls imaginable on Earth.) They lay the blame for the failure of the uprising at the feet of those who rose up--oh, too bad, guess they didn't push hard enough. Time to shed a few tears pro forma, and move on to reporting what matters: the successes of the successful.

The fact that the successes of the Free World (TM) are directly related to the failures of places like Burma shall never be mentioned, at least not in the lamestream press. The Burmese uprisings have everything it takes to succeed, except one: M-O-N-E-Y. That one was, conveniently, left off the Beeb's list. There is not a single major corporation on the planet that will actually invest money in freeing and democratizing Burma. Why? Not profitable enough. Democracy is unruly, as Donald Rumsfeld once said in a rare lucid moment between idiotic babblings. Democracy makes people too uppity, too apt to join unions and agitate for higher wages and other rights. Not enough order and regimentation to crank out the profits with maximum efficiency and minimum cost. Therefore, the junta stays. Too bad; so sad!

Meanwhile, the oil profits just keep a-rollin' along. On a slow boat to China, where capitalism and democracy aren't even on speaking terms.

No, democracy doesn't suck. But capitalism sure does blow.

And so does any news coverage which glosses over the crimes of the latter while bemoaning the supposed weaknesses of the former.

October 7, 2007

Jon Stewart eats a Tweety Bird

You know the crapaganda whores are hurtin' when a lamestream newsman gets so thoroughly shishkabobbed by a fake-news comedian. I don't imagine many people will buy Chris Matthews's book after seeing this...except for shits and giggles.

Yes! There IS a Goddess!

I was so bummed when I couldn't download the video podcast of Evo Morales giving an interview to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now. The latest version of iTunes I have seems to do nothing but eat it, and I don't know how to go back to the old one (which worked fine in playback, but was S-L-O-W on the downloading). I was forced to view it with RealPlayer instead, and RealPlayer is as buggy as a termite mound on the African savanna. Not to mention that you can't save the videos from it. Then, by coincidence, I found THIS tonight:

Evo's excellent interview has been YouTubed!

Granted, there are still some inconveniences; the interview has had to be cut into five segments due to YouTube limitations. (Oddly enough, I've seen some YouTubes that were over an hour long, most of them on RadioAporrea's channel. How they managed that feat, I don't know.)

But at least, now, this happy fan can get her Evo-fix. And so can you. (Or at the very least, you can finally find out what all the fuss is about.)

Parts 2-5 follow:

I think you'll agree that Amy and Juan have scored another coup--much as they did when they became the first US journalists to interview Chavecito on their home turf.

Now, let's see if they can get Rafael Correa and make it a triple-scoop!

How to explain THIS away?

Well, if you're Gallup, you'll blame it on the phrasing of the question and/or the dumbness of your sample population, and thus discount the obviously disquieting (to a capitalist!) answers they give you:

On many issues affecting day-to-day life, Venezuelans are nearly twice as likely to associate socialism with positive outcomes, as they are to associate them with capitalism. When Gallup asked respondents whether "more freedom to think the way one wants" better describes socialism or capitalism, 43% say socialism, compared with 26% who say capitalism. Venezuelans share similar views about under which system there is more peace and social calm (44% for socialism vs. 23% for capitalism), and under which system there is less crime (42% for socialism vs. 22% for capitalism).

A similar pattern emerges on issues related to governance. Forty-three percent of Venezuelans say the country has more sovereignty under socialism, while 24% say this is true of capitalism. The same holds true on the issue of corruption, with 42% saying corruption gets fought under socialism, while 21% say this happens with capitalism. Forty-four percent perceive more justice for people under socialism, compared with 21% who perceive this about capitalism.

Forty-nine percent of respondents say socialism offers education opportunities for all, compared with 21% who say the same about capitalism. Venezuelans also perceive that there is better quality of education with socialism (45%) than with capitalism (25%). Nonetheless, when Chavez initially talked about education reform during his first term, several thousand parents and teachers demonstrated against a decree to allow education officials to fire teachers and administrators who disagree with any changes.

While Chavez is unlikely to face great opposition from his support base -- generally the poor -- for his limit on the importation of luxury items, other reform attempts have not fared as well. His attempt, for example, to change the country's constitution to extend the presidency from six to seven years and eliminate presidential term limits has not been well-received as of late. The Venezuelan Assembly is discussing that proposal, and this week a group of legislators from Podemos, a splinter group of a pro-Chavez socialist organization, rejected the constitutional changes, saying they want socialism that is democratic, not authoritarian. Thirty-nine percent of Venezuelans surveyed at the time of Chavez's re-election said that under socialism "it is guaranteed that a president will be changed at the time they have to," while 26% said the same about capitalism.

Venezuelans are more mixed in regard to which system is better from an economic perspective. Forty percent say more wealth gets produced under socialism, compared with 28% who say the same about capitalism. Forty-six percent say wealth is better distributed under socialism and 22% say under capitalism. Venezuelans are nearly evenly divided about which system affords more people with opportunities to make money; 35% say socialism and 34% say capitalism. Roughly 4 in 10 Venezuelans (41%) tell Gallup there is more inflation and a high cost of living under capitalism, compared with 27% who say the same is true about socialism.

Across the board, a high percentage of Venezuelans say they "don't know" about a particular issue, between 17% and 21%, and generally another 5% refuse to answer the question. This may be attributable to the fact the terms socialism and capitalism were not defined for respondents. Some analysts say the high numbers might also reflect a general lack of discourse in the country about these issues, and more a "cult of personality" revolving around Chavez.

There you go, folks...people in Venezuela are too dumb to understand the Gallup pollsters' questions, and they're also flummoxed by the cult of Hugo Chavez. We all know that intelligent, informed people would NEVER choose socialism on the basis of its actual merits, because the Harvard School of Business and the Chicago School of Economics tell us so, repeatedly!

And despite what you may have seen on Aporrea and other pro-Chavez sites, everybody knows there is no popular participation in Venezuelan democracy at all. In fact, there is no democracy there anymore since the discredited Punto Fijo duopoly lost power. It's a dictatorship, I tell you--the Cult of the Chavez!

And on what authority does Gallup claim this? Why, that of an opposition activist--the only actual interview they publish in this fair 'n' balanced article. Someone who comes from the school of thought that the Fourth Republic was just fine 'n' dandy, and didn't need any goddamned fixing, even when it was falling apart faster than a well-ripened Roquefort cheese.

"Discussions on ideology, such as one would have when one talks about socialism and capitalism and which systems are better, is not something that has been discussed much in Venezuela, and therefore most people really don't think about it too much," says Pedro Bucelli, a financial analyst specializing in emerging markets who is a former board member of Petroleos de Venezuela, the country's national petroleum company, and a pro-business member of the opposition civic group Sumate. "Discussions and debate in Venezuela have focused on individuals," Bucelli adds. "There is a political explosion in the country, revolving around an individual, not necessarily around an ideology."

See? We toldja so. Hugo Chavez only thinks he's God; Sumate, however, is actually it, and their word is gospel. Pay no attention to what the poll respondents (who are also Venezuelan voters) have told us loud and clear. Pay no attention to all the ideological debate that's actually going on down there, either. We are the Gallup News Service, and we have spoken!

You may now go back to your regularly scheduled snoozing and boozing.

October 6, 2007

April 13: How people power rescued a president

Uploaded by Guarataro

A new documentary from Avila TV, a community station in Caracas, Venezuela. A stylish mash-up of footage from the coup of '02, interviews with young Bolivarian activists, murals and other artworks, and a hip-hop soundtrack. In Spanish.

October 5, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging Too: Unloading on the Pigman with Mike Malloy!

"Way to support the troops, Boil Butt!"

Anthony from Sweden, aka Malmo Blue, calls in at about 5:30 in this YouTube (which he made and posted.)

Way to give ol' Boil-Butt the red-ass, Anthony and Mike!

Festive Left Friday Blogging: What time is it, Mr. President?

Chavecito clocks in!

It's Chavecito time, of course!

Chavecito watches. I SO want one!

Tick tock.

President Hugo Chavez is taking Venezuela back in time — by 30 minutes, to be exact.

His government's plan to turn back clocks by a half-hour has some Venezuelans pleased at the prospect of sleeping in. Others seem vexed that Chavez is making the entire nation change its daily rhythm. Some bloggers suggest Chavez wants to get out of Washington's "imperialist" time zone, but it will also mean that Venezuela will be a half-hour apart from his Cuban allies.

"It seems crazy to me," says 38-year-old Maritza Mendoza, who sells orange juice from a sidewalk stand in downtown Caracas. "It's a whim, just like the change of the currency."

Actually, it's not. It makes good financial sense to hike the value of the bolivar so that you no longer have the absurdity of millionaire salaries for what turns out to be rather modest-paying work; likewise, it sure as hell beats the fuss of springing forward and falling back to just have one time all year round. The half-hour compromise would work fine for me. Can we bring it to Canada too, please?

(Yeah, I know--OW isn't too fussed on all this time-changery. I agree with him that Chavecito really needed to do a better job of explaining things in advance and getting people ready for the changeover. Putting it to a vote might've been nice too, but given all the voting they've had to do of late, it's probably overkill. This confusion is certainly not helping to boost his image in the you-know-where; it just leads to more ramping-up of the "crazy dictator" geek chorus. Which is already at an all-time high--a sure sign of another impending coup attempt.)

(BTW, OW: I believe the clocks would have been set BACK half an hour, since we in the Eastern time zone are still on Daylight Saving Time. We "fall back"--a full hour--on November 4.)

(You're welcome!)

October 4, 2007

Yo, troll...

I know you're reading this, because you left your shit on my blog:

An unapproved comment has been posted on your blog News of the Restless, for entry #925 (No funding for fundie schools in Ontario!). You need to approve this comment before it will appear on your site.

IP Address:

Name: Sabina Becker

Email Address: binabecker@yahoo.com



Comedy at its best. I think this babe is brain dead. Actually, she is.

Just so you know, I've got your IP. I'm in the process of tracking you down. I've also asked Yahoo to investigate you.

I posted a fair warning, and I don't take kindly to spoofers, spammers or trolls. Or, for that matter, IDENTITY THIEVES.

If you think you're gonna get away with this, you can stuff that thought back up your right-wing nutjob ass.

Have a nice day, lawbreaker.

October 3, 2007

Quotable: Jon Stewart on speculation

"Speculation: News you can use--eventually."

--Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, October 3, 2007

October 2, 2007

Irony bites!

Doesn't it just?

Cuban doctors working in Bolivia have saved the sight of the man who executed revolutionary leader Che Guevara in 1967, Cuban official media report.

Mario Teran, a Bolivian army sergeant, shot dead Che Guevara after he was captured in Bolivia's eastern lowlands.

Cuban media reported news of the surgery ahead of the 40th anniversary of Che's death on 9 October.

Mr Teran had cataracts removed under a Cuban programme to offer free eye treatment across Latin America.

The operation on Mr Teran took place last year and was first revealed when his son wrote to a Bolivian newspaper to thank the Cuban doctors for restoring his father's sight.

Interesting that fate chose to only just spare the triggerman who drew the shortest straw, but not the bastards who gave him his orders. Karma caught up to them all, according to Eduardo Galeano:

Rene Barrientos, the dictator, had given the order to kill him. He ended up enveloped in the flames of his helicopter, a year and a half later. Colonel Zenteno Anaya, commander of the troops that surrounded and trapped Che in Nancahuazu, transmitted the order. Much later, he got entangled in conspiracies. The dictator of the moment found out. Zenteno Anaya was shot to death in Paris, one spring morning. The Ranger commander Andres Selich prepared Che's execution. In 1972, Selich was beaten to death by his own functionaries, the Ministry of the Interior's professional torturers. Mario Teran, sergeant, executed the order. He shot the round of machine gun fire into Guevara's body, which was lying in the little schoolhouse in La Higuera. Teran lives in an asylum: he babbles and answers nonsense. Colonel Quintanilla announced the death of Che to the world. He exhibited the body to photographers and journalists. Quintanilla died of three gunshot wounds in Hamburg in 1971.

(from "Introduction to Law", Days and Nights of Love and War. Emphasis added.)

As you can see, Galeano's account of the people who killed Che is considerably more fleshed-out than the Beeb's dry bones.

Galeano also notes that a journalist, Carlos Widmann, who had recently been to Bolivia and witnessed the miners being slaughtered by Barrientos's army, had an opportunity to cast a curse on any villain he wished at a voodoo ceremony in a Brazilian terreiro. He could think of no other name to write down and put in the frog's mouth but that of Barrientos! By the time his latter to Galeano arrived, describing the night's events, "the Bolivian dictator had already been burnt alive in the Canadon del Arque, swallowed up by the flames of a helicopter given to him by the Gulf Oil Company."

In Open Veins of Latin America, Galeano elaborates a bit further on the fatal event:

...Rene Barrientos's helicopter had tangled fatally with telegraph wires in the Arque ravine. Human imagination could not have conceived of a more perfect death. The helicopter was a personal gift from Gulf Oil; the telegraph wires belong to the state. Burned up along with Barrientos were two suitcases full of money he was taking to distribute among the peasants, as well as some machine-guns which began spraying bullets around the flaming helicopter, preventing anyone from coming tot he rescue as the dictator was roasted alive.

Barrientos was very compliant to the wishes of foreign oil companies, as the gift of the helicopter shows. The state--which is another way of saying, the people of Bolivia--had ideas as to what they wanted their president to do; selling the country and its resources off at fire-sale prices was not one of them. So the organ of their communication--the wires--became the noose that snagged Gulf Oil's helicopter, and by extension, the instrument of Barrientos's karma. Galeano doesn't say for whom the guns were intended, but I think it's safe to say that Barrientos was not going to arm peasant militias fighting against CIA imperialism!

Perhaps Teran got off alive because he was not in a position of command, but "just obeying orders", as the odious saying goes. But I think his survival (in insanity) was also a kind of karma. As was his operation--conducted by Cuban doctors. Che was a doctor himself, and of course, a key figure in Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution.

Yeah, tell me karma doesn't happen.

Everyone loves Evo

And in case you wonder why, let Deborah James and Medea Benjamin explain it to you:

While other heads of state were meeting with bankers and billionaires, Morales asked his staff to set up a meeting with U.S. grassroots leaders so he could learn about our struggles and how we could work together. The meeting included high-ranking labor leaders, immigrant organizers, Indigenous leaders, peace activists and environmentalists. "I've lived in New York during a lot of UN meetings, and I've never seen a president reach out to the labor community like Evo did today," remarked Ed Ott, Executive Director of the New York City Central Labor Council.

The President listened patiently while U.S. organizers talked about efforts to stop the war in Iraq, injustices in the prison system, organizing efforts of low-wage immigrant workers, struggles for Indigenous rights and the difficulties of getting the Bush administration to seriously address the crisis of climate change. "For a farmer to become President, that is a dream come true!" commented Niel Ritchie, president of the League of Rural Voters. "Listening to President Morales, it's so easy to see how our current trade model has wreaked havoc on farmers in the U.S. as well as in Bolivia."

His most widespread outreach, however, was on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, who also seemed captivated by this Indigenous farmer-turned-president. Speaking through an interpreter, Morales told millions of Americans how his government's policies have brought hundreds of millions of dollars for the nation's poor - that would have gone to foreign corporate coffers - through the nationalization of oil and gas. Revenues from hydrocarbons, mostly natural gas, have increased from $440 million in 2004 to over $1.5 billion in 2006 - a significant amount in Bolivia's economy, as it is an increase from 5 percent of GDP to over 13 percent of GDP. This year revenues will likely top $2 billion, he said. With a twinkle in his eye as he made a measured critique of the Bush administration's policies, he said that in this new century, armies should save lives through humanitarian aid, not take lives.

Throughout Morales' media appearances (including a lengthy segment on Democracy Now!), official speeches at the United Nations, and public meetings, he focused on three main points. The most salient was on the urgency of the need for comprehensive solutions to climate change while simultaneously improving the lives of the poor. "We have to be honest about the causes of this global warming. Overconsumption in the developed countries. Overpollution in the developed countries." At the same time, he argued that the poor still need more access to energy: "Just like we fought to make water a human right, we need an international campaign to make access to energy a human right."

Humble, smart, down-to-earth, to-the-point. In a nutshell, this is why I love him, too.

(Well, that, and he's cute as a bug--especially in his soccer shorts.)

October 1, 2007

Debra Cagan hates all Iranians!


And she's got a stunning fashion sense, too:

Debra Cagan's remarkable fashion sense

What is that around her neck, a Nazi medal? Gott im Himmel!

PS: No, it's not a Mutterkreuz--I'm still searching for exactly what it is. (Golly, can you imagine HER as a mother? What a fright--she probably believes the riding-crop is an instrument of child discipline!)