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November 30, 2007

Alvaro's big oopsie

Looks like the president of Marching Powder Land has some serious splainin' to do. Like, for example, how his effort to sabotage Chavecito and Piedad Cordoba in their efforts to broker peace and a release of FARC hostages...ended up showing that they had succeeded anyhow:

Colombia announced today that authorities arrested three people presumed to belong to urban militias of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Bogotá late Thursday, who were found in possession of five videos and seven letters and a digital memory card with photographs demonstrating proof of life of five civilian and eleven military hostages held by the FARC, including French Colombian citizen Ingrid Betancourt and three US defense contractors. The videos and other documents showing proof of life were addressed to Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The son of Ingrid Betancourt, Lorenzo Betancourt, said the proof that his mother is alive is thanks to the mediation of President Chavez. However, he expressed concern over her health and asked that Chavez's mediation be renewed to secure her release as soon as possible.

The proof of life of the hostages appears only a week after Colombian president Alvaro Uribe unilaterally terminated the mediating role of Chavez and Cordoba, who were working to secure the release of the hostages and had assured that "proof of life would arrive any minute."

In an interview with Telesur, Codroba, who is now under investigation by the Supreme Court for "crimes of treason against the homeland and collusion," defended her role and said that the proof of life of the hostages demonstrates that the mediation of herself and the Venezuelan president was being undertaken with complete seriousness and responsibility.

Oops.

I think someone owes two other somebodies an apology.

Ha ha. Oppos funny!

Oh, the Venezuelan opposition...they seriously think no one will catch them in a lie. That their carefully contrived media campaigns against Chavecito will go off without a hitch. But as it happens, the ever alert Mario Silva (who hosts La Hojilla, VTV's media-whore-watch show) has caught them out in at least three big, fat whoppers:

In case you haven't guessed, the three lies are:

1. Thursday's "big" opposition march filled Bolivar Avenue in downtown Caracas;

2. They didn't bus in their people from elsewhere--they claimed these were just the citizens of Caracas alone;

and

3. They were nonviolent.

Of course, none of this is true. Bolivar Avenue was almost empty, as the aerial shots show to great effect; there WERE buses from elsewhere, a long line of them, clearly marked "NO", and with the "R" for "reforma" crossed out; and the "students", in the yellow t-shirts of Primero Justicia, the right-wing law'n'order party, were so nonviolent that they lost little time in swarming, berating and physically attacking the camera crew from the public channel, VTV.

What's especially funny is how "El Matacuras", the host of Alo Ciudadano, loses his smarmy little smile when he gets caught in his lie--live and on the air. But give the guy credit, he goes right on like the pro he is, claiming the buses were only for a concert. Um, yeah--and that big, white "NO R" on all the windows was probably just the band's name. Had nothing to do with trying to get people to vote against the constitutional reforms on Sunday, swear to God!

Also funny: I suspect the VTV crew got attacked by those fine young law-abidin' Primeros Golpistas because it dared to show them getting on the buses that they weren't supposed to be using--you know, being real, unbussed-in citizens of Caracas and all. Or maybe because the crew were working for VTV, in which case they couldn't be counted on to lie for the opposition. Or both. Any way you slice it--funny as hell. And not likely to be shown on mainstream TV anytime soon, so grab it here while it's hot.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: How does Evo kick ass?

Let us count the ways.

He does it with speeches...

Evo speaking to marchers for the Dignity Pension in Bolivia

and marches...

Evo marching with indigenous demonstrators in support of the Dignity Pension

...and a stroke of the pen...

Evo signing a decree for the Dignity Pension

...and finally, with a great smile.

Evo smiling in spite of everything

That last is especially important when you consider all he's up against. (Very helpful backgrounder, and a lot of vital facts the mainstream "reports" are shamefully neglecting to tell you, at Indymedia Bolivia.)

November 29, 2007

King eats humble pie

Everybody sing! "Once I was the King of Spain, now I eat humble pie..."

Meanwhile, look who else is munching a hearty slice of homebaked humble goodness:

The opposition PP (Popular Party) proposal that the Spanish Congress criticize the political process in Venezuela has failed, after the Legislature's Foreign Affairs Committee rejected it Wednesday.

The plan was for legislative support for opposition to the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a few days before the referendum on the projected constitutional reform in that South American country.

When rejecting the PP idea, spokeswoman of the ruling PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers' Party), Fatima Aburto sustained it is up to Venezuelan voters to decide on the constitutional reform.

Meanwhile, IU United Left- leader Gaspar Llamazares contended that the PP was trying to give lessons in democracy to an Ibero-American country.

Too bad, so sad. The renamed old fascist party has once again failed to convert others to its imperial vision of "democracy".

What is this world coming to?

November 27, 2007

Who died and made Fedecamaras king?

The arrogance of these people just knows no bounds. I wonder if the reporter for the Canadian Press agency wasn't chuckling when s/he wrote this:

Fedecamaras, which counts thousands of large and small businesses among its members, rejected Chavez's constitutional overhaul as an "illegal act" in mid-November, and has since called on Venezuelans to oppose its passage in a Dec. 2 referendum "by every possible legal means."

First of all, what gives THEM the authority to pronounce on the legality of a constitutional reform? Do they still think they write the law in Venezuela, and the government's duty is to rubber-stamp it? Apparently they do. Which is why they oppose those reforms--the reforms were written by not only Chavez, but the National Assembly, and some of them directly undermine the unelected power of the business sector, which is led by Fedecamaras.

And secondly, what is "every possible legal means"? The only way the reforms can be defeated is by VOTING. Anything else is NOT legal. Empty rhetoric? Hey, no one farts it like business leaders. Empty barrel, loudest noise, blah blah.

But what really makes me giggle over all this is how the CP reported this as if Fedecamaras had any moral standing left. I wonder how hard it was to keep a straight face while noting the following:

Chavez accuses the business chamber of helping to orchestrate a 2002 coup that ousted him from office for two days - during which time Fedecamaras' then-president Pedro Carmona headed the country's interim government.

"Chavez accuses"? This makes it sound like he's the only one who thinks so, and that his word is a mere accusation, nothing more. But this coup is a fact, and so is the blood on Fedecamaras' hands. The "interim government" was no government at all; it was illegal. Chavez was president of Venezuela throughout the coup, which means that when he was taken into custody by Carmona's henchmen, it was a kidnapping and attempted assassination.

In other words, A CRIME.

Which means that Fedecamaras has no right to pronounce on the legality of anything, since it is still in direct violation of the laws of the land itself.

Who died and made Fedecamaras king of Venezuela, anyway? And WTF is the Canadian Press doing, carrying water for them? It's supposed to be a press agency, not a fucking PR firm. The least they can do is report the facts, not perpetuate a dead myth.

November 26, 2007

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

Oi, oi, oi.

In honor of their having elected a new PM who's really got his shit together, I feel a song coming on.

Piedad Cordoba receives death threats; France offers protection

No good deed goes unpunished in Alvaro Uribe's Colombia, it seems.

The government of France offered protection to Colombian opposition senator Piedad Cordoba after she received death threats for leading a move for rapprochement with FARC guerrillas and a release of prisoners.

According to sources cited by Caracol Radio, the threats against Cordoba "worsened" after the Colombian government suspended on Wednesday the peace talks Cordoba led, along with president Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, between the FARC and the Colombian government.

The sources indicated that French officials made phone calls to the parliamentarian, and offered her protection, and added that the senator asked for a meeting with Chavez, and will be travelling to Caracas to talk with him.

Translation mine.

She is, incidentally, also under investigation for "treason"!

Meanwhile, Uribe has taken to some very rude name-calling:

No wonder Chavecito decided to put Uribe in the deep-freeze. What a jackass that little man is!

And Chavecito is so right when he says Colombia deserves a better president. I know just who I'd cast in the role, too:

Piedad Cordoba--future president of Colombia

UPDATE: France is now denying that it offered Cordoba asylum. (Note that the original wording was "protection", which could mean just about anything.) Nicolas Sarkozy is still desperate for proof that Ingrid Betancourt is alive. Another Colombian senator, Gustavo Petro, is trying hard to mend fences. And Cordoba feels that she and Chavez have been made the butt of an evil joke, which it might just be; it has all the smells of a major farce.

Fine allies Dubya has, part umpteen

Oh, Saudi Arabia. The problem with that country isn't the general insanity of its theocracy--it's where to start. A few posts ago, I blogged about a rape victim getting punished for being a victim. Now, it gets even worse--the authorities have decided to heap defamation on top of abuse and humiliation, no doubt in an effort to make themselves look better.

Saudi justice officials say a woman who was sentenced to prison and flogging after she was gang-raped has now confessed to an extramarital affair.

The case of the unidentified woman, 19, drew international criticism after an appeal increased her 90-lash sentence to 200 lashes and six months' jail.

The justice ministry statement rejected "foreign interference" in the case.

It insisted the ruling was legal and that the woman had "confessed to doing what God has forbidden".

Coming from a ministry that upholds a man's legal right to be unfaithful (by marrying multiple wives), that bit about "what God has forbidden" is downright rich. Mmmmm, smell the waft of hypocrisy!

And if you think that's bad, consider what happened back in 1977, to a daughter of the Saudi royal family itself:

A 17-year-old, "very beautiful" girl, Princess Misha'al was a granddaughter to Prince Muhammad bin Abdul Aziz, who was an older brother to the then king of Saudi Arabia, King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz.

"She was the King's favorite. He loved her. The entire family loved her. She traveled all over the world. Her parents gave her everything she wanted. And when she was at the right age, the family chose a good husband for her, a royal cousin."

"But the young lady had ideas of her own. She rebelled. She refused to fulfill the marriage contract. She wanted to go the university, to Beirut. The family agreed. The husband, he had no choice."

"You can imagine the influences in Beirut— radical Arab politics, women's liberation, Palestinians, Western influences all pulling, and all pulling in different directions. And then she— she met a boy from our country, a student. She completely lost her head. She forgot who she was— a royal princess, the king's niece, a married woman."

She fell madly in love with the boy Khalid Muhallal, the nephew of General Ali Shaer, the Saudi ambassador to Lebanon.

But of course, that too falls under "what God has forbidden", at least according to Saudi law. And what happened as a result?

"You see, in our country, execution for adultery happens very rarely. There have to be four independent and honorable male witnesses or eight independent and honorable female witnesses. They have to witness — excuse me — the actual penetration. Now, the only other way that the accused can be condemned is out of her own mouth, by saying three times in front of a court of law, "I have committed adultery." Three times.

"Well, that girl stood before the court. She was asked and she said, "I have committed adultery." Well, immediately the king stopped the proceedings. He loved her. He summoned her to his private rooms. "Do you realize that if you admit your guilt for a second and a third time, I can't save you, your grandfather can't save you. Go back. You only have to say one thing, that you will never see this boy again. Please."

"Well, she went back to that court and she said, "I have committed adultery. I have committed adultery." Three times. In five seconds, she had condemned herself and the boy."

"Both of them" were going to be publicly executed.

And they were...the princess by a gunshot, her boyfriend by beheading.

It is worth noting that we are not talking about Islam here, but about Saudi law, which interprets it in a very tribal, very biased (and as you can see, sexist) fashion. There are plenty of Muslim countries where this sort of thing doesn't happen, at least not as a matter of formal law. And there is a growing number of Muslim countries where there is a backlash against laws sanctioning "honor killings", too. In Jordan, for example, the king himself declared his opposition to his own country's laws which allowed male relatives to kill a woman who gets out of line. At least one article, #340, has been struck from the Jordanian legal code, although more still remains to be done, especially on the enforcement front. But the high-level opposition to this barbaric custom has been noted, and it is only a matter of time before popular feeling catches up and makes it more dishonorable to kill a woman than it is for that woman to dance out of step.

So it is clear that Islam is, in fact, no defence regarding the abuse and killing of women. Given that various Middle-Eastern and South Asian non-Muslims have done it, as have Christians, it should be obvious that this is not really about religion at all, but about narrow, tribal notions of justice which are becoming outmoded, and which are opposed by leading Muslim feminists and religious scholars alike.

I wonder if this woman really confessed her "crime" freely, or if she was coerced or tortured into doing so. Remember, torture can make anyone say anything, even if it's a lie. It's obvious that we can't rely on the word of the Saudi justices. They are more concerned about defending the indefensible than they are about coming clean:

The justice ministry statement is at odds with previous published testimony of the woman, who is a Shia Muslim from the Qatif area.

It's worth noting that Shias are a minority in Wahhabi-dominated Saudi Arabia. And a persecuted minority at that. Surely that has nothing to do with this...

And don't look to Washington for anything to be done about it, either:

Several governments and human rights groups have condemned her sentence and urged it to be lifted. Canada described it as "barbaric".

The US, a major Saudi ally, declined to condemn to sentence, but did call it "astonishing".

I'm sure the fact that Saudi Arabia is a tame oil-cow has nothing to do with that.

One more stupid-ass glorified game show

I mean really. What else would you call this?

Fox's president of alternative entertainment is referring to "The Moment of Truth," the network's sure-to-be controversial game show in which contestants are asked a series of highly personal questions while connected to a polygraph machine.

The show's international format first gained notice Stateside in August when Fox ordered a pilot. Last month, a popular Colombian version of the series (called "Nothing But the Truth") made headlines when a contestant confessed to hiring a hit-man to murder her husband (an attempt that failed). The show was, at least temporarily, taken off the air.

Fox's version works like this: Before the show is taped, a contestant is given a polygraph test and asked 75 questions. Samples include: "Do you really care about the starving children in Africa?" "Are you sexually attracted to one of your wife's friends?" "Do fat people repulse you?" and "Do you think you'll still be with your husband five years from now?" Unlike the Colombian version, the show avoids asking about felony-level activities and sticks to revealing family secrets and unearthing private opinions.

The contestant's responses are determined to be truthful or untruthful by a certified polygraph examiner, but the contestant is not told the results. Within a couple of days after the test, the contestant appears on the show, where he is again asked 21 of their previous questions before a live audience, including family and friends.

"This is the first game show where you technically know all the questions and you know all the answers," Mr. Darnell said. "And yet this is the hardest game show I've ever been a part of in my entire life."

All the player has to do to win, goes the pitch, is tell the truth. If his answer matches what the polygraph says is true, he advances to the next round. The top prize is $500,000. The contestant can stop at any time, but once a question is asked, he must answer.

The only way I'd watch this is if they put the entire Bush Crime Family on. And I know just what I'd be questioning THEM about:

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McLellan caused quite a ruckus Tuesday with the startling (but certainly not surprising) revelation that his former bosses instructed him to outright lie to the American public over the Valerie Plame CIA leak case.

In his book "What Happened," due out in April, McClellan accuses the Busheviks of orchestrating a campaign of lies and deception over the Plame case. Consider this explosive excerpt:

"I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby," McClellan wrote. "There was one problem. It was not true. I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff and the president himself." At the time, the chief of staff was Andy Card.

Well, that should be a nice all-star roster of contestants: Karl Rove, Scooty-Scoots Libby, Andy Card, the Big Dick, and Dubya. I think that for them, we might even up the ante by giving them a shot of sodium pentothal before they're hooked up to the polygraph. Should make things really interesting...

But that's one piece of reality I don't expect to see on any laughably-named "reality TV" show anytime EVER, never mind soon.

November 25, 2007

How right was Clara Fraser...

...when she wrote that profit is unpaid wages?

Well, in the case of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce alone, she was right to the tune of at least $600 million. And bear in mind that when this was written, the loonie was still BEHIND the greenback.

Not no more, it's not.

Loonie kicking sand on George Washington

Loud and clear, but saying the wrong thing

Somebody please tell Harpo that the incumbent Australian PM got voted out because he refused to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol. Harpo opened his piehole wide at the Commonwealth Summit in Kampala, Uganda...and the wrong sounds came out. And right on the heels of that came a major, MAJOR fuckery:

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted any reference to binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions be deleted because the call for committing to such targets would not apply to all major polluters.

"What we were dealing with here was an initial proposal that would suggest binding and absolute targets on some countries and not others. And Canada has been insistent now at three consecutive international forums that we need one effective international protocol that ultimately involves action by all major emitters," he said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who met earlier Saturday with Harper, was one of the strongest advocates of a binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gases.

But Canada refused to agree to the plan, and without consensus, the Commonwealth was blocked.

Harper pointed out that Canada's position at the Commonwealth is the same to one it took at the G-8 and APEC summits earlier this year.

He said the next international climate deal to replace the Kyoto accord, which expires in 2012, should include commitments from such countries as China and India, as well as the United States.

In hockey parlance, this sort of exercise is called "killing the clock". Basically, you're not playing to win when the game is close and you're ahead, but just filling time and blocking shots until the other side loses.

We are still 5 years from the expiration of the Kyoto accord, and would lose nothing from signing on and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, but noooooo. Harpo has once again decided to put commerce ahead of the environment. Despicably, he's playing it as if he were proposing some kind of innovative, made-in-Canada PRO-environmental policy. But not only is NO made-in-Canada policy on the table, what IS on the table is copied from BushCo's book. And we all know who THEY favor.

Meanwhile, for a REAL made-in-Canada environmental solution, guess which Canadians have been ignored? Yep--you guessed it. The environmentalists. AGAIN.

Harpo's mealy mouth has out-shouted a clear majority at the Commonwealth. And this Canadian is deeply ashamed of his bullying, lies, and doubletalk.

Especially since global warming is the only thing that will ultimately benefit from all this clock-killing.

Irony ain't the only thing dead here

The Bush-Mush Democratic Vision for PakAfghanistan

"So far I've found him to be a man of his word. He's done more for democracy in Pakistan than any other modern leader has."

--Dubya, talking about you-know-who.

November 24, 2007

Quotable: Robert Higgs on crackpot realists

"Crackpot realists never learn anything, even when the lessons are cuffing them roughly about the head and shoulders. They continue to pile on more of the same actions that got them into trouble in the first place, expecting to be seen as Churchillian heroes for staying the idiotic course they have set.

"They keep spinning the bad news, year after year after year, wearing out entire battalions of press officers, until they finally escape from the morass by leaving office. Afterward, they heap blame on their successors for "losing China" or "cutting and running."

"Although the crackpot realists are neither wise nor honest, they are politically shrewd and personally vicious. When their malfeasances are exposed, they toss subordinates to the wolves and prepare the ground for their own pardons, understanding that the political winds may shift sharply against them later on.

"They are not squeamish: they digest mass murder as easily as they consume their eggs and toast, and they do not lose sleep by agonizing over the cannon fodder they sacrifice in the service of their own aggrandizement. Other people's children go to war; theirs go to Harvard and Yale.

"Being busy people, they cannot waste time on pity, except when a photo op requires its feigned expression.

"Imperialism appeals to them: if controlling the economic heights at home is good, controlling them throughout the entire world is better. Once ExxonMobil, Shell, Citigroup, J. P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Halliburton, and Bechtel have made their multinational arrangements, everything else will fall into place nicely.

"If it doesn't, because some uppity mullah or tin-pot dictator has created a snag, the U.S. Marines are always available, in the immortal words of the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Ledeen, 'to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.'"

--Robert Higgs, "The Triumph of Crackpot Realism"

Uppity update

According to Aporrea, Chavecito gave Iris Varela a comrade's shout-out during his Yes campaign trip.

Plus, there's more background on the bitch-slapping of Gustavo Azocar:

On the morning of Tuesday, the 20th of November, deputy Iris Varela appeared on a TV show hosted by [Azocar] on Televisora de Tachira (TRT), in San Cristobal. The deputy, visibly upset by what Azocar had written, demanded the right to reply in order to refute his version. The journalist refused her that right, and provoked her verbally, whereupon she attacked him.

Gee, that little man is looking less hapless by the minute, and more like just what Iris called him during the incident: a coward. He taunted her knowing exactly what kind of a response it would get, and of course, someone made hay from it all. Guess who...

These events were used by the private media, opposed to Chavez, in order to attack the revolutionary process and deputy Varela, to demonstrate that "Chavistas are attacking the press" before the convenient presence of the Inter-American Press Society (IAPA/SIP) in Venezuela--an organization formed by the owners of various private media outlets of the right in Latin America.

Translations mine.

Remember, remember--the second of December. The media are out in full force trying to discredit what they know will happen that day--a massive popular approval of Chavecito's and the National Assembly's constitutional reforms. They are trying to make it look like "there is no freedom of speech in Venezuela", that the Chavistas are on the attack, and that the Yes vote will be the result of mass intimidation.

The IAPA (Inter-American Press OWNERS' Association) will take that lie and carry it all over Latin America. Just like they always do.

And of course, the private mainstream media up here will take that ol' football and run with it, just like they always do.

Meanwhile, in another Aporrea report, there is evidence that watching Venezuelan private TV really does rot your brain.

Have I mentioned yet today how much I hate these media bullies?

November 23, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito Caption Time!

Can you caption these?

Dear in the headlights--Chavecito is looking for someone!

Turn down your high beams, dammit!

Is it raining?

Is it raining, or is the sky just drooling?

Hey! You! Quit laughing or I'll tickle you to death!

"Hey! YOU! No giggling, now. We wouldn't want anyone to think I'm being funny on purpose!"

Chavecito and the King of Arabia

"Just between you and me, Chavez, I think Bush is a crazy drunken jackass too!"

Quotable: Naomi Wolf on America's weakening democracy

Not convinced yet that creeping fascism is...well, on the creep? Listen to Naomi and think again.

November 22, 2007

You want uppity? I'll give you uppity...

Hey, fellas (especially all you FUX Snoozers): Be thankful on this day that you are not Gustavo Azocar, yellow journalist of the Venezuelan opposition. Because this guy just suffered a fate worse than death, at least as far as macho Latin American males are concerned--he got the shit beaten out of him on national TV by a woman. Shorter version at BoRev; longer version here:

The woman is Iris Varela, a parliamentary deputy from the state of Tachira, nicknamed "Comandanta Fosforito" for her combative, fiery nature. Azocar wrote a defamatory book about her, in which nothing, not even the death of her newborn son (in 1992) was spared from ugly speculation. Azocar cites unnamed medical personnel at the hospital, claiming that Varela reacted with rage and vowed revenge when told that her baby had congenital malformations and was dead.

VTV's Mario Silva, dissecting the events on his show, La Hojilla, reads out the offending chapter in the last five minutes of the video. There is insinuation that her own volatile personality was somehow to blame for her pregnancy complications and the baby's illness, and that her reaction to the bad news was inappropriately political. Azocar states flat out that the whole event is "key" to understanding "her aggressiveness, her visceral hatred for certain political sectors, and her resentment." In an incredible bit of pretzel logic, he links this devastating childbirth experience with the coup on February 4, when then Lt.-Col. Hugo Chavez led a failed attempt to topple the government of Carlos Andres Perez.

Who is being nasty, vengeful, and inappropriately political here? Iris Varela? Or Gustavo Azocar?

Azocar got what he had coming during a broadcast of his show (on opposition channel Globovision), when Varela, who was not interviewed for the book, showed up on set and just waded into him like a mama bear (about 1/3 of the way into the video). She repeatedly calls him out as a coward and a chicken. Azocar tries to play the innocent victim, but it's clear that he's playing against type. (He's got it coming legally, too: he's been charged under the LOPNA, or Organic Law of Protection for Children and Adolescents, with defamation and violating the privacy of a child.)

Aporrea.org is buzzing with messages of support for Iris Varela and condemnations for Azocar. And no wonder: when the political gets so nastily and needlessly personal, no one can blame a woman for defending her motherly honor with fisticuffs. Except, of course, those dirty enough to try to use her most private pain against her. People like that deserve a good, ignominious on-air pummeling. (And when watching the video, take note: she gives it to him above the belt. He hit her a lot lower in his filthy screed.)

Opposition journalists in Venezuela don't get killed, as in Colombia. Their careers don't even suffer if they are found guilty of complicity in fascist coups, or charged under the child-protection laws of the land. Their jobs are safe no matter what vile things they do in their capacity as members of the right-wing media. But they do have one major Achilles' heel: They are big fat wimps, and all it takes to prove it is one feisty little Chavista lady from Tachira, refusing to take their bullshit lying down.

PS: An Australian news site has decided to give you an extremely abbreviated and misleading version, one that makes it look like this was just another crazy lady attacking a poor, defenceless man. Yet in the clip they include, Varela is denouncing Azocar as a liar and saying he gave her no right to reply to his defamation. They don't mention THAT anywhere in the story! Someone please tell them to learn a little Spanish and look up Aporrea--their story is so incomplete that they, too, are lying to us.

No, he's not a dictator...

...see, he's legally elected!

Pakistan's new Supreme Court has - as expected - dismissed the final legal challenge to the recent re-election of President Pervez Musharraf.

Gen Musharraf's opponents had argued that his election was illegal because he was still head of the army.

The move clears the way for the general to resign as army chief, as promised, and be sworn in as a civilian leader.

Of course, legal and democratic are two different words. What is legal in Pakistan is often profoundly undemocratic. Remember, he was "legally elected" as a sole candidate. And he got to be that by seizing power in a coup in '99--shortly after his being made a general, in '98. (BTW, his official bio still lists him as "General".)

And for anyone reaching for comparisons between him and Hugo Chavez--don't bother. Chavez never rose above the rank of lieutenant colonel, his coup attempt failed (probably because of that relatively low rank--not enough troops to command!), he went to jail for it and was pardoned two years later, and he was democratically elected in '98 as a come-from-behind civilian candidate. And this despite being cut out of debates and vilified by the major media in Venezuela. At his last election, he had two opponents--one serious, and the other a joke. But then, the supporters of the serious candidate tried to claim fraud...by abstaining from voting! In other words: they tried to claim Venezuela had lost its democracy by voluntarily failing to exercise their democratic rights. (At this rate, even the joke candidate looks more serious than the serious one's supporters.) Chavez's enemies like to call him "Lieutenant Colonel", even though he no longer holds that rank, as if to underscore the bogus notion that he is some sort of military dictator and not a real president. Unfortunately, they're all wet: he retired from the army upon his release from prison, which came a full four years before his legal, democratic election.

The differences could not be more obvious to anyone with eyes to see. Even if Chavez sometimes still voluntarily wears his old uniform and Musharraf is being ordered by his handlers in Washington to take his off.

And that's an order, Pinocchio!

Colombia shoots self in foot

Smooth move, Alvaro the Nasty, Brutish and Short. You just majorly jeopardized your own peace process.

Colombia's government said Wednesday that it was canceling Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's mediation role with leftist rebels in a possible hostage swap.

President Alvaro Uribe's press secretary said the decision was made because Chavez directly spoke with the head of Colombia's army earlier in the day about the state of hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

In calling the army chief, Gen. Mario Montoya, Chavez defied Uribe's order that the Venezuelan leader not speak with Colombian military leaders about the issue, said Cesar Mauricio Velasquez, the presidential spokesman.

The news was announced late Wednesday in a hastily convened news conference.

[...]

As late as Wednesday afternoon, however, Colombian government officials were praising the mediation role of Venezuela's socialist leader.

"Chavez is playing an excellent role and for that we are grateful," Luis Carlos Restrepo, the government's chief peace negotiator, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

And of course, all this comes as Chavecito is in France, and has just gotten the surprising vote of confidence from another nasty, brutish and short right-wing president, Nicolas Sarkozy. In fact, Aporrea reports that Sarko thinks that if anyone can pull off a peace accord, Chavecito is it. You don't get any higher praise from an archcapitalist for a socialist.

Hey Alvaro, if you really don't want to succeed in ending that civil war and freeing the hostages on their side and the political prisoners on yours, why don't you just come out and say it? Why get people's hopes up, only to let it end in farce?

Quotable: Lewis Black on the capitalization of Christmas

"Christmas begins now in August. Christmas has become the Beast that just cannot be fed!"

--Lewis Black

November 21, 2007

Even Jesus can't escape the sweatshop

What--you thought rosaries and crucifixes were magically exempt from Chinese slave labor?

A labor rights group alleged Tuesday that crucifixes sold in religious gift shops in the U.S. are produced under "horrific" conditions in a Chinese factory with more than 15-hour workdays and inadequate food.

"It's a throwback to the worst of the garment sweatshops 10, 20 years ago," said Charles Kernaghan, director of the National Labor Committee.

Kernaghan held a news conference in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York to call attention to conditions at a factory in Dongguan, a southern Chinese city near Hong Kong, where he said crosses sold at the historic church and elsewhere are made.

Spokespeople for St. Patrick's and another New York landmark, the Episcopal Trinity Church at Wall Street, said the churches had removed dozens of crucifixes from their shops while they investigate the claims.

"I don't think they have a clue where these crucifixes were made -- in horrific work conditions," Kernaghan said.

Kernaghan said the factory's mostly young, female employees work from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. seven days a week and are paid 26 cents an hour with no sick days or vacation. Workers live in filthy dormitories and are fed a watery "slop," he said.

As I recall, it was the moneychangers in the Temple that most famously got under Jesus's skin.

He wasn't any too keen on slavery, either.

What he was keen on, was redistribution of wealth, so that situations exactly like this--slavery in officially atheist, "socialist" China--don't happen.

Sunsara Taylor owns Laura Ingraham's ass

Give Sunsara credit, she never backs down. And she brings out the ugly bitch who is never far below the surface of one carefully bleached mediablonde:

BTW, get how the students cheer when the World Can't Wait protestors interrupted Tortureboy Gonzales. I bet that's more applause than Bush's Little Tejano ever got in all his slimy career. And FUX could not edit that out! I bet that was especially galling.

As for "good news out of Iraq", Sunsara missed a golden opportunity to get a good laugh at Ms. Dark Roots' expense. I'd have said something like "Yeah, I hear Blackwater's making a killing there--literally!" But she did stick to her guns, which is not easy to do with a barking mad harpy like Ingraham trying to ridicule her (and failing miserably.)

Jimmy Massey in Venezuela

Considering the fact that the US media is quick to label Hugo Chavez's regime "anti-American", there sure are a lot of US nationals, expats and dual citizens living and visiting unmolested in Venezuela. Some, like Eva Golinger, have a high profile. And they enjoy considerable grassroots popularity--the kind the transnational corporate leaders would literally kill for. Why are they being treated so respectfully? Maybe it's not the fact that they are Americans, but the fact that they are dissenters--dissidents of capitalism and the war machine. In their own ways, these Americans are with the revolution.

An emerging force in the ranks of Americans welcomed with open arms in Venezuela is Jimmy Massey. The former Marine and Gulf War II vet's book, "Cowboys From Hell", is a big noise at this year's FILVEN book fair in Caracas. Ernesto Villegas interviews him on his morning talk show, En Confianza, with an expat American, Chris Carlson (who writes at Venezuelanalysis and blogs at Gringo in Venezuela) translating:

He talks a bit about his background, his history with the Marine Corps, and the increasing use of mercenaries (ex-soldiers who now work for private firms like Blackwater) in Iraq, which has wrought the predictable disastrous results. He also talks about the way the US military is dangling offers of benefits and education to Latino immigrants in particular, to entice them to become cannon fodder. And he doesn't mince words about how military members are being made into tools. "Gangsters for capitalism", as he puts it. He's also very outspokenly pro-Chavez--and makes no bones about being a revolutionary! He closes with a six-point pledge to the people of Venezuela with regard to Iraq.

Massey speaks out on behalf of human rights, and against the war on Iraq; that has essentially made him persona non grata in his own country, particularly with the right-wing lie machine. It also makes him a force to be reckoned with as the truth about Iraq emerges around the world.

No wonder they love him in Venezuela.

November 20, 2007

We all live in a Brazilian submarine

Everybody sing! "Brazilian submarine, Brazilian submarine..."

And our friends are all on board; many more of them live next door. And the band begins to play...

This month's discovery of a monster offshore oil reserve justifies Brazil's plan to build a nuclear submarine because it would be used to protect the find, the defense minister said.

"When you have a large natural source of wealth discovered in the Atlantic, it's obvious you need the means to protect it," Nelson Jobim said Thursday at a defense conference in Rio de Janeiro.

Jobim said Brazil must safeguard the Tupi field and its 5 billion to 8 billion barrels of oil reserves from other nations and from "actions that could come from the area of terror," the government's Agencia Brasil news service reported.

Brazil has been talking about building a nuclear submarine for decades, but the project got a boost in July when President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced $540 million in funding for uranium enrichment and the sub program.

Jobim said earlier this month that he wants to come up with an outline within three months to build a submarine for about $1.2 billion, the Agencia Estado news service reported.

Brazil has no South American enemies and has not experienced terrorist attacks, although U.S. government reports have sporadically raised suspicions that the nation's Triple Border region near Argentina and Paraguay is a fundraising source for radical Islamic groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

O my brothers (and sisters), your humble narrator and oomny cheena is a fine laughing devotchka tonight. Notice how they say Brazil has no South American enemies, and contemplate if you will the implications of that. (Hint: its North American enemy isn't Canada!)

Notice, too, how this barely rates an alarm bell, since it's about Brazil and not Venezuela? Hint: It's the oil, stupid. Brazil has comparatively little and is only just a net exporter. (Oops, I guess THAT is about to change.)

That bit about the terrorist funding from the Triple Frontier is also good for a laugh and a half. There's a lot of crime in that region, to be sure, but it's not related to terrorism. Try smuggling, particularly drugs. And you know who would be only too happy to plant a military base there?

Take a wild guess.

Since Rafael Correa is kicking them out of Ecuador, they are desperate for a new place to squat. And of course, there's that rather large ranch that Jenna Bush recently "bought" in Paraguay. It is rather conveniently located.

Maybe Brazil will have to arm that nuclear sub after all.

So, Spain's king is newly popular, eh?

Not among some Spaniards, according to Aporrea:

Approximately 300 students gathered in the Plaza Civica de la Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB), where a young man organized a burning of photos of the King, amid the applause and cheers of those attending.

[...]

Amid cries of "I'm burning the Spanish crown, too!" and "We Catalans don't have a king!", the youth set fire to a large portrait of the monarch. Two other young people, in white coveralls and with masked faces, displayed on the university building's roof a large placard reading "The UAB is burning the Spanish crown". They strung up an effigy dressed in a crown and a Spanish flag, with the face of the King.

Translation mine.

Here are the photos, as seen on Aporrea:

Burning the King at a Catalan protest

According to Aporrea, the protesters contend that "the monarchy is illegitimate because a dictator restored it." They certainly have a point there. Franco overthrew a legitimately elected government, and when Juan Carlos was sworn in as king, he swore his loyalty to Franco. There is something deeply smelly about that.

Hanging the King at a Catalan protest

Think of these pics the next time you see reports like this. Or frivolous crap like this.

Chavecito en Paris? Incroyable!

Zut alors, que c'est beau...

Chavecito gives a press conference on the streets of strike-bound Paris. When a fan calls out to him, he hollers back and tells her she looks "like Joan of Arc!" He lets them know the latest from the FARC peace talks in Colombia, where he's still looking for a compromise and peaceful hand-over of prisoners and hostages; it's a big issue to the French right now, as one of their nationals, Ingrid Betancourt, is still missing in Colombia. The local contingent of "Hands Off Venezuela" is also there to show support. At one point, the crowd starts singing the "Internationale" in his honor.

He also takes time to chat with a fan from the US, and tells her that he is no enemy of their people. (Well, WE know that, but the US media is very slow on the uptake. Especially about all the good CITGO is doing for low-income Americans. No other oil company has stepped up to the plate!) Chavecito makes it clear that he is on the side of all peoples, regardless of the insanity of their governments.

And no, I can't find any "gotta go" bit on here anywhere; I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it were all just made up. The closest thing I could find was a part about midway through where he says he's going to take a short rest at the hotel. At the end, we hear the voice of Piedad Cordoba, the Colombian senator who is also a key fixture in the FARC talks, answering reporters' questions about the peace talks Chavez and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, are about to embark on.

What have the lamestream media got against peace talks, I wonder?

November 19, 2007

Forget Clinton's cock, Reuters has a new obsession

OMG, this was just too good to pass up. Reuters is so Chavecito-obsessed lately, I think they're letting their secret fantasies slip...

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would not shut up for Spain's king but, over the weekend, he heeded a higher calling to stop talking -- his bladder.

Surrounded by a throng of reporters at an OPEC summit in Saudi Arabia, the president, who enjoys the media spotlight and often answers questions at length, excused himself.

"Look I have to go," Chavez said in comments aired on Venezuelan state television. "For a while now, I have needed to go to the bathroom and I am going to pee ... Do you want me to pee on you?"

Look, Reuters reporter-type people: I think he's sexy too. I admit I'm very partial to his big, bad mouth, especially when it breaks into that killer dimpled smile. In fact, I think it's his best feature. But this obsession of yours, with Huguito's chavecito and what it does behind the bathroom door is a bit...um...how to put this delicately?--YUCKY.

Unfortunately, they don't stop there.

Venezuelan officials say Chavez is on television an average of 40 hours a week. He says he drinks coffee all day and he sips from a small cup during hours-long speeches.

So in Venezuela there is puzzlement, even awe, that Chavez usually avoids being seen going to the bathroom during his weekly TV show that can last up to 8 hours.

But caught out a few months ago, he told the audience he had to leave -- to do something "you can't do for me."

Yup, you read that right. Reuters has finally dropped Bill Clinton's cock--only about eight years too late--and decided to go for Chavecito's twig, berries and BLADDER.

I'm surprised they haven't worked the phrase "pissing contest" in there somewhere. Maybe that got them too excited.

Who knew they were into watersports?

The Warning

Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame) has created a powerful video that rings all the right alarm bells. Crank your speakers.

Venezuelan opposition, take note...

You people. You're always claiming that Hugo Chavez--YOUR president, like it or not--is trying to drag your barely-existent middle class into poverty, because it's the poor that vote for him and so he wants to make/keep people poor in his efforts to be president for life.

The fact that all this is a shameless lie doesn't stop you from repeating it. Or believing it. You people are not so much human beings as loop tapes on endless replay. Do you seriously believe Karl Rove's unwritten adage--that endless repetition magically turns a lie into truth?

Apparently, you do.

Common sense should tell you that poor people don't vote for those who keep them poor, but for those who promise to improve their circumstances. And they tend to re-elect those who actually deliver on such promises.

But you, the Venezuelan opposition, are not creatures of common sense. That much is blindingly obvious. The fact that a solid majority of your own countrymen and -women often refer to you as "disociados" speaks for itself.

I'd like to say I'm sorry that this is not a very flattering post, but why lie and pamper your already inordinate vanity? I cannot tell a lie: I am not the least bit sorry that you aren't faring as well as you did when you had a steady succession of laissez-faire bottom-feeders nominally in charge of your beautiful, but badly abused country.

The reason I bring this up is because I remember one of you levelling that poverty-pimp accusation, in Venezuela Bolivariana. It was a very earnest-looking young guy who looked like he was having trouble squeezing the words out. Or maybe he was having trouble trying to regurgitate what he viscerally knew to be garbage, in something that sounded like his own words, and then make the whole wretched thing sound somehow sincere. It was hard to tell exactly. What he said, more or less, was that Chavez is trying to pull the hard-working middle class back into poverty.

It was one of the ugliest slanders I've heard in my life.

My jaw hit the floor the first time I heard it, and even though I have now seen the documentary so many times that I've practically worn holes in my DVD, I still get the dry heaves every time I get to the part where that guy says that. Sometimes I'm tempted to skip past it so I don't get my blood pressure up too high, because I don't think this jackdaw is worth busting a perfectly good blood vessel over. But then I remind myself that I have to sit through some bad acting, however much the performance disgusts me, if only to know mine enemy better. So I sit, and grind my teeth, and wait for him to stop laboriously pulling the feces out of his own rectum. And wonder for the umpteen thousand ump hundred and umpty-umpth time how this guy in Venezuela--seemingly intelligent, and seemingly educated--got to be so full of shit in the first place.

The reason I bring this up? Well, there's this. Which seems to be unrelated, but it's really not. It's a BBC piece on the real enemies of the middle class, and I think it behooves all of you to read it and take it to heart. It's not about your pet hate Chavez. He never figures in it even once. So you can all heave a big sigh and go ahead and read it; it won't kill you, although it might jack up your own blood pressure if you have even a glimmer of common sense anywhere in your well-primped head. Here's a sampling:

Daniel Wolfe worked in civil engineering for 22 years. He lost his job eight months ago.

We meet Daniel and his wife Cynthia as they collect free groceries from a charity food bank - cereal, muffins and tinned spaghetti sauce.

Theirs is an extraordinary - and salutary - story, one which illustrates the fragility that often underlies American prosperity.

Daniel had been earning $90,000 a year, he tells me. He's an articulate man, with a professional, warm demeanour.

He was laid off when the state government, itself strapped by a shrinking tax base, cut back on contracts to private companies.

In the course of eight months, Daniel and his family have gone from prosperity to poverty.

His unemployment benefits expired. Much of that money had been spent on trying to keep up the family health insurance. And his savings disappeared, to the point where he says he is, quite literally, broke.

He had never before accepted charity.

"To find myself in a position where I couldn't afford a gallon of milk, I couldn't afford a loaf of bread - it was very humbling," he says.

"For want of a better term it made me feel like a loser, like I wasn't able to provide even the basic things for my family, let alone anything beyond that."

I ask Daniel and Cynthia if they thought of themselves as middle class. They both answer yes. I ask if they still think of themselves as middle class.

"I think we're on the poverty line right now," says Daniel. He wonders if he will be able to hold on to his house.

I hope he will be able to hold onto his house, but I'm not confident. What dragged this once-prosperous middle-class family down to the poverty line? A lot of things. The sub-prime mortgage fiasco, however, has got to be the main thing. It has created an economic crisis that reverberates far beyond the barely-middle-class people whom it has immediately robbed of their homes. With fewer home-owners, the tax bases of municipalities shrink, and with them, the amount of money that can be allocated to social services--or to pay private-sector professionals like this man, who worked as a contractor to the government on the taxpayers' dollar.

Venezuelan "middle class" opposition, you who pride yourselves on being intelligent, educated, hard-working, and properous because of it, take note. Being intelligent, educated and hard-working was not enough to keep this guy in the middle class. Something dragged him down to the poverty line. And that something was something I should not have to spell out for all of you, but I guess I must, because for all your pricey private-school educations, you have not divined it yet.

That something is C-A-P-I-T-A-L-I-S-M.

You may fondly believe that capitalism has made you the successes that you are. Or you may credit your or your parents' or grandparents' hard work and up-by-the-bootstraps attitude with getting you into the middle class, what little there is of it in your neck of the woods. In any event, you consider capitalism your best friend, worthy of your undying allegiance--and you will fight to the death to defend it, just as your parents, your grandparents, or whoever, drove themselves to the grave trying to succeed in the face of it. Your devotion is touching, but it is sadly misplaced.

Capitalism has made a scrapheap out of the state of Michigan, where Daniel and his wife live. It has done so in the most blatantly literal way, and you can see its wreckage clearly in Michael Moore's films, even such seemingly unrelated ones as Bowling For Columbine. The fact that the economy of the state is almost a manufacturing monoculture, tied intimately to the Big Three automakers, used to be its blessing and is now its curse. Michigan didn't hitch its wagon to a star; it hitched its star to a wagon once known as the "horseless carriage". And now Michigan--which once boasted a more balanced, diverse, farm-based economy--is paying the price for that big blunder. Michigan, the motor state, is going bankrupt.

And it is an attachment to capitalism that is to blame.

How did it come to this?

Well, the healthcare system in the United States is a messy patchwork of private and public. (To see how messy, see Michael Moore again.) The private, capitalist part of the system is what's made a mess of it. Healthcare isn't provided free of charge by the state to the citizens, or at least not all of them. Wherever possible, the state shuffles off the responsibility for it onto the private sector. Health insurance is one of the nation's biggest for-profit industries, and the reason isn't hard to see if you are one of the millions of premium-paying Americans who have ever been denied coverage for a routine procedure. Untold numbers of middle-class, intelligent, hard-working Americans have died because their so-called insurer refused to insure them. The reason?

In a word, P-R-O-F-I-T.

It would have cost too much, from the insurer's point of view, and would have made the shareholders unhappy. Better to let someone go uncovered, and thus untreated. Get rid of that useless eater, that worthless drain on the profit machine.

And people wonder why I liken capitalism to fascism? Listen--the phrase "useless eater" is quintessentially Nazi, and capitalists made out like bandits on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to Nazi Germany's slave economy and union-bashing. No capitalist likes the idea that an underling might be taking away what said peon should be handing over to the superior capitalist with a shit-eating grin. And that something is spelled P-R-O-F-I-T. (Or, as Clara Fraser so inconveniently reminds us, unpaid wages.)

So. There's the expensive, for-profit private insurance system, which refuses to cover expensive, for-profit private medical treatments, and expensive, for-profit private drugs. But wait, it gets worse. In the United States, that expensive, for-profit private insurance coverage is supposed to be provided by the employer.

And if your employer is a Big Three automaker, the vaunted "backbone of the US economy", you are shit out of luck. Your job is either moving to Mexico, where labor and environmental laws are lax and putrid, or--irony of ironies--to Canada. Where, as luck would have it (but for how long, I'm not sure), the government is still in the business of paying for routine healthcare. With the health insurance onus off the employer, the cost of producing a car in Canada is actually still cheaper here, despite our now-higher (but for how long?) dollar.

But don't take my word for it. Read Dave Lindorff.

Private education doesn't necessarily equal better, either. In Canada, at any rate, it can actually be worse. Since private schools are not held to the same standards as public schools, a private education can be shockingly inferior, despite the way the right-wing up here touts the "efficiency" of the private sector. (How something is supposed to be "efficient" and deliver a superior product at the same time as it milks a profit, is never explained.) Private schoolteachers often lack proper professional accreditation. Their pay is typically less than that of a public schoolteacher, to boot. And, insidiously, because of the closed environment of the private school and the for-profit nature of the beast, there is less oversight. Meaning, it's easier for a pervert to become a private than a public schoolteacher.

In short: If you live in Canada, and you want a quality education for your children, don't bother shelling out for that pricey, big-name private school with the cute little uniforms. For all the talk about superior education and discipline, you are not really getting your hard-earned money's worth. You are, instead, robbing a perfectly good public system of badly needed cash. And you may even be trusting your little darling to a very unhealthy atmosphere. Conrad Black, our biggest white-collar criminal, was the product of a private school, and made some of his earliest ill-gotten profits selling stolen exam papers to his cheating classmates. The same private school he went to was not so long ago the subject of an investigation concerning sexual abuse.

Is this the kind of elite you think you should continue trust the government of your country to? As I recall, you were governed for more than 40 years by a plutocratic machine that makes Conrad Black look like a piker.

If this were what the right-wing proposed to do to Canada, there would be an uproar. And for reasons many and good: We are a middle-class country. Our middle class is not dominated by a right-wing elitist band, as yours is. Nor is it a mere 20% of the population, as yours is. It is a solid majority, and that majority votes for candidates who won't "fix" by wrecking what isn't broken--namely, the public services Tommy Douglas gave us.

Yes, those services are paid for by taxation. So what? They are still a bargain compared to what they would cost on the private market, and if you don't believe me, read what John Lemberger (a US American with a Ph.D.) has to say. It is very heartening to see our neighbors to the south waking up, however slowly, to the virtues of the public service sector.

In fact, it is those public services, and not "plain hard work" under capitalism, that made our middle class the large, prosperous dominant force it is. And it enabled my parents--German immigrants of modest means--to make something of themselves here that they would not have been able to do in Hitler's day. My dad has only an eighth-grade education. He apprenticed as a blacksmith and worked in the coal mines--when he wasn't bootlegging Schnapps on the side. Had he stayed in Germany, he would have been scraping by--barely--on a tiny pension today. Maybe he'd turn back to potato-peel moonshine to make ends meet! Instead, my dad is now in the upper middle class, with money to burn, and his oldest daughter (me) is a two-time university graduate who speaks several languages--and he owes it to socialism, whether he realizes it or not. Not because he cozied up to some party or leader for a handout, but because a well-crafted system took the pressure and the costs off his shoulders and the bills off his mind, so he was free to become an entrepreneur, devote his energies to that, and make a damn good living at it. And me? Well, I was free to study what I wanted, and learn what I liked, instead of just whatever would shoehorn me into the ranks of the yes-people. Because of socialism, I am an independent and individualistic (but not in the "every man for himself" sense) thinker with good health and a great education.

So when I see Hugo Chavez--who essentially comes from the same social class as my parents--trying to do for Venezuela what Tommy Douglas did for us, I say Bravo! Adelante, Comandante. Good work, and keep it up. Keep fighting those fascists, and keep calling them by their right name. Because it is not a lie, it does not require repetition to make it true. It only needs to be repeated often enough to drive the message home.

November 17, 2007

Ruling with a fist of irony

Lie down with Musharraf, get up with...WHAT?

Does anyone seriously believe this will lead anywhere productive?

Diplomats said John Negroponte had delivered a very strong message for an end to Pakistan's state of emergency.

Ahead of the meeting, Gen Musharraf told the BBC his country was safe as long as the military was in charge.

He warned that if polls he has promised for January were held under disturbed conditions, the country's nuclear arms could fall into the wrong hands.

Mr Negroponte, the US Deputy Secretary of State, is expected to try to revive a deal between opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and Gen Musharraf.

He spoke to Ms Bhutto on Friday, saying "moderate forces" should work together to get Pakistan back to democracy.

Mr Negroponte is expected to call for the release of thousands of lawyers and political prisoners and an end of emergency rule as a pre-requisite for a fair election.

Oh joy, Ambassador DeathSquad is lecturing Dubya's pet dictator on how to play nice and be tame. This should be good.

But hey. At least he's cracking down on pesky Marxists, like union leader Manzoor Ahmed. Aporrea reports what you won't be seeing in the US anytime soon.

Canada's big shame

The video of the tasering of Robert Dziekanski speaks for itself.

The videographer mistakes him for a Russian (unable to distinguish the language from the victim's native Polish). But what's unmistakable here is that the man was NOT so violent that he had to be forcibly subdued, let alone in the manner we see here. He was frustrated enough to throw some furniture--looking around to see if anyone was paying attention, meaning this was not done out of blind rage or that brand new bullshit excuse for Taser deaths and police brutality, "excited delirium", but with the intent of getting the airport authorities to help him.

And after more than ten hours of unexplained delay and waiting and inability to contact his mother who was supposed to meet him at the Vancouver airport, it is quite understandable that he'd be anxious. Who wouldn't be, as a new immigrant in a country whose language he couldn't speak, whose customs (and immigration procedures) he didn't understand, and whose authorities apparently couldn't be bothered to dig up an interpreter and help him out?

We are not a police state, but things like this make me wonder what's becoming of us.

Robert Dziekanski was buried today in Kamloops, BC.

November 16, 2007

President for life, eh???

Uh...no. Sorry, all ye wingnuts, but the Big Guy himself just contradicted the dumbest of your alarmist claims. Story from Aporrea:

According the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez Frias, the most important thing is that the people have the power to elect and re-elect a president as many times as they want. He expressed this during an interview conducted by French journalists Mariani Pascale and Renaud Girard, of the daily newspaper Le Figaro.

In response to questions about the referendum on constitutional reforms, to be held on December 2, he reiterated that the re-election proposal was not made with the intention to be president for life without offering the citizens the power to decide, as in Europe.

Translation mine.

The indefinite re-election of heads of state is not only commonplace in Europe, but in Canada as well. Here, a prime minister is only in power as long as the people and the parliament say he should be. If public confidence in the head of state is lost, so is his or her tenure. S/he is then obligated to call an election. And if the people decide to do away with that pesky PM, so be it. But there are no term limits to delineate this, only the will of the people.

I fail to see what's so horrible and dictatorial about Hugo Chavez having the same rights in Venezuela as our prime ministers have up here.

Oh. Wait.

This isn't really about term limits and elections, is it. All that talk is just a cover.

It's about Hugo Chavez. Silly me! It's always about him. The only way the Venezuelan opposition stands a chance against him and his supporters is if he can be barred from running for office again. Because God dammit to hell, he is just so popular that he can't be voted out. So he has to be barred from running. OH! Now it all makes sense.

Except for one thing: that's not the way solid democracies are actually run. And Chavecito, no fool, knows it.

Damn him, why does he always have to throw a big fat monkey wrench into everything???

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito plants one

Supposedly, the big story out of the recent Ibero-American summit in Chile was the King of Spain telling Chavecito to shut up. Here's the more harmonious side the media neglected:

Chavecito plants a tree with an amazing sense of balance and agility

Even when it came time for the big symbolic tree-planting in the Presidents' Park, nothing could bring Chavecito to his knees.

Chavecito stoops--and conquers

He doesn't have to stoop to conquer, either--but it helps to get all the soil into that hole.

Tree planted--mission accomplished!

Mission accomplished. Now where's the King? Chavecito has a shovel in his hands, and that can only mean one thing: He plans to use it on a pile of pucky that someone left behind.

November 15, 2007

Stupid Sex Tricks: Don't just blame the victim...

...JAIL her.

And increase the number of whiplashes she gets, to boot.

That'll teach her to be such a jezebel...and to reveal to the media what's wrong with the insane laws that segregate the sexes, but then allow THIS:

According to the Arab News newspaper, the 19-year-old woman, who is from Saudi Arabia's Shia minority, was gang-raped 14 times in an attack in the eastern province a year-and-a-half ago.

Seven men from the majority Sunni community were found guilty of the rape and sentenced to prison terms ranging from just under a year to five years.

But the victim was also punished for violating Saudi Arabia's laws on segregation that forbid unrelated men and women from associating with each other. She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for being in the car of a strange man.

On appeal, the Arab News reported that the punishment was not reduced but increased to 200 lashes and a six-month prison sentence.

The rapists also had their prison terms doubled. But the sentences are still low considering they could have faced the death penalty.

The Arab News quoted an official as saying the judges had decided to punish the girl for trying to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.

The victim's lawyer was suspended from the case, has had his licence to work confiscated, and faces a disciplinary session.

Only in Saudi Arabia, folks? This could happen anyplace where a conservative theocracy holds sway.

Which is why I think we have to watch those Christian dominionists verrrrrrrry carefully. Otherwise, we'll all end up living The Handmaid's Tale.

More FUX Porn!

Made ya look...at the moral values of the most conservative station on TV:

Is it just my dirty mind, or does that girl who says "Pssst...Do Something!" sound...aroused?

November 14, 2007

Now watch them all cry poor...

Damn that irrepressible Chavecito, he's sure keeping me hopping with all the news about him today. Get a load of his latest zany antic...

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez has called on oil-rich nations to dramatically reduce what they charge poor countries for the commodity.

The poorest countries should only pay about $20 (£9.60) for a barrel of oil compared with current market prices of more than $90, Mr Chavez said.

Opec members should set aside $100bn from oil revenues to improve education and health in poor nations, he added.

Mr Chavez said he was seeking debate on what he said was "an explosive issue".

Explosive? Sheeee-yeah. Everywhere I look lately, I see wingnuts mumbling and grumbling about how Chavecito's grand schemes would collapse if oil ever went down to $7 a barrel. Some of them are actively wishing that Venezuela had stayed a Spanish colony, or that Spain would crack down and take the country back.

Well, wingnuts, keep dreaming, 'cause it ain't gonna happen. Peak Oil is past, and so is the point of no return. At this rate, the price of oil will never again hit those halcyon lows, and it's a good thing too. Since Venezuelan heavy crude needs higher prices to offset the costs of refining it, that means more bucks for the poor down there.

And for those ecologically-minded, being forced to rethink your fossil-fuel-burning habits is also a Good Thing. If it takes higher oil prices for the affluent gringos to learn economy, fine. So be it. Hybrids, electric cars, fuel cells, public transit, bikes--bring 'em. As long as people don't buy any more of those goddamn butt-ugly Hummers.

Now, as for Chavecito's proposal: I think it's got legs. The rich country's $100 barrel will more than subsidize the poor one's $20 barrel. Wealth redistribution is no longer a subject of debate as far as I'm concerned; it's a MUST. And this is as good a way as any to do it.

Of course, that being said, I predict a great many rich countries will suddenly declare bankruptcy. Ojo pelao, Chavecito!

Stupid Sex Tricks: How NOT to ride your bike

You'll never get anywhere doing this, man.

A man caught trying to have sex with his bicycle has been sentenced to three years on probation.

Robert Stewart, 51, admitted a sexually aggravated breach of the peace by conducting himself in a disorderly manner and simulating sex.

Sheriff Colin Miller also placed Stewart on the Sex Offenders Register for three years.

Mr Stewart was caught in the act with his bicycle by cleaners in his bedroom at the Aberley House Hostel in Ayr.

Gail Davidson, prosecuting, told Ayr Sheriff Court: "They knocked on the door several times and there was no reply.

"They used a master key to unlock the door and they then observed the accused wearing only a white t-shirt, naked from the waist down.

"The accused was holding the bike and moving his hips back and forth as if to simulate sex."

Both cleaners, who were "extremely shocked", told the hostel manager who called police.

Sheriff Colin Miller told Stewart: "In almost four decades in the law I thought I had come across every perversion known to mankind, but this is a new one on me. I have never heard of a 'cycle-sexualist'."

Stewart had denied the offence, claiming it was caused by a misunderstanding after he had too much to drink.

How drunk do you have to be to start humping a bike seat, I wonder?

Shut up the shuttin' up, already...

Oh, this is too good. First the King of Spain tells Chavecito to shut up. Now, the damage control begins.

The Spanish foreign minister has moved to defuse a public row between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Spanish King Juan Carlos.

"I don't believe it should affect relations with Venezuela", he said.

On Saturday the king told Mr Chavez to "shut up" at a summit in Chile after the president said ex-Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar was a "fascist".

The next day Mr Chavez said the king was "imprudent" and asked if he knew in advance of the 2002 coup against him.

Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said that he wanted dialogue with Venezuela to continue "on condition that we are respected".

Notice how this is still being framed by the press as "Chavez was diswespectful! Mommy, da big bad socialist was wude to da King! Waaaaaa!"

Meanwhile, in reality, a different picture is emerging. This is Spain being forced to admit it hasn't been entirely innocent--again. I found an older article showing that Miguel Angel Moratinos has actually been down this road before.

Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, said in a television program on Monday that Spain's ambassador to Venezuela during the coup, by rebel generals and business leaders, was instructed by the 'Partido Popular' government of then-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar to support the coup plotters.

"Under the previous government," Moratinos admitted, "in an unprecedented move for Spanish diplomacy, the Spanish ambassador (to Venezuela) received instructions to support the coup."

Chávez, who was restored to power by loyal troops in April 2002 after country-wide demonstrations calling for his return, had previously made several statements that he believed Spain and the USA had backed the coup, but Moratinos' statement is the first time a member of the Spanish government had acknowledged the claims.

Notice that this article is dated 2004. Three years ago Chavecito was already calling for accountability in Spain, and getting thumped for it by Aznar & Co. But lo and behold, another socialist--Moratinos--wasn't going to let that pass. He admitted that there was, indeed, a government order for the Spanish ambassador in Caracas to support the coup!

It looks like Chavecito wasn't just shooting off his big mouth out of pure rudeness after all. In fact, it's starting to look an awful lot like he had a point--the king was imprudent.

And how about that Aznar? Sure smells like he was a fascist. After all, fascism is very capitalist, and has no problem with ousting democratic leftists and suppressing unions so that Big Bidness can have its way. Given that Spain held 10% of foreign investments in Venezuela in 2000 alone, and the US was the #1 foreign investor, and that the "interim president" of the coup of '02 was a business leader (who had travelled to Spain shortly before the coup), it's not wrong for Chavecito to use the F-word in reference to any foreign leader who ordered an ambassador to support that coup!

I blogged earlier on how this whole spat was really about Spanish investments in Latin America. Clearly, they still think they have a right to dictate economic policy to the governments in question. And it's now increasingly evident that it is not foreign business interests that have Chavecito over a barrel, but the other way around.

"Whatever has been privatized can be taken back, we can take it back," Chavez said earlier at a news conference. "If the government of Spain or the state of Spain ... start to generate a conflict, things are not going to go well."

Gee, he sure doesn't sound chastened to me.

What next? Will it be legitimate for Chavecito to ask His Majesty if HE knew?

And do you suppose His Majesty will answer with something other than "Shut up!"?

While we ponder that, I feel a song coming on.

November 13, 2007

More truths the king can't shut up...

And these come straight from Chile. Enjoy!

Sen. Alejandro Navarro on Monday demanded an apology from Chile's Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley for criticizing the behavior of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the XVII Iberian-American summit held last weekend in Santiago.

[...]

The king's flare-up at the summit followed days of criticism by Chavez and other left-leaning Latin American leaders who expressed exasperation with Spain's continued political and business influence among its former colonies. The spark came when Chavez repeatedly accused Spain's former conservative Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar of being a fascist who backed the April, 2002 coup in Venezuela that almost toppled the Chavez government.

Chile's Foxley subsequently criticized Chavez on Sunday evening, saying that his behavior had "overshadowed" the accomplishments of the summit. Foxley also spoke out in favor of the Spanish monarch.

[...]

Foxley also criticized Chavez' suggestion that the summit should have been focused on "social transformation" and not "social cohesion."

"Let's look at what Chile has accomplished over the last 15 to 20 years in the area of 'social transformation,' as compared to certain pseudo-revolutionary experiences," Foxley said, referring to Chavez's social programs, which the Venezuelan president has dubbed the "Bolivarian Revolution." "Which country has the better indicators (in terms of reducing poverty)?"

The Foreign Affairs Minister also rejected Chavez's suggestion that Santiago's public transport system, Transantiago, should be subsidized by Venezuela. Foxley said Chile didn't need "an outsider's lectures" and that if Chavez really wanted to show solidarity, he should propose lowering oil prices.

[...]

"Taking into account both Chavez's personality and also the norms for debate in international forums such as this one, Chavez's actions should be considered as normal. Chavez never committed an offense by openly questioning Aznar for things that he had done," Navarro told the Santiago Times.

"I think that Minister Foxley thinks of himself as the Finance Minister. In order to prioritize relations with Spain, he turns to economic issues. He places too heavy a focus on economic issues. Still, in international relations, one must include other parameters, other values, other variables," he went on to say. "I think that Minister Foxley should ask for forgiveness. By waiting for the Venezuelans to leave Chile before making the comments that he made, Foxley was not being diplomatic. He was not following the ethics of international relations."

So. It looks an awful lot like it wasn't just Chavecito's big, busy mouth that was the problem. It was this grating issue: Spain has huge private investments in all of Latin America, particularly Venezuela, and of course, that means that the investors want a conservative leader. One who doesn't give a shit about eliminating poverty; one who is content to mouth all the usual Washington Consensus platitudes about how private foreign investment is the magic answer to poverty. One who, in short, ignores the mounting evidence that private foreign investment is no answer to anything, let alone a nagging problem like poverty.

Do I need to remind anyone that investment is all about taking out more money than you put in? Where do you suppose that money is going to come from, eh? Investment is certainly not about getting rich through hard work, or at least, not the sweat of your own brow. Investors get rich doing nothing harder than picking up a phone. It is the workers, not the investors (and certainly NOT the investors' money, contrary to bankers' crapaganda!), who are doing the work, generating the profits.

And as Clara Fraser rightly points out (in Revolution, She Wrote--which I double-dog dare you to read!), profit is unpaid wages.

The implications, then, are clear for any country in which private foreign investors are drawing profit. Every penny of that profit is coming out of someone's unpaid wages.

And in Venezuela, as in much of Latin America, there are slums populous enough to be cities unto themselves. There are people who make their living scrounging through garbage dumps to scratch up a living. They look for recyclable materials to sell, old clothes to wear or peddle, not-yet-rotten food from richer tables to eat. Some of them prostitute themselves or their children for a laughable sum. All of these people could have been employed for a decent wage, but the multinationals and their investors don't give a flying fuck for that. What they want is not a fully employed, secure, contented workforce, but more money out than they put in.

And of course, all that chafes Chavecito, and he will not be silent about it. As he so eloquently says at the press conference he gave to journalists afterwards (see video below), "We've been here for 500 years, and we will never shut up."

And why should he? He is himself from the poor classes; he went to school barefoot and sold his grandmother's homemade sweets to support the family, and went into the army rather than to a private university so he could get a good postsecondary education and play baseball. 500 years of meekly shutting up when the rich hiss got the poor of Venezuela absolutely bupkus, as he knows only too well from experience. Only those who speak out against that system stand a chance of changing anything.

This is why I included Alejandro Foxley's remarks--which are inexcusable, and also more than a little redolent of bovine feces. Chile may, on paper, look a bit better off than Venezuela, but it hasn't made the strides it should have since Augusto Pinochet was edged out of office. The reason? The economic wreckage that Pinochet left behind could not be adequately addressed by the current Chilean system. A lot of the legal, political and economic structures the dictator left behind are still there, blocking progress. The "economic growth" Chile boasts on paper comes at the cost of barely-budging poverty and unemployment rates. Which makes it all seem a little empty.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, economic growth is actually showing on more than paper. Poverty and unemployment keep going down and down, along with illiteracy and mortality--and more rapidly than anywhere else in Latin America. This is why Foxley's "pseudo-revolutionary experiences" crack is so uncalled for. There is no pseudo about it; this kind of achievement is revolutionary, period.

And let's not forget that when Chavecito speaks of letting Venezuela subsidize the Chilean transit system, he's not talking about private foreign investment to make some Venezuelan businessman lotsa potsa money. That would have been quite all right with Alejandro Foxley, I'm sure, since it is right in line with Milton Friedman's economic "miracle" policies. It would create negligible amounts of jobs and barely dent the Chilean poverty figures. But that would be all right, as long as someone else gets rich. No, Chavecito was talking about actually making it easier for poor Chileans to take a public bus. Not about making it cheaper for rich Chileans to drive a car, as Foxley would have liked it. Because it's those who buy the gas that benefit from lower oil prices; those who rely on public transit won't see that benefit reflected in their fares.

(Let's not forget, either, what it was that sparked the Caracazo in 1989--it was a 200% bus fare hike, in line with non-subsidized gas prices. Chavecito remembers that full well. It was what prompted him to rebel against Venezuela's own Friedman-sucking brain-box government three years later.)

Foxley notwithstanding, Chavecito's subsidy offer was an act of solidarity--with the poor of Chile. It was a practical offer, not a "trickle-down" crumb toss.

Most interesting is that a Chilean senator, Alejandro Navarro, has come to Chavecito's defence. He makes several points which should go without saying, but apparently can't be repeated often enough:

that Chavez's remarks are not shocking because they are par for the course, both for Chavez himself and for a summit in which heated, contentious debate is bound to happen;

that Chavez had a perfect right to question Aznar's deeds, becuase the Spanish ambassador was the only one, besides the US's, to welcome the coup against Chavez--and ambassadors simply don't operate in a vacuum, but on the orders of the governments that sent them;

that Foxley's putting trade with Spain ahead of solidarity with other LatAm governments is reprehensible and out of line at a summit whose theme was, after all, "social cohesion";

and that Foxley was being cowardly and undiplomatic by waiting until the Venezuelan delegation had left Chile before letting rip on them, because they could not answer his remarks.

I think he also had a point about them all maintaining closer ties to Spain than to each other. Which, incidentally, is also what Chavecito is trying to address with his ALBA alliance--it is meant to foster closer relations and social progress within Latin America, to counterbalance all the centuries of outer-directedness that have been so detrimental to the people. (Want to know how detrimental? Read Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America--go on, I triple-dog dare ya.)

Shut up, you say, Your Majesty? After 500 years, I think it's time Spain held its tongue and listened.

And so does Chavecito:

November 12, 2007

Neener, neener...

I've been BoRevved!

And I got a category tag all to myself there, too.

That gnawing sound you hear is all those anti-Chavez bloggers out there, eating their widdle hearts out.

Praise the Lord, and please pass the pasta

Because if this is true, then to hell with dieting. I'm not going to try to fit into my high-school size anymore. (I'll still exercise because it makes me feel better, though.)

Women with curvy figures are likely to be brighter than waif-like counterparts and may well produce more intelligent offspring, a US study suggests.

Researchers studied 16,000 women and girls and found the more voluptuous performed better on cognitive tests - as did their children.

The bigger the difference between a woman's waist and hips the better.

Researchers writing in Evolution and Human Behaviour speculated this was to do with fatty acids found on the hips.

In this area, the fat is likely to be the much touted Omega-3, which could improve the woman's own mental abilities as well as those of her child during pregnancy.

Men respond to the double enticement of both an intelligent partner and an intelligent child, the researchers at the Universities of Pittsburgh and California said.

Well, I'm not planning on having any kids (sorry, guys!), but otherwise, this is great news for me. I have a small waist and big hips. Just like my mother before me, and her mother before her, and...

Oh yeah, and I also have an IQ in the top 1% of the world's population. I was in Mensa all through university. Go figure!

Anyone who's ever read Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth, or Kim Chernin's The Hungry Self, will already have gathered that anorexia is bad for the brain. It stands to reason: starving yourself will eat your brain. And yes, fat is most assuredly a feminist issue. Especially if it makes a woman both brainy and sexy--thus busting at least two myths. Women are commonly believed to be either one or the other, but not both, and especially not if they're not built like supermodels. Take that, O ye waifs.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I think I'll have a little snack. My big, beautiful brain deserves it.

Headline Howler: IHT gives Evo a sex change

Ouch!

Fidel Castro broke two weeks of silence Sunday, applauding his close friend Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for having "leveled devastating criticisms at Europe" during a summit of leaders from Latin America, Spain and Portugal.

In a brief essay published on the front pages of state newspapers, the ailing 81-year-old Castro also praised speeches by leftist presidents Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Eva Morales of Bolivia during the Ibero-American summit, which wrapped up Saturday in Santiago, Chile.

Emphasis added.

Please hold the "Don't Cry For Me Argentina"--we don't want to get his country wrong, too.

"Evo Pueblo" selling like hotcakes

Aporrea reports that the Bolivian president's bio-pic is such a hit that it's being bootlegged within days of its theatrical release:

Three days after its release on October 23 in La Paz, the film "Evo Pueblo" had been enjoyed by most Bolivians.

The logic of the market is "sell the people what they want and accommodate popular demand", said one of the principal distributors of unauthorized copies of the film. This permits greater access to the film, which tells the story of Evo Morales's political life and his election to the presidency of Bolivia.

An added advantage is that these copies are available throughout the country at prices accessible to the population. The DVD is selling like hotcakes.

(Translation mine.)

Well, we all know that Evo is hot stuff. It's only logical that a film about him would be, too.

Now where can I get my own copy?

Headline Howler: CBC commits its own "Misplay of the Week"

I just watched the CBC Sunday Report, and I could swear I was watching FUX Snooze. Only this time it was Evan Solomon instead of Bill O'Reilly pissing me the hell off.

Now, Evan Solomon is quite a bit better at what he does than Billo the Loofah Bandit, but he's just as pompous and just as much of a dickweed in his own right. Sometimes he does get something right, but then he turns around and gets something else wrong. He's very glossy, but he lacks depth; he paints with broad Technicolor strokes, missing the finer nuances completely. You get the feeling he's doing everything just for show, and what he's trying to show you is how all-fired wonderful he is. It's a most infuriating tendency.

And when he gets it wrong like he did today, there's a distinct sense of "same shit, different asshole". Or of lazy reporting disguised as whiz-bang journalism. Same shit, different toilet.

He is, incidentally, one of the few CBC journos to get away with this and still keep their jobs. All the rest actually report news. And they do it rather well. But Evan, being a pretty boy with a Wunderkind reputation, gets to squat on a bar stool (look, Ma, no desk!) and play the pundit, even when the role doesn't suit him. He has neither the intellect nor the experience, let alone the sensitivity, to carry it off. Lots of perfectly decent people have walked out of interviews with him feeling fit to strangle the nearest tree, and lots of other perfectly lovely people have watched him in action, feeling...well, much the same way. Being provocative is one thing, but being that way through sheer substanceless effrontery is quite another.

The reason I bring this up is to provide you some background context on Evan Solomon. And because the same shit that the mainstream media in the US is playing, is also CBC's "Misplay of the Week" today, and Evan was pleased as punch to "report" it. Or just repeat it--épatez les bourgeois, you know. Yes, that's right--this week, the Misplay is the story of a certain democratically elected Venezuelan president being told to shut up by an unelected monarch who owes his presence on the throne to the longest-lived unelected fascist dictator of all time.

Of course, leave it to cutesy little full-of-himself Evan not to bother with such inessential details as the real context of Chavez's remarks. Or, for that matter, the history of Spanish fascism. Spain's monarchy was so weak after 1868 that it needed fascism to help it re-establish itself, particularly in the face of a republican government whose land reforms were rather like those which Chavez is now bringing to Venezuela. Fascists have been damn good to the Spanish royal family. So of course it makes sense that the King of Spain is now a little touchy when he hears that word being said in a disparaging tone by an ardent admirer of that arch-republican, Simon Bolivar. It's a bit like waving a red cape in front of a bull--olé!

Now, when Evan waves the red cape of the Misplay, we are supposed to snort and paw and see red (in this case, the red of Chavecito's famous shirt). Only in this case, it's Evan himself who is committing the misplay, and an informed viewer will know in an instant that s/he is seeing the wrong shade of red.

Meanwhile, if you want to see the whole story, here:

THIS is what prompted the king to scream "Shut up!" (Sort of like Bill O'Reilly himself, only minus the "Cut his mike!"--because the mike was already cut.) It wasn't Chavez saying the F-word that got him all hot and bothered, but the fact that he dared to demand respect for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela--incidentally, the first South American nation to cast off the yoke of imperial Spain.

Funny how that wasn't reported!

Evan Solomon compounds his own misplay by claiming that Chavez was "isolated" as a result of his "outburst". FALSE. Carlos Lage of Cuba and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua can be seen coming to his defense here, and we can take it for granted that Evo Morales of Bolivia is also on side. As are, albeit quietly, a majority of South American presidents.

The best part here is the last four minutes or so, in which Aznar's lies are laid bare for the world to see. What got him booted out of office? A terrorist attack occasioned by Spain's presence in Iraq. The current Spanish PM owes his election to a promise to undo Aznar's fuck-ups, particularly Spain's presence in the Coalition of the Killing. Considering the overwhelming majority of Spaniards that was against it, that was a no-brainer. But of course, Aznar showed a typically fascistic arrogance when he overrode popular sentiment for the sake of military supremacy.

And Evan Solomon mentioned none of that.

THAT is one helluva Misplay of the Week, Evan. What a pity it was your own!

November 11, 2007

Noam Chomsky can't give soundbite for shit

Or so they say everytime they refuse to give him airtime.

"They", of course, being the lamestream media. Even PBS and NPR (supposedly the long-haired intellectuals of the US broadcasterati) are constantly begging off because, supposedly, Chomsky hasn't got "concision" (translation: soundbite-ability).

There's only one problem with that excuse: It's bullshit.

As you can see (in little more than three minutes!), Chomsky can so give good soundbite. The only problem with his soundbites is that they say things the lamestream media types don't want us to hear. They're not for the faint of heart (or feeble of mind.) If you're hard of thinking, they will force you to think hard.

Go on. Read Chomsky. Hear him talk. Get addicted. What have you got to lose but your phony comfort zone?

November 10, 2007

One less thing to lie awake about

What? No suitcase nukes? Damn, there goes my fantasy of blowing up the world by sneaking one through customs.

Members of Congress have warned about the dangers of suitcase nuclear weapons. Hollywood has made television shows and movies about them. Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency has alerted Americans to a threat - information the White House includes on its Web site.

But government experts and intelligence officials say such a threat gets vastly more attention than it deserves. These officials said a true suitcase nuke would be highly complex to produce, require significant upkeep and cost a small fortune.

Counterproliferation authorities do not completely rule out the possibility that these portable devices once existed. But they do not think the threat remains.

"The suitcase nuke is an exciting topic that really lends itself to movies," said Vahid Majidi, the assistant director of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. "No one has been able to truly identify the existence of these devices."

[...]

Nuclear devices are either plutonium, which comes from reprocessing the nuclear material from reactors, or uranium, which comes from gradually enriching that naturally found element.

Majidi says it would take about 22 pounds of plutonium or 130 pounds of uranium to create a nuclear detonation. Both would require explosives to set off the blast, but significantly more for the uranium.

Although uranium is considered easier for terrorists to obtain, it would be too heavy for one person to lug around in a suitcase.

Plutonium, he notes, would require the cooperation of a state with a plutonium reprocessing program. It seems highly unlikely that a country would knowingly cooperate with terrorists because the device would bear the chemical fingerprints of that government. "I don't think any nation is willing to participate in this type of activity," Majidi said.

That means the fissile material probably would have to be stolen. "It is very difficult for that much material to walk away," he added.

There is one more wrinkle: Nuclear devices require a lot of maintenance because the material that makes them so deadly also can wreak havoc on their electrical systems.

"The more compact the devices are - guess what? - the more frequently they need to be maintained. Everything is compactly designed around that radiation source, which damages everything over a period of time," Majidi said.

Well. I'm bummed, y'all.

I mean, it was such a cool plot device. And now I can't even stick one into any of my fiction. Unless I want to be laughed at by fellow authors who actually fact-check this shit before committing it to manuscript. The only ones who won't laugh are the TV whores who produce 'winger faves like "24" to titillate and scare the FUX crowd. And I don't write for TV, precisely because it is such a whorish medium, and any old bullshit is likely to be taken for fact if it looks cool enough onscreen. (This, folks, is in a nutshell the answer to the old snark, "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?" It's easy to get rich on pure stupidity, as long as it finds a ready market. Just ask anyone who's shelled out money to see the last three Star Wars films.)

Oh well. I guess I don't have to lose any more sleep about the prospect of finding one of these under my airplane seat the next time I fly. That's gotta be worth something.

The King has lost his crown

Some people can't handle the truth. And it would figure that those people are royal-we fossils.

Spain's King Juan Carlos told Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to "shut up" as the Ibero-American summit drew to a close in Santiago, Chile.

The outburst came after Mr Chavez called former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar a "fascist".

Mr Chavez then interrupted Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's calls for him to be more diplomatic, prompting the king's outburst.

[...]

Mr Chavez called Mr Aznar, a close ally of US President George W Bush, a fascist, adding "fascists are not human. A snake is more human."

Mr Zapatero said: "Former President Aznar was democratically elected by the Spanish people and was a legitimate representative of the Spanish people."

Mr Chavez repeatedly tried to interrupt, despite his microphone being turned off. The king leaned forward and said: "Why don't you shut up?"

According to reports, the king used a familiar term normally used only for close acquaintances - or children.

Later, Mr Chavez responded to the king's rebuke.

According to the Associated Press news agency, he said: "I do not offend by telling the truth. The Venezuelan government reserves the right to respond to any aggression, anywhere, in any space and in any manner."

The theme of this year's 22-nation summit was "social cohesion".

We now pause so you can soil yourself laughing over that last line.

This was not the only outburst that happened at that summit--Argentina and Uruguay were also at each other's throats over a Finnish paper mill on the Uruguayan side of their shared border. (Clicky the linky and scroll down to see how shocking it is to the stodge-podge media types that Chavecito is getting along all right with, of all people, Alvaro Uribe, if you need more shits 'n' giggles. Chavecito, a diplomat in disguise? Hey, he's the only one who actually stands a chance of succeeding. The FARC guerrillas will negotiate with him and no one else.)

But seriously, folks, Chavecito is right--or at least, he's only exaggerating very slightly. Aznar, if not exactly a fascist of the Generalissimo Franco ilk, is still an abject, plague-ridden sewer rat. And there are at least a few leftists in Spain who are also not afraid to call a spade a fucking shovel already:

Aznar, Bush's buttlicker

Do you require a translation, gentle reader? (Didn't think so.)

Chavecito has a right to be angry at him, too. Along with Bush, Aznar was the only foreign leader to recognize as "legitimate" the coup-dictatorship of Pedro Carmona in April 2002. Everyone else in Europe had the good sense to recognize that a coup against a democratically elected leader didn't merit such enthusiasm. And the people of Spain, I'm guessing, were not impressed either at the prospect of seeing a popular president exiled or even killed when he was on the verge of putting a badly fucked-up country to rights.

There's another dimension to this row, by the way: the prestige of the King of Spain Award for journalism was badly besmirched on Aznar's watch. That's when the prize was awarded to Venevision for its fraudulent reporting of the Carmonazo. How embarrassing to find out that a "smoking gun" is, in fact, an empty water pistol. Maybe His Majesty didn't like to be reminded of the travesty that was perpetuated in his name. Ya think?

PS: Telesur has complete video up:

Chavecito actually got more support than detractors for his remarks, particularly from Nicaragua and Cuba. The King of Spain stormed out in a snit. Stick around till the end, and you'll also see Rafael Correa in one of his spiffy shirts--a sight well worth waiting for, IMO.

Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch!

Behold, the Complaints Choir of Helsinki:

"And the Finnish language is bloody difficult to learn!"

Happily, there could be a chapter starting near you--clicky here!

November 9, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Evo, Evo everywhere...

A little birdie tells me that there are a LOT of yummy Evo-pix out there this week...

Evo with a birdie. Which one is cuter?

And is it any wonder? Evo's been a busy boy. Places to be, things to see, honors to receive...LOTS of honors.

That's Dr. Evo to you, sucka...

Ahem...that's Doctor Juan Evo Morales Ayma to you, now. He may not have made it to university (even his high schooling was interrupted), and the Nobel Peace Prize committee may have snubbed him this time 'round, but thanks to the University of Santo Domingo, he's now a doctor of humanities honoris causa. That's what I call making up for lost time!

And oh lord, what he does for those academic robes...

Evo, looking all magisterial (and sexy)

He sure knows how to work that magisterial look.

And speaking of looks he knows how to work, how about this one, which he wore in style-conscious Italy on a recent trip:

Evo in a garland and spiffy indigenous look

And who's got the better tailor: Evo, or Italian PM Romano Prodi?

Evo with Romano Prodi

Check the hang of the suit jackets. Ciao bello.

BTW, I just realized I forgot to note that Evo recently celebrated his 48th birthday, on October 25. Figures he's a Scorpio--that would explain why such a quiet, unassuming guy would be able to take back his country's natural gas industry without a single shot fired, kick the CIA out of the presidential palace, and keep several other campaign promises all within a year of taking office. That takes serious spiritual power and self-control. And Scorps have it in spades. (If you don't believe me, watch this YouTube. He shows admirable control right up until the end, and when asked a bad question, zing!--out comes that Scorpion tail stinger. But even this reaction is strongly controlled!)

His people gave him a big bash, of course:

Evo's birthday party

Oh, and here's a nice present, slightly belated: An Associated Press story about him that actually doesn't suck. With a picture that doesn't suck either.

Feliz compleaños, Evito.

November 8, 2007

Headline Howler: Who you callin' ugly?

Well, I guess if he calls himself ugly, it must be okay for Reuters to do it too. (The "quotation marks" make it all right, you know.)

Hugo Chavez calls himself ugly and his looks earned him the nickname "Goofy" in the military, but the president's image is changing -- he is now considered one of Venezuela's sexiest men.

A poll said on Thursday the fifth-most desired man is Chavez, whose large nose, protruding lips, forehead mole and gap in his front teeth are easy fodder for caricature artists in a South American nation obsessed with beauty.

Not until the third paragraph do we find out who's behind this non-news item:

The poll was commissioned by Fedecamaras, Venezuela's principal business group that was for years openly hostile to Chavez and even helped install one of its leaders as de facto president during a brief 2002 coup against him.

Ah. So.

We can't call him a dictator, because he isn't. We can't call him an autocrat, because he isn't. We can't call him unelected, because he isn't. We can't call him unpopular, because the Red Sea of Caracas makes it blindingly obvious that he isn't. So what CAN we call him? Something that is, like everything else Fedecamaras says, highly debatable.

Okay, so he's not quite as handsome as Rafael Correa (still taking suggestions to nickname the Green-Eyed One, separated at birth from Kal-El.) Or quite as cute as Evo, who has really got it goin' on (I'll post further proof of that later.) But you can tell they're scraping the bottom of the barrel for bad things to say about him when they resort to this--and are then forced to admit that "ugly" (read: nonwhiteness) is not ugly at all, because he's far from unsexy. Or unappealing to women. (It doesn't hurt that Chavecito is the most pro-woman president Venezuela has had since Simon Bolivar. Shhhhh, you didn't hear that from me.)

Meanwhile, though, the uglification of Chavecito is not so new down south. Aporrea reports that somebody in Brazil is so anxious to make Chavecito look bad, they've actually resorted to some really crappy photoshopping:

For this week's cover, we had to make a very specific image choice. The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, had to appear with a menacing face. It was very difficult, because he has a chubby, sympathetic face that wouldn't scare anyone. The image that came closest to our objective was the one in which he wears his red beret on the left-hand side. To make the image stronger, our illustrator Nilson Cardoso manipulated the original image, to obtain this final result.

Translation mine.

Here's the original selection of possible covers:

Rejected Chavecito covers--he looks too nice

Booga, booga, booga. The Chubby Sympathetic Boogyman is out to get you! Scared yet?

Me neither.

And here's the final outcome:

Badly Photoshopped Chavecito--does he scare you now?

The headline reads: "Should Brazil Be Afraid of Him?" Clearly, the implication is yes. The captions imply that Chavez's "growing war power" is a menace to Brazil, and that Lula's government are saps for planning to invest big-time in "the dictatorship". They've also stuck a map of South America in behind him (where none was before), to drive home the idea that he has dictatorial ambitions for the entire continent. And if THAT doesn't work, there's always that menacing, ugly face...

Yeah, I know. What a joke. Even photoshopped, he's still not menacing--or ugly.

Even more hilarious, they're now trying to defend the smear job as "just art, fer fucksakes!" The reason being that they got dozens of responses to this item, most of them accusing Epoca of playing Goebbels. And apparently the outrage is still pouring in, a week later. By now, the entire art department of that rag must feel like something stuck to the bottom of Larry Craig's shoe.

Has no one ever told them that pretty is as pretty does--and that by that token, Chavecito just might be the most attractive man in Latin America?

(Hat tip to the lovely and talented Eric of BoRev for the Reuters item.)

Ghouliani fer Prez!

Ghouliani Fer Prez!

Because heaven knows, we just haven't been tortured enough.

Asked about his views of waterboarding this weekend, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said that as President he would support the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniques. In an interview with Bloomberg's Al Hunt, Giuliani claimed such techniques are effective and that he used "intensive questioning" as a federal prosecutor in New York to elicit information from the mafia:

"I do know a lot about intensive questioning and intensive questioning techniques. … Now, intensive questioning works. If I didn't use intensive questioning, there would be a lot of mafia guys running around New York right now and crime would be a lot higher in New York than it is. Intensive question has to be used."

"A lot of mafia guys running around New York"? You mean like your mobbed-up cop pal Bernie Kerik, Rudy? The same who is now facing tax evasion and corruption charges, along with the embarrassment of having an undocumented nanny, and with having schtupped not one but two mistresses in an apartment near Ground Zero which had been set aside as a sleeping place for first responders digging through the wreckage of 9-11? The one who profiteered from Taser stock? That Bernie Kerik?

Oh, but as long as he's not Cosa Nostra himself, he doesn't count. Just as it doesn't count as torture if you don't suffer organ failure or death.

So glad we cleared that up. Because heaven knows, the nauseous repetition of the "9-11, 9-11, 9-11" refrain isn't torture either.

Moral decency, FUX Snooze style

Watch the video, then sign the petition.

November 7, 2007

Carmonazo II: The Oppos Strike Back (Again)

Oh, ho hum...where have I heard this dreary refrain before?

Gunmen have opened fire on students returning from a protest in Caracas against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's planned reforms.

Several people have been reported injured during the clashes, including at least two by gunfire.

The students were protesting against plans to remove presidential term limits, the subject of a referendum.

Thousands had marched peacefully to the Supreme Court and filed a demand for the vote to be suspended.

Unidentified gunmen opened fire on the students as they returned from the march, prompting scenes of chaos as students fled.

One witness told the Reuters news agency that after the initial violence supporters of Mr Chavez drove through the area on motorbikes and shooting into the air.

National Guardsmen had been posted along the march route to stop clashes between protesters and Chavez supporters.

Okay, now who says history never repeats? Once again, this does not pass the most basic of sniff tests. Let's tally up the similarities to the last time this happened, shall we?

Back in April of '02, there was also a "peaceful opposition demonstration" that proved not to be anything of the sort. The "peaceful" demonstrators vandalized Fermin Toro High School, threw battery acid in the faces of Chavistas, fired upon their own marchers from within the march, pushed their way through a police roadblock designed to keep them from getting into fights with the other side, littered the streets of Caracas with burning trash, and in the midst of the confusion, snipers associated with the political parties they supported fired upon the "peaceful" demonstrators to create even more confusion. Then, as now, violence was being used to force a resignation from a certain unbelievably popular president.

Back in '02, the "peaceful demonstration" was staged--and its march deliberately, illegally re-routed--to force an end to democracy in Venezuela when it resulted in something the Venezuelan oligarchy didn't like. Since there was no way to peacefully, democratically dislodge a certain president from his seat, violence was used as a means to that end. Then as now, students from pricey, conservative private universities were in the vanguard of the marches.

Back in '02, the violence was wrongly ascribed to Chavistas by the media. A video was made by a Venevision news crew that showed a half-dozen Chavistas firing from Llaguno Bridge, presumably at the opposition demonstrators on Baralt Avenue. This video didn't show what they were firing at (it turned out to be the riot trucks of the Metropolitan Caracas Police, who had been set upon them by an anti-Chavez mayor.) It intercut scenes of the Llaguno shooters with commentary linking them to murder and mayhem several blocks away (some of it out of the shooters' line of sight, and all of it out of their handguns' range.) The shooters, who were taken prisoner and isolated from their families for months afterwards, all maintained their innocence. Home videos made by amateurs with a direct angle down Avenida Baralt later bore their assertions out, showing no march on the avenue, and nothing there but a police truck firing on the Chavistas massed on the bridge (in concert with snipers posted on rooftops nearby, thus proving that the police and the unseen shooters were in collusion against Chavez). Then, as now, the news media were complicit in the most blatant manipulation and distortion of the day's events. Venevision's unethical video was picked up and touted as definitive by media outlets from around the world.

Back in '02, the violence came in the wake of a raft of laws passed by Chavez under the Ley Habilitante (Enabling Law)--a constitutional measure that allows the president to legislate by decree where necessary. The laws in question regulated land use, fishing and industry; they put more power in the hands of campesinos, small-scale fisherfolks, and workers. The oligarchy, represented by Pedro Carmona (the head of Fedecamaras, the Venezuelan chamber of commerce) didn't like that one bit, and they bitterly complained about the 49 laws, claiming they were "destabilizing to the economy". Then, as now, the violence came in reaction to Chavez's use of the enabling law to decree serious structural reforms, and to address imbalances in the system. His recent raft of legislation was a group of constitutional reforms intended to put more power directly into the hands of the people, and out of the hands of the traditional powerholders.

As you can see, it's all going over like a load of bricks.

Then, a business leader was installed as "interim president" during the coup. He "restored democracy" by dismantling every democratic institution in Venezuela--the national assembly, the electoral council, the Defender of the People (their national ombud, in other words.) The constitution, which a solid majority voted in favor of in a general referendum, was scrapped, as were the 49 popular "Habilitante" laws.

Now, we're seeing 69 constitutional reforms, already passed by the National Assembly (which, I stress, is democratically elected) and slated to go to a popular referendum on December 2. The opposition is doing its damnedest to make sure that referendum doesn't happen. In other words, they are interfering with democracy, hellbent on destroying it--AGAIN.

And the lazy-ass lamestream media up here still won't call them on it. They still toady to antidemocratic "civil society" groups like Sumate, whose express purpose is to advance not democracy, but the oligarchy's agenda, and who have received massive funding from the US State Department. They still give the fuck-ass official version, which is intentionally vague and misleading, and whose slant is obvious to anyone with a moderately trained eye. The slant: Chavez is antidemocratic, and these reforms are a power grab--and the violence against these peaceful demonstrators proves it!

It was crapaganda then, and it is still crapaganda now.

November 6, 2007

Crazy Rulers of the World

A three-part series whose title speaks for itself. The subject is the dark (and crazy) side of US military intelligence.

Part 1, "The Men Who Stare At Goats":

Psychic powers are one thing (hey, I'm a Witch--and also a pretty good astrologer, Tarot reader and healer), but the military use of them is what's truly gaga here. These powers don't work that way!

Part 2, "Funny Torture":

This episode links "The Men Who Stare At Goats" to the horrors committed by US military interrogators at Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi torture sites. Specifically, the psy-ops. Repetitive, "hooky" songs were the most likely to be used abusively; they didn't even have to be nasty, heavy-metal or acid-rock type stuff. The composer of the "Sesame Street" song was appalled to learn that his own compositions were being played repeatedly as a form of torture. Who knew that children's TV music could be used to break down the minds of prisoners?

I can well believe that Avril Lavigne would be used as torture. Nothing like a lethal dose of aural bubblegum to crack a human brain. But New Age music? The stuff of world peace? Why would the US military be interested in that? And who in the military would seek out that, of all things, as a potential weapon?

The Men Who Stare At Goats, that's who.

Part 3, "Psychic Foot Soldiers":

How many brains has the US military burned out over the years? It supposedly stopped doing so in 1995. Now the military's psychic spies have gone into the private sector. Oh great, psychic fucking MERCENARIES! Just what the world needs. These are the psychic equivalent of Economic Hit Men--they are not officially in the government's employ, only indirectly, under the aegis of the "War on Terror". Then, Plausible Deniability will finally be complete. There will be no accountability whatsoever for this brand of mental abuse. It will simply happen, and no one will be called on the carpet for it. And if anyone tries to question a psychi-spook, the spook will vanish without warning. Or maybe turn up mysteriously dead, having "fallen or jumped out of a window". And the public will buy the story that this person was simply insane.

Bent spoons, anyone?

November 5, 2007

Headline Howler: Why is the Beeb pushing "centrism"?

The headline:

Centrist claims win in Guatemala

The howler:

Centre-left candidate Alvaro Colom has declared victory in Guatemala's presidential election with the count nearly complete.

With results from 95% of polling stations counted, Mr Colom had a lead of 5% over his right-wing rival Otto Perez Molina.

Emphasis added.

Why does the Beeb suddenly feel the need to minimize the left for the sake of the centre? Read what the Economist (hardly a socialist rag) has to say:

Álvaro Colom, a former businessman, heads a centre-left party and was once close to the left-wing guerrillas who fought a civil war, mainly against military dictators, for more than three decades until a 1994 peace accord.

Gee, that's quite a past. Not something I'd be ashamed of; if it were me, I'd be trumpeting that news from the rooftops.

Especially in Guatemala, where the left's history is honorable, the right's filthy, and that of the centre...murky.

PS: Far be it from me to not occasionally give the Associated Press credit where due. They decided to pigeonhole Alvaro Colom as primarily an "anti-poverty" candidate, and sneaked that "centre-left" bit in lower down. Attaboys! You show that silly Beeb!

PPS: Looks like the Beeb is now starting to cotton on to Colom's leftishness. It's now reporting that he's an ordained Mayan priest, plans on consulting with Mayan elders during his rule, and that "His brand of politics is likely to be much closer to that of the moderate President Lula of Brazil than the socialist Hugo Chavez in Venezuela". Lula, of the Brazilian Workers' Party, a "moderate"? Oops, I think we have our next howler.

November 3, 2007

Requiem for the last American soldier to die in Iraq

Mike Malloy reads an article speculating on who will be the last US citizen to die for Dubya's asinine blunders.

November 2, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: A little vintage Chavecito

Hugo Chavez's maiden speech to the Venezuelan congress.

This was in 1999, upon his taking power. Present are several other Latin American leaders: Chavez's friend Fidel Castro, alongside an uncomfortable looking clutch of neoliberal dinosaurs: Pastrana of Colombia, Fujimori of Peru, Menem of Argentina, etc. They probably look so uncomfortable because they can hear their own coffins being nailed. Or maybe because they have to share space with Fidel and this infidel. Either way, it's priceless.

Pay special attention to where the applause falls. Invariably, it comes after the most impassioned and radical parts of his speech, the ones where he swears not to compromise with old reactionaries because "that would be a betrayal". The ones where he lays out loud and clear what he plans to do (and has done since, and is still doing.) The ones where he says it is necessary to fight for justice. And above all, where he swears to create a constitutional assembly to rewrite the constitution, "because the people clamored for it." He also promises to put the new constitution to a popular referendum. (He gets a standing ovation for those last two.)

And if you need any further proof that his popularity hasn't wavered but grown since, check out the last half minute of the video. A huge sea of red shirts, further than the eye can see, swamping the streets of Caracas. This is his support base. Remember that when you see lamestream media reports of "huge demonstrations" against his current block of constitutional reforms--because I guarandamntee you that anything the opposition throws up will be nothing compared to the popular support he will get a month from today, when the reforms go, as virtually everything else in Chavecito's Venezuela, to a general vote.

November 1, 2007

OMG, OMG, OMG!!!

Cuba has DEMOCRACY? Seriously???

And BushCo wasn't consulted on this?

Yowza. That won't make the Miami Mafiosi very happy.

Newly-elected municipal assemblies will convene across Cuba in two weeks as the communist-run island's multitiered-election process advances without word on the future of an ailing Fidel Castro.

In an order published Thursday on the front page of the state newspaper Granma, Cuba's top executive body decreed that the 15,236 municipal assembly members elected on Oct. 21 and in two subsequent runoff votes will meet for the first time Nov. 16. The order was signed by Castro's brother and acting president, Raul.

Assembly members will later start choosing candidates for parliamentary elections due sometime next spring.

It is unclear whether Fidel Castro, 81, will be healthy enough to run for parliament — where he must hold a seat to remain head of government. Even if he retains his seat, legislators could decide to replace him with his brother as head of the Council of State.

What? Someone in Cuba can actually vote out El Maximo Leader? He's not an absolute dictator after all? WTF kind of half-assed dictatorship is that? Cuba, for shame!

And they dare to talk back to The World's #1 Exporter of Democracy, which is probably responsible for these gimcracky little bracelets--exported to further the cause of capitalism democracy? LOL!

Oh, and here's another OMG about Cuba: Once again, their evil, wicked hurricane preparedness program is working, while that model democracy (and child-sex-tourism hotspot for Repugnicans on Viagra), the Dominican Republic, is...ummmm...not doin' so good.

And let's not forget the most undemocratic part of all Cuba: the non-Cuban-run gulag that is Gitmo, where inconvenient free speech gets a lot more than just temporary detention over a crappy little rubber wristband.

Yeah, let's talk about regime change. OMG, WTF, LOL.

Quotable: George W. Bush on misunderestimation

"History teaches us that underestimating the words of evil, ambitious men is a terrible mistake."

--Dubya, who would know that from personal experience, today at a meeting of the brownshirt clans

...but he's OUR sonofabitch!

Democratically elected, ratified, signed, sealed and delivered Hugo Chavez of Venezuela: BAD.

Despotic, nasty, homophobic real, live dictator of Uganda: GOOD.

President Bush met at the White House on Tuesday with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for talks that focused on trade, HIV/AIDS but seemingly ignored alleged human rights abuses of gays and lesbians.

The two emerged from the meeting to appear for a camera opportunity with Bush praising Museveni for his push to lower the AIDS rate in the African nation by emphasizing abstinence until marriage.

"Uganda is the epitome of how one can implement a comprehensive ABC strategy to achieve concrete and specific results for the sake of humanity," said Bush.

Never mind that the A and B have been stressed at the expense of C, as has been criticized by no less a figure than Canada's own Stephen Lewis. And guess who's behind that lopsided approach?

BTW, Uganda hasn't made that much progress against AIDS. This "progress" has been largely talk. But when you've been in power for over 20 years and your latest "victory" is in question, you need to point to something, however bogus, as an excuse to keep hanging on.

Queer folk are understandably miffed and alienated by this approach, but what the hey. He may be a nasty piece of work, but at least he can brag of having been a uniter, not a divider:

Anti-gay attacks are commonplace in Uganda but have been increasing since August when Ugandan LGBT rights groups for the first time held a public news conference to demand basic civil rights. Many of the participants wore disguises out of fears of government reprisals.

A week later supporters of a coalition of Christian and Muslim religious groups filled a downtown stadium demanding mass arrests of gays.

This month the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said that it had uncovered evidence that the Bush administration has funded groups in Uganda that actively promote violence and discrimination against lesbians and gay men.

Among those receiving money, according to US government records, is Uganda Muslim Tabliqh, and the Makerere University Community Church.

The church's leader, Pastor Martin Ssempa, was a leading organizer of the anti-gay rally in Kampala.

Ssempa and his coalition, which includes Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, and Evangelicals, also have threatened the safety of Ugandan LGBT rights activists by posting their names, photos and addresses on a website.

You must admit that's an impressive show of unity. All those warring sects and factions, brought together by a common cause: hating the homos.

Is anyone else being reminded of the progress Israel recently made on this front?

And of course, there is the inevitable "family values" spin:

In 2005 Museveni has signed into law a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, making the country the only one in the world to have a specific constitutional reference outlawing gay marriage.

Never mind that in Uganda, AIDS is the disease of straight people, and there are villages where the entire young adult population was wiped out, leaving only orphans and grandparents. No, let's just stop the queers from marrying, that'll solve the problem. That, and marooning them on a desert island so they all die out.

Meanwhile, do you suppose BushCo will utter a peep about him for this?

This year Museveni pushed constitutional changes to allow him a third term and won re-election in voting last year, though Uganda's main opposition party charged many people were barred from the polls and some returns were falsified.

Strain your ears, folks. Do you hear anything?

Me neither. Maybe because this paragon of liberal democracy would rather talk about the things that really matter.

"You need good infrastructure within a country like Uganda, as well as other African countries, so that you can produce goods at low cost," Museveni said. "Therefore you can be competitive in the expanded markets, and also in the regional markets."

Ah yes, the usual free-trade-will-save-us-all rhetoric. That, too, rings strangely familiar.

This guy is as bad a piece of news for Uganda as Pinochet was for Chile. But since he's tootling the right rhetoric, all his very real human rights abuses will be overlooked, just like Pinochet's were. Dubya is too busy demonizing Chavecito over imaginary abuses anyway.

Plus, how much oil is there under Uganda? Better get a real strongman lined up in Washington's corner before that oil starts to flow in earnest. That way, they'll have someone to hold up as an example for the unruly democrats of Latin America. It won't work, but it'll make them feel better to know that they can still have someone somewhere to refer to as "our sonofabitch!"

Stupid Sex Tricks: Please don't get off in flight!

Or we may have to get you off the plane.

Singapore Airlines has taken the unusual step of publicly asking passengers on its new Airbus A380 plane not to engage in any sexual activities.

The potential problem has arisen because the first class area of its giant superjumbo contains 12 private suites complete with double beds.

Singapore, which is the first airline to start flying the A380, said the suites were not sound-proofed.

It said it did not want anyone to offend other travellers or crew.

Singapore added that while the suites were private, they were also not completely sealed.

I'm really not sure why anyone has sex on airplanes, other than for bragging rights and a membership in the ever-more-tawdry and less exclusive clique known as the Mile High Club.

But who wants to brag of having had virtually zero privacy while they attempted to boink in a confined space that smells like stale piss and institutional hand soap? And who seriously wants to be one of that elite confraternity who have been watched fumbling towards Nirvana by that creepy guy across the aisle--you know, the one with the body odor so bad it ought to be considered a terrorist threat?

For that matter--who wants to be overheard by a flight crew who are liable to giggle and gossip about your noisy, clumsy horndoggeries in lurid detail, forever after? Or by already grumpy passengers whose mood is not improved by additional sleep deprivation? Remember, people, deadly air rage incidents have been provoked by less.

And if that doesn't work, consider what that horrible-smelling, recycled cabin air does to your looks. Do you really want to wear your O-face in an environment that parches your every wrinkle and sends your sebaceous glands into overdrive, so you emerge looking like a greased prune with a bad hair day?

When you consider all that, suddenly Terra Firma doesn't look like such a bad place to get off.