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December 31, 2007

Quotable: Morley Callaghan on fascism and the church

"It seems to me that those who have tried to make the rebel cause the Christian cause have no shame. All those who are heart and soul with the rebels have made a clear cut choice between the things that are Caesar's and the things that are God's. They are on the side of property rights against human rights."

--Morley Callaghan, Canadian author, writing during the Spanish Civil War as a Catholic in support of the Republican cause. The Vatican notably took the opposite side, and still does.

One more case of deep prostration

From the Halifax News, some important information about the difference between Canadian privacy law and that of our neighbors to the south--a difference that is now being eroded due to the push for "deep integration":

Individual privacy is best protected in Canada and under threat in the United States and the European Union as governments introduce sweeping surveillance and information-gathering measures in the name of security and border control, an international rights group said in a report released yesterday.

Canada, Greece and Romania had the best privacy records of 47 countries surveyed by London-based watchdog Privacy International. Malaysia, Russia and China were ranked worst.

Both Britain and the United States fell into the lowest-performing group of "endemic surveillance societies."

"The general trend is that privacy is being extinguished in country after country," said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International. "Even those countries where we expected ongoing strong privacy protection, like Germany and Canada, are sinking into the mire."

He cites the CIA's accessing the banking records of Canadians through the SWIFT banking information system, the Canadian no-fly list, and the Toronto Transit Commission's installation of security cameras as examples of the erosion of privacy rights.

He also decried the increasing number of programs involving the United States, which he said unfortunately has no federal privacy law.

"What's happening, is that Canadian information, sensitive information, is flowing across the border in increasing volumes," Davies said.

"Frankly, that the sort of situation where government should put pressure on the U.S. government to protect that information legally," he said, "But it's not doing so."

And that's what worries me. Our government has a long and sorry history of caving to that elephant just to the south of us.

Back when Dr. Ewen Cameron was doing his "brainwashing" torture experiments on behalf of the CIA, no one stopped him. He wasn't even a Canadian citizen, but he was allowed to torture Canadians in the name of a grotesque travesty of science. Our government never raised hell on their behalf. Too afraid to confront that behemoth. The CIA settled out of court the day before they were to go on trial, for a then-unheard-of $750,000. Our government also agreed to a payoff--in exchange for the victims not being able to sue them or the hospital in which the experiments took place.

Frankly, they should be sued. For being so prostrate and intransigent and just plain feckless. Their job--for which we hire them by voting in elections--is to take responsibility for the safety and security and well-being of all Canadians. They are our public servants, and they fell down on the job. Why? Because Uncle Sam told them to bow. I doubt if they even asked how low; they just all kowtowed on command. Or more accurately, they kowtowed without even waiting for the command.

Now, this is very strange, because none of us ever voted for Uncle Sam. Back in 1812, our troops torched the White House rather than let the Yanks take our land. Canada is the only country that ever did that and got away with it. Tucker Carlson and Ann Coulter to the contrary, we were not lucky, nor were the Yanks benevolent--we were fierce, we prevailed, and we fought 'em to a draw. We did not cede so much as an inch of our border to them. The Americans learned to respect us as they seem not to have respected any other country since. Maybe that was because it was relatively early in their history, and they did not yet have the Military-Industrial Complex that rules them today. Whatever the reason was, though, the War of 1812 defined us and set us apart from them. We fly the Maple Leaf today, and not the Stars and Stripes, because of that victory.

I went to university in Kingston, Ontario--a town storied for its role in that war, since the troops from nearby Fort Henry were part of our defence force. One of the martello towers that kept watch over our shore is very near the Queen's University campus, and in spring, its moat is a carpet of violets. But that's now. Back then, it was filled with water. It had to be: New York State is right across the lake from us.

I have friends in the States. How indignant would they be to know that our own government won't protect us from theirs--which they rail against all the time too, because it tramples on their liberties as much as it does on those of people all over the world? Probably just as indignant as was Joe Rauh, the American lawyer Dr. Cameron's Canadian victims engaged to sue the CIA on their behalf. They see us as different from them all right, but in an enviable way. They wish they had a government more like ours. Ours provides us with universal healthcare and schooling and a social safety net. And until recently, it wasn't spying on us citizens. Theirs is now hellbent on doing away with what little it used to provide on all those fronts. Instead of serving the people, it serves its capitalist masters. And, oh yeah--to serve those masters better, it spies on the people. Its own people. And now, our people.

And if you think Dr. Cameron's mad-scientist experiments were some kind of aberration and that all that shit is in the past and there is no sense bringing it up now, have I got news for you: they are still being used by the CIA today. As part of its current torture-interrogation manual, no less. Iraqis and Afghans, most of them innocent, have been subjected to the very tortures investigated by Ewen Cameron in Montreal. So have countless Southeast Asians and Latin Americans since the 1960s. Everywhere the war machine went, it used those techniques--often not so much to obtain useful information, but simply to ensure compliance and docility in the shocked populace it sought to suppress.

How ironic would it be if those horrors came back and were used against us Canadians?

Well, in a way, they have been. Just ask Maher Arar. Being a Canadian, and utterly innocent, didn't spare him from the wrath of Uncle Sam. They sent him to Syria for an extended session of outsourced torture. Part of it involved extreme isolation, electroshock and mental torment strikingly similar to the kind researched by Ewen Cameron.

Our government has not stood up for Maher Arar any better than it did for Cameron's victims. On the contrary: it was complicit in what happened to him. Project A-O Canada was the name of the sting that turned him over to the hands of his torturers. Basically, the Mounties gave his name to the US authorities to investigate. And our government did nothing to stop it, even though it was their duty to intervene on his behalf. Presumably it was because Arar was born in Syria, but I have a sneaking suspicion they'd have done it even if he were a native son. They have no pride that way.

Exactly what they expect to gain from all this, I have no idea. Unless maybe it's kickbacks from the Military-Industrial-Espionage Complex. Which are also deeply illegal here. Just ask Brian Mulroney. Don't expect an honest answer, though; the man's not known for his honesty. His nickname is "Lyin' Brian", and his finest moment was when he burst into song with Ronnie Ray-Gun, another professional liar. And then promptly sold us down the river. (Guess who to.)

Shameful? Oh yeah. Surprising? Hardly. Like I said, our government is prostrate, intransigent and feckless. It has been for a very long time, and with but a few honorable exceptions (who were all promptly termed "anti-American" for telling it like it was).

Shit, we're only Canadians. We only kicked ass and took names in the War of 1812, and the allies in both world wars would have lost if not for us. We were in it all from the beginning and to the hilt, but we were never imperialistic, unlike some countries I could name.

Look: I'm all for solidarity with my brothers and sisters south of the 49th Parallel, but I am not for "deep integration" and corporatist spying and RCMP-facilitated torture taxis to Syria (or wherever else they outsource that shit to). Call me funny, but I like sovereignty.

And now that I've said that, I will probably be called "anti-American", too.

December 30, 2007

Messages from beyond the grave

Gol-dang, if that Osama isn't the most talkative spook or the most animated corpse you've ever seen. Now that everyone is talking about his death (thank you, Beni!), he has to pipe up via audiotape and claim that the rumors of his demise are premature...

Most of the 56-minute tape dealt with Iraq, apparently al-Qaida's latest attempt to keep supporters in Iraq unified at a time when the U.S. military claims to have al-Qaida's Iraq branch on the run.

The tape did not mention Pakistan or the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, though Pakistan's government has blamed al-Qaida and the Taliban for her death on Thursday. That suggested the tape was made before the assassination.

Or by someone who isn't in fact Osama.

This is hardly the first time we've seen an impostor being fobbed off as him. Or heard one, come to that. Apparently, since we aren't overly familiar with his voice (are you? I'm not), and all Arabic-speakers are supposed to sound alike to our western ears, we are meant to take it on faith that if a Pentagon "expert" says it's him, it must be him. Never mind that the Pentagon has had a problem with Arabic translations, since it refuses to let perfectly qualified gay people do the job even in the face of an acute shortage.

So...how are we to know if this latest "Osama" is, in fact, the real Osama? Or, come to that, if any of the rest of them were?

We aren't meant to. We are meant to simply accept the explanation we are given. Such as that the tape was made before the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The possibility that it's a fake isn't even being entertained. Why? Because we're also supposed to take the Pakistani dictator government's word for it that al-Q and the Taliban are responsible for her death.

And of course, we are not to pay any attention to all those little men from the CIA and the Pakistani ISI behind the curtain.

What we are meant to believe is that the war in Iraq is going better than it is. It must be going better, else why would Osama pipe up so conveniently just now to buck up the insurgents? Remember, the Pentagon says that al-Q is on the retreat in Iraq. And why would the Pentagon lie?

So here we are, seeing them kill two birds with one stone--the rumor of Osama's early demise, and that of BushCo's MessO'Potamia having turned into an irrevocable clusterfuck, right along with BushCo's Pakistan. The fact that there was no al-Q in Iraq before the Coalition of the Killing invaded is being conveniently left out of this narrative, along with Goddess only knows how many other salient facts. Instead, we're getting crapaganda like this:

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said bin Laden's tape shows that al-Qaida's aim is to block democracy and freedom for all Iraqis.

"It also reminds us that the mission to defeat al-Qaida in Iraq is critically important and must succeed," Fratto said. "The Iraqi people — every day, and in increasing numbers — are choosing freedom and standing against the murderous, hateful ideology of AQI. And we stand with them."

Several hours before the tape was issued, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, said al-Qaida was becoming increasingly fearful of losing the support of Sunni Arabs and had begun targeting the leaders of the Awakening Councils.

Petraeus said al-Qaida attaches "enormous importance" to "these tribes that have turned against them, and to the general sense that Sunni Arab communities have rejected them more and more around Iraq."

"They are trying to counter this and they have done so by attacking them," which is increasingly turning Sunnis against al-Qaida, he said.

Never mind that the majority of Iraqis, Sunni or otherwise, were never for al-Q (remember, it was never in their country before the invasion.) The anti-coalition sentiment in Iraq is not due to any agitation on the part of al-Q or other terrorists, but is simply the Iraqis fighting back against an unwelcome foreign presence which is there to take their oil, override their elected officials, and open the country to big foreign businesses while closing off all prospects for Iraqi self-determination--politically, economically, you name it.

The idea that Iraqis would welcome the US-dominated coalition as liberators was ludicrous from the moment it crossed Rummy's shrivelled lips. Never mind Saddam's evils, whether real or imaginary. Even he was better than the "freedom" the disaster-capitalists were hell-bent on ramming through over the objections of the Iraqis themselves. For that "freedom" was not meant for Iraqis, not ever for them--it was only for the big business moguls, particularly those of the mercenary-industrial complex. Ordinary Iraqis weren't being invited to rebuild the country the US had so thoughtfully broken. They were basically told to go fuck themselves while foreign contractors came to do the job--poorly and at great expense.

This is why we have to treat with extreme skepticism anything we hear from the current squatters in the White House (and their hand-picked lackeys at the Pentagon). They lied to us all along; why stop now?

And I doubt very much we're hearing the truth about the murder of Benazir Bhutto from them, either. Already the cause of her death has changed so many times, and with no autopsy (and no photos), there is no way to verify anything. One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that there is no way in hell that I would believe she could have bumped her head so hard ducking inside her vehicle as to fracture her own skull. Or, come to that, leave bullet wounds in it:

Pakistan People's Party Information Secretary Sherry Rehman said on Saturday that she saw a bullet wound in Benazir's head when she bathed her body after her assassination, AFP reported.

She said that she was in the former premier's motorcade at the time of the gun and suicide attack and rejected government claims that the death was caused when Benazir's head hit her sunroof.

"I was actually part of the party which bathed her body before the funeral," she said, adding that her car was used to transport Benazir to hospital. "There was a bullet wound I saw that went in from the back of her head and came out the other side. We could not even wash her properly because the wound was still seeping. She lost a huge amount of blood," Sherry explained.

Cover-up: Sherry accused the government of mounting a cover-up over Benazir's death. "The hospital was made to change its statement. They never gave a proper report," she said. "I believe the Interior Ministry is saying that she died from some concussion that may have taken place against the sunroof. This is ridiculous, dangerous nonsense because it is a cover-up of what actually happened," she added. She said the government had denied Benazir the security measures she had been asking for, Reuters adds.

Once again, the finger of blame points back at Musharraf. No surprises there; Pakistanis of all walks refuse to believe he is blameless.

I think they would also do well to keep their eyes on his puppet-masters in Washington. Get a load of this latest bit of weirdness from the State Dept.:

It was a decidedly odd moment. On Thursday, within hours of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters in Washington that his boss, Condoleezza Rice, had quickly made two calls. One was to Bhutto's bereaved husband, Asif Ali Zardari. Rice's other call, Casey said, was to the man he called Bhutto's "successor," Amin Fahim, the vice chairman of her Pakistan Peoples Party. Casey couldn't even quite master this obscure politician's name, but he said, "I'll leave it up to Mr. Amin Fahir—Fahim—as the new head of the Pakistan People's Party to determine how that party is going to participate in the electoral process."

The problem is, nobody but the State Department—especially not the political elites in Pakistan, even those within Bhutto's own party—sees Fahim in such a role, and certainly not so soon. Critics suggest that the administration is so eager to graft legitimacy onto President Pervez Musharraf, its ever-more-unpopular ally in the war on terror, that it is pressing too hard to move past Bhutto and continue with scheduled Jan. 8 parliamentary elections, even though riots are paralyzing the country. "They're trying to rush everything. This is a disaster," says Marvin Weinbaum, a former State Depratment official and current scholar at the Middle East Institute. "This is now our new game plan: We're working out a deal between Fahim and Musharraf after the election. They mention Fahim because they don't know any better. The fact is, she [Bhutto] didn't trust him."

Pakistani political experts tend to agree with Weinbaum. Although Fahim was sitting next to Bhutto in her SUV when she died, "he's not the successor," says Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani diplomat and scholar who was very close to Bhutto and knows many within the party. "He's respected. He has a constituency. But he's not a charismatic figure" like Bhutto. In fact, given the dynastic politics of Pakistan, the person who succeeds her is far more likely to be her husband, Zardari, the former Karachi playboy and polo star who is widely blamed for the tangle of corruption that strangled and cut short Bhutto's two terms in office. (Zardari was labeled "Mr. 10 Percent" in the Pakistani press because of the commissions and kickbacks he allegedly demanded from contractors doing business with the Pakistani government.) A long shot PPP candidate to succeed Bhutto might be Aitzaz Ahsan, who personally engineered the reinstatement of sacked Supreme Court Chief Justice Chaudhry earlier this year. Ahsan, however, was known to have broken with Bhutto over her decision to hold tentative talks with Musharraf about a coalition government and is considered to have too little support inside the party.

With emotions still so raw, no one knows whether anyone can even begin to fill the void that Bhutto left behind. Casey told Newsweek Friday that he had misspoken on Thursday when he named Fahim as Bhutto's successor. "That's my mistake," Casey said. "That's technically inaccurate. He is the nominal interim head of the party. But God knows it may not be, in the end, a single person. There isn't a single one who stands out right now. My own personal thought on this is they may end up with something like India's Congress Party, where Sonia Gandhi is head of [the] party but doesn't lead the ticket." Casey added, "U.S. policy isn't to anoint candidates or pick leaders for Pakistan."

No? Well, you could have fooled me. They certainly have their pugmarks all over not only the current so-called president, but also the "successor" that Bhutto certainly would never have picked.

Séances at the Pentagon. Bizarre prognostications from the State Dept. Jeezus, what next? Will the ghost of Ronnie Ray-Gun start sending messages by way of his old astrologer?

At this rate, my trusty Ouija board could soon become obsolete.

December 28, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Operation Emmanuel is a go!

The operation to bring three hostages out of FARC territory in Colombia is now on. This afternoon, military helicopters left Venezuela for Colombia, bearing the Red Cross logo to signify that this is a humanitarian mission.

And of course, it was a great day for two faithful campaigners who didn't stop working for this moment:

Chavecito and Senator Cordoba go over a map

Chavecito and Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba go over a map to see what path the rescue 'copters will take.

They were also joined by a third amigo:

Chavecito, Nestor Kirchner and Piedad Cordoba at the airport

Former president of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner, there to lend Argentina's support and oversight to the mission.

Chavecito waving goodbye to the helicopters

And...they're off! Good luck, compañeros, see you on the other side.

December 27, 2007

Did Beni know something we don't, but should?

An intriguing David Frost interview from last November, shortly after a failed assassination attempt on Benazir Bhutto, who was killed today in Rawalpindi, Pakistan:

At 6:13 in this video, she mentions an "Omar Sheikh, who murdered Osama bin Laden" (italics mine).

Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot???

Who in hell is this Omar Sheikh? Is it the same one who murdered Danny Pearl? And when/where/how did he do the deed? And most importantly, why is there still a war on Terra going on when Emmanuel Goldstein is dead?

And oh yeah: might Beni have been murdered for spilling the beans on all this? She was certainly inconvenient to more people than just Dubya's pet dictator. She very clearly states in the interview that she stopped Pakistan from becoming a terrorist state as far back as 1993. In fact, Ramzi Yousef--the author of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre--is said to have made an attempt on her life in that same year. Yousef also hatched the Bojinka plot in the 1990s after the first WTC bombing failed to produce the desired results; Bojinka failed, but eventually yielded knowledge that the 9-11 hijackers were able to use successfully. Ramzi Yousef, owing to his having been a fighter in the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s, is also known to have ties to the CIA. He also has ties to the Pakistani ISI--who have motives of their own for wanting Beni dead, I'm sure.

Noise, at UNN, suggests something worth looking into:

Omar Saeed Sheikh has been alleged to be an MI6 asset. Some people have suggested Bhutto meant Daniel Pearl was murdered by Sheikh but it seems strange to get confused between Pearl and Bin Laden.

Sheikh was arrested for the murder of Pearl on February 12, 2002. So if Bhutto's statement was accurate that obviously means Bin Laden has been dead for years.

Obviously Benazir Bhutto was not killed by a lone nut. There were surely others behind him. Who are they, and what was their real motive? And most importantly, where does their money trail lead back to?

Questions, questions. Who's got some answers for me?

More proof that Dubya doesn't read

...and neither does he, nor any of his lackeys, have the slightest concept of a little thing known as reading comprehension.

Think Progress has ferreted out the real source of Dubya's antipathy to embryonic stem cell research--a total misinterpretation of an improbable scenario from Aldous Huxley (read aloud to him, of course, by one of his loyal flunkies, since Dubya can't be bothered to bestir himself):

In a new piece in Commentary magazine, Jay Lefkowitz — who advised Bush on stem cells — reveals how the President formulated his 2001 policy. While Bush heard from a variety of groups on both sides of the issue, the turning point appeared to come when Lefkowitz read from Aldous Huxley's fictional novel, Brave New World, and scared Bush:

A few days later, I brought into the Oval Office my copy of Brave New World, Aldous Huxley's 1932 anti-utopian novel, and as I read passages aloud imagining a future in which humans would be bred in hatcheries, a chill came over the room.

"We're tinkering with the boundaries of life here," Bush said when I finished. "We're on the edge of a cliff. And if we take a step off the cliff, there's no going back. Perhaps we should only take one step at a time."

It's unclear what passage Lefkowitz read, but Brave New World opens with a scene at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, where embryos are turned into full human beings — often dozens of pairs of "identical twins" to ensure "social stability."

Say, isn't Dubya the father of (apparently non-identical) twins?

And isn't he also a proponent of adopting the excess embryos from in-vitro fertilizations, which would otherwise be dumped as medical waste?

And just totally apropos of nothing, isn't the planet already overrun with mass-produced human beings--while religious conservatives of various stripes are still busily militating against not only abortion, but birth control (but not, interestingly, fertility treatments that produce excess embryos)? Therefore, human cloning would make no sense on either a scientific or an ethical level. There are already so many of us that there is no need, particularly from a standpoint of social stability, for heaps of DNA-matched human bookends bred on purpose.

BTW, the correct term for Brave New World is not "anti-utopian", it is dystopian. Brave New World is not set in anything remotely resembling an Utopia, and therefore can hardly be said to be opposed to the concept. Huxley's dystopian vision was that of a world where a strange amalgam of capitalism and totalitarianism had run amuck. Everything is mass-manufactured, assembly-line style, including human beings, and Henry Ford is the God of their religion. Not very utopian, is it now?

And the most chilling aspect of this dystopian vision is not the human cloning, but the aspect of the manufacturing process that follows--in the second chapter:

Not so very long ago (a century or thereabouts), Gammas, Deltas, even Epsilons, had been conditioned to like flowers--flowers in particular and wild nature in general. The idea was to make them want to be going out into the country at every available opportunity, and so compel them to consume transport.

'And didn't they consume transport?' asked the student.

'Quite a lot,' the DHC replied. 'But nothing else.'

Primroses and landscapes, he pointed out, have one grave defect: they are gratuitous. A love of nature keeps no factories busy. It was decided to abolish the love of nature, at any rate among the lower classes; to abolish the love of nature, but not the tendency to consume transport. For of course it was essential that they should keep on going to the country, even though they hated it. The problem was to find an economically sounder reason for consuming transport than a mere affection for primroses and landscapes. It was duly found.

'We condition the masses to hate the country,' concluded the Director. 'But simultaneously we condition them to love all country sports. At the same time, we see to it that all country sports shall entail the use of elaborate apparatus. So that they consume manufactured articles as well as transport. Hence those electric shocks.'

"Those electric shocks"--my, how little has changed in the 600-some years since Our Ford manufactured the world as the Brave New Worlders know it. Say, isn't Dubya also rather big on the use of electric shocks, particularly as a means of terrorizing people into compliance, not only with cruel interrogators, but with the very laboratory-grown world as Corporate America would like us to consume it? That's quite the ethical, scientific position...

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Dystopia is looking an awful lot like the here-and-now, even without the decanted cloned babies. We have mass conditioning, only it's a lot more subtle and sophisticated than the crude Pavlovian shit we see in Brave New World. We call it The Media. Its job is, quite simply, to get us to consume crap, be smug about whatever our paltry and limited status in this cowardly old world may be, and above all, do nothing to change the paradigm. After all, that is what our current totalitarian capitalist society thrives on: apathy, ignorance, mass production (preferably in a sweatshop in a country with lax environmental and labor regulations) and mass consumption (everyfuckingwhere).

The media's job is not really to enlighten us; it is to encourage the "right" attitude ("U-S-A! U-S-A!! U-S-A!!!") by feeding us a highly selected diet of information (or rather, misinformation). Think of the last time you picked up a women's magazine: how much of what was in it was actual information, impartially offered for the enlightenment of a woman? Precious little, I'll bet. Most of the "information" I see in such magazines is aimed (often not even subtly) at pushing product. They could tell us how to do our own hot oil treatments, for example, but they don't. They would rather tell us to buy a pricey "shine-boosting serum" concocted by an "expert" from some expensive salon. (My humble guess is that they're not taking payola from the olive-oil industry.) They could also share with you (as I'm about to do) the great secret that Vitamin B complex, 100 mg a day, is a better treatment for clinical depression than any expensive, brand-name prescription drug that you see advertised in a US magazine. For that matter, so is learning to stand up and cuss out your oppressor instead of just lying down and taking it. But no, the media must stay on message: "Soma--a gramme is better than a damn!"

I could go on, but you get the picture. Why bother banning stem-cell research on "ethical" grounds when you already have no more ethics than the Goddess gave a can of pickled water chestnuts? Why bother saving all the "snowflake babies" from being chucked out in their test tubes and petri dishes when you've already got a society of conformists who might as well be clones, even if they weren't decanted from an assembly line of laboratory flasks? And why worry about the nonexistent prospect of decanted babies when surplus embryos--sorry, little Susie Snowflakes--have to be decanted, so to speak, into the wombs of their "adoptive mothers", right here and now, in accordance with the whims of George W. Lebensborn Bush?

I know this will come as a terrible shock to all the fetus fetishists out there, but the frightening misuses of reproductive technology Dubya is supposedly so worried about will never come to pass. Human cloning? Um, Dolly the short-lived sheep single-hoofedly put the kibosh to that idea. (Huxley never heard of telomeres; they hadn't been discovered when he wrote his work of fiction. Apparently Dubya has yet to hear of them himself. Quick, somebody, read something to him.) Animal-human hybrids? When the vast majority of informed people have a healthy fear of genetically tampered Frankenfoods? Um, yeah. Wake me up when it happens; I'm not about to lose sleep over the prospect that one morning I will find myself with cat eyes and a monkey tail. I'm far more concerned about what will happen to the right to privacy and reproductive freedom of my American sisters if more morons like Dubya get their mitts on them.

And even more than that, I'm worried about the way the media has turned so many of my contemporaries' brains inside out.

You see, I not only own a copy of Brave New World, I can actually comprehend it. Something Dubya and whatsisname can't be bothered to do, because it requires the use of a lot more grey matter than either one has got.

Of course, embryonic stem cells might help them with that. But since they're opposed, and we have it all in writing, they're not entitled to any.

Benazir Bhutto is gone

Sadly, this was a foregone conclusion:

Meanwhile, Dubya still thinks Musharraf is the world's best democrat. Right up there with Alvaro Uribe of Colombia. Surprise, surprise.

December 26, 2007

American Fascists: the Hour interview with Chris Hedges

George Stroumboulopoulos, host of CBC's The Hour (he never introduces himself as "your host", always, endearingly, as "your boyfriend") interviews Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists:

Hedges makes the interesting and useful point that the reason Canada doesn't have a fundie-dominionist problem is because we still have some semblance of a social safety net. He observes that fascism takes hold when there is prolonged instability and insecurity in a country. His only fault, as far as I can see, is that he doesn't see it is already happening in the United States.

Quotable: Oskar Lafontaine on the neo-con world order

"The European Left has lost credibility. It has opened itself too much to neoliberalism, which spells destruction for the social order. If it reverts to its origins, it will make gains again."

--Oskar Lafontaine, German leftist politician, in an interview with Aporrea. Translation mine.

December 25, 2007

Christmas in the Trenches

John McCutcheon tells the story of his ballad and the dedicated band of German followers it won him.

The Christmas Truce of 1914 really happened, and I often wonder what would have happened if only that spirit had prevailed. If only all the soldiers in the trenches had simply disobeyed their commanding officers on both sides, and no one fired another shot again--except maybe at the commanders, to tell them to back off.

For it was the commanders, far behind the lines, that got the shooting started up again--go figure, the troops had a hard time working up the animosity to shoot at people they'd been singing carols, sharing candies and playing pick-up soccer with just hours before. Indeed, the average footsoldier had trouble understanding just what was so evil about the other side, because those other guys looked just like him. The language and the uniform might be different, but the spirit was the same. The Germans and the British were of the same religion. And the fact that their religion centred around a Prince of Peace, whose birthdate they all celebrated the same way (and to the tune of the same hymns!) could not have been lost on a single one of them. And it wasn't.

Nor was it lost on the commanders, who ordered artillery bombardments on Christmas Eve in all subsequent years of the war to prevent just such truces from happening again. It's very hard to sing "Silent Night" with gunfire erupting all around.

I often think that the Germans and the British have more in common than just religion and holidays and traditional songs. There's another element of spirit, a more pernicious one, that they share. Kurt Vonnegut once asked the great German novelist, Heinrich Böll, what was the worst thing about the Germans, and Böll promptly replied that it was obedience. Suddenly, that phrase "the dogs of war" takes on a new meaning: obedience, vicious obedience, trained in by hard drilling. Bark, lunge and bite on command, like a junkyard dog.

In the Nazi era, a new noun came into use, a chillingly appropriate one: Kadavergehorsamkeit. Literally, cadaver-obedience. Obedience unto death, because corpses can neither rebel nor complain.

What might the world look like today if that canine obedience-unto-death had been circumvented or ignored? Would there have been another war? Would the Kaiser have lasted in power until 1918? Would Adolf Hitler have risen to power with as little challenge as he faced, if Germans had grown used to being disobedient and independent-minded in the intervening years? And what would Britain have looked like if its own troops had decided that an empire wasn't worth getting politely and obediently killed over, let alone politely and obediently killing someone else who looked and acted remarkably like them?

Oh look! I found The Frantics!!!

And now that I've said that, I'll have to put them back again.

(Seriously, folks...you haven't seen Canadian comedy until you've seen these guys.)

("SHUT UP!!!")

Holiday cheer from around the world

Poor St. Nick--Yuletide isn't over yet, and already it's getting awfully rough on him. In Bethlehem, he got busted:

Israeli soldiers arrested various Palestinians--among them, one dressed as St. Nicholas--who were protesting the apartheid wall which the Israeli Zionist occupiers had built in that location.

Residents of Bethlehem, a city famed as the birthplace of Christ, had been protesting peacefully against the occupying forces and the "wall of shame" which separates the Palestinian lands and families.

Translation mine. Photos at the link; warning--may scar your little children for life.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, some dopey elves got a little too far into the holiday cheer:

Kate Gorman, 35, was waiting to see "Enchanted" with her two young children.

"At least 50 drunk idiots dressed up like Santa came in through the main door," she said. "They were kicking things over, ripping down posters and smashing everything in sight."

"They were all dressed as Santa and shouting 'ho f*****g ho'," she told the paper.

Her children, Gabriella, 6, and Jackson, 7, had been confused by the incident, she said.

"They asked me, 'are they Santa's helpers gone crazy?' and I said 'no, they are just idiots'."

It's things like this that make you go Bah humbug.

December 24, 2007

It's a Blunderful Life

What if George W. Bush had never been born?

Jim Hightower's Gifts for a Happier New Year

May your days be merry and bright, and may you keep stickin' it to the right!

December 21, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: I wanna wish you a merry Yuletide...

Feliz Chavidad...

Feliz Chavidad #1

Feliz Chavidad...

Feliz Chavidad #2

Feliz Chavidad...

Feliz Chavidad #3

Prospero Evo, y felicidad!

Prospero Evo y felicidad

Everybody sing!

December 19, 2007

The Playboy and the Prettyboy stir up shit in the barrios

Remember how awhile back I blogged about Leopoldo Lopez, the mayor of a wealthy district in Caracas? And only yesterday, I had a little item about Yon Goicoechea? Well, now there's proof that Prettyboy Lopez and Playboy Yon-Yon are up to no good...

Neighbors of the most populous zones of Caracas have denounced Yon Goicoechea and mayor Lopez for coming into their communities to organize clandestine meetings there, with the intent of fomenting violent actions in the new year to get rid of President Chavez.

The meetings took place in the districts of Antimano, Caricuao and Los Cortijos; one took place this past week in the Colegio San Agustin in the UD4 sector of Caricuao, according to our source, and was attended by members of the "Comando de la Resistencia".

Translation mine.

A few days ago the Miami Herald reported "Chavez opposition brewing in barrios". They made it sound like once-loyal Chavistas were turning on their president because they feared that the proposed constitutional reform would mean a loss of private property--a lie frequently hyped by the opposition media (and echoed by its faithful foreign counterparts such as the Miami Herald.)

The fact that reality looks nothing like the scare stories didn't stop the misreporting. In fact, I suspect that the anti-reform media campaign was so strident precisely because the reforms were far-reaching and largely beneficial to the poor in the barrios, while leaving Venezuela's traditional ruling classes (to whom the Prettyboy and the Playboy both belong) out in the cold. If the people had been properly informed as to their nature by all media in Venezuela, chances are the reforms would have passed with a resounding yes. The right to collective and communal property, for example, would mean that big landowners looking to grab more land would have a harder time doing it, since collectives have strength-in-numbers going for them, while land-grabbers prefer to divide and conquer.

And don't anyone believe that the old owners of Venezuela don't have their eyes on those barrios. If they're not up for playing slumlord, they are almost certainly hoping to drive the poor out and plunk either expensive condos or golf courses onto the land on which those shantytowns are currently sitting. The idea that the shantytown dwellers have a right to own the land, not just squat on it (and thus remain vulnerable to being driven out by force) is profoundly threatening to those who already own more than enough property in Venezuela as it stands. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that elitists like Lopez and Goicoechea should be out and about in those same poorer neighborhoods, fomenting violence through clandestine meetings and at the same time trying to sow open doubt about the intentions of a president who, throughout his tenure, has enjoyed the reputation of being a friend of the poor.

Meanwhile, it must be shocking for people in those poor neighborhoods to see the mayor from a rich municipality slumming on their turf. He has no legitimate reason to be there, and neither does the "student" from the private university. No wonder they sounded the alarm.

The question is, will the lamestream media hear it, or will they just go on making like this?

Lala Kitty

A quickie lesson in Saudi history

4 minutes from the movie "The Kingdom", taking us from Ibn Saud to 9-11.

And yes, it's all about oil.

December 18, 2007

Yon Goicoechea, Playboy of Human Rights

From the Department of People You Can't Take Seriously, a real doozer:

Venezuelan Playboy magazine featuring Yon Goicoechea interview

Check the headline circled in yellow. That's an interview with Yon Goicoechea, a Venezuelan "student opposition leader". Yon's apparently not a bit modest about his media whoredom--the headline quotes him saying "I always knew I'd be a leader".

Here's what Aporrea has to say about Yon and his glorious destiny:

Between an ad for Scotch whisky (12 years old) and some pictures of a semi-nude "bunny", between pages 32 and 35, you can read the article with abundant text, 30 questions, and six photos of the young "director".

Of course, being a public personage like he is, there's nothing wrong with him offering declarations via the media. If he dedicates himself to political militancy, his business is to make himself heard one way or another.

But...okay fine: You make political declarations on human rights via Playboy? Is it a legitimate forum to speak of liberty and democracy in a publication which is macho, sexist, and which treats women as objects or merchandise? Is it possible to take seriously someone who talks about his drunken antics between pictures of semi-nude girls...that he is fighting for human rights?

Translation mine.

Of course, to really get to know Yon, it's important to remember the old biblical saying, "By their fruits shall ye know them." He's been linked to a lot of recent student violence leading up to the latest referendum.

It's also instructive to see the little angel in action:

You can see Yon at around 2:23 in this video. He can't keep his beady eyes still. Especially when he's prattling about "human rights".

When's the last time you felt a person who looked so shifty was worth taking at face value?

PS: This just in. "Belgian students reject presence of Yon Goicoechea and Freddy Guevara in European Parliament." WTF were these two punks doing THERE, anyway?

Big news from FARC country

This just in from Aporrea: Three hostages have just been released by the FARC rebels in Colombia, to be handed over in response to negotiations with president Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and senator Piedad Cordoba of Colombia. They are Clara Rojas (presidential running-mate of Ingrid Betancourt), her son Emanuel, and Consuelo Gonzalez.

Here's the video:

The hostages will be handed over to Chavez, or whomever he designates as a go-between. (Piedad Cordoba seems an obvious choice to me.)

The newsdesk at Globovision was able to contact Clara Rojas's mother by phone. She is understandably very emotional at the good news.

The second caller, Juan Carlos Lecompte (Ingrid Betancourt's husband), characterizes this as a major goodwill gesture. Clearly, everyone is hoping Ingrid will be next on the list of those released.

Oh, and to all you right-wing windsocks at FrontPage Magazine: You can stow your cutesy headlines now. Nobody "FARCed up" (except Alvaro Uribe); the negotiators were successful despite the idiocy--or more likely, deliberate sabotage--on the part of the Colombian government. It's worth reminding y'all that Ingrid Betancourt's family--and the French government--have all been solidly behind the Chavez/Cordoba negotiations the whole time, and when Uribe called them off, there was a huge clamor for reinstatement. Like it or not, President Chavez is the only political leader the FARC respect enough to make such a gesture. That should tell you something about him. You may want to keep your future words on Chavecito soft and sweet, in case you have to eat them again.

Xmas, USA

Xmas, USA

December 17, 2007

Uruguay scores a double

Viva Uruguay! First, on the trade front, the Uruguayan congress punched a fat hole through BushCo's plans for the Southern Cone:

The Uruguayan ruling leftist coalition Frente Amplio (FA) reiterated on Sunday its rejection of a free trade agreement with the United States.

[...]

Montevideo explored the possibility of a free trade agreement with Washington, but the idea sank amid reluctance on the part of sectors of the governing coalition and the members of Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, while Venezuela is on the verge of full membership), which does not permit bilateral negotiations with third countries.

Translation mine.

Then, a blast aimed squarely at the past:

Uruguay's last military dictator, Gregorio Alvarez, was charged Monday with the forced disappearance of political prisoners, cheering human rights activists who have long campaigned for his prosecution.

Alvarez, now 82 and retired, was the army general who led Uruguay from 1982 until shortly before the country restored democracy in 1985.

Arrested without incident at his home on Monday, he was sent to a military prison to await trial in connection with the disappearance of some 40 Uruguayan political prisoners who were seized by military rulers in neighboring Argentina and secretly returned to Uruguay in 1977 and 1978, prosecutor Mirtha Guianze said.

His arrest is a "historic moment" for human rights, said activist Oscar Lopez Goldaracena, whose group, Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared, has campaigned for justice for years.

Alvarez said in an earlier court appearance that he knew nothing of the illegal abductions and forced disappearances, but the prosecutor has argued that Alvarez was in a position to know what happened as former army commander in chief and later, de facto president.

Prosecutors say Uruguayan political prisoners were secretly airlifted from Argentina as part of "Operation Condor," in which South America's right-wing military regimes cooperated, with secret help from U.S. intelligence agencies, to crush leftist dissent and leave no sanctuary for dissidents fleeing their countries.

The military ruled Uruguay between 1973 and 1985. Argentina was under military dictatorship from 1976 until 1983.

Some 150 Uruguayan activists remain missing, believed to have been seized by governments of the era. Argentines are still seeking information about nearly 13,000 officially listed as dead or missing from the period of military rule.

[...]

The detention of Alvarez comes 13 months after the arrest of the man who headed the first military-dominated government, Juan Maria Bordaberry, who faces 14 homicide charges related to "dirty war" killings of the 1970s. He is under house arrest due to health problems.

It's a great time to start righting the wrongs of the past, and it's no coincidence that these two things are linked. Uruguay's military dictatorship was, like those of Argentina and Chile, installed by Washington to make South America safer for capitalists and more dangerous for everyone else. Read Naomi Klein's latest book if you don't believe me.

Looks like the dictatorships are well and truly ending now.

Dictatorship ain't what it used to be...

...and as proof of that, I offer the latest thoughts from the mouth of Fidel Castro:

Ailing leader Fidel Castro said in a letter read on state television Monday that he does not intend to cling to power forever or stand in the way of a younger generation, but invoked the example of a renowned Brazilian architect who is still working at 100.

"My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, or even less to obstruct the path of younger people, but to share experiences and ideas whose modest worth comes from the exceptional era in which I lived," Castro wrote in the final paragraph of a lengthy letter discussing the Bali summit on global warming.

[...]

"I think like (Oscar) Niemeyer that you have to be of consequence up to the end," Castro wrote in Monday's essay, referring to the Brazilian architect who was honored around the world as he turned 100 on Saturday.

Niemeyer helped design the U.N. headquarters and the main buildings of Brazil's capital, winning in 1988 the Pritzker Architecture Prize — dubbed the Nobel of architecture.

In an essay over the weekend, Castro paid homage to Niemeyer, a lifelong communist who was exiled for several years during Brazil's 1964-85 military dictatorship.

If anyone is looking to accuse somebody (I won't say who) of trying to impose "Castro-communism" and make himself president for life, don't bother. Even Castro the communist isn't interested in being president for life.

Suck on that, ye rightards.

So much for state media being "socialist"...

Yeah, tell it to the Beeb. It seems to have been bending over to prove the opposite lately. Especially with "reports" like this:

This so-called reporter, John Sweeney, is absolutely incredible. As in, "not credible". As in, "like a three-dollar bill". As in "Is he carrying water for Big Oil and that crazy Boris Johnson? Smells that way to me!"

To Sweeney-among-the-nightingales, Simon Bolivar (whose name apparently isn't even worth pronouncing correctly) is just a statue covered in pigeon crap. Thus, the president of the country is "the high priest" of crap-coated-statue worship. No mention of what Simon Bolivar did--a task which he was forced by the native oligarchy to leave undone when he died prematurely (177 years ago today) in Colombia. No mention of his heroism in liberating five Latin American nations from Spain. No mention of anything about him at all, except that his statue attracts a lot of pooping birds (as does, I'm sure, that of Sir Winston Churchill, that laudable old imperial racist).

The present-day Bolivarian revolution, according to Sweeney, is also a load of birdshit. Evidence of the revolution's unimpressive "successes" is a ranch which, according to its previous owner, was confiscated without payment, at gunpoint and under death threats. One would think something as scandalous as that would have actually made the news (as does every other dust mote in Venezuela's eyes), but I can't find any actual news stories. And Sweeney doesn't question this, nor does he produce proof either in favor or to the contrary. He just takes the ex-owner's word for it--as if latifundistas never lie in Venezuela, especially about the idle land they don't want to give up OR work on. The fact that the co-op now running it has built up its own herd from practically nothing is...well, practically nothing. Sweeney prefers to fixate on the muddy floor of the milking shed as some kind of indicator--forgetting that other milking sheds, even in the developed world, aren't that much better, and that milk in Venezuela, as elsewhere, actually gets filtered and pasteurized before it's sold to consumers. Maybe we're supposed to infer that the brown hands doing the milking are also dirty.

And do we get to see any other co-op ranches, ones more successful and up to date, or reformed scrupulously in accordance with the Ley de Tierras? Nope. We're not supposed to. At least, not on the Beeb. The mission here is not journalistic honesty or even deeper digging, but simply to throw mud (and bovine feces), thick and fast, and make sure it sticks.

The same pattern pertains throughout. We get little mention of the depth of the poverty that prevailed for a good 20 years before Chavez. And no mention at all of the Caracazo, which was directly caused by poverty and capitalist greed, in accordance with IMF dictates. What we do get, in spades, is "evidence" that things have barely improved. Not a word about how the Venezuelan poverty rates have dropped dramatically. Not a peep about its impressive economic growth overall. No mention that illiteracy is ancient history in Venezuela now. And of course, we are given to understand that the schools only attract as many pupils as they do because the kids are being fed. No other mention that affordable food is an important revolutionary contribution. We're led to believe that except for the school meals, everyone is still starving. Nope, not a single Mercal in sight. And no mention of the Bolivarian community kitchens, either. In fact, we don't even get to hear from the average barrio housewife at all whether there is more sancocho in her pots today than there was ten years ago. Strange, no?

Healthcare? That too is being played down. We don't see the doctors who came from Cuba to provide it for a remarkably modest salary and free lodging; we barely hear about it at all. Presumably, we hear so little because no one at the Beeb wants to admit that maybe those Cuban commies aren't such bad guys after all--that they are, in fact, sincere and dedicated for reasons that have less to do with Marxism than plain old medicine. No mention of all the eye surgeries they've done. No mention of the fact that Operation Barrio Adentro is now in its third phase (or is it the fourth? I can't keep track anymore), and that big new hospitals have been completed, some of them providing highly specialized care, and all of it free of charge.

No, what Sweeney would rather have us see is one--just one!--young guy who's done rather well for himself in oil, presumably only because he calls himself a Chavista. Presumably this one guy is supposed to represent some kind of corrupt trend. He just bought a TV station; presumably this is meant to represent the "tightening stranglehold" of Chavez on the Venezuelan media. He speaks English very well, with a British accent no less. And he goes clubbing in fancy-pantsy nightspots from which you can see the hillside barrios, where, if we are to believe Sweeney, gunshots are constantly--CONSTANTLY!!!--ringing out, and it's supposedly so bad that the government no longer publishes crime stats. (Uh-huh. Well, some opposition-dominated municipal governments don't--because the truth makes them look rather bad. And if the municipal governments don't report, what can the feds do?)

And how convenient for Sweeney it must be never to mention the #1 root cause of crime in Venezuela. Poverty rates are still fairly high there, and as they drop, we can expect crime to follow--eventually. It's going to take time, obviously, to bring policing up to snuff, and so on. But as the link I posted makes clear, violent crime in Venezuela is nothing new, any more than is the poverty that causes it. Let's be clear here: we're talking about a problem that's been festering for 500 years. And somehow, if it's not all fixed in less than a decade, then it means the revolution is bogus--or worse, that the revolution is itself to blame for those high crime rates? Come on. What are the other political leaders, chopped liver? Don't any of them care about professionalizing their local police? For that matter, do the police care about bettering themselves? It's hardly all the fault of Chavez, as Sweeney insinuates it is.

Oh, and speaking of crime: He all but comes out and says that the Chavez government is hiring Tupamaro gang members as mafia muscle to keep the bullet-riddled barrios under his thumb. Um, doesn't that come awfully close to contravening British libel law, which tends famously to side with the accuser and place a heavy onus on the accused? (Paging Ken Livingstone, this might be a job for you. Or the good people of the British Venezuela solidarity movement. Or the Venezuelan embassy in London. What say, folks?)

Oh, and the funniest thing of all is how wrong they get the amount of oil Venezuela is sitting on. It's not home to the world's seventh largest reserves, but THE LARGEST, period. Numero fucking uno, baby. Mentioning THAT, I guess, would have given too much credibility to the accusation that the oil-thirsty US is trying to kill this high priest of pigeon-poopy statuary just so its big oil companies can get their hands on what they "worked" so hard to keep flowing.

In this case, though, what flows most fluidly is the steady stream of BBC bullshit. Never mind that Venezuela's oil was actually nationalized in 1976; Sweeney seems to think Chavez did it just recently, and totally--when in fact, all he's done is insist on a majority stake in all foreign oil developments, and joint ventures between the state company, PDVSA, and foreign oil corps. Which isn't really so bad at all when you think about it, which Sweeney would rather you didn't do. Oh, and proper royalty payments, and prompt and full payment of taxes, too--things that the foreign Big Oil guys used to count on an ever-changing series of presidential faces to look the other way about. Hmmm, maybe that's why the oily oppos are so big on term limits, which democracies like Canada and Britain don't have. When a head of state isn't allowed to stay in power long enough to actually do something about corrupt collusion between the oligarchy and foreign oil companies--or worse, is himself involved and therefore has no incentive to stick around anyway, let alone long enough to do something right...well. I think you get the picture!

I guess the Beeb feels it has to keep up with Channel 4 in the crapaganda wars. Either that, or they can no longer afford the services of a real reporter like Greg Palast. Maybe a little more state funding is in order, so that they can do better, more thorough investigative reporting that actually tells the whole story without the crapitalist skew, hmmm?

(PS: I note that the video's Spanish translators, who did a decent job elsewhere, got one detail hilariously wrong: it's "crackers", not "crackass", as they put it down. "Crackers", of course, simply means wacky, loopy, crazy. Still not a flattering thing to say about Caracas or its most famous denizen, but not nearly as bad as it's made out to be here.)

December 15, 2007

See how they love one another?

Oh, those Christians. Specifically, those right-wing Republican Christians. Rather than joining hands around their hard-fought-for public manger scene in a show of seasonal brotherly love, it seems they are now about to eat each other alive, according to FireDogLake. The cause? Mitt Romney and his apparent need to pander to those all-importand "evangelical" voters. Suddenly, his doing so is cause for alarm in the punditocracy.

Four short years ago, the party was openly courting those people, and even crediting them with its success in stealing winning the election. And we were up to our eyeballs in "news" stories, and plaudits from the pundits, proclaiming them to be the grand influence in US politics.

My, how things change. All of a sudden, those evangelicals are poison to the party they so faithfully carried water for. And the pundits can't trip over their tongues fast enough, trying to disclaim them even as the candidates are still doing the old song-and-dance for them.

First, there was Reagan's old speechwriter, Peggy Noonan. During the nineties, she couldn't hate on us non-godcrazy folks hard enough. As a self-appointed, dolphin-mythologizing guardian angel, she made saving children from their communist parents her mission, when she wasn't busy bashing anything with a D after its name just because it wasn't "godly" enough. (By "godly", read anti-abortion, unwilling to negotiate with Cuba, and ready to blame the sinful gays but not Saint Reagan for the AIDS crisis.) Her ilk would have been only too happy to make America a right-wing theocratic one-party state, with all once-public services provided by private corporations (if not church-run charities that provide a lecture on sin along with the grub). So of course, she appeared to have no problem at all with the fundamentalists. They were soul-brethren. Even though she believes in eating the Body and Blood of Christ, while they believe in wallowing in it.

Now she has finally woken up out of her decades-old coma, at least briefly. And feebly tried to repudiate what she has long been making common cause with.

"My feeling is we've bowed too far to the idiots. This is true in politics, journalism, and just about everything else."

And you've only just NOW figured that out, Peggers? Incredible. How old are you again? And what did it take to bring about this epiphany? A man who believes in angels with unintentionally funny names like Moroni, and who refuses to admit that atheists too can be Americans? Incredible!

Then there's Charles Krauthammer, who has also gone sour on the loyal shock-troopers. Probably because he just now realized that if they keep jerking the country further in the direction they want it to go, it won't be just the atheists who are in trouble, but also the Jews. Even one who'd make his argument like this:

Now, there's nothing wrong with having a spirited debate on the place of religion in politics. But the candidates are confusing two arguments.

The first, which conservatives are winning, is defending the legitimacy of religion in the public square. The second, which conservatives are bound to lose, is proclaiming the privileged status of religion in political life.

A certain kind of liberal argues that having a religious underpinning for any public policy is disqualifying because it is an imposition of religion on others. Thus, if your opposition to embryonic stem cell research comes from a religious belief in the ensoulment of life at conception, you're somehow violating the separation of church and state by making other people bend to your religion.

This is absurd. Abolitionism, civil rights, temperance, opposition to the death penalty -- a host of policies, even political movements, have been rooted for many people in religious teaching or interpretation. It's ridiculous to say that therefore abolitionism, civil rights, etc., constitute an imposition of religion on others.

Isn't that meshugah? Krauthammer is using LIBERAL religious beliefs and a few social justice movements which attracted religious liberals, to try to advance the idea that the far-from-liberal Religious Reich has the right to shove its beliefs under our noses whether we want 'em there or not. And this in the middle of an article ATTACKING the Religious Reich for doing just that, only a tad more forcefully than Krauty would like (because it's making the entire Republican Party look like it's rife with religiofascist nutbags--which it is).

You know you're about to lose, and lose badly, when you have to attack the very extremists who were once the only thing standing between your party being elected, or not--in order to save your party from being walloped in next year's election.

Meanwhile, Krauty's fellow TownHall-er, Maggie Gallagher, tries to strike her own blow for sweet reasonableness, and fails just as dismally:

The reason God is on our coins and in our Pledge is not that He is practically necessary to democratic liberty, but rather that He is the philosophical foundation of it. Our rights come from a sphere outside the reach of the state. Government may or may not recognize our rights, but it can never repeal them.

Mind you, Maggie took Mitt Romney's god-talk as a springboard to pile onto someone other than the fundies. In her case, the bugbear comes completely out of left field. It's atheist-rights campaigner Michael Newdow, who quite reasonably thinks god-talk has no place on the coin of the realm or in the Pledge of Allegiance (which, as currently constituted, conflates God with flag-worship, Nazi-style). Newdow makes the solid case that the god-talk was tacked on later, not as a recognition of the religious underpinnings of the US's national morality (if indeed there is such a bird), but as a concession to the burgeoning power of the Religious Reich. Why, Newdow asks, should we be genuflecting to them just because they are so many and so loud? If it's a free country, shouldn't people be free to disbelieve--and by that token, free from the constant public, state-backed pressure to believe, believe, believe? Why does the state take on the duty of foisting a belief in God on people? Don't the churches do that enough already? Too much, in fact?

And leave it to Maggie to forget not only that, but also the fact that the Founding Fathers were mainly Deists--who believed that God basically stepped out of the picture after painting it, leaving the Universe to its own devices. Kind of hard to build a "philosophical foundation" on that--which is why so many Repugs, even the non-fundies, prefer to believe that Thomas Jefferson propounded the church-state separation because the church needed protecting from the state, rather than the other way 'round (which was in fact the case, as a founding father of the state would be the first to tell you.) No, Maggie seems to think that God gave us our democratic freedoms ("Here you go, here's a parcel of liberties for you, and you, and you. Don't let the government get its mitts on that, my child.")

Which is pretty wacky when you consider how many anti-freedoms get perpetrated in the name of God. Especially in the United States.

December 14, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito in Argentina

The Big Fella was a busy boy this past week (when is he ever NOT?)--visiting Argentina to attend the inauguration of a good friend and former Argentine First Lady, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner...

Chavecito gives Cristina a Bolivar sword

...who got a customary Chavecito friendship gift: a copy of Bolivar's sword.

And while he was there, he toured a low-income housing construction site, where he palled around with some women workers...

Chavecito and female construction workers

And of course, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo:

Chavecito and the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo

...whose famous headscarf logo even found its way onto his hard hat.

Chavecito in a very special hard hat

December 13, 2007

Richard Pombo's ba-ack...

The Horse's Ass

...and for some strange reason, the above image was the first thing that came to my mind after reading this:

An energy bill scheduled to be voted on tomorrow by the U.S. Congress will end up helping the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez more than U.S. consumers, a national grassroots group charged Wednesday.

"This bill is not good for the U.S., it's not good for American energy consumers, but it sure is pretty good for Hugo Chavez," the group charged in a letter to Congress today. "The fact that Chavez will be treated better than U.S.-based companies illustrates the flawed principles on which this legislation is based."

In its letter, the Partnership for America told Members of Congress that the bill, H.R. 6, "will hand U.S. dollars to Hugo Chavez at the expense of U.S. consumers, workers and employers" and urged Congress to reject the legislation.

...which I suspect is nothing more than a press release, disguised as "reporting".

And how would I know that?

Note how there is no one else represented in the story. No interviews. No voices. Except of course that of a bogus "grassroots organization" which is actually, yup, another energy industry front group in thin disguise. (Scroll down to the bottom of Page 2 on the PDF for proof.) There are no grassroots to this "grassroots" group--it's astroturf! And the only face we see on the group is that of a notably corrupt former California congresscritter with some crazy-ass urghly far-far right-wing ties.

And get a load of his, er, "mission statement":

Former Congressman Richard Pombo is the Partnership's new National Chair. After serving seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, including be elected as Chair of the powerful House Resources Committee, Pombo will serve as the Partnership's national "ambassador" on the key issues such as maintaining public access to public lands, restoring common sense back into government regulation, promoting economic freedom and private property rights, and promoting more American energy for America.

That last phrase is particularly important, considering what loopy environmental shenanigans Pombo has tried in the past. I suspect the most outrageous, which would have endangered California's environmentally sensitive coastal waters, was what cost him all hope of re-election last year. And he lost it to an environmentally friendly engineer--a true pioneer of American energy for America, in other words. As opposed to Pombo, who's a fake one.

But even if Pombo's coastal-drilling scheme had gone through, it would not have been enough to wean the country off the oil-barreled foreign needle. Risking environmental ruin for a paltry amount of oil? Tsk, tsk.

Pombo, face facts: You are Canada's bitch. And Saudi Arabia's. And Iraq's. And Iran's. And oh yeah, horror of horrors, Venezuela's. You have no hope of becoming energy-independent unless you do away with oil use altogether. Which I can't see your country doing as long as crooked, industry-backed capitalist fuckers like you are in charge of it.

Oh, and you really should know better than to desecrate your country's flag for those ugly-ass shirts, too.

Richard Pombo in his ugly shirt

December 12, 2007

Bless you, Don MacRae...

Though I don't know who you are, sir, you seem to have a good head on your shoulders. I loved this letter you wrote to the editors of TheMorningCall.com:

According to a Dec. 4 editorial, Hugo Chavez is taking advantage of the ''disparity between Venezuela's 'Haves' and 'Have-nots' that really threatens democracy there.'' If Venezuela was at our southern borders rather than Mexico, Americans would be celebrating his efforts to educate, provide health care and create jobs for the 'Have-nots.' But that's not happening in Mexico, so there is illegal immigration.

The recent referendum was criticized as Chavez's attempt to be ''president for life.'' But there is no guarantee that Chavez would be re-elected if presidential term limits were lifted. When will the U.S. Constitution be amended to limit the number of terms that senators and representatives may serve? Or is there some virtue in having elected officials continue in office?

After Franklin Roosevelt was elected for four terms to serve from 1933 to 1949 (he died in office in 1945), the U.S. constitution was amended. The 22nd Amendment limits the president to two terms in office.

Saying that Chavez intends to replace democracy with socialism is misleading. Socialism is part of our democratic system. Fire and police departments, educational facilities, roads, water and sewage works, recreational areas, parks and rivers are just some of our socialist institutions.

Good, solid points all. I would add that socialism is to economics what democracy is to politics--a process of more equitable distribution of powers. In fact, you can't have real socialism without democracy in some form, because a process of more equitable distribution can't work if it's run from the top down. It needs grassroots participation, and it needs to give the people a say; it's a no-brainer. What political system provides that better than democracy? (BTW, Canada's socialist system also provides healthcare, old-age pensions, and unemployment benefits.)

Bless you, sir, and keep setting them straight.

CNN: Have I told you lately that I loathe you?

CNN: What do your initials stand for? Crap, Nutjobs and Nitwits? I mean, just look at the shit you print--and the shit you reprint. Granted, this crappy editorial is bylined to Investor's Business Daily, which explains a lot. Including the language:

High oil prices do squeeze the poor. But oil companies do not control them. Dictators such as Chavez do. Eighty percent of the world's oil is held by inefficient state oil companies. Venezuela is one of the worst, producing its oil with scab labor since a 2003 strike, and it has also confiscated at least $1 billion in U.S. oil assets since then. Some industry analysts estimate that Chavez adds as much as a third of the cost to world oil prices. No wonder he wants someone else, like Big Oil, blamed.

What ludicrous conclusions this fool jumps to! Big Oil companies don't set prices--but Chavez does? Where do they get THAT? Last time I looked, they are the price-setters. (When it's not the Wall St. traders, that is.)

BTW, Chavecito doesn't work on Wall St. If he did, it would be a more humane place.

Notice, too, how the editorial blusterer doesn't name his "industry analysts", nor does he even link to their articles so that the reader can see for herself just what the "industry analysts" are saying, or how they manage to make such fantastic estimates. What kind of calculations are involved there, pray? If any analyst incompetent enough to draw such a conclusion even exists, they probably pull those "analyses" from the same orifice as they pull assertions like "Chavez is a dictator". Fact-free "reporting" at its finest! After all, we wouldn't want investors in Big Oil to pull out on account of Big Oil's price fixing. Or its unwillingness to give working and poor folks a break. Or its constant beating up on a democratically elected leader who happens to be non-white...

And of course, CNN, you have no problem with racists like Glenn Beck, who never met a white guy he couldn't applaud or a black one he couldn't bash. And you put him on as a "journalist", too. Why don't you admit that you're trying to out-FOX FOX, or out-Limbaugh the Pigman? I mean, it's not like Beck is any kind of engaging personality; he's an openly prejudiced lump of unbaked pizza dough. You could do better, but you won't. Why? Because you're the Chicken Noodle Network, apparently.

So, CNN.com, I'm gonna hurt you the best way I know how...and urge others to join the boycott in the name of truth.

Boycott CNN--it's all bullshit

Time to give Spain some credit

Okay, their king is an arrogant pissant. But the country as a whole is not the King, and the parliament has just done something long overdue and very decent:

The Spanish parliament has passed a law of "historical memory" which condemns Franco-fascism and rehabilitates the memory of the victims of the Civil War and the dictatorship.

The law, which will come into effect in a few days after its publication in the official gazette, was approved on Monday night by the Senate, which rejected the veto petition of the Popular Party (PP) and the Leftist Republic of Catalonia (ERC).

The PP considers the law to be a "divisive element", while the ERC considers it to be insufficient.

The law will not provide for annulment of the trials of the Francoist tribunals, as requested by the ERC. But the United Left (IU), whose votes made possible the passing of the bill, interpreted it as in effect allowing the reopening of the cases, without impunity.

Translation mine.

Here's an English version which elaborates a bit more.

Campaigners said the new deal improved on an earlier Socialist proposal which shied away from annulling sentences and prevented the naming of those who administered Franco's political courts until his death in 1975.

The law would concentrate on the victims of Franco's nationalist side during the civil war rather than on the victims of the republic's mainly leftwing defenders, according to Mr Llamazares. Those killed in republican areas included more than 6,000 priests, monks and nuns.

Spain's rightwing opposition People's party accused Mr Zapatero, whose grandfather was shot by Franco's firing squad, of stirring up confrontation and of betraying a tacit agreement in democratic Spain not to rake over the coals of the civil war.

Some coals, I think, could stand a little raking over. Especially since the former prime minister, Aznar, is the son and grandson of ardent and high-ranking Franco-fascists, and his party is basically the Franco party minus his name. That would be the PP, of course.

Meanwhile, I would say Zapatero's executed grandfather stands as eloquent testimony to the need for this law.

Burying fascism is no way of moving beyond it, as the victims of the Chilean and Argentinian dictatorships know all too well as they continue to search for their "disappeared" and piece together their broken stories. The same is true in Spain. And one Spanish filmmaker decided to dig up those bones--literally--and put some flesh on them:

As a toddler, film-maker Sandra Ruesga, was taken by her parents to visit the tomb of the man whose bloody and vengeful rule still haunts Spain.

But nobody had ever spoken to her about life under the man whose regime dominated the lives of her parents and her grandparents. Like most of her generation, she had never really been taught about him. 'I inherited a falsified history imposed by silences,' says Ruesga, whose generation is now questioning the silence that has surrounded the man they call El Caudillo since his death from natural causes 30 years ago.

Her comments, and harsh questioning of her parents' attitude to a man who was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of opponents, matched the experience of half a dozen other young film-makers brought together to make the documentary. Silence about Franco, and about the military uprising he led against the Republican government, was part of a 'pact of forgetting' that underpinned the transition to democracy after his death.

But now, in a country that has avoided truth commissions or prosecution of members of Franco's regime, the socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has pledged to do something but has already missed several deadlines for announcing a package of measures.

'It keeps delaying coming up with measures for elderly people who have little time left to wait for the compensation they deserve,' the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, which has dug up 500 victims of Franco's death squads from mass graves in the past five years, said yesterday.

The association wants the sentences of Franco's military tribunals overturned and history teachers obliged to tell their pupils the truth about the repressive nature of his regime. Among those to have backed its calls is Amnesty International.

To hell with any "closure" to be had from burying and forgetting--have the wounds of the survivors "closed"? Has burying the past and refusing to confront fascism as an evil brought them justice or inner peace? And more to the point: what good is burying and forgetting if it leads to inexcusable things like this?

Ignorance about Franco runs deep. A poll run by the Cadena Ser radio station last week found that one out of three Spaniards did not know that Franco had overthrown a democratic government.

Just over half of those questioned, however, said that they thought Franco's influence could still be felt.

A third of all Spain didn't know the truth about Franco--and more than half says his influence can still be felt. It's pretty obvious that it's being felt most in the malfunctioning memories of the people.

Which is all the more reason why this law needs to go ahead and the past must be reopened and old wrongs, if not redressed, then at least admitted.

Godspeed, Sr. Rodriguez Zapatero.

December 10, 2007

Omar Sharif regrets

In a celebrity culture replete with vapid idiots like Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, et al, it's easy to get cynical about celebs in general. The antics of the young, rich and stupid often make us forget that their elders exist, let alone that among them are ones like Omar Sharif--a great actor whose conscience refuses to be silent:

Omar Sharif still regrets having played Che Guevara in a 1969 film which was "entirely manipulated by the CIA", which he regards today as the biggest mistake of his life.

"I asked to make a movie that didn't take a fascist tone," he said in an interview in Cairo, where he just finished filming his latest, Al Musafir (The Traveller), with young Egyptian director Ahmed Maher.

In 1969, it was just two years after the guerrilla war had ended in Bolivia, "and Che was still an incredible hero," said Sharif.

The actor, 76, bitterly remembers that his "Che" had a certain dignity because he demanded it in his contract, "but Jack Palance's Fidel Castro, and the movie in general (directed by Richard Fleischer) resulted in a fascist product."

"The CIA was behind it, and wanted to make a film that would please the Miami Cubans. I alone cared about the outcome," he recalled, adding that a movie house on the Champs-Elysees in Paris was burned by audience members incensed by the negative image the film gave of Che and the Cuban Revolution.

Translation mine.

BTW, I could not find this story ANYWHERE in the English-language media. The closest I could get to a recent news story about him was this unflattering item. Which makes him sound a bit like a male Lindsey Lohan.

Don't you love that liberal media memory hole?

Crap on. Crap off. The Crapper...

Seriously, people, I want a Caganer for Christmas. Those kitschy little Catalan caca-makers are the shit!

Anybody know where I can get a Caganer in Canada?

December 9, 2007

Christian, yes. Charity, no.

Outcome, inevitable. Sorry to say it, but it's true:

A gunman opened fire in a training center dormitory for young Christian missionaries early Sunday after being told he couldn't spend the night, killing two of the center's staff members and wounding two others. No arrests had been made by afternoon.

The shooting happened at about 12:30 a.m. at the Youth With a Mission center in this Denver suburb, police spokeswoman Susan Medina said.

A man and a woman were killed and two men were wounded, Medina said. All four were staff members, said Paul Filidis, a Colorado Springs-based spokesman with Youth With a Mission.

The gunman came to the door of the dormitory seeking shelter, asking if he could spend the night, said Peter Warren, director of Youth With a Mission Denver.

When told he couldn't stay, the man walked inside, opened fire, then left on foot, Warren said.

[...]

Brady White, who attends Faith Bible Chapel, where the center is located, said students he spoke to called the experience "terrifying."

"They're just wonderful people," White said of the center's students. "Their mission is to know God and to make him known."

Y'know, Brady...I'm not a Christian theologian, but it seems to me that part and parcel of the job of "knowing God and making him known" would be to do just what Jesus said. Not the part about claiming him as one's personal lord and savior; that shit's easy. And not the part about preaching the gospel to everyone; that's already been done to death. The whole world knows about the Christians' God by now, and it's a safe bet that anyone who isn't sold, is probably either satisfied with the God they got, or else is too busy with other things, like struggling to keep a roof overhead, clothes on one's back, and food in one's belly.

It's strange just how pressing those things can be; they have a funny tendency to drive all thoughts of God right out of one's head when they are lacking. Conversely, it's amazing how those who have peace and plenty, and know to cherish it as good Christians (or whatever; one doesn't have to be a Christian to cherish peace and plenty), feel it isn't any hardship to share it with others, no questions asked. They, too, may not have a thought of God in their heads at the time, but they are being godlike even in their smallest gesture of random kindness.

But strangely, these Christian missionaries seem to have forgotten all about the teachings of Jesus in their zeal to preach God. They're too busy learning how to sell God, probably in underdeveloped and IMF-oppressed foreign countries where the people already have a God, maybe several Gods, and really don't need another one, any more than the Inuit need an ice-cube machine. (They could sure do with better food, clothing and housing, though. Which the IMF isn't in the business of providing; its mission is aid to the wealthy, who Jesus said would not pass through the eye of a needle.)

I'm not sure why this whole missionary thing requires so much training, anyway. Preaching God is easy. Any fucking idiot can do it. A great many fucking idiots do. Hell, just look at Bill O'Reilly; he's a fucking idiot, and he does that all the time. In fact, he's made it his cushy mission in life to declare war on anyone who, in his eyes, has declared War On Christmas. He does it all from a well-appointed studio; he never has to face another living soul to preach the gospel according to Billo.

And any dickweed can SAY "Merry Christmas" (which means about as much as "Unga bunga inga binga bunga" to some people, like Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and us evil, wicked, responsible-for-9/11 pagans). In fact, some dickweeds even go so far as to slap a bumper sticker on their SUV (right next to that little silver fish that is somehow supposed to represent the Baby Jesus) proclaiming that they too, brave martyrs of the faith, have declared war on the War On Christmas, right behind Fearless Leader Loofah Bill. One hundred and ten percent, baby.

But when it comes to an obscure little not-exclusively-Christian trait known as charity, they all fall on their asses. To them, Christianity is not about actually being kind like Jesus; it's about dabbling their hands in the Blood of the Lamb and thinking that THAT will miraculously excuse in the afterlife whatever they've done (or failed to do) in this life. That may be why it never occurred to them that this incident was their on-Earth wake-up call, which they failed to heed. Maybe, just maybe, it was a heaven-sent opportunity to put their faith into practice for a change, instead of preaching. And they failed.

Jesus is not a teacher to these people. He is not even an icon. He is just a commodity to be marketed, and these trainees are the salespeople.

And when they are asked to give shelter to a stranger, they don't even offer him a stall in the barn.

And then they wonder why a guy like this, desperate but lethally armed, would open fire on some of them. Maybe they think that they, like Cassie Bernall, are being martyred for their faith.

Sorry, folks, but your beliefs have nothing to do with it. Or maybe they do have something to do with it, but not what you thought they did.

I won't elaborate further; I'll leave you to meditate on these things and figure it out.

December 8, 2007

A small musical interlude

In honor of all Dubya's recent memory lapses, from the Saudi rape case to the missing CIA interrogation tapes, a song by Peter Gabriel is in order.

Guatemala says "hola!" to Chavecito

Things are getting mighty interesting in Latin America. Guatemala just elected a new president, and it looks like he might just become another amigo for Chavecito. Maybe not a prospective signatory to the ALBA--yet. But at least, one for another of Chavecito's regional unifiers--namely, the Petrocaribe oil bloc:

The president-elect of Guatemala, Alvaro Colom, today declared his interest in entering into an energy accord with Venezuela.

"We are working on the possibility of constructing an energy accord in order to enter into Petrocaribe", said Colom in a statement to the press, according to AFP.

Colom indicated that the topic would be broached with president Hugo Chavez when they meet in Argentina for the swearing-in of president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

On the prospect of Guatemala entering into the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which Chavez launched, Colom said he would start a dialogue with his fellow Guatemalans in order to share these decisions with them.

However, since Guatemala has a free-trade agreement with the US, the entry into ALBA "is a little complicated", said Colom, without elaborating further.

Colom will be take power in Guatemala on January 14.

Translation mine.

So much for Chavecito being isolated...and for that matter, so much for Guatemala being in the bag for Washington.

I can just hear John Negroponte gnashing his teeth already.

December 7, 2007

One more blow for the Empire

And this one comes from Brazil.

The president of Brazil, Luiz Lula da Silva, affirmed that South America has put the era of neoliberalism behind it, and said he agrees with the nationalization of natural gas by his colleague in Bolivia, Evo Morales.

According to the ANSA news agency, Lula, in a meeting with other South American leaders, said that in recent years the region has experienced a "political phenomenon" in which governments were elected that were "advanced in socio-political matters."

The Brazilian president opined that his Bolivian counterpart "did the right thing in nationalizing gas. The gas is an instrument, a raw material, it is the only thing Bolivia has", according to the Folha de Sao Paolo newspaper.

After the nationalization of Bolivian hydrocarbons on May 1, 2006, Brazil suspended its investments in the country, in what it considered a defense of the interests of its oil company, Petrobras.

However, Lula da Silva reiterated his decision that the company would re-invest in Bolivia, which he will visit on the 17th of December.

Translation mine.

There goes a major pin from under the Bolivian fascist opposition, which has undoubtedly been after Evo's blood. For what? What else--preventing them from profiting by Brazilian investment. They claimed he was ruining the country. How it's possible to ruin a country by raising its share of the profits of its natural resources, such that Bolivia no longer has to borrow money to pay its civil servants' Christmas bonuses, is beyond me.

But such is the logic of the fiscal fascist. If they're not making all the money, no one else deserves a cut either.

Good on Evo, though, and good on Lula. Let's hope Lula does the same with Brazil's burgeoning oil reserves as Evo is doing with Bolivia's gas.

Isn't amnesia a disability?

And given that the president of the United States is apparently suffering from it, doesn't that make him unfit for office?

US President George W Bush has said he has "no recollection" of the existence of video tapes of CIA interrogations and the plan to destroy them.

The CIA says it wiped two tapes of interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects to protect the identities of its agents.

But human rights groups accuse it of destroying evidence of practices that may be tantamount to torture.

And most importantly: if he is unfit for office, isn't it time to remove him and all his administration too, for aiding and abetting a criminally negligent dictator?

Oh, you think I'm exaggerating when I call him a dictator? Exaggerate THIS:

1. An executive order cannot limit a President. There is no constitutional requirement for a President to issue a new executive order whenever he wishes to depart from the terms of a previous executive order. Rather than violate an executive order, the President has instead modified or waived it.

2. The President, exercising his constitutional authority under Article II, can determine whether an action is a lawful exercise of the President's authority under Article II.

3. The Department of Justice is bound by the President's legal determinations.

In a nutshell, these three Bush administration legal propositions boil down to this:

1. "I don't have to follow my own rules, and I don't have to tell you when I'm breaking them."

2. "I get to determine what my own powers are."

3. "The Department of Justice doesn't tell me what the law is, I tell the Department of Justice what the law is."

And just think, this is the same amnesiac election-stealer who has the chutzpah to lecture Chavecito on democracy. Even though all the evidence is that Venezuela is doing rather well on the democratic front, particularly with Chavecito at the helm.

But I digress. In DubyaLand, impeachment is still off the table, even with all this mounting evidence of a crying need for that very democratic remedy.

Boggles the mind, doesn't it?

Next front in the oil wars--Brazil?

Watch out, Lula. With every one of these finds you make, you end up endangering yourself and your country...

Further oil and gas supplies have been discovered off the south-eastern coast of Brazil, boosting the shares of state energy firm Petrobras.

The emergence of a new reserve in the Espirito Santo field comes a month after a reserve of up to eight billion barrels was found nearby.

No figures have been put on the size of the latest discovery although Petrobras said it offered "high potential".

It believes Brazil could become one of the world's top 10 oil producers.

Brazil currently has proven oil reserves of 14 billion barrels, more than half of which have been discovered in the past five years.

Ministers believe a succession of recent finds could enable Brazil to eventually match the oil output of powerhouses such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

This would be a good time for Brazilian voters to turf out every last right-wing free-trader in their parliaments, and elect someone who will put that oil money to good use developing the country from within. You know, somebody like Chavecito. Only speaking Portuguese rather than Spanish.

Of course, as soon as they do that, Washington will want a piece of their ass, too.

Like great-grandpa, like great-grandson

Nice to know that in Chile, some things just never change.

A great-grandson of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet was detained along with two other youths as they fled following a robbery at a store in Santiago.

The events occurred during the early morning hours last Sunday when Pinochet's grandson, a minor, and his companions threatened an employee at a store next to a gas station in the Santiago suburb of Huechraba. They escaped with a small haul of beers, soft drinks and candies.

The youngsters were detained by carabineros, who recovered the loot. Its contents are valued at 60,000 pesos (78 euros).

According to the daily La Tercera, the youth, who appeared to be under the influence of drugs, is the grandson of Augusto Pinochet Hiriart, one of the sons of the late dictator, who died last December. His name is not being released by authorities due to his being a minor.

Translation mine.

There is so much on the ill-gotten gains of Dictator Pinochet, it's hard to say where to start. He's received dirty money from England and the US. He got incredibly stinking rich. And he did it all by overthrowing a democratically elected government.

His great-grandson is nowhere near his grandpa's stature yet, but give him time. He's already off to a roaring start, as we can see.

No, they're not a bit fascist.

Mario Silva of La Hojilla points out the neo-Nazi skinheads amid the anti-Chavez hordes in Venezuela, along with their connections to the "Tradition, Family and Property" movement (gee, even the name sounds fascist!) led by a leading oppositionist (and according to two Italian sources, a bona fide nazified thug complete with antisemitism), Alejandro Pena Esclusa. You can see they're busy during one of their "nonviolent" demos, throwing rocks at the police.

This is that "peaceful anti-Chavez youth movement" we keep hearing so much about in the lamestream media up here, folks.

Uppity women in India!

A pink posse in a poor part of the country! Why not? Especially when the need for street-fighters for social justice is so pressing...

They wear pink saris and go after corrupt officials and boorish men with sticks and axes.

The several hundred vigilante women of India's northern Uttar Pradesh state's Banda area proudly call themselves the "gulabi gang" (pink gang), striking fear in the hearts of wrongdoers and earning the grudging respect of officials.

The pink women of Banda shun political parties and NGOs because, in the words of their feisty leader, Sampat Pal Devi, "they are always looking for kickbacks when they offer to fund us".

Two years after they gave themselves a name and an attire, the women in pink have thrashed men who have abandoned or beaten their wives and unearthed corruption in the distribution of grain to the poor.

They have also stormed a police station and attacked a policeman after they took in an untouchable man and refused to register a case.

"Nobody comes to our help in these parts. The officials and the police are corrupt and anti-poor. So sometimes we have to take the law in our hands. At other times, we prefer to shame the wrongdoers," says Sampat Pal Devi, between teaching a "gang" member on how to use a lathi (traditional Indian stick) in self defence.

But in case you think the obvious, wait:

The pink sorority is not exactly a group of male-bashing feminists - they claim they have returned 11 girls who were thrown out of their homes to their spouses because "women need men to live with".

That is also why men like Jai Prakash Shivhari join the "gulabi" gang and talk with remarkable passion about child marriages, dowry deaths, depleting water resources, farm subsidies and how funds are being stolen in government projects.

"We don't want donations or handouts. We don't want appeasement or affirmative action. Give us work, pay us proper wages and restore our dignity," he says.

The women in the "gulabi gang" echo the same sentiment - but Sampat Devi has a separate agenda for women.

"Village society in India is loaded against women. It refuses to educate them, marries them off too early, barters them for money. Village women need to study and become independent to sort it out themselves," she says.

Remember Chavecito's nutty saying about how to eliminate poverty? These women are proving him right--by showing that the best way to do it is for the poorest to take power in hand, one way or another, and make the changes needed--whether it's shaming corrupt officials, giving a brutal policeman a taste of his own medicine, or changing the very way the system works for the gender that wears the saris.

More power to the uppity women of India.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Baby, it's cold outside...

...and we're about due for another dumper of lake-effect snow here on the north shore of Lake Ontario. The seasonal norm is 3 degrees Celsius, and today's high was that...in the negative integers. My joints ache, my fingers are waxen white and my nail beds are blue. That's why I'm holed up in here, looking for pictures with something about them that'll warm my cockles.

Like, oh, say, Chavecito's cozy scarf, which goes great with dimples...

Chavecito in a very cozy looking scarf

Or Evo's turtleneck and ski jacket, perfect with a dangerous gleam in the eyes...

Evo in a turtleneck

And then there's Rafael Correa's...um...approval rating. (You may want to turn your thermostat down BEFORE clicking the linky.)

December 6, 2007

Evo, WTF???

Holy shucking fit, there goes another "dictator"...

The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, has proposed a recall referendum for himself and the nine regional governors of the country, most of whom are oppositionists.

Morales announced that he would send this proposal to Congress today, so that they would "quickly" convene the referendum, and thus determine whether the people support the "process of change".

"If the people say Evo must go, I have no problem with it, I'm totally democratic. The people will say who goes and who stays on to guarantee this process of change," said the president during a message to the nation at the government palace in La Paz.

The governors of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Cochabamba, all opposed to Morales, are currently in the US to denounce before international organizations what they consider to be "illegal" actions on the part of Morales and his party in the Constitutional Assembly and the Congress.

Translation mine.

Swear to Goddess. First Chavecito, now Evo. All the confidence in democracy and popular will--talk about yer cojones! It's totally twirling my turban.

If they don't stop with this democracy-stuff, their enemies will run out of opportunities to call them dictators, lawbreakers and assassins. What will the world come to then?

December 5, 2007

You can't keep a good president down

Leave it to Chavecito. Less than three days after "losing" the constitutional referendum, we find out why he was able to take it in such good grace when many of his most ardent supporters were disconsolate. And don't be surprised if those supporters decide to pick up his dropped reform proposal and make it their own, especially after this:

The Venezuelan people have the capacity to modify and newly present the constitutional reform proposal defeated in the referendum on December 2, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday, during a telephone call to the popular political commentary program La Hojilla (the Razorblade) on the Venezuelan state TV channel VTV.

During his phone call, Chavez reflected on the referendum results and affirmed that he had lost the right to introduce a constitutional reform proposal. However, he said, "the Venezuelan people have the power and the right to present a request for constitutional reform before this [presidential] term finishes, of which there is still five years."

Under the Bolivarian Constitution of 1999, the President, the National Assembly or 15 percent of registered voters have the right to present a proposal for constitutional reform.

The Venezuelan people, Chavez emphasized, could present another reform proposal "next year or in three years."

"It doesn't have to be exactly the same," he continued, "It can be in the same direction, but in a different form, improved and simplified, because I have to accept that the reform that we presented was very complex. And in the debate it became more complex. This was utilized by our adversaries and we lacked the capacity to explain it."

Emphasis added.

Imagine that--a living constitution! And it has been one since it was first written and ratified in 1999! And most interestingly of all, it enshrines the right of the people to rewrite any of its articles if they can get enough popular support to do so. They don't need the permission of anyone On High; they just need to get a petition going, and have 15% of registered voters sign on.

BTW, this right is enshrined in the same constitution that a cadre of present-day prominent opposition leaders suspended outright in the coup of '02. Spot the antidemocrats and wannabe dictators!

And then, just to add insult to injury for the opposition, there's this:

During his concession speech in the early hours of Monday morning Chavez conceded that perhaps the timing of the reform proposal was wrong. However, pointing to the extremely narrow margin of the opposition victory, he declared on La Hojilla, "Despite it being an early offensive, we nearly won!"

"We will consolidate this strength and increase this strength and then there will come a new offensive, that can achieve it through popular means," he assured.

Chavez said he hoped the people would take up this initiative, while maintaining the principle objective; "the transformation of the state."

Man, if that's not enough to bury the "incipient dictator" bullshit, I don't know what is. Imagine, he's been a legitimately popular leader all along! And now we know why--he has confidence in the courage and wisdom of his own people! He's not afraid to hand the baton to them. Imagine what will happen if they grab it and run with it. My golly, who will the international whore media slam as a "strongman" when at least 15% of the Venezuelan electorate takes charge of the process while the president stands aside and lets them?

BTW, Chavecito's confidence is not misplaced, even if the opposition is all of 20% of the electorate. Remember, the reform proposal, once presented, has to garner a majority vote in a national referendum. Meaning, the oligarchy can't just rewrite the constitution to suit themselves and expect to get away with it. Their proposal is virtually guaranteed to be trounced.

Besides, from simple observation of their overall pattern, one can see that the oppos haven't an original thought in their heads, and if they presented a reform proposal at all (which I doubt they would!), it would be larded with all the old items the people have overwhelmingly rejected, from the privatization of all social programs and the state oil company PDVSA, to the imposition of a fully deregulated economy in which only the sharks can prosper. Stupidly, there are still people in Venezuela who equate THAT with "freedom and democracy", when in fact it condemns a majority to poverty with no hope and no way out.

And I wouldn't be at all sure that their "state of emergency" provisions wouldn't be many times more repressive than Chavecito's proposal. Remember the coup of '02? Hello--complete suspension of democracy? No accurate news reporting whatsoever? Strict censorship of all things Chavista from the TV--"cero chavismo en pantalla"? Thuggish break-ins at alternative and community media outlets, the cutting of community radio stations, and a shutdown of Channel 8? Yeah, tell me the people would vote for THAT.

Little wonder that Chavecito is unbowed, and downright buoyant. You can't keep a good president down!

Quotable: The loopy sayings of Hugo Chavez

"I think the government of Colombia doesn't want peace....Colombia deserves a better president." --about Alvaro Uribe

"The best way to end poverty is--you already know this--GIVING POWER TO THE POOR."

"Let's go after the terrorists, yes. Let's find the terrorists. But not like this. You cannot fight terrorism with more terrorism!" --in reference to the war on Afghanistan

"Globalization is nothing new. We've had it for 500 years. Only now, it has computers."

"There is no solution within capitalism, one must transcend capitalism. Nor is it about statism or state capitalism, which would be the same perversion of the Soviet Union, which was the cause of its fall. We must reclaim socialism as a thesis, as a project and a path, but a new socialism. Humanism, putting humans and not the machine ahead of everything, the human and not the state."

"Nobody should be scared of socialism; it's about equality."

"If this revolution is to succeed, it is all-important that women acquire more power."

"To God what is God's. To Caesar what is Caesar's. And to the people, what is the people's." --upon being restored to his seat by people power, April 14, 2002

"For me this is not a defeat and I don't consider that this is a victory of the opposition. Here what exists is the maintenance of an opening towards a path for a new homeland. What they leave out of their invented accounts of crisis and of people easily defeated and sad, is that Chavez is still here for a while." --about the constitutional reforms which were recently, and narrowly, defeated

December 4, 2007

Woo-haa, let's all get naked!

Now that I have your attention, get a load of Dubya. He just never quits looking for people to fuck up the ass, does he?

First, there's Colombia...

President George W Bush has called on Congress to pass a controversial free trade deal with US ally Colombia to help promote regional stability.

Some Congress members are opposed, citing concerns over workers' rights.

Mr Bush suggested the deal could help counter the influence of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, with whom both the US and Colombia have difficult relations.

[...]

Mr Bush's comments came after he was asked to react to the result of Venezuela's referendum on Sunday, which saw Mr Chavez's proposed constitutional reforms defeated.

"The Venezuelan people rejected one-man rule. They voted for democracy," Mr Bush said.

Translation: "Phase One of Operation Pliers has worked, heh heh heh. Now, let's move on to the next phase: isolating him or making him LOOK that way. What do you mean he's not isolated?"

BTW, that bit about "one-man rule" is rich, coming from a president in the process of ORDERING CONGRESS AROUND. Project much?

Then, on to Iran!

Iran remains a threat to the world despite new intelligence saying the country may not be building nuclear weapons, the US president says.

Mr Bush said the report released on Monday was a "warning signal" and his view that a nuclear Iran would be a danger "hasn't changed".

Translation: "I don't give a flying fuck what the intelligence experts are saying. It doesn't matter if they suspended their weapons program in 2003. And to hell with the opinion of the international community. I want my fucking WAR!"

Unspoken subtext of all this: Let's all get naked and have us a big ol' oil-grabbin' orgy!

(I note in passing, as a Canadian, that we are not screaming for war with Iran, even though we have more of a reason to do so.)

December 3, 2007

A pyrrhic victory for Operation Pliers, and a strategic retreat "por ahora"

Okay, something funny happened on the way to the polls in Venezuela yesterday. Not funny ha-ha; funny peculiar. The crapaganda whores seem to have been right in their loopy predictions for a change--it WAS "too close to call" (which it wasn't the last two times Chavecito or something he'd legislated was put to a popular vote, though the media kept insisting it would be, and that he would lose, when he won by a landslide.) And when the dust settled, the anti-Chavez side apparently had won. Which they haven't done since 1998.

But in spite of their loud obnoxious celebrations, this is a pyrrhic victory for them. And on a number of points, which I'll address one by one here.

Firstly: The NO faction didn't win by much, and according to Tariq Ali, they were better served by confusion and abstention on the part of Chavistas than by any merits of their own:

Hugo Chavez' narrow defeat in the referendum was the result of large-scale abstentions by his supporters. 44 percent of the electorate stayed at home. Why? First, because they did not either understand or accept that this was a necessary referendum. The measures related to the working week and some other proposed social reforms could be easily legislated by the existing parliament. The key issues were the removal of restrictions on the election of the head of government (as is the case in most of Europe) and moves towards 'a socialist state.' On the latter there was simply not enough debate and discussion on a grassroots level.

[...]

Another error was the insistence on voting for all the proposals en bloc on a take it or leave it basis. It's perfectly possibly that a number of the proposals might have got through if a vote on each had been allowed. This would have compelled the Bolivarians to campaign more effectively at grassroots level through organised discussions and debates (as the French Left did to win the argument and defeat the EU Constitution ). It is always a mistake to underestimate the electorate and Chavez knows this better than most.

Emphasis added.

44 percent is not a small sector of the electorate. It is larger than the actual opposition to Chavez. In his last election (almost one year ago today!), he won by 63% of the vote to Manuel Rosales's mere 36%. So for that many voters to have abstained, either out of confusion or complacency, is proof that he could have won under different circumstances.

And talk about "different circumstances": you can't hurry anything, least of all a profound democratic reform on a whopping 69 constitutional articles. There's no doubt in my mind that they needed more time to debate what was up for a vote, gain clarification from Chavez and the National Assembly on any points where they were confused, and to be better informed, so that they could make the most of their participatory democracy. (Hey, maybe that NYT toe-sucker Simon Romero was right, after all--albeit not in the way he thought he was.)

And the narrow margin of victory--barely more than a single percentage point--will teach Bolivarian voters to be on their toes in future, and turn out, even if they think victory is assured, next time. If a mere 2% more of the electorate had turned out, this reform would have passed. So just imagine what a full turnout could have done!

Secondly: The very fact that Chavecito has been anything but a sore loser (see for yourself, here) ought to punch a big, fat hole in the "incipient dictator" spin. The fact that all is calm today, there are no riot police out on the street with tear gas and water cannons, no arrests of leading opposition figures, no repressive measures whatsoever, should be proof enough for anyone who fears a "dictator in the making" that they have gotten this guy all wrong and should be feeling pretty damned foolish by now. Real dictators don't take defeat gracefully, and neither do they recognize the defeat of their proposals as a victory for democracy--both of which Chavecito has done.

Thirdly: There is a big, black cloud over this referendum, and its name is Operation Pliers. We already know that the US State Department has a vested interest in ousting Chavez, and that it has spent millions of US taxpayer dollars (more than $8 million during the past month alone!) through various "pro-democracy" front groups to do just that. We also know that it backed the profoundly antidemocratic coup against him in 2002. And we know that they are definitely sore losers, and they don't give up easily. We also know that the CIA is in on this. Take a look at the list of tactics Eva Golinger and James Petras have gleaned from a CIA memo intercepted by Venezuelan counterintelligence officials, and tell me if they don't look awfully familiar based on things that have actually happened during the run-up to this vote:

*Take the streets and protest with violent, disruptive actions across the nation

*Generate a climate of ungovernability

*Provoke a general uprising in a substantial part of the population

*Engage in a "plan to implode" the voting centers on election day by encouraging opposition voters to "VOTE and REMAIN" in their centers to agitate others

*Start to release data during the early hours of the afternoon on Sunday that favor the NO vote (in clear violation of election regulations)

*Coordinate these activities with Ravell & Globovision and international press agencies

*Coordinate with ex-military officers and coupsters Pena Esclusa and Guyon Cellis - this will be done by the Military Attache for Defense and Army at the US Embassy in Caracas, Office of Defense, Attack and Operations (DAO)

*Creating an acceptance in the public opinion that the NO vote will win for sure

*Using polling companies contracted by the CIA

*Criticize and discredit the National Elections Council

*Generate a sensation of fraud

*Use a team of experts from the universities that will talk about how the data from the Electoral Registry has been manipulated and will build distrust in the voting system

*Isolating Chavez in the international community

*Trying to achieve unity amongst the opposition

*Seek an alliance between the abstentionists and those who will vote "NO"

*Sustain firmly the propaganda against Chavez

*Execute military actions to support the opposition mobilizations and propagandistic occupations

*Finalize the operative preparations on the US military bases in Curacao and Colombia to provide support to actions in Venezuela

*Control a part of the country during the next 72-120 hours

*Encourage a military rebellion inside the National Guard forces and other components

Okay, some of those haven't happened (or reports that they have, haven't surfaced yet), but be on the lookout anyway, and don't say I didn't tell you so. I think enough of these things have happened (and hey looky, I made you some linkies in case you need proof!) So the whole list deserves to be taken seriously.

It also bears a remarkable resemblance to the things that happened in '02, does it not? And we all know how that ended.

Finally: For those who have not yet seen Gillo Pontecorvo's excellent 1966 movie, The Battle of Algiers--DO. Get the DVD and watch it to death. Invite all your friends--serve good wine and cheese, discuss, and make a party of it! It is the last word on pyrrhic victories. There is so much in it that one can relate to every imperialist war the US is fighting right now, including the dirty, covert war on Venezuela. The Algerian freedom fighters of half a century ago may have lost the Battle of Algiers, but they ultimately won the fight for Algeria; one might even say they won it before the battle lines were drawn. The same defeat that befell the French imperialists then are in store for their US counterparts now. And whether they try violence and repression, or just a massive "democratic" crapaganda initiative, as the French did by turns in Algeria, it will all go down in failure. Bolivarian Venezuela will win.

Yesterday's narrow defeat at the polls is just another "por ahora" moment for Chavecito, as he himself said when conceding the result. He's had worse. He will survive. And even with this undesirable result, he is still out on top. No wonder he was able to accept this setback in good grace.

December 2, 2007

So much for sensationalism

Generally, it's a good idea not to gawk when you pass a car wreck. Especially if you're the kind of person who is easily upset by blood and fire and twisted metal, because you'll only stagger off and barf in the bushes. And even if, like me, you're not that easily upset, you will still feel as though you've just looked into Nietzsche's abyss, and had it look back into you.

Then again, sometimes you stick your head out the car window, just to get a breath of fresh air amid all the damn traffic. You don't rubberneck, but you still see what happened. You can't not see. And then you see something else, something you'd have missed if you had averted your eyes. Something that's downright bracing, and does wonders for that queasy feeling. And it doesn't come a moment too soon. Especially when you consider the fact that Chavecito's ex is the one who wrecked her own car with a big flouncy defection in the first place.

Despite all her protestations about invaded privacy, though, the former first lady has been playing peek-a-boo a fair bit, and has even invited the worst invaders into her parlor for tea and crumpets. Not something I'd advise for anyone who really fears for her life, or who truly cares about protecting her privacy or that of her children. But apparently she was a media personage of some sort before she met him. So maybe what seems so uncouth to me, is normal for her. Or maybe she's so hooked on the spotlight, and the sense of power that it gives her to be somebody, that she just doesn't know where to draw the curtains anymore. Who knows?

Anyhow, her latest exploit is a doozer. She went all the way to a Colombian radio station to make dire predictions, play pop psychologist, issue a strident mea culpa, and peddle her latest tale of woe. It was too sensational (and sniffy) to believe, but because it paints the situation in precisely the lurid colors the media adore, it was instantly picked up by even "serious" news sites as a supposedly major blow for the constitutional reforms. Predictably, Globovision, the FUX Snooze of Venezuela, is playing it 24/7, too, since they never met a piece of red meat or sad human flesh that they couldn't grind into partisan sausage.

Meanwhile, every right-wing nutter is high-fiving every other, just out of sheer slimy glee over someone else's misfortune. (Do their hands stick together from all the oozy secretions whenever they slap each other some skin, I wonder? Yuck. Where's my Angostura?)

But just when you thought the abyss had truly gotten the upper hand, along comes this.

"We do not share my daughter's opinion about the constitutional reform," assured her father, in response to Marisabel's declarations last Tuesday against the reform and the government of President Chávez, along with the advertisements with her advocating for a NO vote that are being run on Globovisión.

"President Chávez is a very humane man who wishes the best for the people of Venezuela, especially for those most in need," stated Rodríguez accompanied by his wife Beatriz Jiménez.

José Vicente Rodríguez was also accompanied by his children Beatriz Rodríguez Jiménez and José Vicente Rodríguez Jiménez and his brother Edecio Rodríguez. "We support the President because he deserves it; we are completely with him," said Marisabel's uncle, who invited the public to vote in favor of the reform Sunday, December 2nd.

Her sister, Beatriz Rodríguez, explained, "We respect the decision of anyone, including our sister, but we do not agree with it."

What? Not a word in there about the death threats she claims she got from him? And nobody was holding a gun to her relatives' heads to get them out on camera? Nothing but kind words for that nasty would-be dictator? Oh, the humanity.

How does it feel when you (and a couple of other erstwhile allies) march with huge fanfare over to the opposition, only to have your own family come out and quietly say that with all due respect to you and your views, they will still be voting for your ex and his constitutional reforms? Not terribly good for the ego, I imagine.

But then again, what happens today is not about anybody's ego. Even if the sausage factory does love to pretend that it is. It is about the future of a country, a democratic country, and the will of its citizens in shaping its constitution. I will be watching that, and not some sordid media-driven fender-bender, thankyouverymuch.

December 1, 2007

Another serving of humble pie for the King

And this one might not go down so easily.

President Hugo Chavez indicated today that he has a list of Spanish businesses with investments in Venezuela, which he is prepared to revise if King Juan Carlos doesn't apologize for disrespecting him.

Chavez said during a press conference that it was the king who offended him, referring to an incident during the recent Ibero-American Summit in Chile in which the king told him to shut up.

Translation mine.

Guess royal prerogative just ain't what it used to be. And it's a good thing, too!

Ha ha. Free-traders funny, too!

Well, no...actually, they're more like pathetic, and have been ever since poor, mad old Uncle Miltie kicked the bucket (many years past his due date, if you ask me). So you'll have to pardon me if I smile with a kind of pitying scorn at people who spew drivel like this:

Colombia's diplomatic spat with Hugo Chavez's Venezuela may help President Alvaro Uribe build support in the U.S. Congress for a free-trade accord, Citigroup Inc. economists said.

Colombia could help securing passage of the agreement by casting it as a way to limit Chavez's regional influence, economists Franz Hamann and Luisa Charry wrote in an e-mailed report today.

"The sharper dividing line between the two countries can serve as a warning signal of the potential costs of not supporting economic freedom in the region," Bogota-based Hamman and Charry said.

Actually, it could serve as a way of showing your Latin American neighbors how to cut off their noses to spite their faces. By voluntarily opening its own veins to international megacorps (primarily based in the US, but with bank accounts in the Caymans), Colombia is certainly sparing those gringos the trouble of having to wield the fleam and bloodstick themselves. (The salient lessons of Argentina and Chile will of course go straight down Ye Olde Memorye Hole.)

The question is, how many Colombians seriously want to go that route? Especially when you consider that it will do nothing for the vast majority of them anyway, and will in fact only plunge them even further into poverty and dependence on the cocaine trade than they already are? Who voluntarily puts themselves on the shit end of a stick unless they are already hopelessly abject, used to being the butt of every dirty joke? Is Colombia so far gone?

Gawd, I hope not. That would be just plain sad.

The other funny-pathetic thing about this is how the "economists" cited seem to think that Chavecito is some kind of toxic toad. That just touching him is a good way to end up hallucinating, if not dead. And that his alternative inter-American fair trade plan, the ALBA, is some cockeyed scheme that can't possibly work (with the unwritten subtext that the best way to prove THAT is to keep as many countries from trying it as possible. And to minimize the successes of those countries that ARE in it, preferably by appealing to their oligarchs and fascist shit-disturbers to start riots on any pretext.)

Only when we get to the last paragraph, though, do we realize it IS a punchline, albeit a very clunky one:

"While the probability of the approval of the FTA is rather low, the recent political tensions between Colombia and Venezuela may improve it," the economists wrote.

Ha ha. Free-traders funny after all. Rimshot!