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January 31, 2008

One more reason Mittens doesn't deserve the White House

Forget the magic underwear; Mitt Romney is unfit for presidency for many important reasons that have nothing to do with religion.

For one thing, there's the little matter of his corporate ties. This is a man who became monstrously and obscenely rich off the same financial mess that is resulting in so many foreclosures across the US. He claimed he was "going to fight for every job", but his not-so-former firm, Bain Capital, is in fact responsible for massive job losses all across the Fruited Plain. He's right up there with Henry Kravis and all those other big-time highway robbers. Mitt, does your Heavenly Father like it when you lie through your well-tended teeth?

Then there's the little matter of his former aide, a College Republican and former student body president, who just embodies that family-values thing sooooooo well. Don't they vet these people for chastity and lawful conduct before they hire them to smear Democrats about their so-called lack of family values?

And of course, there's the tragic tale of the Romney family dog--a universal moral fable on the unwisdom of strapping an animal carrier to the roof of one's car with a live animal therein. Can a man who treats his own pet so callously be trusted with the reins of power? Ask "Seamus"--he knows.

But what really tells me this man is either callous or clueless--or more likely, both--is this little item:

Like other Republican presidential contenders, Mitt Romney favors a get-tough policy on illegal immigrants. But Romney's desire for tougher immigration enforcement doesn't apply to Cubans, who he says should be welcomed with open arms.

"I can tell you my inclination would be to say as many Cubans as want to come here should come in," Romney said in an interview Tuesday with The Tampa Tribune editorial board.

And in case you're wondering--yes, he's in favor of keeping up the embargo that is the real reason so many Cubans are so miserable. It hasn't democratized the island a whit, and if anything, has driven things in the opposite direction--but hey, what are a whole lot of impoverished Cubans when there's a capitalistic democratic principle at stake? And to hell with logic. All that matters is that more gusanos get to come in, so the Repugs get more votes. Mexicans and other Central Americans trying to get in without papers, however, are still "illegal" and, since they vote Democratic (when they do finally get their papers and become able to vote), can go hang.

I don't know how the Heavenly Father feels about such strange double and triple standards, but seeing as I come from a country that manages to love freedom and democracy while not embargoing Cuba in any way, well--perhaps I need some magic underwear myself, just to be able to follow Mitt's impeccable logic.

I'll bet Mittens, being an inveterate panderer, also loves those right-wing Venezuelan escualidos--they carry suitcases full of money with them wherever they go.

So, we're a terrorist threat, now?

Well, that's flattering. I'm glad to know we bloggers have been upgraded from a mere nuisance!

The laundry list of fictional catastrophes -- which include hundreds of people on "No Fly" lists suddenly arriving at airport ticket counters -- is significant because it suggests what kind of real-world trouble keeps people in the White House awake at night.

Imagined villains include hackers, bloggers and even reporters. After mock electronic attacks overwhelmed computers at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, an unspecified "major news network" airing reports about the attackers refused to reveal its sources to the government. Other simulated reporters were duped into spreading "believable but misleading" information that worsened fallout by confusing the public and financial markets, according to the government's files.

The $3 million, invitation-only war game simulated what the U.S. described as plausible attacks over five days in February 2006 against the technology industry, transportation lines and energy utilities by anti-globalization hackers. The government is organizing another multimillion-dollar war game, Cyber Storm 2, to take place in early March.

[...]

The AP obtained the Cyber Storm internal records nearly two years after it requested them under the Freedom of Information Act. The government censored most of the 328 pages it turned over, marked "For Official Use Only," citing rules preventing the disclosure of sensitive information.

Including the most sensitive information of all, which becomes blatantly obvious from reading the above--namely, that the US government is full of loopy, paranoid yahoos. They see threats in everything, even the blogosphere and the news media. And no wonder: Guess who's most likely to report that the US government is full of loopy, paranoid yahoos?

January 30, 2008

Oaxaca in revolt

"Compromiso Cumplido" (True to My Pledge)--the first part of a two-part documentary about the ongoing revolt in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Part of this film concerns the death of Brad Will, the Indymedia reporter who got directly involved--and paid with his life for the footage he shot. At the time this documentary was made, 25 activists had died. All their murders were state-sanctioned and committed either by police or plain-clothes paramilitary infiltrators, which is why the perpetrators have not been brought to justice. The corrupt political system in Mexico is as much a villain in these deaths as the gunmen who pulled the trigger.

What began as a teachers' strike for better wages has since grown into a full-blown social justice movement--there is now a push on to get rid of the crooked governor, Ulises Ruiz, who played a part in the election fraud that put the current right-wing Mexican president into power. Oaxaca, it turns out, was a scene of massive electoral fraud. And the people are angry; they know that they were cheated of a free, fair election. This is why they want more than just more money for teachers or the removal of a bought-and-sold governor. They want a system-wide change--a full-fledged democracy that Mexico has yet to achieve. Elections alone are not enough, especially in light of how the last one was fouled. And the major media, who are complicit in the whole crime, must also be held accountable.

The struggle continues. You can read all about it at NarcoNews.

January 29, 2008

Joao Goulart, murder victim

Courtesy of Aporrea, another skeevy spy story comes to light:

The Uruguayan ex-spy, Mario Neira Barreiro, asserted that the former Brazilian president, Joao Goulart, was assassinated in 1976 at the request of then-dictator Ernesto Geisel, who ordered "Operation Scorpion".

In an interview with the daily Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, Neira Barreiro said that the Brazilian political police ordered the assassination of Goulart by the Uruguayan Antisubversive Military Action Group (GAMMA), on the orders of dictator Geisel, who was in power from 1974 to 1979.

The ex-president, Goulart, died in Argentina in 1976, where he had been living since his ouster in 1964 by a military coup. The coup led to a dictatorship that lasted until 1985.

The ex-spy said that the so-called "Operation Scorpion" followed operations "Jakarta" and "Bandeirantes", which persecuted Brazilian opponents of the dictatorships in the region before 1975.

Goulart headed a group of Brazilian politicians in favor of a negotiated exit of the military dictatorship.

The declarations of Neira Barreiro confirmed the existence of a repressive international network prior to Plan Condor.

Translation mine.

Well. I guess someone is going to have to change the official Goulart bio, which still erroneously lists his cause of death as a heart attack. By the way, that "official" cause has been disputed as long as Joao Goulart has been dead. And now his relatives are suing. The EFE news agency goes into more detail about it all:

"Jango," as he was known, governed Brazil from 1961 to 1964, when he was deposed in a U.S.-backed military coup.

His 1976 death in Argentina, where he lived as an exile, was blamed on a heart attack.

But on Friday his family members said they were more convinced than ever that in reality their loved one was poisoned with pills placed in a medicine bottle by Uruguayan secret agents working for the Brazilian dictatorship.

Goulart's death was effected "by order of the Brazilian military government in an international operation with the support of the dictatorships in the region," son Joao Vicente Goulart said in an interview with Efe.

Jango was 57 when he passed away Dec. 6, 1976, at his country home near the Argentine city of Mercedes. His body was immediately transported to Sao Borja, in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, and buried without an autopsy.

[...]

The "living proof" that currently fuels the assassination thesis is a 53-year-old Uruguayan named Mario Neira Barreiro, a prisoner in the penitentiary in the suburbs of Port Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul.

Posing as a reporter, Goulart interviewed Barreiro a year ago for a documentary he is preparing about his late father.

Barreiro, a confessed criminal, gave indications of the alleged plot during an interview with the Uruguayan daily La Republica in 2002.

But this time he also related details of the domestic routine of the Goulart family in exile in Uruguay and Argentina.

"I don't recall if we gave him Isordil, Adelpan or Nifodin. We managed to put a pill in the medications imported from France," said Barreiro in the taped interview.

The poison, Barreiro said, was prepared by a Uruguayan doctor named Carlos Milles, who was later murdered in Montevideo to keep Goulart's assassination a secret, he added.

One more fascinating chapter in the annals of Operation Condor. I'll be watching the news for more of this, needless to say.

More on the Argentine Briefcase Caper

Hmmm...I like the sound of that: Argentine Briefcase Caper. ABC for short. Gotta know your ABCs, so you can spell out what's really going on, as this Argentine journalist did:

"The operation (in which Guido Antonini Wilson carried a briefcase with $800,000 illegally into Argentina) was a CIA operation," says Argentine journalist Luis Bilbao, director of the magazine America XXI.

During an interview on the VTV show En Confianza, Bilbao emphasized that in his investigation of the case, the first hypothesis he pursued about the event was that this operation was planned by the CIA.

"As soon as I began to follow my initial hunch, I knew that the operation was a CIA plan. I don't have the slightest doubt about it."

Another theory, one that also involves the CIA, is that Antonini Wilson might be a CIA agent, and that in the Argentine government there could be functionaries who also belong to the US agency, commented the journalist.

He added that there are many obscure facts that permit us to see the direct intervention of the CIA in the case, such as the way in which the events occurred, as well as the already noted friendship between Wilson and the former Venezuelan president Carlos Andres Perez, whose name appears among those listed by the CIA as a collaborator.

Regarding this point, Bilbao recalled that "everybody knows" that Carlos Andres Perez was a CIA asset in the 1970s, as confirmed by ex-CIA agent Philip Agee in his book, which listed "all the names of politicians and directors in Latin America who were with the CIA--and among them was that of Carlos Andres Perez."

The Argentine journalist denounced the briefcase operation and its consequences as a CIA conspiracy, one which sought deliberately to destroy the stability of the Venezuelan government and, as a secondary consequence, though no less important, that of the Argentine administration.

Regarding the supposed declarations of Moises Maionica in which he pleaded guilty in the case, Bilbao emphasized that these statments were very confused, since Maionica, after declaring himself innocent, "is now 'admitting his guilt' a month later".

Bilbao argued that surely the CIA was behind Maionica's supposed admission of guilt, and that it was very possible that during this past month, they may have tortured him, at least psychologically, in order to make him take back his initial declarations.

He also said that this is a case that must be studied in depth.

Translation mine. Links added.

Personally, I find it more than likely that Carlos Andres Perez is linked to the CIA--if not as an agent or asset, then certainly as a collaborator who happily permitted them to operate in Venezuela. Recall that Luis Posada Carriles was working with the Venezuelan political police agency, DISIP, at the time Perez was first president of Venezuela (he was later non-consecutively re-elected, in 1988.) Posada was, in fact, the CIA's connection to the DISIP. Considering the DISIP's role in repression of political protests during the first Perez presidency, it is not at all inconceivable that both men were working hand in glove with the CIA in suppressing popular democratic movements in Venezuela. I have yet to read Philip Agee's infamous tell-all book, but I don't suppose I'd find many surprises in it. In fact, in light of things I've learned about the CIA in just the past four years, I suspect I might find it rather quaint.

And, given the CIA's rather lengthy history of consorting with mafiosi to keep its own hands clean (the recently published "family jewels", which by no means tell the whole story, hint at this in the case of a mobster named Johnny Roselli, whom they hired to try to poison Fidel Castro), it's not a big stretch to imagine how useful they'd have found a thuggish type like Guido Antonini Wilson. The latter has a taste for expensive cars that ownership of one hotel alone, even a pricey one in the Florida Keys, would not be lucrative enough to indulge (and I would know, as my family has owned more than one hotel.) Add to that his venom-spitting hatred of Chavez and his "rrrrrrrrrregimen", and you have a ripe plum for the CIA to pick as its latest mob hitman. He would, at the very least, grant them some plausible deniability as the real authors of the crime.

However, they fucked up in one major way, one they will have much more trouble explaining away: He is not only not in any way connected with the Chavez government, he loathes it openly. Which is where those other five supposedly come in. Presumably they are all agents of the Venezuelan government, even though one of them is Uruguayan, and their job was to "silence" Antonini, whatever that might mean.

But if you think this all sounds hinky, you're right. According to the Miami Herald (that legendary reliable source!),

Maionica received a call from the director of the Venezuelan intelligence agency known as DISIP to join the conspiracy after the cash was seized from Antonini by customs officials in Argentina.

On Aug. 23, Maionica met with two other accused conspirators, Franklin Duran and Carlos Kaufman, and Antonini at Jackson's Steakhouse in Fort Lauderdale.

Antonini, who reached out to the FBI after he was released in Argentina, was wearing a wire.

''During the meeting, Duran told Antonini that foreign government authorities would pursue Antonini if Antonini said that the seized funds did not belong to him,'' according to the court record, which accompanied Maionica's plea agreement.

''During the meeting Maionica further advised Antonini that Petróleos de Venezuela would pay for all the expenses and financial penalties that Antonini might incur as a result of the seizure of the $800,000,'' the document said.

Can you spot the howler, boys and girls? That PDVSA cash that Maionica allegedly promised Antonini never materialized! And furthermore, the gringo $800,000 has never been traced to PDVSA, either. If that were the case, surely the FBI and the Florida courts would lose no time publicizing the fact, right?

And of course, there's the small but crucial detail: Why would a Chavez-controlled PDVSA have anything to do, cash-wise, with a man who is on record as hating Chavez's government and guts?

Don't look to the lamestream media to answer any of those questions anytime soon, kids.

Good advice from ol' Kentucky

Courtesy of Ditch Mitch KY:

Of course, Weak 'n' Stupid won't listen. When has he ever? He's got "good advice from great advisors". And since this is his last year to wreak mayhem, look for nothing except that he'll make the very most of it.

Remember that Argentine briefcase incident?

Yeah, I know...me neither. But apparently it's a big deal in Miami, where the hatred for all things Chavez knows no bounds, and neither do the plans to sabotage him. And yes, this is one of those. It supposedly casts doubt on the election of Cristina Fernandez, the president of Argentina--supposedly. I've long had a sneaking feeling it was all bullshit. And now, when nobody's looking, suddenly the truth comes out. And lo and behold, the truth is that it WAS all bullshit:

Jaime Bayly, the Peruvian writer who has never hidden his aversion to President Hugo Chavez, admitted in his column "Lost Papers" this 28th of January in the Correo del Peru that he met Guido Antonini Wilson in the beginning of 2002, the year of the coup d'etat.

Wilson freely confessed to being friends with ex-president Carlos Andres Perez, and to being opposed to President Chavez, whose time in office, he asserted, would soon come to an end.

"Chavez won't last. He'll fall soon. We're going to topple him...he's going to end up in jail," Antonini told Bayly. A few months later, the April 2002 coup occurred, which removed President Chavez from power for 40 hours.

Antonini Wilson is the Venezuelan-American businessman who was arrested in August 2007 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, carrying a briefcase with some $800,000 US which he did not declare to customs authorities. Later, he escaped to Miami, where he is protected by US authorities.

Bayly's assertions are of interest, given that various sources have accused Antonini of working for the Venezuelan government, with the objective of handing over the money to the then-presidential candidate Cristina Fernandez.

Translation mine.

Of course, there is no way in Hades that Cristina Fernandez would have accepted that cash. A woman who denounces US imperialism in no uncertain terms would be rather reluctant to take any amount of Yanqui dinero, no?

Add to that the fact that this cash came directly from Miami, that the bearer was a friend of another Miamero fugitive, none other than the spectacularly crooked Carlos Andres Perez (who is most noteworthy for saying that Chavecito deserved to "die like a dog"), and bragged of being part of a conspiracy to bring Chavecito down some three months before the fact, and you have some pretty clear indicators that he was also planning to bring down a good friend and ally of said Chavecito, yes?

A translation of the full article by Bayly follows.

It was in the first days of 2002, winter in Key Biscayne, if you could call such a splendid sunny day "winter". I lived in a house on Caribbean Street, a yellow house, one-storey, one of the oldest on the island. I was caught up in writing a novel titled The Hurricane Bears Your Name. I would pass the nights writing, listening to the meowing of the cats and the spatterings of the lawn sprinklers that turned themselves on automatically. Whenever I was hungry, I would get on my bike and pedal down to the 7-11.

One night, as I was getting off my bike at the 7-11, a tall, obese man said to me: "What's going on in your life? I never see you anymore on TV."

I told him I had been yanked from TV in Miami since my last program had been cancelled. The executives of the TV network had accused me of being "too intellectual and gay for the Mexicans in California."

The man pressed a button to switch off the alarm on his grey, late-model Mercedes sports car. I sensed that, in pressing that button, he had experienced a definite, emphatic pleasure, of a kind that always seemed elusive to me.

To my surprise, he asked me where I lived.

"On Caribbean road, near the Sonesta Hotel," I told him.

"I hae a hotel beside the Sonesta," he told me.

"The Silver Sands?" I asked.

"That's mine," he said.

"Congratulations, man," I said.

"I invite you to come by tomorrow and see if any of the cabins by the sea interest you. They're the shit. Enrique Iglesias sometimes comes by with his girlfriends."

He pulled out his wallet and gave me his card.

"Call me," he said.

He got into his car. I looked at the card. It read: Guido Antonini Wilson.

The next day, I called. I didn't get a chance to see him, but I was interested in seeing the cabins in which Enrique Iglesias got up to no good. Or so said Guido, a strange name in any case. He told me he'd come by to see me that evening.

Mr. Antonini came to get me in a different car than he'd used the previous night. It was a big, dark-blue, four-door Mercedes. When I got in, I smelled that distinctive new-car smell that clings to all cars recently driven off the dealer's lot.

When we got to the hotel, he ushered me into his office. He sat down at a desk and told me that this hotel belonged to his wife and her family, but it was he who ran it as if it were his own, and I was welcome there anytime. It wasn't clear to me (these things are never clear) if he was telling me that he would not charge me if I stayed in his hotel.

A little later, we walked down toward the ocean-view cabins. I was horrified by the decor.

"They're perfect for writing in", I lied.

Before we left, I asked him which was the cabin in which Enrique hid out with his girlfriends. He showed me to the African cabin, tiger-striped, with animal skins and elephant tusks, and said, pointing to the bed, "That's where Enrique Iglesias got laid."

Later, he added, "Whenever you want, come on by."

"Thanks," I said.

"It'd be an honor for me to have you," he said.

It wasn't clear whether the honor he was alluding to would get me out of paying for the cabin.

When we got into his car, I thought he'd take me home. I was wrong. Guido told me that his wife was eager to meet me. He didn't ask if I was eager to reciprocate.

He lived in an apartment in Grand Bay, with all possible luxuries. We had gotten midway through the run of the apartment before his wife showed any signs of life. When we passed through the kitchen, an employee said that the lady was in the laundry room.

Guido's wife, Jacqueline, was pleasant and distinguished, but not really pretty. She greeted me with a distant air, like someone greeting somebody who inspires, at times, curiosity and awe.

"I never miss your programs," she said to me.

I didn't get the feeling she was so eager to meet me. I felt that she was eager to go on tidying up the clothes with the maniacal attention to detail of a bored millionairess.

Guido led me to his library. He said it was a library because that was what he called it, not because there were any books. He sat down at his desk, and offered me a drink. I told him I didn't drink alcohol. He looked shocked, then offered me mineral water and poured himself a whisky.

At last we got to talking about politics.

He told me Chavez was a disgrace, that he had installed a corrupt, authoritarian regime, that Chavez's buddies were getting awfully rich, that no one could make money unless he had ties to the regime. He told me he was a friend of Carlos Andres Perez, that they talked often, that Carlos Andres was in Santo Domingo, but often came to Miami.

I told him I knew Carlos Andres, that I had interviewed him in 1997 or '98. He reached for the phone, called Carlos Andres, and told him he was with me. He sent me his greetings. He told him that when he came to Miami, we should get together, the three of us, and talk politics.

They talked of some things I didn't understand, then hung up.

My friend Guido poured himself another drink and said to me:

"Chavez won't last. He'll fall soon. We're going to topple him."

I told him that would be difficult, seeing as the army supported him and many of his colleagues occupied key posts.

"Listen to me," he insisted. "We're going to bring Chavez down. He's gonna wind up in jail."

I thought he was bullshitting, just showing off his power and connections.

A little later he took me into the garage and showed me his collection of luxury cars: Hummers, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Mercedeses.

"Anytime you want, you can borrow one of these and take your girls to Orlando," he surprised me by saying.

I had told him that I would be taking my daughters to Disneyworld in a few days.

"Thanks, but I can't," I told him.

"Take the Hummer," he insisted.

"But what if I crash it?"

"Nothing," he said. "They're all insured."

"But the insurance won't cover me," I said.

"You won't crash," he said. "And if you do crash it, we'll just say I was driving."

After this display of his wealth, Mr. Antonini took me back to my old yellow house, built in 1953.

"Call me when your daughters arrive," he said.

A week later, my girls arrived, and I told them I'd met a strange Venezuelan magnate who had shown me his collection of fancy cars and offered me one of them to take them to Disney.

"I'm not calling him," I said.

"You're crazy," they said. "Call him!"

"But what if he's rich fugitive from justice?"

"That doesn't matter! Call him!"

In spite of my worries, I called him. He didn't answer. I left a message. He didn't call back. I called two or three more times. Left messages. He didn't call.

A few months later, in April, I read that there had been a coup against Chavez. I remembered my friend Guido, and his emphatic words: "Chavez won't last. We're going to topple him."

I called him to ask what was going on in Caracas. He didn't answer. I never saw him again, until one morning, five years later, when I opened a paper in Buenos Aires and saw the picture of that pudgy goodfella, accused of being "the man with the briefcase", the mysterious passenger who arrived on a private flight from Caracas and tried to illegally bring in a briefcase with $800,000.

The first thing I thought was, good thing he didn't lend me his Hummer to go to Disneyworld. The next thing I said to myself was, But this chubby guy can't be conspiring against Chavez?

Then I imagined his wife, meticulously tidying the clothes in the laundry room of that luxury apartment, silently hating him.

And there you have it, folks. A pretty convincing account of what kind of a man Guido Antonini Wilson really is: Hates Chavez. Good friend of Carlos Andres Perez. Bragged of his wealth, his hotel, his luxury car collection. Drank a lot of whisky--a favorite libation of the Venezuelan opposition, who swill that stuff like it's going out of style. Knew a coup was coming, and hinted strongly that he had some part in it: "Chavez won't last. We're going to topple him." And lo and behold, there was indeed a coup not long after, although it didn't end the way Antonini said it would. Chavez was not jailed; he came back.

You don't suppose Antonini & Co. are still at it, and still trying to bring him down with cheap tricks like the Argentine briefcase incident, do you? Nahhhh...couldn't be.

Looks like this cheesy saga still has a few chapters in it, since the US is protecting Antonini and refusing to hand him over to the Argentine authorities for prosecution (but they are prosecuting five men they claim are "agents of the Venezuelan government", to which I call BULLSHIT!) Look for a lot of hypocrisy and doubletalk coming out of Miami, folks, and remember--if they'll protect a known terrorist like Luis Posada Carriles or the Alpha 66 guys, they'll certainly have no qualms about protecting a mobbed-up hotelier who tried to commit treason in Venezuela AND Argentina.

Oh, and one last thing: If ever I find myself in Key Biscayne (and I hope to Goddess I never do), I won't be stopping by the Silver Sands to see the tacky ocean-front cabin where Enrique Iglesias got laid.

January 28, 2008

I've been LANR'd!

Cowardly Lion receives medal for courage! Film at 11!

I don't know how long I've been on Justin Delacour's blogroll at Latin America News Review (muchas gracias!), but he's also linked my piece on John Perkins and Rafael Correa, here.

Shucks, folks, I'm speechless.

January 27, 2008

Well. Now I've TRULY heard everything...

...at least, I think I have. For all those who doubt that racists--not just skinheads, but all of them--talk in code, here...bone up on the latest, courtesy of the National Post.

It was a routine e-mail from the boss sent to congratulate a junior prosecutor in Houston, Tex., who had won manslaughter convictions against an intoxicated driver.

"He convicted Mr. Sosa of a double intoxication manslaughter, got a weak jury to give him 12 years in each, and then convinced Judge Wallace to stack the sentences," Harris County assistant district attorney Mike Trent wrote in an office-wide memo. Then came the odd part: "He overcame a subversively good defence by Matt Hennessey that had some Canadians on the jury feeling sorry for the defendant and forced them to do the right thing."

The e-mail was sent in 2003 but came to light only this month as part of an unrelated controversy with his office, forcing Mr. Trent to defend himself against accusations of bigotry -- not because he offended the people of Canada, but because "Canadian" has apparently become a code word for blacks among American racists.

Yassuh, we all be niggers now up here in the Great North. Even us white folks be niggers.

Speaking as a Canadian, I'm not insulted to be lumped in with black folks, any more than they'd be insulted to be lumped in with Canadians (who, after all, inhabit the coolest country on Earth--and the last stop on the Underground Railroad). It's the racist cowards who can't call a spade a spade that I'm ashamed to share a race with:

The key to the argument is that Reagan's success hinged on forging messages to Americans—not just Southern whites, incidentally, but also Catholic blue-collar workers and neoconservative intellectuals—that eschewed explicit racism while still tapping into sublimated resentments of blacks or anger at racially fraught policies like busing, welfare, and crime.

In its simplest form, this multitiered message relied on code words. No one who used the phrase "states' rights" in living memory of the massive resistance movement against forced desegregation could be unaware of the message of solidarity it sent to Southern whites about civil rights. (The phrase, of course, had been bound up with racism at least since John Calhoun championed it in his defense of slavery in the 1830s.) But because the term also connoted a general opposition to the growth of the federal government's role in economic life, nonracist whites could comfort themselves that politicians like Nixon and Reagan were using it innocently—and thus shrug off any guilt they might feel for being complicit in racist campaigning. It was a dog whistle to segregationists. In the same vein, Reagan's use of phrases linked to insidious racial stereotypes—his talk of Cadillac-driving welfare queens, or "young bucks" buying T-bone steaks with food stamps—pandered to bigots while making sure not to alienate voters whom starker language would have scared away.

I dunno 'bout you, but I prefer "starker language". It lets me know right away where a dickweed really stands, which is important...because you gotta know where they stand in order to be able to kick their kneecaps right out from under them.

There's a neat little term for this kind of talk, by the way: dog-whistling. It originated in Australia, but as we can see, the phenomenon it refers to is universal:

Dog-whistle politics is the art of sending coded or implicit messages to a select group of voters while keeping others in the dark. Just as a dog whistle can be heard by dogs but not humans, a dog whistle in politics can be heard by some members of the electorate but not others. Its key feature is plausible deniability: the dog whistler can say "I didn't mean that, I meant this instead". And it is usually a divisive or reactionary message that it conceals, one that would risk offending or scandalizing more tolerant voters.

And dog-whistling is a way of life in conservative politics, both in Canada and the States. When Dubya used the bizarre Dred Scott meme in a reference to abortion, he was dog-whistling to his fundie followers. So was Mike Huckabee when he babbled on about a "living god". Barack Obama's touring with an anti-gay preacher sure sounds like a dog whistle of some sort to me--one calling the right-wing "moderates" out to play. Ditto his laudatory references to Ronald Reagan (which could also be read as an incredibly tone-deaf tune-out of what ol' Ronnie was really about).

Of course, dog-whistling is nothing new, even if the term has only been around since '05. Whenever you heard reference to "states' rights" in the 1860s, you could be sure that the speaker was a pro-slavery Southerner, sure's shootin'. In the 1960s under Barry Goldwater, that phrase became code for "nigger, nigger, nigger"--in short, an anti-civil-rights platform. (Coming from Mitt Romney in '08, though, it means he's all for reproductive slavery, of black and white women alike.) Likewise, a reference to "political correctness" has long been a dog-whistle from the right, attempting to silence the left when it points out another dog-whistle coming clear out of right field. (This is usually followed by the "free speech" dog-whistle, defending the "right" to be a covert racist, sexist, bigoted, homophobic asshole farting in code.)

Of course, it's worth pointing out that those who react as the whistler desires to dog whistles...are dogs.

Honestly, y'all, do you want to be lumped in with another race that, unlike black folks, is easy to Pavlovian-condition to drool when a bell rings (or come trotting with a foolish look on the face, tongue hanging out, when a "silent" whistle blows)...and above all, not human?

I've been YouTubed!

Malmo Blue has YouTubed my letter to Mike Malloy (being read on the air by the radio god):

Thanks, MB!

January 26, 2008

John Perkins: Rafael Correa is in danger

From the man who wrote Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, which among other things treats of his own experiences in Ecuador, a warning to the current president of that country: Watch your back! The jackals are circling!

Video in Spanish. Story from Aporrea:

John Perkins, former economist for the World Bank, revealed that during his time in office, he had to persuade and corrupt politicians so that their countries would hand over lucrative projects to US-based businesses. He also confirmed that the former president of Ecuador, Jaime Roldos, and that of Panama, Omar Torrijos, were assassinated and did not die in accidental plane crashes. He also warned that the life of President Rafael Correa is in danger.

"We economic hit men would arrive in country, saying 'Great! You can't pay your debt', so now they had to do us a favor, namely selling their petroleum to our companies at a low price, or vote with us in the United Nations, or let us put a US military base in their country, such as Manta in Ecuador, and that's how we built this global empire, the first in the world," said Perkins.

Perkins explained that when he or his colleagues could not complete their mission, the so-called "jackals", or assassins, would spring into action. Examples of this, he said, were Jaime Roldos of Ecuador and Omar Torrijos of Panama.

"I knew that if I failed, the 'jackals' would step in to assassinate, and that's what happened," Perkins told an interviewer for the news program "Contextos", on Telemundo.

[...]

He also assured that the same rules apply today, which is why he considers that the life of President Rafael Correa, a progressive, is in danger.

"I'm very afraid of what could happen to Rafael Correa. I believe his life is in peril," Perkins said.

As to why the life of Rafael Correa is in danger and not that of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, Perkins said: "In the United States, I believe, they are very afraid of Hugo Chavez, because Venezuela has so much to provide and we will be needing more and more of it in the US, and Venezuela is very important for us. For this reason we have to tread softly and be careful of Hugo Chavez. By contrast, I believe Ecuador is not as important, because it doesn't have as much petroleum, and a president like Rafael Correa could become an example."

Translation mine.

Anyone who's been following events in either country could tell you that the US hasn't been exactly shy about trying to get Chavecito out of power one way or another. There have, indeed, been attempts on his life; the coup of '02 was the biggest, and the most spectacular flop, since the soldiers assigned to execute him refused to shoot. He was just on the verge of being spirited out of the country (where, no doubt, a foreign assassin would have had less trouble finishing him off) when the people rose up and rebelled, demanding their elected president back, and thoroughly rejecting the US-backed businessman who had declared himself president (dictator, really--let's be painfully honest.)

But Perkins does have a good point here: Rafael Correa presides over a country which, while oil-rich, is not nearly as much so as Venezuela. He's made loud noises about his opposition to US hegemony and neoliberal economics; he plans to close the US military base at Manta, the only one in South America, which has served as an operational headquarters for the domination of the entire continent. And the assassination of Correa could well be intended as an example to the people of Ecuador from the US State Department: you vote our way, or this is what you can expect from now on. Your collective will counts for nothing. Our business interests and military installations are everything.

And right now, Correa is in a delicate spot: He's just completed his first year in office, and has high approval ratings. The people have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a constitutional assembly which will rewrite the currently very corrupted, outer-directed magna carta of Ecuador. And while it is in session, the Constituent Assembly will supplant the Ecuadorian congress, which is still dominated by the old guard and vehemently opposed to Correa and all his progressive plans. (Yes, the old joke/pun applies here: If pro is the opposite of con, what's the opposite of progress? Congress!)

So, if Correa were assassinated, the hypothesis goes, the process would be decapitated, and the unruly Ecuadorians brought to heel, and their country driven as a wedge against the progressive wave that's currently sweeping Latin America, where one country after another has been busily voting in left-wing popular governments, and where the State Dept.'s grand plans, so carefully laid from the return of Guatemala to banana republicanism (in 1954) up to the present, are now in peril. Seen through the State Dept.'s eyes, it's as though all the Dirty Wars in the Southern Cone had been for naught. Operation Condor has had its wings clipped, and with the return of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, it won't be long before Central America starts looking around, either.

Already the unmistakable signs are everywhere: the fastest-growing economies are those of the most politically progressive (read: IMF-resistant) countries in South America, particularly Venezuela and Argentina. Bolivia, once the most cocaine-addicted country (economically speaking), is now in rehab thanks to its progressive ex-cocalero leader, Evo Morales; its place has been taken by Ecuador's neighbors, Colombia and Peru, who both, tellingly, are under the thumb of tame, free-trade caudillos, not dictators exactly, but certainly tyrannical and, in the case of Alvaro Uribe, well connected to both right-wing paramilitaries and the drug trade despite all his tweetlings about law and order.

In short: Anyplace in Latin America where a progressive leader is seeking to place the economy in service to the people, rather than the other way around, is now booming. There could be no greater indictment of the failures of the policies John Perkins and his fellow economic hit men used to promote.

Which is why the push is now on to abort Ecuador's attempts to join the ranks of the rehabilitated. So far, Correa is still relatively alone out there, or so the State Dept. thinks. He doesn't have an entire congress behind him (the vast popular support he enjoys obviously doesn't count. Which tells you something about where the State Dept.'s collective coco is at.) The attempts on Chavez have failed, and will continue to do so because the population of Venezuela is now educated and aware. They are practically 100% literate, and insatiably hungry for information. Their president doesn't miss a chance to sound the alarm. And he has the national assembly on side, as well as a solid majority of Venezuelans. So the State Dept. is forced to switch to Ecuador--by far the lesser prize, oil-wise, but still plenty lucrative. Ecuador has not yet arrived at the level where Venezuela currently is, and there are powerful business interests hoping it never will.

And, as anyone who's ever seen the movie Missing can tell you, the State Dept. will do anything to protect US business interests abroad, right up to and including the sacrifice of American private citizens. Which is why I hope John Perkins is also watching his back.

January 25, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Who needs a good reason...

...to post pics of Chavecito?

Well, I do.

A cute shot of Chavecito? You got it!

I posted this one because it's cute. And I like it.

January 24, 2008

Stupid Sex Tricks: Political silly season is now open!

And a plethora of lurid accusations is rollin' on in.

First, one concerning Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama:

...which may or may not be plausible. (Does this guy look like the limo type to you? And does anyone still take polygraphs seriously as evidence when there is evidence that you can lie and still pass one?)

Then, there's the totally absurd:

...which I can believe insofar as it concerns Lyndon LaRouche (who is a bona-fide nutcase), but the rest of them? Uh, yeah.

I'm perfectly willing to believe both of these guys have done drugs, though...entirely more than is good for them. The question is, how do they intend to prove they did them with all those politicos?

(And another pertinent question might be, why the obsession with sex and drugs when the policies and voting records of the candidates are the REAL issues?)

January 23, 2008

John Edwards on Letterman

And he's a sweetheart:

He broke up a catfight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He basically comes out and says Bill Oh-Really is a bullshitter. He even lets Dave mess his hair.

Really, what's NOT to love?

January 22, 2008

Hi, my name is Maxime.

And I am a cowardly, spineless, gonadally impaired Tory wuss.

Maxime Bernier, cowardly supposiTory from Quebec

What does 'Bina have against me? Oh, just this. And this.

My name is Maxime Bernier, I am the Tories' token Quebecois, and I love torture.

January 21, 2008

A letter to Mike Malloy

I decided to get busy with the e-mail tonight. Let's see if this gets read on the air.

To: mike@mikemalloy.com

Subject: Maybe it's not my place to say this, but...

Hey, Mike...

Maybe it's not my place to say this, as a white Canadian woman who was just a baby in diapers when Dr. King was killed. Obviously I have no grand and glorious MLK "experiences" to share. So I'll try to spit my bit without resorting to the usual media encomiums and pablum about him. God knows we've all heard enough of those today.

What I guess I'm trying to say is, I'm sick of the way the media (who, let's face it, are packed with right-wing WHORES) have trivialized Dr. King by narrowing his message down to "voting rights for blacks". That is the very LEAST of what he was about. When I listened to Democracy Now's podcast about him last year, the thing that struck me was how brilliantly Dr. King tied together the plagues of not only black America, but all America and indeed, all the world. He tied the antidemocratic disenfranchisement of voters to the war (then, Vietnam; now, Iraq) to CAPITALISM. Dr. King was very astute about the way capitalism relates both to war and to democratic deficits. The disenfranchised voter is also the most likely to be the disenfranchised cog in the economy. And therefore, the most likely to be sent to war.

After what happened in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, and what I'm sure will happen again this year (I have no illusions), it's so obvious, isn't it? Nothing has really progressed in America since Dr. King died. Poor folks, predominantly black and Hispanic, are STILL being denied the right to vote, because we KNOW they will vote for the candidate most likely to make something better for them. And we can't have that; we gotta have them hungry and desperate for any scrap of honor or recognition or plugged nickel they can get. They don't get to vote, or to have their vote count, the way it would for an affluent white guy behind a big oak desk. But when it comes to warm bodies to ship to Iraq and feed the Military-Industrial Complex--oh yeah, come on in! Stay out of the polling station, and come into the nice, cozy recruiter's office, folks, you're not welcome there but you ARE welcome here. We need you to keep the defence contractors' stocks rising.

Dr. King understood all that perfectly well. That's why he put his life on the line, and that's why he died. He knew he probably wouldn't be able to talk like that and live for very long. And how right he was. The FBI stalked him at every move, his dossier was probably thicker than your arm is long, and I wouldn't be surprised if the CIA contracted a hit man to finish him in the very year the Vietnam War was at its worst. People all across the land were drawing the same conclusions as he was; they were connecting the dots. Killing him was meant, I think, to send the message: Don't even try to stand up against this system. If calling you a nigger-lover won't dissuade you, maybe a bullet to the head of your favorite black spokesman will.

I'm hoping that this devastating murder didn't dissuade the people who were really trying to change things, but in light of all that's happened since, I don't feel good. Just look at us all, how apathetic our society has become. Capitalism has gone from fat to obscenely obese, and its appetite is getting more voracious at an exponential rate from year to year. Which is why a once-a-year feel-good day of solemn MLK-worship won't cut it for me. It's going to take more than just one day a year to honor his memory for real. And obviously it's going to take a hell of a lot more than just a singular fixation on what he did for the black folks. We all have to keep drawing the lines between the dots, the same way he did. We have to work daily, in small ways, to overcome the divides between not only races, but classes. We have to all speak out the way he did. We have to recognize that he was not just about civil rights for people of color, but that he was doing his damnedest to keep the capitalist money-god from swallowing any more warm bodies--black, brown, yellow or white--so that an already overprivileged few could become even more insulated from the dump-ugly world they've created.

So yeah, by all means, tell the media to stuff their hokey fake idolatry of their token black saint. Martin Luther King was nobody's token anything. To isolate him from the vast and varied movement for social and economic justice as they are doing is despicable, even if they do it in hushed and reverential tones and nonstop, coast-to-coast, wall-to-wall coverage. When will they take up his mission in earnest? Never, because they are owned by the same corporations that are getting rich from wars that kill poor people of every color, including a disproportionate number of blacks.

By the way: Why the hell was Obama praising Reagan? Not only was Reagan responsible for the big national downturn that's coming to a head now, and not only was he responsible for the gross human rights violations in Central America during the '80s, he was also stinkingly racist. Remember, Reagan left the Democrats around the same time the Dems decided to embrace the black and Hispanic voter. They did not leave HIM. He kicked off his 1980 election campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi--the site of the infamous murders of two white civil rights workers and their black driver. Coincidence? Not a chance in hell. Reagan was a racist old SOB. And to think that someone like Barack Obama would praise him is absurd to the point of nausea. Perhaps Obama is suffering from dementia too, but his lucid delivery makes me doubt that very much. The "excesses" of the 1960s strike me as nothing of the sort; they were just the bare beginnings of real, cryingly necessary changes. If that's what Reagan reversed, then may he rot in hell, and may all his worshippers join him shortly. I never saw bag ladies or homeless people in my life until Reagan came into office. And suddenly, they were everywhere, and the media was pretending this was some kind of mystery, or that they were choosing to live on the streets. And when the Reagan CIA was shown to have started the crack-cocaine epidemic that landed so many people on the streets, the reporter who broke the story was dismissed as a tinfoil hatter.

Sorry if I'm rambling, but this all hangs together. To hell with the big media if they can't connect the dots, Mike. You can, and I can. And we both know why THEY won't.

'Bina.

Note at 10:30: He just read it.

January 20, 2008

Sibel Edmonds tells all (that she legally can)

And boy, is it ever hot stuff.

THE FBI has been accused of covering up a key case file detailing evidence against corrupt government officials and their dealings with a network stealing nuclear secrets.

The assertion follows allegations made in The Sunday Times two weeks ago by Sibel Edmonds, an FBI whistleblower, who worked on the agency's investigation of the network.

Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish language translator, listened into hundreds of sensitive intercepted conversations while based at the agency's Washington field office.

She says the FBI was investigating a Turkish and Israeli-run network that paid high-ranking American officials to steal nuclear weapons secrets. These were then sold on the international black market to countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Sit back a moment and let that sink in. Turkey and Israel--both considered US allies--paid US officials to steal nuclear weapons secrets. Which they then sold to two OTHER allied countries--Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Incestuous, no?

Now, let's see what else turns up here that's hot:

One of the documents relating to the case was marked 203A-WF-210023. Last week, however, the FBI responded to a freedom of information request for a file of exactly the same number by claiming that it did not exist. But The Sunday Times has obtained a document signed by an FBI official showing the existence of the file.

Edmonds believes the crucial file is being deliberately covered up by the FBI because its contents are explosive. She accuses the agency of an "outright lie".

"I can tell you that that file and the operations it refers to did exist from 1996 to February 2002. The file refers to the counterintelligence programme that the Department of Justice has declared to be a state secret to protect sensitive diplomatic relations," she said.

Okay. Big breath; let...it...all...out. Again, let that sink in: The FBI lied about a document that does exist--claiming it does not. Why? The excuse is "sensitive diplomatic relations", which you may take to be a euphemism for a high-level international theft ring.

Edmonds had told this newspaper that members of the Turkish political and diplomatic community in the US had been actively acquiring nuclear secrets. They often acted as a conduit, she said, for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's spy agency, because they attracted less suspicion.

She claimed corrupt government officials helped the network, and venues such as the American-Turkish Council (ATC) in Washington were used as drop-off points.

Did you see that? There's another hot spot right there: The ISI, the Pakistani equivalent of the CIA. The ISI is already notorious for its part as the liaison between the CIA and the Taliban; it is also suspected of being a money and training conduit between the CIA and al-Qaida. Without the ISI, there would have been no Taliban, and without the CIA, no al-Q. And for that matter, no Hamid Karzai either.

Now, here comes another biggie. Brace yourselves:

The anonymous letter names a high-level government official who was allegedly secretly recorded speaking to an official at the Turkish embassy between August and December 2001.

It claims the government official warned a Turkish member of the network that they should not deal with a company called Brewster Jennings because it was a CIA front company investigating the nuclear black market. The official's warning came two years before Brewster Jennings was publicly outed when one of its staff, Valerie Plame, was revealed to be a CIA agent in a case that became a cause célèbre in the US.

"They should not deal with a company called Brewster Jennings because it was a CIA front company investigating the nuclear black market." What a surprise, considering that this theft ring IS a nuclear black market of sorts!

And of course, let's not forget that Valerie Plame was a NOC--meaning that she had no "official" government ties, which placed her life at extreme risk. If something were to happen to her--a disappearance, say--the US government would not intervene as it would for someone with an official cover, say a diplomat or embassy staffer (many of whom, if not all, are CIA themselves.) So her intelligence gathering activities had to be done with extreme caution. A revelation like this, much like what Robert Novak did to her in the press, would certainly place her life and that of all her colleagues in jeopardy, because those to whom the secret was told would then be able to pass the news all down the line. Anyone who wanted to get rid of meddling nuke-spooks would be able to pick off Valerie Plame and all her Brewster Jennings colleagues, no problem.

The fact that the unnamed official knew who she was, and what her front company was really about, should tell you something about his own status. But what? Read on:

Edmonds is the subject of a number of state secret gags preventing her from talking further about the investigation she witnessed.

"I cannot discuss the details considering the gag orders," she said, "but I reported all these activities to the US Congress, the inspector general of the justice department and the 9/11 commission. I told them all about what was contained in this case file number, which the FBI is now denying exists.

"This gag was invoked not to protect sensitive diplomatic relations but criminal activities involving US officials who were endangering US national security."

This is a high crime, folks. And the fact that the perpetrators were able to gag a witness who is more than capable of bringing their house of cards down with a single blow of the whistle, should tell you something about their inordinate, and unearned, power in the nation's capital. It should also tell you something about a crying need for deep systemic reform.

It doesn't matter a rat's ass whether the US has an Official Secrets Act, as Canada and Great Britain do (and which Canada has used rather sparingly, compared to Britain). The fact that someone was apparently able to use existing law to cover up his illegal activities with the justification of state secrets, proves conclusively to this uppity Canuck that the US is no better than anyone else. Until a judge comes forward and frees Sibel Edmonds to disclose everything under oath, I will maintain that the US does have an official secrets act after all; it's just buried somewhere in the fine print, a cowardly and despicable move in a country that prides itself on its supposed freedoms of speech.

I hereby declare war...

...on greed.

You can fight this war too. Click here to learn how.

January 19, 2008

Harrison on the Edge fills in for Mike Malloy

Two hilarious snippets from the Friday night broadcast on Nova M Radio. Harrison is filling in for Mike Malloy in the 9-12 pm (Eastern) slot.

Harrison takes on Dubya's economic strategy to fight a recession he claims isn't happening (and which we all know IS happening, and has been for quite some time), using a robotic reader to play back Dubya's verbal gumbo so we see just what he ISN'T saying. Harrison also takes on a homophobic wingnut caller. (Harrison is gay, gay, gaiety-gay GAY.)

Gore Vidal on The Real News

A set of interviews with Gore Vidal, the shocking, provocative and painfully honest elder statesman of American literature.

January 18, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito plays ball with Ortega

No one can accuse Chavecito of being all work and no play (although he certainly works very hard). Here he is on a recent visit to Nicaragua, attending a local baseball game with his Sandinista amigo, Daniel Ortega:

More video of Chavecito with Ortega here. (Scroll down to the bottom.)

January 16, 2008

Quotable: Naomi Klein on neoliberal bullshit

"What I dislike most about the trickle-down democracy argument is the dishonor it pays to all the people who fought, and fight still, for genuine democratic change in their countries, whether for the right to vote, or to have access to land, or to form unions. Democracy isn't the work of the market's invisible hand; it is the work of real hands....Real democracy--true decision-making power in the people's hands--is always demanded, never granted."

--Naomi Klein, Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate

Sean's smoking pen

And this, folks, is why we write letters to the editors...to let them know when they are full of shit. Mind you, some of us have an easier time getting their attention than others:

Actor Sean Penn apparently is taking issue with the San Francisco Chronicle, calling the publication an "increasingly lamebrain paper" in a letter published in Tuesday's edition.

What stirred Penn to write was a tongue-in-cheek article that focused on celebrity interest in Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and listed a number of potential matchups between celebrities and dictators or other authoritarian figures.

Penn objected to the characterization, saying Chavez is a democratically elected leader.

Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein took the criticism in stride calling Penn, "a great actor and a great director."

"People get riled up about a lot of things, particularly in this day and age; they get to express themselves. We were more than happy to print his letter," Bronstein said.

Of course, Sean Penn only got their attention for as long as it took Bronstein to blat the usual: "They get to express themselves."

Big fuckin' whoop! This was not about Sean Penn's self-expression, Bronstein, you dork. If Sean Penn only wanted to express himself, he'd have made a fingerpainting and called it Abstract Expressionism. It was about the TRUTH--which the Chron is increasingly bent on obscuring, like most commercial media. Doesn't mean a damn thing if they do it with a "serious" tone or a "tongue in cheek" one; bullshit is bullshit.

And maybe Sean Penn needs to write another letter to remind them that "getting to express themselves" is not and never was the point. The point is that a newspaper ought to be good for something besides wiping one's ass with, or else why print it?

No, the problem with the Chron is that it has a line to follow, the same line all the other major papers in the US follow: Hugo Chavez is the enemy. Hugo Chavez is authoritarian. Hugo Chavez is a dictator, or would like to be one. And only America can stop him! Yee-hawwww, let's make war on another evil dictator and show the world what makes America great--our corporatized "free speech", combined with gunboat "diplomacy" and boundless greed!

(We'll leave out the fact that he's democratically elected, that he's sitting on top of the world's largest proven oil reserves, and that he's looking to use the money those reserves bring in for the good of his people, instead of letting Corporate America, of which the Chron too is a part, make off with it all the way it used to.)

January 15, 2008

If diarrhea is Montezuma's revenge...

...then whose revenge is the clap?

The first recorded epidemic of syphilis happened during the Renaissance in 1495. Initially the plague broke out among the army of Charles the VIII after the French king invaded Naples. It then proceeded to devastate the continent.

"Syphilis was a major killer in Europe during the Renaissance," said researcher George Armelagos, a skeletal biologist at Emory University in Atlanta.

In the centuries since then, controversy has raged over whether Columbus and his men introduced not only the New World to Europe, but a new sexually transmitted disease as well. In the 20th century, critics of the "Columbian theory" proposed that syphilis had always bedeviled the Old World but simply had not been set apart from other rotting diseases such as leprosy until 1500 or so.

[...]

Caused by Treponema pallidum bacteria, syphilis is usually curable nowadays with antibiotics. Untreated, it can damage the heart, brain, eyes and bones and be fatal.

To see if Columbus and his men introduced syphilis to Europe after catching it in the Americas, scientists investigated the bacteria that cause syphilis and related ailments such as bejel and yaws, germs together known as treponemes. The research strategy focused on genetically comparing treponemes from across the globe to determine a family tree — which microbes gave rise to which — and perhaps thus see where syphilis came from.

After comparing 26 strains of treponemes from Africa, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and the Pacific Islands, the researchers found the strains that caused the sexually transmitted disease originated recently, with their closest relatives being germs collected in South America. In other words, it seems to have come from the New World.

"The movement of diseases between Europeans and Native Americans is often seen as a one-way street, with Europeans bringing germs such as smallpox and measles," Harper said. "But syphilis seems to be an example of a disease that went the other way."

Syphilis seems to dog warmongers and imperialists wherever they go. It was a major scourge among ex-soldiers after World War I; many died of it in insane asylums. (Interestingly, it became a major killer of black Americans after the Great War, too.) And some claim Hitler caught it from a Jewish prostitute, and went antisemitically mad as a result. (He called it "the Jewish disease", thus following a lengthy tradition of blaming the disease on persons of another ethnicity.)

It would certainly be good for a laugh if the New World got back at the Old by way of the clap, but in the end, the point is not where it came from but where it's going. The fact that it's not history yet, like smallpox, is probably going to keep epidemiologists awake for many more nights than its probable country of origin.

I could have told them this

But would they listen to me? Nooooo. They just had to figure out for themselves that certain interrogation methods don't work as well as advertised...

A threat of possible terrorist attacks in Germany, based on a tip from Lebanese authorities after they interrogated an al-Qaida suspect, is less severe than initially thought, authorities said Monday.

The tip came after Lebanese police arrested suspect Mohammed Naddoum last Thursday on allegations that he called the German Embassy in Beirut threatening to strike German security targets.

Officials have given no details of the possible threats, but German news reports said Lebanon told officials that the suspect indicated terrorists inside Germany were prepared to attack targets such as Berlin's Justice Ministry building. The ministry said it had heightened security.

The details of the tip have now been checked out, and have led to no concrete results, said Federal Criminal Police Office spokeswoman Sandra Clemens.

"At this point in the investigation, an attack can be ruled out," she said.

My guess is they got it out of him by what's euphemistically called "coercive interrogation", and what is more correctly called TORTURE. Lebanon is not exactly free from it.

But I could have told them that Germany is not on the terror shit list. Why? It's not involved in the war on Iraq. Spain was; that's why Spain's trains were bombed, and why the Spaniards wised up and got rid of Aznar in their next election. Australia was; that's why a nightclub in Bali catering to Aussie tourists was bombed in '02. Britain still is; that's why ITS subway trains were also bombed. (The Brits, alas, have not gotten wise and thrown out THEIR warmongers.)

Logic should dictate that Spain is now off the terror shit list. And that Australia, too, will soon follow suit. And that Britain should watch its back.

January 14, 2008

Quotable: Benito Mussolini on how Jonah Goldberg is full of shit

"Granted that the 19th century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the 20th century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the 'right ', a Fascist century."

--Benito Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism

(So much for the idea that fascism is of the left, eh Jonah?)

Where in the world is Filipino Monkey?

The actual broadcast site of Filipino Monkey

Well, according to the Navy Times, he could be anywhere in the world. Including, as luck would have it, a recent "sighting" alleged to be in the Strait of Hormuz:

The threatening radio transmission heard at the end of a video showing harassing maneuvers by Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz may have come from a locally famous heckler known among ship drivers as the "Filipino Monkey."

Since the Jan. 6 incident was announced to the public a day later, the U.S. Navy has said it's unclear where the voice came from. In the videotape released by the Pentagon on Jan. 8, the screen goes black at the very end and the voice can be heard, distancing it from the scenes on the water.

"We don't know for sure where they came from," said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson, spokeswoman for 5th Fleet in Bahrain. "It could have been a shore station."

A "shore station"? Like, oh, say, the PENTAGON? That's on shore...

While the threat — "I am coming to you. You will explode in a few minutes" — was picked up during the incident, further jacking up the tension, there's no proof yet of its origin. And several Navy officials have said it's difficult to figure out who's talking.

"Based on my experience operating in that part of the world, where there is a lot of maritime activity, trying to discern [who is speaking on the radio channel] is very hard to do," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead told Navy Times during a brief telephone interview today.

Indeed, the voice in the audio sounds different from the one belonging to an Iranian officer shown speaking to the cruiser Port Royal over a radio from a small open boat in the video released by Iranian authorities. He is shown in a radio exchange at one point asking the U.S. warship to change from the common bridge-to-bridge channel 16 to another channel, perhaps to speak to the Navy without being interrupted.

Further, there's none of the background noise in the audio released by the U.S. that would have been picked up by a radio handset in an open boat.

See my earlier post for the videos in question. Listen closely to the background noises on both. It is quite obvious that the "I am coming to youuuuuuu" call can't be coming from a boat.

So with Navy officials unsure and the Iranians accusing the U.S. of fabrications, whose voice was it? In recent years, American ships operating in the Middle East have had to contend with a mysterious but profane voice known by the ethnically insulting handle of "Filipino Monkey," likely more than one person, who listens in on ship-to-ship radio traffic and then jumps on the net shouting insults and jabbering vile epithets.

Navy women — a helicopter pilot hailing a tanker, for example — who are overheard on the radio are said to suffer particularly degrading treatment.

Several Navy ship drivers interviewed by Navy Times are raising the possibility that the Monkey, or an imitator, was indeed featured in that video.

How gallant of them to cover for the brass back in Washington. But really, fellas, you needn't have bothered.

Rick Hoffman, a retired captain who commanded the cruiser Hue City and spent many of his 17 years at sea in the Gulf was subject to the renegade radio talker repeatedly, often without pause during the so-called "Tanker Wars" of the late 1980s.

"For 25 years there's been this mythical guy out there who, hour after hour, shouts obscenities and threats," he said. "He could be tied up pierside somewhere or he could be on the bridge of a merchant ship."

And the Monkey has stamina.

"He used to go all night long. The guy is crazy," he said. "But who knows how many Filipino Monkeys there are? Could it have been a spurious transmission? Absolutely."

Could it have been a FAKE transmission--that is, not a transmission at all? Absolutely! Remember, it appeared only in a blacked-out stretch of video. There was no picture of the ship's radioman reacting with startlement at the strange intrusion, as there would have been had it been an actual transmission. And we already know from the Iranian video that the actual exchange was a normal one between the patrol and the destroyer. There is NO break-in from a "Filipino Monkey" in that one.

A civilian mariner with experience in that region said the Filipino Monkey phenomenon is worldwide, and has been going on for years.

"They come on and say 'Filipino Monkey' in a strange voice. They might say it two or three times. You're standing watch on bridge and you're monitoring Channel 16 and all of a sudden it comes over the radio. It can happen anytime. It's been a joke out there for years."

While it happens all over the world, it's more likely to occur around the Strait of Hormuz because there is so much shipping traffic, he said.

Be all that as it may, there's just one problem with this hypothesis: The "Filipino Monkey" didn't identify himself as such here. All he said was "I am coming to youuuuuuuu...(garbled)...explode after a few minutes."

I predict that in the years to come, "Filipino Monkey" will be code for "Another fine war-mongering hoax brought to you by the guys who gave us the Gulf of Tonkin Incident."

Meanwhile, I feel music coming on:

January 12, 2008

Headline Howler: Oh, so Colombia is "irked"?

Whoopdeefuckingdoo!

Chavez irks Colombia by defending rebels

Of course, we all know that it's not Colombia that's irked. Colombia is just relieved and grateful that two hostages are safe. It's Alvaro Uribe and his paramilitary pals who find it irksome. And they're not so much irked about Chavecito's less-than-unkind words about the FARC, I'm sure, as they are about Operation Emmanuel finally meeting success.

What REALLY botched Operation Emmanuel the first time

No, it wasn't the supposed ineptitude and buffoonishness of Hugo Chavez. It was something nasty and treacherous that could only have come from one place, and here's the confirmation from Aporrea:

In an exclusive interview with Radio W in Colombia, the former congresswoman Consuelo Gonzalez, rescued in a humanitarian operation by the government of Venezuela, confirmed that intense military bombardments by the Colombian armed forces were what prevented her being freed last December, when President Hugo Chavez originally set Operation Emmanuel in motion.

The ex-parliamentarian of Huila Department related that her liberation, along with that of Clara Rojas, began 20 days ago, just after the FARC announced to President Chavez that the two women would be handed over to the Venezuelan government.

"Those 20 days, ever since the operation to free us began, we were walking through the jungle constantly. They were 20 difficult days; also, because we could feel the bombardments and the military presence very close by, we were very nervous," said the ex-congresswoman.

This statement appears to confirm the communique the FARC sent to the Venezuelan president on December 31, in which they announced the suspension of the operation due to the intense military activities on the part of the Colombian government. This placed Colombian president Alvaro Uribe in a difficult position when he claimed, on that same day, that there were no military operations in the zone, as proof that his government was doing all it could to guarantee the success of Operation Emmanuel. At that time, president Uribe argued that the FARC had not handed over the hostages because they didn't have the boy Emmanuel.

But now there is proof, coming from the same two women, that there was intense bombardment going on which prevented their being freed sooner.

Well, well, well, well, well. Looks like Alvaro is not only a nasty piece of shit, he's a nasty, LYING piece of shit. Did we honestly expect anything else? Dubya loooooooves him, and anyone Dubya looooooooves is...well, you know.

Meanwhile, it looks like the humanitarian mission to rescue other FARC captives is picking up international steam. Aporrea again:

French chancellor Bernard Kouchner announced on Friday that emissaries from France, Spain and Switzerland "have already gone" to re-establish contact with the FARC rebels in Colombia, following the liberation of the hostages Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez.

"All of this is ongoing. Our emissaries have already left," declared Kouchner on the radio station Europa 1. "There is a coalition from Spain, Switzerland and France making contact as a group" with the FARC.

Translations both mine.

Damn that Chavecito. Damn him, I say! He just keeps lighting those fires. At this rate, peace might just break out, whether BushCo and the drug-paramilitaries want it or not.

January 11, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Muchas gracias, Presidente!

The video from yesterday's humanitarian mission in Colombia. About midway through, the rescued hostages get an important phone call from Venezuela, one that puts a big smile on their faces.

And the news doesn't end there. According to Senator Piedad Cordoba in an interview with VTV's Jorge Arreaza, one of the still-captive FARC hostages has asked, in writing, for Venezuelan citizenship, partly in recognition of Chavecito's good offices in the situation, and also in the hopes that it will help get the others freed sooner. Plus, Clara Rojas and her son Emmanuel may end up staying on in Venezuela; the government is looking into securing permanent residency for them.

You can't get a better recognition for a job well done than that!

I am NOT coming to youuuuuuu!

Gather 'round, kiddies, 'cause here's a fine example of just how desperate the Bush Crime Family is to start a war on Iran. First, here's a video from the Pentagon, supposedly detailing a menacing move by Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz:

It doesn't seem terribly conclusive, except towards the end, when the screen suddenly goes black, and a menacing voice with a heavy accent drones out over the radio, "I am coming to youuuuuuu...going to explode after a few minutes."

Booga, booga, booga!

Now, after you're done scrubbing the skidmarks out of your underpants, watch this video, which was taken from one of the Iranian patrolboats in question:

Turns out that this was just the Iranian navy on a routine reconnaissance mission, approaching the American vessels to read their identification numbers, hail them over radio, and determine whether they were in international waters or Iranian territory. You can hear that the Iranian transmission beginning at 2:50 is in broken English, with all the ambient sea-sounds missing from the blacked-out part of the Pentagon video, and without the least bit of menace, let alone a threat to blow up the American vessel. The Americans of Coalition Warship 73 respond in a normal, nonthreatening manner themselves, and one which bears no resemblance to the one in the blacked-out section of the first video.

Scary shit, huh?

Guess this is one Gulf of Tonkin incident that's just not gonna work out as planned.

January 10, 2008

Operation Emmanuel succeeds!

Telesur exclusive video here. Spanish only, but the emotion comes across loud and clear. Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez arrived safe and sound in a jungle clearing somewhere in the Guaviare region of Colombia, accompanied by a small troop of FARC guerrillas who, while armed, are clearly neither hostile nor menacing. When the time comes to say goodbye, it's hugs, handshakes and "Happy New Year" all around. Then the rebels drift off into the bush, turning to wave goodbye as the women prepare to board the waiting Venezuelan helicopter with the Red Cross logo, along with Venezuelan justice minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, the Cuban ambassador to Venezuela, German Sanchez Otero (who was also instrumental in the peace talks), and Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba (in red turban and hoodie.) At Santo Domingo, Tachira, on the Venezuelan side of the border, they change over from the helicopter to a Falcon airplane. Next stop: Simon Bolivar International Airport, at Maiquetia, where the two women's families are waiting for them (heart-warming videos from VTV and Telesur here).

Here's Venezuelanalysis on the big rescue.

And they said it couldn't be done. The idiots at Investors' Business Daily, in particular, have just gotten a big black eye. I wonder if they are all eating their words now?

Stupid Sex Tricks: What are YOU doing here?

Duh...what's it look like, fool?

A Polish man got the shock of his life when he visited a brothel and spotted his wife among the establishment's employees.

Polish tabloid Super Express said the woman had been making some extra money on the side while telling her husband she worked at a store in a nearby town.

"I was dumfounded. I thought I was dreaming," the husband told the newspaper on Wednesday.

The couple, married for 14 years, are now divorcing, the newspaper reported.

I can't imagine why, can you?

January 9, 2008

WooHOO! CodePink goes after the CubanaBomber!

They couldn't have picked a finer piece of shit for their #1 Most Wanted Terrorist, either. Unlike Osama, he's still alive, and still running around loose to boot. This one can still be made to rot in prison, if the FBI hurry up and nab him before he croaks.

Way to go, ladies...I'm joining your mailing list, and ordering a t-shirt.

So, it's all over, eh?

Uh, yeah, right. Just because the lamestream media had Chavecito's hostage-rescue mission all written off, doesn't mean it was actually called off. It was only postponed, and today, we have big news on that front:

Chavecito announced that the FARC have given him co-ordinates to go and pick up the two promised hostages, Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez.

Let's hope that this time it comes off without a sudden "discovery" of another Emmanuel where he wasn't supposed to be.

Update: Looks like I scooped Yahoo and the AP on this one; they just reported it "1 hour and 27 minutes ago". (NB: It is now 12:06 am on Thursday morning.) Ha! Beat that, ye wire services...

Evo does it again

Damn, how this man has a thing for getting it right. Get a load of Evo's latest big move:

Bolivian President Evo Morales and regional governors have agreed to draw up a pact of national unity to prevent the country from splitting apart.

Mr Morales and the governors said they want to settle their differences over a new draft constitution and revenues from natural gas exports.

Four of Bolivia's governors declared autonomy last month after Mr Morales's allies adopted the draft constitution.

Mr Morales's reform plans still need to be put to a popular vote.

...which they will win. He still has enormous popular support, and no wonder--he's done several things that were supposed to be impossible. He nationalized Bolivia's natural gas (and renegotiated all foreign contracts in Bolivia's favor) without a shot being fired; he's now seeing record levels of foreign investment; he made sure that the elderly got enough of a pension to live on; he also got a new constitution written after delays (the result of fascist and foreign interference) which caused widespread speculation that the project would founder and put a quick end to his presidency. By now, Evo's pulled so many rabbits out of his hat that he might just want to become a magician, if he's not too busy.

Now, get set for something totally hilarious as the Beeb veers off into the realm of comedy:

Provincial governors in the lowland eastern provinces are concerned about how gas revenues are shared with the central government.

They also want to see a revised version of the draft constitution.

The governors of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija declared autonomy for their provinces in December after a constitutional assembly which did not include opposition delegates.

Translation: The oligarchy wants things put back the way they were, and to show they mean business, they're stomping their feet and holding their breath until they turn blue. "Concerned about how gas revenues are shared with the central government" means they don't WANT to "share", they want to OWN the gas, as they were in effect doing before Evo happened along. They hate like hell to see the revenues from that being diverted away from their own overstuffed pockets and toward all those impoverished Indians, whom they have stereotyped, in true racist fashion, as lazy good-for-nothings. (Never mind that it's those same Indians who do all the dirty, dangerous jobs that these white rich folks wouldn't touch no matter what you paid them.) And if Evo doesn't cave and give them back that gas, they're going to claim an "autonomy" to which they are not lawfully entitled. And now they're trying to get a revocation of the constitution they didn't want to help write, because that would have meant compromising with that horrible brown guy (and getting their butts righteously kicked by his popular compadres).

Of course, this offensive on the oligarchy's part will come to nothing. The fact that it is the Bolivian government, not that of the four oligarchy-run provinces, that does the international bargaining over all gas sales, puts kind of a crimp in their little scheme. So does the fact that Evo convened the constitutional assembly precisely because the wealth distribution was so unfair, and a great many voters wanted it rectified. The hydrocarbon sector is non-negotiable now. This constitution is all about putting the country's wealth at the service of its people, not the other way around.

So, when I read things like this...

Ruben Costas, the governor of Santa Cruz who has been spearheading the autonomy drive, said: "We all want peace and unity. What's important is that there's a willingness to dialogue."

...I just laugh and laugh and laugh. Evo's a nice guy, sure--but he's got them as good as whipped. They just don't want to concede it yet.

And it doesn't hurt that he's got support from the widow of a former French president, either.

Philip Agee has died

And of course, since this happened in Cuba, we only get to hear about it after the fact...

Former CIA agent Philip Agee, a critic of U.S. foreign policy who infuriated American intelligence officials by naming purported agency operatives in a 1975 book, has died, state media reported Wednesday. He was 72.

Agee quit the CIA in 1969 after 12 years working mostly in Latin America at a time when leftist movements were gaining prominence and sympathizers. His 1975 book "Inside the Company: CIA Diary," cited alleged CIA misdeeds against leftists in the region and included a 22-page list of purported agency operatives.

[...]

Agee's U.S. passport was revoked in 1979. U.S. officials said he had threatened national security. After years of living in Hamburg, Germany — occasionally underground, fearing CIA retribution — Agee moved to Havana to open a travel Web site.

The site, cubalinda.com, is designed to bring U.S. tourists to Cuba, offering package tours and other help that is largely off-limits to Americans because of the U.S. trade embargo. Agee opened the site in 2000 with European investors and a state-run travel agent as his partners.

There was no mention of Agee's death on the site Wednesday.

Strange. But further down is something even stranger:

Barbara Bush, the wife of former President George H.W. Bush — himself a one-time CIA chief — in her autobiography accused Agee's book of exposing a CIA station chief, Richard S. Welch, who was later killed by leftist terrorists in Athens in 1975. Agee, who denied any involvement in the killing, sued her for $4 million for defamation, and she revised the book to settle the case.

Agee's actions in the 1970s inspired a law criminalizing the exposure of covert U.S. operatives.

But in 2003, he drew a distinction between what he did and the exposure of CIA officer Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a prominent critic of President Bush's Iraq policy.

"This is entirely different than what I was doing in the 1970s," Agee said. "This is purely dirty politics in my opinion."

Agee said that in his case, he disclosed the identities of his former CIA colleagues to "weaken the instrument for carrying out the policy of supporting military dictatorships" in Greece, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.

Those regimes "were supported by the CIA and the human cost was immense: torture, executions, death squads," he said.

Emphasis added.

Now isn't that interesting? The Bush Crime Family not only falsely accused Agee of treason (how it could be treasonable to stop the CIA interfering in foreign politics, is the unanswered question), it also violated the same law his actions helped bring about. Then, Agee exposed several CIA operations that were well known overthrowing elected foreign regimes in the interest of stopping the torture, executions and death squads; now, BushCo has leaked Valerie Plame's identity in the interest of continuing their operations against Iraq, which just so happen to include torture, executions and death squads!

It just doesn't seem fair that BushCo can go on doing what it's always done, and making obscene profits off it, while someone like Agee has to go into exile and become something of a pariah. Shouldn't it have been the other way around?

Reuters still hot for Chavecito's bod

Come on, Reuters guys, admit it...you just wanna see Hugo Chavez naked. First you were obsessed with his genitals, and now you make THIS your lede?

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in an interview with supermodel Naomi Campbell predicted that the U.S "empire" is about to fall, called Jesus Christ history's No. 1 revolutionary -- and offered to pose topless.

"Why not? Touch my muscles!" the burly, 53 year-old former paratrooper said, when asked if he would follow the example of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who caused a stir last year with a series of shirtless pictures.

Now, don't get me wrong--I'd love to see pictures of Chavecito minus his usual two layers of shirts (button-down over a T, usually both in red). Sadly, though, I suspect he was only joking around with Ms. Campbell; he does that a lot, you know. The man is, in fact, physically modest to a fault. I seldom even see pictures of him in short sleeves, and when I do, it's be still, mi corazon. I wish he would pose shirtless; there's only so many times I can base a FLFB post on Evo's legs.

But then again, I'm just a humble bloguera with a Jon Stewart/This Hour has 22 Minutes sensibility and a fondness for cute leftist guys who kick ass and take names. The fact that I get things right, though, and you Reuters guys don't seem to bother...well, all's I can say is tsk, tsk, tsk. Where did you all go to j-school, again?

And while we're on the subject of shirtless men: How soon we all forget Sarko, who showed the world his love handles only to have Paris Match airbrush them thoughtfully away. Quel fromage! Seems the media only respect you if you're a wealthy friggin' wingnut who got into power on a union-busting, anti-immigrant platform.

If you're Chavecito, on the other hand, they can't wait to latch onto anything the least bit sniffy, and make THAT out to be the story. Just get a load of the rhetoric Reuters lards on here: "...known for his tirades against the United States...liked by many Venezuelans for his folksy, off-the-cuff delivery, but the opposition says his quirky style has often distracted him from the basic tasks of government such as fighting crime..." Sheesh. How many times do I have to tell y'all that he's only the president, not the mayor of Caracas, and therefore not in charge of hiring the cops? Would they blame George Bush for the crime rate in the US? (Of course not; he's a fascist. They all make the trains run on time.) Doesn't anyone at Reuters do fact-checks anymore? Or are they just so firmly attached to the scrotums of the Venezuelan opposition--the same ones who were in power B.C. (Before Chavez), and who basically let things get this far out of hand in the first place? When will Reuters do a story on all the corrupt old-order politicians who still hold mayoralties all over Venezuela--and who are probably letting crime rates spiral just so they can have something to blame on Chavez? Probably when they finally work up the cojones to get out of their five-star hotels and start interviewing someone other than the rich bitches.

To be fair, though, they're just as bad with Naomi Campbell: "...known for her fiery temper...for throwing a phone at her maid." Would they even still give a shit about that if she weren't doing something totally uncharacteristic of a temperamental supermodel--like, say, focusing on someone other than herself?

Look: I don't kid myself that she's some kind of brilliant journalist (not if her questions about the Spice Girls are any indication), but I think she is at least serious about turning over a new leaf. How do I know? Let me refer you to this piece in Venezuelanalysis:

Campbell was granted an audience with the outspoken left-wing leader as part of her new brief as contributing editor for British men's lifestyle magazine GQ, interviewing leading figures from politics, sport and entertainment.

She wrote in the article, out Thursday but extracts of which were released in advance, that she was aware her choice of subject would be controversial, but insisted she did not go to Venezuela for political reasons.

"I'd always heard Hugo Chavez was a people's president and I wanted to see if that was true... I didn't want to judge Chavez, or probe him for his political views, even though he gave them freely," she wrote.

"I simply went to interview Hugo Chavez the man," she added. The catwalk star also said she wanted to get him to donate to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which she represents, and see some of his social programmes.

Campbell said the Venezuelan leader -- who in November was told to "shut up" by Spain's King Juan Carlos I -- was forthright and "fearless, but not threatening or unreasonable".

Venezuelans also seemed happier than her last visit 10 years ago for a Sports Illustrated magazine photoshoot, she added.

That snip came from Agence France-Presse. Quite a difference between the two agencies, no?

Here we actually get more information, too. Like Campbell's observation that Venezuela is happier now than it was 10 years ago (also B.C., BTW.) And that she was genuinely interested in seeing how things are progressing. And oh yeah, how she wanted to make up her own mind.

Which, I dare say, is more than the Reuters Roto-Rooters have done; it took three of them to write that piece of crap. I wonder if they did it all by themselves, or if they had to phone head office to make sure they had the correct "left-wing nut" spin.

Body-rockin' update: You know Reuters is in the toilet when their reporting is on a par with that of...drumroll please...Pravda.

January 8, 2008

Third World invades First World! Film at 11...

Well, actually, no film. Why? Because this isn't sexy enough for TV, compared to Britney's latest camera-friendly freak-out:

The United States ranks last among 19 industrialized nations when it comes to deaths that could have been prevented.

The report by The Commonwealth Fund, published in the journal Health Affairs, said 101,000 deaths per year could have been prevented by access to timely and effective healthcare. The top performers were France, Japan and Australia.

Ellen Nolte and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at deaths "amenable to healthcare before age 75 between 1997-98 and 2002-03."

The researchers found that while other countries saw these types of deaths decline by an average of 16 percent, the United States experienced only a 4 percent decline. "It is notable that all countries have improved substantially except the U.S.," said Nolte, lead author of the study.

Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen said the finding that other countries are reducing preventable deaths more rapidly with less money "indicates that policy, goals and efforts to improve health systems make a difference."

Translation from Wonkish to plain English: Knock off with all the free-market shit, America, you are starting to eat your young! Get single-payer public healthcare already, and take some lessons from your neighbors to the north!

Of course, to say something like that would make one a socialist, and everyone knows socialism is evil. Milton Friedman said so. (So do some "Christian" wackos with obviously zero knowledge of the subject.)

Soon as I find out where they buried Friedman, I swear I will make a pilgrimage to piss on his grave. I think it's quite right to hold him responsible for the current mess, and I hate what he's done to my American friends.

What a pity we Canadians don't have another John Kenneth Galbraith on hand to lend our buddies to help them get themselves sorted out properly.

January 7, 2008

How to scare Sean Hannity shitless

Tell him the truth, of course:

He's afraid of a bunch of Ron Paul supporters? But...but...but...aren't they REPUBLICANS???

So that's why Sarko got divorced...

Zut alors. He's just proposed to Mick Jagger's old mistress (and Eric Clapton's sloppy seconds).

Nicolas Sarkozy will marry his supermodel lover Carla Bruni next month - in time for the two to enjoy a state visit to Britain.

The wedding will take place in Paris on February 8 or 9, according to a newspaper owned by a close friend of the French president.

This will be two weeks after Mr Sarkozy celebrates his 53rd birthday, and less than four months after his divorce from his second wife, Cecilia, also a model.

Nice to know he's not superficial or anything.

Superficial-as-anything update: The French are not amused. The Beeb has the deets.

January 5, 2008

The face of fucking craziness

I'm sorry to inflict this on y'all, but...

The Young Turks predict exactly what El Predicto out at MY end does.

In a way, this is a foregone conclusion--it's what you get when you combine youth with only a modest amount of talent, a not-so-natural beauty, and a sex-crazed, gossip-mad tabloid media. It NEVER ends well.

Meanwhile, on a more literary note, I love this one by Frank O'Hara:

Poem (Lana Turner has collapsed!)

Lana Turner has collapsed!

I was trotting along and suddenly

it started raining and snowing

and you said it was hailing

but hailing hits you on the head

hard so it was really snowing and

raining and I was in such a hurry

to meet you but the traffic

was acting exactly like the sky

and suddenly I see a headline

LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!

there is no snow in Hollywood

there is no rain in California

I have been to lots of parties

and acted perfectly disgraceful

but I never actually collapsed

oh Lana Turner we love you get up

You should hear that one read aloud by the author, BTW; it's hysterical. He sounds so queeny, so over-the-top, so mocking, and yet so sincerely despairing, especially on the last line.

Unfortunately, like Cenk, I doubt if Britney will live to become one-tenth the artist that Lana Turner was.

January 4, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Random Evo and senseless cuteness

You know you're a hottie when you can even make a miner's helmet look good...

Evo in a miner's helmet

...especially when combined with something as unlikely as floral garlands.

And of course, we already know what Evo does for soccer shorts:

Evo in soccer shorts

But what really got Lula thinking, at a recent meeting, was Evo's cool variation on the suit:

Is Lula admiring Evo's suit?

So he went and raided Evo's closet...

Lula tries on one of Evo's jackets

Check it out, y'all!

Does this look all right?

Say, Evo, how DO you pull off that deceptively simple no-collar look?

January 3, 2008

Chavecito is crazy...

...like a freakin' fox.

The move that puzzled and angered so many of his supporters (read Aporrea.org if you don't believe me; the right-hand column is full of them lately), turns out to be not only not outrageous, but in a strange way, ingenious:

More than 60 people will be covered by the amnesty, some of whom are imprisoned, Chavez said. They include opponents accused of taking over Venezuela's state television channel during the coup, and others who sought to sabotage the oil industry during an opposition-led strike that followed, he said. It was not immediately clear when they could go free.

[...]

The amnesty will not apply to fugitives who have fled charges in Venezuela, and will not cover "crimes of the homicide sort, or proven assassination attempts," he said.

Prosecutors in 2002 and 2003 initiated legal proceedings against a long list of people who allegedly supported the failed coup. Three police chiefs were jailed, along with a handful of officers and others. An unknown number of suspects fled the country or went into hiding.

The amnesty is expected to nullify charges recently brought against opposition politician Enrique Mendoza for taking over the state TV channel's studios during the coup. It also covers all those accused of civil rebellion in other cases through December 2007, Chavez said.

Considering that justice moves a lot slower in Venezuela than in Canada, and that in many cases charges have not yet been brought for crimes committed more than five years ago, that amnesty is hardly a blanket immunity for golpistas. The worst suspects are, in fact, not covered, since they're out of the country, as they have been since almost immediately after the events of '02.

So that means the rabid oppo-journo Patricia Poleo, who is widely believed to have ordered the assassination of federal prosecutor Danilo Anderson, is not immune. Neither is Pedro Carmona, the "dictator for a day" who fled to Miami (via Colombia) after breaking house arrest. Nor is Carlos Ortega, the unelected Jimmy Hoffa of the discredited CTV union. Neither are any of the high military commanders who are also skulking around in Miami to this day.

It's not known yet whether the Amnesty Law covers Ivan Simonovich, Henry Vivas and Lazaro Forero, the police chiefs who collaborated with the coup conspirators and ordered their troops to fire on the Chavistas on Baralt Avenue and Llaguno Bridge. But as I've blogged already, all the shooters who fired back at police from the bridge are definitely covered, as they were firing in self-defence and their actions do not, unlike those of the police chiefs who ordered the cops to shoot at them, constitute "crimes against humanity". (This is important to remember, since opposition mayors were the ones who persecuted them; they were snatched from their homes with blank arrest warrants, they and their family members were brutally beaten, and some spent more than a year in captivity, unable to communicate with family or supporters. They definitely deserve amnesty, particularly since their rights were so badly abused--and on the grounds of a completely phony video that was passed off as "news" by Venevision.)

In the end, this is going to do more than just relieve some tension and appease the opposition. Some unjustly imprisoned Chavistas are going to be exonerated. And the worst criminals of the coup of '02 and its aftermath will NOT go free. They remain wanted, and if they ever show up in Caracas again, all bets will be off.

Crazy like a fox, that Chavecito!

Crazy Foxy Update: Looks like police chiefs Simonovich, Vivas and Forero are NOT covered by the amnesty. According to Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, they and eight "lesser functionaries" are guilty of crimes against humanity and were delinquent in their duty to uphold and protect the rights of citizens, because they fired on unarmed peaceful demonstrators on Llaguno Bridge. This should help set at ease the minds of victims like Yesenia Fuentes, who feared that those who injured them and killed fellow Chavistas would be freed to kill again. Likewise, Carlos Ortega is not covered because he is a fugitive from justice. Pedro Carmona isn't mentioned, but I imagine it all applies double and triple to him, because he was the designated de facto coup leader AND is a fugitive. Meanwhile, victims' association ASOVIC has come out against the campaign of lies spun by advocates of the three delinquent police chiefs, who deny that their actions constitute a crime.

January 2, 2008

I'm Jon Stewart and so can you!

If you take this quiz, that is.

(So, who are you?)

January 1, 2008

My new year's resolution? To be Perfected!

Of course, it might take me longer than it would this Jewish singer. You see, I'm Wiccan.

And I must say, as a Witch, that I've always wanted to be a homicidal, homophobic bitch with a long, scraggly turkey neck like the Coultergeist. Maybe, if I were stretched from my natural height of five-foot-six to Coulter's height of five-ten (on an Iron Maiden torture rack?), I would look like that too...and my disposition would be as rotten as hers.

(She can keep the bleached hair, though. Mine's much nicer.)

Chavecito--WTF???

Happy New Year! Aporrea has the latest presidential caper from Venezuela, and it's a stunner:

President Hugo Chavez announced that as a gesture of good will, he would release a decree of amnesty to persons in violation of public order and who had been convicted of offences as follows:

*For the writing of the decree of the de facto government of the dictator Pedro Carmona in April 2002.

*For signing said decree.

*For the violent takeover of the government of Merida on the 12th of April 2002.

*For the illegitimate imprisonment of the former minster of the Interior and Justice, Rodriguez Chacin, on the 12th of April 2002.

*For criminal incitement to military rebellion prior to December 2, 2007.

*For the events of April 11, 2002, on Puente Llaguno which were not crimes against humanity.

*For the violent takeover of the mayoral office of Junin in Tachira state, April 2002.

*For the violent takeover of the government of Tachira state, April 2002.

*Break-in (police raid) at the home of National Assembly deputy Iris Varela, April 2002.

*For the violent takeover of the Palace of Justice in Tachira, April 2002.

*For the violent takeover of VTV, April 12, 2002.

*For acts of violence in the petroleum lockout and sabotage of 2002-3.

*For all accused of civil rebellion prior to December 2, 2007.

The amnesty decree will be released today in the official gazette.

The announcement came on the state channel, Venezolana de Television (VTV) during a special program in which President Chavez called in to comment on the process of release for FARC hostages in Colombia. The president said that the year 2008 was to be the year of the "three Rs: revision, rectification, and restarting."

He said he hoped that this measure would be well received by the sectors of the opposition.

Asked by journalist Vanessa Davies how his supporters would interpret this decision, he affirmed that Chavistas are noble people and would receive the declaration in the spirit in which it was made. "I am sending a message to those who seek the path of peace," he said.

Translation mine. Video at the original link.

Dude! Stop with the kindness and leniency already, or people will have to stop calling you a dictator! Shit, I'm a total democrat, and I'm inclined to be tougher on these people than you!

Please, Chavecito...think of your image!

A Canadian new year's tradition

It wouldn't be Canada without the Royal Canadian Air Farce.

And it wouldn't be a happy new year without the firing of the Chicken Cannon:

Granted, this was from five years ago. But I like to think the target is still relevant.