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April 30, 2008

No, of course they're not terrorists.

The Venezuelan opposition, stoop to such undiplomatic and undemocratic vulgarities as this? Perish forbid! Everybody knows that they are the paragons of civil society. Right?

Right???

A dissident former general has been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for bombing attacks on Spanish and Colombian diplomatic missions in Venezuela's capital.

The state-run Bolivarian News Agency reported Wednesday that former National Guard Gen. Felipe Rodriguez was convicted of conspiracy and aggravated burning of property for the 2003 attacks.

Rodriguez, who was sentenced Tuesday, was accused of planning the explosions at the Spanish Embassy and Colombian Consulate, which injured four people.

Venezuelan officials said at the time that the bombings were meant to destabilize the government of President Hugo Chavez, who shortly beforehand had warned Spain and Colombia not to interfere in Venezuelan affairs.

Rodriguez, also known by his nickname "The Crow," was among military officers who rose up against President Hugo Chavez in a short-lived 2002 coup.

He later helped lead a series of demonstrations in Caracas along with other military commanders opposed to Chavez's left-leaning government.

Folks, this is what we call a false flag operation. And had it succeeded, it might have become a classic one.

Too bad it backfired. That's what we call being hoisted on one's own petard, if I'm not mistaken.

Sacrebleu de merde! What is this?

Oh, it's just France kissing both the dimpled cheeks of Chavecito...again.

France's top diplomat sought help from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday to press for the liberation of rebel-held hostages in Colombia.

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is aiming at restarting talks to free hostages who include French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.

"We spoke about the liberation of the hostages, all of the hostages, of course Ingrid, but also all of the others," Kouchner said after emerging from the presidential palace. He revealed few details of the conversation.

Kouchner has said he believes Chavez can play an important role. The leftist rebels express an ideological affinity with the socialist president and have freed six Colombian hostages to his government so far this year.

Heh. Looks like all those France-haters left over from the run-up to Gulf War II can now join all the Venezuela-haters in screaming over this. (Why do you people hate the freeing of hostages, people?)

And, bonus! The AP has had a moment of correctitude in saying that the FARC are sympathetic to Chavecito, rather than the other way 'round as usual.

A legal precedent worth noting...

...wherever you are. In this case, it's Australia punching a big, fat hole in the Religious Reich's anti-gay agenda:

Christian organisations in all states and territories may have lost the right to discriminate against gay people despite religious exemptions in anti-discrimination laws, legal experts claimed this week following a landmark ruling against the Uniting Church's Wesley Mission.

Homosexuality as an intolerable sin was not a doctrine of Christianity, the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal ruled last month, because there were many dissenting views on the subject among Christian groups generally, and specifically within the Uniting Church.

As long as gay-friendly congregations like Metropolitan Community Church exist, this ruling means Christian organisations don't have a license to legally discriminate against gays, Brisbane lawyer Stephen Page said.

"Religious exemptions are worded almost identically across all state and territory anti-discrimination laws, so I'd expect other commissions to start citing this case," Page told SSO.

"Christian religious schools in the ACT, NSW, Victoria, SA and WA would not be able to use religion as the reason that gay and lesbian students can be prevented from bringing their partners to the school formal."

The Tribunal rejected the welfare agency's right to refuse a gay couple seeking to become foster parents as the laws only allowed exemptions for religions, and there was no "religion of Uniting Church".

Um, would the phrase "suck it" be too vulgar to use in this context? Or would it be only too apropos?

April 26, 2008

Little Red Chavista Riding Hood

I love 'toons, don't you?

Little Red Chavista Riding Hood

"Once upon a time in South America, there was a frail little girl named Venezuela. But then along came Chavez..."

And look! Evo can morph into Rambo:

Who knew Evo was really Rambo at heart?

"We won't let you balkanize our country, even if you have super-powers. Here, you die!"

Yes, the Pigman WANTS riots in Denver

And no, he doesn't have plausible deniability here:

Rush Limbaugh WANTS riots in Denver. Any questions?

Image taken from the Denver Post.

I thought he was tired of carrying water for the Repugs. When did he switch back, and what put that shit-eating no-dignity grin on his face? Oxy again? Damn. When'd he get back on that? Or (as I suspect) did he simply never get off it?

If he wants a Rocky Mountain High, I wish he'd OD on that. He's clearly not man enough for adrenaline.

April 25, 2008

Ever been glad you couldn't afford something?

Then you probably know just what I'm feeling about LASIK after reading this...

Patients unhappy with their laser eye surgery urged U.S. health regulators to do more to limit poor results, saying complications from the LASIK procedure have taken a toll on their sight and emotions.

Blurred vision, dry eyes, glare and double-vision have led to depression and in some cases suicide, several patients told a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel.

"Since LASIK, I am visually handicapped," said patient David Shell, adding that he has near constant eye pain and depression. "My eyes never feel comfortable... 10 years have passed and I still suffer from this problem."

And just think--you pay by the eye for this. Or should that be through the nose? Either way, I'm glad I still wear my glasses and contacts, even if they ARE inconvenient at times. It beats committing suicide because some butcher with a laser fucked up your eyes.

The Pigman's violent streak

Mike Malloy hangs Rush Limbaugh's fat ass out to dry on the air. Courtesy of Malmo Blue's Equal Radio.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: For cute Evo-pix, sign here

Some Evo-cuteness from a petition site

Yes, I know...I'm shameless. But if you want to see cute pix of Evo AND express your social conscience, Todos Con Bolivia is the place to go.

And don't forget to sign their petition.

(Thanks to Corey and Madalena for directing me to the site!)

April 22, 2008

Has Rafael Correa been reading my blog?

The reason I bring this up is because he says exactly what I've been thinking about Alvaro Uribe myself:

"Just when relations improve with him, something strange happens and you get stabbed in the back. Something in his head's not working right."

"That's Álvaro Uribe Vélez. Something's wrong. His behavior is terribly psychotic."

"Uribe doesn't want peace, nor does he want hostages released, because Betancourt is a potential presidential candidate."

(h/t Machetera for translating this lengthy, very enlightening interview. Linkage added to quote to illustrate.)

April 21, 2008

My Beautiful Mommy needs a shrink, not a surgeon

There are all kinds of sensitive issues begging to be covered by a children's book. Is this one of them, or is it just another sad sign of times gone mad?

Dr. Michael Salzhauer said so many moms brought kids to their appointments that he was motivated to stock up on lollipops in his Bal Harbour, Fla., office. In "My Beautiful Mommy," he explains mommy's recuperation, changing look and desire for plastic surgery.

"Many parents don't explain to their kids what's going on," said the father of four, with his fifth child on the way. "Children are very perceptive. You can't hide a major surgery from them. When mom goes down for two weeks after a tummy tuck it affects them."

Yeah, and when she dies on the operating table, or from an embolus afterwards, it affects them even more. Just something for all the Mommy Makeover patients out there to mull, along with how much of their children's college education fund is going to get eaten up by Beautiful Mommy's buying in to a patriarchal construct of feminine beauty.

And no, the good doctor who wrote this deathless prose is not shilling for his own practice at all! Perish the thought, you vulgar thing!

Illustrations show a crook-nosed mom with loose tummy skin under her half shirt picking up her young daughter early from school one day and taking her to a strapping and handsome "Dr. Michael."

Strapping and handsome...and one helluva chiseler. In more ways than one.

How to make yourself totally fucking irrelevant

Here's how to do it, if you're a 24/7/365 "news" channel on cable TV:

Step 1: Hear right-wing flying monkeys screeching about how "liberal" you are.

Step 2: Panic and hire a second-string conservatard radio bloviator (who is also a walking, talking human hemorrhoid).

Step 3: Watch credibility, followed closely by ratings, go down, down, down.

Step 4: Panic some more and hire another second-string conservatard, this one from a third-rate conservatard channel. Oh and did I mention he's also a former White House press flack who quit not because he had cancer but because he wanted to make more money?

Step 5: Watch credibility and ratings go comma comma down dooby doo down down.

Way to go, Chicken Noodle Network. Keep circlin' that drain and pray it doesn't suck you down. After all, a proven formula for failure will work differently if you follow it twice, right?

Quotable: Gary Kamiya on what to do about terrorism

"The only effective way to reduce the threat of terrorism is to work to end the conditions that give rise to it. In the case of Islamist terrorism, this means a comprehensive and enlightened political, economic and diplomatic strategy for dealing with the Arab/Muslim world. Only a tiny minority of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims support radical jihadis, but catastrophic errors like invading Iraq make violent fundamentalism more attractive. Follow the physician's credo: First, do no harm."

--Gary Kamiya, "Iraq: The Ten Commandments", at Salon.com

Lord, what class!

Conrad Black gives a photog the finger

You can always count on Conrad Moffat Black, His Lordship of Crossharbour (and lately, of the Penitentiary) to exemplify model behavior and propriety. And to illustrate, in graphic terms, just what conservatism is all about.

And now, you can also grin at the sweetness of the Lords of Karma, because the above photo won its shooter a prize:

A photo of former Canadian media baron Conrad Black giving the finger to reporters during his trial in Chicago has taken top prize for spot news at the second annual National Pictures of the Year awards competition.

[...]

The Conrad Black photo was taken by David Chidley of the Canadian Press during the businessman's trial, in which Black was convicted of obstructing justice and defrauding shareholders of his former newspaper company, Hollinger International Inc.

Black is currently serving a 6 1/2-year sentence at a jail in central Florida.

Couldn't have been more richly deserved, eh?

BushCo might want to rethink that toy ranch they bought...

...because look who's the new president of Paraguay!

A leftist ex-bishop Monday celebrated his historic electoral triumph in Paraguay's presidential election after defeating the ruling party candidate and ending 61 years of conservative rule.

Fernando Lugo was declared the winner by the Electoral Tribunal with nearly 41 percent of the vote compared to almost 31 percent for Blanca Ovelar of the ruling Colorado Party, crushing her dream of becoming the South American country's first woman president.

"Today we can dream of a different country," Lugo, 56, told reporters late Sunday. "Paraguay will simply not be remembered for its corruption and poverty, but for its honesty."

[...]

Lugo earlier addressed jubilant supporters of his leftist Patriotic Alliance for Change coalition at his campaign headquarters, saying the election showed that "the little people can also win."

"You are responsible for the happiness of the majority of the Paraguayan people today," he said as supporters chanted his name.

"This is the Paraguay I dream about, with many colors, many faces, the Paraguay of everyone," said Lugo, who was suspended from his religious order by the Vatican in late 2006 for his entry into politics.

And the Moonies, too, might want to think about getting out now, before the Paraguayans decide to take a pitchfork to them.

Oh, and all you foreign water bottlers who are rubbing your hands at the prospect of sucking up the Guarani Aquifer? One word of advice: Don't. Paraguay is not the only country sitting on top of it, and with progressives in charge throughout Mercosur, and social justice on the agenda all around, even in Paraguay there will soon be much more (and much needed) oversight.

April 20, 2008

Wouldn't it be good?

Funnylady Wanda Sykes speculates on what life would be like if our lady bits were detachable:

No offense to Wanda the Wonderful, but I think it might work even better if the guys' junk could be taken off and locked up. Theirs gets them into a lot more trouble.

April 19, 2008

Katherine Harris phones in

Sam Seder gets a drunken dialer from a former Florida secretary of State:

Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Boob Job Katie! Quite possibly the ditziest female ever to be (cough) elected to office (and to help someone else avoid losing an election). How many of her body parts are original? Only her doctor knows for sure. What a pity he couldn't have given her a brain implant, too. She sounds like a moron here. (Oh wait, what am I saying...)

And when you're sick of all the talk about rubber sheets and ficus plants (seriously, she lives in Florida, where everybody's got ficus growing out the wazoo, and she still doesn't have one?), hit the pause button on that and rock out. Thomas Dolby will explain the matter to you in greater depth:

Stupid Sex Tricks: Doctor, how did this spray can get up my ass?

Who's dumber here, the drunken can-stuffer, or the doctors who YouTubed his subsequent operation to remove the foreign object from his rectum?

You tell me...

A Philippine hospital recommended penalties Friday, including possible dismissal, for three doctors and a nurse who conducted a rowdy operation on a patient that was videotaped and posted on YouTube.

[...]

The nearly 3-minute video of a noisy operating room shows doctors and nurses laughing, giggling and cheering. At one point, a hand appears with a cell phone camera taking a close-up picture of the surgery.

As a doctor gingerly pulls out a 6-inch-long spray canister from the male patient's rectum, someone shouts, "Baby out!" amid loud cheers.

The doctor then removes the canister cap and sprays the contents toward a crowd of nurses and doctors viewing the procedure.

The 39-year-old patient, who remains unidentified, plans next week to file a complaint seeking the revocation of the licenses of those responsible and a civil suit for damages, his lawyer, Guiller Ceniza, said.

[...]

The patient received surgery three days after a New Year's drinking spree and a "one-night stand" with a male partner, Ceniza told The Associated Press.

He said his client was too drunk to remember how the body spray canister ended up in his body.

Oh well. At least no gerbils were harmed in the making of THAT video.

April 18, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Spring fever

Evo looks very spring-like today!

I don't know about you, but Evo-pix like this make me feel all warm and sunny.

This is her baby

Auntie Condi's double-talk just jumped up to bite her.

Now, when will it do the same for Dubya and the Big Dick?

What if they built a fortified embassy and nobody came?

Think it couldn't happen? Read this:

The troubled effort to build the giant U.S. Embassy in Baghdad seemed to be months away from completion when a team of top State Department officials flew to Iraq on March 20 to meet with senior staff from the prime contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting. But as insurgent rockets began to rain down on the flimsy trailers housing diplomats inside the Green Zone, the two sides suddenly found ways to settle many of the major issues dividing them.

"The only way to do this was for us to get in the room, nail the door shut and get this resolved," said Robert S. Nichols, a partner with the Crowell & Moring law firm who attended the meeting and provides legal advice to First Kuwaiti. "It started out as the 'Gunfight at the O.K. Corral' the first day or so, but then we got past it."

Construction of the embassy in Baghdad had been greatly complicated by several factors, including a fast-track building plan that had kept key State Department inspectors out of the loop until the building was largely done, changes made on the spot by the project manager without complete documentation, and cultural differences between State and a Middle Eastern company working on its first embassy project.

Then read this:

The State Department is warning U.S. diplomats they may be forced to serve in Iraq next year and says it will soon start identifying prime candidates for jobs at the Baghdad embassy and outlying provinces, according to a cable obtained by The Associated Press.

A similar call-up notice last year caused an uproar among foreign service officers, some of whom objected to compulsory work in a war zone, although in the end the State Department found enough volunteers to fill the jobs.

Now, the State Department anticipates another staffing crisis.

"We face a growing challenge of supply and demand in the 2009 staffing cycle," the cable said, noting that more than 20 percent of the nearly 12,000 foreign service officers have already worked in the two major hardship posts — Iraq and Afghanistan — and a growing number have done tours in both countries.

As a result, the unclassified April 8 cable says, "the prime candidate exercise will be repeated" next year, meaning the State Department will begin identifying U.S. diplomats qualified to serve in Iraq and who could be forced to work there if they don't volunteer.

Believe it or not, the first excerpt was from a feel-good article about how they got the whole thing straightened out (can-do, hoo-rah, U-S-A!) and the place is now safe, complete, spiffy-shiny, and awaiting staffing. But if the second excerpt is any indication, it won't matter how super-duper-double-looper wonderful that compound is. The few people they'll find who are ready, willing and able to work in it will probably feel like tiny little peas rattling around in a way-too-large pod.

At this rate, I can see that pricey bit of bubble real estate going to the oil companies real soon.

April 17, 2008

Calderon to Uribe: Don't be dissin', don't be hatin'

While all the whore media are all busy screaming about Chavecito's diplomatic and democratic deficits, they're suspiciously silent about the much larger ones of a certain Colombian parapresident. Fortunately, kiddies, you've got me...and I've got Aporrea:

Mexican president Felipe Calderon rejected the statements of his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe, to the effect that the Mexican students who died and were injured in the bombing of Raul Reyes' encampment, were accomplices of the FARC.

"It seems to me that the prudent thing to do is not to label or prejudge in one way or another the characteristics or the activities of these young people," Calderon said, according to the website of El Universal.

The Mexican leader said that "we all have our own hypotheses, but the suffering of the parents and the memory of their children deserve the benefit of the doubt until these investigations are completed."

Translation mine. Link added.

That giant slapping sound you just heard was pimp Calderon letting psycho bitch Uribe know where things really stand.

Nicaragua offers refuge to Lucia Morett

This just in from Telesur (via Aporrea):

The Government of Nicaragua offered protection to the Mexican, Lucia Morett, who survived the massacre that Colombia perpetrated March 1, in Ecuadorian territory.

This was announced by the Latin American Association for Human Rights (ALDHU), which informed that Morett, who received treatment for injuries sustained during the bombing in a military hospital in Quito, left for Managua on Wednesday. She was received there by Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega.

"The Government of Nicaragua has offered protection and aid to this victim of the massacre of March 1, in addition to that offered by Ecuador. Lucia Morett will arrive in Mexico next week," said ALDHU secretary-general Juan de Dios Parra, of Chile.

Parra added that Morett, who was the only Mexican survivor of the attack, travelled to the Nicaraguan capital in the company of her parents and functionaries of ALDHU, a non-governmental organization with headquarters in Quito.

In the military incursion, which Quito maintains ruptured diplomatic relations with Colombia, four Mexican university students were killed, along with FARC guerrilla chief Raul Reyes and an Ecuadorian citizen.

Translation mine.

Kudos to Daniel Ortega. Typically, you can count on a Sandinista to do the decent thing.

Mr. Oh-Really gets all infallible on us

Billo is pissy because people aren't giving the Pope a free pass anymore:

Oh, where to begin with all this?

First of all, while I'm no fan of Bill Maher, he did crack me up with his jokes comparing and contrasting the "Yearning For Zion" fundie-Mormon polygamist compound in Texas to the Catholic Church's own kid-diddling scandals. The former gets a pounce, while the latter gets a pass. What's the difference? Well: it's not actually about "volume, volume, volume", so much as it is about official sanctioning of pedophilia and pederasty. That's what was so funny about the joke. Apparently, the Church's official standing as a Religion (though, if you ask me, it often behaves more like a cult) makes it immune to governmental raids.

Now, here's where the contrast kicks in.

The fundie-Mormon cult is built around marrying off girls as soon as they get their first periods and then breeding them like cattle until they go menopausal or drop dead, whichever comes first. They claim you don't get to heaven unless you submit to every dictate of the "prophet", who arranges marriages between the pick of the girls and his most trusted male followers. Any man who incurs the wrath of said "prophet", however, will find himself stripped of wives and children; they get handed off to a better ass-kisser. The precious children grow up hopelessly confused about their own parentage and are thus forced to have no loyalties except to the "prophet". Treasures in heaven? More like hell on Earth, especially for the girls when the menstrual moon appears in their skies. And something pretty close to it for all the "lost boys" who get kicked out of the compound to ensure an excess of females for all the old codgers to hoover up. Those boys at least are free once evicted, though many of them wind up as welfare cases with psychiatric needs. But what really is unconscionable is the way the FLDS "church" sucks on the public tit at every chance it can get, considering how it preaches "self-sufficiency" and all that cal. Not only do "lost boys" wind up on welfare, but so do a lot of "plural wives", who draw public assistance only to turn the cash over to their tyrannical husbands and the tithe-hungry "prophet". Then they often go dumpster-diving to scrounge up enough to feed their ever-growing broods. (There is also the little matter of the FLDS connection to the highly lucrative Military-Industrial Complex, about which I'm sure we haven't heard the last.)

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, doesn't officially sanction child-molestation, but it does have a long-standing unofficial pattern of sweeping it under the rug. Priests suspected of having their hands in children's pants have long been shuffled off to other parishes to avoid prosecution and/or scandal. They've stopped short of actually whipping out a new broom and sweeping the offenders straight out of the church. And here's where Billo's disingenousness really comes into its own: The man who handed out all the brooms and gave the orders to sweep the damaged kiddies under the rug is none other than the former Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict XVI. And since he is officially infallible (no kidding, folks, it's church doctrine!), he is above reproach.

Billo, who is Catholic himself (in spite of his own little sex scandal), takes the tack of "how dare they criticize Pope Benedict when these scandals happened under his wimpy old much-too-liberal predecessor!" He forgets that while the orders to sweep came from the Vatican, the actual duty of handing-out-brooms was that of the aforementioned former chief inquisitor. He also forgets that the YFZ cultists themselves consider the raid on their Texas compound to be on the level of a raid on the Vatican.

So when Billo gets all bilious about how the Pope is supposed to get a free pass from an obsequious media (unlike that evil Rev. Wright, whose evility has been 24/7 news on every channel for HOW many weeks now?), we really have to ask: WHY? He has hardly endured excessive scrutiny for this; in fact, he has hardly endured scrutiny for this at all. The only people who endure less scrutiny for their sex scandals are...well, have a look at this site. They've been getting a free pass for that, just as much as Israel has been getting free passes for its increasing slide into the very fascism its founders supposedly vowed never to let happen again.

As for Muslim sex scandals, I'm sure there must be plenty. Unfortunately, I don't read Arabic, so I'm not up on what's going on in the part of the world that does. (Perhaps a Muslim friend would care to shed some light?) But for Billo to say that they all should get equal castigation now, when it's not Muslim or Jewish leaders paying an official visit to the White House, is frankly ridiculous. And it smells of ass-covering for an institution whose bare buttocks have gotten a free pass for long enough already.

April 16, 2008

They were accomplices, so they had it coming

Yep, Alvaro Uribe really IS a lawless, psychopathic little thug. Get a load of his latest bons mots:

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said Wednesday that he doesn't regret ordering a cross-border raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador, despite the death of four Mexican students there.

Uribe told Mexico's Televisa network that the students were seen in a video with the guerrillas, indicating they were in league with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

"They were not doing humanitarian work. They were not hostages. So why were they there?" Uribe said. "They were there as accomplices of this activity. They were there as agents of terrorism."

Astute readers of this blog may remember his defence minister saying virtually the exact same thing.

I'm beginning to wonder if both of them suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder. While news articles about them don't mention what they were like in childhood and adolescence, I'm willing to lay good odds that both were very keen on sticking firecrackers up the butts of frogs. They certainly both seem to meet the diagnostic criteria as set down by the DSM-IV:

Three or more of the following are required:

1. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.

2. Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure

3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead

4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults

5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others

6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honour financial obligations

7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

Hmm, how many of those criteria does the bombing raid on Ecuador alone meet? I should say ALL OF THEM. Especially that last, which El Narco's words exemplify to perfection.

April 14, 2008

I wonder if they'll scream about THIS decree...

Given the Venezuelan opposition's penchant for screaming about everything that Chavecito does, and everything he doesn't do, I wonder how they'll react to this. Especially since he has just decreed what sounds to me like a pretty good solution for the problem they've long been clamoring to have fixed:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez promulgated the Organic Law of Police Service and National Police by presidential decree Wednesday, creating the legal framework for a single, integrated, national "revolutionary police of the People," after nearly 6 years of legislative debate and public consultation. Chavez passed the law under the 18-month law-decree authority that the National Assembly had given him last year for this purpose.

Chávez acknowledged Wednesday evening that citizen security "has been deteriorating." He advocated "profound changes" in order to "finish demolishing the old, repressive police model with education, conscience, social organization, and prevention."

The president said the "capitalist" police forces of the past, which have been "generators of police abuses, not in the rich zones, but in the poor barrios," will be gradually transformed into "communal police" that are "close to the citizens, dialogue-oriented, preventative, which shall be loved by the People and not feared by the People, and shall be part of the People."

Local community councils, which have proliferated since a 2006 law was created to facilitate their formation, will manage "security modules in each barrio," where they will "work with the new police," Chávez envisioned, emphasizing the preponderant role of governors, mayors, police academies, and local populations in this process.

Chávez called for "the best young men and women" to comprise the new brand of humanist police who will be the model for this "transformation from within the current police." They will go through a "very rigorous" and "meticulous" selection process headed up by the Minister of Justice and the Interior Ramón Rodríguez Chacín.

A federal police act is certainly long overdue. Clearly, leaving policing to the municipal mayors is a hit-and-miss proposition. Six years ago, it led to crime and tragedy as the Metropolitan Caracas Police fired upon citizens standing on Llaguno Bridge. The PM, as they're called locally, were doing it under orders from an anti-Chavez mayor, who has dropped out of public sight since, and three corrupt chiefs, who are all now in prison for crimes against humanity. The Llaguno massacre was part of a larger attempt to foment disorder and force Chavez out of office.

Of course, the opposition has a criminal problem of its own, and a rather large one, that has nothing to do with personal property and everything to do with hate and violence. They have been known to actively attempt to drive Chavez supporters out of oppo-dominated neighborhoods, and certainly never miss an opportunity to commit all kinds of gratuitous violence, mayhem and vandalism, often under a false pretence of "free speech" and protest. And oppo-controlled police have done nothing to get them behaving in an orderly manner. So maybe they'll scream about this, too, because it curbs their nonexistent "right" to beat the shit out of anyone who disagrees with them.

April 12, 2008

Never gonna give WHAT up?

Rick Astley probably never thought his song would become so useful, but it's the perfect illustration of why John "Insane" McCain should never become president of the US of A.

April 11, 2008

The $1.2 million traitor

I've long wondered what could have induced no less a figure than the former Venezuelan minister of defence, Gen. Raul Baduel (retired), to suddenly abandon both his post and his good friend. Now, it seems, we have an answer. From Aporrea:

The Vice-President of the Interior Politics Commission of the National Assembly, Iris Varela, denounced Gen. Raul Baduel on Thursday for having presumably received $1.277 million dollars from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

[...]

The assemblywoman made the denunciation in the legislative chamber and asked that Assembly President Cilia Flores order an investigation on behalf of the Public Ministry against the ex-minister of defence. She assured that she had the transfer numbers of the accounts in which Baduel received the money.

"From a bank in the United Kingdom, $2.144 million dollars were transferred to Hermagoras Gonzalez Polanco, who has been arrested for drug trafficking and is linked to Interpol. The bank transaction number is 0895801004865, dated September 2007. The other transfer, dated November 2007, is for $1.277 million dollars, to Raul Isaias Baduel, and the transaction number is 0895209039485."

Translation mine.

Interesting that she mentions the transaction as being dated in November of last year. That would be right about the time that the former general jumped the shark, according to Venezuelanalysis:

Caracas, November 6, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's former Defense Minister, Raul Isaias Baduel, who played a key role in defeating the opposition military coup against Chavez in 2002, came out against the president's proposed constitutional reforms saying they represent a "constitutional coup" and that people should vote against them in the referendum on December 2. Chavez accused Baduel of betraying his own ideals with his new hard-line opposition.

Baduel, who called a press conference Monday, to which only opposition media were invited, argued that the proposed reform would "seize power away from the people," and constitutes a "total change in the content of the structure and fundamental principles of the constitution approved by the Venezuelan people in 99."

"This proposal is definitively not a constitutional reform; it is not a partial revision, nor a replacement of some of its norms. It is a transformation of the state, and a different model for the country," he continued.

"I feel the moral obligation to continue traveling the country to explain my opinion," Baduel commented, "I'm also considering an international campaign." Baduel also said he wouldn't rule out a future political career.

Check the date. Emphasis added.

We can now see that all the high-flown talk of "moral obligation" and upholding the constitution against "dangerous" structural changes was a sham. The details I underlined are crucial to a real understanding of the situation.

The timing of the transaction, and the ex-general's remarks, is paramount. There was a good chance that the constitutional reforms would win a popular vote (the margin of defeat was extremely slim), so naturally, those who stood to lose the most as a result were in a panic. They had to get someone prominent, someone trusted, to betray Chavez, and they found him.

And apparently, the ruse worked, but only barely. Now it's falling apart. A pity it couldn't have done so before the vote, but at least we know what really prompted the general's sudden defection, and we know it wasn't an acute attack of last-minute integrity.

There's a big hint in that he has since become associated with PODEMOS, a formerly pro-Chavez party which refused to join the PSUV coalition, positioning itself instead as "moderate left". Could the ex-general be, like his old colleague in arms Francisco Arias Cardenas, a coattail-rider who misoverestimated his ability to siphon off the "pro-Chavez, but" vote? If so, he'd do well to take a closer look at what happened to Arias. The latter came back with a big metaphorical tail between his legs when it became apparent that nobody was going to elect him president.

(Remember, kiddies, that the Venezuelan people who voted for Chavez and brought him back are poor but loyal. They have almost nothing, but they'd risk everything to protect their beloved president. Six years ago today, dozens of them laid down their lives, in fact. They're not likely to look kindly on anyone who stabs him in the back, especially if Yanqui dinero is involved.)

The amount of money Gen. Baduel stands accused of receiving is also significant; a large cash infusion, in excess of $1 million US, is the norm for a presidential candidate in many countries. Maybe this was just a foretaste of "campaign financing" to come.

And of course, there's the little matter of what media were present when he made his big announcement. Only opposition media? Hmm, now why would that be? Maybe because if government-funded media such as VTV, or independent and community media sympathetic to Chavez, such as Catia TVe or Radio Perola, the reporters would have asked him questions that might force him to give an "off message" answer. Something that would have given the game away. The handlers wouldn't like that. But the corporate opposition media could be counted on NOT to ask any hard questions, so of course they were the only ones invited!

Most interesting, though, is what Chavecito said. Apparently, he knew what was coming. From the same report:

Baduel's statement occurred only a day after President Hugo Chavez had warned the Venezuelan people of the possibility that some high profile figures in the Bolivarian movement would "jump ship" and join the ranks of the opposition.

Chavez, who phoned into current affairs TV talk show, Contragolpe, said "Baduel is betraying years of friendship" and "himself" and that he was aligning himself with the opposition and imperialism. He also revealed that he had known of Baduel's announcement two days previously.

According to Chavez, the constitutional reform, which would allow him to stand for re-election, recognize new types of social and collective property, end the autonomy of the Central Bank, and give more power to grassroots communal councils, among other measures, are necessary to deepen the creation of socialism in Venezuela.

Emphasis added.

Apparently, Chavecito knew where the weak links in the chain of command were. Had he been tipped off by military intel, by DISIP, or did he know just by watching his old friend and noticing some disturbing changes in him? We have yet to find out.

But one thing is clear--Chavecito is not the only one who noticed something amiss with Gen. Baduel:

Although Baduel claimed he was simply stating his own personal opinion, he made a particular call to the Armed Forces, to "profoundly analyze" the proposed changes to article 328, which would change the structure of the Armed Forces, saying, "it must be stopped," and that "the capacity of Venezuelan military men to analyze and think," should not be underestimated.

Retired General Alberto Müller Rojas, who is a long-time advisor to Chavez on military affairs, said he considers Baduel's statement as a call for a civil rebellion, arguing that notification of a rebellion is given when you accuse the National Executive and the National Assembly of usurping constitutional power.

Various reports have surfaced over the past few months of anti-Chavez and anti-reform material circulating within the military barracks, and Baduel's comments have led many to question the extent of his influence within the Venezuelan military.

However, two former Defense Ministers, General Jorge Luis García Carneiro and Admiral Orlando Maniglia have categorically rejected Baduel's comments and come out in support of the reforms.

According to Garcia Carneiro and Maniglia, the sentiments expressed by Baduel do not have wide support within the military.

Interesting, that. Six years ago today, a small group of high military commanders made a video in the presence of a CNN reporter, in which they claimed a number of people in Caracas had been killed and wounded even before a single one had fallen. This video was supposed to have been broadcast on an illegal split-screen transmission during the presidential address, to urge the masses to rise up against the president; the plot was foiled by the antenna operators on El Avila. They had a lot of help from the US military, it turns out.

Now, it looks like El Imperio has been trying its luck again at bribing Venezuelan generals to rise up against a democratically elected leader. And with Baduel, they apparently succeeded.

Gen. Garcia Carneiro, on the other hand, is notable in that he was, then as now, a staunch supporter of his president. When the coup went down, he actively sabotaged it from within Fuerte Tiuna, the big military installation near Caracas. His part in the salvaging of Venezuelan democracy can be read in Aleida Guevara's book, Chavez, Venezuela and the New Latin America.

The depth of Baduel's treachery, on the other hand, is apparent from Kiraz Janicke's report in Venezuelanalysis:

Violent protests by opposition student groups in recent days and calls by some opposition groups to stop the reforms "by any means possible" have prompted many Venezuelans to fear a repeated coup attempt, or other attempts destabilize the country in the lead up to the referendum.

However, Baduel's comments appear to have boosted opposition confidence. Immediately after his press conference, six opposition parties, Un Nuevo Tiempo, Causa R, Primero Justicia, Copei, Acción Democrática, (AD) and the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), some of whom were previously calling for a boycott, called for "massive" participation and a No vote on December 2.

Funny how they could all do such a quick 180. Wonder what changed their minds?

Baduel's treachery is not so surprising in light of not-so-recent history. A political theorist from Berkeley explains why:

Alongside Chávez, Baduel was a founding member of the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement (MBR-200), a clandestine grouping that formed in the early 1980s within the Venezuelan Armed Forces. This group of conspiratorial idealists was rooted in the parachute regiment at Maracay, a stiflingly hot city of a million some two hours west of Caracas, from where they began to chart an escape from the corruption and repression of the late Fourth Republic. Together, they swore a Bolivarian oath under the historic Samán de Güere, a massive tree under which Simón Bolívar is said to have rested.

But when it came time to act, Baduel himself was notably absent. In an interview, he told Marta Harnecker that he chose to sit out the 1992 coup attempts because he considered them premature. While Baduel has been often criticized for this decision, he wasn't entirely wrong: the coup itself, however necessary for what followed, was indeed premature and poorly organized. But other aspects of Baduel's concerns prior to the 1992 coup stand out. "What will happen to the military structure?" Baduel recalls asking himself, "What are we going to do with those with a higher rank than us? They can't be subordinated to us... because a fundamental element of military life is verticalism." Baduel, in this 2002 interview, even prophetically jokes about having felt like Eden Pastora, the Sandinista "Commander Zero"-turned-Contra who "was not loved by either side, because some said he had betrayed them and others that he had infiltrated them."

Sitting out the 1992 coups did not spell the end of Baduel's relationship with the MBR-200. He would maintain contact with the imprisoned leaders and support Chávez's eventual bid for political power in the 1998 election, and in 1999, Baduel was named commander of the 42nd Parachute Infantry Brigade, Chávez's own regiment in times past. While his reticence to participate in the 1992 coup had cast a long shadow over Baduel's revolutionary credentials, his mythical status would be cemented a decade later, when he nearly single-handedly spearheaded the military response to the April 2002 coup against Chávez.

Why did Baduel, for whom a respect for the military hierarchy had prevented action in 1992, choose to break with that very hierarchy a decade later when it had turned against Chávez? Because by then another crucial element had intervened: the new 1999 Constitution. In 1992, the conspirators were all clear that, in Baduel's own words, "the ruling class wielded the existing Constitution, but applied it according to their own interests." In 2002, on the other hand, the coup-plotters and the military hierarchy (but crucially, not the middle ranks) had moved against the new "Bolivarian" Constitution. Confronted with a conflict between his two primary values, loyalty to military structure and loyalty to the Constitution, Baduel finally decided to act. He declared the 42nd Brigade in open rebellion against the illegitimate interim government of Pedro Carmona Estanga and initiated "Operation Restore National Dignity," thereby providing the spark that allowed the majority of loyal officers to turn against the coup. This loyalty to the Constitution was repaid: within two years, Baduel would be named Army Commander, before becoming Defense Minister in 2006.

In the aftermath of the failed coup and Chávez's return to power, Baduel would come to represent the quintessence of loyalty and moderation in the popular imaginary. It was not until he passed into retirement in July 2007 that the public was given any glimpse of potential discord between this hero of "April 13th" and the direction of the revolutionary process. Baduel took the opportunity of his retirement speech to urge caution when it came to Chávez's proposed project of "21st Century Socialism." He praised socialism as a concept, but warned against its state capitalist manifestations: "Our socialism must be profoundly democratic," he counseled, one focused on the redistribution of wealth and the correction of inequalities. Further, he distanced himself from the view that "the division of powers is merely an instrument of bourgeois domination," arguing that such division, generally associated with liberal constitutionalism, remains essential.

Ah, there's that "moderation" thing again. I was wondering when it would rear its scruffy little head.

One wonders, however, just how sincere it is. After all, Baduel is also a graduate of the infamous School of the Americas, and his pro-US biases, carefully inculcated there, are not exactly a secret:

Although Baduel did not join the uprising, military chiefs were suspicious of his ties with the plotters. In an effort to prevent him from imbuing others with conspiratorial ideas, they sent him to the U.S. Army's School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga., for training, Baduel said.

Nothing that comes out of Ft. Benning has ever come to any good, with the possible exception of Omar Torrijos, the president-general of Panama, who persuaded Jimmy Carter to hand over the Canal Zone to the Panamanians. The fact that Torrijos's SOA training didn't "take", however, was probably why John Perkins was sent to sell him on something he didn't want to buy--and also why the CIA jackals got Torrijos in the end. I'm sure Gen. Baduel wasn't unmindful of that when recalling his days in the School of the Assassins, and mulling the million-dollar offer he couldn't refuse.

But oh, what am I saying. According to the same AP report I just cited, the good general had much loftier motives.

Baduel denies any ambition of running for office, saying his motivations stem from patriotic duty and a revulsion to Chavez's "thirst for power."

"I pray to God everyday that he may allow me to serve our nation's supreme interests, and for that I also ask the Lord to provide me with three tools: humility, patience and wisdom," Baduel said.

Oh, and he also claims to be receiving a lot of visits from young military malcontents, and that there is "dissent in the ranks" (contradicting Gens. Garcia Carneiro and Maniglia, who were cited by Venezuelanalysis--a source much more reliable than the Asinine Press.)

I believe all that about as much as I believe him when he claims not to have political aspirations of his own. If he didn't have any, why did he join a ship-jumping party pejoratively nicknamed "Pedimos" ("we ask", as in for money, as opposed to "Podemos", which means "can do")?

And if there are so many young soldiers against Chavez, why did we not see evidence of this six years ago today? Then, the majority of the army, from the middle ranks on down, was with Chavez. It was a combination of loyal militaries and loyal civilians that brought him back and restored constitutional order, remember?

Oh sure, a lot can change in six years. A lot of US money has flowed under the bridge in that time. Once, in Venezuela, there was a book about judicial corruption titled "How Much Does A Judge Cost?" Now, we can add generals to the price list of public officals for sale. And in the case of a top general and former defence minister, the down payment is apparently at least one and a quarter million US dollars for one human soul.

But one ex-general does not an army make, and neither does he any longer command it.

Fortunately.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Viva Zapata!

Hugo Chavez in a replica of Emiliano Zapata's sombrero

Why is Chavecito wearing a big sombrero? Because the daughter of a rather important Mexican hero has just delivered a big honor to him.

Hugo Chavez hugs Ana Maria Zapata

Here's the story, from Aporrea:

The daughter of Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata, Ana Maria Zapata, age 93, presented Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias with an award on behalf of the Emiliano Zapata Foundation, saying that the head of state had carried forward the ideals of the agrarian reformer.

The event took place Thursday at the National Art Gallery in Caracas, along with the unveiling of an exhibition titled "Emiliano Zapata: Land and Freedom, 1879-1919", consisting of more than 120 works commemorating the Mexican revolution and the identity of the Aztec people.

"In President Chavez we have someone who will carry on the struggle interrupted in 1919," Ana Maria Zapata said.

Ana Maria Zapata came to Venezuela along with three granddaughters of the Mexican revolutionary leader, who made history around the turn of the 20th century, attracted, according to her own words, by the social, political and economic changes which Chavez had brought about as part of the Bolivarian Revolution.

The award ceremony and the visit of the daughter and granddaughters of Zapata to Caracas comes on the 89th anniversary of the Mexican hero's death. Emiliano Zapata was assassinated in the state of Morelos, Mexico, on April 10, 1919, after having led an agrarian revolution in the Aztec country.

Translation mine.

There's video of the award ceremony at the link. Go see it!

April 10, 2008

It wasn't the coroner, it was the kitteh

Kitty pries gun from Charlton Heston's cold dead hands

I guess now we know who's mightier than the NRA's late shill.

And frankly, a cute widdle orange tabby kitteh is more to be trusted with a firearm than any old racist far-right demento who ran away from a picture of a little girl killed by a gun-totin' classmate.

April 9, 2008

Televen has a cow, man

Homer Simpson watches Venezuelan private TV. Explains a lot!

From the But We're Doing It For The Children! files:

Venezuela has forced U.S. cartoon "The Simpsons" off its airwaves, calling the show a potentially bad influence on children, and filled its morning slot with reruns of the beach-and-bikini show "Baywatch."

"The Simpsons" satirical take on a dysfunctional American family had been shown, dubbed into Spanish, on the Televen network at an 11 am slot.

"Today I believe they started broadcasting something else," said a spokesman at Venezuela's broadcasting regulator Conatel. "They were infringing many things in the television and radio social responsibility law."

Conatel said it started proceedings against the morning airing of the show after complaints from viewers.

Televen has replaced the long-running and popular cartoon with "Baywatch Hawaii," late seasons of the "Baywatch" series that made actress Pamela Anderson a household name.

Please hold the jokes about Pam's silicone udders somehow being more wholesome children's entertainment than The Simpsons. (Which, I agree, is not a kiddie show; you need an adult brain and sense of humor to appreciate it fully. But at least it's not built around a massive, hoo-honkin' pair of fake titties.)

What's really ridiculous here is that Televen's action is somehow being shoved off onto all of Venezuela, or else CONATEL or the government, I'm not sure which. (You're probably not sure either, eh?)

What I am sure of, is that this apparent confusion is not an accident. After all, the petulant actions of one anti-Chavez channel must not be held accountable in the lamestream media up here, no matter how patently ridiculous they are. Especially since all this petulance and immature fake-boob fetishism came in response to the complaints of actual, TV-aware Venezuelan parents.

D'oh.

April 8, 2008

Well. That didn't take long.

Seems like only yesterday they were announcing that France was getting involved in getting Ingrid Betancourt back from the FARC. (All right, it was the day before yesterday. But still.)

And now, all of a sudden, France is out again.

Well, at least we know Ingrid is not in imminent danger of dying. But she's still a prisoner, and still probably despondent as hell--especially if she knows about this latest turn of events.

Too bad El Narco has been sabotaging Chavecito's efforts and killing Raul Reyes, or maybe Ingrid would be free now instead.

C'est la merde, non?

U can't mock dis...

So I showed this article to the friendly BoRev guy to see what he thought, and go figure, he couldn't do nothin' with it. His precise words were, and I quote,

Wow. This is really dishonest reporting. Jesus I can't even mock this piece of shit. Congratulations Miami Herald, I CAN'T EVEN MOCK THIS PIECE OF SHIT. You win.

So you know it's gotta be good, right? Or bad. Or superfly.

Anyhows...I figured this might be a job for Your Humble One. After all, she never met a piece of shit she couldn't mock. Especially meretricious and blatant shit like this:

Sfeir and his wife started the station in their garage four years ago, eventually bankrolling its expansion to the small warehouse studio with more than $150,000 from the sale of the family's Doral home. Now the cash has run out.

Other fundraising attempts have failed. Because it is controversial, Venezuelan businesses inside the country will not advertise. U.S. foundations have turned down grant requests. Many of the Venezuelans living in South Florida fled their country's ideological controversies and left family behind and so they shy away from politics.

Without a cash infusion, the station will go dark within a few months.

What...don't tell me your rich uncle NED won't come through, guys! I thought that guy's pockets were bottomless. Oh wait, I guess that's just for traitors WITHIN Venezuela. If you're in Florida, you're shit out of luck.

Seriously, though: You want capitalist "freedom", people? There ya go; you're soaking in it. You want independence and the right to be your own man? Congrats, you're now free to go broke for it, preferably through a sub-prime mortgage. Florida is a capitalist paradise, so why are you kvetching? Nobody throwing you money so you can go on broadcasting bullshit? Well, then, maybe you better start working for the US government. They've always got openings for your kind in the State Dept., or so I hear. Such brave souls, doing it all from Florida instead of staying behind to fight...

And what's this about "controversial"? There's no controversy here; this station is and always has been pro-coup. That's not "controversial", it's ILLEGAL. You can't advocate for democracy by advocating a coup against a democratically elected leader, as this station does:

In the weeks before the December referendum, Johann Peña dedicated several of his Dossiers programs to a crash course in "How to conspire against Chávez and survive the attempt.''

A former police officer in Venezuela, he taught listeners ways to foil surveillance attempts. He suggested chemicals that would help them overcome the effects of tear gas. He described how to send messages covertly by taping notes to park benches and tables.

That's about equal parts illegal and just plain pathetic. You can conspire to overcome tear gas by covertly taping notes to park benches and tables! Yow!

And speaking of the eminently mockable, how about this?

The most popular program is Sfeir's own A Little Time With You evening show. The freewheeling affair ranges from the ruckus -- Sfeir and his co-hosts joking about Chávez's nursing habits as an infant -- to the serious, such as an interview with U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on her efforts to have the State Department declare the Venezuelan government a sponsor of terrorism.

"...joking about Chavez's nursing habits as an infant"? That's pretty sad. If that's all they got on him, I can see why they're about to go dark and not enough suckers brave pro-democracy activists are throwing money at them.

And Ileana Ros-Lehtinen? Now THAT's funny. Remember, she's the woman who said this:

And she wants the Venezuelan government declared a state sponsor of terrorism? I think that with her, charity should start a bit closer to home. Starting with her protecting Luis Posada Carriles. Nice job the Miami Whore-Herald did of atoning for its rare, honest reporting on that terrorist, too. But then again, for a paper with known CIA ties, is that so very surprising, any of it?

Honestly, I don't know whether to laugh or go blind.

April 7, 2008

Mexico's cement overshoes

Ever have one of those days when everything you hear and see just somehow seems...off? Well, I must be having one of those days. Because look what I found that's just so skewy and screwy:

Mexico yesterday condemned Venezuela's planned nationalization of the cement industry, which will affect Cemex, a major Mexican company.

"We can only condemn this action," Finance Minister Agustín Carstens said in the city of Acapulco.

"The property and rights of Mexicans are not being respected," by the leftist government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Carstens said.

See what I mean by off?

The fact that this nationalization drive will only affect a small, inordinately wealthy number of Mexicans, and deprive none of them of property or rights, is somehow completely out of the picture here. When Chavecito announced his plans, he also made clear that he will compensate Cemex (note that it is a private company, and not the entire nation of Mexico!) "right down to the last cent" for equipment and buildings that used to be property of the Venezuelan state, which are all that's being nationalized--or rather, re-nationalized.

Yes, that's right: He's buying back what used to be Venezuela's, on behalf of Venezuela. He'll be paying fair market value for all of it. And this infringes on Mexicans' property and human rights how?

Well, here's how. It's lame, but what the hell:

Cemex is the largest domestic supplier of cement and ready-mix concrete in Venezuela, with annual cement production capacity of 4.6 million tons and 33 ready-mix plants, according to its Web site. A local subsidiary, Cemex Venezuela SACA, had a market value of 1.18 billion bolivars ($547 million) at the start of trading Friday.

[...]

Venezuela's contribution to Cemex's profit has declined since Cemex purchased Australia's Rinker Group Ltd. for $14.2 billion in July, said Marcelo Telles, an analyst with Credit Suisse in Mexico City. Cemex's operations in Venezuela account for less than 5 percent of the company's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, a measure of cash flow known as Ebitda, he said.

Venezuela is a market Cemex would like to hang on to, Telles said, because profit margins are higher than its operations in the United States or Europe. The terms of having to sell to the Venezuelan government may not be favorable, he said.

[...]

Cemex's three Venezuelan cement plants had 45 percent of the market in 2007.

Aha. So, it's all about profit and market share, as usual. Apparently, Cemex has the "right" to gouge Venezuelans in an effort to recoup what it ain't making elsewhere, if I'm reading this correctly. Venezuelans have been paying through the nose for Cemex's greed and its lower profit margins elsewhere--which it fed using former property of the state of Venezuela. Lovely, isn't it?

But now that's all about to change. Poor Venezuelans, who are still being forced to live in dirt-floored hovels, according to the redoubtable Francisco Rodriguez, will now finally get proper housing, because cement nationalization will make it possible.

So, what rights and what property are being taken away from Mexicans, again? The right to claim the #3 biggest cement company in the world without any benefit to the common people whatsoever? Wow, bring on the trickle-down. And bring it on in a cement mixer!

Cuba: Canary in the global coalmine

Cuban permaculturist Roberto Perez tells how his country adapted to economic and ecologic necessity thanks to the big US embargo aimed at starving the revolution out:

To outsiders, the Cuban system is frequently presented in the media as a failure; its successes (not to mention its fifty-plus years of sheer survival, which is its biggest success!) don't rate a mention. Just look at all the recent hoopla over cellphones and DVD players; only capitalistic "successes" make the news, and the fact that they don't remedy more pressing human needs is conveniently swept under the rug. Too bad that capitalism itself is still busy denying the obvious: that its own "grow or die" model has been an unmitigated disaster, responsible for everything from a rise in poverty and diseases, to global warming itself. In light of that, the Cuban model doesn't look so dumb.

Perez also tackles the ethanol issue. Many Latin American leaders have denounced the biofuel industry for using food as an energy source, and making basic staples expensive and unavailable to the hungry. Why not eat corn instead of feeding it to livestock or burning it?

Did you know that Cuba is a world leader in organic and sustainable farming? It's true. What began in a time of dire necessity is now a way of life for Cuban farmers. It's the secret to Cuba's revolutionary survival; this is how they fed themselves when no one else was willing to trade with them. This is how they gave the finger to those who tried to starve them out.

Something tells me that THIS revolution, the green one, will outlive the Castro brothers and whatever else becomes of the Cuban government. Something also tells me that this is the real "Cuban model" which will be exported to other countries. Venezuela is already on board, using Cuban organic techniques for urban and communal farming.

April 6, 2008

Five Years Too Many

Veterans For Peace staged a brilliant bit of civil disobedience in Washington on the 5th anniversary of IraqAttaq. The vets marched, delivered a citizens' arrest warrant for Dubya, the Big Dick and Auntie Condi and unfurled a large replica of the Constitution to raucous cheers on the steps of the National Archives. Watch for cameo appearances from Buddy Georgia ("drummerboy" on UNN) and Buffy Ste. Marie.

April 4, 2008

Bobby Kennedy on the murder of Dr. King

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Chavecito in Brazil

Okay, I'm a bit behind on this because Chavecito has been busier than a one-legged man in a soccer tourney. But I still thought I'd share this photo of Chavecito on his recent trip to Brazil (from which he's been back for a few days now).

The Chavecito-Lula Grip'n'Grin!

It's just a photo-op grip'n'grin shot with Lula, but it's a cute one because they both look like they're actually having a good time.

April 3, 2008

God Loves Gays!

The Million Fag March came to Topeka, Kansas, to counteract the vile sermons of Fred Phelps with a message of love.

Looks like they did a terrific job.

Botox Ate My Brain

Botox ate my brain, and Aliens Ate My Buick!

Well, all right. Not mine, because I'm an uppity woman and I don't believe in fucking up my face to maintain an illusion of youth. (I'm also damn beautiful as is, if I do say so myself.) But aside from that, my science-fictional taggage does have a point, and here it comes:

Botulinum neurotoxin type A, sold as Allergan Inc.'s Botox remedy for wrinkles, can move from its injection site to the brain, a study shows.

Scientists injected rats' whisker muscles with botulism toxin. Tests of the rodents' brain tissue found that botulism had been transported to the brain stems, the researchers said in the Journal of Neuroscience published April 2.

Botox is Allergan's biggest product, with $1.21 billion in sales last year. The drug, approved in 1989, became fashionable among aging celebrities seeking to smooth facial wrinkles and is used to treat some neurological disorders. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether patients contracted botulism, a muscle-weakening illness, from Botox and Myobloc, a product from Solstice Neurosciences Inc.

``The idea that there could be some transmission of this to the central nervous system needs to be followed up,'' said Mathew Avram, the director of Massachusetts General Hospital's Dermatology, Laser and Cosmetic Center, in Boston, in a telephone interview today. ``But this treatment has been used on millions of people for years, and we're not seeing major central nervous system issues with it.''

There's a word missing from the end of that last quote: YET.

And does anyone really want to wait and see? Those effects can show up anytime, and may take years to manifest. You also can't predict who will suffer them and who won't. Silicone injections, for instance, make terrific, permanent wrinkle fillers--until a recipient turns up years later with raised scars at the injection sites, and a host of silicone-related health problems.

Botox isn't exactly the easy route to rejuvenation it's been billed as, either. The sharp rise in non-medically-trained people doing injections has been nothing but Bhad Nhews for those on the receiving end, who have been overwhelmingly female. Botox parties trivialize the dangers of what is, after all, the same toxin that causes neural damage in victims of botulism food poisoning.

If you wouldn't swallow it, shouldn't you think twice about injecting it in your face? Especially when your facial muscles are so close to your brain?

April 2, 2008

Oh, how I wish this were true.

Sadly, it's an April Fools joke.

Would be brilliant if it were for real, though.

Somebody's boilerplate is missing a few screws

Dubya waterboards Ms. Liberty

Poor John Yoo. Once BushCo goes, he'll be out of a job, I'll bet. And what do you suppose he will have to white out from HIS résumé before he starts sending it out again?

The Justice Department sent a legal memorandum to the Pentagon in 2003 asserting that federal laws prohibiting assault, maiming and other crimes did not apply to military interrogators who questioned al-Qaeda captives because the president's ultimate authority as commander in chief overrode such statutes.

The 81-page memo, which was declassified and released publicly yesterday, argues that poking, slapping or shoving detainees would not give rise to criminal liability. The document also appears to defend the use of mind-altering drugs that do not produce "an extreme effect" calculated to "cause a profound disruption of the senses or personality."

[...]

Nine months after it was issued, Justice Department officials told the Defense Department to stop relying on it. But its reasoning provided the legal foundation for the Defense Department's use of aggressive interrogation practices at a crucial time, as captives poured into military jails from Afghanistan and U.S. forces prepared to invade Iraq.

Sent to the Pentagon's general counsel on March 14, 2003, by John C. Yoo, then a deputy in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, the memo provides an expansive argument for nearly unfettered presidential power in a time of war. It contends that numerous laws and treaties forbidding torture or cruel treatment should not apply to U.S. interrogations in foreign lands because of the president's inherent wartime powers.

Yes, we're talking about THAT John Yoo. The one who wrote the infamous Torture Memo. Do you know any other?

"If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network," Yoo wrote. "In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions."

Uh-huh. The old "fight them there so we won't have to fight them here" excuse. Unfortunately, it doesn't wash.

He also articulated a definition of illegal conduct in interrogations -- that it must "shock the conscience" -- that the Bush administration advocated for years.

Anyone who'd argue that the revelations of what went on at Abu Ghraib (right up to and including torture unto death) don't shock the conscience, must not have any at all.

Plus, there's the little matter of whether torture even produces useful information at all. There is also the downright minor matter of whether torture doesn't open up the door to the "enemy" who says that if they do it to us, we are therefore entitled to do it to them.

"Whether conduct is conscience-shocking turns in part on whether it is without any justification," Yoo wrote, explaining, for example, that it would have to be inspired by malice or sadism before it could be prosecuted.

Well, some people consider the implementation of the Shock Doctrine, and the forcing of global capitalism down a country's collective throat, to be justified.

The denizens of the country in question, however, are more than likely to feel that malice or sadism is the real motive, especially when the promised "trickle down" benefits fail to materialize but the unpromised "vacuum up" of local capital leaves the country destitute.

Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, defended the memo in an e-mail yesterday, saying the Justice Department altered its opinions "for appearances' sake." He said his successors "ignored the Department's long tradition in defending the President's authority in wartime."

"Far from inventing some novel interpretation of the Constitution," Yoo wrote, "our legal advice to the President, in fact, was near boilerplate."

Really? What boiler did they crowbar that plate off from? Surely not that of any prior American wartime president. Maybe one of his enemies, though. It sounds suspiciously like something the Rome-Berlin Axis thought was just hunky dory.

The fact that the memo has since been withdrawn is also rather interesting. One would think that if it were "near boilerplate" and constitutionally acceptable, it would still be standing, as the war is still raging, no?

Thomas J. Romig, who was then the Army's judge advocate general, said yesterday after reading the memo that it appears to argue there are no rules in a time of war, a concept Romig found "downright offensive."

Martin S. Lederman, a former lawyer with the Office of Legal Counsel who now teaches law at Georgetown University, said the Yoo memo helped create a legal environment that allowed prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib.

"What else could have been the source of belief in Iraq that the gloves were off and all laws could be disregarded with impunity?" Lederman asked. "It created a world in which everyone on the ground believed the laws did not apply. It was a law-free zone."

In a 2004 memo for the Navy inspector general's office, then-General Counsel Alberto J. Mora objected to the ideas that cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment could be allowed at Guantanamo and that the president's authority is virtually unlimited.

And all of these are legal experts in their own right. Yet every one of them agrees that there is a screw loose on this "boilerplate". Hmmm. Surely these things must be clues!

If I were in charge of hiring at UC Berkeley, I'd start advertising a new opening in the Faculty of Law really soon.

And if I were John Yoo, I'd consider whiting out a great deal from my résumé, starting with the name.

The French are, 'ow you say...

...très different from the Americans when it comes to public-service ads. They take health a lot more seriously than they do censorship, and they certainly believe in making sure the kiddies are thoroughly informed. Le voici, c'est le gai:

The bit at the ends says: "Live long enough to find Mr. Right. Protect yourself. AIDES."

Et bien sûr, it's always a good idea to use condoms faithfully when you're looking for love in all the wrong places. Unfortunately, they won't protect you from one thing here: the sappy earworm, which made Your Humble Scribe cry (almost as much as all the horrible misadventures our cute hero has before he finds Dr. Le Bon.) Consider yourself warned.

April 1, 2008

They call THIS upholding free speech?

As a Canadian, I must say reading things like this makes me hang my head in shame. See if you can guess why:

Canada is often thought of as a land of bland consensus and multicultural harmony - the last place where you would expect to see a religious minority up in arms, and journalists accusing the state of gagging freedom of speech.

Yet in recent months, these have become fixtures of the country's public debate.

The opening shot was fired by Mark Steyn, an outspoken conservative columnist regarded by supporters as the Canadian equivalent of Denmark's cartoonists or the Netherlands' Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Okay. Let's make a few things clear. It's not the "bland consensus" bit that makes me hang my head. Canada isn't bland, and neither is our multiculturalism. This is just sloppy writing and sloppier thinking on the part of the Beeb's so-called reporter.

What I AM ashamed of, is that an ex-Brit and wannabe Yank named Mark Steyn is currently squatting here, and what's even more shameful, is that those who don't know doodley-fuck about him are calling him the "Canadian equivalent" of anything. He is NOT Canadian, no matter what his current passport says.

And as for equivalence, let him have a class unto himself, preferably at the bottom of the heap. He deserves no better.

Now, for the really shameful bits.

In a 2006 article he used demographics to suggest that the West would succumb to Muslim domination.

The piece, entitled "The future belongs to Islam" and published by the Toronto magazine Maclean's, argued that Europe was "too enfeebled to resist its remorseless transformation into Eurabia".

Mr Steyn summarised the presumed global advantage of militant Islam with a stark equation: "Youth + Will = Disaster for whoever gets in your way."

To some, he had crossed the line between vigorous polemic and Islamophobia.

"To some"? How about MANY? How about AN OVERWHELMING MAJORITY? He is certainly the most despised hack to write for our so-called national newsmagazine (which I'm sure will come as an unpleasant surprise to Barbara Amiel, the other ex-British pretender to the throne.)

The notion that Muslims should be feared by virtue of their numbers and purported militancy is "quite inflammatory", says Toronto law student Khurrum Awan.

Mr Awan and fellow students marched on Maclean's a year ago to demand a chance to issue a full-length rebuttal in Canada's only nationwide news magazine.

"What we said is that we want an opportunity to participate in the debate when you are talking about the issues that relate directly to us," Mr Awan told the BBC News website.

Maclean's editor gave the students short shrift. He said he had published 27 letters in response to the Steyn article, and would "rather go bankrupt" than let outsiders dictate the content of his magazine.

So. Let's see if I'm reading this correctly here. It's "free speech" for Mark Steyn, Ezra Levant, et al, to talk about Muslims the way Hitler did about Jews, but freedom of speech here stops short of Muslims and their friends having the right to rebut such a steaming heap of demographically challenged drivel?

Wow.

I'm so glad I stopped reading Maclean's, and gladder still that I got my parents to cancel their subscription, in response to Steyn's rantings. That magazine has gone down the shitter in recent years, and its neo-con-with-a-boob-job editorial turn (an attempt to "liven things up" American-style, no doubt) is one reason why. (Its hideous supermarket-tabloid look, an attempt to "liven things up" British-style no doubt, is another.)

At this rate, Maclean's deserves to go bankrupt. And I for one hope it does.

Halliburton is poisoning the troops

Sadly, this is NO April Fool's joke:

If you know a returned Iraq vet who has been in contact with any facilities "serviced" by Halliburton, KBR, etc.--please, urge them to see their doctor to be tested for waterborne pathogens. You could save a lot of lives.

Say, aren't you supposed to be dead?

Yeah, right...

April Fool!