« May 2008 | Main | July 2008 »

June 30, 2008

WW4 Report screws the pooch over Tibet

Oh noes! Kitty screwin' da pooch!

Oh noes, indeed. What is it lately with all these otherwise decent independent news sites going over to the stinky? In the case of the latest from WW4 Report, it seems that a number of Tibetan prayer flags have landed on the eyes of the editors, blinding them to the obvious. They've gotten real snotty with their readers who take exception to them for uncritically publishing Nik Kozloff's "revolutionary" hit piece on Chavecito.

In all the back-and-forth between the WW4R snotballs and those who rightly take them to task, I found this...

From Russ Hallberg, somewhere in cyberspace (who slugs his e-mail "don't repudiate chavez"):

Hugo Chavez should be criticized for his support of China's occupation of Tibet. However, Tibetan nationalists and the Dali Lama are backed by the CIA. It is unlikely a "free" Tibet would be anything more than a puppet for Western interests. Tibetan nationalism is a psyops to solicit the support of the US left for CIA agendas.

World War 4 Report replies: You know, that's pretty paranoid, dude. But we're heartened that at least you think Chávez should be criticized (if not "repudiated").

...which made me wonder: Is it really paranoid to suspect such a thing, considering the CIA has had its tentacles around just about every anti-communist "freedom fighter" in the world since the end of World War II--many of them downright unsavory? In other words, could Russ Hallberg be onto something?

Well, Tim Boucher has found out that in fact, Russ Hallberg is not paranoid; he's right. The CIA is backing the Dalai Lama. Why not? He's a very useful tool to brandish against the "red menace". And the fact that many well-meaning westerners are unaware of it is testimony to the blinding powers of organized religion and theocracy. All we see is poor oppressed Tibet, under the thumb of Chinese imperialism, struggling bravely to free itself in the name of religious freedom--and, supposedly, "democracy". Who could be opposed to such a struggle--particularly we of the anti-imperialist left? And who wouldn't feel like a shit to dare slaughter such a cherished sacred cow as the peace-loving, freedom-seeking image of the Dalai Lama?

What we don't see, because we don't want to and because someone has ensured that we won't want to, is that Tibet, just like Russia, Ukraine and the WW4R editors' other pet hate, Belarus, has no tradition of free democratic rulership. That's right. None. The people of Tibet were serfs long before China annexed their country. The only difference is that previously, they were serfs to their "spiritual" leaders. The Dalai Lama is not elected by the masses, or even selected by an oligarchy (at least, not that anyone would cop to the fact); he's allegedly reincarnated from every previous Dalai Lama that ever there was.

In fact, the monks who seek out the reincarnated one are an oligarchy, and a very rarified one at that, but their traditional high status renders them unquestionable. And their unquestioned "holiness" loses its lustre when you see how rich the monasteries are, and how poor by comparison is the average Tibetan--impoverished, as Boucher says, by the monks themselves.

But don't take my word for it; the Green Left Weekly has the details:

The Tibetan "government'" in Lhasa was composed of lamas selected for their religious piety. At the head of this theocracy was the Dalai Lama. The concepts democracy, human rights or universal education were unknown.

The Dalai Lama and the majority of the elite agreed to give away Tibet's de facto independence in 1950 once they were assured by Beijing their exploitative system would be maintained. Nine years later, only when they felt their privileges were threatened, did they revolt. Suddenly the words "democracy" and "human rights" entered the vocabulary of the government-in-exile, operating out of Dharamsala in India ever since.

Dharamsala and the Dalai Lama's commitment to democracy seems weak. An Office of Tibet document claims "soon after His Holiness the Dalai Lama's arrival in India, he re-established the Tibetan Government in exile, based on modern democratic principles". Yet it took more than 30 years for an Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies to be directly elected from among the 130,000 exiles. Of 46 assembly members, only 30 are elected. The other 16 are appointed by religious authorities or directly by the Dalai Lama.

All assembly decisions must be approved by the Dalai Lama, whose sole claim to the status of head of state is that he has been selected by the gods. The separation of church and state is yet to be recognised by the Dalai Lama as a "modern democratic principle".

Imagine that--the Dalai Lama willingly handed Tibet over to Mao, and didn't protest until he perceived his own authority to be under threat. So much for the myth of the brave freedom struggle. Tibet may as well be a Czarist monarchy. After all, the Czars and other royals used to claim a divine privilege, too.

One doesn't have to be a Maoist to see that (and I'm most emphatically not; I've read Son of the Revolution, and I suggest you do too.) One has only to be willing to look past the sacredness and see the cow--dung and all. A sacred cow drops as much dung as any beast of pasture or barn. Treat the Dalai Lama to the same critical eye that you would Chairman Mao himself, and then you won't go through the mental conflicts about Tibet that I have (and that a lot of other leftists are also finding themselves in).

Personally, I've always been secretly puzzled by the widespread and unquestioned fetish for Tibetan Buddhism. As a Wiccan and a longtime New Ager, I find that trend disturbing. Aside from all the names I can't for the life of me pronounce, there are all those hells--through which the souls of all the dead must pass, no matter how much good they did in their lives. Why would a religion of compassion be so ridden with hellfire and demons? And what's so compassionate about such an authoritarian rule here on Earth? If I wanted that, I'd just convert to fundamentalist Christianity. The only difference I can see, other than the language and the lack of saffron robes, is that the fundie-Christers don't lay claim to reincarnation.

I've also long felt guilty for not owning any of those best-selling Buddhist books on compassion, pacifism, etc.--particularly the ones written by the Dalai Lama. But I think I can lay that guilt to rest now and realize that I'm not suffering from myopia; I'm rightly skeptical of sacred cows, ALL of them, including Buddhist gurus. Sacred cow, like revenge, is a dish best eaten cold, and I've just slaughtered a big one here.

Would that the WW4R editors could do the same, instead of falling straight into the CIA's best-laid trap--the ahistorical fetish for Tibet.

File this away for future reference...

...because kiddies, you're gonna be laughing at all this about six months from now. David Blair of the arch-conservative UK Telegraph is putting all his wishful thinking out there right now for you to mistake for Serious Political Analysis.

At home, however, Mr Chavez is in trouble. State elections are due in November and Venezuela's opposition, which now includes former followers of South America's standard-bearer for socialism, is expected to perform well.

"Expected" by the State Dept. and the blinkered likes of David Blair, perhaps. But to anyone who's seriously paying attention, this opposition is a joke. The turncoats Blair is lauding here, who are expecting to siphon off the "pro-Chavez, BUT" vote, didn't do so well in the last referendum; it was won by abstention, not a resounding majority of anti-Chavistas. Given that there have been so many votes in Venezuela since Chavez came to power, that's kind of understandable. Voter fatigue can so easily set in--especially since voters have to get up early and queue up for hours before they can drop their ballots in the box. Still, one can't deny that there has been a democratic process--in fact a democratic surfeit.

But Blair hasn't been paying attention, so of course he can't be expected to know that.

What has he been paying attention to? Well, seriously silly stuff like this amateur psychoanalysis from one of the turncoats:

General Raul Salazar, once a close friend who served as the president's first defence minister, said that Mr Chavez suffers "many hells or infernos inside him".

"Perhaps he feels a real social resentment because of the poverty of his upbringing. That becomes a nightmare for any human being," added Gen Salazar, who campaigned against Mr Chavez in the referendum.

"Political leaders go through three stages. First they are governors, then they are statesmen and then they think they become God and they decide they don't need anyone's advice. I hope to God that he doesn't get to the third stage, but he's probably close."

Funny, but that last paragraph sounds to me like Dubya. He started out as governor of Texas, then he became (illicitly) a "statesman" (or at least a wooden figurehead on the prow of a ship), and now he thinks he's God. And I'm sure he has his share of "hells or infernos inside him", too--but he is not, thank heaven, the president of Venezuela, who, contrary to the general's comic-opera Freudianism, retains his good humor and firmly planted feet even in the face of all the private hells and infernos raging around him, and trying (without success) to win votes away from him.

Then there's this character, who is less funny, but still plays a role in the farce:

General Raul Baduel, who served as defence minister and rescued Mr Chavez from an American-backed coup in 2002, said: "The person who's in charge of the destiny of our nation has become focused on one aim: to perpetuate himself in power even when this damages the country. Actually, damaging the country favours his aim, because each day we depend more upon the government."

I've already disclosed who paid the general to say things like that, so I shan't repeat it here. But there's no evidence that he's actually damaging the country, and in fact, he's delivered what the people expect of him and then some. Far from the "one-man show" hypothesis being touted by Blair and his sources, we who are paying attention get realities like this one from the independent IPS news service, showing how Venezuelans are becoming self-sufficient through co-operative farming--facilitated by the man at the top who is expropriating wasted large estates and turning them over to collectives who will, if things keep up at this rate, eventually make Venezuela self-sufficient in food. As it used to be before the oil industry came to predominate--and with them, foreign interests, who are the real ones that reduced Venezuela to dependency and who thrive on its continuation in a state of ruin.

Funny how the former General completely discounts all that. But I guess it's understandable when one is newly in the business of marketing oneself as a messiah.

Funnily, in spite of the "damaging" quotes he gets from the coattail-riders turned turncoats, Blair has to admit the obvious when there's no way of denying it:

Transforming an avowedly consumerist country like Venezuela into a socialist haven is probably impossible.

But Mr Chavez has genuinely succeeded in helping the poor. Of Caracas's five million people, about half inhabit slums, known as "barrios".

Before Mr Chavez took office in 1999, Venezuela had always been ruled by the white descendants of Spanish settlers. They monopolised wealth and power, creating one of the world's most unequal, divided societies.

Mr Chavez sought to redress the balance. He built clinics in the "barrios", staffed by Cuban doctors, giving the slum-dwellers free health care for the first time. State-owned shops sell cheap food and public banks lend the oil money to the poor.

Mr Chavez, who is a twice-elected leader, not a dictator, has won a genuine popular following. For the first time in Venezuela's history, the impoverished majority feel they have a leader who is on their side.

Yes, and they still do. Their feelings for him haven't changed, except to intensify, because they know what a struggle he's been in. They've been in it with him, and many of them have been in it even longer than he has. The reason they vote for him is not because he's a messiah (he has never claimed or tried to be), but because he's the guy who is finally doing something--something the people have asked him to do. When he was first elected in late 1998, he ran and won on a platform that included a rewrite of the old Venezuelan constitution. The new one--written by an elected assembly, not himself--won a popular ratification. The people voted not only on who would write it, but on the final document itself. Which is exactly what they asked for.

They also asked for, and got, land reform, public healthcare, public schools, public infrastructure, and an end to the creeping privatization of the state oil firm, PDVSA. They asked for, and got, affordable food, lands to farm, and a greater say in the running of the country.

And they keep on asking, because they know he's gonna keep on delivering. Which is why they, in turn, will keep on returning him to office--or, if they can't have him, they will vote for those who haven't turned against him. And they know who those people are, and no amount of NED money will convince them otherwise.

And neither will any top-loaded ignorance coming out of Britain.

June 29, 2008

John Fund: So stupid in so many ways

How wrong can one man get in three paragraphs? How low can the Wall Street Journal sink? Kiddies, you're about to find out...Dr. Becker has her dissecting gloves on.

It's not been a good month for Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez. He had to do an about-face and call on the Marxist guerrilla group FARC to stop trying to overthrow the government of neighboring Colombia, lay down its arms and release its 700 hostages. But that head fake came only after evidence surfaced that Mr. Chávez had actually offered FARC leaders $300 million to support their terrorist operations and had even given them their own nameplate on an office in Venezuela's Pentagon.

Now Mr. Chávez has trouble on the domestic front. Marisabel Rodríguez, the former first lady of Venezuela whom Mr. Chávez divorced in 2004, announced she will run for mayor of one of Venezuela's most important cities in November local elections. She will run as an opposition candidate because she wants to "change the face and way of doing politics in this city and this country," she told reporters.

The candidacy of Ms. Rodríguez, a public relations executive, will no doubt revive stories about the couple's messy divorce. She is apparently a past master at psychological warfare against her ex-husband. "Marisabel doesn't hesitate to talk about Chávez on TV while holding their daughter, and that is the kind of tactic the opposition likes because to fight a media figure like Chávez you need to shock people in some way," says Arturo Serrano, a political scientist, told Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Idiocies in italics.

Memo to Rush Limbaugh's ghostwriter: Gawd, you suck. Let us enumerate the ways...

1. The "dictator" was elected. Repeatedly. What the hell kind of dictatorship is that?

2. Chavecito did not "have to do an about-face", because he has never been pro-FARC. If anything, it's the other way around: the FARC are pro-Chavez. His position on the Colombian guerrillas has remained the same since he was first posted to the Colombian border regions in his military days. He's not happy about their violence spilling over into Venezuela, any more than he likes the fact that wealthy Venezuelan land-owners are using Colombian paramilitaries as mercenaries and to help plot coups against him. He also has proof that the Colombian army has invaded Venezuela, illegally, on numerous occasions. Why would he be in favor of a group that brings so much trouble into Venezuela?

3. The $300 million bullshit is long debunked. Get with the program. The entire laptop story is a fake, and I have proof.

4. A "nameplate on an office in Venezuela's Pentagon"? What corner of your colon did you pull that one from? There's nothing of the sort at Fuerte Tiuna. But there did use to be a US military office in there, which is very sniffy; does Venezuela have an office in the actual Pentagon?

5. Who divorced whom? And when? According to Bart Jones's book, it was Madame Nhu Marisabel who walked out, less than two months after the coup in April 2002. (She buggered off in June.) I don't know who filed the papers, but the point is probably moot.

6. Marisabel doesn't want to "change the way politics works" in Venezuela, unless you mean she wants to go back to the way it was. Which is to say, corrupt, slow, and generally dumber than dog snot. A change of face never meant anything under Puntofijismo. All it meant was the same shit from another asshole. Guess who is really changing the way politics works in Venezuela? Hint: He's big and sassy and wears a red shirt. And the way he's changing things will certainly clash with Marisabel's bid to return to the old status quo.

7. And anyway, what change could she make as a mayor? That's hardly running at the federal level, where the big-time action is. If she had to go up against him for president, she'd lose so badly that it wouldn't even be worth laughing at.

8. Chavez is a "media figure"? No, he's a PRESIDENT. She is the media figure. And if the comments I've seen on Aporrea are any indication, she is not exactly a wildly popular one. Her "psychological warfare" is deeply reviled, and her use of her own daughter as a pawn is also illegal under the Venezuelan child-protection law; it's considered an invasion of privacy.

Perhaps you might want to learn Spanish, Mr. Fund. Only, if you did, you'd be redder than Chavecito's shirt with humiliation to learn the awful truth.

And speaking of humiliation and awful truths, I still remember a juicy tale from your own past. Glass houses, Mr. Fund.

June 27, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: "A man of some charm", for sure...

Congratulations are in order for Evo Morales. This month, he and his indigenous/socialist fusion revolution made it into National Geographic--and, unlike Chavecito, he didn't get his ass slammed. This even though the same author wrote both pieces. (I know! How strange! Even stranger, Chavecito isn't mentioned in there at all, and neither is Fidel Castro--even though they're Evo's #1 and 2 allies, respectively!)

Anyhow, there's only one pic, showing Evo as he normally dresses: baseball-type jacket, button-down shirt, black jeans, sneakers--and a whackload of confetti overtop of it all. Boring. But I guess they just didn't want to supply y'all with Evo-cheesecake. For which onerous task there is Yours Most Sincerely, showing how Evo got to be cautiously termed "a man of some charm" by the Geographic's writer:

Evo, showing his considerable charm

Okay, so his cute legs aren't in it (damn AP photogs!), but we can see the charm, can't we?

(Bonus: More Evo on the Geographic's website, here. And yes, he puts his charm on display for the photographer who wrote about him, too.)

Prettyboy Lopez is now SERIOUSLY disqualified...

And boy, am I ever laughing my ass off over this.

The Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, informed that the Public Ministry has opened an investigation against the mayor of Chacao, Leopoldo Lopez, for allegedly attacking an agent of the National Guard at the International Airport at Maiquetia.

The incident allegedly took place in the early morning hours on last Wednesday, in the hours after Lopez returned to Venezuela from New York.

Translation mine. Link added.

And in other bad news for Pretty Leo, we have this item from Venezuelanalysis, which shows that he's no match for...A BLACK MAN!

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's candidate for mayor of Caracas, Aristobulo Isturiz, is the front-runner ahead of the November election, according to the first poll of city voters.

Isturiz, a former education minister who now hosts a show on state television, had the backing of 39 percent in the June 6-19 poll by Caracas-based Hinterlaces. Leopoldo Lopez, a Harvard-educated opposition leader who met with Barack Obama on June 21 in Miami, trailed with 30.1 percent.

The show in question is Dando y Dando, on VTV. Aporrea occasionally shows clips of it, and it's always an enlightening treat for me. Too bad it's not subtitled and more widely distributed on the Internets. Then you'd see why Aristobulo Isturiz is such a terrific candidate, and why Prettyboy has no chance against him...even assuming his disqualification doesn't hold up (which it will).

More hilarity from Paraguay

This one just speaks for itself:

U.S. Ambassador James Cason's singing isn't music to the ears of one Paraguayan senator.

Cason released a CD two weeks ago of himself singing Paraguayan folk songs in the local Guarani indigenous language.

Cason tells the newspaper ABC Color he recorded the CD titled "The Field of Promises" because his wife says he has a beautiful voice.

But opposition Sen. Domingo Laino begs to differ and has asked Paraguay's Congress to denounce the diplomat.

Laino told Uno Radio on Thursday that the ambassador "sings horribly and his pronunciation of Guarani words is stammering. It is an offense to the Paraguayan people."

Cason's term as ambassador ends in August.

Which will undoubtedly be a great relief to Guarani ears. Just as no longer having to listen to John Ashcroft's croonings was a great relief to my US friends.

Prettyboy Leopoldo Lopez is at it again

Once more, a fascist makes all kinds of bogus claims, including that his human rights were violated. Aporrea has the details of the lie--and the video to refute the liar:

On Thursday, Mario Silva, host of the VTV show "La Hojilla", showed some video footage taken at Maiquetia Airport that refutes the accusations made by the mayor of Chacao, Leopoldo Lopez, who recently claimed he had been held illegally and been physically attacked by five or six members of the DISIP (Venezuelan federal police) in the airport.

The events occurred last Wednesday, when Lopez returned from a trip to the United States where he went, among other reasons, to denounce his political disqualification for receiving illicit donations when he worked at the state oil company PDVSA and received money from the company on behalf of the party Primero Justicia, which was then a "civil society" organization. Lopez also claimed he met with presidential candidate Barack Obama.

The video shows the arrival of Lopez at the airport. In it, there is also a person, possibly a DISIP agent in civilian clothes, who takes some photocopies of Lopez's passport, but at no time assaults him physically. Totally to the contrary, it is Lopez who launches himself at the other man, intending to attack him.

Lopez, for his part, also provoked other officials at the airport by trying to photograph them with his cellphone, and enters a restricted area in pursuit of one of the officials, who do not respond aggressively.

The video also shows Lopez leaving the airport, getting into a truck, and departing. The mayor later claimed that the officials had torn his shirt pocket, but the video shows it intact to the very end.

Afterwards, Lopez returned to the airport at Maiquetia with a team from the opposition TV channel Globovision to make his denunciation, showing the ripped shirt pocket and with a photocopy of his passport, which supposedly had been taken away from him by DISIP agents.

Translation mine. Video (in Spanish) at the bottom of the page.

You can see that Prettyboy (in a light blue shirt, white pants and dark belt) is very aggressive throughout it, particularly from the midway point of the roughly 20-minute first clip, when he starts chasing after the airport functionaries brandishing his cellphone and trying to take their pictures in order to provoke them into a fight. He also starts trying to shove them around. The security men, as you can see, refuse to bite; they just turn away from him and fend him off without throwing a punch. One of them is wearing a striped polo shirt; another, a dark suit. At no point does Lopez get attacked himself, nor is his shirt pocket ever damaged--UNTIL he drags in Globovision to "document" his tall tale of an attack that never happened, in the second clip, in which we suddenly see the pocket hanging by a thread. But in the first video, he's completely unrumpled. Which means that sometime between the first set of videos and the time he dragged in the Flojovision flunkies, he must have done the damage himself, or maybe he had his pal (with the knapsack in the airport video) do the job for him.

Aporrea also notes that Lopez recently claimed to have visited with Barack Obama, and had his picture taken with him. The pic in question, though, is very dubious, since both men seem to have the same skin tone in it. This even though Lopez is clearly a white man, whereas Obama definitely isn't.

One thing that is consistent about all these pics and videos, though, is the glassy, fanatical look of Leo's eyes. Scary little señorito refuses to blink. He reels off his spiel (just the usual blahblah about tyranny and how "we are not afraid"), all without pausing for breath. He's downright hyper. Is he on drugs, is he a religious cultist, or just a paranoid schizophrenic? Maybe any or all of the above; maybe none. One thing's for sure: As Mario Silva notes, he's a clown, but a dangerous one. He never loses an opportunity to make crapaganda, and the disociado minority, the Venezuelan ex-ruling class, never fails to believe him--even when he's caught in a lie, as here.

And of course, the lamestream English-speaking media will probably repeat his lies uncritically, too. He's their darling, after all--a young, superficially very good-looking white guy who "dares" to "stand up" to the non-white "dictator/tyrant/demagogue" Chavez (although, strangely, he's never had the 'nads to confront him directly on anything--probably because the Evil Big Red One would mop the floor with him without so much as raising his voice.) You'll note that they make a big issue out of the "blacklist" of candidates who have been found in violation of the law, Lopez among them--but they won't do any digging into what Lopez did that got him disqualified from running for office again.

And of course, they won't take a critical look at the airport video, either.

El Ecuadorable gets armed

Rambo parachuting into Colombia

Looks like the Colombia problem is heating up on more fronts than one. Here's what's going on in Correa-land:

Colombian rebels in northern Ecuador are an old problem that previous governments failed to confront, Ecuador's defense minister told The Associated Press, announcing additions to a growing arsenal aimed at securing the Andean nation's borders.

Defense Minister Javier Ponce said in an interview that the government is buying six Israeli-made unmanned aerial vehicles and new radar so it can get a better handle on its borders, especially the troubled frontier with Colombia.

The acquisitions are in addition to 24 Super Tucano warplanes announced in May.

He said he does not consider Colombia a national security threat, though the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that dominates the northern border zone — and the illegal drug trade that fuels its insurgency — are a danger.

"We are not able to impede the establishment of guerrilla camps or drug labs, but to the degree that we have been dismantling a series of labs and camps we are establishing a certain capacity to prevent this from getting out of control," Ponce told the AP on Tuesday evening.

Incidentally, Colombia and Ecuador are still not talking to each other over the illegal bombing of a FARC camp on Ecuadorian turf this past March 1. But hey, at least Manta will soon be a thing of the past, at least as far as gringo incursion forces go.

And here's a cool factoid: Minister Ponce is also a poet! A few satirical verses excoriating El Narco would therefore be in order, yes?

Why is Washington not alarmed at this?

Oh, surely not because it's only El Narco and not Chavecito calling for this rather unusual measure...

Colombia's president on Thursday called for a referendum to decide if new presidential elections should be held in the wake of a court decision that is questioning the legitimacy of his 2006 re-election.

President Alvaro Uribe said he will ask the country's congress to approve the referendum.

Uribe's demand came after the Supreme Court called Thursday for the re-evaluation of the congressional act that changed the constitution to allow Uribe to run for a second term. The Supreme Court questioned the act after a former representative was found guilty of having changed her vote in 2004 to support the president's bid for re-election.

Yidis Medina, who was sentenced to 47 months, claimed senior members of the government offered her supporters jobs in exchange for her key vote. Uribe's administration has denied the charges.

But of course, he IS looking to change the constitution and run. Even his own defence minister, the most likely successor, is being blocked by El Narco, who wants to hang onto power, it seems, for life.

The ghost of Pablo Escobar must be rolling around the bowels of hell, laughing his ass off.

June 25, 2008

Aww, too bad!

What a shame. Lord Blah-Blah has to serve out his full sentence:

Conrad Black's conviction on fraud and obstruction of justice charges has been upheld by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The court said today that defence lawyers' arguments weren't strong enough to topple Black's conviction.

Black has been at a minimum-security prison in Florida since March serving a 6 1/2-year sentence.

Minimum security, such a light sentence--and he still appealed it? What a self-important wanker.

I wonder if he uses it for Cuban cigars

Ha ha, Boris Johnson cracks me up. First that undead haystack cancels the London public transit system's cheap-fuel deal with Venezuela, out of some idiotic desire to punish the poor with fare hikes. Now, get a load of what he keeps on his desk--or used to:

Police have forced London Mayor Boris Johnson to hand over a cigar case belonging to Iraq's former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz.

The ex-MP, who obtained the red leather case from Mr Aziz's bombed-out home while visiting Iraq as a journalist in 2003, said the situation was "stupid".

He said: "The police have no choice but to investigate this ludicrous affair."

Under the Iraq (UN Sanctions) Order 2003, anyone possessing Iraqi cultural property must give it to the police.

Granted, it's not much of a "cultural property", seeing as it's not exactly a first edition cuneiform scroll of the Code of Hammurabi or anything like that. But it's not rightfully his, either, and keeping such a grotesque trophy on his desk speaks of extremely poor judgment on his part.

Not, I hasten to add, that his sentiments regarding the president of Venezuela say anything better.

June 24, 2008

My head just exploded.

Remember how I said the newly elected leftist president of Paraguay was by no stretch of the imagination a moderate, and even posted proof?

Well, guess what the Dissociated Press's own hilariously named Christopher Toothaker wrote. And if you guessed "complete bullshit", pat yourself on the back--you are absolutely correct!

Paraguayan President-elect Fernando Lugo was all smiles as he and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez embraced, talked of a revolution for the poor and pledged to build a united Latin America.

But as the former Roman Catholic priest ended a three-nation tour Thursday that also included visits to Venezuela's leftist allies in Bolivia and Ecuador, political analysts predicted he will take a less radical approach to governing.

"He sees himself on the side of the progressive forces that want to change the relationship between Latin American countries and the United States," said Fred Rossen, an analyst at the New York-based North American Congress on Latin America.

But he still faces a formidable conservative opposition at home and is considered much more moderate in his approach to the United States.

Lugo's election in April pushed Paraguay toward the left and ended the 61-year reign of the conservative Colorado Party. But the party still holds a congressional majority and control of the judiciary.

"Even if he wanted to, he's not in a position to make very radical changes," said Michael Shifter, an analyst at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue. "He must contend with a very entrenched Colorado Party, so I think his room for maneuvering is extremely limited."

Ah, there's another hilariously-named bullshitter who keeps cropping up in this sort of "analysis"--Michael Shifter. Remind Mr. BoRev to tell you about him sometime. Or the guy at Oil Wars, who has also been watching this clown. He seems to be a smelly source of choice with the AP. Which comes as no surprise when you consider that Bart Jones, who used to write for them (but has since moved on to better things, including a cracking good bio of Chavecito) has revealed that the AP is so anti-Chavez that one of its bureau buffoons down there actually wore a button with a "let's kick out the loony" message referring to Big Red You Know Who.

And in the meantime, bear in mind what Auntie 'Bina says about the AP, and how Justin Delacour recently, rightly, excoriated them for their inaccuracies, prompting a rare correction. Not only are they a money-grubbing bunch of blogger-bullies, they're also frequently, hysterically, hilariously wrong. So much so that you might as well consult your Magic 8 Ball as them if you really wanna know what's going on. The odds of you getting a correct answer, frankly, favor the Magic 8 Ball.

(And if you think I'm gonna pay them for the privilege of slicing and dicing their writings while quoting from them as liberally as I please, you can stuff that thought right back up the orifice you pulled it out of. Auntie 'Bina is a firm believer in a FREE press, not an extortionate one. Even if it IS a co-op, as the NYT says the AP is.)

June 23, 2008

Why the EU wants to punish economic migrants

From Deutsche Welle, the German satellite TV channel, an interesting passage buried well down in the piece:

The Return Directive raises hackles not only because of possible human rights infringements, but because the remittances sent home by illegal workers to their poor countries of origin -- for example Ecuador and Bolivia -- are an important source of income there.

Last year, immigrants in Europe, the US and Japan sent money back to their families in Latin America and the Caribbean amounting to just under 43 billion euros ($66 billion), the EU Observer online newspaper said.

It is more than the region receives from foreign direct investment or development assistance combined.

"...more than the region receives from foreign direct investment or development assistance combined."

Sit back and let that sink in for a bit.

Okay?

Okay.

Imagine that. Undocumented immigrants are a bigger part of the Bolivian and Ecuadorian economies, and those of several other LatAm and Caribbean countries, than foreign direct investment and development assistance combined. Meaning, those working stiffs, however unpapered, are a once hidden vertebra in the backbone of their respective nations' economies.

That means what exactly, Auntie 'Bina?

That means, possum-pie, that the much-vaunted neo-liberal policies of "foreign aid" and "direct foreign investment" aren't helping those impoverished countries half as much as the plain old sweat of their own expatriates' brows. It means that Ecuadorians, Bolivians, etc., etc., can do more for Ecuador, Bolivia, etc., etc., than USAID, the World Bank, the IMF, or any other assclown who insists that foreign investment is what those countries really need to get their economies into working order, and their people into work, period. It means that hose people have FOUND work, all right, but not as a result of aid or investment; they found it by leaving the countries that "aid" and "investment" have stripped bare, and going to where the jobs are: Europe, North America, and Japan primarily. There, they make a meagre living--and are grotesquely exploited in many cases--but also manage to make enough to send home and provide vital foreign income that boosts the economy of Ecuador, Bolivia, etc., etc.

That's what it means, but that's not all it means.

It also means that the great plan of the generous "aid" and "investment" designed by stuffed suits from rich countries to rob the poor--is FAILING. Failing because those damn uppity undocumented economic migrants are foiling it. Foiling it by doing nothing more than working hard, sending a portion of their earnings home, and dodging La Migra. Foiling it, in other words, by doing what people in dire need, and who cannot afford the long, expensive wait to be "legal", will do to make sure that their near and dear ones don't starve to death.

And do you know what else that means, possum-pie?

It means that neo-liberal economics, and neo-con politics, are one big fat miserable failure. And that the best way to help countries in poverty...is to help their people help themselves, rather than punishing them for doing just that.

Of course, it's now blindingly apparent that helping poor countries was never the idea in the first place. Does Auntie 'Bina have to spell out what it really was, or have you got the general drift of it by now?

What did I say?

About it not only being Evo and Chavecito? Get a load of El Ecuadorable and what he'd do if Europe keeps on shitting on Latin American economic migrants:

Ecuador threatened to halt Andean trade talks with the European Union on Saturday after its leaders endorsed tougher detention rules for illegal immigrants.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said the rule allowing EU countries to detain illegal immigrants for 18 months violates the human rights of migrant workers.

"We could even suspend those negotiations. What do we have to talk about with a union of countries that criminalizes immigrants?" Correa said during his weekly radio address. "It will be very hard to talk business and ignore human rights."

Oh, and here he is on video, saying that in Spanish:

Strictly superfluous, of course, unless, like me, you just like watching and hearing him say things rife with cojones. In which case, small blame to you.

John McCain is...

...one of these:

Asshat!

Oh, you think I'm being too harsh? Here:

Suck on his energy "policy" ad. Because it most definitely will suck on you.

Especially the picture of Chavecito hugging Ahmadinejad, accompanied by the words "a cartel for which America's well-being is not exactly a priority". Um, who the fuck said it HAD to be? It's not as if these two ARE a cartel, or like they haven't got countries of their own to run. Why they have to put the interests of some gas-guzzlin' gringo ahead of the well-being of their respective countries has always been--well, not a mystery to me. Actually, I just always found it stank of Teh Stoopid.

As does Mr. McCrazy, truth be told. Even if everything he mentions were implemented to the hilt, it still wouldn't address the fact that his country's intire infrastructure is built around CONSUMING fuel, not CONSERVING it. They have lots of highways, highways comin' out the wazoo, but their public transit systems are woefully behind, and never more so when it comes to inter-city service. (Yeah, Ronnie, scrapping trains was a great idea. No wonder the Japanese, who never had a domestic oil supply and were always dependent on imports, are laughing up their kimono sleeves at y'all today. While riding the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, natch.)

It might behoove McCrazy to remember that his country's numero uno oil supplier is neither Iran nor Venezuela. It's not Saudi Arabia, either. Guess where it is.

Give up?

It's CANADA, eh! Yes, really. My gawd, that's where I live. I better bunker down lest they declare war on us next for not being tame enough to US policy...

And yet. And yet.

And yet, I don't hear McCrazy calling OUR oilmen a "cartel" (although I certainly wouldn't put it past them to be one), nor have I seen him flashing any of their corpulent old white mugs in his ads.

But then again, silly me--they're capitalists, and all have been ever since the NEP was killed by Lyin' Brian. Not Islamists like Ahmadinejad, or socialists like Chavecito. No wonder they're totally under this spoiled flyboy's radar. He can't make any cheap political points off them, but boy, can they ever make big buckeroonies at the expense of anyone dumb enough to vote for this oligarch. No wonder I have such a low opinion of Repugs in general.

And no wonder I find this one in particular to be, well...you know.

Quotable: Chris Hedges on crapaganda whoredom

"The past week was a good one if you were a courtier. We were instructed by the high priests on television over the past few days to mourn a Sunday morning talk show host, who made $5 million a year and who gave a platform to the powerful and the famous so they could spin, equivocate and lie to the nation. We were repeatedly told by these television courtiers, people like Tom Brokaw and Wolf Blitzer, that this talk show host was one of our nation's greatest journalists, as if sitting in a studio, putting on makeup and chatting with Dick Cheney or George W. Bush have much to do with journalism.

"No journalist makes $5 million a year. No journalist has a comfortable, cozy relationship with the powerful. No journalist believes that acting as a conduit, or a stenographer, for the powerful is a primary part of his or her calling. Those in power fear and dislike real journalists. Ask Seymour Hersh and Amy Goodman how often Bush or Cheney has invited them to dinner at the White House or offered them an interview.

"All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, and it is the job of the journalist to do the hard, tedious reporting to shine a light on these lies. It is the job of courtiers, those on television playing the role of journalists, to feed off the scraps tossed to them by the powerful and never question the system. In the slang of the profession, these television courtiers are 'throats.' These courtiers, including the late Tim Russert, never gave a voice to credible critics in the buildup to the war against Iraq. They were too busy playing their roles as red-blooded American patriots. They never fought back in their public forums against the steady erosion of our civil liberties and the trashing of our Constitution. These courtiers blindly accept the administration's current propaganda to justify an attack on Iran. They parrot this propaganda. They dare not defy the corporate state. The corporations that employ them make them famous and rich. It is their Faustian pact. No class of courtiers, from the eunuchs behind Manchus in the 19th century to the Baghdad caliphs of the Abbasid caliphate, has ever transformed itself into a responsible elite."

--Chris Hedges, "The Hedonists of Power"

June 22, 2008

Ever wonder why I call them media whores?

Here, let Editor and Publisher clue you in:

In her Sunday column this week, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell responds to charges of improper money-making from special-interest groups against two of the newspaper's stars, David Broder and Bob Woodward. The allegations were carried in the current issue of Harper's by Ken Silverstein, the magazine's Washington editor.

Both Broder and Woodward recently took buyouts from the paper but remain as contract workers.

The Post Stylebook's ethics and standards section says only: "We freelance for no one and accept no speaking engagements without permission from department heads." Howell observes: "Broder and Woodward did not check with editors on the appearances Silverstein mentioned."

Link added.

My, how the mighty have fallen.

Bob Woodward, the man who (with Carl Bernstein) broke the story of Watergate, is now in thorough disrepute. Somehow, I don't think this is what Deep Throat meant when he told those two intrepid reporters to "follow the money"! And David Broder, who used to write well but has been turning into a bloviating archconservative in his old age, has earned more than just some richly deserved disgust by people looking for accurate reporting, not grandiose gasbaggery. Well, now we know why both of them have gone bad--it's the money, honey.

Here's the WaHoPo's ombud on the details:

...Broder made a number of speeches to business groups, including the Western Conference of Prepaid Medical Service Plans, a group of nonprofit health plans; the National Association of Manufacturers, which met at a Florida resort; a Northern Virginia Association of Realtors fundraiser; and the American Council for Capital Formation, a nonprofit group promoting smaller government and lower taxes.

[...]

Broder said the groups paid his expenses. He received two speech fees -- about $7,000 from the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, and, in 2006, he accepted $12,000 from the Minnesota League of Cities. Mary Beth Coya, the Realtors' senior vice president for public and governmental affairs, said the event was not a fundraiser but was attended by elected officials "to promote our government affairs programs."

Broder and his wife, Ann, also took free passage on the 2007 Seabourn Cruise Line's 13-night "Rio and the Amazon" cruise in exchange for three speeches about presidents he has covered.

[...]

Woodward said all his speaking fees -- which range from $15,000 to $60,000 -- go to a foundation he started in the 1990s with his wife, journalist Elsa Walsh. The Woodward Walsh Foundation has about $2.3 million, he said. He gave me its latest 2008 IRS filing, which will be made public, showing total gifts of $107,874, compared with $17,500 in 2007. Its largest donation in the past year was $51,000 to his daughter's Sidwell Friends School. Among other recipients were Investigative Reporters and Editors, Martha's Table and D.C. College Access.

But I guess it ain't whorin' if it's all going to your own private charitable foundation, eh? Talk about a hooker with a heart of gold.

You can read more about the whole whorish kerfuffle at Harper's.

It's not just Evo or Chavecito...

...it's all of Mercosur rejecting that draconian, disgusting European "Return Statute"--you know, the one that deprives undocumented immigrants of all legal rights, including recourse to an attorney before the country they're in decides to boot them out--after a prison stay of up to a year and a half?

On Friday, the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) and its associated countries expressed their "firm repudiation" of the discrimination supported by the European Union's directive of return for irregular immigrants, approved this past week by the Europarliament. The law decrees incarceration of 18 months for the undocumented.

"The governments of the participant and associate states of Mercosur deplore the approval on the part of the European Parlilament of the "return directive", announced a communication from the Argentine Chancery, which heads the South American union at this time.

Argentine diplomatic sources say that the EU's measure will be debated at the Summit of Heads of State of Mercosur, which will take place on July 1 in the Argentine city of Tucumán.

Mercosur consists of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, with Venezuela in the process of becoming a full member. Associate countries are Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

In their declaration, the ten South American nations reaffirm their "firm support for the promotion and irrestricted respect of human rights for migrants and their families, independent of their immigrant status, nationality, ethnic origin, gender or age."

They also emphasized "the necessity of recognizing the co-responsibility between the countries of origin, transit and destination of the migrants," according to the statement by the Argentine Chancery.

Translation mine.

Xinhua news agency reports that this law is supposed to be against labor exploitation. If that's true, why does it not punish cheap-ass employers who exploit the helpless status of the undocumented--and render the undocumented more helpless still? How many expensive new prisons will they have to build just to accommodate all these people without pedigree puppy-papers? And how much will it cost to enforce this law in terms of Gestapo police officers alone? And who will be footing the bill for all this? (I suggest the EU hit up the cheap-ass employers, who should be the ones in the jails. It will take a lot less manpower and money to jail them.)

BTW, Evo has spoken out against this nasty law very eloquently, and Chavecito says no oil for any country caught robbing migrants of their legal recourse. Them's my homies.

Machetera also notes that in all, 14 LatAm/Caribbean nations have now spoken out against this fascistic law. Of course, they're all predominantly non-white, so we know just how much notice the neo-conned EU will take of them.

June 20, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging Too: Bolivar's Sword

A fun animated short history of South America, Simon Bolivar, and his modern counterparts. Several familiar cartoony faces in there...

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Lugo comes to Venezuela

And gets a hug-ito from Chavecito at a religious ceremony at Caricuao in his honor:

And if the speech he gave in Ecuador here is any indication, he will work well with the rest for integration:

BTW, El Ecuadorable and Evo are in there too. Watch for them.

June 19, 2008

Help! I think I'm starting to like Felipe Calderon!

He's done two things that are very decent, all things considered.

First, he's put a freeze on food prices so that poorer Mexicans can quit dying of NAFTA-induced starvation (or at least, slow it down a bit.) If he's smart, he'll decree a price rollback and make it permanent. And if he's REALLY smart, he'll tear up NAFTA. (Oh 'Bina, you really are a dreamer, aren't you.)

He's also advocated that Europe lift its sanctions against Cuba. Meaning Cubans can also quit starving for lack of Euros. Yay!

Now, if only he'd admit that his "election" was a sham, and cede to AMLO like he should have done in the first place, things could really get rockin'.

June 18, 2008

Poor Alvaro...

Nothing's going right for the president of Colombia, it seems. First he's flopping miserably in his efforts to wipe out the FARC (who are much more likely to listen to his arch-rival Chavecito than they are to give a rat's ass what he says). Now he's flopping miserably on another front as well:

Colombian peasants devoted 27 percent more land to growing coca last year, the United Nations reported Wednesday, calling the increase "a surprise and a shock" given intense efforts to eradicate cocaine's raw ingredient.

Estimated cocaine production, however, increased only slightly in Colombia and other Andean nations — to about 994 metric tons in 2007 from 984 metric tons the year before, according to the U.N. — as cultivation shifted to smaller, less-productive plots in more remote locations.

The net increase in coca farmland came despite "record" U.S.-backed eradication efforts that disrupted the growing cycle, said Gen. Oscar Naranjo, the chief of Colombia's police.

Tsk, tsk, tsk. Alvaro, really! All that Yanqui dinero and all that help from the Empire, and now this?

Methinks you need an impeachment, not another term.

Wait, isn't Fidel already OUT of office?

I seem to recall that he stepped down. He's now signing all his Granma articles as Comrade Fidel, rather than Comandante, too.

So why, then, are "experts" trying to analyze the latest video of him to assess his "viability"? Are they really so stuck as to how to turn Cuba into a capitalist hellhole? Do they seriously think it's all about Fidel, and only Fidel, when in fact it's all about CUBA?

BTW, they do have elections there, too. They just don't have right-wing parties. Which, if you ask me, is no loss. It already looks like they're holding their own without a charismatic leader in charge. Which begs the question: Why does the CIA still give a shit, and why are they still trying to kill him at this late stage of the game?

June 17, 2008

Something tells me the lamestream media won't cover this...

...so I've taken it on myself to translate YVKE Mundial's report (via Aporrea) on the murder of an RCTV anchorman:

The Minister of Interior Relations and Justice, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, informed on Tuesday that last weekend's homicide of Javier Garcia "is presumed to be a crime of passion by all we have verified in the case".

The minister called for one minute daily to be devoted to this and other special cases, and said he did not want to give more information so as not to impede the capture of the suspected killer.

The body of the RCTV nightly news anchor, 37 years old, was found in his apartment last Sunday, in the Alto Alegre building, which is located in the suburb of Colinas de Bello Monte.

The director of the Baruta police, Wilfredo Borras, informed that on Sunday, around 7:00 pm, one of Garcia's brothers entered his apartment and forced the door of his bedroom, which had been locked. There he found the corpse, fully dressed. "He wore dark brown pants and a long-sleeved shirt. All that was missing was his socks and shoes," the director said. The body was "in the middle of the bed, lying face-up, with arms extended backwards." The body had two stab wounds in the thigh and three in the chest.

Borras said that Garcia could have been the victim of a robbery. But the death has been used by the private media, principally Globovision and RCTV, to claim that Garcia had been a victim of insecurity, one of the principal themes the opposition uses to attack the government of Hugo Chavez. YVKE Mundial received some 250 commentaries on the two items published over Garcia's death; the great majority of the commentaries came from admirers of the journalist, who were convinced that the young man had died as a result of "insecurity" and demanded that the government crack down hard.

According to Mario Silva, host of the VTV program "La Hojilla", there were no signs of a struggle in Garcia's apartment, nor that the door had been forced. On Monday, the Inspector General's office informed that they were interviewing a witness, who may have seen a suspicious person trying to carry a suitcase out of the apartment building where the journalist had lived.

Okay. Big breath.

I'd like more details on this, and I'm sure I'll get them from Aporrea and YVKE Mundial--but so far, no English-language outlet has given them. They have, however, dutifully reported the spin that is sure to be most pleasing to you-know-who in you-know-where.

June 16, 2008

Cue the Greek chorus for another round of hate!

Because kiddies, this case is gonna get real ugly:

A Venezuelan television anchorman was found slain in his apartment, his body riddled with stab wounds, authorities said Monday.

Javier Garcia worked for Radio Caracas Television, or RCTV, which has been fiercely critical of President Hugo Chavez.

Police said a relative found Garcia's body, with five stab wounds, in his bed on Sunday.

[...]

Gladys Zapiain, manager of institutional relations for RCTV, told the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, or CPJ, it was too early to determine if Garcia's death was linked to his work at the TV station.

But of course, it's never too early for the AP or RCTV (which is, strangely, still broadcasting!) to spin this as a "how can we link it to Chavez" story!

Pre-wedding pants checks in Paraguay?

This has all the makings of a farce.

A couple jailed on suspicion of having a same-sex wedding was freed Monday after a doctor determined that the groom is a hermaphrodite. Prosecutor Jose Planas ordered the couple jailed after their civil wedding Friday, when the priest scheduled to perform the religious ceremony the following day said he received a call saying the groom, Jesus Alejandro Martinez, was actually a woman.

Same-sex marriages are illegal in Paraguay, and news of the arrest became the talk of the nation.

Planas had threatened Martinez with five years in prison for falsification of documents, and said he could charge the bride, Blanca Estigarribia, with complicity.

But the couple was released Monday. A doctor who inspected Martinez in jail ruled that he is a hermaphrodite, with atrophied female genitals and well-developed male genitals, according to the couple's lawyer, Jorge Cantero.

"Conclusion: He is a man," Cantero said.

[...]

Martinez, who has some feminine traits, said he suspected an ex-girlfriend made the accusation to the priest.

"I always felt like a man, with no feminine inclination," he said.

Martinez said the couple would continue to live along the border near the Argentine city of Clorinda - "where everybody knows us and loves us."

Of course, this whole thing could have been rendered a non-issue by making same-sex marriages legal and arresting that phone-freak for harassment. Poking the state's nose into people's pants before letting them marry is just plain rude.

One in the eye for the Miami Mafia

Elian Gonzalez, whose distant relations tried to keep him in Miami (over the protests of not only Elian's father, but Elian himself) is now a Young Communist.

I wonder if that wacky cult that sprang up around him is still operational, or if it has died of shame.

Now Correa's at it, too

From Aporrea, another jaw-dropper:

Rafael Correa added his voice to that of Hugo Chavez and called on the FARC to lay down their arms.

"What future is there for guerrillas combatting a democratic government, who have no popular support in the 21st century?" asked the Ecuadorian president.

His words sound as tough as those of his Venezuelan counterpart, who insisted last Sunday that the guerrillas must end their war in Colombia. The two presidents have acted as mediators in securing the release of hostages this year and, according to the supposed computers of Raul Reyes, had contacts and alliances with the Colombian guerrillas.

Without mentioning Colombian president Alvaro Uribe directly, or the denunciations his government has directed against Quito, Correa took a few minutes during a televised interview to send a message. He spoke haltingly, pronouncing with a special emphasis on each word. "Please, enough already, lay down your arms, let's have a political and diplomatic dialogue to find peace. We've said so 500 times," he said.

To avoid Uribe's capitalizing on his words, as he did this past week with those of Chavez, the Ecuadorian president made very clear that he is not taking the side of the Colombian government. "This conflict is spilling over into all the neighboring countries and it's destabilizing the whole region. There are also Ecuadorians among the hostages," he emphasized.

He offered himself again as a mediator, and his country's territory, to restart negotiations for humanitarian exchange. "We have all the right and the obligation to intervene in humanitarian actions such as the liberation of hostages, without asking permission of absolutely anyone," he assured, in defiance of Bogota. He ordered his minister of Interior and Exterior Security, Gustavo Larrea, to seek new contacts with the guerrillas to reopen the dialogue for the hostages. "But we still don't have that contact," he declared.

But while rumors arise about new initiatives by the governments of Ecuador and Venezuela, Uribe has his own strategy. Yesterday he reiterated that members of the FARC proposed to the government that they would demobilize and hand over their civilian hostages, among them Ingrid Betancourt, in exchange for the promise that they would not be extradited.

Correa repeatedly emphasized that the situation with the neighboring country remains tense. "We don't have any eagerness to re-establish relations. We were the victims of an attack. We have every right to attach conditions," he said. He accepted, as a "goodwill gesture", that he would return to maintaining a link insofar as negotiations go, but no more than that.

For its part, the Colombian government refused to approve any of the demands from Quito to re-establish complete diplomatic relations.

Like Chavez, Correa also refuses to label the FARC a terrorist group. However, that declaration was not enough for the FARC to take to heart the declarations of the Venezuelan president, and surely the same will happen with those of his Ecuadorian counterpart.

"The declarations of Chavez make no sense and were taken out of context by media terrorists in the service of the US empire and the oligarchies of Colombia and Venezuela," declared the Colombian news website Anncol, which has close ties to the guerrillas.

Translation mine.

It remains to be seen what the FARC make of these declarations, but this is one of those "another one bites the dust" moments for me. Another "terrorist ties" myth has been busted, this time by El Ecuadorable.

So, with that in mind, it's time to cue up the Queen song:

June 15, 2008

Forrest Hylton on the "surprising" FARC remarks of Chavez

Pepe Escobar interviews the Latin America expert and author:

He's bang-on about everything except one point: He insists Venezuela has become a "transshipment point" for Colombian cocaine since Chavez stopped collaborating with the DEA. Actually, Venezuela became such a point long before Chavez was elected--it goes back as far as the drug wars of the 1980s, whereas Chavez was elected in '99. Venezuelan seizures of drug shipments are way up since Chavez booted the DEA, and one can only conclude that the DEA was actually complicit with Colombia and its right-wing paramilitaries in menacing Venezuela.

Which means Chavez was really onto something when he said that the FARC (who have used cocaine trafficking as a source of income) have become a convenient excuse for Washington to crank up the war machine. Take away one more excuse, and that cranking becomes a lot harder to do.

Lugo a "moderate"? Keep dreamin'!

Meanwhile, I'll just smile over how wrong the press initially got him...while savoring this:

President-elect Fernando Lugo, whose historic election ended six decades of one-party rule in Paraguay, on Friday named a former leftist militant to head his Cabinet when he takes office on Aug. 15.

Miguel Lopez Perito, 57, was one of the leaders of Paraguay's leftist Military Political Organization, which plotted to violently overthrow dictator Gen. Alfredo Stroessner in the mid-1970s.

Many of the militants were captured by Stroessner's secret police before their plan bore fruit, however, and disappeared during a region-wide clampdown on leftist militants during the 1970s.

Lopez Perito, who is a sociologist, said his militancy during that time was "part of the fight for democracy, social justice and to bring an end to the repression of the peasants, students, workers and the opposition."

This makes me chuckle. The US thought they could curry favor with another "moderate leftist" who's not really moderate, but who IS a leftist? Considering how Paraguay suffered at the hands of a US-installed dictator for longer than any other South American country, that's a fine joke. This choice is a definite "oh yeah?" on the part of Lugo to his would-be wooers.

Memo to Michael Fitzpatrick: One doesn't have to be "Hugo Chavez's puppet" (he doesn't have puppets, dumbass), or even his formal ally (to use a more accurate term), to be working for the same goals, using similar methods. I seem to recall Chavecito appointing a former guerrilla to a rather important cabinet post himself, not so long ago. Both of them did it for their respective countries and their common good.

Chavecito can certainly offer plenty of pointers for Lugo as he settles in, because he won't have an easy go of it, what with the Colorados still dominating the Paraguayan congress and all. Chavecito was in the same position initially, and is still in the process of cleaning house of old-order bureaucrats.

And I predict these two leaders will find much common ground as they work together in Unosur and Mercosur, too. Who knows, Lugo may just find the ALBA very much to his liking once he's had a chance to study it and figure out what Paraguay has, and what it needs, in order for a non-monetary fair trade agreement to work out. And even if he doesn't join the ALBA, he'll probably still benefit from the anti-IMF Chavecito is setting up to help countries like Paraguay get ahead at last.

June 14, 2008

Ecuador NOT joining ALBA, for now

Dang. Rafecito the Ecuadorable just broke my heart!

Ecuador announced on Friday that it would not be joining the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which its ally, Venezuela, is promoting, but indicated that it would accompany this mechanism and would contribute to other processes of integration such as the Organization of Latin American States.

Translation mine. There's more, but I'm being lazy.

So Ecuador's not in the ALBA yet, but apparently in agreement with the basic idea, and will be following along if not outright joining. Figure that one out, my head hurts.

Yeah, I'm kinda sad. But not as sad as I would be if this Colombian plot against Fine-ass Dude had succeeded.

June 13, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Two nice "just because" shots

Do I need an excuse to post pictures of these guys?

Just a nice shot of Evo, nothing more

All right, my reason for posting this one of Evo is "Because it's nice..."

And a cute one of Chavecito, just for good measure

And my reason for posting this one of Chavecito is "Because I like it!"

June 12, 2008

Evo opens a hospital

With a little help from Cuba and Venezuela, the town of Viacha, 64 km away from La Paz, now has a shiny new hospital.

A little egg to go with your face, Mr. AP guy?

Wow! Justin Delacour should write angry letters to the AP more often. They came out with a correction today:

In a June 10 story, The Associated Press reported that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in January urged world leaders to back the armed struggle of leftist Colombian rebels. Chavez said at the time that world leaders should recognize the groups as "true armies... insurgent forces that have a political project." However, Chavez also said a day later: "I don't agree with the armed struggle" and urged a political solution to the conflict.

See what happens when you pay attention to what was actually said? You don't have to issue such embarrassing corrections as this. Urging the international community to recognize a guerrilla group as a true army with a political project is hardly the same thing as backing them, or urging world leaders to back them--unless one is determined to misread and misrepresent a democratic, peace-making leader.

June 11, 2008

Justin Delacour kicks the Dissociated Press's ass

'Bout time someone did! And who better than a Latin America scholar, who knows how important it is to work with all the facts, the accurate facts, and not just whatever bullshit is convenient to the State Dept., Big Bidness, Big Oil, etc.?

Unfortunately, the AP's bad reporting isn't limited to its Caracas bureau; I've seen it hit Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador with the Stoopid Stick, too. Surely that's not a coincidence, since all three of them are friendly with Chavecito's Venezuela. Why they haven't also beaten up on Chile, Brazil and Argentina, I don't know; all three of their leaders have lent support to Chavecito, too, though they're a bit shy about signing on to the ALBA. (Hmmm, maybe that last is why--it gives the Usual Suspects the false impression that they might still be amenable to neoliberalism, like Colombia and Peru, but have only been playing coy so far.)

I'd write a letter too, and maybe someday I will, but right now I'll just stick to grousing on this blog. And to the AP, I'll let Johnny Cash's finger do the talking:

Johnny Cash lets us know how he really feels

June 10, 2008

Oh Christ, how could I miss THIS one?

The AP has just outdone itself. It's now touting some schmo claiming he's Chavecito's illegitimate son, and that Chavecito's a deadbeat dad. The basis for the claim? A slight resemblance, especially when the guy's photographed in red shirts and Chavecito-like poses. (It diminishes considerably when you consider how many other Venezuelan guys look a lot like Chavecito.)

Break out the blood tests, people, it's gonna be a long, hot, CRAZY summer now.

Media dog days, or an early start to the silly season

Oh my my, what heady days. The Summer Solstice is still 11 days away, and already the silly season has begun, if the whore media are any indication. Everyone's in a tizzy over Chavecito's latest declarations.

Let's start with the big dogs, since it's always the most comical to watch them chase their tails. At the Grey Lady's House of Ill Repute, a certain well-known bowser, Mr. Romero, demonstrates how to do a backflip when trying to square the facts with the counterfactual prejudices one has been working so goshdarn hard to foster:

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela started this month as the most prominent political supporter of Colombia's largest rebel group and a fierce defender of his own overhaul of his nation's intelligence services. But in the space of a few hours over the weekend, he confounded his critics by switching course on both contentious policies.

In doing so, Mr. Chávez displayed a willingness for self-reinvention that has served him well in times of crisis throughout his long political career. Time and again, he has gambled by pushing brash positions and policies, then shifted to a more moderate course when the consequences seemed too dire.

And while Mr. Chávez has been accused of speaking like an autocrat and of trying to rule like one, his recent actions confirm that Venezuela's democracy, however fragile it may seem at times, still serves as a check on the president's wishes.

Nice work, Simon! Project your flippy-floppy onto the president of Venezuela! How many rotations and twists did you do in order to create that work of art?

But of course, Slimin' Simon just couldn't resist the urge to go right on getting it all wrong, once the shock wore off:

The law would have forced judges in Venezuela to support the intelligence services and required citizens to cooperate with community-monitoring groups, provoking widespread fears that the government wanted to follow Cuba in creating a societywide network of informants whose main purpose was to nip antigovernment activities in the bud.

Ho hum, same old "He's turning Venezuela into Cuba!" How predictable. Only, of course, one look around will tell you that Venezuela is not Cuba; for one thing, Venezuela isn't isolated or blockaded or embargoed the way Cuba has been for the last 50 years. For another, its democracy is actually more robust, not more fragile, since Chavecito came to power. Citizen input and participation have never been greater, and neither have government accountability and transparency. But that's not Simon's preferred tune to dance to. He'd rather see a return to the Good Old Daze of Punto Fijo, no doubt--back when governments routinely suppressed critical articles in the media, and sent the army and the secret police out against the citizenry--all in the interests of protecting capitalism, which is what nobody at the NYT seems capable of distinguishing from democracy (with the possible exception of Paul Krugman, who has also been known to get it wrong where Chavecito is concerned.)

Next, the Chicago Trib dubs Chavecito "The Surprising Mr. Chavez". The article is very childishly written, which I guess is inevitable when an author is factually challenged and there are no adults around to tell them to grow the fuck up. It repeats every current lie from the "financing the FARC" to the "arms race" that ain't. No wonder the author is so surprised. If they had been following actual events, instead of figments and fantasies, nothing that's been said or done by Chavecito would be the least bit surprising. (Oh, and while we're on the subject of factually challenged, it might behoove the ditzy columnist to learn the name of the show: It's Alo Presidente, not Hola Presidente!)

Meanwhile, Time's resident dormouse, Tim Padgett, is asking the question "A Kinder, Gentler Hugo Chavez?" The question mark, and the scowly photo of you-know-who, are meant to direct us to the "correct" answer, which is "Not on your everloving life!" But Padgett actually surprised ME a bit by quoting Larry Birns of COHA, an ordinarily reliable source, practically right off the top and throughout the piece. Dare I hope? No, because it looks like Birns has caught the bug, too. Birns claims the "new" Chavez is changing his tune to keep from giving the opposition a foothold in the next election (which I'm sure surprised Padgett some, since he usually sounds about ready to write off Venezuela as an incipient dictatorship, too.) Saaay, I wonder if Larry Birns is trying to increase his exposure and prestige as a source by telling the Big Media what they want to hear? Can't be ruled out, since COHA usually doesn't get that many quotes from the whores and is in perpetual danger of being marginalized as a result. Maybe it, too, felt a sudden need to "moderate" its tone.

Finally, bringing up the rear, we have--ho, hum--one more aging, expat beauty queen trying to appear relevant, if not preternaturally young. If you want to go into a diabetic coma or need an emetic, here--sugary tripe, freshly reconstituted and warmed over just for you.

So who gets it right? Stephen Lendman, for the second straight week in a row. He tackles the changes to the Intelligence Law with a rational tone, and zero spin. But then again, he doesn't write for the corporate media. I hope he never does, because he's the last person I want to see chasing his tail.

CTV reports a death in Afghanistan...

...with a rare dose of honesty:

A B.C. father says the loss of his soldier son to a freak accident in Afghanistan will haunt him forever.

"Of course I grieve," David Snyder told CTV News from his home in Penticton on Sunday about the death of Capt. Jonathan Sutherland Snyder.

"Of course I will have a hollow in my being forever."

[...]

"It's about hazard and chance, and unfortunately there was an accident -- and he died," David Snyder said.

The former reservist also said: "War is stupid. Everybody knows that. Everybody knows that. Well, no they don't. The politicians don't know that."

He also told The Canadian Press that he supported his son and the military, but not the Afghanistan mission.

You had to see the video yesterday, though--they actually showed this intelligent, articulate man questioning the government, the Afghanistan mission, the stupidity of war. For a corporate, corporatist, rah-rah network like CTV, this was really saying something.

Of course, some commenters on the CTV site took him to task for it, accusing him of "playing politics" like Cindy Sheehan. I doubt whether this is "playing" anything. Cindy was right to question the cause for which her son died, and so is this man. It's a credit to see, however, far more voices criticizing the critics than the grieving father, who has every right in a democratic country to express his obviously well-thought-through opinion.

It's not a soldier's prerogative to question his mission; it is that of the civilians, particularly his family, who can hold the government accountable in the event of his death.

June 9, 2008

Venezuelan bikes are destabilizing to Latin America!

Golly, who knew?

The bicycles are produced in Venezuela under a joint venture with an Iranian company.

Chavez rode one of the bikes during his Sunday TV program and joked about what he called the bicycle's "radioactivity" and offered one to U.S. President George W. Bush.

U.S. officials say Chavez is a destabilizing influence in Latin America and also express concern that Iran's nuclear research program could be aimed at weapons production.

Yes, and these Venezuelan/Iranian bikes will give Dubya road rash worse than anything he got since he choked on that pretzel, too. And how do we know this bicycle factory isn't financing the FARC or enriching uranium for the Iranian nuclear missile program, hmmmm?

Honestly. Just one post ago, I thought the AP might have broken with its pattern of general idiocy on Latin America, and here it is, reverting right to it again with a vengeance. That'll teach me to give them any credit.

OMG, the AP gets Bolivia RIGHT for a change...

It must be a slow news day for them. Otherwise, I can't imagine how this passed muster.

Thousands of demonstrators marched on the U.S. Embassy Monday to demand that Washington extradite a former Bolivian defense minister who directed a military crackdown on riots that killed at least 60 people in 2003.

Former Defense Minister Carlos Sanchez Berzain, now a resident of Key Biscayne, Fla., told La Paz-based Radio Fides last week that the U.S. granted him political asylum more than a year ago.

The revelation sparked outrage in El Alto, a sprawling satellite city outside La Paz where dozens of anti-government rioters were gunned down by soldiers in 2003. On Monday, thousands of residents streamed down the hills into La Paz to demand justice for the killings.

"We've come to the doors of the embassy to say 'Enough with the impunity,'" said Edgar Patana, head of an El Alto labor union leading the protest. "The United States has to prove that they have the justice they're always showing off in their media and movies. Bolivia wants that justice."

Incredibly, it goes on and on practically throughout the piece in this vein--no sympathy for the devil. And they accurately mention that this devil, and the devil who employed him (Goni) sparked the landslide that brought Evo Morales into office. They even give Evo the last word. All that's missing is the part about Bechtel and the privatization of Bolivia's water, right down to rainfall, being part and parcel of what sparked the uprisings. Which is still rather remarkable, considering it's the Dissociated Press we're talking about. Normally, they leave all that out and just throw their sympathy behind the worst of the worst.

This guy must be to Bolivians what Luis Posada Carriles is to Venezuela and Cuba. The difference between him and the CubanaBomber? This guy got legal asylum in the US, whereas BushCo is still trying to pretend they don't know the illicitly sneaked-in CubanaBomber.

One thing where there IS no difference, though: Both are being rewarded with the right to stay. And why not? Both are being repaid for services rendered. Precious few other immigrants and asylum claimants have done so much.

And another one's gone, and another one's gone...

Another one bites the dust! Damn, how many more myths does Chavecito plan on busting this week?

The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, directed a message to the new chief of the FARC, Alfonso Cano, on Sunday, in which he called for the unconditional liberation of all the group's hostages. Then he assured that in Latin America, "the age of guerrilla wars is history."

"It's time for the FARC to release everyone they're holding in the mountains," Chavez demanded of Cano, adding at the same time that "it would be a great gesture, a change from nothing."

According to the president, the situation in which Latin America and the United States now find themselves "appears to be creating favorable conditions for a peace process in Colombia", for which the release of all hostages "would be the first step" toward success.

[...]

Chavez suggested that a group of countries and worldwide institutions could guarantee the peace accords between the Colombian government and the guerrillas, "as occurred in Central America."

"With a group of countries, I'm sure that Argentina, (Brazilian President) Lula, (Nicaraguan President) Ortega, (Ecuadorian President) Correa, Nicolas Sarkozy (of France), Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (of Spain), I'm sure they will help, even Socrates (of Portugal), the king of Spain, even the Vatican, commissions of the OAS, will help assure a respectable peace," Chavez assured.

"I call on the world's help from here, because I consider myself a 'Gran Colombiano'. Enough of this war, it's time to start talking peace. We call on the world to seek this course," Chavez said.

Translation mine; video in Spanish at the link.

So much for the "he supports the FARC" myth.

Why would someone who's allegedly been covertly financing and arming the guerrillas call on them openly to release all hostages and put an end to their warfare? Well, probably for the same reason he's been negotiating the release of other hostages: Chavez has a vested interest. In what? Well, in Colombia's peace, what else? He's fed up with guerrilla warfare spilling over into Venezuela and Ecuador; he's also tired of Colombian mercenaries making their way across the border into Venezuela to be used by wealthy landowners against peasants (and against Chavez's own hard-fought-for land reforms). And he's had it to the gills with Colombian forces barging into Venezuela, right on the streets of Caracas, to capture FARC men without so much as a by-your-leave. One can hardly blame him for saying "Basta ya"!

But wait...what's this? Lower down in the same news item, I found:

Chavez insisted that nowadays, there is no justification for armed groups.

"At this point, it's out of order to have an armed guerrilla movement. This has to be said to the FARC, it's what I would have liked to say to Marulanda," said Chavez, recalling the invitations he made to the former guerrilla leader, who died on March 26 of heart failure, and whose death was confirmed by the guerrillas on May 25.

Chavez regretted not being able to meet with the guerrilla leader, to whom he wanted to make his plea to liberate all hostages.

"I never wrote to him, because this is something I wanted to tell him in person. Let's free all these people, that's what I want to say to Cano!" Chavez said.

Aha. Another interesting fact comes to light. Chavecito hasn't been writing to Marulanda! He was hoping for an open dialogue in person. It's getting harder and harder for me to believe that story about Raul Reyes' alleged computer, and things like this are why.

Of course, I've known for a long time now that Chavecito felt that way about guerrillas in general. It keeps coming back to that book by Aleida Guevara. Chavez told Guevara that back when he was a subversive young army officer, he met with a Venezuelan guerrilla leader, Douglas Bravo, in a meeting brokered by his own older brother Adan, the original leftist in the Chavez family. While he found that he and the old guerrilla chief had many ideals in common, in the end they did not conspire together. The reason? Chavez felt that the age of guerrilla warfare was over and done with in Venezuela, and that his own academic military background didn't fit in with it anyway. He was looking for a different path to address the corruption and weak, false-fronted democracy in the land, and after breaking with Bravo, he went right on looking.

This becomes less surprising still in light of the fact that as an army officer, Chavez was called upon to intervene against the guerrillas--some Colombian, some Venezuelan--in the border regions. In the process, he also observed how campesinos were being beaten, tortured and killed; the anti-guerrilla actions were being used as a pretext for oppression. This outraged Chavez, and he wanted to see an end to it--for reasons which, I gather, are pretty self-explanatory by now.

And speaking of self-explanatory, how about this?

The Venezuelan president said that the existence of the guerrillas has been made into an excuse for the "empire", meaning the United States, "to menace us all".

"The day there is peace in Colombia will be the end of the imperial excuses, the main one being terrorism", Chavez said.

For Chavez, the intentions of the US government to install a military base in Colombia, as the US ambassador in Bogota, William Brownfield, suggested, represent a menace to Venezuela.

"Now they say they will put a military base in Colombia. This is a threat to Venezuela," Chavez said.

The military base he's referring to will replace the one at Manta, in Ecuador, whose lease expires next year and will not be renewed by the government of Rafael Correa. It will be located at La Guajira, near the Venezuelan border, so no wonder he sees it as a threat. And given the recent incursion of some 60 Colombian troops over the Venzuelan border, that threat is far from idle. Couple that with all the anti-Venezuelan rhetoric in the major media, and you begin to see what he's on about.

Chavez still has one point in common with his old interlocutor, Douglas Bravo: Both of them see Plan Colombia not as an anti-drug or anti-guerrilla operation, but as a massive campaign against stability, progress and solidarity in Latin America. And given the history of its abuses, it gets harder every day not to concede that these two fighting men, who differ so much in their approaches but agree so much on the basic truths, are really onto something. In the end, Chavez will prove to be right: Peace in Colombia will deprive the imperialists of their last excuse for the ongoing military menace that they've sustained so handily up to now.

And now you know why they're trying so hard to discredit him.

June 8, 2008

One more "tyrannical Hugo Chavez" myth shot down

By HIMSELF, no less!

Video in Spanish. Chavecito publicly declares he will rectify potentially dangerous errors in the proposed new Intelligence Law, which will completely overhaul the old secret police (DISIP) and military intelligence (DIM) services. As he noted, the old intel organs were often used by the government (and Washington) against the citizenry. He refuses to let that happen again.

This is consistent with his unwillingness to turn the army out to fire on protests and demonstrators (in stark contrast to what his kosher-with-Washington predecessors did on numerous occasions.) Which dates back as far as 1989, in the wake of the Caracazo--the use of the Venezuelan army to violently suppress protests against a president gone power-mad. Chavecito, fortunately, was sick at the time, and therefore not sent to fire on his fellow Venezuelans. He swore never to do that himself, and he kept that vow--even during the coup of '02, when the army could have been sent to kill every coup-plotter at Miraflores, but wasn't--and didn't. (They merely arrested a few key figures and let the rest go, as the Chavistas outside the palace cheered and shouted--and lynched nobody.)

Holy crap, a president who actually listens, is accountable, and corrects his own mistakes. How many more times does he plan to make the lamestream media look like jackasses when they hype a bogus story? This is getting to be a habit with him, and it must be stopped, lest Venezuela begin to look like a radical democracy!

Synchronicity works in mysterious ways

So here I am, listening to a test-cast by my mega-talented friend Tony "T-Bone" Jones. It's called "Song of Bobby Kennedy", and it's about 20 minutes of trance-dance electronica interspersed with a rousing and cautionary speech by Bobby Kennedy. "A time of change and a time of sorrow." It's about racism and violence and senseless bloodshed--it is on the assassination of Dr. King.

But another friend, R. A. "Deck" Deckert, sent me this link, and guess what's the first story at the top?

The columnist Steve Lopez, writing in The Los Angeles Times about Juan Romero, the busboy who knelt down to help Robert F. Kennedy after he was shot at the Ambassador Hotel. The paper's Daily Mirror blog reprinted the column, first published five years ago, last week on the 40th anniversary of the assassination:

"People were six and seven deep," Juan says, but he got close enough to stick out his hand. As Kennedy grabbed it, Juan heard a bang and felt a flash of heat against his face. Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin, had fired from just off Juan's shoulder.

"I thought it was firecrackers at first, or a joke in bad taste," says Juan, but then he saw Kennedy sprawled on the floor and knelt to help him up.

"He was looking up at the ceiling, and I thought he'd banged his head. I asked, 'Are you O.K.? Can you get up?' One eye, his left eye, was twitching, and one leg was shaking."

Juan slipped a hand under the back of Kennedy's head to lift him and felt warm blood spilling through his fingers.

"People were screaming, 'Oh my God, not another Dallas!' "

Ethel Kennedy knelt down at her husband's side and pushed Juan away. Juan looked on, angry and stunned, fingering the rosary beads in his pocket.

"When I was in trouble, I would always go and pray to God to make my stepfather forget what I'd done, or to keep me out of trouble the next time. I asked Ethel if I could give Bobby the rosary beads, and she didn't stop me. She didn't say anything.

"I pressed them into his hand but they wouldn't stay because he couldn't grip them, so I tried wrapping them around his thumb. When they were wheeling him away, I saw the rosary beads still hanging off his hand."

Some would say this is just because the past week saw the 40th anniversary of RFK's assassination. Others would say this is just a coincidence.

I say they're both wrong.

This is synchronicity--the word coined by Carl Jung to denote a meaningful coincidence or an acausal connection between two seemingly unconnected things. In this case, the obvious connection is RFK, but when I listened to the song and read the story concurrently, I had the distinct sense of something much subtler--and dare I say spookier--going on. My friend Deck did not send me the link to draw my attention to the RFK story, but to a piece further down on the blog, about writers who still use typewriters (and in the age of not-so-bomb-proof laptops, it might be worth investing in an old metal-cased portable just in case, methinks. BTW, did I mention that Hugo Chavez doesn't use a computer but prefers a typewriter for his own correspondence? It's true. He told it to Aleida Guevara when she interviewed him a few years ago. But that's another strange little coincidence. File it away for future reference, my friends, because I intend to return to it.) My friend Tony didn't just conveniently time his recording to coincide with the 40th anniversary of RFK's death, but to underscore the enduring emportance of some of his most famous last words. My two friends don't know each other, but they both know me. I did not know in advance that the story and the music would appear on my computer at the same time.

That, my friends, is synchronicity.

June 7, 2008

Well, well, well. What have we here?

This is too juicy to pass up. Aporrea.org, the Venezuelan news/opinion site I enjoy most, has uncovered some skulduggery published at an opposition forum called Noticiero Digital. It's an e-mail from Alfredo Rangel, the director of the "Security and Democracy Foundation" in Colombia. According to Aporrea, "this organism is a facade for the intelligence community of the US in that country." The e-mail is to Juan Manuel Santos, the defence minister of Colombia.

Full text follows, translated by Your Humble One:

from Alfredo Rangel

reply-to alfredorangelsuarez@yahoo.com

to jmsantosg@yahoo.com

date Mon, May 28, 2008 at 11:52 AM

subject: En el texo.

Bogotá, May 28, 2008.

Juan Manuel,

As I promised you over the phone, here are my impressions and those of the team about some scenarios which could be evaluated and may materialize during the meeting of the Organization of American States on June 1.

Our strategic political victory over terrorism and in particular the FARC and their allies (Chávez and Correas [sic]) is clear. However, I want to share with you some concerns which have been present in the last few weeks. Without establishing a rigorous order, I will describe some topics which have been shared with our strategic allies, particularly with the agencies which have conducted the media campaign of "Plan Security and Democracy", and who have been coordinating activities with the Foundation, specifically the bachaco* and his people.

These have been our concerns:

a) We have to be careful with relations with the president, since any initiative on his part could be poorly understood, as was the announcement of the death of Marulanda. Above all, we have to consider how something very ballsy, like the aspirations of Uribe toward re-election and how some sectors see in yourself a rival to watch out for. I want you to take very much into account my own case when I proposed myself.

b) On the other hand, your declarations in Semana generated some confusion among the bachaco's people, since the State Department agreed with us to maintain the offensive against Chávez and his henchmen. However, you could get them to see reason by arguing a series of reasons which were discussed in the last few days, in the sense of directing correctly the use of the information from the Reyes computers, as you can gather from the editorial I sent you earlier. To have poisoned the computers in some way is the most extraordinary goldmine of documents on the plans and activities of the FARC in the exterior. From this point of view Chávez and Correa have inevitably stayed in the spotlight and under suspicion of aiding terrorism. For this reason, they will have to conduct themselves well, which means suspending the aid which they had been giving the FARC, and not give them cover and protection in their national territories.

c) These governments allied to narcotrafficking and the guerrillas have remained neutralized. In effect, it is no concidence that nowadays the ministries of Venezuela and Ecuador have taken the initiative of communicating with the Colombians in order to facilitate encounters between their military commands and the Colombians, with the purpose of processing institutionally complaints about supposed incursions in their territories by Colombian military patrols. Additionally, the Ecuadorian ministry has said that their government is disposed to normalize relations always and when Colombia does not use the contents of these computers against it. What interests Colombia is that they quit giving the guerrillas oxygen and artificial respiration that prolong its last hour of agony. The important thing is that Colombia makes very clear to them, not publicly but in a reserved way, the caution that upon the first evidence that these aid measures continue, we would be disposed to use the proof from the computers to denounce them before the world and bring cases against them before the pertinent international bodies.

d) However, the former strategy of politico-military neutralization could be frustrated if we do not win the battle of credibility regarding the certification of Interpol. Initially we were on a good footing, but threats to our version have presented themselves, which must be counteracted promptly. Although Interpol correctly announced that "no user archive was created, modified or suppressed in any of the eight instrumental probes of informatic character since its removal from the FARC on March 1, 2008", in the same report Interpol affirms that there had been manipulation of 48,055 archives in the first 52 hours (pages31 and 42 of the report), when the Colombian authorities accessed the data between the 1st and 3rd of March without using the internationally accepted methodology. This is dangerously registered in Conclusion #2b: Between March 1, when the Colombian authorities performed the eight instrumental probes of informatic character, and the 3 of March 2008 at 11:45, when the said pieces of evidence were handed over to the Investigative Group of Informatic Crimes of the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DIJIN) of Colombia, the access to the data contained in the cited probes did not conform to internationally recognized principles for the treatment of electronic evidence on the part of organisms charged with application of the law. The bachaco's institutions say they have other evidence or indications which could reinforce the credibility of our thesis. In particular you should recall the intelligence which we gained last year regarding the movement of weapons and encampments of the FARC in Venezuelan territories which served to conceal Ivan Marquez. I don't know if you recall the operative who was posted near Tibú with regard to [sentence left unfinished]

e) In the meeting where US Undersecretary of State John Negroponte (the one Araujo attended) they evaluated various scenarios with regard to the OAS meeting, among what was proposed in order to take advantage of this occasion as a window of opportunity to strengthen our global strategy, among diverse initiatives was the holding of a press converence to mark the XXXVIII General Assembly. On the one hand, to accompany the chancellor's approach to territorial sovereignty must hinge on security problems, such as what we formulated in a systematic manner last time at the Foundation (here I must recognize the intellectual credit to Germán Espejo who accompanied us in the elaboration and divulgation of the conception of "extraterritorial operations"). Negroponte will carry out some lobbying and the president promised to set this out in the opening ceremonies of the meeting. On the other hand, the gringos also will set out the opening of an investigation on the contents of the documents of the Raul Reyes laptops, leaning on the proposal from Ecuador. Although the subject isn't on the agenda, this is a turn which the meeting could take on Tuesday, when the topic of peace in Colombia arises. In this way we can consolidate our positions and put Chavez and his allies on the defensive.

f) Alongside these lines of work, I've set out to Araujo what is my position, which you now know, which is also repeated in diverse editorials where I've maintained that all the Colombian ambassadors must conduct broad information campaigns in the extrior over the situation in the country and the advances made in terms of interior security, to create a fertile terrain and gain international support in the event that we find ourselves obligated to make any denands before international organisms before a not-to-be-ruled-out re-incidence of our neighbors in their support of the guerrillas.

Okay. Big breath. That was a lot of tortured language (and even more tortured thought), which cost me a lot of torture to translate. I'm still not sure if it makes sense; spook-diplomatese is a dreadfully sloppy language. But let's dip in with the old slotted spoon and see what we can fish out of this murky alphabet soup.

First, it's no mystery here that Uribe amended the Colombian constitution to allow for his own re-election. The mainstream media has reported it, but has Simon Romero or Andres Oppenheimer squeaked up about it? Nope, and nope. Apparently, the re-election of a real narcoterrorist tyrant in Colombia is no problem. Contrast this with the screeching from the flying monkeys when Chavecito in Venezuela put a similar amendment to a popular vote (his party is now re-proposing it in the national assembly). Cue up the screams and cries of "Communist! Dictator! Tyrant!". And never mind that it is, per the Bolivarian Constitution, entirely up to the Venezuelan electorate at all times. Has the same been left up to the Colombian electorate? Shockingly, in spite of Uribe's alleged high popularity, the answer is no! This amendment was passed by the Colombian congress, which is dominated by Uribe's corrupt party, with zero input from any further down. He won't even endorse a successor from his own party, and as we can see from this e-mail, he sees his defence minister not as an ally but a rival. If that doesn't make you scratch your head and wonder who the real dictator-tyrant is, you probably don't have a pulse.

Then, there's the little matter of the death of Manuel Marulanda. It clearly sticks in Uribe's craw that the old boy died a natural death, and wasn't killed in a bombing raid. This makes Uribe look bad--he's been in power all this time, and hasn't bagged the Big One? Just how much success is he really having at wiping out those pesky guerrillas, then? He even tried to bomb them while Chavecito was working his culo off to get the hostages handed over to the Red Cross, apparently with no regard for the hostages' lives. No wonder he's trying to bribe disaffected FARCers to hand the body over to the authorities--who will then mutilate it to make it look like he was killed in a raid after all. Hey, they're not above dressing up dead campesinos to look like FARC, so what's to stop them from messing up a dead FARC leader to make him look like they killed him?

The really explosive thing here, though, has got to be the revelation that the State Department conspired with the Uribe regime to keep up a tightly controlled media campaign against the presidents of Venezuela and Ecuador. Of course, it doesn't surprise me that they would; it does, however, make me chuckle to see it expressed so baldly in an e-mail, from one Yahoo address to another at that. Did they think that using Yahoo would make the communication anonymous, and therefore safe from prying eyes? While this is not a smoking gun still warm from the State Dept.'s hand (that would be an intercepted communication from the State Dept. to the lackey who sent this e-mail), the fact that they and their representative, John Negroponte (alias Ambassador Deathsquad) are mentioned here proves that Chavecito has been right all these years when he accused them of having their hand deep up the ass of the Uribe regime. And that the media, too, have been tools in their hands.

The next explosive thing is the fact that they are admitting that the "Raul Reyes" laptop was tampered with between March 1 and March 3, as we already know it was. They are in a panic about this coming to light, and anxious to deflect attention away from this and back to the allegations against Correa and Chavez. Why? Because if this part of the story gets legs, it will cast doubt on the laptop story in its entirety. (Of course, so would the realization that a laptop can't survive a bomb attack, but nobody wants to touch that one except me, it seems.)

After that, there's yet another explosive admission: that the Colombian government has been conducting "extraterritorial" military activities. Translation: The Colombian troops have been invading Venezuela and Ecuador. Illegally, of course. Meaning, it's not an accident at all that over 60 of them were recently spotted on the Venezuelan side of the border. They were sent there; they did not get there by mistake. Same goes for those who fired on Ecuadorian fishing villages along a river marking the border of Ecuador and Colombia. They were sent to attack Ecuador and Venezuela. They have committed war crimes against Ecuador and Venezuela--with the State Dept.'s full complicity and direction. Any questions?

Of course, war crimes are not the only offences in play here; there's also the pressure against Chavez and Correa, using the FARC as a pretext. This is a lame excuse, of course, and doesn't wash; the only "support" either one has given them is to recognize them as belligerents in a civil war, which they are, and to negotiate with them for the release of hostages. Recall that Raul Reyes was the conduit through whom the negotiations took place. It's no coincidence that he was the one killed in the bombing raid; this murder was calculated to torpedo all hostage negotiations by both governments. First, because Chavez and Correa couldn't be seen to succeed in a peace process, or a humanitarian exchange. That would make Uribe and his Washington handlers look like shits, not to mention totally incompetent. It would also cast Chavez and Correa in a good light, and make it impossible to pressure or extort them using their relations with the FARC as a lever. This e-mail is pretty explicit about the extortion going on. It states clearly that both men must remain on the defensive.

Notice, too, that Negroponte is explicitly revealed as Washington's go-between with the Uribe regime. He tells them to jump and how high. And how to dance at the OAS summit, and to what tune. Niiiiiiiice.

Finally, to return to the theme of the media war: Notice how the Colombian ambassadors have all been instructed on how to play this? A broad media campaign against Chavez and Correa. They're no longer diplomats, they are just PR flacks for Uribe, Negroponte and God only knows who else. How embarrassing is that?

Yeah, I can see how an e-mail like this could turn into a bomb in the wrong set of hands. Saaaaaay, what's that ticking I hear coming from my own laptop...?

* * *

*My gran diccionario lists "bachaco" as a Venezuelan familiar term for a "person of mixed race with dark skin and reddish, curly hair". Is that term also in use in Colombia? If so, it's obviously not a reference to Chavez, who, though of mixed race and curly hair, is certainly not a redhead. The context suggests that it is someone high up behind the scenes in Colombia, but beyond the suggestive physical description, it gives no clues as to who he is.

June 6, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Ecuadorability!

What? No Chavecito or Evo this week?

Nope...

Yowza, what a great shot of Rafael Correa!

Hey. Who let those photographers in? I dunno, but at least they caught El Ecuadorable looking sharp.

Rafael Correa in a groovy hat

And my oh my, doesn't he look beau in his Panama chapeau? Damn shame El Narco's blocking the view. Maybe he's telling him to get out of the camera angle? Or just saying "Don't FARC with me again, little man, or I'll pull out what I know about YOU!"

Rafael Correa and one lucky lady

I don't know who she is, but I know what she is: She's lucky.

June 5, 2008

Oh gawd, now the GERMAN media is in on it too...

Someone please tell the Burschen at Der Spiegel that their story was kaputt long before it came out. They're recycling a piece of pure horseshit under the laughable title of "The Colombian Connection: How Hugo Chavez Courted FARC":

They called him "Angel." He was the highest-ranking outside contact for the Colombian guerilla organization FARC. More and more details are now emerging that demonstrate the close relationship between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the jungle terrorists.

He already had a photo of himself posing with Vietnamese general and revolutionary hero Vo Nguyen Giap, and he also planned to suggest to Cuban leader Fidel Castro that he don his combat uniform once again for a joint photo, "Angel" told FARC commander Ivan Marquez. All that was missing in his collection, he said, was a photo with "J.E."

"Angel" was FARC's code name for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and "J.E." was Manuel Marulanda, a.k.a. "Tirofijo" ("Sure Shot"), the legendary leader of Latin America's oldest guerilla organization.

What a shame. Such a provocative lede, and already we know it's all wrong. How? Oh, here. Let Greg Palast school you on how not to read shit into an e-mail:

While you can read it all in español, here is, in translation, the one and only mention of the alleged $300 million from Chavez:

"… With relation to the 300, which from now on we will call "dossier," efforts are now going forward at the instructions of the boss to the cojo [slang term for 'cripple'], which I will explain in a separate note. Let's call the boss Ángel, and the cripple Ernesto."

Got that? Where is Hugo? Where's 300 million? And 300 what? Indeed, in context, the note is all about the hostage exchange with the FARC that Chavez was working on at the time (December 23, 2007) at the request of the Colombian government.

Indeed, the entire remainder of the email is all about the mechanism of the hostage exchange. Here's the next line:

"To receive the three freed ones, Chavez proposes three options: Plan A. Do it to via of a 'humanitarian caravan'; one that will involve Venezuela, France, the Vatican[?], Switzerland, European Union, democrats [civil society], Argentina, Red Cross, etc."

As to the 300, I must note that the FARC's previous prisoner exchange involved 300 prisoners. Is that what the '300' refers to? ¿Quien sabe? Unlike Uribe, Bush and the US press, I won't guess or make up a phastasmogoric story about Chavez mailing checks to the jungle.

To bolster their case, the Colombians claim, with no evidence whatsoever, that the mysterious "Angel" is the code name for Chavez. But in the memo, Chavez goes by the code name … Chavez.

Whoever "Angel" may be, one thing is certain: He's not Chavez. It is kind of funny that Chavez would be referred to by both his real name and a pseudonym in the same document, no?

I would tear apart the rest of the article, but what's the point? It's already blown itself to shit by making an opening assumption that is patently untrue. If the lede is wrong, you have no story.

Period.

Venezuela tells Human Rights Watch to...

...well, I was gonna say "go fuck a dog", but they've already done that. Here's what was actually said:

President Chavez has repeatedly denied that Venezuela provided any kind of material support to the FARC and that the only contacts his government has had with the FARC was to facilitate the release of hostages held by the FARC. In early 2008 Chavez managed to convince the FARC to release six out of 45 of its high profile hostages.

Two weeks ago, Interior Minister Rodriguez Chacín said he had met personally with FARC leaders during the negotiations of hostage releases which Colombia invited Venezuela to help mediate last August. Rodriguez Chacín assured that the "only contacts" President Chávez had with the FARC were at the request of the Colombian government for the sake of the peace process.

There. So, what's this about a need to "clarify" something? It's been clear for, oh, like FOREVER.

On the other hand, it looks to me like HRW has some clearing-up of its own to do:

Colombia claims to have found the documents in laptop computers picked up from the wreckage of the FARC camp inside Ecuador that Colombia bombarded March 1st, where FARC commander Raul Reyes, the alleged owner of the laptops and chief negotiator of hostage releases, was killed.

HRW has not had direct access to the computer files, according to the organization's press release Tuesday. Requests for access to these files, even by Colombian Supreme Court, have so far gone unheeded by the Colombian and U.S. governments, in whose custody the files remain.

According to HRW, the excerpts of emails made public by Colombia indicate that the FARC met personally with top Venezuelan officials including President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan Generals Hugo Carvajal Barrios, and Clíver Alcalá Cordones, and the Minister of Justice and the Interior Ramón Rodríguez Chacín.

Vivanco demanded that Venezuela verify if such meetings actually took place, and if so, Venezuela should reveal what was discussed in those meetings.

I demand that HRW clarify its relations with the Colombian government, and why it is so strangely content to make so many nasty accusations against Venezuela based on such paltry and doubtful evidence. I demand that they make it their policy not to accuse people of doing things they haven't done, especially if those people are guilty of nothing worse than not living up to the demands of the State Dept. I also demand that they stop making demands of Venezuela to put laws in place to stop things that are actually not going on.

Unfortunately, I don't expect them to fulfill those honest demands any more than Venezuela will be bothered with their spurious ones.

The myth of happy racism

Found a little item on Aporrea and thought I'd translate it and follow up with a few thoughts of mine own:

Could it be that my black friends in the Venezuelan opposition don't feel that they are being alluded to when other oppositionists use words like "niches" (common, vulgar people), "monos" (monkeys), "macacos" (ditto), etc.? Could it be that they just don't say such things in front of my friends? It saddens me to say that in front of me, yes, they say those things.

The Venezuelan right-wing has trouble with its racism for two reasons, one bigger than the other. The smaller is that, as Gabriel Garcia Marquez once said, the main difference between Colombia and Venezuela is that in Colombia, the conservatives win all the wars, and in Venezuela, the liberals win. The conservatives lose the wars but win the peace and go on ruling, because the only visible gain left to the liberals is that racism had become shameful and official ideology camouflaged it. There was racism, stupid like all a priori segregation between people, but up until 1998 it was shifty and artful. The racists would surely blush to show themselves as much as they do in Bolivia. Because in Venezuela--this is the bigger reason--even the most "aryan" has an African grandmother, as Romulo Betancourt once said.

After 1998, Venezuelan racism resurfaced, especially towards the person of Hugo Chavez. I won't repeat the eptithets they dumped on him, because they've been divulged often enough and I don't want to sully your eyes. I already rattled off enough of them at the start of this piece. I don't know if my black "golpista" friends feel those words refer to them. Or if it matters to them at all.

I have little patience for racists, for the same reason I have limits with crude, arrogant people. Crudity isn't a sin because no one chooses to be born that way, but arrogance is, becuase the arrogant do choose to be stuck-up.

[...]

Today, there is the not-so-remote chance that a mulatto will be president of the United States via its military-industrial complex. Everyone who is affected by imperial politics should have the right to vote on who becomes the gringo president, because his decisions affect us. All those lost years of hating blacksand now our oppositionists, who knows, maybe they'll have to take orders from someone even darker than Chavez or Condi. Will they rebel? Do you see now how stupid racism is?

That was Roberto Hernandez Montoya, a Venezuelan Chavista. Now, permit this little redheaded German-Canadian (Chavista!) to chime in:

I think there is every likelihood that Barack Obama--call him black, call him biracial, mulatto, non-white, whatever--will be the next US president. People will vote for him not because he is black (though, let's be honest, there are plenty of those who will vote against him for precisely that reason and no other), but because he represents and promises a departure from the past. He's the only candidate who talked about hope and change, rather than just more of the same. Or in the case of Hillary Clinton, a more refined version of the same.

Of course, the promise of change may not be enough to bring the real thing about. Despite a brilliant pre-campaign, Barack Obama still needs to walk his talk. His economic advisory team is just about as bad as Bush's political one; they're all neo-liberals, the economic equivalent of PNAC. Imperialism is fine with them; they still see the rest of the world as the US's backyard, to be shat upon and exploited and, if the natives get unruly, forcibly suppressed. (There are, of course, those right-wing idiots in Blogsylvania who seriously believe that Obama's real agenda is "socialism". Someone kindly hit them with a clue-by-four, PLEASE.)

Austan Goolsbee, in particular, bothers me. He's the Team Obama guy who "reassured" us up here that Team Obama had no intentions of tearing up or even modifying NAFTA. I'm not reassured about that; I think NAFTA is the worst mistake of Bill Clinton's career. It's sent jobs south from here as well as the US, and it's done nothing good for Mexico and Central America, either. It's clear that NAFTA is not a grand solution to poverty, but a culprit in creating poverty wherever it operates; it drives wages down and destroys labor and environmental laws, and its sole beneficiaries are the big multinational corporations. If you want to tear up NAFTA, Barack, go right ahead and may God speed you! The only people who'll hate you for it are the heads of the megacorps. Lord knows this average Canuck has seen no benefit whatsoever from it, and does not expect to anytime in the future. I don't need any reassurances that NAFTA will be left alone. I need assurances that it will be trashed and burnt, and an era of honest, FAIR trade ushered in.

I think the same might also be said for Venezuela, where the anti-FTA sentiment rages high. Everyone there is now watching Barack Obama, and hoping to God (as Tom Hayden does in The Nation) that Obama will get hip to what's really going on down there and break with the disastrous Latin America policies that have held sway up to now. Granted, the average Venezuelan has been hit even harder by globalized trade than the average Canadian, so that's no wonder! They know what it means to be abused by "free" trade, and no one more so than the poor, and usually darker-skinned, Venezuelans at the bottom. They're invariably the first ones left behind when a boom goes bust in the oilpatch, or when the bottom falls out of the gold market, or whatever.

And they don't just get shat upon indirectly by the foreign corporations; they get it directly, too, from the local toadies who benefit disproportionately from every swing the market takes. Yes, the rich and overwhelmingly whiter ones. The ones who can afford to fiddledink around with other people's lives in the stockmarket. The ones who wound up fleeing comically to Miami when Chavez got elected, for no apparent reason other than that they feared that the "monkeys" were about to tear down the gates of their estates and sell them on the international scrap-metal market. The fact that it hasn't happened doesn't stop them from claiming that Chavez is the one who whipped up racial hate against them, even though I see no evidence on the Chavista websites I frequent that anybody hates these people just because they're so goshdarn white.

In fact, I see very little hate there at all. Most of what I see is a general impatience for real progress, sometimes against racism, other times against economic misery, but mostly just to put the "gringo backyard" politics of the past behind them. Those same politics are the ones that made sly use of the hidden, artful "polite" racism of the past. The racism that pretended there was no racism until Chavez came along to upset the applecart, that damn ape. "Happy" racism, in other words--the kind that also pretended that there was no economic discontent, no class ferment, nothing wrong, no, no, no. "There was no fear. Everyone was happy and working", as one little old disociada said in a particularly memorable passage of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. One wonders what drugs she was on to be so far removed from reality as not to see the fear, the joblessness, and the suffering in the hillside barrios just a few blocks away.

And she thinks she has something to be scared of NOW, when someone (not the president of the United States, but of Venezuela) is finally doing something about all that? This lady is obviously in denial, not only of her own racism, but of everything else that went wrong in the 40 years of Punto Fijo--just as she is now in denial of who's working to fix all that.

That delusional denial is a luxury of the past. No one can afford it anymore. Not Venezuela, not Canada, and not the United States. I wish Barack Obama all the best in the elections, and I do think he will make a markedly better president than the current one, but I also wish he would realize that "out with the old" means getting rid not only of neo-con PNAC warmongers, but also--especially--neoliberal economists. They are no longer neo-anything; they are just finished. Change I can believe in means instituting something truly progressive in all their stead, as Hugo Chavez has done, so that class divisions will diminish. Maybe then racism--both "happy" and otherwise--will finally dwindle out of sight, too.

June 4, 2008

It's now official...

Human Rights Watch has totally screwed the pooch where Venezuela is concerned.

I know, they're supposed to be a serious human-rights organization, but it's kind of hard to take seriously an organization that gets used so often to promote the State Dept.'s war plans over actual human rights (such as the fundamental right not to be killed by Washington's allies, for example). And every so often, they betray their true nature with hysterical press releases that might as well have been written by Andres Oppenheimer or Simon Romero. They'd be great comic fodder, if only people learned to take them the right way--namely, with a truckload of salt on top and a whoopie cushion underneath.

The part of this particular one that makes me laugh loudest is this nifty juxtaposition right here:

Chávez dismissed Interpol's findings as a "clown show that doesn't deserve a serious response."

"The emails raise serious questions about Venezuela's relationship with the Colombian guerrillas that deserve serious answers," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "At the very least, they appear to show that the guerrilla commanders who were engaged in horrendous abuses believed they had the backing of the Venezuelan government."

Actually, they show precisely NOTHING, other than what I've already noted about this bogus kerfuffle--that the Colombian government is shameless when it comes to faking "information" that deflects attention from their own scandals. One of which just happens to be developing a sudden case of butter-fingers when it comes to computerized evidence showing links between Alvaro Uribe and the paramilitary narcoterrorists. Which HRW, bless its shreddy green plastic heart, has duly noted on its Colombia page--but they stop short of screaming for Alvaro Uribe's head the way they do for Chavecito's.

They also keep saying the US congress should continue to delay ratifying the Colombia "free trade" agreement--but stop short of saying it should not exist at all, which I would expect a real human-rights organization which is worthy of the name to do. Gutless much?

Jose Miguel, PLEASE, quit stretching. You are not made of rubber, Chavez is not made of glue, but what you say will bounce off him and stick to you if you keep smearing yourself with that crazy epoxy stuff.

At the very least, that red clown nose is going to be a whole lot harder to get off your face.

Evo makes me giggle sometimes

He'd make you giggle too, if you heard him say things like this:

The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, is concerned because he sees his Peruvian colleague, Alan Garcia, as "very fat and not much of an anti-imperialist", as he said yesterday.

Morales recalled that in 1989, he attended a conference in Peru with Garcia, who was then, in his opinion, "a first-rate public speaker, anti-imperialist" and, also, "very slim".

"Now I see him as very fat and not much of an anti-imperialist. I'm very worried about Alan Garcia," said Morales at a conference on the outskirts of La Paz.

Translation mine.

Not only is it funny, it's also true. Here's a pic of him with the gordito imperialista. See if you can tell me which is which.

Alan Garcia at left, Evo Morales at right. Who's the gordito?

While Angela Merkel criticizes Hugo Chavez...

...maybe she should clean this plank out of her own eye before criticizing the dustmotes she imagines she sees in his.

New details continue to emerge on the spying scandal that has hit German telecommunication giant Deutsche Telekom. In addition to rifling through telephone records for a year from 2005 to 2006 to determine the extent of contacts between management and journalists, it now looks as though Telekom was also using mobile phone signals to keep track of their locations.

According to information from SPIEGEL, Telekom sought to follow the movements of journalists covering the telecommunications company as well as members of Telekom advisory boards, in an effort to determine how sensitive company information was finding its way into business magazines and newspapers.

[...]

In addition, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Friday reports that investigators are also looking into whether Telekom nosed into bank data of journalists and company managers.

Also on Friday, SPIEGEL TV reports that a Berlin private detective company allegedly hired by Telekom to spy on a business journalist as far back as 2000 was founded and run by former employees of the infamous East German secret police, the Stasi.

The Financial Times Deutschland reported on Thursday that Tasso Enzweiler, who reported on Deutsche Telekom for the paper, was spied on with hidden cameras in an effort to determine who was passing him sensitive company information. Telekom has denied knowledge of the 2000 incident.

The Stasi, huh? Nice to know that all that police-state totalitarianism didn't die after all when the Berlin Wall fell. I guess capitalism just found it too irresistible to leave alone. And hey, what are all those old Stasi guys gonna do now that their old employer is no more? Spying on private citizens and journalists is right up their alley, after all. It's what they used to do in the olden, not so golden days. It's only natural that they should go to work for a private corporation; the last thing the German state needs is to have them stinking the joint up.

But shhhhh, don't tell that to Angela Merkel. She's a capitalist, after all; one of those former East Germans who couldn't wait to suck up to the "free" market when Germany was reunified. No doubt she thought it would be profitable to do so, and hey, it must have worked. She got herself elected, albeit with no majority and a very unspectacular showing in the Bundestag. How unspectacular? Two words: Grand Coalition. Yes, that's right: She had to lean on her party's traditional foes to get enough seats to form a government! Sehr traurig. Guess unfettered capitalism isn't really all that popular with Germans; what a surprise. It never was, or Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg wouldn't have put pen to paper, and Germany wouldn't have any public services at all. And certainly big business and other traditional conservative forces wouldn't have conspired to install Adolf Hitler to combat the growing influence of the German left, either.

Now, contrast her with the man she most recently attacked in Latin America. Hugo Chavez don't need no stinkin' grand coalition, beeyotch. He promised, and delivered, free health care to everyone, ditto education, ditto infrastructure. He got over 60% of the popular vote that way, plus an overwhelming majority in the Venezuelan parliament. And what has he done with that? Plenty. He nationalized key industries so that they would serve, rather than exploit Venezuelans. One of them just happened to be the country's largest telecom provider, CANTV. Which, to my knowledge, doesn't spy on anyone. Let alone using former DISIP (the old and infamous Venezuelan secret police, soon to be disbanded). Yes, even the most rabid oppositionists are free to babble away in Venezuela; they won't be spied upon. Communism!

Yeah, Angela, what WAS that you were saying about him again? I can't find your Beschimpfung anywhere in the lamestream media over here, but I can certainly find what Chavecito said about you, and he was only too kind. Corporatism, as Giovanni Gentile wrote (though his words are often attributed to his employer, Benito Mussolini) is what fascism really is.

June 3, 2008

Brigitte Bardot, phoquez-vous!

I'm always amazed that the same people who bawl over baby seals in some other part of the world have so little regard left over for abused humanity coming to their own shores. Take (please!) the example of Brigitte Bardot, recently convicted of racist hatemongering:

A leading French anti-racism group known as MRAP filed a lawsuit last year over a letter she sent to then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. The remarks were published in her foundation's quarterly journal.

In the December 2006 letter to Sarkozy, now the president, Bardot said France is "tired of being led by the nose by this population that is destroying us, destroying our country by imposing its acts."

Bardot, 73, was referring to the Muslim feast of Aid el-Kebir, celebrated by slaughtering sheep.

Gee, where have I heard that before? Everytime a crime (or any other unapproved act) is committed by an immigrant, regardless of the nature of the crime, or the immigration status of the accused, I hear this sort of thing out of somebody who's eager to lump it all in as part and parcel of the evils of Illegal People. As if it were all a premeditated campaign on the part of immigrants, papered or not, to destroy a country. When in fact the shoe is on the other foot entirely--the immigrants are the ones coming from a destroyed country, trying to recoup a little of what was lost, and it is the host country which is going to destroy their culture if they stay there for very long.

But it's not just about crimes committed by immigrants; peaceful, law-abiding ones who speak the language flawlessly and came in with all the legal papers and have done their best to assimilate, still get tarred with the same brush just because they're not from "around here". Ask anyone who's ever been mistaken for an "illegal"--a problem which is cropping up more and more in Europe and North America as people keep trying to get to where the better living is, and keep getting denied on account of not being able to jump through every last hoop with sufficient speed and grace (and the requisite whiteness of skin that seems to legitimize even the worst Russian gangster more than the best assimilation could do for, say, a Haitian).

Canada, a land literally built on the backs of immigrants since the ancestors of our own "native" Indians and Inuit crossed the Bering Strait Land Bridge during the Ice Age, is now becoming a land of exclusion laws like nothing we've seen since about 100 years ago. Just when we're finally wrapping up all the trouble we brought upon ourselves by imposing the infamous head tax on Asian immigrants, it looks like we may see it imposed yet again, this time in the name of "attracting investment" or whatever other business-friendly racket rhetoric our gummint comes up with. We are taking giant leaps backward into the late Victorian era, and calling that progress. Guess where we got that from. Yep, "superior" Mother Europe and the good ol' "free" US of A!

And yet, even as the "free" and "superior" countries strive to shut their doors to those they deem undesirable, those "undesirables" are battering down the door in ever greater numbers. Those people don't come to destroy a country or its culture; ask any French Muslim girl who has worn a headscarf in the colors of the flag to demonstrate that while she is a Muslim, she is also French. They come to live, to work, to eat, and to be in peace. All those things they can't do anymore where they came from, because the colonial legacy is a harsh one, and the systems of commerce and corruption set up by the colonizers tend to be slow in dying. The example of the former Belgian colonizers, whose racist legacies led directly to the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s (and traumatized the Canadian general, Romeo Dallaire, sent there to head a peacekeeping force and prevent the violence which the Belgians at the UN wouldn't let him have enough troops to quell) should be a required study for anyone who wonders why "those damn people just can't get along".

It's clear to me that BB has never seen The Battle of Algiers, or she might be tempted to think twice about castigating the people who come to France looking to earn a better living than they did in their home countries (which, more likely than not, were once French colonies). What's coming to France now is not some evil Islamist invasion force hell-bent on destroying all Frenchness "by imposing its acts" on squeamish old divas who can't bear to see a sheep slaughtered and its meat given to the poor for Eid. It's just logical blowback from colonial times. You break it, you've bought it--isn't that what all stores tell their patrons, in so many words, on carefully posted signs?

Yet these great mercantile empires now don't seem to want to live by their own rules. They broke the French-speaking lands of Northern Africa, but when the brown and frowsy-feathered chickens from those lands come home to roost, guess who flaps and squawks the loudest. Yep, those who have been the most sheltered, the most out of touch, the most free to dote on baby seals. And this while deploring the "barbarity" of non-white indigenous people eating readily available, unendangered seals and wearing their pelts and maybe making a small living selling clothes made from them, instead of getting with the global program of eating rainforest soybeans, wearing Chanel, and generally believing that everything "superior" Europe ever did was an example to be emulated by the poor, dumb, backward brown folks of the Third World.

Hey! Here's a bright idea, something I'm sure never occurred to BB or her co-religionists in the anti-immigrant movements: How about NO MORE COLONIAL EMPIRES?

I'm serious. No more settling in other countries; no more exploitation of them, their resources, or their cheaper labor force. No more getting your shit from them on the cheap. No more open-pit gold mines or blood diamonds for your jewelry. No more slash-and-burn rainforest monocultures. No more empires, no more colonialism, no more "globalization" of trade. No more imposing your own culture and language on foreigners. No more breaking and buying of foreign countries by your great multinational firms. That way, you won't later be inundated with impoverished immigrants of a color you despise.

Mind you, you also won't be stinkingly rich as a country at their country's expense, and you'll probably have to lower your standard of living somewhat--but hey, it's a small price to pay for your precious racial purity as you pontificate from the seal-free beaches of St. Tropez, right?

The spin! It hurts my head!

Okay, kiddies...gather round, and be sure to pop your Dramamine before you click Play. Don't be like Auntie Bina, who got vertigo from watching this:

Unka Karl is claiming Richard Armitage was The Leaker? That's bullshit--a convenient version to be fed to the media because it deflects attention from the real culprit. Armitage was a stooge, a flunky, a man who did nothing without authorization and would have been fired if he were really the one who did it off his own bat; no, someone okayed his leaking. Guess who?

Oh, and get this: Valerie Plame was JUST "a CIA employee". Hey Unka Karl! She was a COVERT AGENT, the most secret kind--a NOC. Non-Official Cover, get it? NOC NOC, Unka Karl, it ain't no joke! That's no mere employee (a term that seems to suggest a paper-pusher at a cushy desk in Langley somewhere)--that's someone who can get killed in the line of duty, and not just she but everyone in contact with her as well. And the White House can wash its hands of the whole mess and say, "Well, since she wasn't OFFICIALLY with the embassy, because she was in a private business, we can't protect her if something goes sour. We don't know this person"--even when that person was ferreting out secret info to be fed to them DIRECTLY.

I don't believe his advisorship to John McCain is really "informal", either. "Informal" means nothing; you can be whispering in someone's ear, with nothing down in writing, and still have your commands followed to the letter. A sweeter scheme for plausible deniability would be hard to imagine--especially if, like Unka Karl, you've finally suffered some unpleasant consequences for your power and associations. But not enough. Oh, not nearly enough.

ZOMG! I know who the Antichrist is!

It's Jeff Sharlet! The guy who wrote for Harper's and Rolling Stone. The author of The Family, and who blogs at The Revealer. It's him, I tell ya.

How do I know? Well, get a load of the infamous words of John Hagee. HE claims to have a direct line to God, and the Lord told him this:

Did you hear that? The Antichrist is PART JEWISH.

Now, here's Jeff Sharlet:

Sometimes the brothers would ask me why I was there. They knew that I was "half Jewish," that I was a writer, and that I was from New York City, which most of them considered to be only slightly less wicked than Baghdad or Paris. I didn't lie to them. I told my brothers that I was there to meet Jesus, and I was: the Jesus of the Family, whose ways are secret. The brothers were certain that He had sent me to them for a reason, and perhaps they were right.

Yes! There you have it, folks! The Antichrist has exposed himself. And he has betrayed God's good and faithful secret servants by exposing THEM, too! Brace yourselves for hellfire, brimstone, human-headed locusts, and cars without drivers, people, because now the Rapture is inevitable. It IS supposed to happen when the Beast reveals himself, is it not?

(And yes, all of the above is to be read with dripping sarcasm. Thank you for not soiling yourselves.)

AP still clueless about Bolivia

Yeah, right.

They still think this is about autonomy and "states' rights". Someone kindly clue them in, please.

Oh wait, I spoke too soon...here's Evo:

Morales has dismissed all three referendums as illegal "surveys" by conservative opposition groups hoping to cripple his government.

"It's not a problem of autonomy," Morales said Sunday. "The problem is that they can't accept that an Indian from the countryside is their president."

Nevertheless, the president made a rare trip Friday to Pando's capital of Cobija to deliver a new fleet of ambulances and announced a US$6 million infrastructure project.

Once more, Evo nails it.

Unfortunately, this is buried about 2/3 down in the piece, which is obviously slanted in favor of the bogus "autonomists", if the amount of space it devotes to them and their lies is any indication. (Well, that and the general tone of sympathy: Big land-owners need "protection" from having their idle estates handed over to the campesinos? Be still my bleeding heart.)

They don't mention this, either--which happened during another ambulance-delivery visit. Probably because it would make the "pro-autonomy" and "states' rights" crusaders look like shits.

Nope, can't have those people showing their true colors in the lamestream media, can we?

Bugliosi makes the case against Dubya

The California prosecutor (and author of Helter Skelter) who brought the Manson Family to justice has a new book out:

...in which he makes the case for prosecuting Dubya as a war criminal.

I think it has merit.

Don't pop that blue pill...

Gentlemen, it may be better for you (and cheaper, too) to do Kegels instead:

Researchers have found the sort of exercises women are taught to do post-natally--which involve simply contracting internal muscles--can be just as effective as Viagra, without the side-effects, including headaches and indigestion, that affect one in ten users.

In a study published in the British Journal of General Practice, around 40 per cent of the men who worked at strengthening their pelvic floor muscles for three months regained full sexual function--a further 30 per cent had improved function.

The results were virtually identical to the findings of the studies that propelled Viagra into one of the biggest-selling drugs of all time.

Pelvic floor exercises can also help men with incontinence, and could benefit those suffering from impotence and incontinence following surgery for prostate cancer. This is being tested in a major trial launched in 30 centres across the UK.

I know from personal experience that these simple exercises feel rather good down there. The best part is, you can do them anywhere and no one but you will know...unless they see the silly smile crossing your face.

So, guys...what's holding you back? Is $10 a pop really worth it to you when you can have a safe alternative (and no more embarrassing trips to the pharmacy!) for free? Might be worth learning what many members of the Fair Sex already know. At the very least, you won't have a leaky bladder anymore.

June 2, 2008

Alejandro Toledo is smoking crack

I can't think of any other reason why he would say something like this, unless he's also a plant.

Oh wait...

"Hugo Chavez is a destabilizing factor in the region. Hugo Chavez is dis-accelerating the process of integration. But despite Hugo Chavez the region for the first time in its history has an enormous opportunity to make a qualitative jump and take a predominant place in the world economy."

I did tell you to wait, didn't I? Here's the part I told you to wait for:

Toledo, who was president of Peru from July 2001 until July 2006, worked for the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the United Nations before his election.

The World Bank? Yeah, that's a wonderful qualifying factor right there. No wonder he thinks Chavecito is a "destabilizing factor" who is "dis-accelerating the process of integration". The fact is, Chavecito is a stabilizer who is integrating Latin America in a way that shuts the international bankers (especially the World Bank and its Bretton Woods twin, the IMF) out of it and puts people first. Toledo, the failed neo-liberal of Peru, is probably pissed as hell to see all the bogus "progress" he worked so hard for falling apart now that he's no longer in any position to do doodly-squat about it.

Three guesses as to who the real destabilizing, "dis-accelerating" (is that even a word?) influence in Latin America (still) is.

June 1, 2008

One more reason NOT to vote for Hillary

...just in case you needed one:

Yes, she WOULD bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran. Just like John McInsane.

Clearly, none of them have learned anything since they deposed Mohammed Mossadegh to install that horrid Shah. Hey America, you HAD secular democracy in Iran, and you eated it! Now shut up, stay out, and keep your mitts off their oil!

PS: Need more reasons not to vote for her? How about her boogying with the Religious Reich? Really, there's not a dime's worth of difference between her and Hagee-hugger McCain on this one.