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October 31, 2008

Oh, and BTW...

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Don't stay out past midnight, or you'll turn into a pumpkin. I have it on good authority from my very own Basement Cat, who is little, black, slinky and SCARY.

Bow down your heads, folks...

...a great, uppity American has passed:

Studs Terkel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and enduring radio-show host whose oral histories chronicled the travails and triumphs of America's working class, has died. He was 96.

Terkel died today at his home in Chicago, his son, Dan Terkel, said in an interview. "He just went very quickly and was in no pain at all,'' Dan Terkel said. "He lived a very long, full, satisfying though sometimes impetuous life.''

Born in New York, Terkel became synonymous with Chicago, the city where he moved at age 10 and rarely left. His parents ran a boarding house and a men's hotel during the Great Depression, giving the young Terkel a steady diet of the struggles of ordinary people whose stories became his life's work.

"People's everyday experience can be as profound and as compelling as any celebrity,'' said Russell Lewis, chief historian of the Chicago Historical Society, which houses many of Terkel's collected works. "Everyday experience is powerful, and Studs understood this.''

Terkel's most popular books, "Working,'' "Hard Times,'' and "The Good War,'' which earned him the Pulitzer Prize in 1985, were compilations of transcribed interviews with waitresses, truck drivers, gravediggers and prostitutes telling their own stories.

An unabashed leftist who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, Terkel considered President Franklin D. Roosevelt a hero and credited his New Deal programs for getting the U.S. economy moving again. Terkel, who always wore a red article of clothing as a symbol of his sympathies with labor, would later rail against welfare reform and other "small government'' policies that he said hurt working Americans.

He had a website, too. The lessons he carried out of the Great Depression would be so applicable to today's situation, and I think it behooves us all to read him and learn through the voices of the ordinary people he conversed with and championed.

Rest well, Studs. You done good.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Caracas erupts!

Street-level reaction as Venesat-1 (Simón Bolívar) is launched. Here's what the people are saying:

Maylin de Bigot: I think this is a scientific and technological advance for our country. It's an achievement that puts us in the technological vanguard, an achievement for this revolution which brings great benefits and we are moving forward.

Héctor Suárez: This satellite represents a great historical step for us into the space age, above all for communications, medicine and education. For many years we had no expectations of this.

José Herrera: We're very happy, because this has many benefits for all the citizens, for all Venezuelans and we will enjoy to the fullest the blessings of this technological era.

Lourdes Santander: For me this is something excellent, it's one of the greatest works we've seen in the struggle for technological sovereignty, and it will bring advances into the most remote corners of Venezuela.

Nadia Castillo: This is the best thing for Venezuela and for all Latin Americans. It will also benefit us in every way, and I hope it won't be the only one, that we'll see more initiatives that will give us sovereignty.

Susana Galán: The launching of the Simón Bolívar satellite is a historic feat for the country in promoting communications. A large part of the ties we have with the United States are in communications, and this will help us distinguish ourselves at that level of communications.

Translation mine.

Here's the best English-language account thus far. Yummy information--chow on down!

October 30, 2008

Canadian pop does feminism

"Women Around the World at Work", by Martha & the Muffins. Still the coolest keyboard and sax riffs around. And still some of the punchiest lyrics.

October 29, 2008

There goes the neighborhood

Literally:

Story by ABI, via Aporrea:

The destruction of at least 150 homes intended for poor people, in the municipality of Warnes, was ordered by Gabriel Camacho Cuéllar and his lawyer, Otto Richter, with the sole objective of preventing the devaluation of a million-dollar development project, according to the presidential representative, Gabriela Montaño.

"Camacho has already threatened not to let poor families live near his properties because they would lower the property value of the neighborhood," said Montaño, who announced that legal actions would be taken against the authors of this assault on poor families.

At 10 a.m on Tuesday, heavy machinery belonging to the Municipality of Santa Cruz arrived at the location to begin the demolition of the homes, which were in the last phase of construction in the community of La Comarca, Warnes, 9 kilometres inside the city limits of Santa Cruz. Mayor Percy Fernández was forced to fire six high-level functionaries, including María Costas, the sister of prefect Rubén Costas.

The presidential representative in Santa Cruz identified Cuéllar, the proprietor of the adjoining properties, and his attorney, Otto Richter, as those responsible for pressuring the mayoral office of Santa Cruz to prevent the poor families from living next door to the luxury homes which he was building there. According to the authorities, there is a construction project underway to build a luxury condominium complex on the grounds.

Translation mine.

Talk about the destruction of property values--what the hell is this?

I sure hope Cuéllar and his lawyer cough up enough in restitution monies to rebuild these houses.

Quotable: Hendrik Hertzberg on the dreaded S-word

"As a buzzword, 'socialism' had mostly good connotations in most of the world for most of the twentieth century. That's why the Nazis called themselves national socialists. That's why the Bolsheviks called their regime the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, obliging the socialist and social democratic parties of Europe (and America, for what it was worth) to make rescuing the 'good name' of socialism one of their central missions. Socialists--one thinks of men like George Orwell, Willy Brandt, and Aneurin Bevan--were among Communism's most passionate and effective enemies.

"The United States is a special case. There is a whole shelf of books on the question of why socialism never became a real mass movement here. For decades, the word served mainly as a cudgel with which conservative Republicans beat liberal Democrats about the head. When Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan accused John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson of socialism for advocating guaranteed health care for the aged and the poor, the implication was that Medicare and Medicaid would presage a Soviet America. Now that Communism has been defunct for nearly twenty years, though, the cry of socialism no longer packs its old punch. 'At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives,' McCain said the other day--thereby suggesting that the dystopia he abhors is not some North Korean-style totalitarian ant heap but, rather, the gentle social democracies across the Atlantic, where, in return for higher taxes and without any diminution of civil liberty, people buy themselves excellent public education, anxiety-free health care, and decent public transportation."

--Hendrik Hertzberg, at the New Yorker

Simon Bolivar is everywhere...

...including ORBIT:

Haz click en cualquier video para verlo
Puedes ver otros en radiomundial.com.ve

A Chinese "Long March" rocket carries Venesat-1, better known as Simón Bolívar, into space.

Also cool: Evo was a special guest at Chavecito's launch party.

One small step for Simón, one giant leap for Venezuela!

October 28, 2008

McCain won't negotiate with dictators...

...only Pinochet:

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What...you think I'm just making this up?

Evo to oppos: Y'all can suck my oil valve, too!

Oh my. It looks like Bolivia could soon have oilwells in a part of the country OTHER than the opposition-dominated lowland regions known as the Media Luna. You know what this means, don't you?

Today, President Evo Morales gave the go-ahead to exploration by PetroAndina for oil in the northern portion of the department of La Paz, with an investment of $300 million.

The president said that "today is a historic day for Bolivia and the Department of La Paz", which will bring to life the dreams of the people by exploring their hydrocarbon riches.

"I feel that we are doing well. We have to improve our work yet, be it in the social movements, be it in the national government, all for the nation, all for the Bolivian people. A commitment kept by La Paz and for Bolivia," said Morales in his speech in the town of Achiri.

PetroAndina, a joint venture between the Bolivian state firm, YPFB, and the Venezuelan state firm PDVSA, will explore and exploit the oil blocks of Lliquimuni, Madidi, Chepite, Securé, and Chispani, in the departments of La Paz, Beni and Pando.

In this context, Morales said, his administration seeks an economic balance between all the departments of Bolivia, taking care to create poles of development in all the different regions of the country.

Translation mine. A longer Spanish version is here.

I looked for and could not find a map of the areas in question on the Bolivian government website, so enjoy, instead, this obligatory cute shot of Evo making a little girl's day:

evo-achiri.jpg

Her future will be a lot brighter now that a larger portion of the hydrocarbon revenues making it possible will NOT be in the hands of a bunch of Media Luna-tics.

Quotable: Joshua Holland on same-sex marriage rights

"Now, it just so happens that I'm straight (not that there's anything wrong with that), and yet I think it's crucial that same-sex couples enjoy full marriage equality -- and not just "civil unions." Why the unyielding stance, given that the whole thing will never affect me directly?

"It's the underlying principle at stake that's so important. Either the law treats all citizens the same, regardless of race, sex, creed, how they identify themselves or whom they happen to love, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, then my own rights are in no way secure."

--Joshua Holland, on AlterNet

October 27, 2008

Scary Thought #12: Would you hit it?

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Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head honcho at the International Monetary Fund. So studly, no?

There are some things no honorable woman would do for love, let alone money. Which means that a certain Hungarian blonde is no honorable woman. But then again, she worked for the IMF...and according to this report at the HuffPost, such things are A-okay at an organization whose entire raison d'être, after all, is fuckery...

The head of the International Monetary Fund will keep his job despite having an affair with a married subordinate, the agency's executive board concluded.

The IMF board issued a statement late Saturday saying that the actions of IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn were "regrettable and reflected a serious error of judgment."

However, the 24-member board of directors decided that Strauss-Kahn's relationship with the former IMF employee was consensual and did not involve any type of sexual harassment, favoritism or any abuse of authority.

[...]

The incident involving Strauss-Kahn occurred 15 months after Paul Wolfowitz resigned as president of the World Bank amid controversy over a pay package for his girlfriend, a bank employee. The World Bank is a sister lending institution to the IMF.

Ugh. Why is it always the guys you don't want to picture in their saggy old boxers and gartered socks (in Wolfie's case, the socks are full of holes) doing the Ugly Bump with these ladies? Could it be that Henry Kissinger, himself no slouch in the repulsive department, was onto something? Or are women in the international hi-finance sector simply not squicked out by smelly old men who groom using saliva instead of gel?

At this rate, I'm thankful that I still have my gag reflex.

If you thought socialism was a failure...

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...you really need to check the CIA's track record. After all, part of their job was convincing sheeple like you and me, by planting false stories in the media, that socialism was destined for failure. Another part was the hounding and assassination of socialist leaders (which could also be understood as "fail, or we kill you!"). And a third was sabotage, like this shameful incident reported in the UK Observer:

On a chilly October night in 1964, the shipping forecast warned of fog on the Thames. Just after midnight, an East German freighter, the MV Magdeburg, slipped out of her Dagenham dock and headed slowly down river. On deck were 42 Leyland buses bound for Cuba.

Coming the other way was the Yamashiro Maru, a Japanese ship, sailing empty. The ships met at 1.52am. The Magdeburg was making the tight turn around Broadness Point when the Yamashiro Maru ploughed into her starboard side at more than 10 knots, holing her below the waterline and pushing her across the river.

'It was an accident, an act of God,' insisted Keith Toms, a tug crewman on the Thames that night. And that was the conclusion. No one was killed, there was no inquiry, no one was accountable and only Leyland Motors, forced to replace the buses, suffered.

Now a historian has found documents that add weight to the suspicions of academics that the ship was rammed at the behest of the CIA - as part of an effort to sabotage anyone breaking the US embargo on Fidel Castro's Cuba.

With the Americans threatening to blacklist any shipowner breaking the 'transportation blockade', Leyland Motors decided to use an East German ship. It was in the maritime archives of the former German Democratic Republic that John McGarry found evidence given by Gordon Greenfield, the British pilot of the Magdeburg, stating that the Japanese ship broke international law by navigating the wrong way and giving misleading signals. The captain and pilot of the Yamashiro Maru refused to speak.

McGarry believes a crime was committed. 'I felt that the question of CIA involvement might be resolved by an examination of the pilots' logs which were supposed to be stored at Trinity House and in the Port of London Archives. They cannot be found. The East German papers show Greenfield was deceived by someone on the Yamashiro Maru who sounded a single siren blast before the collision, an intention to pass port to port,' he said.

[...]

In 1975, Washington Post reporters Jack Anderson and Les Whitten cited sources who claimed that a British intelligence wiretap on Cuban offices in London gave the CIA the Magdeburg's movements, despite two Prime Ministers, Alec Douglas-Home and Harold Wilson, backing the export deal engineered by Leyland's famed salesman Donald [later Lord] Stokes.

Anderson, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, is dead, but Whitten, 80, told The Observer that they had two sources. 'Jack's contacts were in the CIA and my contacts were in the National Security Agency. I don't remember a lot but I do know our sources were pretty good, the best really.'

Harold Elletson, director of the New Security Foundation in Berlin, said: 'It would be naive to think that the CIA wouldn't dare sink an East German ship in the vital estuary of a Nato ally. They were under pressure to get results and they had a huge budget for sabotage. In 1962 the British freighter Newlane was machine-gunned loading Cuban sugar. The CIA poisoned 14,135 bags of Cuban sugar on the British ship Streatham Hill in 1962 in Puerto Rico.'

Douglas-Home backed Leyland and President Lyndon Johnson refused to speak to him. In April 1964, minister Rab Butler was called to see Johnson. 'His reward was a tongue-lashing,' wrote Anthony Howard in the Spectator, 'during which the great, glowering figure behind the desk reached in his pocket to produce a wad of dollar bills which he flourished as he instructed Her Majesty's Britannic Foreign Secretary to come to him in future if his country wanted a cash handout rather than go selling buses to Cuba.'

Anthony Glees, professor of intelligence studies at Buckingham University, said: 'That it was a deliberate sinking doesn't sound entirely implausible. I've a very low estimation of the CIA and its work throughout the Cold War - it's a history of failure. What would have been inconsistent is that they had an operation in the Thames they got away with.'

There you go. Just another incident that proves that socialism is an almighty (and predestined) failure, and that capitalism's virtue is its own reward. Honestly, how would they have managed it if not for the CIA, that bastion of boy-scouting?

By synchronistic, Jungian coincidence, I read yesterday in Gaeton Fonzi's excellent account of CIA skulduggery, The Last Investigation, which treats specifically of the CIA/Cuban mafia aspect of the JFK assassination, that the CIA had its fingers in a number of pies where sabotaging Cuba was concerned. One example of just how deeply involved they managed to get was to convince a German manufacturer of ball bearings to ship Cuba a defective load--the bearings were all off-centre, a fault sure to damage any machinery in which they were installed. If said machinery had to do with any of Cuba's chief export products (say, sugar or cigar tobacco), it could do real damage to the Cuban economy, which then as now was highly dependent on exports.

The crapaganda value of things like that is not to be underestimated. If Cuba experienced economic failure, guess who would have been trumpeting the loudest about how Fidel Castro's evil dictatorship was strangling the island, and how an open US military intervention (as opposed to a Nacht und Nebel attack like the Bay of Pigs) would be necessary, as nothing less could "free" it?

So no, I'm not surprised that the CIA engaged in the plausibly deniable gambit of bribing a Japanese ship's captain to ram and sink an East German vessel carrying British buses--vital to Cuban public transport--on its way down the Thames. Just another inevitable failure of socialism, eh?

Scary Thought #11: The Vet Who Did Not Vet

So simple, even a child could get!

October 26, 2008

Evo: No amnesty for terrorists

Delegates from Unasur have arrived in Pando, Bolivia, to investigate the massacre of the campesinos at Porvenir. Commission chief Rodolfo Mattarollo, from Argentina, has sought (and received) permission from Evo to meet with the former prefect of Pando, Leopoldo Fernández, currently in jail awaiting trial, and other arrestees as well. The commission will also interview dozens of witnesses. Evo will be putting at their disposal all tools, including forensic and ballistic information, so that they can conduct a thorough investigation.

Which stands to reason, since he called them in there in the first place. He knows he has nothing to hide, and that it's important that a fact-finding mission be international--and transparent. It speaks to his courage and honorability, no?

October 25, 2008

Buh-bye, Manuelito Rosalito!

Chavecito has had enough of a putschist mob boss being in charge of the state of Zulia. In his address to a conference of local businesspeople today in Maracaibo, he laid it on the line. His latest Bolivarian mission? He calls it "Operation Manuel Rosales Goes to Jail":

Haz click en cualquier video para verlo
Puedes ver otros en radiomundial.com.ve

He plans to throw Burusas in the clinker, not for publicly slandering him, not for opposing him (as a lot of lamestream accounts in English strongly hint), but for embezzlement of public money from the Zulia state lottery, which was allegedly used to buy 11 properties, one of them a million-plus-dollar mansion. And the audience gave him a standing ovation for it! When's the last time you saw businesspeople applauding an avowed socialist? Isn't he supposed to be their "enemy"?

Mmmmmmm, I LOVE the smell of fascism in the morning...

...preferably when it's caught fire and no one is lifting a pisser to put it out. Burn, baby, burn...

And really, what the hell else would you call this strange little Kaffeeklatsch that recently convened in Panama? Sure smells like fascism to me. Hold your noses while I translate, kiddies, you'll never guess who was there--and who was paying them to attend:

Members of the National Front for the Defence of Economic and Social Rights (FRENADESO) protested on Wednesday against a meeting held by representatives of the far-right in the region, who are looking to attack legitimately elected Latin American governments, which they call "totalitarian populism".

This meeting was financed by the German far-right, by way of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the auspices of the self-styled "Freedom Foundation". Among the participants were Carlos Alberto Montaner (of Miami), Hugo Faría and Rafael Alonzo (Venezuela), Eduardo Mayora (Guatemala), Otto Guevara (Costa Rica), Dora de Ampuero (Ecuador), Walter Justiniano (Bolivia) and Luis Callejas (Nicaragua).

Also at the meeting, held during the night, was the opposition student activist from Venezuela, Yon Goicoechea, who recently received the Milton Freedman Prize, worth half a million dollars US.

The dinner cost 100 dollars a plate.

Marco Andrade, Secretary of Education for the Industrial and Similar Construction Workers' Union (SUNTRACS, of Panama) and of the United National Confederation of Independent Unions, and Ronaldo Ortiz, of the November 29 Revolutionary Student Front, denounced this event as being part of the so-called "Plan Panama", which is based in that country in order to destabilize progressive, popularly elected governments, particularly the government of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

It is also linked to the dirty media campaigns being hatched in Miami, linked to the Cuban mafia, as in the case of the channel MegaTV, home to the journalist María Elvira Salazar, on whose program there are frequent calls for the assassination of Hugo Chávez and "intervention" in Venezuela and Cuba. The channel recently divulged accusations by the a military putschist from Venezuela, Bernardo Jurado, against SUNTRACS, claiming the group received money from Venezuela, supposedly to destabilize Panama.

Phee-EW, what a bunch of vile-smelling polecats. I may just have to wash my computer down with tomato juice (which is supposed to neutralize the stinkum, according to an uncle of mine who got skunked one night while hunting and wound up taking a bath in it).

I wonder if that supposedly "liberal" German foundation (rather appropriately, named after a socialist-fearing imperialist) has any idea what terrorists it's suckling in its bosom? It must. Else they wouldn't have been invited. I guess they don't care that they're nurturing notorious racists and putschists. (Well, why would they--just look at the terminology that's being bandied about. "Totalitarian populism"? That's an oxymoron if ever I saw one. The two terms cancel each other out, capisce?)

I also love how they claim Venezuela is trying to destabilize Panama by financing leftists there. Huh? Considering that the presidents of those two countries are on friendly terms (the current president of Panama is the son of a very popular, progressive military leader, Omar Torríjos, assassinated by the CIA in 1981), it seems highly unlikely. If Panama goes left in earnest, it won't be due to any money from Venezuela--it will be because Panamanians, like the Venezuelans before them, got sick of the unkept promises of so-called neo-liberalism (which is really just corporate imperialism with a kinder, gentler face.)

Of course, neo-liberalism likes to pump vast sums of money into poor countries that just somehow never seem to reach those who really need it, at the bottom. It stays concentrated at the top, making a few very happy and the rest utterly miserable. (Hey Yon-Yon, done anything serious with your half-million imperiobucks yet, or have you already blown it all on whisky for you and Freddy and your pals?)

If they're really serious about freedom (and I don't for a New York instant believe they are), they might eventually twig to why their economic theories are so unpopular in the very places where they're pushing them hardest. Starting with scenes like this:

The "freedom-loving", "democratic", "liberal" government of Carlos Andrés Pérez sent the Venezuelan army out to fire on its own people during the Caracazo, February 1989. This rioting occurred in direct response to CAP's doing a complete 180 after he was elected to kick the IMF/World Bank imperialists out of Venezuela. Instead of telling them to eat shit, he ate it himself and imposed brutal economic policies, followed by even more brutal repression when the people wouldn't take the brutal economics lying down. Entire apartment blocks in the poorest parts of Caracas were machine-gunned indiscriminately, the better to teach those uppity po' folks a lesson in imperial economics.

If that's not fascism, tell me what is. It doesn't need to wear a swastika to be fascism, although a reasonable facsimile always helps (just ask the UJC).

PS: If you want to see (and smell) more fascism combusting, on this very blog, click here and here. Seems I got a whiff of the brimstone yesterday morning from not one but two of the fine young cannibals who can't bear to see their heroes stripped. If you feel like schooling them yourselves, be my guest and have fun. I can't be bothered--this is News of the Restless, not Democratic Socialism for Dummies.

October 24, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Evo's moment of triumph

Do I ever wish I could have been in Bolivia this week--it was intense. El Duderino was actually there, and it sounds like he had a blast. While he didn't get close enough to shoot some really clear pix of Evo, the ones he did get, of wall-to-wall supporters, are spectacular in their own right. Unfortunately, Evo was pretty much mobbed by the jubilant crowd...

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...so it would have been hard for any amateur to get a good shot. These come courtesy of ABI, the official Bolivian press agency:

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These are emotional times for Evo--he's finally got a date set for the constitutional referendum he's long been striving for. However, the tears of joy were accompanied by high-fives...

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And hugs...

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...and a gentle reminder to the folks:

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"This is your new constitution. Don't forget to vote yes for it on January 25." (Or something to that effect.)

It's also a tough time for the oppos. They're defeated, and they know it. That democratically drafted constitution is going to be at least as popular as Evo himself; it's something the people have been clamoring for, literally, for decades. El Duderino writes:

Not only does this march and demonstration mark the truimph of the new constitution after two years of struggle but it is also marks the demise of the contemporary opposition and "Media Luna". The fascists lost, suck it haters.

The Dude abides, and he's definitely onto something; here's an article I found on Aporrea, titled "The Bolivian opposition is disintegrating", which says pretty much the same thing, and elaborates as to how that's happening:

The right-wing opposition party, Podemos, decided to distance itself from the "civicos" and departmental prefects who rejected the agreement reached in Congress to put the new constitution to a popular referendum.

Senator Luis Vásquez Villamor explained that Podemos will distribute, at national level, the new constitutional text and asked the general populace to vote in favor of it on January 25, according the Erbol network.

The legislator said that the "civicos" and prefects who reject the accord will have to assume responsibility for their actions.

"In Santa Cruz there are two options: Vote for the constitution with autonomy, or for the constitution without autonomy," said senator Vásquez, referring to the position taken yesterday by the director of the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz rejecting the referendum.

For his part, the senator for the department of Oruro, and principal framer of the accord between the four forces of the Congress, Carlos Börth, declared that the departmental authorities and the civic directors had all the right in the world to dissent, but also the responsibility to assume the consequences of their decisions.

The prefect of Santa Cruz department, Ruben Costas, proposed the formation of a broad opposition front to participate in the December general elections next year. In this way, the right-wing Bolivian leader said, it would be possible to "defend democracy and peace in the country."

Costas has been singled out as one of the principal promoters of violent shock groups, such as the Juvenile Union of Santa Cruz (UJC), which has attacked peasant and indigenous groups.

Translation mine.

Heh. Fancy Ruben Costas defending democracy and peace all of a sudden, when he's been doing the opposite up to now. Do you think he'll change his spots for real, or will we just see more of the same when it becomes apparent that he and his ilk all have their collective testicles in a vise? Stay tuned.

And for the time being, savor Evo's victory. It was hard won.

October 23, 2008

Once more, Chavecito is my hero

...for saying exactly what needs to be said, and in this case, proposing exactly what needs to be proposed:

A worldwide assembly of governments, in which frank conversations between diverse points of view on the current global crisis can be held, is what the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, proposed in his most recent conversation with his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy.

[...]

"I conversed a little while ago with Sarkozy and suggested to him that there be a meeting, not just between the largest countries in the world, but a worldwide assembly of governments, where we can hear each other out with patience and respect. But no, it seems that they are still all caught up in their own world," Chávez said.

Translation mine.

It would behoove the G-8 (and all the smaller countries touched by the US banking crisis) to take a closer look at Venezuela's economy and how it's gone nowhere but up since Chavecito's been at the helm. It's doing so well, in fact, that the "global" crisis might just do an "inexplicable" swerve, or hit less hard than widely expected. The Venezuelan Shield Effect (you saw that term here first, people, 'cuz I'm a-coining it!) will also help buffer countries with whom Venezuela has strong economic ties, most especially in the ALBA. Already, many leading economists are sitting up and taking notice, and urging some remarkably Chavecito-like measures.

Even now, as Venezuela prepares to confront the crisis on an "austerity" budget, social spending remains high, at close to half of all government expenditures. This is the opposite of what Bretton Woods recommends ("privatize everything and devil take the hindermost" is their mantra), but it's exactly what any responsible economist would tell a government facing an economic crisis to do: make sure the people still get the healthcare, education and other basic, publicly-served necessities of life.

With all that said, only a fool would dismiss out of hand a sensible, modest, 100% workable proposal like the one Chavecito made above. The man knows what he's doing, people. It's time to take him seriously, not as a demagogue, but as what he is--a popular statesman with sound economic ideas that keep on working where all the standard Bretton Woods remedies just keep on failing.

Just watch, however, as the oh, SO predictable black-helicopter nutters of the US 'winger brigade spin this as "OMG, Chávez wants a one-world government with himself in charge of it all!!! He really IS a tyrant and a dictator!!! War on Venezuela NOW!!!!Eleven!!!!"

In 5...4...3...2...

And this is why Canada still votes on paper ballots

So that stuff like this doesn't happen.

So that life doesn't imitate art imitating life:

And so that no dickweed with Harpo's tyrannical ambitions gets a parliamentary majority.

Any questions?

Quotable: Gwynne Dyer on the current financial crisis

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"In times like these, it is fashionable for despairing brokers and bankers to quote Rudyard Kipling's poem 'If' -- or rather, to misquote it: 'IF you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs and blaming it on you/You simply don't understand how bad the situation is.'"

--Gwynne Dyer, from his syndicated column

October 22, 2008

Colombian police fire on indigenous people

Story from Radio Mundial, Venezuela:

Two indigenous were killed and five more injured on Tuesday in an incident at the beginning of a large march on a road in southern Colombia. The incident occurred at the beginning of a national day of protest against president Alvaro Uribe, who some weeks ago decreed a state of emergency due to a strike by judicial-sector workers.

The indigenous affirmed that the police shot them as the demonstrators tried to block the Pan-American Highway. The police denied responsibility, and claimed that the victims had been shot from within the indigenous march, and that they were attacked with gunpowder. Initially, the police said that the indigenous died when an explosive they were handling went off, but later it emerged that the dead had bullet wounds in the head and back. The indigenous leaders denied the authorities' version and assured that their members died in a confrontation with the police, who fired upon them.

After the incident, CNN showed a video taken by an indigenous activist, which showed the police allowing a person in a green uniform, with his face covered in a ski mask, to fire an M-16 rifle three times, apparently against the demonstrators.

Colonel Jorge Enrique Cartagena, of the Colombian federal police, confirmed that an M-16 rifle only fires lead ammunition, and assured that the incident would be investigated. But President Uribe called the denunciations a "fairytale" and claimed that the uniformed officers did not fire against demonstrators.

Translation mine.

Anyone who's read Forrest Hylton's dense, informative Evil Hour in Colombia knows better than to trust the Colombian authorities on this. El Narco's reign has been a trail of blood wherever he's been in office. Whether as mayor of Medellín, governor of Antioquia, or president of all the land, he's been an authoritarian murder-monger, and the violent-crime rates don't lie--contrary to the relentless media hype, he has not been good for Colombia at large. The murder rates have not decreased. The only thing that's changed is that there is more plausible deniability, probably because the evidence is being destroyed more thoroughly.

I don't dare hope that this incident will finally bring him down, because his support base is foreign business and the local landowning class, and since they're looking to grab up all the land they can, they are no friends of the indigenous themselves.

And neither, for that matter, are El Narco's handlers in Washington, who are giving the tacit nod to all this insanity.

This just in: British journos are seriously stupid!

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Media Lens, the British media watchdog group, finally draws a conclusion that I figured out for myself a long time ago: that while the British media may be slightly more liberal than their Yank counterparts, they're still piss-poor at doing their actual job--that is, if you consider said actual job to be informing the public of what is really going on in the world, so that the public in turn can do its part and change the world.

And also, that they're a bunch of snot-nosed toddlers with gargantuan egos:

Since starting Media Lens in 2001, we have learned that corporate journalists are very often ill-equipped, or disinclined, to debate vital issues with members of the public.

In 2004, the esteemed Lancet medical journal published a study showing that 98,000 Iraqis had most likely died following the US-led invasion. John Rentoul, chief political correspondent of the Independent on Sunday, responded with sarcasm when we challenged him about his dismissal of the peer-reviewed science:

"Oh no. You have found me out. I am in fact a neocon agent in the pay of the third morpork of the teleogens of Tharg." (Email, September 15, 2005)

Undoubtedly the redoubtable Mr. Rentoul thought he was being witty by saying that. Well, he's half right--but only half. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt about the morpork thing, but by uncritically repeating, for paid publication, what the neo-cons say, he is in fact making himself into their paid agent. It is only a question of whether they pay him directly or indirectly.

By the bye, Mr. Rentoul, blowing snot all over your readers is no more mature than trashing a really serious peer-reviewed medical publication, like the Lancet, for having the temerity to contradict you. I expect that of freepers, not real journalists doing real work in the field.

But maybe I'm being unkind. Perhaps Mr. Rentoul just didn't understand the question? If so, he's not the only one:

In 2003, Roger Alton, then editor of the Observer, also did not take kindly to a reader accusing him of peddling Downing Street propaganda on the eve of the invasion:

"What a lot of balls ... do you read the paper old friend? ... 'Pre-digested pablum from Downing Street...' my arse. Do you read the paper or are you just recycling garbage from Medialens?" (Email, February 14, 2003)

I do hope the reader in question replied to the oh-so-civilized Mr. Alton, something along these lines: "I, sir, do not recycle garbage...but you, sir, DO. It's nice to know that you are so environmentally friendly. From now on, sir, I will follow your example, and recycle your not-so-hard work forthwith as fish-wrap. It's more useful that way than if I actually read it, as I know full well you have not done with anything you got from Downing Street."

But even when the British media decide to get all Web 2.0 (or is it 3.0 by now?) and offer their readers an "interactive" space to opine in, a double standard still prevails:

Last week, Matt Seaton, editor of the Guardian's Comment is Free website, was asked why he dismissed readers of Media Lens as a mere "lobby", but not readers who post comments on his website. Seaton replied:

"because, unlike MediaLens readers, users of Comment is free are not given directives to spam journalists and others - and would not mindlessly follow such directives if they were" (Email, October 15, 2008)

Strange. I receive Media Lens e-mails from time to time, and I do not receive "directives" via them, let alone ones I follow "mindlessly". At the bottom of every one are suggested actions the readers can take, but these are only suggestions. Not all readers take them; certainly not I, because I've actually got a degree in journalism, have met a number of pros from various media, and have seen for myself what a load of monstrous egos and midget minds inhabit the field (yes, even here in nice, liberal, socialistic Canada). A few are as nice as they come (Ron MacLean of CBC Sports is one of those good eggs); others, many more others, are rude and downright nasty even if you ask them for nothing more than the time of day. I really don't feel like writing to those people, because I know in advance that it won't make a difference. I wouldn't get a satisfactory explanation, let alone a "gee, I never thought of that"; I'd count myself lucky to get snotty responses like those catalogued above.

No, I'd rather write of them than to them, and expose them with mockery here, because here, they can't cow or intimidate or (here comes a big bad word, kiddies) CENSOR me. This is my space, and if they ego-google themselves and happen to come across what I say about them, they get what they deserve. So far, not one of them has done so--or at least, not that I would know, because not one of them has expended the very minimal effort (a gentle fluttering of fingers over a keyboard) to say something back.

Hey media types, here's a little free advice for y'all: If you want to be taken seriously, start by taking your work seriously. Don't get all caught up in what Media Lens rightly criticizes as "professional navel-gazing, ego-burnishing and insider gossip." When you sink to that level, you are taking yourself seriously and your work lightly. The public does not benefit from this, unless perhaps you're thinking to cure our collective insomnia that way. (Melatonin works better. Try it sometime.)

If you're going to have a media section, put it to good use and do some real self-criticism once in a while. It may seem painful at first, it may even seem a little Marxist, but it won't hurt you to learn to take your work more seriously and yourselves more lightly. I do it all the time in my own writing, because I feel that I owe it to my readers, as many or as few as they may be. I do it in my poetry, my fiction, my essays, and yes, this blog. Even the silliest stuff, like my satire and my limericks, gets worked over until I feel it will pass muster and make somebody else's day.

The very least you "serious" journo-types can do, if you want the public to respond to you in kind, is to give some evidence that you are capable of independent thought. You can't do that if you recycle blatant nonsense, or praise it (like so many of you did with the Euston Manifesto, a self-congratulatory non-manifesto if ever there was one)--or if you're all wrapped up in cotton balls, insulated by self and station against what you perceive as the rabble. Hello, you're only human, you're a member of it too--get over it, and more importantly, GET OVER YOURSELVES!

And if you want to convince us that you are Serious Cats, don't lose the serious thread. Report the issues honestly--don't just play back what he said, what she said, what they said. Unless you have the nerve to examine what made them say it, you have no business being in the business. You may as well just hunch on your perches, fluff up your feathers, and say "Polly want a cracker", for all the serious difference you make.

October 21, 2008

Stupid Sex Tricks: How not to rent a property

Didja know that the Johnson City, Tennessee, police have a blog? And that they blog such interesting things there as this?

On 10-21-2008, the Special Investigations Squad of the Johnson City Police Department arrested a city resident of charges of Extortion and Patronizing Prostitution.

The arrest stemmed from an investigation launched after a complaint was made that George Defrieze, W/M, DOB 02-07-1949, of 806 Spring St, was engaged in illegal activity. The investigation found that Defrieze is a rental property owner and was attempting to entice a female tenant into paying her rent by engaging in sex with him on a regular basis.

Defrieze was taken into custody and transported to WCDC where he is being held in lieu of an $11,000.00 bond and is scheduled to appear in Washington County General Sessions Court on 10-23-2008. Defrieze was charged with one count of Extortion of one count of Patronizing Prostitution within 1.5 miles of a school.

I don't know what freaks me out most--that some horny goat tried to extort sex from a would-be tenant in lieu of rent, that an extortion attempt would be termed "Patronizing Prostitution" when the woman in question was not an actual prostitute, or that someone in the cop-shop saw fit to blog it.

Watch out, Cuba!

You've got oil!

No one has called Cuba lucky, until now.

Mother nature, it emerged this week, appears to have blessed the island with enough oil reserves to vault it into the ranks of energy powers. The government announced there may be more than 20bn barrels of recoverable oil in offshore fields in Cuba's share of the Gulf of Mexico, more than twice the previous estimate.

If confirmed, it puts Cuba's reserves on par with those of the U.S. and into the world's top 20. Drilling is expected to start next year by Cuba's state oil company Cubapetroleo, or Cupet.

"It would change their whole equation. The government would have more money and no longer be dependent on foreign oil," said Kirby Jones, founder of the Washington-based U.S.-Cuba Trade Association. "It could join the club of oil exporting nations."

Yeah...and it could also join Venezuela, Bolivia and Iran on Washington's "to-hit" list! Is it any wonder that Cuba is renewing economic (and military) ties with Russia?

BTW, this article came from the Tehran Times. Yes, IN IRAN. What a coinkidink!

October 20, 2008

It's official...

...the constitutional referendum in Bolivia is ON, babies! It's slated for January 25. Heeeeere's Evo:

Alas, Evo won't be allowed to run more than two terms, meaning that after 2014, he's outta there. On the other hand, there's probably nothing to prevent his silver-fox veep, Alvaro Garcia Linera, from taking a shot at the presidency, so all is not lost.

Dig this, bitches!

First, a little mood music, maestro:

Alas poor Lorca, they don't know where he is, Horatio...but maybe now, they'll finally get to the bottom of whatever mass grave the great Spanish bard disappeared to:

Judge Baltasar Garzon opened the first formal probe into murder and repression during Spain's fascist era on Thursday by filing a 68-page writ ordering the immediate exhumation of 19 mass graves -- including one thought to contain the remains of poet Federico Garcia Lorca.

Garzon, a National Court judge, is best known for his tenacious campaign to prosecute former Argentinian dictator Augusto Pinochet. His new order cites 114,266 people as missing or "disappeared" under General Francisco Franco. Garzon says the repression and systematic extermination of political opponents during the Franco era amount to "crimes against humanity."

An estimated 500,000 people died in the Spanish civil war, and both sides committed atrocities against civilians. Garzon's initiative focuses on those who, like Garcia Lorca, were on the losing Republican side.

Of course, the worst atrocities were committed by the fascists against the Republicans (who were small-d democrats, as the fascists were not.) And that's exactly why people like this don't want those graves being dug up:

Spanish conservatives in general oppose the investigation. "I am not in favor of opening the wounds of the past," said conservative People's Party Mariano Rajoy last month.

Stands to reason. The "People's Party" were what the Franco-fascists morphed into once the dictatorship officially ended. And since it was their side that got the amnesty for the atrocities, of course they don't want it all getting back out into the light of day! And what does that say about "democratic" Spain today?

The left-leaning daily El Pais wrote, "The public lynching Garzon is being subjected to gives an idea of the democratic deficit that Spain suffers, derived in great measure from failing to confront ghosts when it should have."

Bingo. First truth, THEN reconciliation. Not the other way around.

October 18, 2008

Unreported news from Morelos, Mexico

Did you know a massacre took place there on October 9?

Here's the lowdown on what it's all about, courtesy Angry White Kid:

For almost two months, the teachers union in the Mexican state of Morelos rose up against the "Alliance for Quality Education", a neo-liberal plan akin to "No Child Left Behind" that would pave the way to the privatization of education, among other things.

They were supported by the people of Morelos in their marches, encampments in public plazas, and blockades of interstate highways. On Oct. 7, 8, and 9, the army and state and federal paramilitary police were sent in to brutally smash the movement. This model is a mirror of the crackdown that occurred in Oaxaca in 2006 and has enraged teachers and the public across Mexico.

The struggle in Morelos echoes exactly what is going on in Oaxaca, where a teachers' strike turned into a full-fledged rebellion against a bad local governor in 2006 and the resistance is still going strong--and also, largely unreported by mainstream media.

But what's really taboo here, in terms of mainstream reporting, is exactly what both these rebellions--which are not isolated events--really mean. The fact that the last Mexican federal election was blatantly stolen from the progressive Andres Manuel López Obrador (or AMLO, for short) has never been forgotten, and never been forgiven, either. George Dubya Bush's handpicked candidate "won"--with a little help from his gringo friends. Greg Palast has evidence that the fraud wasn't even subtle. And that fraud is what's really being protested here; the privatization of education is part of Felipe Calderon's neoliberal/neo-con agenda. An agenda that was imposed very much against the will of a majority of Mexicans from all states, not only Oaxaca and Morelos (which is, incidentally, the birthplace of the great revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata.)

Gee, I can't imagine why the lamestream media want to hush all this rebellion up and fixate on the phony drug war instead, can you?

October 17, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging Too: Marxism--it's a par-tay!

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Peace, dude.

From Aporrea, an innnnnnteresting sign of the times--and times to come? Could be:

Whether Karl Marx's books are in fashion, or whether this is a response to the financial crisis is unknown, but what is certain is that they have never sold as well as now, says Jorn Schütrumpf, a German editor specializing in Marxist literature. "Since 2005, my sales volume has never stopped growing."

"Of course, there is a fashion, mainly because many young people are buying the book they've never read, and it's a hard, challenging read," said Schütrumpf, surrounded by photographs of the German philosopher, and the emblematic figure of German socialism, Rosa Luxemburg.

In times when the world is on the edge of a recession, Schütrumpf says, "a society which feels the need to read Karl Marx again, is a society which is feeling ill."

Translation mine.

He's not kidding--remember what society was feeling like the last time this happened?

PS: Ha, ha--look who else is noting an interesting trend in Marxism. When Canada's dumbest, dimmest, rightardliest national newspaper is picking up on it, even from THEIR stupid-ass angle, you know something is brewing.

Look who's buttering up Barack Obama

The Venezuelan equivalent of the KKK, no less. Alberto Nolia, on his VTV show "The Devil's Papers", uncovers an online chat session between two prominent "youth leaders" of the Venezuelan opposition, Yon Goicoechea and Freddy Guevara, in which they talk about burning crosses on the lawn of a prominent black politician, Aristóbulo Istúriz--AT THE SAME TIME as they discuss liaising with "Democratic" friends in the US to plant anti-Chávez crapaganda:

"Yes we can fuck the black people who takes our oil"? Not only is that bad English, it's also racist. AND anti-American, to boot, since they're referring to poor black folks in the US.

I sure hope those guys at the Cato Institute enjoy seeing a half-million of their not-so-hard-earned dinero going to blatant little racists like this. Way to do yourselves proud, motherfuckers.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: El Ecuafedorable!

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Nice lid, Raffy...Chavecito approves!

October 16, 2008

Quotable: Carl Sandburg on socialism

"There have been as many varieties of socialists as there are wild birds that fly in the woods and sometimes go up and on through the clouds."

--Carl Sandburg

October 15, 2008

Sarah Palin: RACIST!

Max Blumenthal has found another juicy tidbit about Miss Alaskan Independence Party. Seems that while they scrubbed their racist language, they didn't scrub their racism--and neither, as their puppet governor, did Miss Uncongenial:

Gwen Alexander, the president of the African-American Historical Society of Alaska, told me that Palin stated defiantly that she had no intention to hire any minority staffers. And according to Bishop Dave Thomas, senior pastor of Anchorage-based African-American church Jesus Holy Temple, the Palin administration excluded black business owners from the Alaskan oil and gas pipeline board. "We wasn't even able or allowed to go into the meetings" to seek contracts for the pipeline, Thomas told me.

Palin further alienated Alaska's black community by becoming the first Alaskan governor in recent memory to not recognize the Juneteenth celebration of the emancipation proclamation. "She doesn't hire any black people, she doesn't have any on her staff, so it's not a surprise that she doesn't support our Juneteenth celebration," Alexander said.

Which makes her boogying with that Kenyan witch-doctor/witch-hunter seem all the more hypocritical, does it not?

Frankly, this doesn't surprise me one bit. After all, she's the candidate of the racist right. She was installed to steal the thunder of that uppity niggruh, Obama. But this move, like all the others, will backfire, and the thunder will just roll right on over her...watch, wait and see.

Glass houses, Señor Rosales...

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What's that saying about not throwing stones again? Looks like someone who's been doing it to Chavecito just broke more than a few of his own windows...

Parliamentarian Mario Isea, president of the National Assembly commission investigating the coup plots against president Hugo Chávez, presented evidence before the Assembly that Manuel Rosales evaded taxes to the tune of 19 million bolivares ($8.8 million US) following the Zulia lottery.

Translation mine.

This is rich, coming from someone who just days ago accused Chavecito of throwing Venezuela's money away...money that belongs to the people. What exactly has he done with the money of the people of Zulia?

Mario Isea suspects that the money is going to finance a coup against Chavecito; a good guess, since after all, Isea is investigating recent putschist events (including the confiscation of a grenade launcher that could bring down a plane.)

And anyone who's seen a map of Venezuela knows that Zulia borders on Colombia, home of the infamous paramilitaries that Alvaro Uribe is so cozy with, and so happy to supply to the Venezuelan opposition to carry out magnicidal plots against their democratically elected president. In fact, he's done so a number of times already.

We also know that Rosalito has been to Colombia at least once, and met with El Narco or members of his paraco government. What do you suppose they were discussing? And oh, wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall of THAT big, brittle glass house?

October 14, 2008

Why economic globalization really, REALLY stinks

Sure, it's easy for us lefties to say that corporate globalism sucks the big banana. We've been saying that for over two decades now. But if you want to see, not just hear, why it's a bad idea, I suggest you give this nice fella from Iceland a blog-call. Here's an excerpt from his post, "Surreal Reykjavik", about what life's been like in the smallest, cutest capital in the world since stockmarkets in much bigger cities took a header last week.

It's like we know the system is broken, we know it's gone, but we can't see it. We can't tell what's real, what's still there, and what are just the ghosts of yesterday, when Iceland was one of the richest countries in the world. A pale reflection of the golden age in Icelandic economy which is now going up in flames. Where's the smoke?

The world is treating us like we're dead. Bank accounts frozen. No buziness without cash payments in advance. No currency can be bought. The stock market is closed (not that I have anything left there). Imports have stopped because of closed currency markets and diapers, flour, sugar and other neccesities are selling out in the shops.

I would like to remind the world that the banks went down because of a chain reaction - that started in the US. I'm not going to tell you the chain of events, the intervention of politicians, the misunderstandings, the dispute with Britain where they used their anti-terrorist laws to confiscate Icelandic assets. I'm not trying to find someone to blame. But I would like to tell you that we still have a lot of innovative and prominent companies in Iceland, and you might actually get a pretty good deal there at the moment, as the Icelandic Krona is so low.

[...]

People are well aware of the pshycological effect of the bank crises. For me, it's the biggest shock since my mother-in-law's sudden death. I fear that the society will be going through a similar cycle. We're in stage one - the disbelieve and numness. When routine hits us and we realize that we don't have our money and can't pay the bills, start losing our cars and homes, then the real sorrow and sadness sinks in. And it happens at the worst time of the year, when the nights are getting longer and longer. In December we have 20 hours of complete darkness. That will be a very tough month. Suicides are already being reported.

The minister of education, Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, has sent an email out to all schools in the country with some guidelines on how to react. In the television ads are running reminding people that the most precious things in life - are free! Helplines have been opened. And people are being reminded that if you're not one of those going broke, keep on spending like normally. The economy really needs it.

The last time I read anything out of Iceland was during my second-last year at Queen's University, when I took an Old Norse course (and Introduction to Beowulf, with the same great prof) in lieu of something much drier, to cover the linguistics requirements of my English Lit degree. It was great fun to translate a portion of the Svarfdaela Saga, which had never been translated into English. It was also bolshy fun to read about the Norse Gods, whom I worshipped quite a bit in those early days of my pagandom, in the language they themselves were supposed to have spoken. And it was lovely to see, in National Geographic, a large but polite contingent of Icelanders turn out to protest against warmongering and nukes when Ronald Reagan attended a summit in Reykjavik and paid a courtesy call to Vigdís Finbogadóttir, Iceland's first female president. A pagan priest called on Freyr and Njörður to protect Iceland from the nuclear menace, and cast a curse (called a nið) on war. Apparently it worked, for Iceland remained peaceful, uncontaminated, and nuke-free even after the old gasbag had gone his sulphur-scented way. (Never underestimate a good Icelandic curse!)

This would probably be a good time for me to dust off my old robes (and Old Norse dictionary!), and cast a nið of my own to help our little neighbor Iceland shake off the crapitalist curse and get its collective groove back. After all, Iceland's a groovy little place. The language is as close to pure Old Norse as you'll find anywhere in Scandinavia. The people are as cool there as you'll find anywhere. They deserve better than to lose it all on someone else's fiscal follies.

October 13, 2008

Chavecito's gloves come off

Anyone who's been following Venezuelan politics of late has surely heard of Manuel Rosales, a.k.a. "Burusas", a.k.a. "The Philosopher", a dumbass from Zulia who mangles popular sayings and can't do his own math. For some strange reason, the selfsame dumbass is currently governor of that oil-soaked state, which sits around the edge of Lake Maracaibo like a broken toilet seat. He's also the US liaison for various nefarious political stupidities, including what former US ambassador William Brownfield, who like Philip Goldberg in Bolivia, was a backer of balkanization, called "the Independent and Eastern Republic of Zulia". (No, I'm not making that weird shit up. You can't make it up--unless you are a Kool-Aid man like William Brownfield.)

Burusas is most notable for losing federal elections (badly), for being ignored at US Democratic conventions (where he, along with a certain guaranteed-to-lose oligarchic mayor of Chacao, has been trying hard to butter up the future president of the United States), and for just generally sticking his feet in his mouth, sometimes both at a time. He's actually accused Chavecito of being a "populist" while pushing a very un-original quasi-populistic scheme of his own (remember "Mi Negra"? It's racist and sexist, too!) He's every bit as dumb as Dubya, but nowhere near as entertaining; his droning voice puts me to sleep. Can't imagine why anyone anywhere voted for this clown. He's an embarrassment to Zulia.

Well, anyhow...looks like Burusas finally stuck his foot in his mouth one time too many. Or one inch too far. Because now, Chavecito has lost all patience and is laying down a major, MAJOR pimp-slap on him--and on Burusas's "independent and eastern" turf, yet:

All's I can say is, what took him so long? He's been putting up with this shithead's, well, shit for years now. Surely tolerance has its limits, does it not?

Economy, ecology...they're closer than you think

This piece on the Beeb gives me the heebie-jeebies. Not because it tells me anything new, but because finally, a mainstream media outlet is publishing what regular enviro-lefties like me have known for a long, long time:

The global economy is losing more money from the disappearance of forests than through the current banking crisis, according to an EU-commissioned study.

It puts the annual cost of forest loss at between $2 trillion and $5 trillion.

The figure comes from adding the value of the various services that forests perform, such as providing clean water and absorbing carbon dioxide.

[...]

Speaking to BBC News on the fringes of the congress, study leader Pavan Sukhdev emphasised that the cost of natural decline dwarfs losses on the financial markets.

"It's not only greater but it's also continuous, it's been happening every year, year after year," he told BBC News.

"So whereas Wall Street by various calculations has to date lost, within the financial sector, $1-$1.5 trillion, the reality is that at today's rate we are losing natural capital at least between $2-$5 trillion every year."

[...]

Key to understanding his conclusions is that as forests decline, nature stops providing services which it used to provide essentially for free.

So the human economy either has to provide them instead, perhaps through building reservoirs, building facilities to sequester carbon dioxide, or farming foods that were once naturally available.

Or we have to do without them; either way, there is a financial cost.

So, in other words: The economy is more dependent on the ecology than most crapitalists believe. And if they go on wantonly destroying our ecology, everyone will have to pay a price...EVERYONE. Including the disaster capitalists who, in Naomi Klein's book, thought that they could own the world and simply jet away from all natural disasters to some well-appointed, "plutonomy"-friendly desert island.

Get scared, rich people, you're no more immune than the rest of us.

October 11, 2008

In case of election theft, break glass

(Note: This is a spoof. But we really do recognize evolution, gay rights, etc. up here. Pot's not really legal yet, though. And while perfectly legal, abortion may be hard to get depending where you live. Sorry.)

Why does Sarah Palin hate America?

David Neiwert and Max Blumenthal have done a terrific job with their latest article for The Nation and Salon.com. They also have much tougher stomachs than I do--these guys routinely face down right-wing nutters, live and in person. And look who they've gone and met in Alaska:

An obscure figure outside of Alaska, Chryson has been a political fixture in the hometown of the Republican vice-presidential nominee for over a decade. During the 1990s, when Chryson directed the AIP, he and another radical right-winger, Steve Stoll, played a quiet but pivotal role in electing Palin as mayor of Wasilla and shaping her political agenda afterward. Both Stoll and Chryson not only contributed to Palin's campaign financially, they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, during and after her victory.

Palin backed Chryson as he successfully advanced a host of anti-tax, pro-gun initiatives, including one that altered the state Constitution's language to better facilitate the formation of anti-government militias. She joined in their vendetta against several local officials they disliked, and listened to their advice about hiring. She attempted to name Stoll, a John Birch Society activist known in the Mat-Su Valley as "Black Helicopter Steve," to an empty Wasilla City Council seat. "Every time I showed up her door was open," said Chryson. "And that policy continued when she became governor."

Wow, they sound like real winners already. But wait, there's more:

Chryson pursued a dual policy of cozying up to secessionist and right-wing groups in Alaska and elsewhere while also attempting to replicate the AIP's success with Hickel in infiltrating the mainstream.

Unlike some radical right-wingers, Chryson doesn't put forward his ideas freighted with anger or paranoia. And in a state where defense of gun and property rights often takes on a real religious fervor, Chryson was able to present himself as a typical Alaskan.

He rose through party ranks by reducing the AIP's platform to a single page that "90 percent of Alaskans could agree with." This meant scrubbing the old platform of what Chryson called "racist language" while accommodating the state's growing Christian right movement by emphasizing the AIP's commitment to the "traditional family."

"The AIP is very family-oriented," Chryson explained. "We're for the traditional family -- daddy, mommy, kids -- because we all know that it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. And we don't care if Heather has two mommies. That's not a traditional family."

Charming--they scrubbed the racist slurs, but left the heterosexist clichés firmly in place. Such cuddly secessionists!

These guys, folks, are the REAL hate-America crowd. They even have financing from Iran.

And no, Sarah Palin has NOT been at arm's length from this nutty fringe party; on the contrary, she's danced to their piping both as mayor of Wasilla and as governor of Alaska. Being a "card-carrying Republican since 1988" doesn't mean much when you consider her dual loyalties--or conflict of interest, might be a better way of putting it.

She's also a fine one to slam Barack Obama for an imaginary terrorist connection when her own one...is real.

Don't take my word for it, though; read all about it.

And then, ask some hard questions, starting with this one: Why does this woman hate America?

October 10, 2008

They call this "progress"?

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Just another proud moment in Latin American progress: the death of Che Guevara. No, US interference wasn't behind that one, either.

Will someone kindly inform John Podesta that his think tank has run out of gas? The Center for American Progress was supposed to be a counterweight to all those right-wing and far-right-wing and so-far-right-of-right-that-they-spit-swastikas think tanks, but you know what? Right now, it sounds more like their echo chamber, and here's one of the hollow noises coming from it:

Today's Washington Post editorial, "A Choice for Latin America," ends with a provocative ultimatum for several Latin American governments: Choose the democracy of the 21st century over Hugo Chavez's "half-baked" socialism, or else lose all material and economic support from the United States. Interestingly enough, however, the editorial does not give a single detail of what The Washington Post's vision of democracy in the 21st century means for Latin America besides a nostalgic reference to the largely defunct and discredited "Washington consensus."

To believe that what Latin America needs in the 21st century is to merely revitalize the Washington consensus is to completely miss the point. While it is not in the interest of the United States or the people of Latin America to have governments that rule undemocratically and in ways that inflame hemispheric relations, it is also not in the interest of the United States to further antagonize the region by using rhetoric based on a "you're either with us or against us" mentality.

Okay. That doesn't sound so bad, does it? Nooooo, of course not. It only insinuates that Chavecito's undemocratic, and that his socialism is "half-baked", as if the WaHoPo were quite right about those things! Are they really criticizing the stupid editorial for being full of Teh Stoopid (surely the work of Jackson Diehl, who's a real piece of work himself), or are they just saying "tone it down, asshole, you'll only make them scream louder"?

Well, gee. You tell me:

After several decades of deepening democratic processes and moderate economic growth, what Latin America needs is to build on the lessons learned from the Washington consensus of the 1990s and create economic and political systems that respond to the very serious and urgent needs of its citizens. These needs include finding solutions to rampant and worsening public insecurity, pervasive economic inequality, and ineffective and discredited institutions.

"Several decades of deepening democratic processes"? Gee, what would those be--the five and a half decades since Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown by the CIA in Guatemala, and replaced with a dictator? The three and a half since Salvador Allende was overthrown by the CIA in Chile, and replaced with a dictator? The two-and-a-half decades of stumbling "democracy" and impunity for the junta's human rights abusers in Argentina? The four decades of fake democracy in Venezuela, when two parties divvied up all the votes the others received between themselves, and basically just played musical chairs with the presidency while providing no democratic responsiveness whatsoever to the Venezuelan people? And speaking of musical chairs, how about that endless parade of Bolivian and Ecuadorian presidents booted out by an angry populace who hated them for continually bowing to the diktats of the IMF? Are any of these the "deepening democratic processes" to which the author of the piece is referring?

And how about that "moderate economic progress"? Anyone who's had to live under the Washington Consensus, and who's been alive long enough to recall the REAL era of economic progress that preceded it, knows that the Washington Consensus brought "economic progress" only to those who already had way, WAY more than they needed. The rest just sank further and further into poverty. Public services got privatized; they also got progressively shittier. Prices went up, and wages went down. Ah, the glories of the free market!

But no, surely that's not what's meant by the author when she says that Latin Americans must find "solutions to rampant and worsening public insecurity, pervasive economic inequality, and ineffective and discredited institutions." Because you see, the neoliberal Washington Consensus created those problems. And this woman, Stephanie Miller (surely not the progressive radio talker by the same name?), thinks the Washington Consensus has lessons to impart which are the answer to those problems!

There follow a few undeniably factual paragraphs--a welcome respite which almost gives one to hope, but then the author sinks right back into the stoopid again:

The United States' response to these leaders therefore cannot be to deliver an ultimatum. To do so would only further aggravate hemispheric relations and alienate the regional allies the United States needs to effectively deal with Chavez, Correa, and Morales, and all those named by The Washington Post. Instead, the United States must very proactively engage with civil societies in all of these countries at the grassroots level.

Um, Stephanie? What exactly did you think the NED and USAID have been trying to do, at least at an astroturf level, since they couldn't get to the real grassroots, who rightly want nothing to do with them? Look up Súmate or the Coordinadora Democratica in Venezuela sometime. Or the Comite Pro Santa Cruz. Find out what Philip Goldberg was really up to that got him kicked out of Bolivia. Then you'll begin to get an inkling of why they no longer trust the gringos down there in LatAm. And then you'll no longer come to dumbass conclusions like this:

The goal of engagement should be to understand what the United States can and should do to help consolidate a more democratic system of governance that actually delivers the benefits of trade and globalization to the majority of people in the hemisphere, thereby discrediting the economic policies of Chavez and company in the process. Nostalgia for the Washington consensus has no place in the democracy of the 21st century in Latin America and the Caribbean. A more cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and the countries of the hemisphere does.

Excuse me, dear, but what Chavecito, Evo and El Ecuadorable have actually DONE is consolidate a more democratic system of governance. They've all convened constitutional assemblies to write the most modern, democratic constitutions in the region. And they've all made a point of putting those constitutions to a popular vote before they can become law! The economic policies of "Chavez and company" will not be discredited by anything the US does, either, because they are actually WORKING, while the US economy has long been in the shitter and is now getting flushed. And, talk about timing...to tout the "benefits of trade and globalization" at a time when stockmarkets all over the world are CRASHING as a result of trade and globalization...well. If it's a "more cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and the countries of the hemisphere" you want, then maybe it's time to stop trying to discredit those popular leaders (which won't work no matter how you try to do it), and start taking lessons from them instead of preaching yet another tired old watered-down version of the Washington Consensus.

October 9, 2008

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Evo's not exaggerating...

...his member really IS this big!

evo-bragging.jpg

Two by Bruce Cockburn

"If I Had a Rocket Launcher"--a peaceful man's anger at war on the poor.

"Call it Democracy"--still relevant today.

This is the kind of great Canadian artist that Harpo thinks is irrelevant to regular folks. Remember this when you go to vote!

Scary Thought #10: Prepare to soil yourselves again, folks...

The National Debt Clock in Manhattan is now too small for the number it's meant to tally.

You may want to avoid Wall St., I hear they're about due for a shower of suiciding stockbrokers.

Oh Lula, you card!

imf-burning.jpg

Burn, baby, burn...

Ha ha ha, the president of Brazil cracks me up:

"Where is the IMF now? Why isn't the IMF over there in Europe, giving advice?" Lula asked yesterday.

He added, "Because the crisis is theirs (the rich people's), and they're pretending there is no crisis."

Translation mine.

He is, of course, referring to the massive bailouts of banks on both sides of the Atlantic. From which the IMF, which just loves to exploit the fiscal crises of Latin America and the Third World, was conspicuously absent, as a lender of both money AND "advice". Probably that's because the IMF, like the capitalist system of which it's a product, has been in deep doo-doo for quite some time now.

Oh that Lula! What a comedian!

Bolivian police chief confirms Porvenir massacre was an ambush

For certain stupid CSMonitor writers and anyone else who doesn't really get what's going on in Bolivia, a little primer:

The Departmental Police Chief of Pando, Col. Silvio Magarzo, confirmed before a special commission on Tuesday that the campesinos who marched on September 11 towards the city of Cobija were unarmed, were ambushed by armed persons, and threw themselves into the river Tahuamanu in order to save their lives.

"I don't know if the campesinos were carrying weapons, I couldn't see; the incident occurred, and it's public knowledge from which side the gunshot-wounded and the dead, those who were the victims, came. They were only from the campesino side," the commander explained.

Magarzo was called before the Special Multidepartmental Commission of Deputies to testify over the massacre, which occurred when armed men--who, apparently, according to testimonies, had been sent by the Prefect of Pando--attacked campesino marchers, leaving at least 18 dead, among them a nine-year-old, and dozens of injured and missing persons.

Translation mine.

Any questions?

Guido Antonini: Big, fat liar. (Brief)case closed.

If you've been following the Guido Antonini Wilson/briefcase-fulla-dollars story at all, you'll already know that the man is (a) mobbed up; (b) very anti-Chavez; and (c) so full of shit that it's starting to ooze out his ears. Of course, the latest testimony in the convoluted court proceedings only underscores that last bit, as a rather notorious airport baggage screener lady takes the stand:

The ex-agent of the Argentine airport police, María Luján Telpuk, who discovered the briefcase containing $800,000, declared in Miami that Guido Antonini Wilson told her he was the owner of the case when it was examined, and revealed that the FBI interrogated her the Sunday she arrived in the United States.

"I saw something unusual when the briefcase passed through the scanner, and I asked that they call for the owner. That's when I saw Mr. Antonini for the first time, when he presented himself as the owner of the case", said Telpuk, who was called to testify in defence of Franklin Durán, another of those implicated in the case.

According to Telpuk, who also exposed the matter before the Argentine courts, Antonini "was nervous" when she asked him to open the briefcase.

"I asked him to open it, and he didn't do it until I'd asked him a second time and in a firmer tone. He was nervous and stared at me fixedly," Telpuk recalled. "When I saw the money, I asked him how much he was carrying, and he told me it was something on the order of $60,000."

The ex-policewoman also told the court that last Sunday, upon arriving in Miami, she was interrogated by three FBI agents in an office at the local airport.

"There were roughly two hours of interrogation and I answered all the questions they asked me," Telpuk said, and said she had not been informed beforehand that she had the right to remain silent.

"I'm telling the truth, I have no reason to lie," Telpuk said. In this way she contradicted Antonini Wilson, who declared last week that the briefcase was not his. In other statements, he said that "I didn't know what was in the briefcase, but every other passenger was carrying one, and I took the one that was left."

Translation mine.

It's a strange fact of life in some parts of Latin America that it's hard for a woman to get anywhere careerwise if she hasn't either (a) won a beauty title, however laughably minor, or (b) posed nude for a skin mag, or (c) both. Well, María Telpuk of course didn't do (a), being rather plain of face, but by golly, she's done (b) all right. With a pair of silicone funbags that could double in an emergency as an ersatz lifejacket, she's going places that her face alone won't take her. It might not compromise her credibility in LatAm all that much, as social conditions can be absolutely ridiculous for women there, but I bet it's going to get her challenged rather hard on the stand in Miami. (Get your minds out of the gutter, you creeps!)

Which is a shame, really, because Antonini is the one who should be getting challenged. For one thing, he's rather strangely tight with the defendant, Franklin Duran, against whom he's now supposed to be testifying.

Plus, he's got bigger boobs than Ms. Telpuk, and moreover, he came by his floppy, saggy pair naturally. Doesn't that count for anything?

If I were she, I'd have bypassed the sillycones and the sillier antics, and just gone straight for a book deal (preferably with a foreword by Jaime Bayly)--but that's just me.

October 8, 2008

Quotable: Margaret Atwood on the arts in Canada

"At present, we are a very creative country. For decades, we've been punching above our weight on the world stage - in writing, in popular music and in many other fields. Canada was once a cultural void on the world map, now it's a force. In addition, the arts are a large segment of our economy: The Conference Board estimates Canada's cultural sector generated $46-billion, or 3.8 per cent of Canada's GDP, in 2007. And, according to the Canada Council, in 2003-2004, the sector accounted for an 'estimated 600,000 jobs (roughly the same as agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil & gas and utilities combined).'

"But we've just been sent a signal by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he gives not a toss for these facts. Tuesday, he told us that some group called "ordinary people" didn't care about something called "the arts." His idea of "the arts" is a bunch of rich people gathering at galas whining about their grants. Well, I can count the number of moderately rich writers who live in Canada on the fingers of one hand: I'm one of them, and I'm no Warren Buffett. I don't whine about my grants because I don't get any grants. I whine about other grants - grants for young people, that may help them to turn into me, and thus pay to the federal and provincial governments the kinds of taxes I pay, and cover off the salaries of such as Mr. Harper. In fact, less than 10 per cent of writers actually make a living by their writing, however modest that living may be. They have other jobs. But people write, and want to write, and pack into creative writing classes, because they love this activity - not because they think they'll be millionaires.

"Every single one of those people is an 'ordinary person.' Mr. Harper's idea of an ordinary person is that of an envious hater without a scrap of artistic talent or creativity or curiosity, and no appreciation for anything that's attractive or beautiful. My idea of an ordinary person is quite different. Human beings are creative by nature. For millenniums we have been putting our creativity into our cultures - cultures with unique languages, architecture, religious ceremonies, dances, music, furnishings, textiles, clothing and special cuisines. 'Ordinary people' pack into the cheap seats at concerts and fill theatres where operas are brought to them live. The total attendance for 'the arts' in Canada in fact exceeds that for sports events. 'The arts' are not a 'niche interest.' They are part of being human."

--Margaret Atwood, Mel Hurtig lecture at the University of Alberta, October 1, 2008.

Religious insanity strikes (a match) again

Sweet Jesus. Were all the fundie preachers in Loonyland being told to preach anti-witchcraft sermons this month? A little over a week ago, a woman tried to set a pagan store owner on fire. Now, it's open season on teachers of English literature:

The suspect, Darin Najor, 20, faces a pretrial hearing Oct. 23 in Ferndale 43rd District Court on a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery. He was arrested and posted bond in the incident on Monday.

Najor threatened the teacher at the adult education school Sept. 11, police said. The liquid he poured on the teacher was nonflammable and the suspect carried it in a Gatorade bottle, police said.

The English teacher told police she had a discussion with Najor the day before the incident about "The Crucible," an assigned play by the late Arthur Miller set in 1692 that deals with events that led to the Salem witch trials.

Najor asked the teacher if she believed in witchcraft, police said. The teacher told him she did not believe in witchcraft and explained that the events in the play were a metaphor for unjust persecution, police said.

"The suspect threw his homework papers on the floor and declared it was all blasphemy," Denmark said. "The next day he came up behind her chanting what sounded like religious verses while she was working at her desk."

He poured a liquid over her head and was holding a green barbecue lighter, she told police.

"He said he was trying to purify the witch," Denmark said.

I guess some people just can't handle an education.

And I hate to see what's in store this Halloween.

October 7, 2008

Last week of the election campaign panic button edition

What do you bet that all these were the doing of Conservative supporters?

So far, 34 acts of vandalism and threatening phone calls have been reported in the Toronto ridings of St. Paul's and Parkdale-High Park--all directed at persons with Liberal party signs on their lawns. 17 victims have had their cars' brake lines cut. One of the victims, a father of two (ages 22 months and 6 months), sums up the magnitude of the vileness succinctly: "You have to crawl under someone's car and cut the brake line, knowing that it could kill someone, or their whole family."

Really, is the re-election of a bad prime minister worth the deaths of two babies in their car seats? I thought Conservatives were supposed to be "pro-life", but I guess that only refers to fetuses.

Scott Tribe, my fellow Progressive Blogger, has amassed some pics of similar grotesquery in Guelph, Ontario, at his site. (No, it's not just a Toronto thing.)

In case no one has said so yet, this kind of behavior is most unCanadian.

Stupid Sex Tricks: How not to liven up a dull day at the office

Self-explanatory.

Colombia: Bestest democracy EVAR.

Aporrea reports, I translate...and after that, I shut up, because there simply are no words.

Jorge Iván Laverde Zapata, alias "El Iguano", ex-chief of the AUC paramilitaries, in the department of Norte de Santander, said that his men incinerated their victims in ovens specially constructed for the purpose.

The paramilitaries built the first oven in 2001, in Juan Frío, a rural parish of the Villa del Rosario municipality. They incinerated 28 bodies in it, according to the confession of the ex-commander of the so-called Fronteras de las AUC.

"El Iguano" admitted that the victims were incinerated in this location, some 800 km northeast of Bogotá, to avoid risks and eliminate evidence. In 2003, another oven was built in the same region to similar purposes, the ex-paramilitary chief revealed.

In both ovens, some 100 victims were incinerated, all accused of belonging to guerrilla groups, as well as being extortionists and rapists, said "El Iguano".

October 6, 2008

In which Bina pwns another hapless crapagandist

Go sit in the corner, dumbass!

OMG, now we know one more publication that's either staffed entirely by CIA plants, or else it's too fucking cheap to hire even one teeny tiny factchecker. Yes, folks, it's the Christian Science Monitor, and look how they've butchered Bolivia!

Bolivia is teetering on the brink of conflict, threatening to destabilize a region much closer to home and further damage our troubled economy.

Right away we can see that the author, one Seth Kaplan, who styles himself "a business consultant to companies in developing countries and a foreign-policy analyst", is teetering on the brink of Teh Stoopid. Bolivia just stepped back from the brink of conflict, actually, with support from all of South America. Evo is now in talks with the Media Luna-tics, even though they are people you really can't talk to or reason with--they're like tantruming toddlers, only with gangs of hired thugs to do their stomping for them.

And how a tiny country like Bolivia, which the US is doing its damnedest to penalize economically for its independence, could be "threatening to...further damage our troubled economy" (in the US, that is), really makes no sense at all.

But wait! It gets dumber...

Bolivia is synonymous with political and social strife. Long known for its deep social inequities and political turmoil, this country of 9 million people has increasingly been divided geographically, economically, and even culturally. Two groups now fight for control of the state: those in the lowlands, mostly capitalist mestizos (people of mixed European ancestry) who support globalization and benefit from Brazil's booming economy, versus the indigenous groups in the Andes, the anti-American Aymara and Quechua, who prefer state control of the economy.

Yeek. This oversimplification is so gross, it gives one to vomit.

Someone please clue Mr. Kaplan in: Bolivia is not "synonymous with political and social strife" (WTF is that supposed to mean?), not all the mestizos are capitalists, and the Quechua and Aymara peoples are NOT "anti-American", they ARE Americans--SOUTH Americans.

In fact, someone please send Mr. Kaplan a copy of Cocalero, so he can see how the white and mestizo people in "capitalist" Santa Cruz department turned out by the hundreds at a fancy hotel to support Evo during his election campaign. Middle-class businesspeople, goshdarnit! Telling a socialist they like his ideology! No shit, it's really in there!

But wait...it gets dumber still:

President Evo Morales has exacerbated these divisions since coming to power in 2005. Although rightly concerned that his indigenous supporters would not benefit from the state's growing gas revenue, he's alienated his opponents by trying to centralize authority, confiscate property, and illegally ram through a new constitution.

Bitch, please. Evo didn't alienate his opponents, unless you consider having the effrontery to be a brown-skinned indigenous guy to be some form of intentional provocation. Oh wait, my mistake--make that having the effrontery to be a brown-skinned indigenous guy who just happens to be the first Bolivian president in history to be of that persuasion.

As for "centralizing authority", "confiscating property" and "illegal ramming" (Oooooo! Kinky!), try and find those anywhere. The opposition had their chance to show that they could handle decentralized government, vast tracts of land, AND a piece in the writing of their country's constitution, and they eated it. All of it.

But wait! Believe it or not, it gets even dumber than this:

The risk of civil war has markedly increased in recent weeks. The Army has occupied an opposition province, declaring martial law there and imprisoning the governor on charges of "genocide." Fighting has killed some 30 people. Anti-Morales protesters have occupied central government offices in Santa Cruz, the country's business capital, and interrupted natural-gas deliveries to Brazil.

Morales has attempted to blame Washington for Bolivia's troubles, expelling the US ambassador on the spurious grounds of fomenting rebellion. He behaves like his close ally, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, who also expelled his country's US ambassador to distract attention from his own problems.

Okay, I'll give Kaplan credit for at least getting the part about the anti-Evo protesters and their sabotage attempts right. But that's about it. "Fighting" didn't kill 30 people; they were indigenous Evo supporters, and they were ambushed and shot in a river. They did not "fight"--they FLED, and they were shot in mid-water by anti-Evo snipers! This, I would say, was ample justification for sending in the army, imprisoning the prefect who ordered the massacre, and securing the gas installations against the fascists so they can't fuck with Brazil's gas supply anymore.

And yeah, so Evo blames the US. He doesn't merely "try" at that, though; he succeeds. When an enemy prefect met with a US ambassador in the dead of night and barred the media from the meeting, the government news agency posted the photos of the two skulking around outside. If that's not incriminating evidence of a US conspiracy against Evo, I don't know what is.

And yeah, so Evo's acting like Chavecito. In other words, like a man in charge of his own heart, mind and gonads. The US no longer has Latin America OR all its leaders by the short-and-curlies; get used to it!

But wait, we haven't yet plumbed the full depth of the dumbth:

The US government should support the initiative launched last month by the nascent Union of South American States. Just four months old and untested, UNASUR agreed to organize commissions to investigate killings and seek a compromise between the Bolivian government and its opponents.

Washington should also persuade Brazil to play a greater role in the conflict, and use its foreign aid or trade policies to support reconciliation efforts. Brazil is easily Bolivia's most important foreign investor, and its president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is the only prominent international leader trusted by both of the country's warring parties. Brazil has the most at risk in continued turmoil.

If either UNASUR or Lula can get Morales to back off from his hard-line positions, a workable agreement should be possible. Both sides could claim victory if a new constitution gives more authority to individual provinces and transfers more of the hydrocarbon revenue to poorer areas.

Wrong, wrong, wrongity-wrong, WRONG. Washington should do NOTHING, especially when it comes to using Brazil to hit Bolivia. Lula is a leftist, too, and he's frankly sick of being Washington's cat's-paw. He's with Evo, just as he's with Chavecito; he's just too polite to say so directly. Brazil and Bolivia can work out their own gas deals; in fact, Brazil will ONLY deal with the federal government of Bolivia, not the skunky little Media Luna prefects, when it comes to natural gas. Yes, that means EVO. Who, by the way, IS trying to get more of that hydrocarbon revenue to the poorer areas, and especially pensions for seniors. The Media Luna-tics are trying to stop that, and Evo is right to take a hard line against them; imagine if half the state governors in the US suddenly revolted against Dubya (oh, devoutly to be wished!)

Also, UNASUR doesn't seem untested to me. It came together rather nicely on Evo's behalf, and sent the Media Luna-tics limping off with their tails between their legs. Those guys, talk about chutzpah, wanted to attend the meeting as a nation, and no one in UNASUR would recognize them as such. That's gotta hurt! But hey, give UNASUR credit--they're tested enough to be 100% clear as to what's a nation and what's not.

Believe it or not, though, that's not the end of the stoopid. Here it comes, folks...big breath:

Washington needs to carefully calibrate its policies to encourage this result. While actively persuading Lula to mediate the crisis, it should link the accord with the $100 million in annual foreign assistance that Washington gives Bolivia, as well as continued participation in the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act. (Tens of thousands of Bolivian manufacturing jobs depend on access to US markets, which this act provides.) At the same time, Millennium Challenge Account money could be offered as an incentive. Bolivia is eligible for $598 million, which could be disbursed after an agreement is fully implemented. Offering to replace the US ambassador could be a sign of goodwill.

Washington has a delicate role to play in a country where past grievances - whether real or imaginary - color any act today. But at the least it should not be giving a blank check to a regime that has both repeatedly insulted the US and has worked assiduously to overturn democracy.

Oh yeah, replacing one interfering ambassador with another one--same old shit, fresh new asshole. Great idea!

And how about that--"overturn democracy". Hello? Evo was democratically elected, so was the Constituent Assembly that wrote the new constitution, and now Evo wants to put that constitution to a popular referendum. Meaning, everybody in Bolivia gets to vote on it, just as they got to vote on whether Evo stays or goes. If that's "overturning democracy", I'd hate to see what Kaplan calls "upholding" it.

BTW, the people of Bolivia voted overwhelmingly for Evo. The only duty Washington has now is to ACCEPT THE WILL OF THE BOLIVIAN PEOPLE AND LEAVE EVO ALONE.

A modest proposal for the woman-haters

Why did nobody come up with this sooner?

Dear Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan

BBC reports that you have recently called on women in Saudi Arabia to "wear a full veil, or niqab, that reveals only one eye." You say that "showing both eyes encourage[s] women to use eye make-up to look seductive."

I believe, sir, that showing only one eye will make matters worse. You see, whenever a woman and a man are together and the woman blinks, the man might think that she is winking. Is the hidden eye open or closed? If it is assumed to be normally open, then a momentary closing of the visible eye could be assumed to be a wink. If it is assumed to be normally closed, then the woman may be considered to be perpetually winking, which is equally problematic.

I have an alternative solution to your problem. I suggest that you introduce veils for men that cover both their eyes. That way it will make no difference if the women are winking, blinking or, heaven forbid, naked.

Good idea, no? You're welcome.

Regards

Amit Varma

A burqa for the blokes? Bring it on, babies.

October 5, 2008

As the market goes, so does Harpo's support

And I, for one, am neither surprised nor displeased to learn this:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's stand-pat, don't-panic response to economic turmoil seems to have fallen flat with voters, sending the Conservatives to their lowest support levels of the campaign, according to a new poll.

[...]

Harper, who took a break from the hustings Sunday, will spend the final week contrasting his "modest, achievable, realistic" platform with what the Tory spokesman characterized as the "grandiose, risky schemes" advocated by opposition parties. That will be bolstered by the party's largest-ever, direct-mail campaign warning voters against Dion's proposal to impose a carbon tax.

However, the latest Canadian Press Harris-Decima rolling survey suggests Harper would be wise to bolster his own platform with assurances that he has a plan to ride out the economic maelstrom.

With just over a week to go until voting day on Oct. 14, the survey pegged Tory support at 34 per cent, down from an early campaign high of 41 per cent.

Potentially more ominous for the Tories, who have based their campaign almost entirely on the perceived strength of Harper's leadership, the prime minister's personal popularity has also dipped to a campaign low.

Forty-one per cent said they have a favourable impression of Harper - down 12 points - while 51 per cent had a negative impression.

Forty per cent of respondents said their thinking about which party to support has been somewhat or greatly affected by last week's stock market meltdown, prompted by the financial crisis in the United States. Concern was most pronounced among those in Ontario and Quebec, the country's manufacturing heartland.

Looks like he's not going to get his desired majority (read: bully pulpit). Nor is he even going to hang onto the minority he's got. He stands to lose seats in the very parts of the country where he made such a big to-do about gaining them three years ago. And those parts, as luck would have it, are the industrial ridings of Southern Ontario and Quebec. The parts which are--as luck would also have it--most affected by the stockmarket busts in Toronto and New York. Not, of course, the "safe" Tory ridings of Alberta, where the oil from the Tar Sands seems to have soaked permanently into virtually everyone's brain, so that they vote for the Fuck the Poor party everytime.

The fact that Harpo will be held accountable at the polls surprises me not at all, and I'm hoping he gets a walloping there. I'm not "cheering for a recession", as Harpo and his lackeys have accused his opponents of doing; only a fool (or someone who stands to profit from a recession) does that. What I'm cheering for is the fact that we are now seeing the Emperor stark naked. Laissez-faire (laissez-foutre, really) doesn't work. And also that the NDP's support is up to 20% now. They're not far behind the Liberals, and while they don't seem likely to pass them in the mere week they've got left, they'll probably get their best national showing to date. If that's not something to cheer for, I'll eat my little red hat.

Colombia: "Democratic security" in action

Via Colombia's Caracol Radio website, a rare (for Caracol) moment of honesty about what Alvaro Uribe's paramilitary minions are really up to:

Paramilitary groups have reached a level of degradation so high that in some cases, they filmed the tortures and murders of victims they claim to be guerrilla collaborators.

Caracol Radio heas learned of a video that arrived a few days ago in the Inspector General's office, in which a member of the AUC is seen torturing a campesino, whose hands he severs with evident brutality.

The events apparently occured along a path in the municipality of Aguachica, Cesar. The paramilitary torturer can be seen maltreating his victim verbally in a constant manner, and the victim appears to have suffered a wound to his face.

Translation mine.

Here's the video in question (scroll to bottom of post). Warning: Not for the faint of heart.

October 4, 2008

The Last Laugh on the markets

Two British funnymen have it all sussed out:

The terrible thing is, none of this is an exaggeration, even just for comic value. It's all true.

Money as Debt

Okay, class, here's your weekend assignment:

Watch this 47-minute video. Don't mind the cheesy animation; pay attention to the very simple lessons contained therein. If you do, you might just end up understanding the whole US (and world) credit crisis that ended up costing the US taxpayers such a mint (literally) this Black Friday.

You may also end up understanding why I keep returning to such economic oddballs as Chavecito's ALBA, fair trade, and other non-monetarist harebrained schemes that just might work like gangbusters--literally.

(Thanks to Corey for the video link!)

October 3, 2008

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Ha ha. I think FAIR is thinking what the friendly BoRev guy is thinking.

The dirty truth about Human Rights Watch

James Petras, eminent social historian, has José Miguel Vivanco's number...and he calls it:

José Miguel Vivanco served as a diplomatic functionary under the bloody Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet between 1986-1989, serving no less as the butcher's rabid apologist before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. His behavior was particularly egregious during the regime's brutal repression of a mass popular uprising in the squatter settlements of Santiago in 1986-1987. With the return of electoral politics (democracy) in Chile, Vivanco took off to Washington where he set up his own NGO, the Center for Justice and International Law, disguising his right-wing affinities and passing himself off as a 'human rights' advocate.

Read the whole thing. You'll never be fooled by the words "human rights" in an organization's name again.

A puzzling crime, some intriguing leads, and some usual suspicions


It's sad that the head of the parliament has to utter such warnings in advance. But it's also a sign of the polarization that's going on down in Venezuela.

However, this execution-style murder is a sign of other things, too...and there are other intriguing signs associated with it, such as this:

Last July, a notoriously violent opposition student group known as the March 13th Movement shot guns and threw Molotov cocktails at police officers and ransacked sections of the Andean city of Mérida, where the University of the Andes (ULA) is located, to protest insecurity. A student was killed and dozens of police officers were injured.

The violence was reminiscent of past destabilization campaigns by opposition students in the run-up to both university and national elections.

Thursday morning, students blocked a major avenue outside the ULA campus by burning tires and painted the message "No More Death" across the street.

I blogged on that event, too, shortly after it happened, noting that the dead student had not been shot from many metres in front, where the Mérida police were, but from behind and at point-blank range. The only people behind him were his fellow M-13ers. And guess who was quick off the mark to capitalize on that, too?

Another detail from the snippet above, which should not be lost on anyone who's following these events: the burning tires used as a roadblock. Why would anyone protest a violent death using such a confrontational, disruptive method? Where I come from, we consider candlelight vigils and marches to be sufficient. Is this some standard Venezuelan thing?

No, it's not. At least, not for anybody outside the opposition. The Chavistas aren't in the habit of burning tires everytime someone gets killed, just as they aren't in the habit of howling for the president's head to roll. This is what Cilia Flores was warning about: the tendency of the opposition to quickly capitalize on it everytime there's a murder, especially one of their own. Unfortunately, it's a well-known pattern, and it shouldn't just be socialists like me making note of it.

By the way, there's another interesting thing concerning burning-tire roadblocks, and here it is, as reported by VTV's Dando y Dando:

A truck loaded with tires was seen heading for the Central University of Venezuela, UCV, in Caracas, on Wednesday afternoon, and photographed by a passerby. That's the day Soto was murdered.

It seems strange that a truckload of tires just happened to be dropped off there, then, for no apparent reason. How many cars on campus needed new tires? Did the university buses just all happen to be in need of a mass tire change? According to the Aporrea report on this strange event, this is not standard practice at UCV. There are suspicions that the tires were/are meant for use in a guarimba.

Frankly, knowing what I do about the opposition and its patterns, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this suspicion proved true. Remember, there are regional elections coming up, and they are widely expected to be a Chavista sweep. There is no reason the PSUV or anyone connected to it would use violence to intimidate the opposition when the opposition is so small, pitiful and discredited. But I wouldn't put it past the oppos to use this death to gain sympathy points via a martyr. It's not as if they hadn't done it before.

I also wouldn't put it past them to use violence in an effort to unseat Chavecito; remember, there have been numerous bits of evidence of yet another coup plot against him. I've blogged about several of them here. The Big Guy himself isn't shy about reminding people that nothing must be taken for granted as the election campaign gathers momentum. But that warning should not be interpreted as a threat of violence against the opposition. One thing that's been consistently remarkable in all this is how much restraint he's shown regarding those guys; his quickness to order a federal investigation into this death speaks well for him. It's also, well, so like him--nothing to hide, therefore nothing to fear. Would a president who orders political "hits", or at least condones them if they come from "his" side, do that? I doubt it very much; refer to the actions of the Chilean military junta after the coup of September, 1973 for examples of how a really repressive regime behaves.

BTW, there's now a line of inquiry by the CICPC (the Venezuelan equivalent of the FBI) into the possibility that Soto had links to a mafia dealing in tickets on student transportation (he is known to have managed and administered the sale of them), and there are allegations by his associates that he had been receiving death threats for about a week.

This may not be a strictly political murder after all; but still, it doesn't explain the sudden, mysterious appearance of that truck full of tires at UCV, right on the day Julio Soto was killed. This smells suspiciously to me, and not just of burning rubber.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: A four-way dimplefest

four-way-dimplefest.jpg

It was all smiles for Chavecito, Evo, Lula and El Ecuadorable at a recent summit in Manaus, Brazil. The great news from this one? The Bank of the South, Bancosur, will open in December, and will probably provide a huge boost to the region--and a buffer against the crisis of Wall St. to boot.

October 2, 2008

Ooooo, this is a juicy one

chemical-drums.jpg

Hmmm, whatever could this mean?

At least 26 barrels of chemical agents were stolen from a military airplane on September 5 by groups of violent "civics" and vandals apparently promoted by the Prefecture of Pando.

The departmental chief of police, Col. Ricardo Heredia, informed that the group assigned to this case is conducting investigations responsibly, and made these finds on Wednesday, October 1, at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. On the Bajo Virtudes road, some six kilometers from the Brazilian border, on the property of Mauro Soria, brother-in-law of the ex-prefect, Leopoldo Fernández, they found nine drums of chemicals.

Heredia said that in this location there were no people, but it was evident that there had originally been 10 drums on the spot.

The police chief did not rule out that the chemicals were used against peasant demonstrators, as on September 11, when the marchers were ambushed, presumably by "civic" groups and assassins.

"We are close to finding the rest of the chemical agents, the investigations are well under way, and we believe that in the next few days we will have more news and will have recovered the remaining barrels of chemicals that had been stolen in the airport," Heredia said.

Translation mine.

No word on what the chemicals were, or how they might have been used by the hired thugs. But frankly, I'm not surprised at any of this. Thuggery and thievery is how the Media Luna-tics operate all around. Thuggery is how they maintain their power; thievery is their reason for this power-grab move of declaring their bogus "autonomy" in the first place. Remember, they don't even want little old ladies getting a teeny, tiny pension out of "their" gas revenues.

Quotable: Bartcop on voter stupidity

"Poor people, year after year, vote to make the rich richer and that's crazy.
The way America votes, you'd think 2/3 of us are Fortune 500 CEOs.

Poor people could vote themselves out of poverty - but they choose not to.
and that's why we don't win every election - because American voters are so f-ing stupid."

--Bart of Bartcop.com, really putting the finger on what's wrong with Kansas (and anyplace else where people think voting for a rich wingnut will magically turn you into one.)

Tories = cowards

Debate, schmebate--how do you debate someone who refuses to be debated? You call him by his right name: COWARD!

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper was readying to take on opposition leaders in last night's nationally televised debate, several of his Conservative candidates were making themselves scarce at local debates.

From the North to the Atlantic provinces and the Prairies, Tory candidates have been missing at a number of encounters.

The latest Conservative no-shows covered four Ottawa-area debates, sponsored by Canada's largest public service union and a weekly newspaper, at least one debate in Saskatchewan and two others in Winnipeg and the Northwest Territories.

The scarcity of one Conservative at a riding debate prompted a Calgary CBC radio station to launch a contest to locate Rob Anders, the Conservative incumbent in Calgary West, to prove he was still alive.

A Liberal party list of Tory candidates who have refused to participate in debates had grown to 17 across Canada by yesterday, before the no-shows registered this week.

Why do I get the feeling they had to be summoned with a loud, derisive "BAWK, buk buk buk buk"?

This, people, is what happens when you get a smug, self-satisfied party that relies more on the cult of personality and stupid, standard soundbites than on a willingness to campaign, and debate, on the merits of an actual platform. Maybe it's because when it comes to platforms, the Tories don't seem to have one--but they do have a crappy-ass record. About all they CAN run on is image and soundbites, because if they had to do it any other way, they'd lose.

They want a parliamentary majority, but with the repeated contempt the Conservative candidates (most recently, and notably, Maxime "Biker Babe Boinker" Bernier) have shown for everything from the Parliament to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to the church/state separation, to journalists, to their own local ridings, they don't deserve even a minority.

Gradually returning to form

Hey all--just thought I'd let you know, the repair work is proceeding apace. Geekus Maximus is a better geek than I am, and I'm glad he's my best friend. At this rate, MT will soon be purring under my fingertips like a kitteh.

People are disappearing in Peru

Does Alan Garcia give a shit? Aporrea thinks not:

Human rights groups have denounced the disappearance of 11 persons during military operations to search for a column of Shining Path guerrillas in southeastern Peru.

The denunciation was made by a peasant woman who "escaped a military incursion in the hamlet of Pichis, where soldiers arrived on September 14 by air and ground, shooting and launching rockets", according to Yúber Alarcón, representative of the Pro-Human Rights Association of Ayacucho, quoted by AFP.

The woman, Lucy Pichardo Fernández, fears that her husband, and five other family members--two children among them--and five lumberjacks have been killed by the military, Alarcón added.

Paula Capcha, the campesina's attorney, said that she had presented the denunciations to the People's Defender and the magistrate's office of Ayacucho, as well as a habeas corpus so that the authorities offer information as soon as possible.

"We don't know right now if they have been killed or kidnapped, and that's why the family members want to know the whereabouts of their loved ones," Capcha told AFP.

Translation mine.

And of course, the government of Peru isn't exactly quick off the mark on this; their defence minister will say nothing except to deny that any of the missing people have been "detained" by the militaries.

So, then, the operative question becomes, Who disappeared these missing people? After all, they didn't just wander off and disappear themselves. Will the government of Peru be laying all this at the feet of commies yet again?

Just one more example of what Otto calls "investment grade" Peru, no doubt.

October 1, 2008

An underrated gem of the '80s

Danielle Dax, "Cat-House":

I have only one CD of hers--Dark Adapted Eye--and yes, every track on it is as hallucinogenic, quirky and utterly addictive as this one. She plays practically all her own instruments, AND looks gorgeous to boot. Her lyrics are wildly original. Why was she not a superstar?