« February 2009 | Main | April 2009 »

March 31, 2009

Things you have to believe to be a fundie today

Dramatic readings based on actual crap gathered from online forums.

I especially like the part about the kid who comes home to tell his atheist mom he's gonna go smoke pot and have sex with a hooker. And his mom's cool with it, because she's planning her next abortion and there are two gay guys going at it in the back room (because she just wanted to watch, y'know!)

These people would be so bored if they knew what real non-fundies lived like.

Berluscoglioni smokes crack

berluscoglioni-wanking.jpg

Coke bugs biting your crotch again, Silvio?

It's kind of a habitual thing with Da Berluscoglioni, this whole drug-smoking and willy-waving thing. Get a load of his latest, er, declarations:

"Ours is a liberal, bourgeois and popular, moderate and inter-class revolution, which fills a vacuum in Italian history. The left has never changed anything; it's the same communism as always, made up of millions of admirers of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. All it's changed is its name, but it hasn't had the courage to renounce communism and beg pardon of the Italians."

Translation mine.

How many contradictions did you pick up in those five opening adjectives alone, gentle reader? And how much crack does one have to smoke to think a popular revolution can be merely liberal, and bourgeois at that? (Never mind that it can't be inter-class AND bourgeois at the same time, either. The bourgeoisie is only one class, and a rather small one at that.)

As for the not-having-changed bit, well...looks like he was full of shit there, too. The Italian left has moved further left, which in simple terms means they kicked Stalin (a right-winger if ever there was one) to the curb. Among other things.

Why, oh why do I detect a bleat of panic in this utterance? Hmmmm, I wonder.

If the coke bugs are itching Silvio's Berlus-coglioni, it may be about as much action as those poor wee orbs have seen lately. There's a reason he drives such a fast and fancy car, and it's very very sad indeed.

March 30, 2009

Economics for Dummies: How the "Invisible Hand" REALLY works

Tom Tomorrow, as usual, spells it out precisely and to the point:

tom-invisible-hand.jpg

And that's why we love Rafael Correa...

you-got-balls.jpg

It's the cojones, stupid!

The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, reiterated on Sunday night his position of not re-establishing diplomatic ties to Colombia. The two countries have gone more than a year without them since the government of Colombia staged a military invasion of Ecuador.

"We will not re-establish relations, at least as long as I am president", said Correa, recalling the breakdown that followed the bombardment of a clandestine FARC camp in Ecuadorian territory by Colombian government troops on March 1 of last year.

Ecuador, considering its sovereignty to have been violated, has required Colombia to fulfill five minimum requirements before diplomatic relations can be restored.

These demands include a greater troop presence on the Colombian side of the border to prevent the FARC from crossing into Ecuador, and that the Colombian authorities hand over information about the bombing to Ecuador, among others.

Of these demands, the Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, "has not met any", other than to admit that Colombian troops crossed the border into Ecuador. With this recognition "things have advanced a little, but we asked for five things," said Correa in a televised interview. He said it was "the first time in the history of Latin America that there has been a bombing of this kind."

"This has not been a squabble among brothers, it has been a very serious attack by one country against another, a friend," Correa said.

Translation mine.

After more than a year, he's still standing up to El Narco and his paraco-administration. That takes some stones, no?

So, too, does being the #1 protector of Amazonian rainforest among the nine countries that share this vast tract of jungle (which, also, happens to be where the bombed FARC camp was located. In the Ecuadorian-Amazonian rainforest. Notice who's second, BTW?)

Correa says there won't be any further diplomatic ties as long as he's president. Considering that he's up for re-election this year, and is hugely popular, that could go on for some time. I'm sure this is just one reason among many that his re-election will be a walk-in.

March 29, 2009

Music for a Sunday: The Ballad of Hugo Chávez

How did this escape my notice so long? There's this group up here in Canada (hailing from Hamilton, Ontario) called Arkells, and guess who they dedicated a (very cool) song to? Yep, him:

"The Night of the Sun". Crank your speakers!

So, Lula...about that whole "good left" thing...

boncop-badcop.jpg

Oh Lula, Lula, Lula, you're always getting touted as some kind of savior, some kind of messiah, some kind of Antichávez. You must have special powers to command such incredible regard. Therefore, I'm sure you can explain this, right?

The government of Rio de Janeiro is building concrete walls to prevent sprawling slums from spreading farther into the picturesque hills of this world-famous tourist destination, an official said on Saturday.

Construction has begun in two favelas, or shantytowns, in the southern districts of Rio de Janeiro, a government spokeswoman told Reuters. One of the two is Morro Dona Marta, which police occupied in November to control crime and violence caused mostly by rival drug gangs.

Item: News pieces always scream about the murder rates of Caracas, and they're not shy either about claiming it has something to do with Chavistas. If they can't get away with that, they still blame it on Chavecito, claiming that crime has exploded on his watch--and forgetting entirely that cities have mayors, and that it is the mayors' duty to provide policing. Not to mention that the problem has been festering a lot longer than Chavecito has been or ever will be in power, and that it was probably worse before him; a culture of abuse and oppression can't logically be expected to turn out any other way. Five centuries of highway robbery all over Latin America, and they claim it's the fault of the "wrong" leftist coming to power in Venezuela. Cuckoo! Cuckoo!! Cuckoo!!!

But when it comes to Rio, which has it much, much worse than Caracas (onaccounta it has way way WAY more slums), they take a more neutral tone--in fact, it amounts to a "ZZZZzzzzzzzz" and a roll over. As here:

Officials say the wall is to protect the remaining native forest but critics fear the move could be seen as discriminatory and become a blemish symbolizing Brazil's deep divisions between rich and poor.

You mean it's not? That Brazil really is a racial and economic democracy? And that if the people just wait and trust the benevolent authorities and those handing them bribes, it will all sort itself out, trickle-down style? (Like a heavy rain washing a shantytown down the mountainside, perchance?)

Hi, I'm the Queen of Sheba. I really believe in this "good left/bad left" dichotomy they're pushing. It's a nice distraction from the real issues, is it not? Sure makes the news lively and entertaining. Also makes it look like something is being done about all that poverty that resulted in all those favelas. (In whom, I might add, not a single resident was interviewed to get their opinion for that piece, and only one "official" is named and on record. Wonder why that is?)

Never mind that nothing really is being done where it matters and where it might make a difference. But then, the hallowed halls of the world's big banking institutions are rather a bland setting. The crime there is all carefully whitewashed and out of the public eye. Worse, it's not even recognized as a crime--it's all perfectly legal. So of course no one is building walls around them to keep their tentacles from spreading. No one, that is, except maybe bad old Chavecito, who is also personally to blame for each and every murder in the hillside slums of Caracas. This while Venezuela has done an impressive job of clawing its own way out of poverty.

Meanwhile, is anyone planning to rag Lula about how Brazil is still lagging behind? Nahhhh...of course not. He's the GOOD leftist, don'cha know? Of course he gets a pass. Because damn, it would be a bummer not to go on pushing him as the anti-Chavecito, and neoliberal continuity (with a few mild, superficial reforms) as the "smart alternative" to socialism. Never mind that Lula himself would reject the role the media has foisted on him. He's actually been urging Barack Obama to rethink Venezuela, the 'Cito, and all that crap his so-called "advisors" have been feeding him. But do you think that will be interpreted accurately by the media? No, he's still the anti-Chávez, and don't you forget it! The media have their storyline already mapped out, and no deviations from it will be allowed.

Meaning, that "good left/bad left" thing will go on unabated until further notice. World without end, amen.

March 28, 2009

Marching against para-politics and violence in Bogotá

bogota-march.jpg

Colombian university students marched through downtown Bogotá yesterday. They were protesting against the current status quo of paramilitary violence and impunity, apparently with police complicity. According to this article in Aporrea, "spokespersons from the local headquarters of youth organizations of the Bosa district denounced that more than 20 young people were assassinated by armed thugs on motorcycles, distributing flyers threatening 'social cleansing' of supposed prostitutes, drug addicts, unemployed persons, criminals, etc. They said that communities call the police and officers show up two or three hours later, without any results against these delinquents and murderers." It goes on to say that "the youths suspect that behind these pamphlets lie elements of official organisms, since it is impossible that one or two persons alone have the capacity to distribute leaflets in almost half the country without being detained." (Translations mine.)

Hmmm, smells like El NarcoPresidente is behind this, no?

But of course, we don't need to pay any of that no mind. After all, Colombia is the Bestest Democracy Ever. And of course that little paraco, Alvaro Uribe, is just a cuddly teddy bear, right?

So...Bolivia "needs" the DEA, eh?

Heh.

After discovering a gigantic cocaine-refining laboratory, the Bolivian anti-drug police revealed that they have also broken up a powerful international criminal ring operating in the country.

"We are sure that we have disarticulated a truly powerful gang, considering the value of this laboratory. It's easily worth more than a million dollars, and if we add to this the cost of the confiscated drugs, plus the airplane and various other supplies, it all adds up to two million dollars," said the director of the Special Force Against Drug Trafficking, Oscar Nina.

The police chief stated that this organization was composed of Colombians and Bolivians, who operated the laboratory discovered in the region of Chiquitanía, in the eastern department of Santa Cruz.

Colonel Nina indicated that the police officers verified the installations of the factory, catalogued as the largest found in the last ten years, and quantified the qualities of the gigantic cocaine-refinement laboratory.

"We have determined that it is a highly sophisticated laboratory where they used state-of-the-art technology, for the fabrication of the drugs and for the recycling of the substances used for the refinement of cocaine paste," Col. Nina said.

Translation mine.

How often did this happen when Bolivia "co-operated" with the gringos? All I heard back then was how they had to "intensify" the fight against coca-growing, and how it wasn't working no matter how many times they ramped things up. Also, when Bolivia turfed the DEA out, there were moans about how it would be a disaster to the fight against drugs. Not to mention that that damn Injun, Evo, used to be a coca grower before he became president--and thus, Washington's worst nightmare. Oh noes!

Now it turns out that coca growing is not the problem and neither are Teh Injunz, duh...cocaine refinement and smuggling are. And an even bigger duh is how Bolivia is succeeding better in the anti-cocaine fight when it's no longer being "helped" by the DEA. Gee, why do you suppose that is?

Hillary Clinton has also finally admitted what most of us have known for years--that the demand side (you know--crackpipe, injection needle, powdery gringo nostrils?) is also a problem. Therefore, I think an award is due to her:

thx-captain-obvious.jpg

Wear that hat well, Hill.

March 27, 2009

Festive Left Friday Blogging: The Language of Flowers, and the Day of the Sea

Here's how to say "Welcome":

bienvenido-evo-flowers.jpg

Roses represent love. Quick, somebody, give Evo some:

evo-roses.jpg

...because heaven knows he's lovable. And because he hasn't got nearly enough flowers around his neck.

Speaking of language, I think the president of Peru needs some lessons. He seems to be under the mistaken impression that Bolivia has given up its demand for sea access. Not so; apparently he hasn't been in on the conversation between Evo and the president of Chile. They agreed that Bolivia will have sea access via the old Bolivian port of Iquique, which is now part of Chile. And some Bolivian sailors are currently putting to sea with the Chilean navy.

BoRev thinks Sea Day is the "saddest little holiday ever", but I wouldn't say so to look at Evo here:

evo-sea-day.jpg

He seems cheerful enough to me. He's also made it clear that the fight for sea rights is by no means over. And here's how he said it.

March 26, 2009

How to tell you're not welcome somewhere

This one's just for all you shopping-mall developer types reading this...consider it fair warning of things to come:

sambil-graffiti.jpg

Behold, the façade of the Sambil mall being built in La Candelaria, a heavily populated but none-too-affluent part of downtown Caracas, Venezuela. I've written about this before. Seems it's still under construction, but the residents are still protesting; seems they still don't want a castle of capitalist consumerism in their socialist neighborhood. Imagine, a whole heap of people who don't want to buy piles of overpriced, overrated crap! Underclass people rejecting the vision of the "good" life that their upscale neighbors "enjoy"! They're actually turning out to protest a building that's been put there without public consent or legal permission! And they don't want snarled traffic or destruction of old trees in their neighborhood, either! Instead, they want this windowless monstrosity expropriated and turned into a public facility, perhaps as a university or a space for the arts. Crazy commies, where do they think they are--in Venezuela?

March 25, 2009

Rackafrackafrickafrack, Chapter 4

The frustration continues.

Yesterday I ordered a Time Capsule from Apple; I expect it will show up sometime tomorrow, probably around siesta time (knowing MY luck, which is invariably quirky). That's not the source of my frustrations.

This, this is the source of my frustrations:

The day before yesterday, I e-mailed my best friend, who has been nothing but helpful in all the time I've been inheriting his old computers, to see what could be done about all the lost functions from my ailing baby. He was kind enough to burn three DVDs full of stuff for me. There's just one problem: Two of them are on DVD+Rs. Which neither of my computers seems to recognize, though they're technically supposed to (I checked my settings and found nothing to indicate they couldn't). Meaning the contents are absolutely unreadable and uninstallable. I can tell they're on a DVD, but my computers both can't. They just make a few diffident, befuddled little noises from the drive before spitting them back out at me again.

I was hoping to be able to at least copy the DVD+R disks to DVD-Rs on the newer pute and then install their contents to the older one, but that's impossible since it, like its big sister, doesn't think a DVD+R is a data DVD. I'm gonna have to tell my dear buddy, who spent $10 to rush this stuff out to me, that two-thirds of it are inoperable. How frustrating--and how humiliating!

So now comes the next part, in which Bina lays her head on the desktop and cries. Won't be pretty, kiddies. Look away, wouldja please?

UPDATE: Turns out the DVD+Rs were the double-layered kind--which many putes won't read. Including, as luck would have it, both of mine. Sigh--back to Square One.

UN agrees: Porvenir WAS a massacre.

kung-fu-pando.jpg

(Shamelessly stolen from El Ventarrón. It was too good to pass up!)

A certain prefect from a certain Bolivian department is in the calabozo right now. Some kooky people in Miami (where else?) say he's an unjustly incarcerated "political prisoner". Well, people--is THIS political enough for you?

The representative in Bolivia of the Office of the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, Denis Racicot, has confirmed that an investigation has found that the events of September 11, 2008, in the department of Pando were a massacre of campesinos.

Racicot presented the findings of the investigation in a press conference. The final conclusion established that the bloody events of that day "were a massacre committed by functionaries of the Prefecture of Pando and persons allied with that institution."

Translation mine.

Oh. I guess that means that the UN High Commission on Human Rights is also a hotbed of "Aymara communism". At least, if you believed the noise coming out of Miami, it would have to be. By their cockeyed lights, no other explanation would do.

On the other hand, if you've been following this blog, you'd know a lot better.

Whatever is to be done about that whole AIG thing?

aig-baby-bonus.jpg

Great minds often think alike. Not necessarily in lockstep, but sometimes two different (and equally excellent) people come to the same conclusion. Take, for example, one of my long-time journalistic heroes, Joe Conason:

The popular urge to claw back the bogus bonuses paid by American International Group is irresistible and fully justified, but should the Treasury someday retrieve every single bonus dollar, that total of $165 million will make no difference to anyone except a few disgruntled traders. From the jaded perspective of the financiers, the uproar over the AIG bonuses may provide a welcome distraction from far more important (and lucrative) abuses in the world's offshore tax havens.

[...]

According to the Government Accountability Office, nearly all of America's top 100 corporations maintain subsidiaries in countries identified as tax havens. As the GAO notes, there could be reasons other than avoiding the IRS to set up branches in places such as Singapore, Luxembourg and Switzerland, where taxes are light or nonexistent and keeping clients' illicit secrets is considered a matter of national pride.

But what reason other than evasion could there be for Goldman Sachs Group to set up three subsidiaries in Bermuda, five in Mauritius, and 15 in the Cayman Islands? Why did Countrywide Financial need two subsidiaries in Guernsey? Why did Wachovia need 18 subsidiaries in Bermuda, three in the British Virgin Islands, and 16 in the Caymans? Why did Lehman Brothers need 31 subsidiaries in the Caymans? What do Bank of America's 59 subsidiaries in the Caymans actually do? Why does Citigroup need 427 separate subsidiaries in tax havens, including 12 in the Channel Islands, 21 in Jersey, 91 in Luxembourg, 19 in Bermuda and 90 in the Caymans? What exactly is going on at Morgan Stanley's 19 subs in Jersey, 29 subs in Luxembourg, 14 subs in the Marshall Islands, and its amazing 158 subs in the Caymans? And speaking of AIG, why does it have 18 subs in tax-haven countries? (Don't expect to find out from Fox News Channel or the New York Post, because News Corp. has its own constellation of strange subsidiaries, including 33 in the Caymans alone.)

When the cost of these shenanigans was last estimated two years ago, the U.S. government's annual loss in revenue due to tax avoidance by major corporations and super-rich individuals was pegged at about $100 billion -- considerably more than a rounding error, even today. But of course that is only a rough assessment, as is the estimate of $12 trillion in untaxed assets hidden around the world. Nobody will know for certain until the books are opened and transparency is established.

Now take another--Linda McQuaig:

Don't get me wrong: I'm not against tarring and feathering those AIG guys who helped destroy the world economy with their financial manoeuvres, and then received million-dollar bonuses to undo their own handiwork.

But focusing just on them is like just going after the crude thugs who unleashed dogs on Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, without noticing that their actions were the product of a climate of lawlessness and vengeance fostered by the White House.

Similarly, for several decades now, the financial and corporate elite has championed an unbridled capitalism, and pressed for the removal of crucial regulations needed to protect the public. It has also championed an ethos of greed that justified extraordinary compensation, and very low tax burdens, for those at the top.

In this climate -- with regulations stripped away, an intense fanning of the flames of acquisitiveness and the prospect of ever-larger bonuses dangled in front of them -- are we surprised that some Wall Street types unleashed their inner dog in ways that took little account of the public interest?

...and that took a beeline for all those offshore banks where transparency is a dirty word?

Offshore banks and other tax shelters should finally be called by their right name: ACCOMPLICES.

Last time I looked, aiding and abetting a crime was a crime unto itself, and an accomplice is held guilty right along with the main perpetrator. The laws of many a land all agree on this point. They wouldn't let a band of gangsters on a ghetto street get away with murder--so why allow it in the financial district?

The answer, I suspect, is because the banksters know how to bury a body where it won't be easily found. And where better than in a convoluted, opaque foreign banking system? Especially when the country where the accomplice-bank is located plumes itself on its "discretion" and "safety"?

Of course, those countries where the accomplice-banks squat are invariably small. Small geography, small population, small resources, small tax base. They don't produce much because they don't have much to produce with. And so it leads to a certain smallness of mind, as well. Particularly when it comes to cash. After all, if you ain't got money comin' in from anyplace else, shoot, why not take it from a well-heeled overseas crook? Especially if that crook dresses in Armani, Zegna, and every other trendy international name in the lexicon? Such things lend an awful lot of glitter and panache to a place that's home to just three inbred farmers and one cross-eyed cow*...

So of course it should come as no surprise that the infamous Stanford Bank would have its centre of thievery highway robbery offshore banking in Antigua, an island with a population of no more than maybe 100,000 souls.** And of these, how many pay taxes? How many make enough that anyone would levy taxes on them? And if collected, what good would that piffling amount of tax income do? The parliamentarians would all have to take second jobs at that rate. And how many jobs are on that island to begin with?

Obviously, political alternatives (such as communal rule, for example) aren't being considered. So it's little wonder that the local politicos, despite their insistences to the contrary, don't run a very tight ship where banking and transparency are concerned. And as long as that money keeps flowing, nobody worries much.

Until it all jumps up to bite them in the ass. Which, as bad luck would have it, is now the case. Allen Stanford was running an elaborate Ponzi scheme--who knew?

Well, the Antiguan authorities should have known--had they been keeping track. Which they weren't. After all, their little island nation had a reputation to uphold. And that reputation was not for transparency and integrity; it was for "discretion". Integrity and transparency don't pay the bills, much less build glitzy tourist attractions for all those foreign sun-seekers! What does? Cold, hard, foreign cash.

And, as the old Roman saying has it, Pecunia non olet. Money has no odor. Even if the way it was gotten stinks to high heaven, somehow that cash always manages to smell sweet...***

But let's not bog down in the question of whether money smells. I can tell you what stinks to the highest heaven, and so can my fellow Canadian:

Greed had become the new black. No one even seemed embarrassed to show it. As Barbara Amiel once said, "I have an extravagance that knows no bounds." This wasn't something she cooed privately into the ear of her husband, but rather boasted publicly to fashion magazine Vogue.

Of course, any attempt to critique greed or the unbridled capitalism that accommodates it is quickly dismissed. Resistance is pointless, we're told. Greed is simply natural -- as basic to the human condition as jealousy, anger, pride, pimples.

Linda McQuaig nailed it. The root of the problem lies not with any individual corporation, or any single small country specializing in offshore banking. The problem is greed, and more specifically, the way greed has been entrenched in our cultures and enshrined in our laws. Gordon Gekko's downfall in Wall Street should be proof enough that the man is wrong about the nature of the beast: Greed is not good. Greed kills. Greed wrecks entire economies, and not just in small countries; big ones are just as vulnerable. In fact, the bigger and more interconnected and globalized the economy, the more the old saying holds true: The harder they fall.

Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of real-life Wall Streeters never watched that movie to the end. They don't read good books, either. And they sure don't read what Joe Conason has written...

Whatever the accurate accounting proves to be, it is certain to exceed hundreds of billions annually worldwide. That is money every country will need badly for years, to repay debt, finance reconstruction, and fund services, as the world economy struggles to revive itself. Even in the developing countries, where incomes are much lower and billionaires tend to be scarce, the annual revenue loss could be as much as $50 billion -- enough to meet the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals (if only the money were not stolen by local elites and wired away to numbered accounts in tax havens).

None of these tax havens could exist without the connivance or at least the cooperation of the world's most powerful governments, which remain dominated by financial industry lobbyists even now.

It sure looks hopeless at the rate things are currently going, does it not?

But wait...Linda McQuaig hasn't just nailed the problem of shrugging one's shoulders at greed, she has also unearthed some pretty earth-shaking stuff about who the real Atlases are that hold this world aloft:

[T]he late economic historian Karl Polanyi noted that resisting the rapacious effects of the unregulated market is also natural, perhaps even more basic in humans.

Polanyi pointed out that the rise of capitalism centuries ago was so disruptive to the lives of ordinary people -- who were forced into mines and factories after losing their rights to the common fields -- that it produced a counter-reaction aimed at controlling the market.

Indeed, Polanyi argued that while capitalism was a carefully planned set of laws designed by the financial elite, the reaction to capitalism -- protests, unionization, political agitation -- was a natural set of responses that emerged spontaneously from the masses.

The impulse to resist unbridled capitalism -- with its resulting extreme inequality and economic domination by the rich -- is basic and has persisted throughout the centuries, according to Polanyi.

It culminated in the rise of the social welfare state in the early decades after World War II -- an era in which the market excesses of the 1920s were reined in by financial regulation, and tax and spending policies led to greater social equity. In both the U.S. and Canada, there was real growth in the incomes of the middle and lower classes.

And you'll note that all that was done without telling the common people to invest, much less in offshore banking.

Free-marketers are always telling small countries to take harsh medicine (poison, really) to "cure" what ails them financially. This socialist scribbler would give the same advice, but a different kind of medicine. Mine would kill only the crooks (big ones especially) and cure the economy.

Ready for a dose?

* With the exception of the Channel Islands. Jersey and Guernsey are noted for their excellent milk cattle. (Where did you think those breeds originated?) Would that dairy farming were still their main industry today!

** For comparison's sake, there are at least that many people in Kingston, Ontario, where I went to university. And that's a small Canadian city. There are over two million in Toronto, where I went to journalism school. I'm sure even little old Kingston has more coming in from property taxes alone than Antigua does from all of its taxes combined.

*** With the exception of the Yankee greenback. My US friends often complain about the stinky ink used to print their currency. You'd think, with all that wealth kicking around, that someone would invest in a dye that doesn't smell like Ah-nie Schwarzenegger's sweatsocks. Unfortunately, that message hasn't yet trickled down!

March 24, 2009

Ratzi gets all medieval on our collective ass

ratzi-medieval.jpg

Translation:

"There hasn't been a German pope since the Middle Ages...and now, it's the Middle Ages all over again!"

The indigenous people's holocaust

AMERICAN INDIAN Holocaust

How did Hitler learn genocide and eliminationism? By taking his cues from what happened in North America.

This concerns mainly what happened in the US, but in Canada it was not much better. Up here, we didn't have a Trail of Tears, but the Catholic and Anglican churches organized "residential schools" whose ostensible purpose was to educate the "Indians", but whose real purpose was to de-indigenize them--basically, to turn them into a lesser class of white people, to strip them of their native culture and languages. Many inmates in those "schools" suffered physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy people running them. Alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide are the inevitable fallout from such a holocaust.

And also, as Bruce Cockburn sings, "the local Third World's kept on reservations you can't see". Here, as in the US, the indigenous people were often shunted off to the worst land--the good farmland was set aside for white settlers. And if oil or other valuable minerals were found under the land they were on, guess what happened. Land-claims cases are before courts in several provinces, and many of them don't end well for the natives. Usually, it's the corporate sector that wins--"mineral rights" trump human rights, it seems. Even something as presumably simple as getting an ancestral burial ground back can turn into a decades-long nightmare. And on rare occasions, that too ends in death for the unlucky natives, who are still seen as second-class citizens by the authorities, and especially police, who can get trigger-happy and, in any case, don't need much to trigger their own racism.

What's weird, though, is that all this racism has spawned some unexpected blowback: some natives think that the international Jews are behind their troubles, instead of drawing the more obvious and correct conclusion (it's the gentiles, folks). Such was the case of David Ahenakew, who made headlines with some really stupid, bigoted remarks and who has since had a steep learning curve to climb. (Apparently, during his post-war military service, he met some old Nazis in Germany who filled his head with rubbish.)

But he's not the only one; a few years back, I met members of a prominent Mohawk family of artists, and apparently they subscribe to something frightfully similar! I was horrified and nauseated and heartsick about it for days, wondering how such talented and obviously intelligent people could fall for such a stupid lie. It's a no-brainer that instead of hating the Jews, they ought to be identifying with them instead, and looking for common ground.

After all, both peoples have suffered strikingly similar fates.

March 23, 2009

Cops Behaving Badly: Brutality in Barcelona, Part 2

Hundreds of media photographers gather to protest the police brutality against Catalan students in last week's protests in Barcelona. Some of them were also injured in the line of duty by those same stormtroopers.

Riddip!

tiny-frog.jpg

You're looking at Noblella pygmaea, a native of Peru. It's the smallest frog found in the Andes, and one of the smallest in the world. It lives at an altitude of 3000 metres above sea level, in the Manu National Park near Cuzco. The males measure little more than one centimetre long, and the females are just slightly bigger at about 12.5 mm; that "boulder" you see this one clinging to is actually someone's fingertip. It also defies scientific expectations, since frog species living at altitude tend to be larger than their lowland counterparts.

One tiny critter...one big head-scratcher for amphibian specialists.

Economics for Dummies: Hey Paul Krugman

A little ditty for one of the few economists who know how to talk language.

March 22, 2009

Fascist fashion in Israel

Fashionable fascism dominates the scene
When the ends don't meet it's easier to justify the means...

--Bruce Cockburn, "The Trouble With Normal"

This really speaks for itself, does it not?

one-shot-two-kills.jpg

Ha'aretz has the whole story.

Equal rights for all: Coming soon to Venezuela?

fabulous-dude.jpg

Let's hope so! From YVKE Mundial, a hot story about a bill currently before the legislature:

The Organic Law for Gender Equity and Equality, which establishes legal cohabitation rights for same-sex couples, is about to go to a second reading in the National Assembly.

Deputy Romelia Matute presented the proposal and added that the project is in the process of consultations and that she has met at various times with members of the gay community who asked that an article be included which permits legal union of two persons of the same sex.

"We have decided to call it 'cohabitation associations'," explained the parliamentarian. "This will permit two persons of the same sex to unite legally and will have juridical and patrimonial effects, as in many countries such as Mexico and Spain, among others."

Article 8 of the law before the National Assembly states: "Every person has the right to exercise their sexual identity of preference, in a free manner and without any discrimination. In consequence, the State shall recognize the associations of cohabitation between two persons of the same sex, by mutual agreement and free consent, with full juridical and patrimonial effect."

In this way, a same-sex couple legally united can share their worldly goods, such as apartments, cars, and similar. In the event that one partner should die, the surviving partner retains the right to all shared possessions. Legal separations and the consequent division of goods would take place in a manner similar to that between a divorcing couple or a dissolving business partnership. A homosexual person may include their legal partner in medical insurance policies, among others.

Translation mine.

The deputy goes on to say that gay-rights activists are prepared to put up a fight if the measure doesn't pass. The reason, she says, is that for centuries, gay Venezuelans have found themselves obliged to marry persons of the opposite sex, even if they didn't love one another. A definite case of contra natura, one would think, although the church and state have long insisted that it's being gay that's unnatural, not marrying for convenience rather than love.

What's nice about this organic law proposal is that it recognizes gays as being different by nature, and unable to change--and therefore, that it goes against their rights to force them to choose opposite-sex unions or remain forever alone. The church and a lot of other conservative traditionalists won't like it, any more than they liked Galileo for saying "Eppur si muove", but...the world is round, and it turns, and it orbits the Sun.

And in Venezuela, it has just done another significant turn.

Music for a Sunday: When the Belfast Child sings again...

This one's going out to victims and survivors from a city that's seen more than its share of violence; let's hope that the troubles of late remain small-t, isolated incidents and not a re-escalation of a conflict best left to the past.

March 21, 2009

Antifascist beatdown? You got it!

goodnight-whitepride.jpg

Yes, we have racism too up here...but we have a lot more anti-racists to beat back against it. Get a load of this:

Violence erupted Saturday afternoon as about 30 members of a white supremacist group and hundreds of anti-racism protesters clashed in downtown Calgary.

At least two people suffered head injuries after they were struck by hurled projectiles and police arrested three people.

The Anti-Racist Action group gathered outside city hall to commemorate the International Day to Eliminate Racial Discrimination.

As they marched through the downtown, a bus carrying members of the Alberta-based neo-Nazi Aryan Guard arrived in the same area.

In all, about 500 people from the two groups clashed outside a transit station, which led to train and bus service briefly being shut down.

[...]

Members of the neo-Nazi group - many wearing sunglasses and scarves over their faces to hide their identities - waved white-power flags and signs bearing swastikas, and shouted expletives at the crowd.

As the clash heated up, water bottles, snow and placards rained down on the Aryans, who carried signs reading: "White pride, why not?"

[...]

Aryan Guard supporters Kelsey, 15, and Meghan, 18, who declined to give their last names, said they're not racists.

"I like being white and I think they take it the wrong way," said Kelsey, wearing a black scarf around her neck emblazoned with a white circle and cross in the middle.

Heh...yeah. They were so "proud" they couldn't even show their faces or give their real names, much less acknowledge that they are fascists. And they were outnumbered by hundreds. Some white pride!

People in dire need of a good ass-whuppin'

del-monte-whupass.jpg

Oh my, a genuine, for-real can of whup-ass! Who am I opening it on this week? Read on...

1. and 2. Pat Fucking Boone and Chuck Fucking Norris. The former for dreaming of a Smedley Butler-style coup d'état that will magically install him as president of the US, and the latter for having similar notions of becoming president of Texas (someone please inform him that Texas ceased to be a republic some time ago.) And if that ain't enough to make you break out the whips 'n' chains, the sight of Pat's flat butt and saggy arms in his black leather gear should tell you that he's not merely cruisin' for a bruisin', he's downright salivating for it. (PS: Don't miss Pat's dick-in-a-box moment. Wonder who he gift-wrapped THAT spectacularly underwhelming endowment for?)

3. Tucker Fucking Carlson. He wishes he were cute, smart and talented...like Jon Stewart. So how does he take out his frustrations? By trashing Jon Stewart. Dude, I wouldn't go there if I were you. Remember what he did to that CNBC twit, whatsisname? You mess with the man, he's gonna pick you up and smush you on his forehead like a beer can. Come to think of it...hell, go ahead and mess with him, Bowtie Boy. I'll be over here making popcorn with real butter on it.

4. FUX and Fiends. Talk about shows that should be shit-canned, this dumbassery is it. Just imagine if they had it en español...but of course, they wouldn't. It would sound even dumber than Homer Simpson:

(Actually, I'm sure this is a metaphor for something.)

5. Rubén Fucking Costas. Did he figure his Nazi-like hatred for Evo would find more sympathy in Germany? Newsflash: It's been more than 75 years. The Germans have moved on. Besides, they have a serious fondness for Teh Injunz (at least, the North American Plains variety) there, and one that long pre-dates Hitler or any other eliminationist--just ask anyone who's ever read Karl May.

6. Moonunit Fucking Perino. This pluperfect airhead thinks the economy is "improving" because of the cockeyed policies of her fuckheaded former employer--and that a very temporary uptick in the Dow Jones somehow proves it? YVKE Mundial put it about right: "She smoked some crack".

7. and 8. Ann Fucking Coulter and Laura Fucking Ingraham. There are just two words for women like these, and they are BONY and BITCHES. Where do they get off dissing Meghan McCain's (perfectly lovely) looks? Oh yeah, I forgot...they're losing theirs. Not that they had much to lose in the first place. Which may explain why they're bullies; they are ugly from the inside out. If either of them had an ass, it would be so whupped, kiddies.

9. John Fucking McCain. Why the hell isn't he standing up to those bullies and telling them to leave his daughter alone? What kind of father LETS his child be bullied? One who deserves an ass-whupping, for sure.

10. People like this:

teabag-the-freeper.jpg

...who are inadvertently hilarious and in fact don't need me to whup their asses because they do such a damn fine job of own-goaling themselves. (Look up what "teabagging" actually means, people. Blushing yet?)

11. Jorge Fucking Castañeda. Pulling shit out of your ass while drunk now qualifies as "journalism"! Who knew? Newsweek did, apparently, because they published this acid-dropping assclown's pile-o-pucky. And of course, Foreign Policy (a magazine that's worse than worthless for actually UNDERSTANDING foreign anything) not only repeats the bullshit, but amplifies it. And the US media then wonders its sorry excuse for journalism is in a world of financial hurt? I don't. The problem isn't merely financial, it's systemic--and as this 10-year-old piece shows, it's not even new. But now, finally, karma is catching up. If people want to read fiction, they buy novels, not newsmagazines, and if they want to see fiction they turn on an afternoon soap opera, not a nightly newscast. Duh!

12. Rush Fucking Limbaugh. As usual, the Pigman's in a tizzy trying to defend the indefensible (AIG) and interest the uninterested (women). Here's a clue-by-four for the Pigman, not that he's capable of taking it: Women like men who get it. You, Rush, don't. Therefore, you don't get women. In any sense of the word.

13. James Fucking Stavridis. He thinks all those Iranian "offices" in Latin America are "fronts" for terrorist activity by Hezbollah. Actually, they're called EMBASSIES. And they're there for NORMAL DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS. Trust an admiral from a country that's not clear on the concept to be unclear on the concept, though!

14. Gerry Fucking Pasciucco. If a Che shirt under a sportcoat on a balding AIG buffoon is supposed to be some kind of fashion statement, it's got Epic Fail written all over it. (Please, PLEASE tell me he didn't pair it with white jazz oxfords sans socks. That was only hip for about two minutes when Don Johnson wore it.)

15. Pope Ratzi von der Fucking Hitlerjugend, AGAIN. It's official: that "taking the Church back to its roots" thing wasn't such a hot idea after all. Would it have killed him to play hooky from the HJ? Hell, my dad was 12 when the war ended, and he didn't even need no stinkin' principles to avoid Hitler's phony boy-scout troop. He just did it. But noooo, for Ratzi to rebel even a little bit would have been a sin. And since he's decided to favor orthodoxy over sanity, he's alienated just about everyone: women, Jews, Muslims, African animists, and even his own fellow Christians of other denominations. Sweet Jesus, what a putz.

16. Larry Fucking Kudlow. Why? Because.

17. Joe the Fucking Plumber. How anyone can get horny in a roomful of conservatards is beyond me, but Mr. Worthlessfucker let his own plumbing do the talking. Or maybe it was just all that KKKoors beer he'd drunk, pressing down on his prostate. Who knows? In any case, this one's good for a can of whup-ass too.

And finally, all you dumb fucktards out there who are threatening to "go Galt" on the rest of us. Know what I say to that? GO RIGHT AHEAD! Hell, go your Dear Dead Thought Leader one better and don't just climb those mountains in the name of sovereign egotism--be brave, be true to your school, and jump off the fucking cliff. It's only logical that if you follow Ayn Rand, you should award yourselves a Darwin! Open that can of whup-ass on yourselves...go on, you know you wanna. And don't worry about all us peons out here. You're not as important to us as you believe you are. The rest of the world will get along fine without you.

I know I will.

Who the hell are you calling "socialist"?

bowl-of-stupid.jpg

Sometimes the bizmedia really crack me up with how far up their own butts they are. Case in point: this UPI story on Marketwatch, titled "Chavez may face Socialist condemnation".

So, who are they calling "Socialists"?

Venezuela's political opposition says it will submit a resolution critical of President Hugo Chavez at the upcoming International Socialists conference.

The opposition? They're the "Socialists"? That's news to me. Last I looked, all the parties that banded together against Chavecito were vendepatria capitalists.

But wait, it gets even funnier:

The resolution will accuse Chavez of violent and anti-democratic conduct in his efforts to change the nation's constitution and take on more and more power.

This comes as the oppos in Zulia are marching at their governor's behest and assaulting journos from the public and community media (who, of course, aren't with their side). This is, I surmise, a petulant reaction to their side having lost the last referendum. All that's missing is a few red armbands with black hooky-crosses on them. Who's being violent and anti-democratic again?

Hang on, there's more:

The Latin American Herald Tribune said the resolution, which is to be presented later this month at the regional conference in Guatemala, could prove embarrassing for Chavez since he is the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

Actually, it will prove embarrassing for only one contingent--the phony "socialists" laying the charge. Which will be greeted with shrieks of unholy laughter from anyone who's been paying attention and keeping a running tally of the real incidents of violence and antidemocracy down there, as I have.

So, what are they actually whining about?

Chavez and his party dominate the national legislature and have been accused of trying to intimidate the few opposition lawmakers who hold seats.

It's called holding a parliamentary majority. The only thing that "intimidates" these clowns is that they're no longer getting their way.

So, who are the clowns, again?

The resolution is backed by the Movement Toward Socialism and Accion Democratica parties, which are founding members of the International Socialists.

They are? Coulda fooled me. The Adecos, who presided over some of the most spectacular corruption in history (as well as the Caracazo--Carlos Andrés Pérez, who ordered the army to fire on the people in 1989, is an Adeco) have done fuck-all to bring actual socialism to Venezuela, and the rump Masistas are turncoats who initially supported the 'Cito, only to get mad when they couldn't hijack the PSUV agenda or grab a bigger share of the pro-Chávez vote. Now they, too, march with the Copeyano right-wingers. I'm surprised the International Socialists haven't drummed them both out yet for antidemocratic and unsocialistic conduct.

But oh, to be a fly on the wall when these assclowns come waltzing in with their phony charges. It should be good for a laugh and a half; these guys have lost every battle they ever picked, including in the international human-rights courts. This one will go no better.

Meanwhile, the real socialism continues apace. Minus the "help" of the UPI's lame idea of socialists, needless to say.

March 20, 2009

A few random thoughts on two Austrian tyrants

two-handed-nazi-salute.jpg

"They Salute With Both Hands Now", by David Low, 1934

One thing I keep hearing, over and over again (and usually from people who really ought to know better than to ask, living as they do in very overpriced glass houses down in the States and all) is "How could the Germans let it happen?"--"it" being the Nazi tyranny, the holocaust, and the twelve-year national nightmare that was Adolf Hitler.

A better question, I think, would be: "Considering all the circumstances, how could they not?"

If the latter half of that question shocks you, maybe it's because you, like so many others who've been spoon-fed a steady diet of none-too-deep thoughts by your friendly corporate media, aren't used to doing the former half: Considering all the circumstances.

That's why I have very little patience for the facile "explanations" that I've seen and heard (invariably written by the side that won the war): The religious drivel ("the Devil got loose in Germany")--especially ludicrous in light of how religion aided the Nazis; the racialist drivel ("all Germans are anti-semites, it's in their blood, the monsters"); the "willing executioners" drivel ("they all knew and went along with it because they liked it"), etc. Anyone who makes these odious generalizations with a smug claim to knowing what sort of people the Germans are, knows nothing and should shut the fuck up.

History, of course, is full of clue-by-fours for those who seek single, simplistic "answers" to the question of what went wrong with the Germans' hearts and minds. You can always start with the Treaty of Versailles, which smells suspiciously of an IMF/World Bank style odious debt. The Triple Entente nations knew the Germans couldn't rebuild AND pay reparations at the same time, and that was precisely the point: to bring a powerful, developed country to its knees so it couldn't compete against the "superior" victors. So that the supremacy of the victors would remain forever assured, and the "inferiority" of Germany driven home to every single German. So that their country would, in future, be forever indebted. So that it would be a veritable ATM machine that never stops spitting out capital for the vultures overseas to exploit, specifically on Wall Street. What do you think helped the Roaring Twenties go on roaring as long as they did? Answer: OVERSEAS CAPITAL. While people were playing the stockmarket like a slot machine on this side of the Atlantic, on the other side, Germany was being bled dry. These things connect, people--the wheelbarrows full of cash exchanged for one loaf of bread were not exactly a German innovation. They were the last gasp of desperation in a country that could do no more to make good on its unpayable war reparations. And every German suffered in heart and mind.

How much did they suffer? Well, for those who can read German, I could recommend any number of novels: Oskar Maria Graf's Die Gezählten Jahre, Rosemarie Marschner's Das Bücherzimmer, Günter Grass's Die Blechtrommel...the list could go on and on. Modern and contemporary German literature has been full of the trauma of not only Nazism but the run-up to it, for decades. We Germans keep coming back to it. It is THE story of our lives, even those like me who were born into relative prosperity in other countries and who grew up not knowing that trauma at first hand. But the trauma is always there, in the background, persistent as an unhealed sore. It's in the picture I have of my grandfather in his SS uniform, his dark eyes wide with unutterable fear and desperation. It's in the picture my mother has of her baby sister's coffin, covered with a swastika flag. It's so persistent that I have to keep coming back to the spot myself, to see what I can dig up. My research has been piecemeal, but extensive--and it always turns up the same stone, over and over again: POVERTY. Poverty drove 1920s, post-Great War Germans to acts unthinkable in the (still) very cushy here-and-now: some actually sold their children into prostitution because there was a "thriving" sex tourism industry in Berlin, rich perverts were pouring in from abroad, and most important, the alternative was starvation. (And no, I'm not exaggerating or making things up; I can even recommend a book in English that lays it out rather chillingly.)

Given THAT set of circumstances, the appeal of a raving crystal-meth-addicted lunatic who was, in private, a pervert himself...starts to make a bit of sense, ja? Especially since his prime topic of ravings was, you guessed it, the need for Germans to regain their pride. A great many who loathed him for other reasons (and reasons good) couldn't help agreeing with him on that point. Even I can't deny that there was a huge case of emotional battery to recuperate from, although in the case of Hitler, the "cure" was part and parcel of the disease. (He did not, for all his cursing of Jewish bankers, do a damned thing to hold the menace of foreign capitalism out of Germany. On the contrary, he kowtowed to it, as is only to be expected of one who needs money and machinery for his tyranny--and who also, not coincidentally, honed his bully-boy chops by beating up socialists and commies for the local capitalists. He did the same thing after he got into power, too, by writing laws and charters overwhelmingly favorable to employers. "National Socialist German Workers' Party", my ass.)

Yes, there is an element of the collective psychology at work here, but it's not the whole story, and it's certainly not monolithic. All Germans were monsters who knew what Hitler was and approved? Hardly. The overwhelming majority voted against Hitler, but because those who opposed him could not (or would not) form a coalition and lacked effective leaders, they were rendered politically neuter. There was indeed a citizen resistance, albeit a pitiably fragmented and ineffectual one; one largely neutralized by the advent of the Gestapo, who had few qualms about shooting their countrymen for disobedience or menacing their children as they did with my grandfather when he dared to mouth off ("Sie haben vier Kinder, Herr Becker..."). Some Germans hid Jews or helped them escape. Some would go along with the party line in public (largely because their own safety and success depended on it), only to defy it in private. Some really had no idea what was going on (a surprising number, in fact--which really shouldn't surprise anyone, because after all, the Third Reich was an incredibly secretive and compartmentalized regime, and the upper ranks of the Nazi party routinely kept things from the people.)

And then there were those who really were monsters. They were a minority--it's been estimated (hard numbers are virtually impossible to come by, owing to the psychological nature of the beast) that only one in five German adults was a truly convinced Nazi, and of these, a smaller number still were willing executioners. This much IS known: At the height of their popularity, the party drew less than 40% of the vote, and much of that support was soft; many people who had initially voted for them in protest, later pulled back in dismay at the thought of them actually coming to power. So much for the idea that they were hugely popular or that their ideas had widespread support!

And not all of the Nazi monsters were even German. Hitler himself was an Austrian, remember; he also liked to draw on non-German outlanders to do his dirty work for him. Think of how many concentration camps were in Poland, for example. Or how many "butchers" had non-German names. Collaborators were all over Europe, and it didn't take much to bring out their long-held bigotry and hate. (Need I remind you that "pogrom" is not a German word?)

But in the end, it still comes down to the Nazis. How what they did still has the power to shock and terrorize us today, just as it did their fellow Germans then, out of all proportion to their actual numbers. The question is, how could they do it?

The answer, I believe, may lie with Josef Fritzl.

Consider the parallels between Fritzl and Hitler:

  • Both men are Austrians.
  • Both come from extremely abusive and unstable households.
  • Both are known to have committed incest--Fritzl by imprisoning his daughter Elisabeth, Hitler by doing the same with his half-niece, Angelika "Geli" Raubel (often misspelled Raubal), who later committed suicide.
  • Both enslaved their victims.
  • Both incinerated the bodies of those they killed.
  • Both got away with their crimes by being pathological but highly convincing liars, as well as dangerously authoritarian.
  • And both enjoyed the complicity--in many cases unwitting--of those nearest them, thanks to their lying and authoritarianism, and their ability to play on the meekness and submission of those who feared them.

That authoritarianism is a key feature, and it goes way back in Germany and Austria. Straight back to before the Great War, even. Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany was a bad place to be a kid; authoritarianism was the rule of the day. Parents and schoolmasters alike were instructed to go heavy on the corporal punishment and light on reasoning. Much has been written about the fascistic hazards of this toxic pedagogy, particularly by Theodor Adorno (not coincidentally, a German himself.) A brief summary of Adorno's traits of the authoritarian/fascist personality goes as follows:

  • Blind allegiance to conventional beliefs about right and wrong
  • Respect for submission to acknowledged authority
  • Belief in aggression toward those who do not subscribe to conventional thinking, or who are different
  • A negative view of people in general - i.e. the belief that people would all lie, cheat or steal if given the opportunity
  • A need for strong leadership which displays uncompromising power
  • A belief in simple answers and polemics
  • Resistance to creative, dangerous ideas. A black and white worldview.
  • A tendency to project one's own feelings of inadequacy, rage and fear onto a scapegoated group
  • A preoccupation with violence and sex

How many of these traits can you see in Hitler? How about Fritzl? If not all, then certainly an overwhelming majority, no?

And how many do you see in other leaders, ones directly responsible for all the recession and misery happening now?

Do your homework on this one, kids. I won't stand over you with a stick, as that would be authoritarian and I'm against that. I'll just urge you to think about it, research it on your own, and think about it some more. Keep the process going, in true non-authoritarian fashion. And please, share your work so we all can learn how to overcome this root cause of the world of hurt we are still in, all of us, today.

Rackafrackafrickafrack, Chapter 3

Well, my old computer is back home from the shop today...unfortunately, with a reinstalled operating system and NONE of my work saved. My novel draft is as good as gone, and if I want it back, I'll probably have to return to Peterborough to try scavenging the old hard drive again--probably only to be told it's hopeless, as it was this time. Meanwhile, I have to reinstall all my programs, system configurations, etc., from scratch, which I'm SO not looking forward to. I don't have that many hours in a day!

I already tried FireWire-ing my other computer to it, to see if I could at least transfer my MSOffice software, Firefox, etc. Nada! Couldn't even get the hard disks to show up, much less copy anything from the one to the other. What the hell am I doing wrong? The very least two Macs should be able to do is talk to one another, but they won't!

As I recall, this was also the reason I couldn't transfer my works-in-progress from the "old" computer to the "new" one before the old hard drive bit the dust. I gave up without trying it again because I hate having to restart. Which shouldn't be necessary if the damn thing were only working right.

Damn FireWire, syncing, OS "upgrades", the whole pile of shit--worse than worthless for all they tout it so much. If they could only make stuff that works and goes on working, I wouldn't care what it looked like. OS upgrades are just extra bugs, as far as I'm concerned.

To make matters worse, I can't even reset my system preferences on the one I'm using right now, the one that was my stopgap during the Great Crash. I was briefly able to reset them to get the AirPort to work, and now that's no longer functioning either--and when I try to get into System Preferences, the thing gets stuck just as I'm selecting the network. It refuses to remember it, refuses to let me configure anything--it just fucking HANGS. And when I try to force-quit it, it wants to send an error message that, of course, won't get through because I CAN'T MAKE THE FUCKING AIRPORT WORK!!!

So now I'm back to plugging in the hated and hateful Ethernet cable. Which I hate to do, as it's just one more step that shouldn't be necessary.

To say I'm heartbroken, enraged and plain frustrated doesn't even begin to cover it. Why me? Why now? Why my computers, which I've been taking such good care of? Why won't they give me some love? WHY????

Cops Behaving Badly: Brutality in Barcelona

"Watch them move into the future
Got a lot of catching up to do
Hope they take a lesson from their neighbours
That'll show 'em what not to do
Should have happened for them in the Thirties
But the pleasure got caught in pain
Ended up like the bull in the china shop
Under the name of Spain..."

--The Stranglers, "Spain"

Spain supposedly elected a democratic socialist government in response to the Madrid train bombings of a few years ago. But you'd be hard-put to believe it, seeing things like this, which are more reminiscent of an earlier era of fascist dictatorship:

According to YVKE Mundial, this was the scene in Barcelona on Wednesday, as university students and their supporters turned out en masse to protest Plan Bolonia, which would hand over university education to the private sector under the general pretext of "streamlining" and "efficiency" (gee, where have we heard all that before?). The antidemocratic nature of the "reform" is a major sticking point (did they bother to consult any students? Noooooo!), as is the back-door privatization of education it is intended to bring. This problem is nothing new, and certainly not limited to Spain (as it is EU-wide). Even "neutral" Switzerland has had trouble with it.

The Spanish oligarchy is all for this unpopular measure, of course, because they can afford it--and because they don't want to pay the taxes that would keep higher education public (and thus available to the "undesirables"). As was ever the case with oligarchies, though, they are very much in the minority--especially in Catalonia, which has a long and proud history of standing up to fascism (George Orwell, who fought as a foreign volunteer alongside the socialist POUM milicianos during the Civil War and narrowly escaped death by a bullet to the neck, chronicled his adventures in Homage to Catalonia.)

As you can see from the video, the police goons were well organized, clearly under orders to attack, and had no problem assaulting unarmed demonstrators. Their preferred method is kneecapping--they hit the protesters hard on the legs, then beat them some more when they inevitably fall down. One of them can even be seen striking a woman from behind; she reacts in shock to this unprovoked attack (she never even saw them coming at her, and neither said nor did anything to aggravate them.) All of this is par for the course when an unpopular and antidemocratic plan is being rammed through somewhere. In fact, that's the only way such a plan can pass--by force.

BTW, I've had the devil of a time finding anything written in English about all this going down in Spain, but if you want to see why so many Europeans consider the Yanks to be anti-freedom, self-righteous, hypocritical, uncouth, clueless and frankly just plain ol' ugly, here's something you might want to get your rabies shots before clicking on.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Anyone tired of seeing this yet?

Evo's legs, I mean?

evo-soccer-funky-sneaks.jpg

Me neither. (Love those sneaks!)

And here's something else I'll never get tired of, especially now that the Spring Equinox is upon us up here:

evo-flowers.jpg

Evo in flowers. Bloomin' wonderful!

March 18, 2009

Economics for Dummies: The "expert" opinion

economic-experts.jpg

Translation:

"The IMF says the economy will fall to a level 'below zero'!"
"Oh, what experts these guys are!"
"In economies?"
"No--in making them fall!"

Well. That didn't take long!

dominoes.jpg

This comes as no surprise to me, but I can just smell the soiled pants from Washington and Miami already:

The newly-elected government of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in El Salvador is interested in strengthening ties with ALBA countries, FMLN Representative in Cuba Alfredo Elias said.

According to Elias, El Salvador has already been benefitting from the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) by getting oil, fertilizers and medical aid Venezuela and Cuba, ALBA's two main pillars.

"We should establish relations with all nations," Elias said on Cuba's national television.

He also said reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba should be a priority for the future government.

"For us, Cubans are blood brothers," said the FMLN representative, who recalled Cuba's solidarity to El Salvador.

"In the past, Cuban hospitals were open to our war victims, while right now, many Salvadorans are having free eye surgery here, or are studying at Cuban universities," Elias said.

This is great news for El Salvador and ALBA. For the Washington Consensus, though, it's a fatal setback. Considering how screwed El Salvador has been since the 1980s, though, it's not as if this is bad news. Far from it.

PS: File this under "heh"--Obama has called Mauricio Funes to congratulate him and offer unequivocal support for his government and the Salvadoran people. Hope 'n' change, baby.

March 17, 2009

In which Bina snorts derisively and rolls her eyes

you-fucking-crybaby.jpg

Oh, boo hoo. Once again, the Inter-American Press OWNERS'* Association has its collective diapers in a bunch:

The Inter American Press Assn. (IAPA) wound up its mid-year meeting in Paraguay on Monday declaring that freedom of the press in the Americas deteriorated over the last six months because of several adverse factors, including "the murders of journalists and violence against them, campaigns to discredit the press and a climate of hostility by some governments toward news media and reporters and as a consequence of the U.S. newspaper industry crisis."

The statement on the group's website reports that populist governments in the region followed the lead of "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [and] stepped up their campaigns of abuse and ridicule of news organizations and individual reporters."

My translation follows:

Waaaaaa! We don't get to be palangristas** with impunity anymore! We're being held accountable by a skeptical public***! And they're voting with their feet and not buying our crap anymore! Help, help, we're being oppressed!

There. Much better.

In case you're wondering what they're screaming about, it seems that the people of Venezuela and Bolivia****, to name just two, are no longer fooled by the palangristas among them. Sure, a Bolivian government spokesperson has spoken out against the IAPOA's bullshit, but there's no governmental censorship happening there. Or, for that matter, in Venezuela. What there is, is a loss of influence for opinions fabricated by the endogenous right and the usual suspects in Washington.

To make things even more entertaining, two Venezuelan commercial networks are now at each other's throats because one has been deemed somewhat more objective than the other. That is, Venevisión = Chicken Noodle Network, Globovisión = FUX Snooze. Of course, Venezuelan FUX Snooze accuses Venezuelan Chicken Noodle Network of "not defending principles". ("Not defending principles" = practicing a reasonable facsimile of journalism rather than fomenting coups d'état.)

As for the woes of the US papers, those could have been seen from a long way off, if only someone had opened a window and hung their head out for a good look around. When they gobble ad revenues for the owners' profit rather than getting their income from newsstand sales and subscriptions and spending it on quality reporting, well...my heart bleeds less than you'd think it should. It's the crapitalist media model, and since it's built on selling shit and fabricating bogus opinions rather than fully and accurately informing the public, it deserves to be in financial trouble.

Especially if there are palangristas in the mix. Those are invariably Bhad Nhews.


*I stuck that in there, because it belongs there and was left out by some strange oversight. (Yes, I'm being kind. "Some strange oversight" = some disingenuous asshole, most likely.)

**Palangrista = media whore paid by either commercial interests or the CIA (or both!) to put out crapaganda, not report objectively and/or honestly.

***It's amazing how often they conflate free-but-unfavorable public opinion with oppression by (democratically elected) governments, but they gotta use that old, tired "ZOMG it's a commie!!!11eleven!!!" meme somewhere.

****Incidentally, Venezuela and Bolivia are two countries in which no journalists, however fascistic or obnoxious, have been killed of late. A few leftist ones have been roughed up by rightards, but no one has died. For that, you'll have to go to Mexico or Colombia. And if you do, you'll find a disproportionate number of lefty journos on the lists. It begs the question of why the owners of their respective media outlets haven't done more to protect them in such a hostile climate, but the IAPOA doesn't believe in discussing that. They'd much prefer to deflect your attention to imaginary oppression in Venezuela and Bolivia. Guess why.

Quotable: Larry Flynt on Dana Perino

"Whether or not the rumors are true that Perino is a Washington pass-around, she's perfect for spewing regurgitated Bush-Cheney shit. At an earlier job, she reportedly hung a Dick Cheney poster on a wall, with that Halliburton zombie in a ten-gallon hat astride a stallion, looking like a bald, fat Marlboro Man. The photo's angle was from the rear, showing the hind end of both the steed and the rider. There's an inspiring image: one horse's ass looking at another horse's ass atop another horse's ass."

--Larry Flynt, from his website

March 16, 2009

A song for El Salvador

Alí Primera, the Venezuelan folk singer, dedicates a number to the people of El Salvador during a peace concert in the 1980s:

"The Blue Hat". With subtitles.

Quotable: Daniel Sinker on Jon Stewart vs. the "journalists"

"When we can't compete with a comic in terms of speaking truth to power, then it's more clear than ever that journalism in the US has lost its way. It comes as no surprise then when, as newspapers crumble around the country, a report like the one released by the Pew Research Center this week says that only 33% of people would miss their local newspaper "a lot." When you lead with a story about an interview that happened on a comedy show--and it's the very same story that almost everyone else is leading with as well--what's to miss?

"What's to miss--the refrain is always repeated--is the investigative reporting that helps to keep our leaders honest, our water clean, our businesses pure. What's to miss is people asking fearless questions to those that need them asked. What's to miss is the deep pockets that can fund a reporter to dig and dig and dig until she's able to uncover some fragile truth. And yes, that stuff is vital to the functioning of a democracy. It also, let's speak the truth here, doesn't happen very often."

--Daniel Sinker, at the HuffPost

Hope, Faith and Revolution in El Salvador

A short documentary about a "sister cities" project involving US citizens whose attitudes and actions ran courageously counter to those of their government during and after the Salvadoran "civil war". Lots of good historical backgrounder here, too.

March 15, 2009

It's official...

Another Latin American country has just gone left. El Salvador has elected its first FMLN president.

Congratulations, Mauricio Funes.

UPDATE: Videos (in Spanish) below.

Walter Araújo, president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of El Salvador, makes his remarks on the occasion. He stresses the free, fair and transparent nature of the elections. This is especially important in light of the interference that came from the right-wing in the US, and their equally right-wing Venezuelan lackeys; of course, the English-language media (especially the Dissociated Press) chose to frame the issue as a "ZOMG, El Salvador's democracy is under threat from the guerrilla left!!!11eleven!!!" panic. Which it is not. (The Christian Science Monitor's resident Chicken Little, Sara Miller Llana, waxed especially stupid on the issue, framing it as a referendum on Chavecito--which, again, it is not.)

Meanwhile, a woman of note from neighboring Guatemala has also weighed in. Here's Nobel prizewinner and human rights activist Rigoberta Menchú, giving her dos centavos:

She sees this historic election as an opportunity to put the Cold War, its associated fears and hatreds, its terrorism and violence, behind. She expresses the hope that this will bring about peace in what has long been a violence-torn nation. She would know; the violence has affected Guatemala as well. Both countries have long been US pawns in the "Great Chessboard" strategy of the Cold War hawks, and indigenous peasants have suffered disproportionately in the violence. For this reason, her remarks carry special weight.

A portion of Funes' victory speech also appears in the latter part of the clip.

Don't look for this in the Washington Post

Why?

Because they only publish sensationalistic accusations against Chavecito and his family...but never proof that the accusations are unfounded.

Happily, for that, you have me and my humble blog. I hereby translate:

The Permanent Commission of the National Assembly has not encountered any proof that members of President Hugo Chávez's family are involved in illicit activities in their home state of Barinas, as denounced by National Assembly deputy Wilmer Azuaje.

"The commission handled this case in a very prudent manner, in order to avoid anything that might cause vicious tangles in an investigation with such important characteristics, given that these are the relatives of the president," said deputy Julio Moreno.

Moreno added that the case is now closed.

And there you go. Case closed. So unsensational, so unincriminating, that you will never see it in the WaHoPo.

(You probably won't see this in there either. Pity...)

A good interview with Evo

For those who can understand Spanish, here's some recommended viewing:

Evo talks to a reporter from a Dutch radio channel about his efforts to get recognition of the true nature of coca, of the US efforts at subversion in Bolivia, and (about two minutes from the very end) about his non-part in the recent incidents at the home of a known oppositionist (a turncoat, actually; he used to be a Katarist guerrilla, but then changed his name and his politics, no doubt for personal gain. Let El Duderino fill you in on that, he knows the whole story.) As usual, Evo is spot-on.

People who can kiss my ass

vw-poguemahone.jpg

The bumper sticker may say "Kiss My Ass" in Irish, but the car is German...like me. Here's who can kiss my little ol' lily-white German ass this St. Paddy's week...

1. Dick Fucking Cheney. For creating the Joint Special Operations Command. What the fuck is that? Ask Seymour Hersh, he knows. Basically, it's a top-secret, top-level assassination squad, answerable to no one but the Biggus Dickus Himselfus, which executes people on top-secret, hush-hush a hit-list. They can go anywhere in the world to carry out their dirty wet work. ANYWHERE. Think about that. Is it illegal? Oh yeah. Under the laws of any sane country...and the Geneva Conventions, of course. And we all know how the entire Bush Crime Syndicate felt (still feels, no doubt) about sanity and international laws.

2. George Fucking Little. Dude, if you wanna stand up for your death squad against the wickedness of Sy Hersh, you're gonna have to do better than this. Your beloved agency has been in the covert assassinations business from its very inception; they even wrote the book on it. "Utter nonsense" is a damned weak way to characterize what everyone else in the world already knows.

3. Bernard Fucking Madoff. Guilty plea? Pffft. Look for him to go KennyBoy in 5...4...3...2...

4. Jerry Fucking Pournelle. I knew there had to be a reason I instinctively disliked his "science" fiction, and Sadly, No! has finally put a finger on it. And also, hilariously, up it. (PS: Is it just my weak eyes, or does that screenshot make him look exactly like Biggus Dickus?)

5. Allen Fucking Stanford. Of course he took the Fifth. What else would one expect of a fraudster? Naturally he wants to keep his Ponzi scheme (and his money train) going for as long as he can, and to co-operate with any investigation would put a narrrrrsty crimp in that.

6. Instapissant. This one can go with Jerry Fucking Pournelle for cockamamie crapitalist "solutions" to the "problem" of people who just don't live up to right-wing "ideals". Hey, I have an idea that's right up his alley (shamelessly stolen from Rick Mercer): How 'bout we just sit all the retirees on ice floes (of which global warming should make short work) and cut 'em loose? That'll solve the "problem" of all those old-age pensioners living too long and unproductively on the public teat, no doubt. It'll do away with this perambulating, blathering encumbrance whenever he finally decides to quit parasitizing his employer, too.

7. Yon Fucking Goicoechea. Does this man have any sort of job at all? Other than inciting violence on behalf of the Cato Institute, that is? Would be nice if he got one, and nicer if it kept him so busy he couldn't play at high-level youth gangsterism anymore (he's getting too old for that shit anyway).

8. and 9. Maria Corina Fucking Machado and Alejandro Fucking Peña Esclusa. Not content to fuck with democracy in their native Venezuela, now they're trying it in El Salvador. They haven't learned a thing from past failures, either. I'd cordially invite them to come on up to Canada and kiss my ass, but they'd have to dislodge their tongues from Uncle Sam's rectum first, and have a good swish with Listerine before I'd let them within a mile of mine.

10. All the House Republicans who are with Numbers 8 and 9. The Cold War is OVER, suckas. You lost. Neener neener neener.

11. Freddy Fucking Guevara. Yup, those "white hands" kids in Venezuela are such peaceful little democrats. That must be why their quondam leader is out there speaking in favor of Nixon Moreno--a well-known thug and fugitive from justice who hid out in the papal nunciature to avoid being charged with the beating, stripping and attempted rape of a Mérida policewoman, Sofia Aguilar.

12. BTW, Moreno can kiss my ass too. Dirty coward.

And finally,

Anyone dumb enough to insist, with a straight face and not an iota of proof, that the King of Spain was "elected". Newsflash: the man appointed by Dictator Franco is not to be confused with that Brazilian carnival pudgemuffin.

Thank you, goodnight, and POGUE MAHONE!!!

March 14, 2009

Look who else has been to Cuba...

It's the President of Honduras! And guess who he met while he was there (on the 4th)?

manuel-fidel.jpg

Manuel, Fidel. Fidel, Manuel. You know the rest, so I won't tell.

This business of LatAm/Caricom leaders visiting Cuba is getting to be...almost routine, wouldn't you say? Hmmm...hmmm...whatever could it mean?

March 13, 2009

Stupid Sex Tricks: How NOT to write erotic fantasy fiction

Go. I command you. And read this incredibly detailed account of Bronwyn's nudity.

And when you're done unkinking yourself and sobering up, turn the page and read how she and Spikenard, uh, coupled.

And please, please, I beg of you--if you are a writer, do NOT try to emulate this poor hack's formula of simile piled on simile piled on simile. It's supposed to heighten narrative-slash-sexual tension and leave the reader salivating for the glorious Climax, but all it did for me was heighten the urge to laugh, and/or vomit, and/or vomit from laughing so fucking hard.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: A special treat, and non-toxic too!

Cocalero, a documentary by Alejandro Landes, in its entirety. In Spanish and Quechua with English subtitles. I figure it's timely, seeing as Evo was recently before the UN, working hard to get the official status of coca changed to that of a non-intoxicant.

There's a lot I could tell you to look out for in this film about Evo's history-making presidential campaign, but there's also a lot you won't see--like that "he's another Mugabe" twaddle coming true. Pay special attention to the parts shot in Santa Cruz and you'll see that there is indeed some racism, but it's not the kind the Atlantic Monthly and Co. would like you to believe in.

Or, to put it more succinctly: Coca isn't cocaine, and cocaleros aren't toxic either.

March 12, 2009

Quotable: Chavecito on feminism

"Without the true liberation of women the full liberation of people is impossible and I am convinced that an authentic socialist should be also an authentic feminist."

--Hugo Chávez, in his weekly column

March 11, 2009

Shocker: Peruvian ALBA houses have nothing to do with Venezuela!

Hmmm, I wonder what Alan García says to this?

The Venezuelan ambassador, Armando Laguna, in declarations to the foreign press in Lima, dismissed accusations made by a Peruvian parliamentary commission that the so-called "ALBA Houses" represented "an arm of political infiltration" by the Venezuelan government in Peru.

Laguna declared that the "Casas del ALBA" initiative is entirely the doing of Peruvian citizens and has nothing to do with the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas treaty, which was initiated by Venezuela to counteract the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and to which Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic belong.

"We have not involved ourselves in the internal politics of Peru...I do not advise anyone, nor do I aid anyone, much less financially, in the wrongly-named 'ALBA houses'," said the ambassador. He added that he had never set foot inside one.

The ambassador attributed the initiative to a known leftist activist in the Puno region, Marcial Maydana, who has never hidden his sympathies for the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, and who also presides over a non-governmental organization which transports Peruvian citizens to Bolivia to receive eye care in clinics set up by the Venezuelan government.

The ambassador himself has overseen no fewer than 18 flights of Peruvian citizens "of few resources" to Venezuela to be treated for eye conditions in "Mission Miracle", but this initiative was paralyzed when the parliamentary commission initiated its investigations of the "ALBA Houses".

Translation mine. Linkage added.

Smooth move, Ex-Lax--you've basically stopped your own citizens from receiving eye care your government sure as hell isn't providing. And isn't going to in the foreseeable future, either.

The more I learn about Alan García, especially compared to Chavecito, the worse I feel for Peru.

Rackafrackafrickafrack, Chapter 2

Well, I brought the Big PowerBook to the repair shop in Peterborough today, and a few hours later got a call back from the nice tech-geeks there. Seems the hard drive is going bad, ergo the inability to boot. It will need replacing, and will get it--with a 160-gig one, the biggest they can get for me. (I need all the uncorrupted space I can get in this corrupt old world.)

They'll also have to do a data retrieval, since I have about 140,000 words' worth of unfinished novel on that drive, as well as an aborted false start on a novella (which, frankly, can stay lost for all I care, as long as my big one's saved), plus dozens of short stories, poems, essays, and what-have-you. Gonna cost, kiddies, but it will come to a lot less than I thought; I was sure I wouldn't get away with under $7-800 in repairs. Turns out it will probably come to less than $300, counting the labor and the two layers of sales taxes.

No word yet on when it will be ready; they'll call me when it's done. I guesstimate a week to 15 days.

Big sigh. Big breath.

Now, if it had been the motherboard, I'd have been motherfucked.

I dodged a bullet this time, but all the same, I'm gonna be putting all my works-in-progress onto USB flash drives from now on.

March 10, 2009

Rackafrackafrickafrack

Hey, y'all.

Just to let you know I haven't dropped off the face of the Earth--no, worse. I'm experiencing Technical Difficulties again. My handy-dandy ol' 15-inch PowerBook decided to go on the fritz a few days ago. I've just now gotten around to configuring my "new" 12-inch one for the Internets, and the "old" one is going to the shop tomorrow morning, for what I hope will be repairs.

Wish me luck, this one's a pain so far.

March 5, 2009

One more leader goes to Cuba

This time it's Leonel Fernández, the president of the Dominican Republic.

And you don't have to guess who he met with while he was there...

fidel-leonel.jpg

Leonel, Fidel...Fidel, Leonel. Fidel's still lookin' mighty swell. Some say he's frail, but he's clearly quite well. Well enough to meet Leonel!

PS: If you really wanna see wingnut heads explode, guess who else is planning a visit to Cuba.

Murder mysteries in a Bolivian government building

Strange, macabre and tantalizing clues have been found in a secret chamber below a government ministry building in La Paz. Evo himself went down to see what's been found there so far:

According to the experts with him, this room was probably used as a torture chamber as well as a place to conceal human remains from some of the many who disappeared during Bolivia's dictatorship era of the late 1960s through the early 1980s.

Evo in particular called for help from the military in finding and identifying the remains of the great socialist writer and politician Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz, who is believed to have died on either July 17 or 18, 1980, and is still missing to this day. Could he be among the human remains found in this subterranean torture chamber, along with fragments of ceramic and scattered papers?

March 3, 2009

Trash this spam if you get it

spam-sushi.jpg

This kind of Spam is popular in Hawaii, where a certain recently inaugurated president was born...

On the other hand, this spam, sent to me by a friend who watches these things, is one you'd best throw out, lest it poison you:

HOW TO BEGIN EACH DAY WITH A POSITIVE OUTLOOK
  1. Open a new file in your computer.
  2. Name it 'Barack Obama'.
  3. Send it to the Recycle Bin.
  4. Empty the Recycle Bin.
  5. Your PC will ask you: 'Do you really want to get rid of 'Barack Obama?'
  6. Firmly Click 'Yes'
  7. Feel better?
GOOD! - Tomorrow we'll do Nancy Pelosi !

Bonus question: How do you know this spammer is an idiot? Answer: He's on a PC.

ZOMG communism!!!

communism-party.jpg

Oh shit, that evil commie dictator went and nationalized Venezuela's rice production! Oh shit oh shit oh shit...

Oh. Wait. What'd the UN just say about Venezuela again?

The representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Venezuela, Francisco Arias Milla, said the Venezuelan government's investment in domestic food production and regional food security will strengthen its ability and that of its neighbors to withstand the worsening global food crisis.

"The FAO recognizes the efforts of the national government [of Venezuela] to introduce policies, strategies, and programs to confront the global economic crisis and the volatility of food prices, and at the same time to protect the food and nutritional security of the Venezuelan people," Arias told the Bolivarian News Agency (ABN) on Thursday.

Arias specified Venezuela's national subsidized food market, Mercal, its growing system of public cafeterias, and the state-run Venezuelan Food Production and Distribution company (PDVAL), which sells food at regulated prices, as examples of policies which "permit greater access to food for the most vulnerable strata of society."

Venezuela has implemented several policies that the FAO recommends, including the fomenting of local food production through the strengthening of social networks, Arias pointed out.

Arias also praised the increase of state investment in the agricultural sector, efforts to organize producers, the expansion of citizen access to arable land through land reform, and the promotion of family farms under the administration of President Hugo Chávez.

Hey, guys? You can add evil commie nationalization to that list.

And that's not the worst of it. The whore media must be scared shitless of this part, because they never report it:

Venezuela has also reached out to other Latin American countries to prepare joint strategies to deal with the food crisis. The trade bloc called the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, which is based on principles of mutual benefit and includes Venezuela and six other countries, has created a joint food company with funds pooled in a joint food security fund.

Arias said these efforts have paid off for the countries involved. "We believe there is a group of countries, including Venezuela, that is better prepared to confront this crisis and whatever other crisis that may come," he said. "This is due to the institutionalization of food security in the region," he added.

According to Venezuela's Agriculture and Land Ministry, agricultural production in Venezuela rose by 3% last year, bringing the total increase in agricultural production to 24% since Chávez took office a decade ago. Specifically, corn production has increased by 205%, rice by 94%, sugar by 13%, and milk by 11% over the last decade, reducing Venezuela's dependency on food imports.

And here's something else they neglected to report:

As of last Saturday, the Venezuelan government has temporarily taken over the administration of a rice processing plant in Guárico state that is owned by Venezuela's largest food producer, Polar.

Inspections by the National Institute in Defense of People's Access to Goods and Services (INDEPABIS) last week revealed that the plant was operating at half its capacity and adding artificial flavoring to 90% of its rice in order to evade government price controls, which only apply to essential, unenhanced food items.

In a press conference on the floor of the plant Monday afternoon, INDEPABIS Director Eduardo Samán announced that the workers had begun processing 100% unmodified rice at the plant, disproving the claims of Polar executives that state intervention would paralyze production.

The horror. The horror. The...

WHAT? The plant is producing rice, and at a decent price, since the government intervened on behalf of the consumers? And the measure is only temporary, pending negotiations? And if the plant is finally taken over for good, the owners will be compensated? FAIRLY?

Frack. Gimme a lampshade, and a big cup of whatever Fidel's having. I'm gonna go join that communism par-tay.

March 2, 2009

Chavecito shut-up redux

I can tell Reuters just couldn't keep this one to themselves...

It's something few people can tell Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: stop talking.

Chavez, whose speeches often stretch five hours or more, said on Sunday his doctor told him to stay quiet for three days to help a sore throat.

"I am a little affected by the intensive, continuous and permanent use of this cannon I've got here and the doctor has told me not to talk," Chavez said to audience laughter.

Chavez immediately responded that silence was not the best medicine for him.

"I said 'listen friend, do what you can but how am I going to follow this treatment?' Three days without talking? I lasted one, not even one," Chavez said at the start of a television show he presents every week.

Spain's King Juan Carlos famously tried to silence Chavez, sparking a diplomatic incident when he told the Venezuelan leader to "shut up" during a summit in 2007.

Gee, Reuters, thanks for the reminder of that royal POS arrogantly telling an elected leader what to do. Just for that, here's a little Dame Pa' Matala for yer pains:

"I'm Not Shutting Up", specially dedicated to His Unelected Majesty. And Reuters, who are hard-pressed to report anything of real substance where LatAm is concerned. Especially if it has to do with Venezuela.

Half-Moon Madness: Not just some Bolivian thing, apparently

bad-moon.jpg

Don't come 'round tonight,
'Cause it's bound to take your life--
There's a bad moon on the rise...

--John Fogerty, "Bad Moon Rising"

Just when you thought it was safe to go out walking in the moonlight, there's a whole new band of loonies out there to reckon with. Now that Evo has basically put the boots to the tyrannical Media Luna prefects and their blatant resource-grab, it looks like the phenomenon of Half-Moon Madness--that is, right-wing separatism, land-grabbery and unrestrained greed--has mutated and spread to Argentina. ABI has the story; I have the translation for you:

"Almost cloned from the separatism of eastern Bolivia, whose ideology boils down to not paying taxes on its extraordinary oil, gas and agricultural earnings, as well as its open racism against its non-white citizens", is the Argentine "Media Luna", said journalist Anahí Fernández on Friday in La Paz, in the report "Frente Transversal".

Fernández affirms that just as in eastern Bolivia, "the development of the 'Countryside Party' in the provinces of Entre Ríos, Córdoba and Santa Fe constitutes a virtual rebellion against the federal state in the name of agricultural incomes of large soybean-growing land-owners and mid-size 'chacareros' enriched by the bean boom and the inflated value of their lands."

[...]

This ultra-right sector of the Rural Society, along with known adherents of this political posture, such as the Rabbi Bergman, or those on file as violators of human rights, such as Vicente Massot, this new "Little School of the Americas" constitutes, at best, a virtual new Patriotic League after the fashion of Manuel Carlés in the 1920s, or the groups of armed Bolivian civilians who provoked the massacre in Pando, says Fernández.

"Let's tell it like it is: you don't call up an apologist for torture to teach your kids how to throw a tea party. Oddly, except for Horacio Verbitsky in Página 12, no mainstream media journalist has touched this issue, which is by all lights serious. [...] It is as if their position on the subversive activities of 'El Campo' were benevolent. [...] As the graffiti says, they piss on us and the TV says it's raining."

Fernández considers it evidence of the land-owners' duplicity that they trot out their "dialoguists" and "peacemakers" on TV but "activate their worst elements to dynamite all possibility of dialogue."

"With an enemy there is no dialogue. And the government of Cristina Fernández is THE enemy of these interest groups, who are all allied with the opposition, the National Disinformation Network, and that portion of the middle class that dreams of one day being the patrón of a large estate and takes pleasure, even though he is not there yet, in whacking the peons with his riding crop."

[...]

The Argentine "Media Luna", "like its Bolivian twin", is looking for an event which will bring about the breakdown of institutions and restore the politics that once guarded its interests.

"The date is October at the latest. Much earlier, you could see the actions aimed at bringing about the downfall of a hated enemy: the government rose in 2007 by way of free elections and the National Project which had begun in 2003."

If this sounds like crazy conspiracy theory to you, may I remind you again of how the US ambassador to Bolivia was caught in secret talks with the Media Lunatics there? Right-wing separatism is nothing new under the Latin American sun; Venezuela has it too ("Independent and Eastern Republic of Zulia", anyone?)

Fernández doesn't mention a US connection here, but it's not entirely irrelevant. In case anyone thinks the days of the CIA tailor-making the Argentine government to Corporate America's liking are over, may I draw your attention to something Leon Panetta recently said that pissed off the Argentine government quite royally? And gee, you don't suppose it has anything to do with the recent tax talks between the government and El Campo (literally, "The Countryside")? Silly rabbit, haven't you yet twigged to what corporate globalization is all about?

It sure has all the smells of big land-owners, human-rights abusers from the Dirty War era, and middle-class wannabes all banding together to try to get Cristina Fernández over a barrel (or grain silo, as it were.) Let's hope she's as tough as Evo, because she's gonna need to be. Her enemies are every bit as fascistic as his, and a whole lot sneakier to boot. Don't be too surprised if they interpret Panetta's words as a go-ahead signal to ramp up their nefarious plans.

After all, the US economy is in big trouble, and we already know that Wall Street has never had any reservations about taking the rest of the world down with it.

March 1, 2009

Music for a Sunday: Two you're not likely to hear on commercial radio

From Venezuela's own Dame Pa' Matala, my latest musical crush:

"En favor de la paz". Crazy hippie peacenikkery never sounded better! Stick around till the end and you'll even hear a bit of German.

And one whose chorus requires no translation. Something tells me these guys don't like Daddy Yankee. Or misogyny.

I think it's only fair to warn you that these are both extremely infectious. If you get earworms (especially from the latter!), don't blame me. Just get up and dance, 'kay?