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December 1, 2010

Canada disgraced in Latin America by yet another mining company

Late Night Sunrise from Michael Watts on Vimeo.

Its name is Pacific Rim, it is an environmental abuser, and it is menacing the people of El Salvador. What must Canada's Salvadoran immigrants, many of whom are refugees here from their country's dirty civil war, be thinking of this? Probably the same thing I'm thinking: that Pacific Rim is a dirty bully, a corruptor and a national disgrace, in at least two nations. I'm happy to see how the Salvadorans are fighting back and refusing to be intimidated. We could learn a lot from them up here in the Great Oblivious North.

November 24, 2010

Finally, signs of intelligent life at the Christian Science Monitor

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Well, its Latin America desk, at any rate.

One in 10 South Americans - about 38 million people - escaped poverty during the past decade. That's remarkable progress by any measure.

Contrast that with the United States, where poverty has been growing due to a decade-long stagnation of income for the middle class and the Great Recession. In 2009, the US had more poor people than in any of the 51 years since poverty levels have been estimated.

Of course, America's poor are far better off than South America's poor. And the US still has a much lower poverty rate (14.2 percent versus around 70 percent). South America remains infamous for huge income gaps between a tiny elite and masses of people making, often, just $1 or $2 a day.

Still, 10 years of growing prosperity has shrunk that gap. The credit goes to democratic leftist governments that have vastly boosted social spending to help the poor, maintains Mark Weisbrot, a left-of-center economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

Half of that improvement comes from Brazil. Under outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the nation pushed up the minimum wage a real 65 percent in eight years, helping to raise the wages of tens of millions of workers, including many receiving more than minimum wage. A program offered small cash grants to poor families if they sent their children to school.

The results? Real income per person is up some 24 percent since 2000. Illiteracy is down. Poverty has been halved since 2002; extreme poverty is down by 70 percent, says Mr. Weisbrot, pulling more than 19 million people into the middle class.

And the economy hasn't suffered. Unemployment under Mr. da Silva's presidency dropped from more than 11 percent to 6.7 percent. Income inequality has fallen considerably.

Okay, couple of quibblettes here: Brazil gets the lion's share of the positive mention. I'm guessing that's due to its enormous population, of which so many are poor (or extremely poor) that it was too glaringly obvious to ignore just how bad they had it before Lula and his rather modest reforms came along. Plus, under the neo-con code of US journalism on Latin America, cuddly little Ewok-y Lula counts as "good left" because he's not too radical or too critical of Washington, the World Bank, and the IMF. Not like, say, a certain big handsome Venezuelan whom Mark Weisbrot likes to mention quite a bit:

Other nations with "progressive" governments have made much social progress, notes Weisbrot. He lists Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Venezuela. Under President Hugo Chávez, attacked by the right in the US, oil-rich Venezuela has tripled social spending per person since 2003. Attendance at universities has doubled. Most of the poor now get health care under a government program.

Okay, here comes another quibblette: Why the unnecessary quotation marks around the word progressive? The governments of all those countries surely deserve better than that disparaging little trick of punctuation, since all have made impressive socio-economic recoveries under their progressive leaders. Much better, since they are all much improved.

Still, I shouldn't complain too loudly; after all, the piece doesn't then go on to undercut all that talk of progressives and their progresses with vague, unsubstantiated noises about "tyranny", the way so many other English-language whore media pieces (including previous ones in the selfsame Monitor) have done. Instead, we get...more relatively decent reporting:

The continent weathered the financial crisis relatively well. Social spending rose. So there was no big rise in poverty, says Norbert Schady, an economic adviser to the Inter-American Development Bank, speaking from Quito, Ecuador.

Moreover, prospects for continued economic progress are strong. The Institute of International Finance (IIF), set up by the world's biggest banks, forecasts 6 percent growth in gross domestic product in Latin America this year, which includes Mex­ico and Central America as well as South Am­er­ica. That growth should shrink poverty further.

By contrast, the IIF forecasts a 2.5 percent growth rate this year for the US. At that slow pace the US could see a further rise in poverty.

South America's new economic vigor is also causing a geopolitical shift. The US has long considered Latin America part of its political and economic sphere of influence. Officials running South America's left-of-center governments often charge the US with imperial ambitions.

But as US growth slows, South America's businesses have reached out to other markets. While 15 percent of South America's trade is still with the US, a greater share is tied to Europe. Also, trade within the continent is growing with a free-trade deal. So South American governments no longer feel so much under the thumb of the US.

All of this is unquestionably true, and it's refreshing to see it in the Monitor for a change. Normally I'd have to go to a progressive alternative or independent media site, like the Socialist Worker, or end up translating something from a LatAm indymedia site here. I have to say it's pleasantly surprising...

Oh wait, I just noticed something: The byline is David R. Francis. Perhaps the honest, even and objective tone of this piece owes to the fact that it wasn't written by the famously blinkered Sara Miller Llana? I bet it does.

Congratulations, Mr. Francis, on your journalistic breakthrough. And oh yeah: Watch your back. They don't like to see too many nice things being said about Chavecito, Evo, Cristina or El Ecuadorable in there.

August 25, 2010

What really lies behind those trapped Chilean miners

A little insight, courtesy of Telesur reporter Alejandro Kirk:

The culprit, say miners and the family members of the trapped men, is the greed of Big Copper industrialists in Chile.

Working conditions have always been atrocious for that very reason in the copper mines, as Alberto Granado attested in his book, Travelling With Che Guevara: The Making of a Revolutionary:

Of course the tour we had today only served to confirm the opinion we formed when we went round yesterday--that is, that the whole place is incalculably rich.

The countless pieces of machinery, the perfect synchronisation and the way they get the maximum use out of every element certainly inspire admiration, but this is eclipsed by the indignation aroused when you think that all this wealth only goes to swell the coffers of Yankee capitalism, while its true owners, the Araucanian people*, live in abject poverty.

The first place we visited was the gallery of what's called an open-pit mine. it consists of a number of terraces about fifty or sixty yards wide and two or three miles in length. Here they drill and place the dynamite, blow up bits of the hill, and then use universal shovels--a kind of bulldozer--to load up the dump cars hauled by an electric engine. From there the ore goes to the first crushing mill, where a dumper tips it out.

After the first crushing, automatic conveyors take the ore to a second mill and then a third. When the rock is finely crushed it is treated with sulphuric acid in large tanks. All this solution of sulphates is taken to a building, which houses the vats of electrolyte for separating out the copper and regenerating the acid.

The copper obtained by electrolysis is smelted in large furnaces at a temperature of 2,000 degrees centigrade, and then this torrent of liquid copper is tipped into large moulds dusted with calcined bone. It goes on into a unit that solidifies and cools it down almost instantaneously, and then electric cranes carry the moulds to a mill, which planes them to a uniform thickness.

All this is done with such precision that it reminded me of the Chaplin film . The impression grew even stronger when we tried to familiarise ourselves with various aspects of the technological process. Each worker or machine operator knows only what goes on in his section, and sometimes only part of it. There are many who have been working here for more than ten years and don't know what goes on or what gets done in the next section down the line. Of course this is encouraged by the company, which can more easily exploit them this way, as well as keep them at a very low level culturally and politically. The striving trade-union leaders have a titanic struggle to make the workers see the pros and cons of the agreements that the company tries to get them to sign. The company also employs other subtle means to combat the union.

The bloke acting as our guide, who is nothing but a filthy mercenary, told us that whenever there's an important union meeting, he and some of the administrator's other assistants invite a large number of miners to a brothel, thereby robbing the meeting of a required quorum. To give some idea of this character's mentality, it's enough to say that at one moment he was telling us that the workers' demands were excessive, and a little later he informed us that if the mine stood idle a single day the company lost a million dollars. With amounts like that at stake, this born slave dares to say that 100 pesos--a dollar--is an excessive demand. How we itched to throw him into one of the acid vats!

[...]

When we came down we met one of the members of the union. He explained to us that the company pays low daily wages, but attracts workers by holding out the illusion that the company store sells goods at lower prices than those of other establishments in the area. But it turns out that there is only a limited number of cheap articles, and essential foodstuffs are not always in stock, so the men have to buy them at fabulously high prices elsewhere from establishments that operate hand-in-glove with the company. Of course once a worker has settled here he stays on, hoping his demands will be heard and his needs met in the next contract. Time goes by, there's a wife, then children, and in the end, against his will and knowing he's being exploited, he remains until his eldest son takes his place, once he's been rendered useless by the passing years and privations--assuming he's not been killed in a blasting accident, or by silicosis or by the sulphuric vapours.

Afterwards, we went over the western part of the town, where a plant makes prefabricated houses. This kind of building could solve the housing problems not only of Chuquicamata but also of the rest of Chile if the technique were properly applied, with a proper finish, nicely painted, and so on. Here everything is done on the cheap, just to igve the workers housing that fulfils the minimum requirements--and sometimes not even that. Besides, they group the houses together in a distant part of town and don't provide any drains. Of course the Yankees and their lackeys have a special school for their children, as well as golf courses, and their houses aren't prefabricated.

We also visited the area scheduled to be mined over the next ten years, when the sulphide processing plant is finished. When we saw that they would get millions upon millions of dollars a day out of this area too (they are currently extracting 90,000 tons of ore a day) Fúser [Che] and I remembered that when we had read a book on Chile's copper we thought the author was exaggerating when he said that forty days' work could pay off all the capital investment. Life is certainly a great teacher and shows you more than a hundred books.

*Araucanians is the catch-all term for the indigenous peoples of Chile.

Fúser, or Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Alberto Granado's friend, writes more neutrally about the mine itself, but his brief politico-economic analysis of what he and Granado saw at Chuquicamata (in The Motorcycle Diaries) is as chilling as it is clear:

Chile produces 20 percent of all the world's copper, and copper has become vitally important in these uncertain times of potential conflict because it is an essential component of various types of weapons of [mass] destruction. Hence, an economico-political battle is being waged in Chile between a coalition of nationalist and left-wing groupings which advocate nationalizing the mines, and those who, in the cause of free enterprise, prefer a well-run mine (even in foreign hands) to possibly less efficient management by the state. Serious accusations have been made in [the Chilean] Congress against the companies currently exploiting the concessions, symptomatic of the climate of nationalist aspiration which surrounds copper production.

Whatever the outcome of the battle, it would be as well not to forget the lesson taught by the mines' graveyards, which contain but a fraction of the enormous number of people devoured by cave-ins, silicosis and the mountain's infernal climate.

Both of these Argentine travellers wrote their accounts in 1952, long before Salvador Allende finally won election (in 1970) as the first socialist president of Chile--significantly, on a platform that included nationalization of the copper mines. The atrocious conditions of the mines were already an old problem even by then, and as Che's account makes clear, the Yankee war industries--by that time, given to the production of nuclear weapons--had become a major culprit in the miseries of Chile. That same year, incidentally, Allende campaigned for the presidency for the first time, and lost. Considering what he was up against (the same problems that the miners' union leaders were facing), it seems hardly surprising that he had to campaign in three more presidential races before finally succeeding. By 1970, political consciousness among miners had apparently reached the necessary critical mass. But the mine owners didn't take the nationalization drive lying down, and three years later, Allende was murdered in the coup that brought fascist dictatorship to Chile for the first time in the person of Augusto Pinochet.

And yes, the coup was copper-colored.

At the overt level, Washington was frosty, especially after the nationalization of the copper mines; official relations were unfriendly but not openly hostile. The government of President Richard M. Nixon launched an economic blockade conjunction with U.S. multinationals (ITT, Kennecott, Anaconda) and banks (Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank). The US squeezed the Chilean economy by terminating financial assistance and blocking loans from multilateral organizations. But during 1972 and 1973 the US increased aid to the military, a sector unenthusiastic toward the Allende government. The United States also increased training Chilean military personnel in the United States and Panama.

Kennecott and Anaconda were major US copper-mining concerns in Chile. The Chuquicamata mine, which so infuriated Che and "Mial" Granado, was owned by Anaconda at the time of their visit. Chuquicamata's Wikipedia entry closes on a bland note that probably reveals something of its author's class viewpoint:

These mines were mainly self-contained and self-sustaining settlements. They were complete with their own cities to house the workers, their own water and electrical plants, schools, stores, railways, and even in certain cases their own police forces. These mines were extremely beneficial in an economical sense, for they provided steady jobs and a steady income for the nation of Chile.

Note the complete absence of mentions of the terrible working conditions, the poor pay, the company stores that fleeced the workers, who were forced to live in substandard, prefabricated housing without sewers, and who often made their way to the company graveyard at a shockingly early age. "Extremely beneficial in an economical sense" they may well have been, if Alberto Granado's account of million-dollar-a-day ore extraction is anything to go by, but not for the majority of those who worked there! As Che wrote in The Motorcycle Diaries:

Yet the guide, the Yankee bosses' faithful lapdog, told us: 'Stupid gringos, they lose thousands of pesos every day in a strike so as not to give a poor worker a couple of extra centavos. That'll be over when our General Ibañez comes to power.' And a foreman-poet: 'These famous terraces enable every scrap of copper to be mined. People like you ask me lots of technical questions but I'm rarely asked how many lives it has cost. I don't know the answer, doctors, but thank you for asking.'

Linkage added.

The aging General Ibañez was elected soon after that, but he didn't nationalize the copper mines. Nor did his policies do much that was actually felt at the workers' level, other than for one thing: he legalized the Chilean Communist Party, which was a leading force in the struggle for nationalization and workers' rights. That party would become a component in the Popular Front coalition that supported Salvador Allende.

Ironically, after Pinochet's copper coup, the copper industries of Chile remained nationalized (a process that had begun in 1969 under Allende's immediate predecessor, Eduardo Frei). But the appalling working conditions were never ameliorated, thanks to Pinochet's iron fist. His earliest military posting, not coincidentally, was to the mining regions of northern Chile, where his duties included squelching "communism"--that is, union organization among the miners.

Now Chile has a Pinochet sympathizer as president, one who no doubt is looking at selling off the copper industries or handing them back to their original Yankee dueños. And the mining conditions? Well, they speak for themselves. It's estimated that the rescue of these trapped miners will take another 120 days--four whole months. A fact which should argue strongly against privatization and in favor of serious reforms and drastic new workplace safety measures, but it's not at all certain that Sebastián Piñera will heed these dire warnings. After all, he is a businessman first and foremost, and his attitude is that all of Chile should be run like a business, even when that business is as blatantly inhumane as the copper mines of Chuquicamata.

August 18, 2010

Bet this never happened to the REAL Judy Garland

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This should happen more often, though...because it shows the wingnuts in their true colors:

A few months ago, right wing firebrand Ann Coulter reacted to words of advice from a Canadian University official with stringent claims that she was being silenced and was the victim of a "hate crime." But how will Coulter respond now that her own fellow conservatives have dumped her from a "Taking Back America" conference for agreeing to speak her piece at a gay conservative group's event?

Anti-gay religious news site WorldNetDaily announced in an Aug. 17 article that Coulter had been disinvited from the WND event, which is slated to take place on Sept. 17, because Coulter has accepted an offer to speak at Homocon, an event scheduled for Sept. 25 that is sponsored by conservative gay group GoProud. Coulter had previously been scheduled to appear as a keynote speaker at WND's "Taking Back America" event, but that invitation was rescinded by WND.

WorldNetDaily describes its "Taking Back America" conference as being "about freedom, the freedom the founding generation of leaders fought for in establishing the United States." By "freedom," WND seemed to mean a legal curtailing individual choices, based on a specific notion of morality: "It is time to choose the kind of country in which we want to live--whether we want to live under the rule of law or under the rule of man," text at the WND site read.

"The choice is simple: the world of standards and morality, self-government and accountability to God or the world of tyranny and ever-changing moral codes enforced by government," continued the text. "The only way we can reestablish our freedom--our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--is to break the hammerlock of statism and the notion that moral relativism holds the answers to ordering people's passions and behavior." The text did not indicate what agency, if not government, would enforce this brand of freedom.

Ha, ha...who's the REAL freedom-of-speech party again? Big hint: it's NOT over there on the right.

And check this out. I always thought that being a far-right "libertarian" capitalist meant that you could literally do anything for a buck. Well, maybe not:

WND condemned GoProud's sponsorship of a conservative conference earlier this year, and the site's editor and CEO, Joseph Farah, said that dropping Coulter was the only thing to do given that she was, he suggested, lending credibility to the gay conservative group.

"Ultimately, as a matter of principle, it would not make sense for us to have Ann speak to a conference about 'taking America back' when she clearly does not recognize that the ideals to be espoused there simply do not include the radical and very 'unconservative' agenda represented by GOProud," Farah told his own news site.

"Earlier this year, GOProud was permitted to sponsor the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, the biggest event of its kind," Farah noted, going on to recall that various anti-gay groups dropped out of the conference rather than attend an event that had been partially underwritten by a gay organization. "GOProud is about infiltration of the conservative movement and dividing it from within with twisted and dangerous ideas way out of the mainstream of American public opinion," Farah continued. "Ann Coulter is, I'm afraid, validating this effort for money."

"Validating this effort for money"--I thought that was supposed to be GOOD, at least to those guys. I guess it's not good when those guys are GAY. And even a flippant 'phobe like the Coultergeist gets her convictions tied in more knots than her panties.

Speaking of knots, how's this for tortured logic?

The article stated that Coulter would be welcome to continue as an op-ed writer for the site, and Farah drew a distinction between allowing people of differing political views to publish at WND and allowing people who speak to other groups to speak also at a WND event. "There is simply no room there for compromisers or for people who accept money from those determined to destroy the moral fabric required for self-governance and liberty," said Farah of the event's roster of speakers.

Shorter Farah: We'll still pay you to spout crap on WingNutDaily because we could sure use the eyeballs, but it has to be OUR uptight, conservative brand of crap. But we can't let you bring those gaywad cooties to our conferences. Freedom isn't free, y'know.

And how's this for a bitchy widdle slap-fest?

To Coulter, Farah directed pointed questions about her appearance at GoProud's Homocon event. "Do you not understand you are legitimizing a group that is fighting for same-sex marriage and open homosexuality in the military--not to mention the idea that sodomy is just an alternate lifestyle?" Farah asked.

"That's silly," Coulter rejoined, going on to tell Farah, "I speak to a lot of groups and do not endorse them. I speak at Harvard and I certainly don't endorse their views. I've spoken to Democratic groups and liberal Republican groups that loooove abortion.

"The main thing I do is speak on college campuses, which is about the equivalent of speaking at an al-Qaida conference," Coulter continued. "I'm sure I agree with GOProud more than I do with at least half of my college audiences. But in any event, giving a speech is not an endorsement of every position held by the people I'm speaking to. I was going to speak for you guys, [even though] I think you're nuts on the birther thing (though I like you otherwise!)."

Shorter Coultergeist: You're nuts, but I like you. And I give speeches for al-Qaida. Yeah, I'm nuts too. But those crazy faggots like me!

And speaking of nuts:

Coulter's response to Farah was markedly different from the thrashing she gave last March to University of Ottawa's provost for what Coulter characterized as his attempt to "silence" her by cautioning Coulter about the legal differences in what is considered to be hate speech in Canada, as opposed to the U.S.

"Since arriving in Canada I've been accused of thought crimes, threatened with criminal prosecution for speeches I hadn't yet given and denounced on the floor of the Parliament (which was nice because that one was on my 'bucket list')," Coulter wrote in a March 24 column at Conservative News. "Apparently Canadian law forbids 'promoting hatred against any identifiable group,' which the provost, Francois A. Houle advised me, 'would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges.'

"I was given no specific examples of what words and phrases I couldn't use," Coulter continued, "but I take it I'm not supposed to say, 'F----you, Francois.' " Coulter went on to declare herself the victim of a hate crime due to Houle's note. In the event, Coulter's appearance had to be canceled due to safety concerns when a mob of students--described by Coulter as "rioting liberals"--became increasingly unruly before Coulter's speech.

I can't believe this bullshit version of the story is still circulating out there. Once more, with feeling: The Coultergeist was too busy boozing it up at a pricey fundraiser. Of course she couldn't be bothered to show for a FREE appearance. She thinks independent-thinking, leftist students are Randian "looters" for al-Qaida, remember? Plus, she had to make herself out to be the martyr, after all, and we nasty-wasty Canadians weren't obliging her with any serious reasons. She was not forced to cancel anything--she CHOSE to. And saps that we are, we supported her right to choose, even if it meant that she could open her big yap and accuse us of all sorts of horrible things that we did not and never would do!

But the most tortured bit of logic is this, at the end:

Homocon has drawn sponsors from the rightward end of the political spectrum, noted Christopher Taylor in an Aug. 17 op-ed piece at the Washington Examiner. Taylor questioned the purpose of Homocon and GoProud, promoting a version of conservatism that the rightward fringe might not have recognized. "One of the most basic principles of conservatism as opposed to the modern left is that we treat everyone as Americans in America, not as any form of hyphenated-American," wrote Taylor. "Conservatives shouldn't care what color you are, how tall you are, if you're male or female, they don't care if you are left handed or ambidextrous, it simply doesn't matter."

Taylor went on to write, "Having a Homocon for gay conservatives is a slouch toward this identity group-politics, where we focus on the ideas and interests of each specific specially split off group, as if you can really take human beings and jam them into little boxes of like-minded and like-cultured people."

For gay conservatives, the principle values of conservatism still apply--a catalogue, as defined by Taylor, that includes "limited government, individual responsibility, love of liberty, suspicion of government power, free market capitalism, and equal justice," all of which conservative gay rights proponents say dovetail with GLBT equality.

It's always so funny to see concepts like "limited government" and "suspicion of government power" touted by the same people who voted for Dubya, he of the warrantless wiretap, the search-and-seizure, the spying on dissident groups, the Free Speech Zones, and all those other things that we don't have up here in the Great Unconservative North (or didn't, until Harpo decided to emulate his crushboy).

And since when do conservatives REALLY not care what color you are, or if you're female, or what? They are the MOST discrimination-prone people on the planet! Of course they care. If they didn't, they wouldn't be so blatantly racist in their protests against Barack Obama. Nor would they elect a single anti-choicer. Black people would not still be agitating for their rights, nor would women, nor would queerfolks, in a country that blats loud and long about liberty but is really bristling with laws and statutes and state constitutional amendments and oh yeah, "free markets" geared at taking it all away.

Maybe what these homo-contards really mean is that everyone should be equally repressed and discriminated against, albeit in different ways, but turn themselves inside out trying pretend they're really, truly equal and that nothing's wrong. That's conservofascism as I understand it.

Good thing I'm a socialist and don't have to tie my brain in so many knots. I believe in struggling for equal rights and freedoms for everyone--no exceptions--until you get 'em, for holding politicians accountable in order to hang onto 'em, for being free and able to seek redress for governmental and corporate violations of those rights, for redistribution of wealth (hey, it enables a LOT more freedoms than it inhibits!), and for keeping the environment clean--and that includes kicking the dirty-minded conservatives out of the bedrooms of the nation. My ideology is clear, straightforward and just plain makes sense, which is more than I can say for theirs.

July 22, 2010

Dear Iggy: This is why I will NEVER vote for you.

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This landed in my inbox yesterday. See if you can tell me what's wrong with it:

Dear Sir/Madam:

Thank you for taking the time to voice your concerns about the human rights implications of Bill C-2, the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act.

Human rights are at the core of Liberal values. This is why we have taken the unprecedented step of negotiating an amendment compelling each country to monitor and publicly report on how this Free Trade Agreement (FTA) impacts human rights in both Canada and Colombia.

This is the first such human rights reporting requirement for any FTA in history. It imposes a new requirement on Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to focus on, collect and analyze information on the impact of the Canada-Colombia FTA on human rights in both Canada and Colombia. This information must be provided to the Parliament of Canada in an annual report which can then be used to guide Canada's foreign policy with respect to Colombia. In addition, the public tabling of the annual reports in Parliament will allow for greater scrutiny by opposition parties and provide a transparent way for civil society organizations from around the world to access this data as they conduct their own human rights impact assessments.

The Liberal amendment for a human rights reporting requirement was motivated by a desire for greater public oversight in the area of human rights and a belief that human rights are deeply intertwined with economic opportunity. We recognize that human rights abuses in Colombia have largely resulted from violence fuelled by Colombia's illegal narco-economy, which, in turn, has been perpetuated by Colombia's endemic poverty, persistently high unemployment and insufficient social infrastructure. We believe that increased political and economic engagement can help address the root causes of violence and improve the human rights situation in Colombia.

In recent years Colombia has made significant progress in combating human rights abuses.

On June 29, 2009, U.S. President Obama commented on these advancements: "I commended President Uribe on the progress that has been made in human rights in Colombia and dealing with the killings of labor leaders there, and obviously we've seen a downward trajectory in the deaths of labor unions and we've seen improvements when it comes to prosecution of those who are carrying out these blatant human rights offenses. President Uribe acknowledges that there remains more work to be done, and we look forward to cooperating with him to continue to improve both the rights of organized labor in Colombia and to protect both labor and civil rights leaders there."

More recently, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay recognized "the significant progress made in terms of a drastic reduction in the number of complaints of extrajudicial executions and the continuous prosecution of members of Congress and public officials for alleged links with paramilitary organizations" in her March 2010 report on the human rights situation in Colombia.

The Liberal Party believes that Canada has a moral obligation to help Colombia continue to improve its human rights record. We must work with Colombia to strengthen its public institutions and create legitimate economic opportunities for all Colombians. This free trade agreement, with the Liberal amendment establishing a human rights reporting requirement, will significantly strengthen Canada's ability to achieve these goals and engage Colombia on the issue of human rights. Furthermore, the Liberal amendment will provide Canadians and Colombians with an ongoing assessment of progress in this area.

Former Deputy Minister of DFAIT, Peter Harder, has called the Liberal amendment a "significant innovation in free trade agreements in that it provides both the Colombian and Canadian legislatures the opportunity to annually review and assess the human rights implications of the agreement. I expect that future parliaments will build on this precedent when they consider proposed free trade agreements."

Prominent civil society organizations and unions in Colombia have also publically supported the proposed amendment.

Dr. Leon Valencia, Executive Director of Arco Iris, stated that "I think it is interesting and useful that the Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and Canada includes an amendment which requires both governments to present an annual report to the respective Parliaments on the repercussions of the agreement on human rights in each country... This will provide an important yearly forum to discuss the situation in Colombia, and will give Canadian citizens the opportunity to monitor human rights violations in our country." He went on to describe the Liberal amendment as "innovative and converts the Treaty into something which is dynamic and provides new platforms for analysis and discussion. Perhaps this could be included in other free trade agreements."

M. Gerardo Sanchez Zapata, President of the Apparel and Textile Industry of Colombia Trade Union Sintracontexa, lent his support to the agreement on behalf of 12 other Colombian unions: "This procedure is welcomed by Colombian workers and we are thankful to the Parliament of Canada for its position, because it helps strengthen a mechanism already in place that monitors and evaluates the progress in matter of human rights."

Colombia is at a critical juncture in its history, emerging from decades of violence and civil war. The Liberal Party of Canada believes that countries like Canada can support Colombia on its path to peace, justice and reconciliation by helping to build and strengthen Colombia's public institutions and provide greater public oversight on the human rights situation in Colombia. Canada must not turn its back on Colombia and isolate its people at this time. Rather we must seize this opportunity to engage the people of Colombia and work with them to break the cycle of violence and human rights abuses that prevents the country from reaching its vast potential.

Thank you, once again, for taking the time to write to me on this very important issue.

Respectfully,

The Office of Michael Ignatieff, M.P.
Leader of the Official Opposition


I'll spare you the tortured use of italics from the original.

Here's my open letter in response:


Dear Office of Iggy the Boyar:

You're right about only one thing here: This IS an unprecedented step you have taken. And an unfortunate choice of direction.

No previous Liberal administration would have contemplated doing what you have done. They all resisted the US's urging to legitimize Colombia's right-wing government and toxic business atmosphere. So yes, what you have done is indeed unprecedented--for Liberals, and for Canadians.

But that isn't what I petitioned you to do.

I didn't petition you to add a worthless human-rights amendment, which will never be respected and which the Tories will only gut, as is their wont. I petitioned you to OPPOSE the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. You didn't do that; you PASSED it.

And you call yourselves an opposition? I call you a bunch of butt-boys.

But don't worry, a few people in Colombia will thank you for your kindly concern. Those few are Uribe himself, and his cronies--the ones who already own too much of the country; who have taken it from a violent banana republic to a narco-paramilitary failed state; who go around murdering bothersome peasants, stealing their land, and then dressing them in fake FARC uniforms before burying them in mass graves. Cocaine traffickers, in particular, will appreciate the good work you have done; you have just made it that much easier for them to export their noxious product, which will undoubtedly land on our streets, burdening OUR legal system to the breaking point. And of course, we mustn't forget the military-industrial complex, particularly that of Israel, which cheerfully sells weapons to right-wing paramilitaries and the Colombian army alike.

And your measly little human-rights amendment proposes to change this situation HOW, again?

Please spare me the elaborate justifications. There is no justification for what you have done to the people of Colombia. Some 4 million of them have already fled to neighboring Venezuela in order to escape from the narco-paramilitaries and the army (which may as well be regarded as a single entity, so indistinguishable are they from one another). One of the Bolivarian missions advanced by President Chávez was to grant them Venezuelan citizenship and identity cards, so that they would have a decent shot at jobs, free healthcare, and a good education--things the oh-so-humanitarian government of Alvaro Uribe would not grant them in their native Colombia. It is fair to say that Hugo Chávez has already done more for Colombians than you have, and it's safe to say that it's more than you will ever do.

But then again, Venezuela is Colombia's nearest neighbor and largest trading partner. The violence of Colombia's five-decades-old civil war spills over Venezuela's border (and those of Colombia's other neighbors, Ecuador and Brazil) with nauseous regularity. And so do the drugs. And Hugo Chávez used to be stationed near the Colombian border in his army officer days, ostensibly to patrol for guerrillas, but really to violate the human rights of peasants. He found this role objectionable, as did his fellow soldiers. It was a major turning point in his political consciousness. Now, as president, he takes the position that Colombia has to police its own borders, stop repressing its own people, and not expect Venezuela to pick up the slack in its guerrilla and drug wars. Colombia has failed repeatedly to do so.

Worse, Alvaro Uribe has refused to take responsibility for his own crimes and failures, preferring to project them onto his neighbors. That's why today, President Chávez has broken off relations between Caracas and Bogotá. His patience has been tested long enough. His Ecuadorian friend and counterpart, Rafael Correa, ran out of it two years ago, when Uribe's army bombed his country and then blamed him for "harboring" the FARC when he had done no such thing.

As for me, I have no patience for your nonsensical position that more trade with Colombia is the answer. For whom? Working-class Canadians have never benefited significantly from free trade; just the opposite. The only people ever to benefit from such agreements are those who really don't need the extra cash. Nothing will trickle down to Colombian campesinos, and nothing to the average Canadian, either. The last thing we need is more cheap goods flooding our market; we are already glutted.

And there are only so many bananas we can eat, and there is only so much coffee we can drink. Personally, I prefer to get my bananas from Ecuador and my coffee from Brazil. Those countries have decent presidents and are not known for their narcos or their paramilitaries.

In short, dear Iggy, this is why I won't be voting for you. It's not the only reason, but it's a big one.

Adios, cabrón.

Luv,

'Bina.

May 11, 2010

We are all Greeks now, or soon will be

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"Arrival of Lord Byron at Missolonghi", by Theodoros P. Vryzakis, 1861. National Gallery of Athens, Greece. The English Romantic poet sailed with his own fleet of ships as an aid agent of the London Committee in December of 1823, and stayed on to fight, eventually leading a Greek brigade. Four months after his arrival, he died of a fever at Missolonghi while preparing to launch an attack.

The isles of Greece! the isles of Greece!

Where burning Sappho loved and sung,

Where grew the arts of war and peace,--

Where Delos rose and Phoebus sprung!

Eternal summer gilds them yet,

But all, except their sun, is set.

--Lord Byron, "The Isles of Greece"

Lord Byron was either nearly two hundred years ahead of his time with that pronouncement, or else history is now by way of repeating itself, amplified. The struggle for Greek independence of Byron's day looks pale now in comparison to what lies ahead. Back then, it was only the Ottoman Empire the Greeks were up against. Today it's a vaster, more nebulous, and infinitely more bloodthirsty one, that of international capital.

Yeah, hi, it's me again. The pissed-off pedantic dissident of crapitalism has another axe to grind. And it's going to get swung over Greece--as far afield as Germany, France and even a whack or two at the good ol' Yankee military-industrial complex. You may want to grab yourself a big bottle of retsina, or ouzo, and a plate of Kalamata olives before you read on; this one's not for taking on an empty stomach. Plus, you may need something to throw when all this is over, although I doubt you'll be shouting "Opa!"

Y'okay. Let's begin.

Over at Ten Percent, blog-buddy Rick B has some good insights into the situation:

The quote 'inability of the Greek government to live within its means' is such a poisonous falsehood, as if financial institutions did not for years bribe key people into endless debt restructuring not because it helped them but because it made money for the banks. This is a merry game played by elites with the costs passed onto those not allowed to participate, yet the besuited oligarchs have the chutzpah to project their irresponsibility onto their victims. This is a rescue package within the rules of the game, better than what could have happened but ultimately it prolongs the scam. Neoliberalism, does not work, financialisation in place of actual productivity does not work (excuse the pun), capitalism unregulated and unconstrained does not work, Adam Smith was actually very clear on that despite what Randroids and laissez faire fundamentalists prefer to read into his works (by current standards he'd be labeled a socialist by corporate media). What we are seeing is a rolling breakdown of systems of human activity because we are serving the economy not making the economy serve us.

Right on, Rick, and you'll get no arguments from me. For the banksters to call the Greeks, along with the Irish, the Portuguese and the Spanish "PIGS", is gross projection from the overfed slop slurpers at the global trough. It's not the pampered people of those countries who are to blame; it's their lousy leaders, who opened the markets to foreign capital. Alas, it's the citizens who must reap what the politicians sowed, and of course, it's all tares; the banksters have already made off with the wheat. An economy where people serve capital, rather than the other way 'round, is one doomed to fail for all but those who have always had more than they could possibly have known what to do with anyway. A pity capitalism can't die of clogged arteries half as easily as its fat-assed proponents--being inanimate, it's infinitely capable of being resurrected by Victor Frankenstein and his electroshock machine!

I did promise to tell you what the role of the Germans in all this was, and I keep my word. So here's the ugly rotten maggoty meat of the matter, via Defense News:

France and Germany, while publicly urging Greece to make harsh public spending cuts, bullied its government to confirm billions of euros in arms deals, a leading Euro-MP alleged Friday.

Franco-German lawmaker Daniel Cohn-Bendit said that Paris and Berlin are seeking to force Prime Minister George Papandreou to spend Greece's scarce cash on submarines, a fleet of warships, helicopters and war planes.

[...]

"It's incredible the way the Merkels and Sarkozys of this world treat a Greek prime minister," he declared, adding that Papandreou had recently met Sarkozy and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon in Paris.

"Mr. Fillon and Mr. Sarkozy told Mr. Papandreou: 'We're going to raise the money to help you, but you are going to have to continue to pay the arms contracts that we have with you'," Cohn-Bendit said.

"In the past three months we have forced Greece to confirm several billion dollars in arms contracts. French frigates that the Greeks will have to buy for 2.5 billion euros. Helicopters, planes, German submarines."

Despite its economic woes, which recently deepened spectacularly when its credit rating was downgraded, Greece is one of Europe's biggest arms buyers, seeking to keep pace with its regional rival Turkey.

See why I'm angry? I'm a Bad German; "Deutschland, Deutschland Über Alles" is just the old Nazi version of the national anthem, as far as I'm concerned, and I have about as much use for that sentiment as I do for the Nazis. And since my mom's side of the family is from the Rheinland-Pfalz, right next to what's now Alsace-Lorraine, the tiny little soupçon of French blood I got from her means I'm also très fâchée about the whole steaming heap of merde coming from Sarko. This makes me hang my head about my ancestry, and doubt seriously of the goodness of humanity on the whole. Epic internationalist FAIL!

The only Greek I have is two years' worth of the ancient university stuff, just enough to foolishly convince me that I could almost translate Sappho if I wanted to, but like her poetry, it's very fragmentary. Greek history is what I'm now learning on the fly, also by snips and snaps. But it doesn't take a historian to see how stupid this whole arms race is. Greece is in the EU; last time I checked, Turkey was also, or well on its way to it. There is no logical (that's Greek) reason for an arms race between the two countries. And if it came down to it, Canada wouldn't be able to supply peacekeepers to get them off each other's throats, as it did in Cyprus. Our troops are too busy now making the world safe for pipelines capitalism "democracy" (another Greek word, and notice that I put it in quotes) in Afghanistan, don'cha know?

Meanwhile, Truthout has some good stuff on the Greek crisis and the growing resistance thereto. First, a little insight from a French analyst, Maurice Ulrich, of l'Humanité:

There are those who call for political unity in Europe right now, without which, they say, there will be no salvation. But to carry out which policies? What's come to the fore, today is the extreme noxiousness of a liberal Europe for its people. In the race for free and undistorted competition the poorest countries could only keep up with the richest by social dumping. The richest countries could only compete by playing on the same field. The message Europe is giving to Greece today - the same one it will give to Spain and Portugal tomorrow - is that the only way to keep in with a liberal Europe is to shatter salaries, pensions, and public services. But who really believes that tomorrow, or after tomorrow, our very own public services, pensions and salaries will be able resist?

[...]

What's happening in Greece isn't a fluke. Even as the media incriminate, and not without justification, the policies of Greek leaders, we must remember that they were aided and abetted by the very same players who now want to strip Greece of its hide and make a golden fleece. It's only the first of the crises that this capitalist Europe has in store for us. And it's precisely this Europe that we have to change. We want a Europe of cooperation, a different role for the European Central Bank (ECB), and we want the ECB to lend to Greece at 1% interest. It's what our petition calls for, a call that has been widely heard and one that must be amplified.

As Marx himself said: the free worker who goes to the free market to sell his hide 'has to expect to get it tanned.' The same is true for the people on liberal Europe's great competitive market. Yes. Now is the time to start resisting, to start working towards another kind of Europe. Now is the time to call up the people.

Then, sociologist Jean Ziegler, interviewed by the same French publication:

Caramanlis' right-wing government, which preceded the current PASOK (socialist) government, was a machine for systematically pillaging the country's resources. As in a banana republic, Greece's resources were privatized on a large scale even while tax evasion became massive. A reliable estimate by Swiss banks puts Greek tax-evading capitals in Swiss banks alone at 36 billion euro. In addition to this, some of the largest Greek ship-owners transferred their headquarters abroad: first among them, the biggest, namely Latsis, moved its own to Versoix near Geneva.

The scandalous end-result of all this is that the onus of paying heavily for the State's quasi-bankruptcy now falls on the Greek people, on Greek workers, while the ruling classes themselves have taken the precaution of transferring almost all their fortune abroad. The Greek public debt stands at 112% of the country's GDP.

[...]

With the European tax-payers' money (in the euro-area's fifteen countries and in Switzerland), draconian conditions are imposed on the Greek people. Under the guise of rescuing the country, the resources of whose State were pillaged by the previous, right-wing government, the rescuers make them suffer a considerable social backlash (a wage freeze, cuts in social benefits, in the number of public workers) and more privatizations - which has the advantage of bailing out the big European banks that were massively involved. This actually gives Europe and its financial institutions an opportunity to dismantle the Greek social welfare even though PASOK has been voted into office on a social justice platform.

[...]

The Europeans and the ECB could have lent funds to Greece at an exceptionally low rate to enable the country to meet its obligations in a short time. Instead, Greece was forced to choose between either borrowing at very high rates or accepting the EU and IMF's plan and the economic strings attached to it. Greece was reluctant to submit to the unacceptable conditions imposed by the EU and the IMF and had been hoping to get loans by itself on the international market. All it took to prevent this was for Standard and Poors, one of the private rating agencies, to lower its rating of the Greek State's solvency. And immediately Greece was barred access to the free capital market, or only at prohibitive rates of interest (almost 20%). Greece was left with no other choice but to submit to the conditions laid down in the EU and IMF's plan.

What gives me some heart in the midst of this massive Beschiss is the fact that the loudest internationalist voices against it are all, if their names are any indication, Franco-German (or Germano-French) leftists. People who are ethnically and ethically (woo! more Greek!) a lot like me, in other words.

And this leads me to the recent regional elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen (NRW). That's the most populous of the 16 German "lands" (states), and it also happens to be where my dad's side of the family hails from. The state recently dealt rightist Angela Merkel a huge bitch-slap by electing the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) to the Bundesrat (upper house of the German parliament; the Bundestag is the lower). The Greens also doubled their percentage of the NRW vote over last time, and the socialist Left party is making its debut in the parliament thanks to this vote. All in all, it's a heavy blow to the CDU/CSU and the so-called "grand coalition", and it's gonna make it that much harder for Merkel to shove anything else filthy down Germany's collective throat.

So what motivated this heavy hitter among German lands to tack portside? The Greek crisis, and the fact that Angela Merkel decided to pillage German social services in order to make that hyper-conditional "bailout", i.e., to force the Greeks to buy all that aforementioned military hardware. Germans like their social services as much as we Canadians, go figure--and they are not at all impressed by international crapital taking a pound of flesh from those who are already skin and bones.

Of course, the major Anglo-Amurrican media (especially the bizmedia morons) deliberately choose to misinterpret the situation as merely a matter of Merkel being a weak sister, missing the overbearing crapitalist tyrant angle entirely (or worse, praising it.) All of them have one thing in common: they blame the Greeks, leaving out entirely the military-industrial angle. And no wonder: if they had to point the finger at the correct culprit, three more accusing fingers would be pointing right back at them in England and the US.

Who do you think started this damn snowball rolling, anyway? France? Germany? Gimme a break. As strong as the German economy has long been, historically, it's been sucked dry by two far bigger leeches than the so-called PIGS. The exsanguination of the German economy is the dirty little secret of London and New York during the Roaring Twenties. Bankers and stockbrokers, not Jews, were the real collective enemy of the Weimar Republic. They were, as Ike Eisenhower found out to his chagrin, also backing the collective enemy of the United States, relying on an endless weapons shopping spree to keep the economy rolling their way. But since it's hard to identify them just by looking, and they're well enough off to laugh at anyone who tries to make them wear a badge of shame, they'll never be rounded up and sent off to get a taste of their own medicine...

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...more's the pity. Because if true justice prevailed, they'd be the ones forced to eternally work off the debt they created, for slaves' wages. Or to put it more poetically, they'd be made to roll that stone endlessly up a hill, like Sisyphus in Hades, never reaching the top.

Meanwhile, Lord Byron is stirring in his grave. And the Greek Resistance is rising, phoenix-like, from its own pyre...I dare to hope. But unless we all join in, it will be as futile as the one Lord Byron tried so bravely to lead.

We are all Greeks now, or soon will be.

'Tis something, in the dearth of fame,

Though link'd among a fetter'd race,

To feel at least a patriot's shame,

Even as I sing, suffuse my face;

For what is left the poet here?

For Greeks a blush---for Greece a tear.


March 7, 2010

Colombia: Electrical capitalist paradise? NOT.

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Remember Enron? Ah, capitalist electricity...

According to my three-day headache from last week, Colombia is a better place to live than Venezuela because (a) it's capitalist, and (b) it has no electrical shortages. Well, one of these statements is true (although whether it makes Colombia better is debatable at best); the other is a bald-faced lie. And thanks to a respected Venezuelan journalist, we now know which is which...

"It is surprising--and surprising also to Colombians--that the Colombian government would offer to sell Venezuela electricity, when more than half the national territory of Colombia is practically without the service," said Venezuelan journalist José Vicente Rangel on Sunday.

During the broadcast of his show, "The Confidences", part of his program "José Vicente Today", on Televen, the journalist said that the situation is also dramatic in built-up departments and major cities, where the greater part of the population is and where there are large areas of misery and exclusion, with precarious electrical service.

Rangel added that, based on official data from the Colombian National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), more than 14 million Colombians are unable to pay the higher cost of electricity, suffer constant power cuts, and have extreme difficulty in obtaining electrical service.

"In accordance with this reality, the Colombian oligarchy offers to sell to Venezuela what it denies to its own people," said Rangel at the conclusion of the "Confidences" segment.

Translation mine.

Lest anyone get the idea that since this came from a Venezuelan government news agency's site, it is nothing but propaganda--be it known that José Vicente Rangel works for Televen, not ABN. Televen is a private station in opposition hands, albeit less rabid; its tone is more balanced and responsible and its coverage far more factual than, say, RCTV or Globovisión. In fact, of the four major oppo channels, Televen is the one that's done the best job of cleaning up its act since the coup of '02. Rangel, who for a time was in Chavecito's government as vice president, has since gone back to his original day job, and a very decent reporter he is. So you know you can take this one to the bank.

Yeah, I'm feeling kind of triumphalistic right now. Bear with me, folks, three days is a long time for your humble and obedient queen to put up with nonsense from anyone here.

(Thanks to Utpal for digging up the ABN piece. Oh, and Mikey? My offer to contact your boss still stands. Take your bullshit elsewhere. I'm not playing with you anymore.)

December 13, 2009

Headline Howler: Ha ha ha--I'm sorry, what did you say again?

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I couldn't hear you over the sound of my own laughter. I thought you said something like:

US seeks 'positive' dialogue with Venezuela

That couldn't be right. As far as I know, no one is seeking dialogue, only trying to dictate to Venezuela "the way things are supposed to be done". Dialogue, you see, implies listening-to, not just talking-at. And we all know just how good Washington is at the former as compared to the latter...

Perhaps someone at the Laredo Sun realized this, because that news article is no longer up, and the only thing you get if you clicky the linky is an error message. Which is also quite the howler when you think about it...

November 20, 2009

Crazy warmonger Chávez proved wrong again...

...by a Catholic priest from Nicaragua, no less...

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Story by Aporrea:

"President Chávez is right with his idea that we have to prepare ourselves for war," affirmed the ex-president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, at the inauguration of the Leftist Parties Encounter in Caracas, Venezuela.

During the event, organized by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), D'Escoto assured that the installation of seven US military bases in Colombia constitutes "a hand-over of an entire country's sovereignty to imperialism."

"It is cynical of Colombia to say that Chávez has a bellicose attitude. It is time to put our feet on the ground and realize what are the true intentions of the United States and their interference in the peoples of Latin America," D'Escoto said.

There is a dictatorship in the United States, and a demonstration of it is the politics of the Obama government, which promised change during the presidential campaign, which it has not brought about, according to D'Escoto, a Catholic priest and former Sandinista foreign minister from Nicaragua.

"President Obama is well aware of what will happen to him if he follows the route of 'change' he promised," D'Escoto said.

Translation mine. Link added.

Notice that D'Escoto did not say that Obama was the dictator, but if anything, the dictated-to. This is quite clear to anyone who's been following his actions--or lack of them, rather--regarding Latin America. Virtually everyone working in that sector of the State Dept. is a BushCo legacy. Their line is corporatist: Any Latin American government not willing to sell out to big business from abroad, and more specifically from the US, is to be deemed "hostile" and "bellicose".

You will not hear those words from His Barackness, of course, or even from Hillary Clinton herself, but from the lower-level flunkies--sorry, "specialists" and "spokespersons". (I almost wrote "spookspersons", and I'm sure that slip was not just of my fast typing fingers, but of a Freudian nature. Heh, heh.)

It's very tempting to think that a guy who promises hope 'n' change will actually follow through when it comes to LatAm, but I would never bet on it. Every successive US administration for over a century has done nothing there but deepen and further the capitalist exploitation. They will never get the message that it's time to start treating the locals with respect and dignity; that it's time to start talking to them as equals; that it's time to negotiate in good faith, not with the old ever-failing "carrot and stick" approach.

It's certainly not for lack of trying on the part of sovereign governments; every reasonable approach they've taken to initiating dialogue has been studiously ignored and even flat-out rebuffed, with insult added to injury. For example, Chavecito's been in office for ten years; when he began his reign, Bill Clinton was still president of the US. What did the latter do? Tried to dictate (through a State Dept. flunkie named Peter Romero, of course) that Chavecito could have nothing to do with Fidel Castro if he wanted to meet with Clinton at the White House. The 'Cito's response? A very polite, diplomatic, but unequivocal fuck-you. He called the flunkie, Romero, back and told him that he was speaking to the president of a sovereign nation called Venezuela, and that as president of Venezuela, it was his prerogative to associate with whomever he damn well pleased, and that if Bill Clinton didn't like it, too effin' bad--he was going to Havana, with or without Washington's blessing. Romero backed down, and Chavecito got to meet with both Fidel AND Bill Clinton--the latter, not through a full state visit (oh no, never that, not after meeting with Fidel) but rather, through the back door. The meeting was "informal". How informal? Clinton didn't even bother to put on a suit. Shoot, who needs that when you're "only" meeting the elected president of Venezuela--a serious and seriously popular man--for a grand total of fifteen minutes?

And if you think that's bad, remember--Dubya had no time for the 'Cito whatsoever. He did, however, have time for this chirpy chupacabra of the opposition, named María Corina Machado:

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...who got herself a full-dress state visit even though she is not and never will be a head of state anywhere in Latin America, much less in her native Venezuela. She is insanely rich, but all her dinero will never buy her an ounce of credibility. She is, at best, a media-friendly figurehead for the oligarchy. And yet Dubya saw fit to see her, but not the actual, elected president of Venezuela.

See what I mean by insult?

So now we're hearing all this blah-blah from Washington about how those seven bases really belong to Colombia, how Colombia is really in charge of them, and the US troops are "only there to help". Um, "help" with what, exactly? The War on Drugs is as abject a failure as ever, and is only growing more farcical by the year (especially when you consider how much more effective anti-drug police agents in Venezuela and Bolivia have been since Chavecito and Evo kicked the DEA the hell out.) Does anyone seriously believe that drug production and smuggling will be lessened by the presence of gringos? It's not exactly a secret that the CIA was the US's numero uno drug-running agency right around the same time that cheap, plentiful crack cocaine started devastating inner-city black communities all over the US, just twenty or so years ago. Remember that? Gary Webb wrote about it, and the only criticism I have is that he was entirely too modest in his scope. This problem was way bigger than he reported it. (I recommend this book for a fuller view of the big, ugly picture.)

Anyhow. Anyone with an eye can see that it's not about drugs at all. Colombia is, as Chavecito says, not sovereign. How can it be, when its own president is deeply enmeshed with the right-wing paramilitaries and known even to the State Dept. as an old friend of the late drug lord Pablo Escobar? Does anyone seriously believe that this cat has changed his stripes?

And another thing: Who seriously believes that the gringos are going to take orders from Colombia? US militaries take orders only from their higher-ups in Washington. They're not under the command of Bogotá. These guys are there as intermediaries between the Pentagon and the Colombian army. It will be Colombia co-operating with Washington, not the other way around.

And suddenly, it makes all the sense in the world that Chavecito's bombing bridges being used by Colombian smugglers and paramilitaries to sneak into Venezuela. It also makes sense that he's calling on soldiers and civilians alike to be vigilant against Colombian incursions on Venezuelan soil. It makes sense that he would reject "mediation" by the US in the alleged dispute with Colombia (this dispute is not with Colombia, it's with the US!) And it makes sense that he's mulling a law to make it possible for the Venezuelan military to shoot down any aircraft known to belong to Colombian drug smugglers. This isn't bellicosity; it's prudence. It's also an exercise in national self-defence and sovereignty. And it's something that no foreigner has any right to criticize, much less mischaracterize as Washington has been doing--just as much by crapaganda hacks of the Obama administration as by those of its predecessors.

The pattern is already clear in how they're treating the Honduras coup--Obama is no better than Bush where LatAm is concerned.

In other words: Damn that crazy Chavecito, he's right again!

October 9, 2009

A giant joke on the whole notion of world peace

"The Right to Live in Peace", by Víctor Jara. He wrote this song in honor of Vietnam when the war there was still raging. For speaking out for the Vietnamese, and for his own Chilean and Latin American brethren, Jara was "rewarded" by being one of the first to be rounded up and murdered by the Pinochet dictatorship in the infamous National Stadium in Santiago. The triggerman may well be brought to justice, but the real murderer--or, more accurately, murderers--got away with it.

Good morning! I guess you've all heard by now that His Barackness has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which he'll be going to Oslo to claim on December 10. And I'll bet that you, like this lovely Venezuelan lady, are scratching your head over it and going "WTF???"

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The people's ombud of Venezuela, Gabriela Ramírez, said today that she considers it a joke on human rights to present the Nobel Peace Prize to the US president, Barack Obama, because he is the head of the most warlike government on the planet.

"We can only understand this if we accept the thesis that there are two Obamas--one the president of the United States, and the other, the idyllic one, who in his speeches promotes peace," Ramírez said.

For Ramírez, the award is incomprehensible, since it concerns the most polluting and militaristic country on the planet.

"The Nobel Peace prize is for those who work for the planet, not those who expand their war powers with seven military bases in Colombia, promote excessive consumption, and pollute the environment. How can they give a prize for all that?" she asked, on a VTV program.

According to Ramírez, the lack of concrete achievements during his reign is another reason to reject the decision announced from Norway.

Obama heads a fairly young government, whose results have yet to be seen in practice, she said.

Ramírez, a social worker by training, said that if the prize were given for speeches, Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, would deserve one.

Evo proposed a climate tribunal and advocates for defense of the planet, Ramírez said.

Ramírez says that instead of accepting the prize, Obama should close the US military bases [in Latin America], order the 4th Fleet, which patrols Latin American waters, back to port, and seek pardon for genocides committed or permitted by his country in all the world.

Translation mine. Link to Evo's speech added.

I should also add that Evo kept Bolivia from crumbling in the hands of separatist terrorists planning his assassination, and a bloody civil war, from the city of Santa Cruz, with the help of wealthy local financiers. The bastards didn't get him, nor did they blow up his floating parliament on Lake Titicaca as they'd planned, but they did manage to kill his little elderly aunt, Rufina.

Meanwhile, to give you a feel for just how big and dirty a joke on world peace this cynical prize-giving really is, may I direct your attention to this fine piece, by NACLA's Roque Planas, in Venezuelanalysis?

The announcement in mid-July of the near completion of an agreement to allow the U.S. military to lease space at seven Colombian bases prompted nearly unanimous rejection from South American governments. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has called three summit meetings to discuss the U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement, but Colombia's president, Álvaro Uribe, has refused to back down. In the meantime, other South American nations have begun to arm themselves, fueling fears of an arms race in a region that has not suffered a major inter-state conflict since the end of the Chaco War in 1935.

The source of greatest tension lies on the Venezuela-Colombian border. The Uribe administration argues that it needs increased U.S. military support to suppress drug traffickers and the leftist insurgency of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Although the Colombian government has yet to bring formal allegations, the Uribe administration has insinuated that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez supports the FARC and has diverted Swedish-made rocket launchers to the group-a claim that Chávez denies.

Chávez, on the other hand, maintains that the U.S. government was involved in a 2002 coup to overthrow him and claims that the increased U.S. military presence constitutes a national security threat to Venezuela. Chávez recently announced that the Venezuelan government had been awarded over $2 billion in financing from the Russian government to purchase tanks and an anti-aircraft missile system.

Venezuela is not the only country investing in its military. The Brazilian government is currently negotiating the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets in a deal with French company Dassault that could be worth up to $7 billion. Three other companies, including Boeing, made unsuccessful offers.

The Bolivian government has also negotiated a much smaller deal with Russia for $100 million to finance unspecified purchases of military equipment, as well as a $30 million presidential plane. The Bolivian government purchased the current presidential plane back in the 1970s.

As if determined to rekindle memories of the Cold War, the Russian military is even going to "help Havana modernize and train its military," according to a recent report from the Miami Herald.

Linkage as in original.

It bears saying that all this "alarming" arming comes not as part of some nefarious terror plot against the people of Latin America, nor is it a declaration of war against those in the United States. It comes as a direct response to the military forces the US has placed in Colombia--seven of them to make up for the closure of the US base at Manta, Ecuador. (President Rafael Correa, alias El Ecuadorable, refused to renew the concession, which ran out this year.)

It also comes in response to other alarming developments, such as this:

The United States will reactivate a radar base and finance the construction of a naval base in Costa Rica, as part of a plan rejected today [October 8,2009] in the region as a menace to sovereignty and security.

The subcommander of US-Southcom, Paul Trivelli, announced the decision to return to operation a modern radar base in the Costa Rican province of Guanacaste, with the supposed objective of combatting drug trafficking.

According to Trivelli, the base functioned there until 1995, when it was closed after several years of operation.

The powerful radar sat on top of Cerro Azul de Nandayure, a site difficult to access, protected 24 hours a day by the police.

In an interview with the newspaper La Nación, Trivelli also announced the investment of $15 million in a naval base already being constructed in the Caldera region, Puntarenas province. There, as well, a school for coast-guard officers is in operation.

Although the Southcom representative claims that these actions are part of the War on Drugs, the announcement caused concern over the renewed interest of Washington in placing more military bases in the region.

Translation mine.

This is a particular concern for Costa Rica, since that country abolished its own armed forces six decades ago, in stark contrast to others in the region, in order to prevent war and military dictatorship from ever taking hold in what was, for the longest time, Central America's most stable and peaceable democracy.

Now, it seems, Costa Rica is defenceless, and since it needs the money (why else has it become such a hotspot for sex tourism?), it's not in any position to "Just Say No" to the War on Latin America Drugs. Instead, it's playing host to something that can only be injurious to its security and sovereignty in the long run (as well as providing heaven only knows how many potential new gringo customers for the local underage prostitution rings.)

The war in Iraq is far from over, and the war in Afghanistan is being ramped up, not wound down. And for this, among many other things, a Nobel Peace Prize has been announced today.

No, I don't understand it either.

PS: El Duderino shares my sentiments, I see.

PPS: So does El Gaviero.

PPPS: Michael Moore has weighed in. Go read! An excellent, timely reminder of what has to be done to earn the prize for realz.

PPPPS: Avaaz has a petition going. Just sign here.

October 8, 2009

An important reminder of why the IMF is not to be trusted. ANYWHERE.

The Take, by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, in its entirety.

While Argentina's politicians and public officials go on sucking donkey balls, its ordinary working people are showing us a new way--how to fire the boss (and the IMF) and still make enough to live on and prosper.

June 13, 2009

Well, it worked for Fidel...

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"I pray to the Blessed St. Progress and the Sacred Free-Trade Agreement that the US and the official press will intercede for my horrible sins..."

"Don't worry, my chosen son, official history will absolve you!"

May 24, 2009

One more reason to despise Microsoft

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...as if we all needed one.

Microsoft, the informatic giant founded by Bill Gates, has decided suddenly to cancel its Messenger service to those countries against which the United States maintains a commercial embargo.

Among those affected are Cuba, Iran and North Korea, who have all openly rejected the policies of the US. Also included are Syria and Sudan.

Right now, all cybernauts of those countries trying to log on to the popular Windows program have begun to receive the error 810003c1, which prevents them from going online in Messenger.

"Microsoft has cut Windows Live Messenger IM for all users in countries embargoed by the United States. Microsoft will no longer be offering service for Windows Live in your country," reads the support page in Windows live when anyone looks up the error in question.

Translation mine.

Fortunately, there's an easy way around this: Simply change your settings so that it says you're not in an embargoed country, such as Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria or Sudan. Tell them you're a Canadian. Problem fixed--embargo lifted!

Being a Mac user, however, I prefer to just go on avoiding them and all their endless bugs-disguised-as-features...and feeling damned smug about it.

May 20, 2009

ALBA to get another joiner?

Could be...could be El Salvador!

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Awwwww...don't they look cute together, Chavecito and Mauricio Funes, getting along so nicely? Looks like they might soon get along a whole lot MORE nicely, if this is any indication...

Mauricio Funes, the president-elect of El Salvador, made a formal visit to Venezuela to meet with President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday. In a meeting that lasted more than five hours, the two leaders discussed deepening cooperation between the two countries, especially regarding oil.

[...]

After the meeting, the two leaders announced the creation of a bilateral commission between the two countries to develop projects of cooperation in commerce, energy, and other economic sectors, and social exchange.

Funes said his government will prioritize the poor, "the vulnerable, the destitute... those without voice... who need the new government to represent them," and declared that his country will continue to receive Venezuela's cooperation to develop health programs and social projects.

"...will continue to receive Venezuela's cooperation to develop health programs and social projects."

You mean they're receiving it ALREADY? Holy fucking shit, the Axis of Evo is already at work in Central America...HELPING CENTRAL AMERICANS! Oh, the HORROR!

But wait, it gets even scarier...

Another key point of discussion was oil, where the two leaders discussed the possibility of the El Salvadoran state importing it, rather than mayors.

In April 2006 the Venezuelan government signed an agreement with the Inter-Municipal Association of Energy for El Salvador (ENEPASA), an association of 20 FMLN mayors, to start a joint company which would provide oil cheaply to El Salvador. Now, Funes said El Salvador will consider joining the Petrocaribe program through which Venezuela provides oil at below market prices to participating Caribbean countries.

Funes also raised the idea of Venezuela buying more of its raw materials. "Venezuela buys a good part of its agricultural raw materials from Colombia and could instead buy it from El Salvador," he said.

Holy effin' crap, they also have an OIL FOR FOOD PROGRAM! Ye Gods and little fishes, that's TRADE! What else have they got going on?

To Chavez, Funes said, "I passionately salute this sentiment of solidarity that you represent and which for the Salvadoran situation has meant important support in two fundamental areas. First, with petroleum, to the extent that we are a country, as are many in Central America, which doesn't have an essential resource on which to build our economy, like petroleum. Secondly, with health aid, the cooperation that the noble people of Venezuela have given us through [the free eye treatment program] Mission Milagro."

Funes said he was visiting Venezuela to "encourage [Chavez] to continue with this spirit of solidarity because only solidarity and the spirit of Latin American unity that is behind it, is going to make the transformation of our nations possible."

Frackin' holy mackerel! SOLIDARITY! Free eye care! Why, I bet the Cubans are in on that. That's COMMUNISM! Holy shit, the Reds have eaten Central America, one eyeball at a time! And this under the nose of Gringolandia. OH NOES!!!

Okay, time to quit hyperventilating. All this co-operation happens also to include somebody else. Guess who? Back to the top of the Venezuelanalysis piece we go...

Funes's critics have said his presidency will be heavily influenced by Venezuela, while Funes has emphasized that "integration with Central America and strengthening relations with the United States will be the priority of our foreign policy."

Gasp. You mean they plan on getting along with the gringos AND the socialistas? And worse, they plan on integrating with their fellow Central Americans (and by extension, Latin Americans)? Are such things even possible?

Well hell YES, they ARE. Provided, of course, that the State Dept. doesn't put its foot in it and fuck things up. Didja hear that, spooks? I'm talking to you directly now. I said don't fuck it up. If Central America can get along with Cuba and Venezuela, you can bloody well suck it up and admit that you've had things very wrong for the last fifty years (and more). It's high time you got it right--Venezuela and El Salvador are definitely trying to do just that. Time to do with them what they're doing with each other--TALK.

And leave the gunboats at home from now on, capisce?

May 12, 2009

An open letter to the US State Department

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Hello, humorless suits...

A little birdie told me today that you've been reading this site--specifically, this entry. I'm not sure exactly what about it intrigued you enough that you took the time, but hey...thanks for taking the time. It's not every day that government agents read this humble blog.

Or is it? Maybe, from now on, it will be; I can only hope.

Now, why would I hope that the traditional enemies of democracy, the sponsors, mentors and trainers of death squads, would stick around here and read stuff I wrote and/or translated? One would think I might be freaked out to learn that you spooks had been here.

Not a chance.

Actually, I've been spoiling for a scrap with you guys. I was bullied as a kid, and now that I'm all growed up, I've decided to stand up for the underdogs, the way no one on the playground stood up for me when I needed it most. So, bullyboys, consider this your long-overdue punching-out.

Since so many people who have a major beef with you speak Spanish, and you seem to be utterly deaf to everything they say (even when they learn enough English to say "Yankee go home"), I've been diligently translating their news in the hope that someone pays attention and takes it to heart. And yes, I hope that someone is YOU.

You see, dear faceless suits and earpieces, I don't think you have any idea how bad you people look to the rest of the world. Especially Latin America. Oh sure, there are a few oligarchs, sell-outs, and paid-off local bottom-feeders who will still flatter you and fawn on you, and take your smelly money and your crappy "advice" on how to run their countries and their economies. They'll wave your flags at their astroturf demonstrations, and they'll go out of their way to eat your burgers and buy your overpriced crap. But in case you haven't noticed, they've lost a lot of ground among their own. Except for Peru, Colombia, Panama and Mexico, they're not in power. Everyone else has a more-or-less progressive government. There's a reason for that.

And no, it's not "anti-Americanism".

It's pro-Americanism.

Permit me to explain.

First of all, you people are NOT the only Americans. The Americas stretch all the way from our Canadian Arctic Circle to the ice-cold Argentine toe of Tierra del Fuego. Everyone from here to there is an American. Even the Cubans.

Secondly, all these Americans have a right to freely elect their own sovereign governments. Whether you people like those governments is immaterial; you don't get to decide anymore to replace them on a whim. Oh sure, for a while there you did...but those days are over. Got that? They're over. Finished. Kaputt.

(And yes, even the Cubans elect their representatives. They have elections; they just don't have multiple parties, and they don't have right-wing parties as a result, either. Maybe you don't like that. But whether you like it or not, I think it's safe to say that the Cubans prefer it to the alternative. Even your own former generals have admitted as much.)

Thirdly, the weak "democracy" you tried to peddle down there when your beloved military dictatorships failed hasn't worked out either. It was fraught with corruption (which I'm sure was to your benefit) and it left them in insupportable and often odious debt to the IMF, the World Bank and other "development" banks which were nothing more than ATMs for you, and cash vacuums for the people of LatAm. Please don't pretend that you don't know what I mean by that. Anyone can see by how rapidly LatAm grew poorer as the US grew richer that there was a two-way money pipeline operating, and the larger pipe of the two ran south-to-north.

Now that the various strong democracies are putting some serious muscle into turning off the valve and keeping more of their hard-earned dinero at home, diverting it into domestic channels instead of those of international capital, I can hear you guys crying foul. Oh sure, you do it in polite code. Sometimes you do it as yourselves. Sometimes you do it in the guise of media columnists (fifth columnists?) and "journalists" (note the quotation marks; they are there for a reason.) But no matter what way you do it, I know what you're saying. It's plain enough: you label anyone who doesn't keep the valve all the way open as a "dictator", or you claim that they have an "anti-freedom" agenda. You do this even when it's frankly ludicrous. It doesn't matter to you if it's true, as long as the US sheeple believe it to be true.

And yes, I'm well aware of the CIA's ongoing media project. It never really ended. Its job is to "influence" or "shape" public opinion--in favor of whatever the corporate sector and you guys decide between you is in your collective interest. Thus, for a couple of decades there, we got a lot of very strange editorials and opinion pieces proclaiming that brutal military dictators had "saved" Latin America from the communist boogyman, with a blithe glossing-over of the fact that democracy had also died there, in an apparent case of "collateral damage". Perhaps you guys mistook democracy for another nasty-wasty commie? It's an easy mistake to make.

(By the way, I'm also quite certain the CIA reads this blog. I get an inordinate number of hits from Virginia, and an awful lot of seriously stupid, intentionally misleading comments from people whose IPs trace back to there, too. Hi and a big fat one-finger salute to all you folks in Langley, and your Miami station too!)

In the end, though, all your efforts to subvert these countries' democracy--be it through outright dictatorship or the buying and rigging of elections, all the gambits you used have failed. There's only so much moral, intellectual and literal bankruptcy a country can take, and all those "little" countries (some of them as big as Brazil or Argentina) have either reached their limits or are approaching them now. Sooner or later, they were bound to turn their backs on you, the better to turn their faces back toward their own people.

Now they're looking at their own and trying to figure out how to do right by them. Their first priority is not what you think in Washington, or what your CIA pals think in Miami--it's what they themselves think. They might still be willing to have diplomatic relations with you, but this time around, they want it to be a two-way street, with you people listening respectfully for a change and KEEPING YOUR HANDS THE HELL OFF. That's not anti-you, it's pro-THEM. Pro-American, in the most catholic sense of the word.

I prefer not to take any side but that of peace and friendship. It makes for better relations all around. But yeah, if it's a matter of picking sides between them and you, guess what? This former bullied child is gonna stick up for the underdogs. They need to know that someone in the Northern Hemisphere, someone not a native speaker of Spanish (but willing to learn, in fact willing to teach herself) will stand with them. They don't get a lot of solidarity from gringos, but perhaps this Canuck will do. After all, our country has been treated like your backyard, too, and a lot of us are just as angry and resentful at the way you've undermined and subverted us. Even as I write this, I'm seeing the way efforts are being made to privatize our public educational and healthcare systems, all in the name of compliance with NAFTA. Those systems were hard-fought-for in the 1950s by a democratic, elected socialist named Tommy Douglas, who faced ugly anticommunist hysteria back then, too. So, yeah, I can totally relate to the Latin Americans. And if they want to be socialist, I think they should be free to decide it without your interference, however subtle, sneaky, subversive and underhanded.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you learned something. And I hope it makes you deeply doubt yourselves.

April 18, 2009

Summit coverage gets Teh Stoopid

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Oh, let's face it...there ain't NO army of darkness cuter than the Itteh Bitteh Black Kitteh Committeh.

D'you suppose Basement Cat let loose her evil minions at the recent OAS summit? The media probably think so. Or at the very least, they think it's gonna be all Chavecito, all the time (TIME certainly seems to, when not busy STILL promoting the tired old "good left/bad left" dichotomy of BushCo), or all Cuba all the time (various snooze media).

Yep, they've all got Teh Stoopid, and they're giving us the complete idiot's version, banking that we won't know the difference between that and actual, insightful coverage. So what's new? This is why the mainstream media are dying, kiddies--they can't cover anything half decently. They cut out in-depth feature reporting a long time ago, and stuck all the money into fancy real estate instead. To make up for the lack of reporting, they've substituted a toxic blend of gossip and crapaganda, and reaped a harvest of dummies. (I hope Obama's next big move will be to get the CIA out of the news business. They've been in there for way too long already.)

Someone please wake me up when one of them has anything to say that shows they've finally quit spinning, and seriously get what's going on. Like, say, Ben Dangl does.

And in the meantime, enjoy some pics that are sure to make a lot of right-wing media heads explode from the sheer effort of trying to figure out what was really going on.

April 14, 2009

Quotable: George Monbiot on the end of corporate impunity

"For two centuries corporations and governments from the rich world have treated the people they encounter overseas as nothing but obstacles to the extraction of resources, who -- when they could not be enslaved to assist that work -- had to be disposed of as expeditiously as possible: by bribery, deception, terror or massacre. The richer the resources a land possesses, the more viciously its inhabitants are treated. Now these inconvenient people might begin to be seen as human beings."

--George Monbiot, "Shell: Corporate impunity goes on trial"

March 18, 2009

Well. That didn't take long!

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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.

January 3, 2009

Evo to US: Coercion doesn't work anymore, suckaz!

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I do believe this constitutes a flip-o-the-bird to someone at DEA headquarters in Washington, does it not?

The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, assured that the first textile exports from his country to Venezuela will be set for before January 15.

[...]

"Yesterday I spoke with officials of the government of Venezuela, and at latest, before the 15th of this month, the first bundles of textiles will be leaving Bolivia," said Morales in a statement made in Cochabamba.

The Bolivian leader referred to deals which Bolivian exporters made with Venezuelan businesses to the tune of 47 million dollars at a meeting held in November, organized by the executive of La Paz.

The Morales government intends to make the Venezuelan market an option for Bolivian exporters, since the United States has suspended import preferences for Bolivia under the ATPDEA.

[...]

Morales congratulated the initiative of Mercosur in absorbing, along with Venezuela, the Bolivian exports which the ATPDEA covered up till last December 15, as he announced at a recent Mercosur summit in Brazil.

"When there are problems with the US government, with co-operation or the market, other countries come to receive us," said Morales.

Translation mine.

Yup, it IS a fuck-you to the DEA. Heh heh.

And also proof that despite its efforts to monopolize Latin America on other fronts, the Land of WallyWorld has less and less to say there every day now.

December 30, 2008

Dear Big Publishing: You suck!

And do you know why? Salon.com does:

Thanks to conglomeration and corporate distribution models, some of publishing's biggest houses were laid very low by the current stock market collapse. And scary holiday book sales figures compounded the industry's woes, with recent news of a 20 percent drop in sales in October from last year's book market. Even worse, Nielsen Book Scan reported a 6.6 percent drop in unit sales during early December. Not even the holiday season could bolster book sales.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was particularly vulnerable to the Wall Street crash. Since the turn of the 21st century, investors have struggled to spin gold out of the different companies that now make up the conglomerate. In 2001, Vivendi Universal bought Houghton Mifflin (which has been publishing literary and educational books since the late 1800s), but then sold it to private equity firms a year later. In 2006, an Irish firm bought Houghton Mifflin; within a year, they had merged with one of Houghton Mifflin's largest rivals, Harcourt. The publisher's parent company is now saddled with billions in debt.

"There were hedge fund guys with no background in publishing buying up publishing houses," says André Schiffrin, founder of the New Press and author of "The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read." He explains that corporate owners of major publishing houses expected impossible 15 to 20 percent profit margins in an industry with traditional margins of 3 to 4 percent. "They were part of that whole feeling that you could make money by buying and selling companies, rather than by selling books. At some point it comes to a dead end."

Free us, oh, please FREE us from the "free market"!

November 27, 2008

Outrage, please. We need outrage NOW!

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While all the whore media scream and shout about Venezuela and Russia's joint naval exercises (and remain curiously mum about the role that Dubya's revival of the Fourth Fleet plays in it all), this strange little item on Peru happened to cross my line of sight:

Russian President Dimitry Medvedev agreed Monday to send technicians to train Peru's military to repair Russian-made helicopters.

Medvedev and Peru President Alan Garcia announced the program after a weekend summit of Pacific Rim leaders in Peru's capital.

The technicians will work in military hangars in Lima and could lend their services to nearby countries that have Russian choppers, according to Peruvian Defense Minister Antero Flores-Araoz.

A large part of Peru's helicopter fleet was purchased from Russia in the 1970s by Peru's military government. Peru previously sent helicopters to Russia for maintenance.

The defense minister said the two sides still have to work out the cost, financing and launch date for the program.

It digresses a bit with a predictable mention (screech! SCREECH!!!) of Chavecito and the Russian navy, before segue-ing (or non-sequitur-ing) into this odd passage:

Flores-Araoz said Peru is not and has never considered hosting a U.S. military base on its territory. The U.S. lease on the Manta air base in Ecuador, its only base in South America, expires in 2009.

Now why would he say that? Strange. (Perhaps Colombia would also like to enlighten us, since its dinky little president was also at the APEC summit, cadging "free" trade treaties with Canada--uninvited.)

Yo, whore media? Could we have some outrage here, please? A little monkey-screeching and feces-flinging and tossing of the T-word and the D-word would be in order, yes? Especially since Alan García is a lot closer to actually being a tyrant and/or dictator on his best day than Chavecito is on his worst. Don't you think?

(Muchas gracias to BoRev for the linky.)

November 25, 2008

Who is Peter Schiff, and why is he pwning all these people?

He's an economist who knows his onions, and he's pwning them because they're all fucking idiots. Duh.

November 23, 2008

We now have "free" trade with Colombia. How the hell did THAT happen?

From Aporrea, here's one for the scratch-yer-head-till-it-hurts files:

Even though Colombia is not a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum, its president, Alvaro Uribe, travelled to Peru to meet with a group of leaders from various parts of the world and to take advantage of the opportunity to establish contacts with China, Japan, Canada and others, with the objective of increasing trade.

Uribe arrived in Lima on Friday afternoon and a few hours later signed a free-trade agreement with Canada, his country's ninth. This Saturday, he signed an agreement to promote and protect investments with China.

According to Uribe, the agreement with Canada will generate some 120,000 agricultural jobs and 97% of Colombian exports will have free access to that North American nation.

Translation mine.

Fuck, shit, shuck fit.

How the hell did this happen? El Narco wasn't even invited, yet he got in AND wangled a free-trade agreement with my home and native land--most of whose citizens don't want free trade, let alone with a narco-terror state like the current, unhappy Colombia. (We get a lot of imports from there already--most of them refugees! In fact, before Harpo, Colombia was our #1 source of refugee claimants.)

Now, don't get me wrong. We don't want "free" trade with anyone, but we would love fair trade. I'm sure Colombia, the part of it that has no truck with Uribe, has something to offer us besides cheap bananas, flowers grown with dangerous chemicals, and former narcoterrorist paramilitaries looking to avoid getting killed by their ex-bosses (who, go figure, are mighty close to El Narco).

But here's the rub: We want to see Colombia get its house in order before we do business with it, because we don't believe doing business with it is enough to put said house in order. Why is it so hard for certain people to comprehend this? Why do they keep pushing for an agreement which would only deepen a current disaster?

"No" is the same word in English and Spanish, and spelled slightly differently, but pronounced the same, in French. So why can't our respective so-called leaders seem to hear it when we're all screaming it at the top of our respective lungs?

November 4, 2008

Lech Walesa: Sad sell-out still slamming socialism

Just after the Berlin Wall fell, I wondered what would become of Poland, and now I know the answer: NOTHING GOOD. The country sure has gone to hell in a capitalist handbasket. It has all the hallmarks to go with it, from a pair of fascist twins who were, until recently, in power, to a decline in marriage and fertility rates (and this in spite of the fascist twins so staunchly opposing abortion, birth control, homosexuality and all the other "traditional" enemies of family life.) The promises of democracy have only partly been kept; there are still a slew of human-rights problems, including (though the State Dept. report doesn't mention it) CIA torture centres. Polish women, finding their rights trampled at home (where joblessness is also still a major problem), are seeking work abroad, mainly in Sweden and the British Isles. Shit, the authorities there don't even care if a woman goes blind as a result of pregnancy. Presumably God and the Free Market will look after her betwixt themselves.

Ironically, in the early post-communist days, it looked as if this massive fuck-up wouldn't have happened. Even though the Catholic church immediately pushed for a strict anti-abortion law, the majority of Poles were against it. For that matter, they were against a lot of the so-called "free market reforms", too. But all of this got pushed down their collective throats, and incredibly, there has not been a revolt.

And for the human embodiment of what a mess this acceptance of the unacceptable has made of Poland, one need only look at what happened to the man who was once a national hero, the champion of freedom in Poland...Lech Walesa. He, too, is someone who struck all the wrong compromises at all the crucial moments.

I remember the fuss that was made about Walesa and his union federation, Solidarity, in the early 1980s. A union that was, in its own words, all about "socialism, yes--its distortions, no"--behind the Iron Curtain? Unthinkable. And yet, there it was. It was a new, organically evolved, hybrid form of socialism, one that embraced religion rather than dismissing it as doctrinaire Marxists do (as the Opiate of the Masses.) It wanted, among other things, a new, more open relationship between Poland and the West. And yet, it was not inherently a right-wing, capitalist movement. It was simply a broad-based movement, incorporating political tendencies from all across the spectrum, for greater workers' freedom--or so it began.

It did not remain what it was at the outset.

Perhaps it was inevitable that this would happen. Even in its first year, Solidarity was an unstable coalition, vocal about its goals but less definite about how to attain them. Colin Barker, writing for International Socialism, gives us an insight:

Everyone looked to Solidarity for a lead. This was a dilemma for a movement that did not aspire to power. The union leaders' response was to seek to stem the onward march of their own side.

In March a massive crisis erupted in the city of Bydgoszcz. Solidarity members occupying an office went to the local prefecture to negotiate with party representatives. A couple of hundred police invaded the room and systematically beat up the Solidarity men, among them a national leader of the union, Jan Rulewski. This was the first time open force had been used against the union. Half a million workers across the whole Bydgoszcz area erupted into strike. By the time a national delegate meeting, 300-strong, was held on 23 March, the pressure coming from the grassroots for national action was overwhelming. A highly successful national four-hour strike was accompanied by preparations for an unlimited general strike which would begin on 31 March if the union's demands were not met.

The atmosphere in Poland was electric, as both sides prepared for a decisive confrontation. Strike headquarters were designated in the largest factories in each region, fortified with barricade materials.

The premier, Jaruzelski, turned to the church for support. Direct pressure was applied to Lech Walesa through an hour's private meeting with the cardinal, and at the last moment Walesa appeared on TV to announce the strike was called off.

The general strike's sudden cancellation was a serious setback, throwing the union back on itself. The aftermath saw a partial demobilisation of the membership. For more than three months there were no strikes. Attendance at union gatherings declined.

The economic crisis deepened in the spring and summer of 1981. The supply of everyday goods was steadily worsening. Meat rations were cut, and soap, detergent, toilet paper were all in short supply. The crisis provoked a new eruption of working class protest. The response of the leadership was cool and sometimes hostile. When the regime alleged that Solidarity was sabotaging the economy, the leadership called for a two-month moratorium on strikes. At one point in late September two thirds of Poland's provinces were affected by strikes. These upsurges from below remained fragmented and incoherent, isolated from each other. No section of the leadership attempted to link them together, showing how they might be combined in a new assault on the regime. Eventually, from mid- November, the strike wave died down--the membership was increasingly exhausted, turning away in disappointment from the union.

Was Lech Walesa a strong leader, as the press here liked to lionize him as being? I don't get that impression, reading this. The willingness to basically fall down and compromise was visible in him from the start--and he did this even as the Solidarity membership was chomping at the bit! So he ended up losing credibility and support, right at the moments when he could have been doing his damnedest to justify the immense faith the Polish people had in him at first. He choked, he coughed, he fell down. And so, in the end, did Solidarity, though it would spend the next several years going up and down like a malaria victim's fever chart.

I admit I wasn't much interested in Solidarity's ups and downs. I was in my teens at the time; I'm Canadian and of German, not Polish, descent. The intricacies and subtleties of it were lost to me, because I couldn't speak the language. I knew SOMETHING significant was happening, because that's what the media all said it was, but they did not explain to me or anyone what the hell was so all-fired significant about it, beyond the fact that it was, in their eyes anyway, a pure revolt against communism. And also that there was a big counter-coup going on at the institutional level; Reader's Digest pointed the finger at the Polish authorities when a popular priest, Jerzy Popieluszko, was brutally murdered. Father Jerzy, or "Jurek" as his friends called him, was the chaplain to Solidarity members at the Warsaw steelworks. He was beaten unconscious, thrown in the trunk of a car belonging to the secret police, and not seen again. Ten days later his body was pulled from a reservoir, bound, gagged, and showing signs of the most horrific tortures imaginable.

Except for these moments of high drama, the Polish situation remained opaque to me. Only the grossest simplifications, as pushed by the mainstream media, filtered through to my fickle, preoccupied adolescent and post-adolescent consciousness. All I heard was a steady refrain of "capitalism good, socialism-which-is-really-communism bad". After nearly three decades of being unable to make real sense of things in Poland, I'm on a steep learning curve here. I feel today that I have been misled and betrayed by the media, and so do a great many Poles, no doubt.

What's obvious now, is that everyone started out having high expectations of Solidarity, and that everyone except a power-mad few ended up with nothing real to show for all the work and all the tears. Naomi Klein, in The Shock Doctrine, documents how Poland's democratic hopes were hijacked by neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism both; her work explained the inexplicable to me better than anyone else's could.

Which brings us back to Lech Walesa. This is the man who fell down, REPEATEDLY, on the job of leading Poland out of--no, not communism (which has never truly existed, outside of a few Israeli kibbutzim), but state capitalism, and into what should have been (but never did become) socialist democracy. He lost an election to a former communist, which should tell you something about him. And he is now presuming to pronounce on the situation in Venezuela. Get a load of it:

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa on Monday criticized Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's left-wing brand of leadership.

"The ideas of the ruling team (in Venezuela) are very bad ideas," Walesa said in a television interview.

"I am the best proof that communism fell because it was a bad system," Walesa said. "And introducing it there (in Venezuela) is the biggest mistake of the region."

Uh, Lech? He's not a communist, and Venezuela's new system is most emphatically NOT communism. The PCV, the actual communist party of Venezuela, is not the PSUV, which is the United Socialist Party of Venezuela--the party of Chavecito--although, in all elections since 1998, the PCV has supported Chávez or candidates associated with him. But they would be the first to admit that communism--real communism, not state capitalism--has not happened under him, even as they hope he will help them to make it happen.

After all this time, Lech, you still don't understand the difference between communism and socialism, let alone between two leftist parties in a South American country that was rising up against neoliberalism before that shit even hit yours? I pity you, man. You're not the "best proof" of anything, other than that it doesn't pay to sell out.

And boy, did you ever. First to the Polish secret police, then to the capitalists. Helluva a track record you got there, Lech. That makes you a uniquely UNqualified man to comment on the political situation in Venezuela, though happily (or unhappily, for your credibility), you are still not persona non grata there.

Now, a few corrective words about Venezuela. Or rather, a few pictures. This is how pure capitalism went down in that country, a few months before the Berlin Wall fell:

...and that's how Chavecito got democratically elected to power. It was a rejection of the neoliberal model that had been antidemocratically imposed from above and without, NOT a rejection of democracy. In fact, this was all about sweeping capitalism away so real democracy could take hold.

That, in a nutshell, is why things like this ring so hollow and preposterous to those who are truly informed:

Walesa, 65, dropped plans to attend a pro-democracy forum this week organized by anti-Chavez university students in Venezuela after the country's authorities said they could not guarantee his security.

Walesa took it as a sign that he was not welcome there.

"They have elections coming up there and some people are afraid of me," Walesa said, noting that his voice "counts there" because many opposition members are his friends and extended the invitation to him.

I notice the article (extremely vague, superficial, and thus, poorly written) doesn't name those "many opposition members" who are Walesa's "friends". I have my own suspicions as to who they are, though. A man who is capable of selling out to not one, but two brands of spooks, is entirely capable of being seduced by a third contingent. No doubt they thought they'd scored a propaganda coup by getting a Nobel Peace Prize winner on side, but that's not saying much; Henry Kissinger is one too, and what the hell did that man ever do in the name of peace?

My advice to Lech Walesa is to go right ahead to Venezuela and give his little talkie, even if they can't guarantee him the security he wants. Hell, since he's so into neoliberalism now and all, he can just bring his own little private army, or his hosts can supply one (made in the USA, like Blackwater) if they really want him there. After all, isn't privatization of public services what they're all about? They're rich enough, God knows; let them pay for it out of their own deep pockets. Why so stingy, guys? Why are you expecting the Venezuelan government, the same one you hate so much, to do it all for you? Isn't that SOCIALISM?

October 23, 2008

Once more, Chavecito is my hero

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

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

[...]

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

Translation mine.

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

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

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

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

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

October 17, 2008

Look who's buttering up Barack Obama

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

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

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

October 14, 2008

Why economic globalization really, REALLY stinks

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

October 10, 2008

They call this "progress"?

che-murder.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Well, gee. You tell me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 9, 2008

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

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

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

October 4, 2008

Money as Debt

Okay, class, here's your weekend assignment:

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

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

(Thanks to Corey for the video link!)

August 21, 2008

Who writes these dumbass editorials?

More tired old "21st century socialism looks just like 20th", courtesy the Financial Times.

More tired old "Chavez is a dictator", courtesy the Richmond Times Dispatch.

And in the grand (tired) old tradition of unsigned editorials, the authors are not named (to protect the guilty, of course.) It would be nice to know, for a change, to whom one must hand back their lying ass. Accountability is such a buzzword these days, so why not there?

Well, at least one truly outstanding Brit twit has the courage to put his name and his tired, defeated old mug at the top of his even more tired, defeated old stupidities at the UK Telegraph. He maunders on about how marriage has "crumbled" since 1979 (really? then why all the married couples, including my parents, who are still together for over 40 years now?) He also rambles about the misleadingness of the Gini coefficient, which is actually rather reliable. He blathers on about how poverty is "elective" and based on "dependency" (name one person outside a monastery who has freely chosen poverty, sir). Oh yeah, and he calls Venezuela "Marxist", as though Simon Bolivar were just some equestrian statue covered with pigeon droppings. Could it possibly get more tired and derivative?

This old dobbin is just ripe for the glue factory; his carcass is hanging by a thread, but it's still a lot more coherent and less crumbly than his brittle arguments about how the rich lift up the rest of us, just by virtue of their "wealth creation". Gee, haven't thirty-odd years of fascist-imposed neoliberalism proved as much?

But hey, let's give him the No Bull Please Prize for this pronouncement:

Continue reading "Who writes these dumbass editorials?" »

August 19, 2008

Yoo-hoo, lamestream media...

...I think you dropped something. Namely, all mention of a tyrannical Latin American president--in PERU!

In view of the protests of 60 ethnic groups from the Amazonian jungle against official decrees, the Peruvian government declared three provinces and one municipality in state of emergency on Monday.

According to a resolution published in the official journal El Peruano, the state of emergency was declared to keep the peace after at least nine people were injured during some encounters between the police and the natives.

The measure provides the suspension of constitutional rights which prevents the exercise of certain rights like the freedom of assembly and movement, and gives the police authority to arrest and carry out raids without a warrant.

The state of emergency comprises the provinces of Bagua and Utcubamba, the north of the Amazon and Datem del Marañon, Loreto in the west, and the municipality of Echarate in the southern region of Cuzco.

Well, looky there. Alan Garcia ruling by decree--and not within limitations of constitutionality and basic human decency like Chavecito, either. He's tyrannizing over the indigenous, in particular.

Now: For the entire last 18 months, when Chavecito had power to legislate by decree, there was not a single state of emergency in Venezuela, despite lashings of violence from the opposition which could, legitimately, have resulted in a crackdown. Contrast that with the situation in Peru, where people routinely get their heads busted open for simply protesting!

But will the major media mention it, let alone in the context of tyranny in Peru, the way they often do Chavecito, who has not a scrap of actual tyranny to his name? Noooooo. At most, they only cite this approvingly as an example of his "law and order" program at work. (And get this: they make out like it's the "Indians" who are at fault.) No mention of the suppression of constitutionality. Not a peep from Andres Oppenheimer, Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Simon Romero or any other crapaganda-cranker about tyranny. Couldn't be because Peru's tyrant, like Colombia's, passes muster with Big Crapital, while Venezuela's democrat doesn't...could it?

Nahhhhhhhh...of course not.

August 14, 2008

Alan fiddles while Pisco burns

Alan Garcia--dancing, I think

Alan Garcia finally takes his doctor's advice and starts his new aerobics program. Maybe he'll finally lose some of that weight.

Crikey, what is up with the president of Peru? Dancing around like a marionette while Pisco is still in such rough shape? And the LatAm president who's actually done something helpful there is not himself but evil, wicked Chavecito--who, if Reuters says true (and you can never be too sure with English-language wires these days), is only doing it to prop up the chances of his Peruvian pal, Ollanta Humala?

At this rate, the Peruvians probably wish they had voted for Ollanta in the first place. At least he wouldn't look so ridiculous trying to dance.

August 11, 2008

Letters from the Evil Dead

Strange things dead paramilitaries write...and stranger things they reveal. From Aporrea, a little note that will make you believe that there IS life after death, especially for crime and scandal in Colombia:

The ex-colonel of Colombian police, Danilo Gonzalez, who was assassinated in 2004, ordered the murder of former presidential candidaate Alvaro Gomez Hurtado, and the kidnapping of Venezuelan businessman Richard Boulton.

This, according to a letter from the late paramilitary chief Carlos Castaño, which was revealed today.

The letter from Castaño, also killed four years ago, and published by the weekly magazine Semana, also accuses Colonel Gonzalez of planning the kidnap of architect Juan Carlos Gaviria, brother of the former Colombian president and ex-secretary of the Organization of American States, Cesar Gaviria.

Continue reading "Letters from the Evil Dead" »

July 26, 2008

I could have told them so, but would they listen?

Whoa--is the sky falling, or what? The Economist has finally gotten (partway) off its "rah rah, America" kick and published a (somewhat) honest assessment of what's going on in the States. And a thing of beauty it is, too:

One source of angst is the sorry state of American capitalism (see article). The "Washington consensus" told the world that open markets and deregulation would solve its problems. Yet American house prices are falling faster than during the Depression, petrol is more expensive than in the 1970s, banks are collapsing, the euro is kicking sand in the dollar's face, credit is scarce, recession and inflation both threaten the economy, consumer confidence is an oxymoron and Belgians have just bought Budweiser, "America's beer".

Wow! And that's only the second paragraph. It goes on in that vein pretty much throughout the piece, with occasional excursions into the silly (which I'll get to shortly.)

I think we can safely say this marks an epoch. Just a few short years ago, this self-same Economist was totally behind the Washington consensus. Rather like the woman in the famous picture, cleaning up after the elephant by catching its droppings in a big bag-on-a-stick as they fell, so they wouldn't hit the ground and be seen for the vast load of shit they are.

Unfortunately, this moment of truth shall pass, as does everything else in the transitory world of market capitalism. And in fact, within the same article, we see evidence that the editorial writer doesn't really get what's going on at all:

Continue reading "I could have told them so, but would they listen?" »

July 19, 2008

The hubris of the Nestle corporation

Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck doesn't think water is a basic human right (he considers THAT position "extremist"); he thinks it should be owned by corporations and sold to the public for profit. I guess no one ever told him what happened to Bechtel in Cochabamba, Bolivia, for having the same idea.

And if you think Nestle is innocuous, take a look at how much of the world's water supply they're trying to buy the (cheap) rights to so they can sell it back to the people bottled (and expensive). And also, take a look at what they've done to a citizens' group in Switzerland that had the audacity to challenge their squeaky-clean public image.

Does a truly clean corporation need to feel threatened by a small protest group to the extent that it pays 65 million euros to a security firm, in violation of Swiss privacy law, to infiltrate and spy on such groups? Or is this just another case of corporate fascism refusing to brook any challenges to its own undeserved authority--especially in the face of sagging revenues?

July 12, 2008

More folly and frivolity at WW4R, Reuters

Okay. Now we know who's NOT in the know about current events in South America:

"Venezuela and Colombia today open a new epoch in our relations," Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez told reporters after a meeting with his Colombian counterpart Álvaro Uribe in Caracas July 11. "I want to make clear that the intention exists to relaunch and fortify relations between Venezuela and Colombia, because these brother nations are destined to be united." (ABN, July 11) Construction of a rail link through Colombia giving Venezuela access to the Pacific is said to have been discussed in the meeting. Uribe told a recent Colombian cabinet meeting, "President Chávez has offered to make this railway. We are ready to it." (El Tiempo, July 12)

Uh, weren't these guys on the brink of war a few weeks ago?

Uh, no. Those tanks were sent to the border to keep Colombia's civil war from spilling over the brink, like it did in Ecuador. It wasn't a war footing, it was plain old self-defence. Catch a clue, dude, and quit doing the dog.

Continue reading "More folly and frivolity at WW4R, Reuters" »

June 23, 2008

Why the EU wants to punish economic migrants

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

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

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

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

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

Sit back and let that sink in for a bit.

Okay?

Continue reading "Why the EU wants to punish economic migrants" »

June 19, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

June 15, 2008

Lugo a "moderate"? Keep dreamin'!

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Lugo a "moderate"? Keep dreamin'!" »

June 5, 2008

The myth of happy racism

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

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

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

Continue reading "The myth of happy racism" »

June 4, 2008

It's now official...

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

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

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

Continue reading "It's now official..." »

May 30, 2008

Quotable: Amy Katz on the falsities of the "free" market

"The problem is not the issue of personal choice--it's the doctrine of personal choice. We are constantly being told that change begins with us, that only we can solve our own problems, that we are the authors of our destinies. I believe that these are, in fact, ideological statements, rooted in a free market aversion to collective action. To get ourselves through the next century, we will need to shake off the phantasm of an exclusively personal destiny and couple our individual choices with real, penalty-laden national and international environmental regulations. To get ourselves through the next century, we will need a collective privileging of human lives and futures over corporate profits.

"In other words, we need to make political change, something we can't do as individuals. And something we can't do without challenging, in a serious and uncomfortable way, the existing order. So yes, let's change our lifestyles and reduce our personal impacts on the environment. It will help to nudge us closer to the world we want. But, at some point (and I would argue that point would be now), to prevent a global environmental breakdown, we are going to have to embark on a course of action that questions some of the fundamental tenets of our economic system.

"The logic of the market is destroying the planet. We will not save the planet by turning the free market on itself and buying hybrid cars. We will save the planet by forcing our governments to mandate real environmental regulations. We will save the planet by refusing to allow the requirements of the market to dictate our health, our preferences, our sense of reality and the course of our lives."

--Amy Katz, editor of The Greenpeace Green Living Guide

May 13, 2008

Real terrorism in a nutshell

But of course, the US has the adults in charge of the government, so none of this would EVER happen. Right? RIGHT???

May 7, 2008

One, two, three, four...

...let's have a CLASS WAR!

On second thought, says the National Pest, maybe not. Too bad for them that Linda McQuaig, Conrad Black's pet hate and Terence Corcoran's nemesis, is on the case. And, unlike Corcoran, she doesn't like to make lies and damn lies out of statistics:

Continue reading "One, two, three, four..." »

April 7, 2008

Mexico's cement overshoes

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Mexico's cement overshoes" »

Cuba: Canary in the global coalmine

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

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

Continue reading "Cuba: Canary in the global coalmine" »

April 2, 2008

Oh, how I wish this were true.

Sadly, it's an April Fools joke.

Would be brilliant if it were for real, though.

February 25, 2008

Ah, que c'est magnifique!

Un grand salut to a French supermarket chain for its efforts in going after the corporate greedheads...je vous admire, chers messieurs et 'dames!

The French supermarket chain Leclerc, one of the most important in the country, has decided to punish the big brands for raising the prices of their products too high, according to the daily Le Monde.

As of Friday, February 1, the chain plans to remove the following articles from its shelves: the 12-pack of the cheese "La vache qui rit", by Fromageries Bel; Ajax cleanser, made by Colgate-Palmolive; L'Oreal and Nivea facial creams; Orangina soft drinks; and Brossard cookies.

These products had raised their prices between 8.29% and 20.63% in recent months, which the chain does not consider justifiable in light of inflation.

"These items will not return to our stores until the suppliers agree not to raise their prices above the average of others of their kind," stated one of the owners of the chain, Miguel Eduardo Leclerc.

Translation mine.

Yowie zowie, that's positively shades of Chavecito!

As much as I love that Laughing Cow cream cheese, I've been finding it prohibitively expensive here in Canada, too. We could use this kind of price-fighting here.

Dis donc, Miguel Eduardo, ne pouvez-vous aller à faire la même chose ici?

February 24, 2008

Fedecamaras: just as classy as ever

Remember Fedecamaras? The Venezuelan chamber of commerce that basically made caca all over itself during April 2002, when its then-president illegally declared himself president, not merely of Fedecamaras, but of the entire blessed country? Yeah, that Fedecamaras.

Well, Fedecamaras has changed presidents since then, but it hasn't really changed its stripes. According to the Canadian Press wires, it's still as eager as ever to present itself, not as a treasonous aggressor against the legitimate president of Venezuela, but as his hapless victim. And how better to do that than to plant in the media and the minds of the public a strangely pat conclusion about a terrible tragedy that just so happened to take place on Fedecamaras' own doorstep, so to speak?

A small bomb exploded outside the headquarters of Venezuela's leading business chamber Sunday, killing one person, police said.

The blast occurred near the entrance of the Fedecamaras business chamber headquarters in Caracas's middle-class district of La Florida at approximately 1 a.m. local time, killing an unidentified man and shattering windows, federal police Chief Marcos Chavez said.

"There's a person who was close by, and presumably could have been hit by the shock wave," Chavez told The Associated Press in a brief telephone interview. "We still have not identified the person."

The explosion could have been meant to scare business leaders who have been critical of President Hugo Chavez, said Fedecamaras President Jose Manuel Gonzalez.

"These actions do not intimdate us. They commit us to continue fighting for Venezuela," Gonzalez told Union Radio.

Continue reading "Fedecamaras: just as classy as ever" »

Karl Rove: NOT welcome in Vancouver!

In Venezuela, the neo-con rich bang pots to bring down a popular president, and bring back oppression of the poor. In Canada, the regular folks do it the other way around--to fight the rich neo-cons who are trying to cheat us all out of a good future.

BTW, the Fraser Institute is deeply un-Canadian and downright anti-Canadian. During the '90s, they faked a big debt crisis (in response to the overlords of international capitalism), falsely claiming that we could no longer afford a public social safety net, and the media bought it. The feds cut some social services and downloaded others onto the provinces; the provinces then turned around and did the same to municipalities. And right now, the municipalities are teetering on a brink, and taxpayers are still paying (through the nose) for all this Fraser treachery. When we're not having to pay through the nose for less efficient, more expensive private-for-profit DISservices. Meanwhile, poverty is worse--thanks to Fraser's loud hyping of a crisis-that-never-was. So it's good to see them get some bad publicity for a change, and on Global at that--the most right-wing of our major TV networks!

(Oh, and they're still at it, too...as recently as 2006, they were ringing the phony alarm bells about our national debt, AGAIN. Pfeh.)

February 4, 2008

The difference between "sucks" and "ROCKS!"

Usually, I tune out all mass-media traveloguery. Having been to j-school (and having had the misfortune to study under a "magazine writing" instructor who preferred throwaway travel and celebrity puff pieces to actual, worth-paying-money-for MAGAZINE JOURNALISM), I guess I'm just plain prejudiced. I certainly had a lot of blinders ripped off my eyes as to what passes for "good" in the Industry--and in a word, it is DRIVEL. It has to be; it's just page-filler. Its sole purpose is to take up the space the advertisers didn't want, and to titillate the casual newsstand browser into buying a fish-wrapper or birdcage-liner she probably didn't want either. If magazines could be all ads and still get bought on the newsstand by paying customers, trust me--they would be. But we fickle consumers, we still insist on some semblance of substance, however vague. And if we wanted to read nothing but ads, there's all that junkmail cluttering up our recycle bins.

It should go without saying that the people who write those expensive, cloth-bound travel guidebooks have actually done a lot more homework than the professional tacky tourists who "do travel writing" for The Media. (Stands to reason; they don't have to fill non-ad space, and they have to be certain that their writing will be of use to someone--and not end up getting pulped for toilet paper.)

And I'm positively certain that well-travelled progressives could revolutionize the travel-book industry if they ever chose to go that way. Happily (or unhappily, depending on where you sit, yearning for progressive adventures), they're not in the Baedeker business. Leftists may profit from their travels, but they don't travel for profit. They're in it for something more than money. They don't give a hang if they've seduced you into shelling out for a package tour of the latest ecotourism hotspot (and if they do, you can be sure that they're NOT real leftists). What they do care about, is making sure that whoever deigns to read gets an accurate, socially-aware picture of what's going on elsewhere--the good and the not-so alike.

I bring this up for a reason.

Continue reading "The difference between "sucks" and "ROCKS!"" »

January 26, 2008

John Perkins: Rafael Correa is in danger

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

Video in Spanish. Story from Aporrea:

Continue reading "John Perkins: Rafael Correa is in danger" »

January 16, 2008

Quotable: Naomi Klein on neoliberal bullshit

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

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

December 31, 2007

One more case of deep prostration

From the Halifax News, some important information about the difference between Canadian privacy law and that of our neighbors to the south--a difference that is now being eroded due to the push for "deep integration":

Individual privacy is best protected in Canada and under threat in the United States and the European Union as governments introduce sweeping surveillance and information-gathering measures in the name of security and border control, an international rights group said in a report released yesterday.

Canada, Greece and Romania had the best privacy records of 47 countries surveyed by London-based watchdog Privacy International. Malaysia, Russia and China were ranked worst.

Both Britain and the United States fell into the lowest-performing group of "endemic surveillance societies."

"The general trend is that privacy is being extinguished in country after country," said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International. "Even those countries where we expected ongoing strong privacy protection, like Germany and Canada, are sinking into the mire."

Continue reading "One more case of deep prostration" »

December 17, 2007

Uruguay scores a double

Viva Uruguay! First, on the trade front, the Uruguayan congress punched a fat hole through BushCo's plans for the Southern Cone:

The Uruguayan ruling leftist coalition Frente Amplio (FA) reiterated on Sunday its rejection of a free trade agreement with the United States.

[...]

Montevideo explored the possibility of a free trade agreement with Washington, but the idea sank amid reluctance on the part of sectors of the governing coalition and the members of Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, while Venezuela is on the verge of full membership), which does not permit bilateral negotiations with third countries.

Translation mine.

Continue reading "Uruguay scores a double" »

December 12, 2007

CNN: Have I told you lately that I loathe you?

CNN: What do your initials stand for? Crap, Nutjobs and Nitwits? I mean, just look at the shit you print--and the shit you reprint. Granted, this crappy editorial is bylined to Investor's Business Daily, which explains a lot. Including the language:

High oil prices do squeeze the poor. But oil companies do not control them. Dictators such as Chavez do. Eighty percent of the world's oil is held by inefficient state oil companies. Venezuela is one of the worst, producing its oil with scab labor since a 2003 strike, and it has also confiscated at least $1 billion in U.S. oil assets since then. Some industry analysts estimate that Chavez adds as much as a third of the cost to world oil prices. No wonder he wants someone else, like Big Oil, blamed.

What ludicrous conclusions this fool jumps to! Big Oil companies don't set prices--but Chavez does? Where do they get THAT? Last time I looked, they are the price-setters. (When it's not the Wall St. traders, that is.)

Continue reading "CNN: Have I told you lately that I loathe you?" »

December 8, 2007

Guatemala says "hola!" to Chavecito

Things are getting mighty interesting in Latin America. Guatemala just elected a new president, and it looks like he might just become another amigo for Chavecito. Maybe not a prospective signatory to the ALBA--yet. But at least, one for another of Chavecito's regional unifiers--namely, the Petrocaribe oil bloc:

The president-elect of Guatemala, Alvaro Colom, today declared his interest in entering into an energy accord with Venezuela.

"We are working on the possibility of constructing an energy accord in order to enter into Petrocaribe", said Colom in a statement to the press, according to AFP.

Colom indicated that the topic would be broached with president Hugo Chavez when they meet in Argentina for the swearing-in of president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

On the prospect of Guatemala entering into the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which Chavez launched, Colom said he would start a dialogue with his fellow Guatemalans in order to share these decisions with them.

However, since Guatemala has a free-trade agreement with the US, the entry into ALBA "is a little complicated", said Colom, without elaborating further.

Colom will be take power in Guatemala on January 14.

Translation mine.

So much for Chavecito being isolated...and for that matter, so much for Guatemala being in the bag for Washington.

I can just hear John Negroponte gnashing his teeth already.

December 4, 2007

Woo-haa, let's all get naked!

Now that I have your attention, get a load of Dubya. He just never quits looking for people to fuck up the ass, does he?

First, there's Colombia...

President George W Bush has called on Congress to pass a controversial free trade deal with US ally Colombia to help promote regional stability.

Some Congress members are opposed, citing concerns over workers' rights.

Mr Bush suggested the deal could help counter the influence of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, with whom both the US and Colombia have difficult relations.

[...]

Mr Bush's comments came after he was asked to react to the result of Venezuela's referendum on Sunday, which saw Mr Chavez's proposed constitutional reforms defeated.

"The Venezuelan people rejected one-man rule. They voted for democracy," Mr Bush said.

Continue reading "Woo-haa, let's all get naked!" »

December 1, 2007

Ha ha. Free-traders funny, too!

Well, no...actually, they're more like pathetic, and have been ever since poor, mad old Uncle Miltie kicked the bucket (many years past his due date, if you ask me). So you'll have to pardon me if I smile with a kind of pitying scorn at people who spew drivel like this:

Colombia's diplomatic spat with Hugo Chavez's Venezuela may help President Alvaro Uribe build support in the U.S. Congress for a free-trade accord, Citigroup Inc. economists said.

Colombia could help securing passage of the agreement by casting it as a way to limit Chavez's regional influence, economists Franz Hamann and Luisa Charry wrote in an e-mailed report today.

"The sharper dividing line between the two countries can serve as a warning signal of the potential costs of not supporting economic freedom in the region," Bogota-based Hamman and Charry said.

Continue reading "Ha ha. Free-traders funny, too!" »

November 21, 2007

Even Jesus can't escape the sweatshop

What--you thought rosaries and crucifixes were magically exempt from Chinese slave labor?

A labor rights group alleged Tuesday that crucifixes sold in religious gift shops in the U.S. are produced under "horrific" conditions in a Chinese factory with more than 15-hour workdays and inadequate food.

"It's a throwback to the worst of the garment sweatshops 10, 20 years ago," said Charles Kernaghan, director of the National Labor Committee.

Kernaghan held a news conference in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York to call attention to conditions at a factory in Dongguan, a southern Chinese city near Hong Kong, where he said crosses sold at the historic church and elsewhere are made.

Continue reading "Even Jesus can't escape the sweatshop" »

November 13, 2007

More truths the king can't shut up...

And these come straight from Chile. Enjoy!

Sen. Alejandro Navarro on Monday demanded an apology from Chile's Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley for criticizing the behavior of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the XVII Iberian-American summit held last weekend in Santiago.

Continue reading "More truths the king can't shut up..." »

October 27, 2007

The Great Hugo Chavez Media Hatefest continues...

I am so confused. I don't know who to believe--those who claim that the "unpopular" Hugo Chavez can be used as a secret weapon to push even more unpopular "free" trade agreements through ("You don't like him? Great! Vote for this and stick it to him!") or those who admit, however reluctantly and backhandedly, that Chavecito (or anyone who shares his ideas) actually enjoys considerable popularity outside Venezuela.

Damn crapaganda whores, can't they at least agree amongst themselves on a coherent story?

October 20, 2007

An election issue, you say?

Incredible!

It may be more than a year away, but Americans already think they know what the big issues of the 2008 presidential election will be.

On the thousands of web pages, acres of newsprint and hours of airtime already devoted to the long race to the White House, two subjects get most attention: how and when to end the war in Iraq and how healthcare should be paid for.

But another issue is gaining prominence, one which is of much greater significance to the rest of the world.

Indeed, it is one that could have profound implications for the global economy.

The issue is free trade.

President Bush devoted his most recent weekly radio address to lauding the benefit America gets from free trade deals.

"Millions of American jobs depend on exports," he said.

"More exports support better and higher-paying jobs - and to keep our economy expanding, we need to keep expanding trade."

Continue reading "An election issue, you say?" »

August 28, 2007

Well, that didn't take long...

Looks like that whole immunity-for-ex-paramilitaries thing isn't working out so well in Colombia. Whatta surprise:

A US court has requested the extradition of former Colombian paramilitary boss Carlos Jimenez.

The move comes a few days after Jimenez, alias Macaco, was stripped of his preferential prison treatment afforded to demobilised fighters.

Colombia said Jimenez violated a peace agreement by continuing to organise cocaine shipments and run a criminal empire from prison.

Jimenez is wanted in the US on drug trafficking charges.

Continue reading "Well, that didn't take long..." »

August 22, 2007

Police provocateurs unmasked in Montebello

Provocateurs policiers? En Canada? C'est impossible.

Non. C'est bien possible:

Story from the Toronto Star:

Continue reading "Police provocateurs unmasked in Montebello" »

It's just as I thought.

Fortress North America, a.k.a. the Security and Prosperity Partnership? It's a fascist power grab. And just as it worked out all peachy for PNAC, the Reichstag Fire 9-11 provided the perfect pretext for these people to create a three-way Anschluss between us, the US, and Mexico.

For anyone naively thinking this will lead to warmer and fuzzier trilateral relations, I have bad news: it won't. Our borders will not be easier or safer to cross for business, shopping, pleasure, or just spending time with relatives on the other side; they will be meaner and nastier and far more nerve-wracking. Already, Canada's border guards are armed and dangerous; meanwhile, Mexico is getting an apartheid fence and a passel of racist pottymouths and useful idiots from El Norte to "defend" the boondoggle from the Yanqui side while the corporatists keep laughing all the way to the bank (having built a portion of it using the very people they claim they are trying to shut out).

What it all means: Canada and Mexico will still be on the ass-end of the "free trade" sodomy, only this time it will be a much harder, nastier bum-fucking than ever before. But at least we're united in one concrete way. After all, we're both taking an unfair amount of blame for terrorism--never mind that 9-11's triggermen got in quite legitimately through US international airports, NOT across our borders! How about that...they were LEGAL aliens.

Now, kindly 'scuse me while I scope around for some Scope. I think I just threw up in my mouth. No, don't send me any get-well cards. I'll be okay. It's a logical reaction to the devil's brew of racism, fascism and corporatism we're all having jammed down our throats.

August 15, 2007

Blame communism!

Jeezus. Just when I thought Alan Garcia could sink no lower...he sank lower. Aporrea explains:

The president of Peru, Alan Garcia, celebrated the failure of a police strike promoted "by communists" today. He made this statement without proof, and without identifying either organizations or persons involved.

The statement was rejected by the secretary-general of the Peruvian Communist Party (PCP), Renán Raffo, who denied that his organization had anything to do with the matter, and said that the accusation was a piece of sophistry to cover up Garcia's governmental ineptitude in the face of social problems.

The president made the declaration while asserting that the police were on duty as usual, in spite of reports of a 24-hour strike by a supposed clandestine "Peruvian Police Union".

According to Garcia, "Communism has failed in its attempt to create disorder and chaos" by way of a police strike.

Continue reading "Blame communism!" »

August 12, 2007

24/7 Wall St. bullshit

Courtesy of one "Douglas A. McIntyre", a little piece of absolute hogjaw twaddle:

The prevailing wisdom is that oil prices will move down. They have already dropped from over $78 to $72, and most observers think that is only the beginning. Troubled financial markets and the potential of a slowing global economy should being demand down.

Don't tell the president of Venezuela, nut job Hugo Chavez any of that. He wants the world to believe that he can control the price of crude, which is only partially true. According to Reuters: "I've always said that oil prices are headed straight to $100 per barrel," Chavez said during a televised speech. His argument is simple. Supplies are dwindling and consumption is still going up.

Continue reading "24/7 Wall St. bullshit" »

August 6, 2007

How to enable a tyrant

How else but with a "free" trade agreement?

Congress will give priority treatment to approval of a trade pact with Peru when it reconvenes in September, the head of the House Ways and Means Committee said Monday.

"It is a priority when we return to the Congress in September," Rep. Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York, told reporters after meeting with President Alan Garcia.

Continue reading "How to enable a tyrant" »

July 29, 2007

The Peruvian tyrant apologizes

Although, if you ask me, I'd say his tears are of a distinctly crocodilian variety...

Peru's President Alan Garcia has said his government has not done enough to improve the lives of the poor.

In a speech marking his first year in office, Mr Garcia - who has seen a sharp decline in his popularity - urged Peruvians to show patience.

He promised that increased investment would cut poverty before the end of his term in 2011.

Peru's economy is booming, but correspondents say the poor are yet to feel the benefits of its growth.

Continue reading "The Peruvian tyrant apologizes" »

July 25, 2007

More double talk from Alvaro

Contradictions between right-wing assertions and fact are such fun, especially when they're blatant. Check out, for example, the gulf between this assertion...

President Alvaro Uribe said Friday that Colombia's institutions are now free of infiltration and corruption by right-wing militias blamed for some of the nation's worst human rights abuses.

In a nationally televised address, Uribe said his government has "overcome paramilitarism."

"Today paramilitarism no longer exists because combat against leftist rebels is now, in practice, the exclusive work of our democratic institutions," Uribe declared in the speech to Congress marking Colombia's independence day.

...and this fact:

Continue reading "More double talk from Alvaro" »

July 17, 2007

I am cringing as I type this

And why not? This is the most embarrassing show of prime-ministerial hubris I've seen in a while.

Stephen Harper became the first Canadian prime minister to visit Colombia this week, and dismissed criticism that Canada is putting trade ahead of human rights.

Colombia continues to struggle with Marxist guerrillas and a flourishing drug trade.

"When we see a country like Columbia that has decided it has to address its social, political and economic problems, it wants to embrace economic freedom, it wants to embrace political democracy and human rights and social development, then we say we we're in," Harper told reporters Monday in Bogota.

The prime minister went on to announce that Canada has started free-trade negotiations with Colombia, considered the most violent country in the western hemisphere, and Peru.

Continue reading "I am cringing as I type this" »

July 4, 2007

So nice to know so little has changed!

Oh Brazil. I thought this sort of thing was supposed to have ended...in 1888!

More than 1,000 labourers have been freed in Brazil by the government's anti-slavery team.

They were said to be working in inhumane conditions on a sugar cane plantation in the Amazon.

An ethanol-producing company which owns the plantation has denied allegations of abusing the workers.

Continue reading "So nice to know so little has changed!" »

June 19, 2007

Robert Zoellick's sour grapes

Poor little neo-cons, my heart bleeds for them. Case in point: PNAC member Robert Zoellick, a leading warhawk who in 1998 was urging Bill Clinton to bomb the living tar out from under Iraq. Clinton declined, but PNAC found a happy taker for its brilliant ideas in one failed Texas oilman, who got his own bailout from one of the many relatives of Osama bin Laden. Since that grandiose scheme proved so (cough, choke, wheeze) successful, Zoellick has now gone on to even greater grandiosity: taking his PNAC colleague Paul Wolfowitz's place at the helm of the World Bank. There, just imagine what havoc he can wreak on other oil-rich countries...like, oh, say, VENEZUELA.

Continue reading "Robert Zoellick's sour grapes" »

June 12, 2007

Why they all want out of the World Bank

Zoellick at the World Bank

Same shit, different asshole. The World Bank and IMF are full of them. This is why so many countries are paying off their debts early and avoiding being dinged for interest that always ends up costing so much more than the original debt was worth.

Well, that and all the money they'll save and be able to put toward public services again.

June 10, 2007

What's the matter with Albania?

Forget Kansas. Since Dubya has worn out his welcome with all but the hardest of the Hardcore Stupid at home, he now has to seek out his sheeple wherever he can find them:

President George W Bush has become the first US leader to visit Albania, where he enjoyed a hero's welcome.

The Balkan country is a staunch ally in America's "war on terror" and Mr Bush met Albanian soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Bush reiterated his support for the UN's plan for Kosovo's independence, adding it was time to "get moving" despite opposition from Russia.

Continue reading "What's the matter with Albania?" »

May 24, 2007

Quotable: Evo Morales on capitalism

"The transnational corporations always provoke conflicts to accumulate capital, and the accumulation of capital in a few hands is no solution for humanity. And so I have arrived at the conclusion that capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity."

--Evo Morales, speaking in Cochabamba, Bolivia

May 13, 2007

Welcome to capitalism! Sorry you got beat up!

From the UK Guardian, a little news item from not-so-red-anymore China:

China unveiled plans yesterday to deploy police in hospital wards and outpatient clinics to protect medical staff from the public, amid growing instances of physical violence meted out by patients furious at charges and dubious treatment.

The government is concerned about increased attacks on doctors, nurses and administrative staff as the healthcare system becomes the focus of resentment about the gap between rich and poor.

According to the China Daily, 5,500 medical workers were injured last year in assaults and protests, causing more than 200m yuan (£13m) damage.

Continue reading "Welcome to capitalism! Sorry you got beat up!" »

May 9, 2007

While the Miami Mafia kvetches about RCTV's lost licence...

...look what is flying totally under the radar down yonder:

Cable television subscribers who have been able to rely on their local governments to regulate service, may soon be calling Tallahassee for help.

A bill that was passed by the Florida House and Senate late last week would take control away from local governments and turn it over to the state. Supporters believe it will help increase competition among television, telephone and Internet companies. That could lead to reduced customer rates.

Continue reading "While the Miami Mafia kvetches about RCTV's lost licence..." »

May 7, 2007

Forbes: Commie pinko rag!

Communism--it's a PAR-TAY!

I mean really...how else to explain this?

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May 6, 2007

The Future of Food

A scary but utterly important film on the dangers of genetically modified foods and what we can do to stop their deadly encroachment on our tables, our fields and our lives. More information can be found at the filmmaker's website.

May 3, 2007

Stop me before I laugh again!

I can't help it. I really, REALLY can't.

President George W Bush has urged the US Congress to ratify a free trade deal with Colombia, as part of a wider plan to back democracies in Latin America.

Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha, oh, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha....

Shit, that's funny. Bush backing democracies in Latin America? Um, what? Anyone remember what he got behind on a certain day in April five years ago? I'll give you a hint: its perpetrators called it democracy, but Venezuelan voters had a very different impression.

Continue reading "Stop me before I laugh again!" »

March 30, 2007

FOX News: The iron fist of "fair and balanced" hypocrisy

Being totally two-faced seems to be a prerequisite if you want to work at Fux Snooze. Get a load of what one sharp-eyed Venezuelan patriot has found concerning a particular reporter of theirs in Latin America:

(Thanks to GloriaAlBravoPueblo and Aporrea.)

Translation of the video follows:

Continue reading "FOX News: The iron fist of "fair and balanced" hypocrisy" »

March 14, 2007

And this is why we call them banana republics

What's a banana republic? A dictatorship (or nominal, weak "democracy") where organized crime and oppression hold sway on behalf of Big Bidness--the real ruler of the country.

Like, oh, say, Colombia.

US banana company Chiquita Brands International has said it will plead guilty to a count of doing business with a terrorist group in Colombia.

The firm has agreed to pay a court settlement of $25m (£13m) to resolve an inquiry by the US Justice Department.

Prosecutors said Chiquita paid about $1.7m between 1997 and 2004 to the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) in return for "protection".

Chiquita says it was only motivated by the desire to safeguard its employees.

Shades of the United Fruit Company, no?

Nice to know the old bastard never died.

March 12, 2007

Guatemala suffers; Nicaragua moves on; Telesur just plain MOVES!

While Dubya is hard at work pissing off the Guatemalans, look what's going on in Nicaragua:

This Sunday, the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua signed an agreement to build a petroleum refinery, and incorporated Nicaragua into the multinational channel TeleSUR.

The plant will be built in León , to a capacity of 150,000 barrels a day.

"I am happy to announce that we will build a large refinery in León to process Venezuelan crude," announced President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

The investment for the construction of the refinery in the western province will come to 2.5 billion dollars.

Continue reading "Guatemala suffers; Nicaragua moves on; Telesur just plain MOVES!" »

March 9, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Bushie Beware!

All over Latin America, they're standing up to BushCo on its current round of smarm offensives...

...or against them, as the case may be.

Continue reading "Festive Left Friday Blogging: Bushie Beware!" »

March 1, 2007

Death of a Nation: must-see TV

British journalist Marcel Theroux takes us on a trip to a country he fell in love with as a student during the 1980s. What has become of Russia since then is frightening and should serve as a caution to the cheerleaders of globalized capitalism. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of communism, the country entered not into a new era of prosperity and democracy, but new and more frightening forms of oppression. Mafiosi, unscrupulous oligarchs, "cossack" nationalists who are frankly nothing but repackaged Nazis, and AIDS have all wrought havoc on Russian life.

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February 19, 2007

Say goodbye to another private-water failure

And this time, it's Guyana giving a multinational firm the boot.

Severn Trent is exiting Guyana after the government said it was failing to meet its targets for the supply of water to the South American country.

Severn International's contract was due to end at the start of 2008 but is being terminated nearly one year early.

[...]

Harry Nawbatt, Guyana's water minister, said this was due to the firm's failure to meet targets, such as increasing the amount of money raised from water bills.

Continue reading "Say goodbye to another private-water failure" »

February 13, 2007

"Terror-free oil"--what it really means

Well, hey howdy. There's a new face on the gasoline scene:

Terror Free Oil--the $3 bill of the energy sector

Oh my, aren't they patriotic. Just look at that logo! Not a bit subtle. What could be more "American" than cashing in wherever you can, even on tragedy?

Unfortunately, this is just another way of profiting from the gullibility of the "patriotic" sheeple--the same ones who stick made-in-China yellow ribbon magnets on their SUVs and call that "supporting the troops". It's a slick scam, and here's why:

Continue reading ""Terror-free oil"--what it really means" »

February 11, 2007

Yep, free trade creates jobs, all right!

Unfortunately, a lot of them are child labor.

The Social Protection Minister Diego Palacio said that over 200 thousand children are working as miners in Colombia specially in deposits in Choco, Boyaca, Antioquia, Caldas, Cundinamarca and Nariño departments.

Palacio admitted that situation is growing more complicated every day because of the lack of control by the legal authorities that have been given the responsibility and obligation of checking, controlling and even closing those mines.

Continue reading "Yep, free trade creates jobs, all right!" »

February 3, 2007

There goes the neighborhood

And right along with it, all hope that Peruvian president Alan Garcia might have learned from mistakes of the past:

Environmental and human rights group in Peru have denounced the government's campaign to auction off large swathes of the Amazon to oil and gas companies.

They say the amount of Peruvian Amazon territory open to exploration has risen from 13% to 70% in two years.

They say this is putting at risk the biodiversity of the Amazon and the lives of indigenous people.

Peruvian President Alan Garcia has said the plans are part of his investment programme to tackle widespread poverty.

Continue reading "There goes the neighborhood" »

November 7, 2006

A questionable success

I'm not sure Vietnam won't live to regret this:

The leader of Vietnam's Farmers' Union, Vu Ngoc Ky, has published hundreds of poems. On the day I interviewed him, he had just finished another, written in honour of his staff.

In it, he calls on farmers to make the country rich, so it can catch up with the rest of the world.

This is the dominant feeling among Vietnamese officials and business people: that war and economic sanctions held the country back for half a century and now it's time to catch up with the Asian tigers.

That is why they want to join the WTO.

Continue reading "A questionable success" »