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December 30, 2010

Espionage Act: a muzzle for dissent, says Robert Meeropol

Video in two parts; click through for the second.

Democracy Now interviews Robert Meeropol, the younger of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg's two sons, who criticizes the forthcoming prosecution of Julian Assange under the same 1917 Espionage Act that resulted in the senseless deaths of his parents.

I say "senseless" because the espionage trial of the Rosenbergs was clearly a show trial, meant to menace US communists and silence them as the McCarthyite hysteria swept over the country. A previously legal and commonplace political viewpoint would eventually be criminalized; a travesty in a country whose citizens pride themselves on their freedom. I also say "senseless" because the real spy in the case--Ethel's brother, David Greenglass, who worked as a machinist on the "Fat Man" plutonium bomb at Los Alamos and is the source of the secret materials that Ethel and Julius were executed for passing along--testified against his own flesh and blood, and went free. And I also say "senseless" because, ultimately, the materials passed on by Julius Rosenberg to the Soviets were of little worth to them. They already had their own nuclear-weapons program well underway, and the crude drawings of David Greenglass (which carried few technical specifics and were not to scale) were not an infallible recipe for a plutonium bomb. At most, those drawings simply showed them how the Los Alamos scientists had constructed the implosion lenses for the device. Today, in fact, all the information that David Greenglass took down and Julius Rosenberg passed along is readily available to the public in many sources; the best is Richard Rhodes's book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb.

The Rosenberg boys were adopted shortly before their parents' execution by Abel Meeropol and his wife. They took their adoptive parents' surname as protection against the media-driven lynching of anyone unfortunate enough to be related--or simply called Rosenberg. Meeropol is an interesting personage in his own right; he is the author of this song, made famous by Billie Holliday:

An anti-lynching, anti-racist song, the first big hit of its kind, and considered the most influential song of the 20th century. "I wrote 'Strange Fruit'," said Meeropol, "because I hate lynching, and I hate injustice, and I hate the people who perpetuate it." Abel Meeropol was, like the Rosenbergs, a communist, a strong advocate of civil rights, and an anti-fascist. He undoubtedly taught his adopted sons to stand up for what was right, and they do so to this day--denouncing the same senseless hypocrisy that resulted in the deaths of their parents.

December 29, 2010

Oh gag me, part troisième

Well, well, well. What have we here? Another photo from Carlos Andrés Pérez's funeral?

cap-funeral-coffin.jpg

This pic was tweeted by Carlchucho. He writes: "For those who say a democrat died: At the funeral of CAP, Daniel Romero, Carmona's attorney general." Daniel Romero is the man circled in red.

Here's another shot tweeted by Carlchucho, from a different angle:

cap-funeral-coffin2.jpg

Note the expression on Romero's face. It matches the one in the inset, where Romero, morose at having been taken prisoner by Miraflores palace guards, squats miserably in the basement, glowering as he and a roomful of other prisoners are read their rights. It's taken from a scene in The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Here he is in his "finest" hour, abolishing ALL the democratic institutions of Venezuela during the two-day putsch-dictatorship of Pedro Carmona, alias Pedro the Brief, on April 11, 2002:

The video's mostly in Spanish, but the key part, where Carmona illegally swears himself in as president and Romero demolishes all semblance of Venezuelan democracy, is helpfully subtitled in English.

It's fitting that he should be a pallbearer at CAP's mafiosic funeral, since CAP himself called more than once for Hugo Chávez to be executed "like a dog". And since CAP himself also ordered a massacre of his own people--which led directly to Chavecito's military uprising against him three years after the Caracazo. One dearly departed democrat indeed!

Oh gag me, part deuxième

popcorn.jpg

Can you believe this? Even in death, Carlos Andrés Pérez is the stuff of bad soap opera. Courtesy of the indefatigable Cort G., this landed in my e-mail today:

MIAMI (AP) -- A judge has delayed the burial of former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez amid a family feud over his final resting place.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Gerald Hubbart issued an order late Tuesday to keep a funeral home from burying Perez as planned Wednesday.

His first wife, Blanca Perez, wants him buried in Venezuela. She maintains that she has the right to decide because, while the two were separated, they were never legally divorced. She also claims Perez left no written instructions regarding his remains.

Perez's longtime mistress and secretary, Cecilia Matos, and their two daughters had planned to bury him in Miami, where they live, after a Mass Wednesday. Matos is frequently identified as Perez's current wife, but it is not clear if they were married.

She and her daughters have vowed they will not bring Perez's remains back to Venezuela until President Hugo Chavez, who led a 1992 coup attempt against him, leaves office.

Hubbart did not immediately schedule another hearing, but he granted Blanca Perez's request to prevent the funeral home from taking any action to bury or otherwise dispose of the body until the dispute is settled.

Juan C. Antunez and Juan Jose Delgado, appointed to handle the matter on Blanca Perez's behalf, declined to comment Wednesday.

Perez's family in Venezuela wants him buried there next to his daughter Thais, who died 15 years ago.

Another daughter in Venezuela, Carolina Perez, told The Associated Press she found out about her father's death from Twitter and her family was never consulted about the burial. She maintains that her mother, Blanca Perez, should be the one to decide what happens to her father's remains.

"They're still married, and the law is very clear in Venezuela and in the United States: When the person dies, the one who has the right to reclaim the body is the spouse, and we exercised that right," she said.

Diego Arria, a close Perez ally and his former U.N. ambassador, said both sides have expressed willingness to resolve the situation and he does not believe the dispute will turn into an extended court battle.

He said lawyers for Perez's relatives in Miami and Caracas are discussing the matter and that both sides should agree on when the ex-president's body are to be taken to Venezuela.

Oh my. This is embarrassing. In my first entry on CAP's death I translated "separated" as "divorced", assuming that that had taken place. It hadn't. Either CAP couldn't be bothered, or he was so arch-Catholic and hypocritical that he didn't dare offend the churchmen who tend to side with Venezuela's oligarchy on all issues anyway. Maybe he really was expecting to be called back to the presidency when Chavecito was overthrown!

Plus, seeing as CAP left no burial instructions, it seems very likely that he left no will either. Meaning, more catfights in court to come. Any way you slice it, we have yet another CAP scandal!

Of course, I fully expect the oppos to somehow try to spin this politically as "Chávez's fault". After all, he "drove" CAP into "exile"...only, of course, that happened while the young, yet-to-be-elected Chavecito was still in Yare Prison for leading an insurrection against CAP (who was impeached during the same period), so of course they can't. Chavecito has already said that the Pérez family has a right to bring his remains back to Venezuela for burial, so there's certainly no way they can rightly blame him for this tangle. But it will be entertaining to watch the fireworks anyway.

Popcorn, anyone?

December 28, 2010

Oh, gag me with a meat cleaver!

I know you're not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but I think that's ridiculous. Do we not speak ill of Hitler and Stalin all the time? There are some people to whom one owes not even token posthumous respect, and the funeral of Carlos Andrés Pérez, which took place today in Miami, illustrates perfectly why that is:

cap-funeral-flag.jpg

Yes, that's the OLD flag of Venezuela. The seven-star flag of the Fourth Republic, which died when Chavecito came into office in '99. There was a big fuss when this one was scrapped in 2006, but it was to no end. Nobody uses it anymore but the most rabid of the Venezuelan oppos, who all happen to spend more time in Miami than they do in their "beloved homeland". It's also historically inaccurate, since the current (and correct) version has eight stars, symbolizing the eight provinces (including Guayana, which was earlier omitted) which revolted against Spanish Rule in Bolívar's day. (Bolívar himself decreed an eight-star flag in 1817.) But it's the perfect emblem of the murderous, faux-democratic corruption of the Fourth, so I guess it fits right in at this celebration of its crookedest figurehead's death. It is also the perfect emblem of the opposition's stubborn pettiness.

Even more sickening, though, is the memorial card:

cap-funeral-card.jpg

The quote, from Venezuelan poet Andrés Eloy Blanco, reads: "While the bad son of the homeland grows and gets fat destroying it, the good son dies in exile, weeping for it." Blanco wrote that for Bolívar, who did die in exile. By putting it on CAP's memorial card as a pointed insult to Chavecito, the oppos twisted it so hard that they broke it. Need I underscore what a travesty it is to slam a sitting president (and a very patriotic, competent one) that way, especially since the bad son who fattened his wallet on corruption and death did not die in exile but on the lam, not weeping but laughing all the way to the bank?

BTW, CAP also has the dubious distinction of having been the first Venezuelan president ever to be impeached. But only for corruption. He never had to answer for mass murder.

There's a reason why ordinary Venezuelans call their defeated old Fourth Republic ruling class sinvergüenzas--shameless people. Actually there are several, but I decided, out of "respect" for the dead, to list only two or three this time.

December 27, 2010

Witnesses of Jehovah

An hour-long documentary that takes a look at the secretive, highly profitable Watchtower Society from within. Ex-JWs and former members of the governing body reveal the Orwellian cult's dirty secrets--among them, an Elmer Gantry-like leader who ruled from 1917 into the 1940s from a princely estate in San Diego, and the continual, embarrassing resetting of the date at which Armageddon is supposed to occur, according to the Watchtower Society. Most heartbreaking is the way this organization, which claims to "bring families together", actually drives people apart, by encouraging them to shun unbelievers, the apostates and the disfellowshipped, even among their own blood relatives.

And of course, speaking of blood, there's that insanity about transfusions...which, should any JW disobey, becomes immediately and hideously clear. Calling down hateful death wishes upon the disobedient over a simple, life-saving procedure is highly unchristian, but it's exactly the sort of thing one can expect from the brainwashed members of this cult--or any other right-wing cult, come to that. For an organization that makes much of the suffering, persecution and martyrdom of its members, the Watchtower Society does shockingly little--often nothing--to protect them, and indeed, it shoves them into harm's way quite deliberately, exposing them to all manner of scorn, ridicule, strife, and even grave physical danger. And all this in the name of God's love...

The style of this documentary is very dated and wooden, with a lot of cartoons eerily reminiscent of Jack Chick tracts; it's aimed predominantly at Christian ex-JWs, with a view to religious conversion. Nevertheless, the history and the facts it presents speak for themselves. (You may smile, as I did, when you see the part about how the JWs used to picket outside of churches, claiming that religion was a racket. Their own, of course, was excluded from that designation!)

I would also encourage you to read James Kostelniuk's book, Wolves Among Sheep, which details how the Watchtower Society broke up his own family, and indirectly caused the murder of his first wife, Kim, who divorced him and drove a wedge between him and their two children (who were also murdered) for not being faithful and unquestioning enough. It, too, goes into intimate detail about the shocking hypocrisy of the Watchtower Society and its absolute control over every detail of the lives of its "other sheep".

It is truly worth asking oneself whether any god worth worshipping would demand that his followers turn themselves inside out for an organization which purports to be God's intermediary on Earth, but seems clearly more bent on turning it into a living hell for its faithful.

December 25, 2010

Carlos Andrés Pérez dies in Miami

The news just came out over the tweeter in the last hour or so. Here's the first official announcement, courtesy of Panorama:

Former Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, Diego Arria, posted a few minutes ago on his Twitter account that the former president of Venezuela, Carlos Andrés Pérez, died on Saturday, December 25, aged 88, in Miami.

Carlos Andrés Pérez was president of Venezuela for two terms (1974-1979 and 1989-1993) as head of the Acción Democrática (Democratic Action) party.

He lived with his family in Miami, and had withdrawn from public life after a stroke.

The ex-president was born in Rubio, in the state of Táchira, on October 27, 1922.

He was married in 1948 to his cousin, Blanca Rodríguez. They had six children: Sonia, Thaís, Martha, Carlos Manuel, María de los Angeles, and Carolina.

After his second term in office, Pérez divorced his wife and continued to live with his secretary, Cecilia Matos.

Translation mine.

Obviously, this is the Reader's Digest condensed version of Pérez. The real one is considerably longer and more sordid. Cecilia Matos, for starters, was Pérez's mistress and the reason for his divorce. And believe it or not, she is the LEAST sordid chapter of his life. Here's the MOST sordid one...the Caracazo, a military/police massacre of random, poor Venezuelans, ordered from the top...by the newly second-term president, Carlos Andrés Pérez, in late February and early March of 1989:

Video in Spanish, in two parts; click through for the second.

Pérez was not solely responsible for all the crime and death, but he was at the head of the very corrupt AD government that decided to follow, to the letter, the IMF's disastrous "shock therapy" package. He was not a president so much as a tame dictator; he reversed his campaign promises almost as soon as he had taken office. In so doing, he lost whatever democratic credibility he still had. The results were catastrophic for Venezuela's majority poor, whose wages did not keep step with the sudden inflation in the cost of living that a "free market" inevitably brings. The price of gasoline rose, and with it, bus fares more than doubled. Prices shot up as storefronts closed; there was no actual shortage of goods, but the store owners were hoarding them in order to jack up the prices by claiming shortages. Angry crowds refused to buy that--literally. They set the buses on fire and broke into the shuttered shops, taking whatever they could get their hands on. Barricades made of old tires and garbage burned in the streets. Some waved the flag and sang the national anthem, a graphic reminder that this was not mere looting, it was a nation trying to reclaim its dignity in a spontaneous, unorganized outburst.

But Pérez, having set a disaster in motion by going back on his campaign promises, did not revert meekly to democracy. To do so would have meant losing the IMF cash with which he intended to line his own pockets and those of his mistress and cronies. So he chose another tyrannical, top-down "solution": He sent the army out to fire on the citizens, indiscriminately, in the poor neighborhoods where the protests raged for days on end.

Crank up the sound on that. The Bersuit song is an angry and very fitting soundtrack. "Here comes the explosion/Here comes the explosion/Of my guitar/And of your government/As well."

The only thing that saddens me about this death is that this murderer, this dictator, never did any prison time in his life for the thousands of violent deaths on his watch. He was impeached in 1993 for misuse of public funds, a weak charge considering the death toll of his reign--one approaching that of Augusto Pinochet, according to unofficial figures. The Caracazo is widely believed to have killed as many people in one week as died at the hands of fascist thugs during Pinochet's entire reign.

Carlos Andrés Pérez was actually something worse than Pinochet--he was utterly dishonest about his antidemocratic stance, whereas at least the Chilean dictator made no bones about his own. And rather than do jail time, Pérez fucked off to Miami to enjoy the good life with his mistress...and call for a true democrat, Chávez, to die "like a dog" at regular intervals. Classy, huh?

Here's the fun part, though: Pérez was waiting for Venezuela to call him home to be president again. That call never came. The only call came from Hades, where one might devoutly hope this sickening old bastard finds justice at last.

Ashes to ashes; dust to dust; shit to the shitpile. Goodbye, Carlos Andrés Pérez...pathological liar, thief and murderer. You won't be missed.

December 22, 2010

A day for the WTF files

It's been one, quite literally, for me. Starting with this head-spinning report from Russia Today:

Not only do Israel and Iran actually agree on something--and that something is a Russia-sponsored UN resolution against the glorification of Nazism--but the "freedom-loving" United States of Amnesia opposes that same thing! Happily, the RT journalists bring up the matter of Project Paperclip, in which old Nazis became brand-new CIA torture trainers, espionage "experts", and other nefarious specialities that the US of A was all too happy to exploit in its quest for Total World Domination™, starting in the Cold War era. This may seem shocking to some; to me it's practically a no-brainer that the dang Russkies are more freedom-loving, at the bottom of it, than the Yanks are right now. They know from sad Stalin-era experience what the lack of freedom felt like; the US has forgotten, mainly because they had (and still have) more junk on their store shelves to choose from, and mistook (and still mistake) that for freedom. I'm happy to see that a freer press exists in Russia now, and that its reporters don't shy away from shining a hard light on the old Cold War enemy and its ongoing devotion to the Bad Old Days. This is the kind of reporting we should be seeing all the time, everywhere.

Now: speaking of old Cold Warriors, how about that General Videla? Finally he got a taste of justice. He's going to civilian prison for the rest of his life, which probably won't be long now, seeing as he's 85 and all. Maybe they should release him in the general prison population, while they're at it. There are probably guys in there who lost someone they knew to Videla's death squads during the '70s and '80s. I'm sure they'd be only too happy to keep him company. Especially since he expressed psychopathic sentiments like the following:

In court on Tuesday, Videla appeared to lack any regret over his past actions, calling what many call the Dirty War a "just war".

"I did not come here to defend myself today nor speak in my defence, in my eyes, defending myself doesn't make sense," he said.

"With this reality, which I cannot change, I will accept, however unwillingly, the unjust sentence that you are able to pass on me as a contribution on my part to the ends of national harmony and I will offer it as an additional service that I owe to God, Our Lord and the nation."

He didn't come to defend himself because he couldn't. What he did was indefensible.

The other big WTF is what he said about the Kirchners. They're "Gramscian Marxists"? Not even close. Ask a real Argentine socialist about that, and prepare to have your head blown off by a gale of laughter.

And how's this for a WTF file, literally? Wikileaks now has a CIA task force dedicated to it. It's called WTF for short. And if that acronym doesn't make you chuckle, maybe this will:

What's interesting is that the WTF is suppose to assess what damage has been done as a result of the Wikileaks disclosures, yet the Department of Defense has already said, "WikiLeaks did not disclose any sensitive intelligence sources or methods, the Department of Defense concluded."

Emphasis added. Linkage as in original.

The only real damage Wikileaks has done, to date, is highlight the emperor's already obvious nudity. Most of us who've been watching the State Dept.'s shenanigans around the globe are yawning over this; it's no news to us.

It's also no surprise that US embassies are full of liars dressed up as diplomats. It's only surprising (and sad) that none of these lying, spying embarrassments have been sent packing by the governments they've been sent to subvert...yet. Except, of course, in Latin America, where Evo kicked Goldilocks out of Bolivia, and Chavecito's not letting the obviously meddlesome Larry Palmer into Venezuela. But then, those diplomatic conflicts were already in progress before Cablegate. And the expulsions would have happened regardless.

Of course, the leaked cables I've seen so far present both of these smart leaders as crazy-ass bad guys for wanting putschist "diplomats" out (and honest ones in their stead). WTF were we expecting? CIA spooks have long had diplomatic cover in Latin America. Philip Agee told us as much nearly 40 years ago. The question is, will anything really change in the aftermath of Cablegate?

And alas, that question is wholly rhetorical.

December 8, 2010

In which we "smear" Julian Assange's accuser

truth-gloria.jpg

Yesterday, Julian Assange turned himself in to British authorities for extradition to Sweden, to face a number of sexual-assault charges. Since it's for the court to determine whether or not he actually is guilty as charged, let's wait to see how that shakes out. Meanwhile, I'll address some things that started nagging at me as soon as the first feminist analyses of the situation started cropping up on Twitter yesterday.

It's pretty clear to me that battle lines are being drawn in this whole kerfuffle. The discourse has shifted from Wikileaks and Cablegate to Winkyleaks and Condomgate. And it's clear, too, that women are being used--and abused--atrociously here. No, I'm not talking about Julian Assange and what he's alleged to have done to those two women. I'm talking about feminists as a whole; we are being made into inadvertent pawns in the battle over freedom of information. And it seems to me that we're being expected to turn out against Assange--and by extension, against Wikileaks.

I've noted here before that condomless sex, while prosecutable, is not a jailing offence in Sweden; you pay a fine of a few hundred dollars, and that's it. But this case is strange, owing to the high international profile of the accused: the sex charges were pressed months ago, then dropped, and then reinstated. Awfully inconsistent prosecution for an offence generally remedied by a simple fine! And weirdest of all, why is the United States now looking to get involved, when none of the alleged offences happened on their soil? It seems obvious to me that this is all an effort to entrap the man who, for better or worse, is the public face of the Wikileaks organization.

But no, we feminists aren't supposed to remember all that, much less treat it as relevant to the case against Julian Assange. We're supposed to be righteously indignant at his obvious arrogance, and glad that Interpol was mobilized to catch an accused rapist, and deliver the douchebag to Sweden to be held without bail. Pending his extradition to the US, of course; the world's policeman and all-Amurrican good guy, natch.

But if this is how we're supposed to react as feminists, it is utterly ridiculous and an insult to our wits. As Naomi Wolf has humorously noted, this is a very strange and heavy-handed use of the legal remedies fought for--and, in Sweden, won by feminism:

I see that Julian Assange is accused of having consensual sex with two women, in one case using a condom that broke. I understand, from the alleged victims' complaints to the media, that Assange is also accused of texting and tweeting in the taxi on the way to one of the women's apartments while on a date, and, disgustingly enough, 'reading stories about himself online' in the cab.

Both alleged victims are also upset that he began dating a second woman while still being in a relationship with the first. (Of course, as a feminist, I am also pleased that the alleged victims are using feminist-inspired rhetoric and law to assuage what appears to be personal injured feelings. That's what our brave suffragette foremothers intended!).

Well, poor Naomi Wolf--who is serious about issues of rape and withdrawn consent--just can't catch a break for mocking a few of the many absurdities of this case. Other feminists were quick to pile onto her, accusing her of "trivializing rape". Instead of looking at the peculiarities of the Wikileaks timeline and admitting that this is a disproportionate response to a charge formerly considered too weak even to prosecute, they accused her of smearing the alleged victim of one of the alleged attacks.

But what if the alleged victim is not so innocent? What if the alleged attack is part of an elaborate set-up?

We already know that the more prominent woman in question, Anna Ardin, has some very interesting CIA ties. And we know that just around the time the first alleged rape occurred, she tweeted enthusiastically about Assange:

anna-ardin-tweets.jpg

I screen-capped those from here.

These tweets give no indication that anything untoward had happened. I ran them past my friend Anthony, who lives in Malmö, for a Swede's-eye view. Here's what he said:

The 8/14 tweet caught my attention; Anna wrote that Julian wanted to attend a crayfish party, so she wondered if there were any open seats that night or the following night. A few hours later, she wrote "Sitting outside at 2AM, freezing with the smartest people in the world, it's amazing!"

Ardin later deleted those tweets and locked down her blog.

But let's suppose for the sake of argument that you're convinced that Anna Ardin is just being smeared, and rape trivialized, and so on. The timing? Just a coincidence! The known CIA ties? How dare you play guilt-by-association! Rape is real, how dare "Naomi Effin' Wolf" make fun of it?

No one, least of all Naomi Wolf, is disputing that rape is real, or that victim-smearing is a dirty tactic, a re-victimization on no uncertain terms. What is being disputed here is the case against Julian Assange, which is pitifully weak and certainly doesn't warrant the involvement of Interpol. If it did, legions of human-rights abusers who used rape as a weapon of war would be behind bars by now, rotting deservedly away. You'd think Interpol could easily bust those bastards at Dyncorp, who openly bought child sex slaves in Bosnia and Afghanistan for the raping pleasure of their contractors. (That latter exposé, BTW, comes to the media courtesy of Wikileaks!)

Naomi Wolf was making fun not of rape, but of what is obviously an exceedingly stupid manhunt. And while her tone may be a bit too flip for some people's liking, she's not wrong to laugh at the transparent idiocy of it all. I do too, and so do plenty of other feminists who've been following the Wikileaks saga with interest. Oh, wouldn't it be lovely if Interpol DID chase down every dick who'd ever wronged us? I've got a couple of real lulus for them myself. Let's make a crayfish party out of this shit. You bring the wine, I'll bring the cheese. Share yer stories, girls!

And if that's not ludicrous enough, how about this? We are being asked to believe that two obviously strong women--Anna Ardin, a professed feminist who works for gender equity, and Sofia Wilen, with whom she banded together later to press charges, could not track down Julian Assange to ask him to get tested for STDs. So they were forced to press charges. They apparently had no trouble getting into his pants. So why would he suddenly be too difficult to simply meet for a coffee, like a civilized adult, to discuss blood tests? Gee, what a cad. Maybe he had something to hide?

According to the same Reuters account, Assange claims he had his cellphone turned off for fear that enemies would track him using its signal. Not an implausible reason, since he DOES have enemies in US intel circles, and if they can't track him through technology, ain't nobody can. But he was still in Sweden when the women were allegedly trying to reach him and just urge him to get tested. They could have waylaid him at his hotel, if it was really so urgent. How simple-minded do we have to be to believe that Anna Ardin's blogging about "thinking about some revenge over the last few days" can't be considered evidence that she was up to something more nefarious than simply trying to get him to a clinic?

Okay, you say, that does look bad, but that's still pretty weak. Her blog is now locked down, and it's very likely that she deleted any incriminating bits. Isn't there anything more definite? What about those alleged CIA ties you conspiracy kooks keep nattering on about?

Well, there we have a lot more to go on. A helluva lot.

Via Twitter, I found this article she'd written for the CIA-tied magazine she was working for. Here's Anthony again, translating:

GF's former columnist Anna Ardin has been in Cuba.

Getting to know Cuba is a great political experience and the first thing I would say is that as a foreigner you are extremely discriminated against and constantly pressed for money.

Tourists should always use the hard currency convertible pesos, that is "dollars", which they are called to avoid misunderstandings. All trade with the U.S. dollar was banned in stores in November. A convertible peso is pegged to the dollar and worth 26 Cuban pesos.

Prevented to meet Cubans

You cannot go with the same cheap buses that Cubans use, but must take the tourist taxis, which can cost 20 dollars while the local bus for the same route costs 40 cents of a Cuban peso. Another example is that it is very difficult to live with friends, you always have to pay for hotels or bed and breakfast. The system is almost similar to apartheid!

I'm locked out of the Cuban world and the Cubans are excluded from foreigners - not just financially! Cubans are prevented in many different ways from even visiting the main tourist sites. Foreigners' cars have red registration plates instead of yellow and need not - as the Cubans - to stop and pick up hitchhikers to fill empty seats. In Cuba health care and education are free since the revolution and the Communist takeover in 1959; there are few or no one starving or living on the streets and virtually no need to worry about violence and robbery. But the wages are extremely low.

The salary for the best paid, the police, is $30, a doctor earns about 23, a garbage man 19 and a housekeeper earns seven dollars a month. A beer or a soda costs a dollar, a bottle of oil 2.50, internet for one hour 6, a sports bag 15 and a trip to a neighboring country costs several hundred pesos. Although the prices for most things - except for certain raw materials for food, bus transportation and little else - is in U.S. dollars (that is convertible pesos), the workers get salary in Cuban pesos, which is not always possible to switch.

To survive on these wages seem to be impossible (despite the very minimum required being relatively inexpensive). To save up for a pair of shoes could take half a year, not to mention buying a television or a car, yet many Cubans have this - how? Well, since 1993, it is allowed for Cubans to hold hard currency.

Want to change money

So by drinking or to work with private tourism differs more and more from the crowd. The ones that are excluded from the life you can only live if you have dollars. In that perspective, it is no wonder that in every street corner you are stopped by a so-called jinetero (riders). He asks where you come from, if you want to change money, buy cigars, follow them home to their backyard restaurant or have them as a personal guide to buy them food and clothing. As a woman, you notice nothing of the female counterpart to these, las jineteras, which might more literally ride their tourists for a few days or weeks in exchange for food, clothing and shoes. Or they run around them in their nice cars or pay, to the jinetera or directly to her jineteros - the pimps.

Sex tourism is increasing. Tourism combined with the money that exile Cubans send home accounts for well over half of the currency revenues of the treasury. That the country is so dependent on something that there is not enough of for the whole population, which excludes many and forces people to flee is not sustainable. Cuba needs a new policy. The question is what?

Between Castro or the U.S.

The Social Democratic opposition - Corriente Socialista Democrática Cubana - are trying to show that there is an alternative between the only two clearly presented options, the extremes: that Castro and his gang govern Cuba or the United States does. In a second article I will write more about what the Social Democrats in Cuba think will happen when the now 78-year-old dictator Fidel Castro dies.

Now, this is a load of crapaganda. If you can't smell the CIA's cheap cologne on that, you're hopeless.

Anyone who's really been to Cuba will tell you that it's not as bad as articles like this lead you to believe. The locals are not quarantined from you, or you from them, unless there's some good reason. Working for a CIA-connected crapaganda rag might well be a good reason for the authorities to confine you to your luxury tourist hotel room. But then, if poor Anna Ardin were really so confined, how would she "know" all those appalling details about how the poor oppressed Cubans really live? Unless, of course, she were simply being fed the dubious info by her CIA handlers, in which case she wouldn't even have to go to Cuba to "report" it; she could do it just as easily from home.

And that second-last bit really leapt out at me, too. Interesting focus on sex there for our sex-crimes complainant. Very typical CIA glurge, designed specifically to tweak our most sensitive feminist nerves: Look what that mean old dictator Fidel Castro is making those poor women do! Still more interesting is the lack of hard figures. She claims that prostitution revenues and remittances from "exiles" counts for more than half of the cash in the Cuban treasury. But without numbers and verifiable references to prove it, that all don't mean nuttin', honey.

Of course, it being a CIA rag, hard proof is not really required. Sensationalism is. And the article has that in spades. Just look at the language: "The system is almost similar to apartheid!"--the sky is falling! Oh noes!

Gee, you don't suppose someone who'd write such ghastly goop would have an ulterior motive regarding Julian Assange--whose organization just so happens to have uncovered a lot of embarrassing stuff from US embassies linked to various putsches in various countries allied to Cuba?

Nahhhh. Don't let's connect those dots. Let's just stick to our simple-minded pre-gummed narratives and be good, outraged little bourgeois féministes, huffing at the hacker boogyman and hoping The Hague locks him up for war crimes. Let's accuse those who find odd dirt on Anna Ardin of smearing her, when in fact she seems to have done a fair job of muddying herself. No, no, we can't allow that; let's just view her as a plain and simple victim. And pretend all the Wikileaks stuff is what's extraneous, and that it's not, perhaps, Julian Assange who's really being smeared.

But this feminist can't pretend, and certainly can't ignore the blindingly obvious.

Wikileaks is shining an uncomfortably bright light on things the US doesn't want us to see, and how they are being perpetrated. It's shown incriminating footage of US helicopters firing on innocent Iraqis in Baghdad. It's exposed the way US embassies lie to the citizens of the countries where they are posted, and lie about them as well. Is it really so far-fetched to surmise that Anna Ardin, who lied about Cuba in a CIA rag, just might have been sent by the same CIA to take Julian Assange down, by whatever means necessary? Is it really a smear to demonstrate--not suggest, not insinuate, but DEMONSTRATE--that she is more than a little bit connected to them, just as they are connected to every US diplomatic installation and quite a few seemingly private corporations?

Again, let's look at the timeline.

The first big bombshell Wikileaks dropped was Collateral Murder; this went down on April 5. On July 6, Bradley Manning was charged with leaking the video to Wikileaks. Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen slept with Julian Assange on August 14 and 17, respectively, while the latter, undoubtedly feeling the heat from the US, was hoping to gain residency and whistleblower protection in Sweden. The encounters were consensual according to both women, and uneventful except for the respective alleged condom disputes. Later, both allegedly sought him out, being worried about catching a sexually-transmitted disease. They couldn't find him because his cellphone was turned off. Then they turned to the authorities to press charges, only to be told it was too hard to prove, and saw the charges dropped. Only to have them reinstated now, of all times. While Bradley Manning, surely by malign coincidence, is also already jailed and awaiting trial--facing 52 years of hard time in the federal pen. He is suspected of leaking the Cablegate documents, as well, although he has not been charged with that.

Would this case have gone anywhere if the man in question were anyone other than Julian Assange, who just happened to have humiliated the US government that spring with that ghastly video release? And would he have been sought for prosecution if he hadn't just gone public with the first of many expected Cablegate releases?

The Swedish prosecutors deny that any pressure was brought to bear on them by the US. Yet just last week, the Swedish government was mortified by the revelation that Sweden is no longer neutral. Who announced it? Wikileaks, via Cablegate. The local US embassy had the gall to write as much to Washington! And I reiterate: The US authorities are now looking to extradite Assange from Sweden. Even with no charges of their own against him. They are looking for a way to do it, some hook to hang those charges on. Doesn't matter if it's as flimsy as the anti-Castro tripe Anna Ardin used to write. It doesn't have to be true. It just has to be sensational enough to get public opinion on side...

Yeah, tell me it doesn't all hang together. Denial, river in Egypt. Cleo, you're up the creek!

It's much easier to go into a "good feminist" (or full-on conspiracy nut) tizzy, I grant you, than to follow complex international developments in a more intelligent manner. It's also safer than to do another smart thing: dovetail one's feminism and freedom-of-information advocacy for the common, global good. Unfortunately, it's also the perfect way to divorce feminism from the much larger international issues that we ignore at our peril. It makes us feminists all look like laughingstocks or Limbaughian feminazis. We inadvertently contribute to our own continued alienation from our sisters in the global south if we fall for that narrative. We also end up setting back our own progress, and theirs.

But we don't have to. This radical, left-wing feminist agrees wholeheartedly with Gloria Steinem: The truth will set us all free. But first, it will piss us off.

Let it.

December 6, 2010

Short 'n' Stubby: Ms. Manx dips another paw in the Wikileaks

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My stump-tailed mascot informs me that if she dips any more feet into this ever-growing lake of leakage, she's gonna be swimming. Well, hop in, sez I--the water's turbulent, but so far, it's fine. And here are some of the choice bits I found bobbing around in it today:

Mark Pesce calls Wikileaks "a blueprint of things to come". Ms. Manx's fave quote:

"The mythology of power - that leaders are somehow more substantial, their concerns more elevated and lofty than us mere mortals, who must not question their motives - that mythology has been definitively busted. This is the final terminus of aristocracy; a process that began on July 14, 1789 came to a conclusive end on November 28, 2010. The new aristocracies of democracy have been smashed, trundled off to the guillotine of the internet, and beheaded."

L'état, c'est mort.

At Salon.com, Dan Gillmor comes out with a qualified defence of Wikileaks, arguing--correctly--that it is a use-it-or-lose-it matter when it comes to freedom of speech. Ms. Manx concurs, but thinks the bit about governments needing to have secrets is hooey. Secrecy, the Stumpy Cat reminds us, is what got all the leaked-on governments into such a pickle in the first place. It covers a multitude of sins. Isn't it time the sinning stopped? Then, like magic, all need for secrecy would evaporate. (And so too would all those massive, murderous boondoggles otherwise known as intelligence agencies.)

Also at Salon, Glenn Greenwald takes on the legal angle of the Wikileaks case. Straight from the top, we learn that any legal case against Wikileaks itself would be a shaky one, since the prosecutors would have to prove that damage was done--basically, that someone had died--as a result of the leaks. So far, not a shred of hard evidence exists to that end. Instead, we got a flurry of lawless, panicky (and largely futile) countermeasures taken by feds and corporations in various countries. Lacking the lawful grounds on which to prosecute Wikileaks, it seems that the authorities have decided to go the persecution route against the most famous individual attached to the organization. Which probably explains the singularly strange timing of those sexual-assault charges against Julian Assange.

And speaking of those, feminist lawyer Jill Filipovic takes on that angle at Feministe. She also decries the way the "shoddy, sensationalist reporting" of the media has "muddied the waters" on the issue of withdrawal of consent. Ms. Manx thinks this is right-on.

Lindsay Beyerstein, writing at Big Think, opines that "the case against Assange may be baseless, but that doesn't mean the allegations against him are trivial or nonsensical." True that, and Ms. Manx is content to sit back for now and see how it pans out. Since he has surrendered to the authorities, it remains to be seen whether even those charges--on the face of them, unrelated to Wikileaks--have any merit. Fine, let's have a trial--that's how things work where rule of law is still respected. For all we know, Julian Assange may even clear his name! Given what we already know about the CIA ties of one of his accusers, the odor of hinkitude is strong here. And again, Ms. Manx says--consider the timing. Consider also that the initial warrant against Assange was bungled. And the charges were withdrawn, only to be pressed again. Is something rotten in the state of Sweden? Certainly. And, as a feminist, Ms. Manx thinks it's a damn shame that a decent piece of anti-rape legislation--something other feminists have fought so long and hard to get, and that so many rape victims have to work up the courage to use--should be misused in this way. If this is not a smear campaign against Wikileaks, with the pugmarks of the CIA all over it, Ms. Manx says she will eat my most indigestible hat.

Meanwhile, back to the censorship front. Ms. Manx says she's seen all kinds of disingenuous explanations for why Twitter won't report #Wikileaks or #cablegate as a trending topic. The main one: the mysterious Twitter Algorithm. My gosh, you'd think they were Google or something. There's nothing mysterious about it; if there's a promoted tweet, that means someone is paying to make sure something trends. It's hard to imagine, to use but one particularly irritating example of a bogus trend, Venezuelans being so enamored of Justin Bieber that they would resort to not one but several hashtags to keep HIM trending; at least two of my Venezuelan tweeps (one of them a student in his late teens) say that they know virtually no one down thataway who even likes the kid. And lo! Ms. Manx's suspicions are confirmed. In fact, #Wikileaks and #cablegate ARE getting much more tweetage than the Biebs. Failing to report, the Stumpy Cat opines, is also a form of censorship, especially if it's so deliberate that it requires equally deliberate countermeasures to circumvent.

And finally, Juan Cole, as usual, gets to the real meat of the matter, calling the thing by its right name: McCarthyism. Did anyone seriously believe that smear campaigns and witch-hunts died with the most odious US citizen ever to openly engage in them? In fact, they are just as illegal as a lot of the things being leaked in the diplomatic cables--smear campaigns and political vendettas against foreign leaders, particularly those who don't toe the State Dept. line. As Cole rightly notes, if it were really a matter of treason, or exposing state secrets illegally, there are plenty of books on Amazon--and probably plenty of other PayPal clients--that would be much more worth dropping than Wikileaks.

December 2, 2010

Wikileaks/Cablegate: Hillary has an explanation for Cristina

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Wouldn't you have loved to be a fly on the wall when this little chit-chat was going down?

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, made a phone call today to the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández, having to do with the confidential documents made public by Wikileaks, according to diplomatic sources.

The state news agency, Telam, reported that Fernández was "surprised" by Clinton's midday call, in which the latter offered "explanations" over the diplomatic telegrams referring to Argentina.

The Argentine minister of external affairs, Héctor Timerman, also spoke last night with the State Department's Undersecretary of Political Affairs, William Burns, according to the agency.

The first leaked documents revealed that the US State Department sought information via its embassy in Buenos Aires over the mental state and spirits of president Cristina Fernández.

The telegrams also revealed links between a high-level functionary with corruption and narcotrafficking, and that the Argentine president had promised to "co-operate with the Government of the United States in Bolivia" to improve the relationship between the two countries.

Translation mine.

That last little bit sounds rather encouraging, considering how ex-ambassador Goldilocks--Dubya's man--fucked things up between Bolivia and the US by hanging out with putschists. It also speaks to something else: Cristina has been one of Evo's most outspoken friends. And she is very critical of US imperialism. Apparently the State Dept. got that message loud and clear, although it also made demeaning reference to her mental health. As though one couldn't be an anti-imperialist and sane at the same time. (Actually, the opposite is true--you'd have to be insane to support imperialism!)

The big story here, of course, is that the State Dept. has been badly embarrassed by the revelation of its spooky business, and by the confirmation that all these uppity LatAm democrats have, in fact, NOT been talking out their tinfoil hats whenever they condemned the US for supporting this fascist faction or that. Not only has an undersecretary spoken to the Argentine foreign minister, but the fact that Hill herself has had to call Cristina, well...that's bigbigBIG. It means there's gonna be an awful lot of fence-mending. That's good. Let's hope it goes beyond the superficial. It's no use apologizing and saying "it won't happen again"...only to let it happen again, this time with more secrecy. It's not the secrecy that needs to change, it's the behavior that's being hushed up.

And here's a word to whomever at the State Dept. is reading me: If you're smart, you'll knock off the interfering, quit financing fake democrats, and learn to do business honorably. Yes, that's right: negotiate with the actual elected leaders upfront, in good faith. No more Wilsonian carrot-and-stick bullshit; manipulation and bullying are out. These people aren't idiots. They elect their own leaders now; you don't get to pick and choose those for them. They might even quit yelling "Yankee go home" if the Yanks would only learn how to behave. And how to behave is simple: QUIT ACTING LIKE YOU OWN THE PLACE!!!

Now, I wonder who that corrupt, narco-connected "high-level functionary" is, and what country s/he is from; the article wasn't at all precise about that. (I can only translate what I see, after all.) Spidey-sense tells me it's someone with the CIA.

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.

November 22, 2010

Viva Evo, FU CIA!

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"If the press is a nest of thugs, let the walls speak!"

Need a laugh this dreary Monday morning? Have I got the giggles for you...

Bolivian President Evo Morales had a blunt message for the visiting U.S. Pentagon chief on Monday: Latin American nations will pick their own friends and business partners, including Iran, regardless of U.S. opinion.

The colorful leftist leader delivered an hourlong welcome to delegates at a regional defense conference that included U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Morales never mentioned Gates by name. But most of the speech, and all of the applause lines, were clearly directed at the Pentagon chief and former head of the CIA.

Bolivia is more democratic and representative than the United States, Morales said, and democracy would improve in the entire region if the United States stopped interfering.

He mentioned the spread of Iranian and Russian business and other ties in Latin America, and said it is not the U.S. place to complain.

"Bolivia under my government will have an agreement, an alliance, to anyone in the world," Morales said. "Nobody will forbid us," he said to applause.

Okay, you say...so where's the funny? Other than that snarky, crypto-racist use of "colorful" to describe an elected president who happens to be indigenous, maybe? Hang on, hang on, I'm getting to it...

Gates did not directly respond, and didn't seem fazed by the one-hour monologue. A day earlier he had warned that countries doing business with Iran should remember that Iran is under international sanctions over its nuclear program. He also questioned whether Iran has the technical capability to help another nations develop civilian nuclear power.

"As a sovereign sate Bolivia obviously can have relationships with any country in the world that it wishes to," Gates said Sunday. "I think Bolivia needs to be mindful of the number of United Nations Security Council resolutions that have been passed with respect to Iran's behavior."

That's the beginning of it. CIA honcho Robert Gates, completely tone-deaf, is trying to tell Bolivia (where even the poorest people know the score by heart) what tune the US wants it to sing. STILL.

But wait, there's more:

Morales ticked off a history of attempted coups, alleged election- and vote-tampering, military meddling and vague conspiracies involving the United States. Some of it is based in truth, although the U.S. denies that a former ambassador tried to engineer a coup against Morales in 2008, as he alleged Monday.

Morales kicked out the then-U.S. ambassador in 2008, and the two nations have not normalized diplomatic relations since. Morales also expelled the U.S. DEA on suspicion of espionage.

Here's where the AP reporters--three of them for one lousy story!--get funny with us, too. The US can deny all it likes, but anyone who's been following me, Otto, or El Duderino in recent years knows that Philip Goldberg has, indeed, pushed for a putsch. And on more than one occasion. Why else all those secret midnight meetings with prominent (and putschist) opposition "leaders"? And why else would Goldilocks the Failure fall up...and straight into a cushy intel desk job in Washington?

And while we're on the subject of espionage, the DEA isn't merely "suspected" of it. They are proven to be in it to their eyeballs. Ask former DEA agent Celerino Castillo if you don't believe me. The DEA is not only a nest of spies, it's also a drug smuggling cartel big enough to make all of Colombia blush with shame.

But wait...our three amigos still have a few punchlines left:

He denies that coca grown in Bolivia feeds the worldwide demand for cocaine, although the country produces vastly more of the crop that would be needed for its traditional and legal medicinal use in Bolivia.

Notice that they don't supply a single fact or statistic to back up that contention. How much exactly IS "vastly more...than would be needed", Messrs. AP reporter-dudes? And why no mention of the top cash crops of Colombia and Peru...neither of which is coffee?

Well, let's not waste time waiting for a cogent answer there, kids, there's more horseshit still waiting in the Augean Stable that is AP's LatAm bureau:

Morales also alleged U.S. involvement in coup attempts or political upheaval in Venezuela in 2002, Honduras in 2009 and Ecuador in 2010.

"The empire of the United States won," in Honduras, Morales said, a reference to the allegations of former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya that the U.S. was behind his ouster.

"The people of the Americas in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, we won," Morales continued. "We are three to one with the United States. Let's see what the future brings."

U.S. officials have repeatedly denied involvement in all of those cases and critics of the United States have produced no clear evidence.

And the AP, like the good presstitutes they are, lick it all up and don't even bother to report the fact that ample, clear evidence to the contrary has, in fact, been produced by the alternative media, the blogosphere, and the state-funded and community media all over Latin America. Hell, all I've had to do is translate a few of those articles to demonstrate that the US and the AP are both lying. Or if that's not enough, I can also refer you to Machetera, who's done an excellent job of unpacking what really happened in Honduras.

But here's the final jab from our trio of bumblers, and it too is a doozer:

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa called a Sept. 30 police revolt over benefit cuts a coup attempt in disguise, but he did not accuse the United States of being involved.

Actually, Correa did, although he also says he does not believe President Obama is involved. Hilariously, the AP themselves reported this, although it all seems to have gone down the memory hole now!

And there is plenty of history to bear him out that the US, and particularly the CIA, has long been behind Ecuador's apparent instability. Philip Agee, the late former CIA agent, has written extensively about it in his book, Inside the Company: CIA Diary. One of Agee's postings was to Ecuador. The CIA's modus operandi was to co-opt a country's police and military forces, and sponsor opposition parties, non-governmental "civil society" organizations, and the like. And where no suitable "civil society" orgs existed, it invariably ginned up some fake ones to make it look as though there was extensive opposition to a popular leader who wasn't toeing the proper line. By doing so, the CIA created--and still creates--pretexts for coups, which are then passed off as mere "revolts", like the failed September 30 putsch in Ecuador. This one, predictably, was passed off as a police revolt, aided and abetted by a USAID-corrupted indigenous group, CONAIE. I've written about them before; here's another blogger's viewpoint, which seems to buttress mine quite nicely.

And oh yeah, Evo is quite right about the Honduran coup, too. That one was backed by Washington, and there was no disguising where the sympathies lay.

But you'll never hear that from the AP. They can assign three reporters to one story and still not tell you what you really need to know. All they'll do is make up bad fiction for the benefit of the CIA. Woe betide you if you believe a word of it.

Viva Evo, FU CIA...and FOAD, AP.

November 21, 2010

Russian TV crew arrested at the School of the Assassins

Your take-away lesson here, kiddies: Fascism and torture cannot bear closer scrutiny. Why else shut out a camera crew covering a protest against a "democratic" school teaching those things?

November 19, 2010

See what happens when you sleep through Media Law 101?

You get pantload everywhere:

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Why do I get the feeling that the above is actually Ezra Levant's grade-school days coming back to haunt?

(Image shamelessly stolen from Law is Cool.)

November 16, 2010

Heroes for Today: Sully, again

Hero pilot and airline safety expert Capt. Chesley Sullenberger weighs in on the US-TSA's infamous "porno-scanners". He doesn't like them, feeling that they're merely "expedient" and don't help air crews do their job--protecting passengers--at all.

There are other reasons to question their use, too: Scientists say they're not safe, as they bombard the human skin with enough radiation to cause cancer. I don't know about you, but as a natural redhead, one who NEVER lies around on beaches or tanning beds (it would be, among other things, a waste of my time anyway), I think that's something to be more than a little concerned about. Enough that I'd want to slather myself head to toe in lead paint if I ever had to pass through one of those privacy-invading horrors.

Isn't it ironic that those things actually make flying LESS safe, all things considered?

November 15, 2010

"The grandfather of Cuban blogs" supports terrorism. So does El Nuevo Herald

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This might come as a surprise to some, but surely not to me.

The newspaper, El Nuevo Herald, of Miami, has published an article in which one of its columnists thanks the creators of the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops for allowing him to "live the dream of all Cubans who love liberty."

The author of the article signed it Val Prieto, "director and founder" of a publication called Babalublog.com. The vocation of Mr. Prieto is not a joke; in a highlighted area on Babalublog.com there is a section called "Loving Brothers", and, alongside photos of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista and Luis Posada Carriles, it invites readers to a dinner with the selfsame Posada Carriles, the confessed author of the terrorist bombing of a Cuban airplane in which 73 people died.

In the upper left-hand corner, there are words of praise for the blog from the much-awarded Cuban blogger, Yoani Sánchez. This person has referred to Posada Carriles thusly: "A political subject that does not interest people. It's a smokescreen". Now we know why.

Translation mine. Links as in original.

I've long disregarded any "information" published on the Babalu Blog as crapaganda, and I know better than to take seriously anyone citing them as a source (unless, of course, they're actually critical of the Babalu babblers, and take the time to debunk the blog's rank nonsense). The Babalu Blog is not only anti-Castro, but by extension anti-Chavecito, racistly anti-Evo, and, generally, just anti-anything-good-going-on-in-Latin-America. They'd rather see impoverished Latin Americans die than get free healthcare from Cuban doctors, and would rather see them go illiterate and jobless than learning to read and improve their lives using the highly successful "Yo Sí Puedo" Cuban method. They're a bunch of vicious, cowardly cyber-thugs with a hatred of real liberty, in short. It doesn't surprise me that they would be cheerleading for gore-porn video games which are now being used to promote terrorism--oh, sorry, "regime change"--against not only Venezuela, but Cuba as well. It's worth noting that such games have been banned in Venezuela for blatantly promoting violent crime. (And not only there, either.)

I also used to look down my nose at Yoani Sánchez and take nothing she says as anything but a joke, or perhaps the product of her own Münchausen syndrome. Now I can revise my stance to say that she is not only a self-centred narcissist who goes to ridiculous lengths to pwn herself, but a terrorism supporter, as well. And her blithe dismissal of 73 innocent people's deaths as a "smokescreen" shows just what a sick little wretch she really is.

What I'd really like to know, though, is why does the Miami Herald's Spanish-speaking sister support terrorism? Isn't there supposed to be a war against it going on in the US?

Oh. I see.

Cuba, as usual, doesn't count as a victim of terrorism. That's a "smokescreen", too, I take it. Or maybe, seeing as it was the CIA paying and training the odious Luis Posada Carriles to place bombs and blow up planes, it's just another black op--"Call of Duty" style. Of course they're going to protect him until the day he dies!

I won't be holding my breath for the day any of them steps up to condemn terrorism. They are all clearly unapologetic mouthpieces for it. They all belong in jail, but I won't be holding my breath for that, either.

PS: Before any other video gamers out there start chiding me on how I'm being unfair to the makers of the game referenced above, hold your electrons. If you think the military and the spook agencies aren't using video games to recruit you as a professional killer, you had better read this. The Pentagon and the CIA are doing EXACTLY that. And they have been for quite a few years now. And yes, there is some concern that the "game" mentality is infiltrating warfare, too, specifically with the use of Predator drones. A generation of soldier-kids raised on video games could have a lot of tragic, yet quite foreseen consequences.

November 14, 2010

Heroes for Today: Graeme Taylor and Larry Skopnik

One's a gay teen, the other's a paraplegic. But both have something remarkable in common: the way they stand up for others in the face of yahoos trying to take things away from them. Considering how vulnerable both are, their courage deserves a hearty round of applause.

November 9, 2010

What delegitimizes Israel?

Well, for starters, Bibi Netanyahu is doing a terrific job of it. As are his Likudnik supporters:

Democratic tolerance for dissent: Ur doin it rong.

UPDATE: Mondoweiss has more on the chokehold part of that incident.

November 3, 2010

How to screw the pooch, authentically

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Oh yes, little Chihuahua perrito. Once more, you are so fucked! And this time, by a news source I used to trust, at least as far as Mexico went. But no longer. As usual, my amigo Slave Revolt has called it correctly, saying NarcoNews was corrupted. I took my time coming around to his POV, but now I understand and agree. Alas, even the purveyors of "authentic journalism" can screw the pooch. And here's how they do it, in a step-by-step breakdown...so you can recognize further dog-fuckery in the future:

1. Publish, unedited and uncriticized, one press release from CONAIE, one of several indigenous people's NGOs in Ecuador.

2. Comment on it in hysterical, smear-mongering hyperbole, questioning none of its premises:

Note by Al Giordano: During Thursday's coverage of events in Ecuador, we accepted on face value that it was an attempted coup d'etat and saw the same international forces behind the 2009 Honduras coup involved in these events. Now that the immediate dangers have subsided is the moment to reflect more deeply as to what occurred and why.

We also defended Ecuador's most important coalition of social movements, the Federation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE, in its Spanish initials) from a vicious smear and innuendo campaign against it by North Americans like Eva Golinger, Jean-Guy Allard, and on her Twitter feed, Naomi Klein (see correction down below) who recklessly accused the indigenous women and men of the CONAIE of being agents of imperialism and recipients of funds from US AID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

In subsequent days, waving extremely flimsy and half-stated "evidence," Golinger and Allard have pressed their crusade to discredit the CONAIE further in a series of articles high on rhetoric and rumor and low on factual content or proof. If this is to become a duel of credibility and honesty between these gringo and Canadian voices and the dignified ones of the CONAIE, we give far more benefit of the doubt to those Ecuadorean voices who have proved for two decades that they hold the interests of their own country and their own peoples high and proud and who have effectively organized and struggled and continue to win real results.

We furthermore consider the efforts by Golinger et al against the good people of the CONAIE to themselves be a form of North American imperialism and view it necessary to call it what it is: dishonesty based on the imperatives of political expediency and worship at the altar of State power. McCarthyism and Stalinism were always two faces on the same coin, after all. Each make their lists, invent false charges, distort the whole truth, as they seek to purge, destroy and silence debate and dissent.

3. ...while disregarding the fact that CONAIE is, in fact, very much a recipient of USAID funding, and has been for several years, just like the worst racist and fascist opponents of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. Which kind of puts a crimp in the whole "CONAIE good people" spin.

It's not as though indigenous people can't be misled by gringos with mucho dinero, either. Happens more often than you think in Ecuador; Philip Agee could have told you as much, back when he was still alive. He was with the CIA when they fomented political coups during the 1960s, after all, and one of them (his first assignment, in fact) was in Ecuador. And how did the CIA do it? By cultivating conservative, strongly Catholic indigenous groups, among others. And yes, plenty of US money changed hands then, too. CONAIE did not yet exist, but the pattern of CIA subversion of non-governmental organizations in Ecuador was established during Agee's time there. It was later carried out under USAID and the NED--to give the whole putschist enterprise the appropriate "democratic" gloss. Scratch the veneer a bit, though, and you'll see the CIA still very much at work underneath it all.

4. But I guess it's easier to smear Eva Golinger, absurdly, as a "Stalinist" (never mind that Joe Stalin is long dead) than it is to take a good hard look at CONAIE's strange assertions:

We energetically announce that there never was any attempted coup d'etat, much less a kidnapping, but an event that responded to the uncertain political management of the government that causes popular discontent through permanent aggression, discrimination and violations of human rights consecrated in the Constitution.

We do not recognize this dictatorial "democracy" because of its lack of freedom of speech, the kidnapping of all the powers of the state by the executive branch in its political system of one government, that does not generate spaces to debate the projects, and laws elaborated from the indigenous movement and other social sectors.

We categorically refute claims that the CONAIE, the Pachakutik Political Movement, the peoples and nationalities have any relationship at all with the organism known as USAID, previously NED, not today nor ever. To the contrary, we know that this organization finances the "social programs" of this government like the forest partnership and that, yes, is condemnable.

We demand the constitutional suspension of the National Congress for its failure to comply with the constitutional mandate that it legislate much less audit as it is well known that all laws are approved by the president's legal minister.

We condemn the usurpation of press freedom when on September 30 all media not allied with the government was forced to broadcast government news in "cadena nacional," a means by which all access to information is controlled and manipulated with a version of the facts that does not inform about the real dimensions of the situation on that day in the country.

Really, Al are you going to let THAT pass unchallenged? You call THAT "authentic"?

I call bullshit. On several points. Let's take them down one by one:

(a) "We energetically announce that there never was any attempted coup d'etat, much less a kidnapping, but an event that responded to the uncertain political management of the government that causes popular discontent through permanent aggression, discrimination and violations of human rights consecrated in the Constitution."

This is the first bald-faced CONAIE lie. What happened in Ecuador on September 20 WAS, unequivocally, a coup. Eyewitnesses who were at the hospital where Rafael Correa was held prisoner that day say that yes, he WAS kidnapped and held there against his will. One of them, Dr. Paula Vernimmen, actually tweeted the events as they went down. I followed her on Twitter that day, almost literally biting my nails in fear for Correa's life. My fear was well justified; Dr. Vernimmen later tweeted some pictures that prove that yes, there was a coup. Mere protesters against alleged human-rights violations don't fire big live ammo at an armored van containing a president, after all.

As for the "violations of human rights consecrated in the Constitution", I seem to recall Rafael Correa convening a constituent assembly to rewrite Ecuador's old, fusty gringo-imperialist era one. Why would he violate his own rules? Makes no sense, and doesn't explain his high popularity in the days and weeks immediately following the coup attempt, either. Consistently over 70% in the polls since the coup, people. And this popularity comes even as Quito remains under an indefinite state of emergency!

It also doesn't explain the fact that the general public strongly supports the army, which was instrumental in rescuing Correa, and condemns the police for revolting.

So yes, as you may have guessed, this too is CONAIE talking out its collective buttocks. One might think that if they really valued democracy, they would at least have the decency to condemn putschist tactics, but oh nooooo. To the contrary, they endorse them. Read on...

(b) "We do not recognize this dictatorial 'democracy' because of its lack of freedom of speech, the kidnapping of all the powers of the state by the executive branch in its political system of one government, that does not generate spaces to debate the projects, and laws elaborated from the indigenous movement and other social sectors."

"Dictatorial democracy"? Now there's an oxymoron if ever I heard one. Correa is popularly elected (and re-elected). With a margin of victory that leaves no doubt. He even won his second term on the first round, in a region all too known for its two-round elections of less-popular, more conservative candidates. What could be more "dictatorial"? Well, maybe if Correa had abolished the entire Ecuadorian parliament, CONAIE's absurd claim of "kidnapping all of the powers of the state" might hold water. But last I looked, the country still had one, and it was still running, albeit not always in CONAIE's favor. So it's not as though there are no "spaces to debate the projects, and laws elaborated from the indigenous movement and other social sectors." Actually, it looks more as if the democratic debate works just fine, and if CONAIE comes out the loser, well, too bad. Nobody elected THEM to a majority in the assembly, or to the presidency. (Maybe they'd be more popular if they cut the USAID purse strings!)

(c) "We categorically refute claims that the CONAIE, the Pachakutik Political Movement, the peoples and nationalities have any relationship at all with the organism known as USAID, previously NED, not today nor ever. To the contrary, we know that this organization finances the 'social programs' of this government like the forest partnership and that, yes, is condemnable."

Whoa, whoa, whoa...USAID finances Correa? Now that's just plain crazy talk. Why would they finance a man who's on the same side as another president they've been trying to topple since he came to office more than a decade ago? I'm talking here about Chavecito, to whom Correa is often (and not wrongly) compared. USAID, like the CIA, wants Correa dead; their lackeys in the Ecuadorian federal police made that abundantly clear.

Plus, that "categorically refute" thing has already been shot down by Eva Golinger's documented proof of the exact opposite. They may deny, but they CAN'T refute what she has found--hard documentation proving that yes, there is a long-standing relationship between CONAIE and USAID and the NED.

(d) "We demand the constitutional suspension of the National Congress for its failure to comply with the constitutional mandate that it legislate much less audit as it is well known that all laws are approved by the president's legal minister."

They demand WHAT? Suspension of an elected parliament? That sounds awfully putschist and dictatorial. Who are these people to condemn democracy as "dictatorial" when what they are doing is worse?

And as you may have guessed, they're also not telling the truth about the assembly's failure to "legislate much less audit". What's very strange is that their legislative arm, Pachakutic, originally voted to support Correa's constitution. When did they turn against him, and what turned them? Questions, questions--don't expect honest answers from them or Al Giordano, though.

(e) "We condemn the usurpation of press freedom when on September 30 all media not allied with the government was forced to broadcast government news in 'cadena nacional,' a means by which all access to information is controlled and manipulated with a version of the facts that does not inform about the real dimensions of the situation on that day in the country."

This is the same bullshit the Venezuelan opposition spouts all the time, freely and in their own private media, whenever Chavecito uses his legal right to broadcast an important announcement on all channels. It is also a legally enshrined right in Ecuador. And public service announcements by the federal government are also a fact of life here in North America, although we don't have cadenas per se. So this is another silly complaint that doesn't hold water. It does, however, smell very much of USAID's media-manipulating hand.

As to the claim that "all access to information is controlled and manipulated with a version of the facts that does not inform about the real dimensions of the situation on that day in the country", that's an absurd projection. Not to mention false. CNN's Spanish channel was unaffected, and transmitted nonstop lies, pro-US crapaganda and just plain bullshit throughout the cadena. It was so bad, and so utterly wrong, that the local CNN correspondent, Rodolfo Muñoz, resigned--in a move eerily reminiscent of what Andrés Izarra, formerly news director of Venezuela's oldest private channel, RCTV, did when his bosses told him to allow "nothing pro-Chávez on screen".

And that's not even touching the fact that Ecuador's private TV channels are all very right-wing--and bitterly opposed to Rafael Correa, who has often complained of their biased coverage. The idea that they were "manipulated" by the president into misinforming the people is laughable on the face of it. They were, if anything, for once made to report the truth. And you can bet that they are bitter...

Yes, CONAIE is lying. It and Pachakutic are lying in support of a fascist coup, one that would only hurt the indigenous peoples of Ecuador if it had succeeded. It would have put the treacherous Lucio "Sucio" Gutiérrez back in power, reinstated all the old corruption, led to murderous riots and repressions, and prevented the rainforest cleanup (by Chevron, among others) that Correa was pushing for--a move that would have directly benefited the indigenous! If anyone is manipulated here, it is clearly CONAIE and Pachakutic, who are touting, by strange coincidence, the exact same line as the US State Dept. would have them do. That line is the lie.

And Al Giordano accepts the lie at face value, with no further investigation, simply because his loopy anti-statist views dictate that he must denounce anyone favorable to a LatAm head of state, even someone as diligent as Eva Golinger, as "Stalinist". And that this is somehow "authentic journalism", to present a crazy, downright libelous press release, merely translated and not analyzed, as "the truth". Maybe because serious analysis would reveal him, embarrassingly, to be a hack, fronting for the same awful policies as CONAIE--policies that would only hurt their own people in the long run, and actively hinder plurinational participation in Ecuador's future.

Shame on him.

November 2, 2010

Peace or poppies? The ethical dilemma that shouldn't be

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"Soldiers and sailors and airmen, too
Fought for us across the sea;
Brave and unselfish, strong and true,
Keeping Canada free!
I'll wear a poppy on Remembrance Day
To show I'm proud of what they did for me..."

We sang that song in sixth grade, before I had any real idea how ironic it was. You see, both branches of my family were on the "wrong" side of the two World Wars, being Germans (the one in northern Germany, the other in the Serbian part of Yugoslavia). My family was NOT Canadian at the time, and freedom? Under Hitler? Pah. At best, non-Jewish Germans only thought they were free, or that they were fighting for their freedom (or whatever other bogus "noble" cause was in vogue). If there was one thing most Germans knew full well, it was that the war was NOT about anybody's freedom. It was a farce, a dirty joke, for anyone to claim that it had to do with that. I didn't know that at the time; I just sang along in the school assembly, blithe and unquestioning, when directed to do so.

And of course, I knew nothing about how the town of Kitchener, Ontario--home to one of Canada's largest ethnic-German populations--used to be called Berlin. Or about how Japanese Canadians were interned, for no reason other than being Japanese...and Canadian. If I had known those things, the whole "freedom" meme would have been easier for me to question. But of course they don't teach you things like that in Grade 6!

Seven years later, and several decades wiser, I went on to win second place in the provincial division of the Royal Canadian Legion essay contest, this time acknowledging my ironies, lamenting the futility of war, and adding that the purpose of war memorials should not be to glorify war, but to remind us not to make more of them. I'm still proud of that essay, which was what helped me to sort my mind out about war, and come down on the side of peace. My basic conclusion still stands.

And that was how I made my peace with the poppy.

Now I'm of two minds about wearing it again. This letter to the editors makes a cogent case for not wearing it:

World War I, of course, is not the only war in which Canadians fought and died, but the "they died to make us free" model seems equally inappropriate to Canadian participation in the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the (so-called) Gulf War. World War II is a different matter - Hitler and Nazism were obvious evils which had to be eradicated. Even granting this, there are moral ambiguities associated with that war which we still have difficulty acknowledging.

In 1992, for instance, Brian and Terence McKenna made a documentary (The Valour and the Horror) which looked carefully at the bombing of German cities by Canadian aircrews. Although careful to praise the personal valour of individual airmen, the McKenna brothers pointed out that these bombs rarely hit military targets but did kill thousands of civilians.

Furthermore, they noted, the Allied command knew perfectly well that these bombs were missing military targets and killing civilians but continued the raids nevertheless, as a way of demoralizing hostile populations. Finally, the documentary suggested these mass killings contributed little if anything to winning the war. There was nothing new in any of this. Academic historians had been saying similar things for years - but nobody listens to academics. A documentary on the CBC was another matter.

The response to the McKenna brothers was electric. Although many veterans were glad someone had finally had the courage to challenge the official version of history, other veterans and many veterans groups throughout Canada uttered squeals of rage. They used their influence to spark a Senate investigation and the CBC was pressured (with some success) to define the documentary a "docudrama." In other words, it was fiction not history - in contrast of course to the sanitized version of history promoted by veterans organizations. It was a disgraceful episode in recent Canadian history.

If we want the future to be a better place, we must confront the horrors of the past, even if that includes horrors for which Canada (or the United States or Great Britain or any of the other official good guys) were responsible - and that means challenging all sanitized versions of history, even those that come masked beneath the emotionally charged image of a blood-red poppy.

Meanwhile, a British campaign resurrects an old idea, one that might just finally gain some traction in the age of the Internets, when buried history gets dug up again and dusted off:

The idea of decoupling Armistice Day , the red poppy and later Remembrance Day from their military culture dates back to 1926, just a few years after the British Legion was persuaded to try using the red poppy as a fundraising tool in Britain.

A member of the No More War Movement suggested that the British Legion should be asked to imprint 'No More War' in the centre of the red poppies instead of 'Haig Fund' and failing this pacifists should make their own flowers.

The details of any discussion with the British Legion are unknown but as the centre of the red poppy displayed the 'Haig Fund' imprint until 1994 it was clearly not successful. A few years later the idea was again discussed by the Co-operative Women's Guild who in 1933 produced the first white poppies to be worn on Armistice Day (later called Remembrance Day). The Guild stressed that the white poppy was not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War - a war in which many of the women lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers. The following year the newly founded Peace Pledge Union joined the CWG in the distribution of the poppies and later took over their annual promotion

And here's an irony: The same Royal Canadian Legion who saw merit in my ambivalent essay, and who also claim with a straight face that the poppy represents those who died for our freedom...have tried to ban the free-speech gesture that is the white poppy!

Remind me of what all that warring and dying was for, again?

I would love to wear a white poppy. I think it's the perfect gesture: Honor the dead, by speaking for life and peace. But I live in a fairly conservative town, where the white poppy campaign has yet to reach. I can't see our Royal Canadian Legion branch selling them anytime soon; their official position is apparently still stuck somewhere around the same level as that sixth-grade jingle.

And I'm not the kind of person who stands on street corners selling things, braving ignorant people's abuses alone.

So here I am again, stuck on the horns of the same old dilemma: Peace or poppies?

How about peace AND poppies?

Sigh.

Guess I'll throw some coins in the box and fish out the old red poppy yet again...and pin a peace button right next to it, just so people know why I'm really wearing that thing. And if anyone wants to argue that it's an insult, I'll point to both and remind them that we peaceniks fight this fight so their loved ones don't have to go die for someone else's arrogance all over again.

October 25, 2010

Congratulations, Team America World Police!

It's been only eight long years of illegal captivity and torture, and finally, you wrung a "confession" out of your designated scapegoat, poor, brainwashed Omar Khadr, he of the batshit-crazy fundie-Islamist family. Feel proud!

Meanwhile, here's a little song, which I'm sure you won't comprehend in the least:

Fair trial? What the fuck is that? Apparently, a thing of the past.

PS: I was saying...?

Quotable: Glenn Greenwald on the ironies of islamophobia

"I'm always amazed when I receive e-mails from people telling me that I fail to understand how Islam is a uniquely violent, supremely expansionist culture that is intrinsically menacing. The United States is a country with a massive military and nuclear stockpile, that invaded and has occupied two Muslim countries for almost a full decade, that regularly bombs and drones several others, that currently is threatening to attack one of the largest Muslim countries in the world, that imposed a sanctions regime that killed hundreds of thousands of Muslim children, that slaughters innocent people on a virtually daily basis, that has interfered in and controlled countries around the world since at least the middle of the last century, that has spent decades arming and protecting every Israeli war with its Muslim neighbors and enabling a four-decade-long brutal occupation, and that erected a worldwide regime of torture, abduction and lawless detention, much of which still endures. Those are just facts.

"But if we all agree to sit around and point over there -- hey, can you believe those primitive Muslims and how violent and extremist they are -- the reality of what we do in the world will fade blissfully away. Even better, it will be transformed from violent aggression into justified self-defense, and then we'll not only free ourselves of guilt, but feel proud and noble because of it."

--Glenn Greenwald, at Salon.com

October 22, 2010

Cuban blogger beaten up in Miami. Reason: Free speech!

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Pepe Varela shows graphically what happens to Cuban bloggers who don't follow the hard-right Miamero line.

Dr. Paula Vernimmen, whom I've been following since she was trapped inside the same hospital as president Rafael Correa on September 30, during the failed coup in Ecuador, has appealed via Twitter for someone to translate this into English. It's an entry from Yohandry, a popular Cuban blogger from the island, and it's a shocker, so of course, I had to run with it:

Although we haven't yet found clear references to what occurred, the images above, linked by the Miami police on an official Miami-Dade website, illustrate very well what could be the consequences of exercising your freedom of expression in that city.

During a recent trip to Cuba, Varela, who edits a blog in Miami which defends the Cuban Revolution, denounced the threats he was receiving from ultra-rightist elements in the city on Cambios en Cuba.

The Miami mafia blogosphere is already delighting in the images and celebrating the bestial beating of a man who has done no more than say what he thinks and feels in a city and a country where in reality, dissenting is a crime punished with aberrations like this one.

We ask ourselves what the Miami press headlines and those of other countries are saying now about this abominable act, knowing in advance what the answer will be: silence and manipulation.

At the time, in an interview on video, Varela makes clear that the mafia has been manipulating his family, using them to pressure him, and that he had received e-mails in which he was warned that if he returned to Miami, he would be imprisoned.

It seems, according to these photos, which are worthy of an anthology of violence porn, and which is evident in how they respect human rights in the US, his enemies have managed to silence, at least for a while, the blogger Varela.

Let's keep abreast of the situation of Varela and continue to denounce the tortures and threats to which he was subjected.

These are the photos which Repression ID wanted, and there they are. You'll find nothing like them in Cuba.

We know that the blogger Hernández Busto, based in Barcelona, has been manipulated in the case, but we know that he, along with his cohorts in Miami, are behind this repression.

From Cuba we commence a campaign to denounce violence against those who think differently in Miami.

Signed:

Cuban Bloggers in Defence of Freedom of Expression in Miami

Links as in original.

Here's the video in which Varela tells of the threats he received before the beating:

Seems that "freedom of speech" is restricted to those who toe the fascist line, especially in Miami. And they complain about Cuba?

October 20, 2010

Media don't get the message. Memo #2, comin' on down...

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Oh, for fuck's sake. When the media latch on to a bad concept, they REALLY latch on and don't let go. Two days ago I blogged about how the Russell Williams case had been mischaracterized as a "fetish" crime. Did anyone get the memo?

The Star's Heather Mallick sure didn't. She went all melodramatic, and then right back to the ol' hinky-kinky:

Up to that point, Williams had been a pathetic panty thief and haunter of little girls. Panties don't talk back. They're mere containers for the living female that inhabits them. Williams later told police that underwear had been his fetish since his 20s, which shows the extraordinary power of a minor brain pattern. He was hopeless with girls. The evidence of his rapes shows that he didn't know how to talk to a victim, and there was even a strange, awkward politeness.

Oh sure. Just another socially awkward panty raider, who raped because he needed to get laid but didn't know how to talk to girls. Weirdo, weirdo. Case dismissed.

That seems to be a pattern at the Star, because another article, one purporting to get inside his criminal profile, also misses the mark:

Col. David Russell Williams -- who this past week indicated through his lawyer that he intends to plead guilty on Oct. 18 to two murders, two sex assaults and a string of fetish break-ins -- is a serial killer like none they have ever seen.

"This guy is quite unusual," says psychologist Vernon Quinsey, who spent 16 years assessing criminals at the Oak Ridge maximum security psychiatric hospital in Penetanguishene.

"We're learning from this case," adds an informed source, who requested anonymity.

"We haven't seen guys like this in the past and we don't expect to see a lot of them in the future."

Williams had a successful career and a long, apparently loving marriage, and didn't embark on a life of crime until he began a series of fetish home burglaries in September 2007, at the age of 44.

"It's very unusual for a guy who's got his act together like that ... to all of a sudden start committing crimes at a late age," says Quinsey, professor emeritus of psychology, biology and psychiatry at Queen's University.

"The guys you typically see start earlier," he adds.

"Almost nobody starts a life of crime when they're in their 40s."

Equally unusual was his escalation from panty fetish to sex assault to murder. Most serial killers assault and kill in tandem, right from the start.

Actually, that's not true either. Serial killers do in fact escalate their actions over a period of years or even decades, refining their technique and growing more violent as they gain confidence in their crime skills.

This guy most certainly didn't "start a life of crime in his 40s". Like all serial killers, his criminal behavioral pattern goes back a lot further than his indictable offences do. And it progresses from slightly odd but seemingly harmless acts to things much more sinister. If the media and the criminologists looked closer, I guarantee you that they would see a Russell Williams who most certainly did NOT have his act together. A CBC Fifth Estate report, which is the best thing I've seen on the Williams case so far, hints that his ability to break and enter may have been established as early as his late teens, when he began attending the University of Toronto. There, he got into the habit of playing an eerie "practical joke" on his dorm-mates: He would break into their locked rooms, hide in their closets for hours, and then when the unsuspecting dormie was doing his homework (or whatever), Williams would emerge from the closet and frighten him. A useful skill, no doubt, when you're a stalker of single, unsuspecting women--or underage girls. (It reminded me, as well, of Vincent Bugliosi's book, Helter Skelter, in which Charles Manson directed his "Family" to "creepy-crawl" the houses of people he wanted them to burgle and kill.)

Alas, they don't say much about the bad breakup Williams went through either, around age 20. It would be interesting if anyone could locate that former girlfriend and find out why she dumped him; I'll bet he was a very troubling boyfriend, abusive and controlling, and she left because she couldn't take his so-called "fetishes" anymore. She might well not be the only previous girlfriend he terrified and alienated! I hope those women, wherever they are, come forward and shed a bit more light on him. They might well be doing the public a service.

If the domestic media got this wrong, the foreign media couldn't be trusted to deliver a less sensationalized version. And sure enough, in the UK, the Telegraph went the Star one further and called Williams a "cross-dresser". That is also dead wrong, of course. Remember what I said about the difference between fetishism and predatory behavior? This guy didn't just want to wear female clothing, he wanted to control the rightful owners of these personal items, to terrify and terrorize them. A cross-dresser usually likes and admires women; a predator hates them and wants to feed off their fear of him. But the Torygraph couldn't be bothered with that. Much more sensational and saleable to show pictures of Williams posing, unsmiling and hirsute, in a girl's pink flowered tankini swimsuit!

I'm not the only blogger taking issue with this stupid habit of the media of chasing after the bright shiny objects (or the flowered pink ones with the string-bikini bottoms). If the media want to score a real scoop, they have to learn where to train their lenses, and it's not on the thing that looks the most shocking. They need to learn to focus on the things--many things--that are easy to overlook at first, but point to larger patterns.

Not everyone at the Star is getting the story wrong. Antonia Zerbisias has been shining a light of feminist inquiry on the little details her colleagues missed. She notes that it was a female police chief whose cops didn't sleep on the strange evidence that was piling up. She rightly asks the question: Does it take a woman to know that the seemingly trivial--the theft of a woman's underwear--is no joke?

I think it does. A woman feels violated when her most intimate clothing is stolen. She feels more naked than she would when simply surprised by a friend while getting out of a shower. Someone strange and uninvited has wormed his way right up close to her, and she can't even see him. Do you have any idea how terrifying that is? Can you, if you're not female? Can you, if you're a policeman who would rather bust a car thief or a stereo stealer? Stolen underwear looks pretty penny-ante to a male. It looks like...well, like a joke.

Like the "joke" Russell Williams played in his college days at U of T, breaking into other students' rooms and hiding in their closets for hours, waiting until his unsuspecting victim was well occupied before scaring the bejeebers out of him.

Or like the "joke" that the media would prefer to make out of all this, forgetting the deadly--and terrifying--implications their little tricks have for women and girls.

October 8, 2010

A few random thoughts on Mario Vargas Llosa

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Understand that writers are not necessarily good teachers, or even good people.

- T. C. Boyle

Hearing that Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel prize for literature this year was like hearing that a ghost had won it. That's because the Vargas Llosa who wrote the great book that won the prize no longer exists.

Sure, he's still there physically. But other than that, it's like he's just a whole other person. He's no longer that great writer. He's the body that the spirit abandoned. A great writer's shambling, moaning zombie, perhaps. But he is no longer that person.

This isn't easy for me to write. A lot of people I like, admire and respect are unreservedly pleased for him. They've read his good stuff, no doubt, and that's why. The stuff of 40-odd years ago. I have yet to read it. Perhaps if I had, I'd feel differently; at the very least, I'd be sighing with happy nostalgia for the Vargas Llosa that was. But I've read his recent stuff--that is to say, his shit, and I have to say, the Vargas Llosa of today is not a writer I can admire. Maybe the one from 40-odd years ago is, but he's dead, Jim.

What killed the great Mario Vargas Llosa? Was it an illness, an accident, a suicide? Or was it murder?

To understand how Vargas Llosa went from being a great writer to being the ghost of one, you have to look at what happened to so many others over the last 40-odd years. They started out young, idealistic, typically somewhere on the left end of the political spectrum. They were progressives. They were poets, they were songsters, they were political militants. They weren't afraid to tell all the truth, and tell it slant. They were full of a fiery energy that bade fair to frizzle up everything old and stagnant and unfortunate enough to stand in its way.

But then something happened between then and now. They lost it, that fire. Instead of frizzling up the old and stagnant, they became it. And they frizzled up from within.

Look what happened to Christopher Hitchens. Or to David Horowitz. Both started out as rather good writers, promising Trotskyists; both ended up as loathsome, lying neo-cons, vile enough to make a saint retch. Just something inherent in Trotskyism, some virus, some flaw that makes the adherent turn from perpetual revolution to perpetual imbecility? Just something inherently weak and debilitating in the left in general?

Hardly.

There are plenty of other writers from that era who did not abandon their initial political leanings. Ursula K. Le Guin is still a feminist, still opposed to war, still asking radical literary questions as an elder stateswoman of American Lit. She has only grown more brilliant over time. Gabriel García Márquez stayed on the left, won his Nobel and kept writing, and remains beloved and admired (by me, and yes, I have read his latest. It's not shit. He is still true to his own voice.)

It is entirely possible, in other words, to be a great writer, and a leftist, up to one's dying day. One's physical dying day, that is, since great writing is about as close to immortality as anyone can get.

Even those who did not physically live out the era still kept their gemlike flame. Che Guevara, who died the year I was born (just a little over two months after, in fact) is not only more popular than ever, he is also recognized as a fine writer in his own right. His diaries all stand as classics. And why not? A man who could turn phrases like "Let's be realists and do the impossible" deserves to be an immortal.

I'm sure the great Vargas Llosa, who won the prize posthumously as it were, is an immortal, or ought to be one. And that's what makes the zombie who schlepps around wearing his name and face and clothing such a sad travesty. We're still getting around to how he got dead, though.

As leftist politics fell out of vogue in Latin America through the latter 1960s, and into the '70s and '80s, a lot of lefties went right. Teodoro Petkoff, a guerrilla in early-1960s Venezuela, wound up in the 1990s as the finance minister to conservative president Rafael Caldera--and, not coincidentally, overseeing one of the worst financial catastrophes in Venezuela after the Caracazo. His policies were orthodox neoliberalism--pure Chicago School stuff, all by the Bretton Woods book. And they just about ruined Venezuela, not to mention any credibility that Petkoff ever had. His leftist guerrilla cred was as the dodo. He may have remained a pithy and scathing writer--even somehow managing, in the midst of economic collapse, to scare up the money to start his own newspaper, now sacred to the purpose of attacking Venezuela's current president. But he has become a corpse himself. Hardly anyone buys Tal Cual. No one can take him seriously, not even the opposition with whom he now runs (and still gets into vicious verbal brawls, when not busy slinging mud at Chavecito.) Washington may sponsor him, and the foreign press may fawn on him, but at home it means nothing. His own presidential efforts have been a flat failure.

So, incidentally, have those of none other than Mario Vargas Llosa. How flat? Well, he fucked off for Spain soon after. Suddenly, Peru was no longer good enough for him? Draw your own conclusions. But yes, he ran as a neoliberal or neo-con, and yes, he failed dismally as one. Just like Teodoro Petkoff.

What made these two once-fine writers dead? Just some wasting disease inherent in ex-leftism, I guess.

But the zombie of Vargas Llosa, like that of Petkoff, gives a convincing impression of still being alive. It walks, it talks (mostly gibberish, nowadays), and it gets into fights. (It once, famously, sucker-punched the still-leftist, very-much-alive Gabo--who metaphorically clobbered his ex-friend by grinning, black eye and all, for the camera, knowing himself to be blameless.)

Sometimes the zombie-Vargas Llosa takes its son Alvaro along for the ride, tag-team fashion. Alvaro Vargas Llosa isn't a ghost, he's an unborn wraith. He was never alive. But like his father, he's a very lifelike spook. He, too, writes fictions, even if they're not labelled as such. (An egregious error? Au contraire, it's part and parcel of the overall degeneracy that's seeped into western culture as the right has become ascendant.) He'll never win any prizes for them; none that matter, anyway. Vargas Llosa père has passed his degeneracy on to Vargas Llosa fils.

It really is frightening to watch the two of them somnambulating--or would be, if it weren't so comical. Because neither one enjoys any great credibility in LatAm anymore, not since the people keep electing and re-electing leftists, ignoring the groans of the living dead. Both Vargas Llosas regularly get trucked into Venezuela, where they give big speeches to tiny audiences, gibberish to the effect that there's no freedom of speech anymore since that Castro-communist Chavecito came to power. Meanwhile, public, independent and community media have multiplied in Venezuela, thanks to government funding, greatly diversifying the spectrum of political views expressed. The thing is, it's all happening on the left. On the right, the commercial media remain stagnant, and no one seems to want to talk about how many eyeballs they've lost. Or how the loss of RCTV's public-airwaves licence was actually due to repeated violations, most dating back decades before Chavecito, of Venezuelan broadcast standards, and not censorship. No one on the right, indeed, is saying anything worth paying attention to at all. (That's why they keep losing elections, too.)

But I guess it's uncharitable of me to point all that out; after all, we're supposed to speak no ill of the dead. I really should look up the works of fiction that Vargas Llosa wrote before he became a zombie. I'm sure I will appreciate them, in the same abstracted way I can appreciate the genius of poor, batshit-crazy Ezra Pound--by divorcing the brilliance of the language from the worm-ridden fascist skull from whence it sprung.

And then, perhaps, I will wish the ghost of Mario Vargas Llosa all happiness in his posthumous prize--a prize no less surreal, in my eyes, than Barack Obama's pre-emptive Nobel for peace, or that of Henry Kissinger.

October 5, 2010

Libertarianism at work, for realz

Aw. Aren't the flibbertigibbertarians adorable when their "principles" come, literally, under fire? Glenn Fucking Beck sure was. He waxed all racist on a family who didn't pay the $75 mafia extortion protection racket subscription fee the local fire department charged, in line with the whole Small Government Run Like a Business thing. And when their house burned down, the newly liberated fire department stood by, crossed their arms, and let it.

And when the incident was duly noted and criticized by progressive media sites, the defensive reaction was fun to watch. Alternet's Josh Holland also makes the interesting point that it would be cheaper and more effective to run the government like a government, not a private, for-profit business:

Anyway, Think Progress reports today that they're expanding the subscription service to additional towns in the county. And, also, that providing full fire coverage for the entire county would result in a whopping 0.13 percent increase in property taxes.

Which, I'm guessing, comes to much less than $75 per household, on average. (Especially with the US housing market in a state of collapse. That was Dubya's "Ownership Society" at work, remember?)

Actually, this is the reason "socialized" (tax-funded) fire departments are such a success, while "subscription" (i.e. mafia protection racket) ones flop time and again. (That, and the arson associated with that latter. No shit, it's happened repeatedly.) What's the point of having a fire department if it only fights SOME fires, and lets others burn?

But to the flibbers, it's no matter. As Think Progress notes, the flibbers were too busy debating what injects "crunchiness" into "our soggy, fallen world" while that poor family's house was burning. And that's entirely in line with what they're like overall, anyway. So obsessed with their bogus principles that the practical just totally eludes them. They aren't fit to run a pop stand, much less our world, on the basis of that epic-fail ideology. But since they're well financed by wingnut welfare, it's not like they have to really care, or even put much intellectual effort into it. Any fatuous nonsense they babble will get published, clockwork-like, by some right-wing stink tank or other.

If any of their houses were on fire, and they hadn't paid their protection racket money, I wouldn't chip in to save them. I wouldn't even offer them a full chamber pot. Let them put it out themselves, if they're manly enough to. Let them piss it out.

Hey, it's the principle of the thing!

October 4, 2010

What is going on in Ecuador?

Yesterday morning, as I was checking my spam filter, I fished out an obvious non-spam from a reader from Down Under, which was posted on this entry. I'm going to repost it up top here today, as I don't want it to get lost in the shuffle. I think you'll agree that Luis Cayetano asks a very good question:

Hi Sabina. You said that Correa had actually doubled police pay. Obviously, something different has been said, as you mentioned, in much of the media. Here is the Sydney Morning Herald: "Mr Correa was greeted by cheering crowds and cries of "Viva Ecuador" outside the presidential palace after security forces whisked him out of a Quito hospital that police demonstrating against wage cuts had laid siege to." All the outlets I've read so far, including the progressive Upside Down World, claim that the rebel police were protesting at pay cuts.

Just what the fuck is going on down there?

Luis, I often ask myself the same thing.

I'm pretty sure that the anglo media are all following that false lead about cut police pay because it's the only one they have at present. Right now there's a lot of tangled webs yet to be unraveled, but I'm finding all kinds of interesting clues. And they give me a pretty good idea what the real situation is. Here's one from Jean-Guy Allard in Granma (translation mine):

An odd couple appeared on NTN24, the right-wing Colombian channel affiliated with FOX News. A few hours into the attempted coup d'état in Quito, the CIA agent Carlos Alberto Montaner, a terrorist fugitive from Cuban justice, met with one of the leaders of the failed Ecuador coup plot, former military officer Lucio Gutiérrez, to attack president Rafael Correa.

Montaner opened the show by denigrating the president with fallacies, in his typical fashion: "If they killed [President Correa] there would have been a bloodbath all over the country. Why did they do it? These things don't just happen. This isn't how presidents comport themselves--taking off his tie and defying the police," Montaner said.

Calling the president a "choleric man" and "a person who has to work hard to control himself", Montaner--known for precisely those characteristics himself--accused Correa of having met with the rebellious police officers to provoke them. "He didn't go to seek consensus, nor to converse, he went to destroy them," Montaner accused.

Arrogant as always, Montaner ironically remarked that Correa wanted to give "the image of a president full of testosterone, who is capable of controlling the situation...and this among some people who are very primitive, who have little education. He wanted to awaken their sympathies."

With an uncharacteristic respect for the ousted president Lucio Gutiérrez, calling him "Mr. Ex-President", Montaner asked him with a fine incredulity: "Did you really have the intention of toppling Rafael Correa?"

And the putschist conspirator answered him with great solemnity: "Greetings to all the democratic world. I deny the assertions of President Correa that there was an attempted coup d'état in Ecuador. There was nothing more than a protest by police, a protest by police troops."

Gutiérrez continued with allegations of "the worst economic management by President Correa", and "for this reason, he tried to reduce the police salaries by way of a law."

"We have a president who doesn't tolerate opposition," assured Gutiérrez to his congenial interviewer, then preoccupied himself with the luck of the conspirators: "What will happen to the opposition? And who will speak in the name of the opposition? They're already being persecuted..."

And Montaner added: "That's the problem, there are no international mechanisms in defence of the opposition..."

A marginal figure in media spectacles, Montaner is known for his fanatical support for the most extremist elements of the Cuban-American mafia. Last year, following the coup d'état against the Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, on June 28, he became a furibund apologist for the dictator Roberto Micheletti, along with US congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and another Cuban-American terrorist and CIA collaborator, Armando Valladares.

Montaner turned up repeatedly in Tegucigalpa to "defend human rights", applauding when the fascist Honduran coup-régime turned its police against demonstrations of the Resistance.

A graduate of the Inter-American Defense College (IADC) in Washington, Lucio Gutiérrez participated, on January 21, 2000, in the coup d'état against Ecuador's constitutional president, Jamil Mahuad. In 2002, he got himself elected president. A popular protest on April 20, 2005, expelled him from power amid a heavy crackdown that caused the death of a Chilean news photographer, Julio García, and left hundreds wounded.

NTN24 is a right-wing news channel, property of the Colombian chain RCN Television, transmitting from studios in Bogotá, Colombia.

Linkage (not in original) added, so you can see just what I'm talking about here.

I find it endlessly interesting that two well-known, long-time putschists like Gutiérrez and Montaner would take advantage of such an opportune time to get their faces out on all the "right" (as in wing) TV outlets. Lucio Gutiérrez, who goes by the well-earned nickname of "Sucio" (Filthy), also showed up on CNN, presumably from Brazil, making the same coup-apologist noises. I was on Twitter as that was going down, and not in front of the TV. But a lot of my Latin-American tweeps were, and a flurry of indignation erupted all over the tweeter as Sucio was blatting. They already knew the man, and they knew that democracy and human rights are to him as French perfumes are to a hog-factory cesspit. A good thing I was NOT in front of the tube, or I'd have been throwing things, too.

Not that there weren't plenty of things for me to throw shit at on the Internet, either; another usual suspect from the CIA crapaganda mill who talks big about freedom and democracy, but doesn't mean a word of it, was hard at it, claiming there was "no coup". Yes, Alvaro Vargas Llosa reared his smirky, useless head so quickly, and issued such slick, pat pronunciations on this still very messy affair, you'd swear he had his material prepared in advance. And he probably did. If you're really in the mood to eat baloney sandwiches, here it is, in English and Spanish.

Of course, anything a Vargas Llosa says nowadays should be rotated 180 degrees if one wants the truth. The day the Vargas Llosas, père et fils, stopped labelling their fiction as such was a bad one for Latin America. You want facts? Read me, I deal in them. (And I don't mislabel my fictions, either.)

So. Here are some more facts:

The history of Ecuador as an "ungovernable" country is rooted in the activities of the CIA. For those interested, and who can read Spanish, Philip Agee's CIA Diary, in Scribd form here, is worth a look-see. (Audio, in English, here.) Anyone who thinks the CIA's days of interfering in Latin America are over, should think again. They will never be over until the CIA is killed and a stake is driven through its heart.

Meanwhile, Mark Weisbrot chimes in with some good analysis:

In June of last year, when the Honduran military overthrew the social-democratic government of Manuel Zelaya, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador took it personally. "We have intelligence reports that say that after Zelaya, I'm next," said Correa.

On Thursday, it turned out to be true. Some analysts are still insisting that what happened was just a police protest over possible benefit cuts that got out of hand. But to anyone who watched the prolonged, pitched gun-battle on TV last night, when the armed forces finally rescued President Correa from the hospital where he was trapped by the police, this did not look like a protest. It was an attempt to overthrow the government.

The co-ordinated actions in various cities, the takeover of Quito's airport by a section of the armed forces - all this indicated a planned coup attempt.

And what could be behind that coup attempt? Weisbrot has some insights:

Despite his enemies in high places, the president's approval rating was 67% in Quito a couple of weeks ago. His government has doubled spending on healthcare, significantly increased other social spending, and successfully defaulted on $3.2bn of foreign debt that was found to be illegitimately contracted. Ecuador's economy managed to squeak through 2009 without a recession, and is projected to grow about 2.5% this year. Correa, an economist, has had to use heterodox and creative methods to keep the economy growing in the face of external shocks because the country does not have its own currency. (Ecuador adopted the dollar in 2000, which means that it can do little in the way of monetary policy and has no control over its exchange rate.)

Correa had warned that he might try to temporarily dissolve the congress in order to break an impasse in the legislature, something that he has the right to request under the new constitution - though it would have to be approved by the constitutional court. This probably gave the pro-coup forces something they saw as a pretext. It is reminiscent of the coup in Honduras, when Zelaya's support for a non-binding referendum on a constituent assembly was falsely reported by the media - both Honduran and international - as a bid to extend his presidency.

Media manipulation has a big role in Ecuador, too, with most of the media controlled by rightwing interests opposed to the government. This has helped build a base of people - analogous to those who get all of their information from Fox News in the United States, but proportionately larger - who believe that Correa is a dictator trying to turn his country into a clone of communist Cuba.

Popular president? Successful shedding of odious debt (a hefty hunk of it, no doubt, contracted by Sucio Lucio Gutiérrez himself)? NO recession, even in the midst of last year's global catastrophe? Doubled social spending? Growth instead of contraction? Holy shit, let's get rid of the bastard! Otherwise, no other Sucio will ever stand a chance! And then the IMF, World Bank, etc., will never get their pound of flesh! Can't ever let Ecuador move ahead, be sovereign or succeed, otherwise all those other little countries will get all uppity. Remember Honduras? Poorest country in Central America until Zelaya started boogying with the ALBA. Then things started to improve. WITHOUT THE GRINGOS! And if word ever got out, the rest of Central America would start clamoring for some of that good stuff, too. And they'd never let the gringos establish military bases on their soil, either...

It's not as if there were any lack of motives, in other words, for a coup. And El Ecuadorable was more than prescient when he predicted that Ecuador would be next, after the coup in Honduras. The same putschist slimeballs and crapaganda-mongers--Montaner, Valladares, Vargas Llosa--all showed up, along with Sucio Gutiérrez. That all is just a little too convenient for mere coincidence.

And if anyone still thinks this was just a police protest against nonexistent "wage cuts" gone out of hand, have I got pix for you:

correa-car-bullets.jpg

Pretty big and businesslike bullets, no? They were strong enough to put holes in the armor of a bulletproofed minivan--the same that Correa sped out of the hospital in. Four of them, at least, damaged the hood and windshield of that vehicle.

And if you're wondering what kind of standard-issue police sidearm they came out of, here's your answer:

correa-guns.jpg

Those newspaper photos were scanned and uploaded and tweeted by Dr. Paula Vernimmen, who was trapped inside the same hospital as her president at the time of the coup attempt.

And yes, it WAS a coup attempt. Planned, orchestrated...and ultimately, fortunately, failed. As will the anglo whore media's crapaganda offensive.

Hope this begins to clear up your questions, Luis. I know it's been illuminating for me!

September 29, 2010

Time to blow this boat out of the water

Aw, poor James O'Keefe. Apparently he's so desperate to get laid, he has to resort to cheap stunts now...

Recently, I was the target of a failed punk. James O'Keefe, the so-called "pimp" in the ACORN expose videos, was participating in a detailed plan to "faux" seduce me on his boat. For months, I had been working on a documentary about the young conservative movement. James had called me about concerns he had regarding an upcoming shoot. He asked me to meet him to talk about the shoot. I agreed to fly to Maryland and then drive to his "office" for a face-to-face conversation with him.

When I showed up, there was no office, as promised. Instead, he wanted to get me on a boat, which we later learned, was staged as a "pleasure palace." One of his colleagues, Izzy Santa, who was in Maryland that day, told me about the plan and stopped the punk before it happened.

Izzy told me he had "strawberries and champagne" waiting for me on the boat, and that he planned to "hit on me" the entire time. She said it would all be captured on hidden cameras that had been set up on the boat and in the back yard. She said the sole purpose of the "punk" was to embarrass me, and to make CNN look bad.

And in the end, what it did was make HIM look bad. Check out his props list:

1. condom jar

2. dildos

3. Music

a. Alicia keys

b. 80s romance songs, things that are typically James

c. avoid Marvin Gaye as too cliche

4. lube

5. ceiling mirror

6. posters and paintings of naked women

7. playboys and pornographic magazines

8. candles

9. Viagra and stamina pills

10. fuzzy handcuffs

11. blindfold

WTF are "80s romance songs, things that are typically James"? I want to know, so I can avoid those (and any guy who tries to play them for me with obvious ulterior motives).

And about the only un-icky thing on the list seems to be the candles. But even those can get icky in the hands of a right-wing slimeball famous for playing the pimp, no? I mean, who knows what he planned to use them for besides illumination...

Okay. Whenever you're done scrubbing that awful imagery from your mind's eye, read on.

This is, as Media Matters informs us, someone that both the WaHoPo's ombud and the NY Whore Times wanted to see taken more seriously, as "balance" to the "liberal media" viewpoint.

Um, what?

Why does honest reporting, which CNN's Abbie Boudreau was trying to do before this asinine "punking", have to be "balanced" with lies and bullshit and cheap, ugly sleazeball stunts? If reality apparently has a "liberal bias", that's just too fucking bad. When did it become the major media's job to blow sugar up Wingnuttia's ass, instead of simply reporting the news?

Actually, liberals and leftists are biased only in favor of reality, and as the fakery-driven world of O'Keefe & Co. demonstrates, the right is certainly not. But when it gets so bad that even über-rightardly bullshit-monger Brent Bozell calls you out, you know it's gone through the Looking Glass.

There can be no illusion of "balance" here, and maybe that's just as well; it's good to finally get out into the open just what the right-wing media are about. They are not about "balancing" an excessively liberal media viewpoint, because that has never existed. They're about crafting a false utopian narrative and selling it ad nauseam; something poised between the gilded age of 1850s robber-baron capitalism and a future straight out of The Handmaid's Tale, dressed up in a Father Knows Best sweater-vest, with a hefty dollop of Ayn Rand caveman clubtocracy thrown in for good mismeasure. Something we're supposed to be fooled into aspiring to. Something to seduce and beguile us with its glitz and glamour.

Only, of course, it doesn't work out that way.

The reality is a creepy little shit-weasel, squatting on a boat (whose?), surrounded by his sleazy props, dreaming of putting the moves (learned, no doubt, from the ultra-sleazy pickup-artist "movement") to the bewildered reporter. Whom he fancies to be a "bubbleheaded bleach blonde", in the words of Don Henley.

But the self-admitted bottle blonde isn't that dumb; she picks up on the fact that his "assistant" is upset about the transparent date rape scenario (complete with handcuffs and drugs) that's being planned. And gets her to tell what's really going on. And then THAT becomes the story, which for obvious reasons will get left out of the larger documentary that Abbie Boudreau was preparing on the young conservative movement.

Actually, this shouldn't be left out; it should, in fact, BE the story. There are plenty of young conservative "citizen journalists" who've built their hot-shot reputations entirely on lies, sleaze and "gotcha" tactics of the lowest order (Lila Rose, anyone?) The conservative media noise machine, young and not-so, is all about this sort of thing. The glittering "utopian" vision they offer is out of reach and far removed from reality. It would never float; like O'Keefe's boat, it would never get away from the dock. They know it. So to bolster their lagging credibility, they resort to smearing the mainstream media, which is far from liberal, as their enemy.

And, stupidly, the mainstream media falls right into the trap of Taking Them Seriously, and rushes to give them all kinds of airtime and space they don't really deserve. Which is a great way to undermine their own credibility, and thus do the right-wing noise machine's job for it. Who can take the mainstream media seriously when they uncritically fold under the withering scorn from a bunch of astroturfers and blowhards? Where is the media's collective spine?

Abbie Boudreau isn't the only one who got "punked" by the young conservative movement. Everyone in the media who gives them credence is being played for a sucker. Surely I can't be the only person who wants to see the media expose these people, all of them, for the fraudsters they are. Instead of an "objective" report on what the "movement" only purports to be about, how about a real investigative hard-hitter that shreds their press releases and makes clear what a swindle they've perpetrated all over the globe? The global financial meltdown, among other things, is directly attributable to right-wing media pumping and shilling, as well as mainstream "reporting" that lacks critical discernment. If we don't want to see it get worse, it's time to bring back good old investigative reporting--and turn it on the liars with a vengeance.

It's time to torpedo the entire phony love boat, where crapitalism seduces media and media falls for it every time, right the hell out of the water. Otherwise, we are the ones who will end up being sunk.

PS: The fun has just begun. If you're on the tweeter, follow Don Juan O'Keefe!

PPS: And on a more serious note, The Root delves into how a black man would never get away with a "stunt" like this one.

PPPS, Thursday the 30th, ca. 10:30 am: Eric Boehlert at Media Matters echoes my sentiments (expressed above) with uncanny exactness. Meanwhile, at AlterNet, Julie Millican points out that the right-wing noise machine has a long-standing problem with women, while the Brad Blog takes on O'Keefe's by-now arm-long rap sheet.

September 22, 2010

Conservative Politician Tips (or, How to Turn Canada Into the 51st State, Guaranteed!)

con-platform.jpg

Oh, if only their platform were this simple. Unfortunately, there's a bit more to being a Tory politician in Canada than this. So, here's Aunt Bina's simplified guide to everything you need to know in order to make it as a right-wing politico today. Compiled from my tweets to #ConservativePoliticianTips, and with linkage added.

1. Always play to the xenophobe. Be particularly eager to paint immigrants as terrorists.

2. Scamming, shady sponsorship and bribery are all okay as long as you're not Liberal, Bloc or NDP. (CK paraphrases: "Always bring up Adscam." Good one!)

3. The liberal media is your enemy. Get your corporate buddies to set you up an all-con channel like FOX.

4. Canadians secretly crave US-style bully politics. Let no one tell you differently.

5. What's good for the NRA is good for Canada. Or at least for YOU.

6. To catch young voters, talk a lot about Justin Bieber. Who is at least two years too young to vote.

7. Always be devious. I mean divisive. Er, I mean DECISIVE.

8. Urban = elitist, rural = oppressed by urban elitist. Never-fail formula for suckering the masses!

9. Victims of guncrime = SUPER-elitists, evil oppressors, gun-grabbing little Hitlers, etc.

10. Sweater vests will make everyone think you're Mr. Rogers. Piano playing also an asset.

11. Four words--jet skis and wetsuits.

12. Think football--Fake libertarian, go authoritarian. That is, fake left, go right.

13. Play to petty regionalism. Screw the big picture.

14. Dangling the trinket of gun freedom will make everyone forget those fascistic G-20 arrests.

15. Always forget where you came from.

16. Whatever awful thing you do, always point the finger at the other guy and yell that he does it more. (Jymn paraphrases: "Know your weaknesses and attribute them to the other guy." Thanks, Jymn!)

17. Mantra: "Think for yourself and FOLLOW ME!"

18. Everything old is new and hip again. Especially the Red Scare. (CK again: "Always grossly overuse the word 'soshalism' & make sure it's interchangeable w/ Fascism!")

19. Never, ever admit when you're wrong. (Thanks again, Jymn!)

20. If female, sell out your sex; if gay, sell out LGBTs; if nonwhite, sell out your race.

21. To make it as a conservative politician, just do one thing--SELL OUT!

(And if you have anything else to add to the list, drop it in the comments slot below, please. Kthxbye.)

September 20, 2010

When psychotics psychoanalize a sane man

doctor-lucy.jpg

Speaking from receiving-end experience, I know an effective therapist from a poor one. And the only thing that irks me more than amateurs playing shrink, is shrinks acting amateurish. Both together, though, drives me downright nuts. So when I saw this piece of crap article, titled "Psychiatrists put Chávez on the couch", on a Spanish news site, I found myself irresistibly tempted to analyze an obviously piss-poor bunch of analysts. Crazy, huh? So, with no further ado, here's my translation, with periodic interjections and analysis:

Mythomaniac, megalomaniac, fabulator, compulsive, narcissist, charismatic, seducer, envious, lacking in scruples. These are some of the traits Venezuelan psychiatrists attribute to their president, Hugo Chávez, who has been in power nearly twelve years, not counting "the missing ones". And, despite the fact that no previous president has spent more than ten years in power, he is now on the road to running in the presidential elections of 2012.

In the meantime, he himself is directing the campaign for the legislative elections which will be held on September 26, much more than legal norms allow.

Right off the bat, you can see how the author of the piece cunningly lays her trap. The real issue is the Venezuelan parliamentary election coming up on the 26th, but she buries that in the second paragraph. Instead, she chooses to lead with misdirection: the (imaginary) personality faults of Hugo Chávez, duly constituted president of Venezuela.

Notice, too, that she wraps all Venezuelan shrinks in the same blanket. In this reporter's little world, ALL of them think he's crazy. And no one who thinks otherwise is allowed to get a word in, as you will see.

And of course, the lying starts from the get-go. Aside from the imaginary personality traits attributed to Chávez, there is the accusation that he's committing electoral fraud by openly supporting his candidates for assembly seats. This is a lie. As leader of the PSUV, he is within his rights to support his own party's candidates on the campaign trail; it would be crazy if he didn't. In any other country, such campaign support would be a given. Why is it out of line in Venezuela? (Rhetorical question; the answer will come in due course.)

And oh yeah, as an aside, notice the other neat little bit of misdirection here: No mention at all of what the opposition leaders and candidates are up to. That's because they're all discredited relics from the Puntofijista/Fourth Republic past, and therefore bound to lose. For that reason, most have not even bothered to mount the most desultory campaign; those that have, are still lagging by double digits in the polls. Little wonder, then, that the hoary old "Chávez is loco" canard is being dragged out of mothballs yet again--he's the only one showing signs of life!

But surely transgressing against established norms--such as heading the electoral campaign for his parliamentary candidates, abusing state resources, and turning legislative elections into a plebiscite--it's another of his personality traits which is emphasized by consulted specialists--the need to call attention to himself.

"Specialists"--"consulted" by whom? Surely not Chavecito himself. These "consulted specialists" are nothing more than cheap political soundbite providers.

Notice, too, as the article goes on, that the charges of "abusing state resources" and "turning legislative elections into a plebiscite" are not backed up by the least shred of evidence. That's because there isn't any. Instead, the focus is on crazy, sexy craziness, in a masterpiece of misdirection...

"He's a person who needs constant admiration; he shows preoccupation with his fantasies of power, seems not to understand the meaning of limitations, has no notion of proportion, thinks he is special or unique, there is no institution that deserves his respect, and requires excessive admiration, always in public," says psychologist and psychotherapist María Bustamante.

María, María, María...he's the president. He gets constant admiration because his policies are effective and therefore popular; no narcissistic "explanation" required. And he actually understands the meaning of limitations quite well; everything he's done has been within the norms of the Venezuelan constitution. He even puts himself to a popular vote and wins! How narcissistic!

For insight into his conduct, you have to recall those days in February 1999, when Gabriel García Márquez wrote his famous article "The Enigma of the Two Chávezes": "One, to whom unalterable fate offered the opportunity to save his country, and the other, an illusionist, who could pass into history as just another despot."

Um, since when is a famous Colombian novelist a "consulted specialist"? He is NOT a shrink! Gabriel García Márquez, you may recall, is famous for his work in the field of fiction known as Magical Realism. And his "Two Chávezes" is more a work of poetic fancy than a literal interpretation of the personality of this leader, whom García likes, admires and politically sympathizes with, himself. I don't think he would like to be read so literally as to be insinuating that Chávez is schizophrenic, or has a multiple-personality disorder.

Many would give him the Oscar for the best portrayal of a politician in Venezuela. He likes to invite Hollywood celebrities like Oliver Stone, Sean Penn and Danny Glover, who, like him, are members of the same profession: that of the politico-actor.

ZOMG histrionics! Actually, this is not such different conduct from that of his rivals and predecessors, all of whom cultivated celebrities--mostly local, occasionally foreign--with sympathetic views. What's notable here, though, is that Chavecito's support extends well beyond the usual vacuous beauty-queen contingent that trails the AD/COPEI crowd; the celebrities he attracts have reputations as the intellectuals of their field, and are extremely well respected worldwide, not just in Venezuela.

His vocation for the interpretative arts was born in the military academy, where he trod the boards in the theatre. Former director of budgets for the Ministry of Defence, Colonel Orlando Suárez, a former professor of Chávez's, told ABC that "Once he played the role of General José Antonio Páez in an academy play. He has natural theatrical gifts, exacerbated by his narcissistic tendency, but before, he was shy and retiring."

Colonel Suárez does not hold a very favorable opinion of Chávez, whom he trained in parachuting in 1983 and 1984. He recalls that Chávez "turned pale with fear when it came time to jump. He always looked for an excuse not to do it. He is a coward by nature." In the military academy he was always in one of the last places in his class. "He failed his leadership course exam. He had to repeat the entire course to graduate. And he only managed it thanks to his family's influence with ex-president Rafael Caldera." Colonel Suárez considers Chávez "more 'toasted' "(crazy, in Venezuelan slang) than ex-president Abdalá Bucaram of Ecuador, who was expelled from power due to his "eccentricities".

Hmmm. Why do I get the feeling that this former army officer is just bitter and envious of Chavecito, who retired from the military with the rank of a mere lieutenant-colonel himself and then went on to become president? Maybe he's pissed that he wasn't promoted to general, or chief of staff, or some such; his words reek of resentment. There are so many inconsistencies and outright lies in his statements that it's obvious he couldn't keep his story straight. How could Chavecito manage to play the role of General Páez--a major revolutionary hero, and one of his leadership role models--while being "shy and retiring"? (Actually, that last bit is definitely bullshit; the pre-academy Chavecito is widely remembered, according to Bart Jones's bio of him, as outgoing, full of fun, a hard worker, and fond of baseball and singing. And about as shy and retiring as a roaring waterfall.)

As for turning pale with fear when confronted with parachute jumping: Hell, who wouldn't be? I'm sure plenty of others were green around the gills, too. No one is NOT nervous the first time they jump out of an airplane; it's a great way to get yourself killed, and so much can go wrong even if you're well prepared. It's perfectly natural and rational, therefore, to be afraid. But apparently Chavecito mastered the art just fine, because he later got command of a paratroop regiment. You don't get there unless you can jump, and do so fearlessly. Plus, Chavecito later survived an attempt on his life with real courage, and not an iota of cowardice. So yeah, I call bullshit on this one too.

And at the bottom of his class? In LEADERSHIP, of all things? You guessed it, bullshit. One thing that strikes me, every time I view The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, is what a tremendous natural rapport Chavecito has with his soldiers, and how easily he inspires loyalty in them. That's not just charisma; that's competence. Their loyalty, in fact, was what saved his life when the coupmongers imprisoned him on the island of La Orchila. You don't get that by flunking in leadership skills training, much less getting your dad to exercise his pull with, of all people, Rafael Caldera, who was NOT president in 1983-4 (that was Jaime Lusinchi). And when Chavecito was in military academy, ten years earlier, Caldera WAS president, but Hugo Chávez Sr. was not exactly someone who had a lot of pull with him. In fact, he had none whatsoever, being a poor schoolteacher from the backwaters of Barinas. So yeah, once more with feeling, everyone: BULLSHIT!

Psychologist Bustamante emphasizes the "meritorious" and "caudillo" (petty tyrant) character of Chávez. He creates irrational expectations in order to be treated as someone special, to whom blind obedience is owed. "He turns everyone who thinks differently from himself into despicable enemies, and almost always talks from an elevated position and in a royal tone." The most obvious aspect of his conduct is exclusion. "He is envious--and feels that others envy him--and has arrogant, holier-than-thou, haughty attitudes."

Bustamante says that as president, he "displays changing and very superficial expressions, uses his physical appearance or costumes to call attention to himself, and has an excessively expressionist discourse style."

Well, I'm sure María Bustamante would prefer someone colorless and bland, like Rafael Caldera--who, during his own second presidency, in the late 1990s, was obliged to appear in public and lay rest to rumors that he had died. (Yes, he was THAT boring. And sadly, that old.) But is she right about the blind obedience bit?

No. Chavecito actually likes to be challenged, and this is something that many who have worked with him have remarked on. He thrives on legitimate contradiction, even from his allies. He doesn't want yes-men; he's actively engaged with the needs of his people, and he likes to hear them out. That's just one of the many reasons why he's so effective and popular: He LISTENS.

As for appearances and costumes: He seems to have only two, both perfectly in character and not crazy in the least. One is the black pants and untucked red shirt he favors for everyday; red being the color of his party (and also the color that suits his own complexion best). The other is his military uniform and red beret, both of which he is still entitled to wear as commander-in-chief. This is "excessively expressionist"? I'd sure like some of whatever María is smoking, it might help me to fall asleep.

Eloy Silvio Pomenta, a professor of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy at the Central University of Venezuela, explained to us that, in an ordinary person, a character marked by narcissism has no power to cause much social disturbance. "But when it comes to a head of state in an important oil-producing country, who also possesses a great capacity for seducing and manipulating the masses, who has his own little intellectual court, and who attracts political and economic leaders who approach him with lucrative offers, the repercussions could be catastrophic."

Pomenta mentions other narcissistic personality traits that Chávez suffers: grandiosity, exhibitionism, a feeling of omnipotence, fragile self-esteem (with depressive crises), incapacity to love (because all his affective capacities are concentrated on his own ego, he is unavailable to others), disconnection from reality, rage, and destructive envy when he is not getting what he wants.

Amazing how he can diagnose all that without seeing Chavecito on his couch on a regular basis! The man must be some kind of psychic. I see a brilliant future ahead for him on a 900-number phone line. But as a shrink? Nyet.

One thing that IS significant here, though, is the mention of oil. Remember I mentioned it earlier? That's what this is really all about. They don't like a competent, dangerously sane leader being in charge of all that oil, which was incidentally being sneak-privatized just before he entered office. Venezuelan oil has gone up in price, and that's been all to the good of the Revolution, too. Previous presidents ran the national oil company into the ground, and were all for letting foreigners buy it--and them--out. Not so, Chavecito. He's no sellout. Not only is he a savvy businessman, he knows how to make that oil work for his country, rather than just sending his country to work for Big Foreign Oil like so many of his predecessors--some of whom were REAL dictators. (Google Juan Vicente Gómez and Marcos Pérez Jiménez, in particular, and you'll see just what I mean.) I've never yet seen a dictator who could take oil money and put it into hospitals, schools and loans to entrepreneurs, instead of just his own pockets and those of his cronies--have you? Yet this is what Chavecito does on a regular basis, and quite happily. It's called "sowing the oil", in Venezuela, and it's something the people just love him for doing--that is, if they're not displaced former incompetent PDVSA execs.

And now, for something truly comical:

According to psychiatrist Luis José Uzcátegui, author of "Chavez, the Wizard of Emotions", the leader "has become trapped in a totally outdated psychological structure. I'm referring to Fidel Castro, which is something catastrophical. No country can function with such backward schemes."

He adds that several of Chávez's traits "are contagious" to his acolytes and followers. "The important thing is that these psycho-political processes are unfolding according to a scheme we've already seen: high spending and inefficiency."

On January 15, Chávez officially declared himself a Marxist, though he said he had not read a book of Karl Marx in his life. If he had said so eleven years ago, few people would have voted for him, and he would not be in Miraflores Palace today. His "21st Century Socialism" project, which Fidel Castro called communist last month, was rejected in the referendum of 2007, but he keeps at it, come what may.

"Therein lies the danger. There is a type of socialism which is only for antisocials. They invent a socialism of their own to keep themselves in power. Chávez exercises a modern dictatorship, tailored to the times," Uzcátegui says.

Isn't that hysterical? Once more, the old guilt-by-association thing rears its bedraggled head. Only, as usual, it stinks and won't wash. Fidel Castro has been vocal in praise of Chavecito's democratic way of doing things, and while Cuba has benefited from mutual interchange with Venezuela under the ALBA treaty, it's not as if Venezuela has turned into another Cuba or is in danger of doing so. Everything about Bolivarian Venezuela so far has been very democratic, and very distinctly different from the Cuban revolutionary course.

Moreover, the author of this piece is lying about Chávez declaring himself a Marxist on January 15; I think I'd have made note of it here, if that were the case! It would be awfully hard to miss something like that. And without having read Marx? Shenanigans! He read Marx, actually, early on in his military career, after having found an abandoned, bullet-riddled car that had once belonged to some leftist guerrillas. The trunk of the car was full of musty old Marxist literature, which he removed, cleaned up and stashed in a personal library which he and his army buddies later used as they began to organize their Bolivarian military movement. But while Chavecito may draw some of his information and inspiration from Marx, he is emphatically not a Marxist.

And no, Fidel didn't call the Bolivarian revolution "communist", either; I think I'd have heard of that, if he did. Nor was the revolution rejected in 2007; that was just one vote for term-limit reform, which was later put to another vote and passed. Just more stupid shenanigans on the part of our shoddy journalist.

And now, finally, we arrive at the nut (pun intended) of the whole matter:

The social-democratic party, Acción Democrática (AD), tried in 2005 to accuse Chávez of insanity, which, according to the Constitution, could be a cause to remove him from the presidency, but neither the Supreme Court nor the Attorney General would hear the case. Not long before that, in 2002, the then president of the Venezuelan Psychiatric Society (SVP), Franzel Delgado Senior, alerted the country to the personality problems besetting Chávez.

In a statement to ABC, Franzel accused Chávez of leading a kind of cult, "a movement which exhibits an excessive devotion to a person, idea or thing, which uses unethical techniques of manipulation to persuade and control; designed to achieve the leader's goals." He concludes: "Psychopaths are very afraid of actions against him. They talk about assassinations. They don't like that he is called a dictator. But I don't see him as ultimately democratic. I see him as being like any other other dictator."

Isn't that hysterical? Five years ago, those corrupt, discredited old Adecos tried to get Chavecito removed from office on the grounds of insanity, and their efforts failed. Now, five years later, they're trying again. I guess they expect a different result this time. Well, if that's not the functional equivalent of insanity, I don't know what is. Good thing they're not in power and never will be again; they'd have to be removed, to a man, because they're all lunatics.

And if you don't believe me, watch AD party leader Henry Ramos Allup and listen to him talk:

As the Robertos point out, he's quite the one for rages and insults, histrionics, egotism and just about everything else the Adecos accuse Chavecito of. For that reason, I have to say that these psychiatrists--amateur or otherwise--who are trying to diagnose Chavecito as insane are...wait for it...PROJECTING.

And yes, projection is just one of many signs of real insanity.

September 14, 2010

Arrested for telling it like it is

adios-uribe.jpg

Anti-Uribe demonstrators at work.

Land of the free, home of the brave...unless, of course, you're trying to use your freedom and show your bravery by confronting a human-rights abuser at Georgetown University, in Washington, DC:

A member of a non-governmental organization was arrested for shouting at Alvaro Uribe at Georgetown University.

The arrestee started to yell at the ex-president while he was delivering a talk in Washington.

The incident took place during professor Eric Langenbacher's class on comparative political systems, which was being held in the ICC Auditorium of the university.

A large number of students were in attendance, as were members of the "Adios Uribe" coalition, which was formed to oppose the presence of the former Colombian president.

At one point during the exchange of questions and answers, Uribe declared that his government had not violated any human rights.

At that moment, Nico Udu-Gama, a member of "Adios Uribe" and SOA Watch, began to shout insults at the former president. Police then arrived and arrested him for disturbing the peace.

"Adios Uribe" has called for marches in all university buildings where Uribe will be speaking, no matter how small the attendance. On average, there are no more than 20 attendees per appearance.

After the incident, Uribe gave another class, but on that occasion, the police were already present and prevented demonstrators from entering the lecture hall.

Translation mine.

I just noticed something that made me grin: "Adios Uribe Coalition" has the same initials as the paramilitary terror group El Narco has ties to in Colombia. I'm sure that's no coincidence. Just a shame that the police are arresting demonstrators, and not HIM--he deserves it much more.

September 5, 2010

Guess who's gonna lose on September 26?

boobie-shrooms.jpg

I'll give you a broad hint: It's the ones who have no platform, and nothing but stupid gimmicks.

An opposition candidate in next month's Venezuelan legislative elections is holding a breast implant raffle to fund his campaign, he said in a newspaper interview published Friday.

"The raffle is a legal method. We decided on breast implants because we wanted to target a specific public sector," Gustavo Rojas told El Universal.

"Raffle tickets on sale now: win a breast implant operation for yourself or your partner," Rojas announces on his website.

The interview does not mention either the cost of a breast implant operation or how much money Rojas expects to get with the raffle.

This guy is with the right-wing Primero Justicia party. "Justice First" is actually not very justice-oriented, if they have to resort to this kind of sexist pandering. They've resorted to other pandering in the past, promising to clean up the garbage and fight crime. And what did they do when elected?

NOTHING.

The Caracas barrio, Petare, has a Primero Justicia mayor, Carlos Ocariz. His cops are more interested in repressing Chavistas, and the bright yellow garbage bins--the PJ party color--are overflowing, with no sign of a pickup truck in sight.

Guess who's gonna lose the municipal elections of the 26th? The party with the biggest boobs, that's who.

September 2, 2010

Why so afraid of a "Ground Zero mosque" that isn't?

phantom-mosque.jpg

Israeli cartoonist Shlomo Cohen neatly illustrates the phantom nature of the "victory mosque at Ground Zero". It's not a "victory" mosque, it's not even an actual mosque, and it's not actually at Ground Zero. I'm pretty sure, though, given his background and country of residence, that satirizing irrational fear and hate was NOT his intention here.

Maybe I shouldn't post this so soon after the longest fucking quarrel I've had with a troll to date, but I'm damned if I let outsiders set my agenda here, any more than I let idiots make up my mind for me. So, here goes: I'm all in favor of Park 51, the non-mosque that is not gonna be built on the ashes of the former World Trade Centre.

That's right, you read that correctly. I'm totally cool with Park 51.

And yes, this post is gonna be my little contribution toward the education of those who let fear, hatred, bitterness, bigotry and generalized stupidity rule their lives. If it changes their minds about Park 51, great; if it at least forces them to think and rethink, it will have done what I meant it to do. (I can't do your thinking for you either, people, but I can give you plenty of crunchy food for thought, and I can ask you to take it quietly home and chew it over on your own, can't I?)

So. Here goes.

For starters, let's consider the political climate that surrounds the Park 51 debate. You would have to be totally dissociated to think that this debate is occurring in a vacuum. There is an awful lot of racially-charged hate being whipped up very deliberately right now, some of it in the guise of a certain recent "non-political" rally to "restore honor". The rally in question was, of course, VERY political. And honor, that vague, shifty concept that people are known to kill each other for across all cultural boundaries, had fuck-all to do with it. Unless you consider ugly people with ugly attitudes scrawled all over their ugly shirts and getting ugly with perceived outsiders to be "honorable", of course. In which case, yeah, something was restored, all right.

Now, with that kind of climate, is it so surprising that a drunken idiot would try to start a brawl in a bar with a Middle Eastern theme? Or that a Muslim cab driver gets his throat slashed, specifically, for being Muslim? Or that a bunch of armed teenagers would go around trying to terrorize worshippers at a mosque in western New York, which is nowhere near Ground Zero? Or that an arsonist would try to torch construction equipment at the site of a mosque-in-the making more than 800 miles from Ground Zero?

Which is why I wonder if the trolls who pooped here, claiming that two blocks' walk from Ground Zero was too close for a Muslim community centre, have any real idea of how ridiculous their pleas for "sensitivity" towards the insensitive demands of non-Muslims really are. Or how fucking ironic. If Murfreesboro, Tennessee, isn't far enough away from Ground Zero to build a mosque--a REAL one--then clearly no place in North America is.

And that means that Muslims are not really welcome here.

What's sad and ironic is that Muslims in North America have made real, serious contributions to these lands since the first one to settle in New York landed in what's now Manhattan, nearly 400 years ago. And one of their finest gifts, their contribution to the fight against Islamist terrorism, isn't being given due credit. Instead, we get to see them treated to utterly demeaning shit like this:

refudiate.jpg

...which is hardly a ringing endorsement of inter-faith peace. It's a ridiculous demand, coming from someone who lives just about as far in the US as it's possible to be from Ground Zero (unless you count Hawaii), someone who will never have to look directly upon that heart-stabbing community centre herself. Why the hell should Sarah Palin care, as long as she can score cheap political points on the tweeter?

But if the political points are cheap and easy for a Sarah Palin, they come at a much greater cost to those at whom these barbs were directed. Why do peaceful Muslims constantly have to repudiate and refute (not refudiate, which is not a real word) those who use Islam as their bludgeon? And can you imagine what would happen if they, in turn, demanded that Christians "refudiate" their own extremist brethren? It's not as if there's any shortage of them. Especially in the anti-mosque camp. Will they repudiate the violent amongst themselves? Will they come forward to denounce those who advocate burning mosques?

If my own skirmishes with the anti-mosque crowd are anything to go by, they're falling on their asses in this department. I have not seen ONE opponent of Park 51 say his confederates: No, don't burn, don't vandalize, don't terrorize. Not even when I asked them to, would they repudiate. Instead, they turned on me, telling me to be more tolerant. Of what? Arson threats? Intolerance? Oh, please. If I can't ask you to tolerate a peaceful Muslim community centre, you have no right to tell me I should tolerate your intolerance of it. That's just fucked up.

And even when peaceful Muslims come forward, time and again, to repudiate and denounce those who tarnish the name of their religion, their voices go unheard. Instead, they get drowned out by shriekers like this one at Alan Colmes's website:

These people are everything that is wrong with America. Why are so many blacks, like those pictured above, for the victory monument at Ground Zero? Because in their hearts, they know the attacks are not aimed at them, so they don't give a damn.

That's fucked up, too. (And racist, clearly--which is another hallmark of the current toxic political climate. Why else would the commenter mention the color of their skins?)

In case anyone forgets, blacks and Muslims died in the collapse of the WTC, too. They worked in that building. How could the attacks that killed them NOT be aimed at them? Is Park 51, which will incorporate a memorial to the victims (but not the hijackers), a slap in THEIR faces, too?

If you're going to talk about "everything that's wrong with America", and somehow loop Muslims into it, you may want to consider the singular irony of Saudi oil money going to finance the leading anti-Islamic crapaganda channel in the United States. (What--did you really think Rupee Murdoch was brainwashing you just out of the goodness of his own grinchy little heart? Wake up, Amurrica.)

And--irony upon irony--the Park 51 project is headed by an imam whose brand of Islam is anathema to the Wahhabi princes of Saudi Arabia. FactCheck has a marvelous list of facts about Park 51 that would make your head spin. Among them is this:

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has a long history of cooperation with the U.S. government, beginning during the Bush administration. In February and March 2003, he led cultural awareness training for FBI employees in the bureau's New York field office, New York division officials told us. In 2007 and twice in 2010, he traveled to the Middle East to talk about religious tolerance and Islam in America as part of a speaker program organized by the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs.

Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs, said of the imam: "His work on tolerance and religious diversity is well-known and he brings a moderate perspective to foreign audiences on what it's like to be a practicing Muslim in the United States." Rauf's most recent trip, which is in progress as we publish, garnered objections from people who feared he would try to raise money for the Park51 project during his trip, but the State Department said those concerns were unfounded.

Rauf is an adherent of Sufism, a mystical form of Islam that has itself been targeted by extremists. A 2007 report by the nonpartisan RAND Corporation suggested that Sufis could be potential partners against radical Islamism. "Because of their victimization by [extremist sects] Salafis and Wahhabis, traditionalists and Sufis are natural allies of the West to the extent that common ground can be found with them," the RAND study concluded. Indeed, Rauf has often spoken out against extremism, including recently as part of a Washington Post discussion about the Park51 project, then called the Cordoba Institute:

Rauf, July 21: We are not the extremists. We are that vast majority of Muslims who stand up against extremism and provide a voice in response to the radical rhetoric. Our mission is to interweave America's Muslim population into mainstream society. We are a Muslim-American force for promoting the universal values of justice and peaceful coexistence in which all good people believe.

Wait, what? He's a Sufi? He co-operates with the US government? He speaks up for peace? He wants Muslims to live in the mainstream, not the margins? What a stab to the heart. What a slap to the face! Everything that's wrong with America, yup yup yup, that's him all right. Why, he might even ask us to join him in singing Kumbaya! The horror!

And yet, if my trolls are to be believed, I'm some kind of extremist for supporting this moderate man of Islam.

As my friend Orwell's Bastard notes, these guys are terribly busy trying to make words mean what they don't mean, to the point where they become utterly meaningless; when that happens, they go and make up their own, which could mean anything and actually mean nothing. Could that be what "refudiate" really means? I mean, how else is it possible for me to be an "extremist" for liking this moderate, Imam Rauf?

Oh, but of course. If you're tolerant of Muslims, especially moderate ones, you're intolerant, because that means you've shut the wingnuts, those "moderates" who keep moving the goalposts ever further to the right, out of consideration. You're ignoring their crapaganda whenever you look at the facts and refuse to be swayed by emotional blackmail. And if you refuse to let your blog be hijacked and your discourse derailed by those who try to sneak a false label onto you by claiming you're falsely labelling THEM, why, you intolerant extremist you!

I would argue that I've been more than tolerant enough by letting the trolls babble at me about my imagined insensitivity for their poor hurt widdle feelings for as long as they did. I even argued back in good faith, and got shat on all the more for it, in unmistakably misogynous terms. I got accused of having no sense of humor (which, as anyone who reads this blog regularly can tell you, is the most ridiculous charge of all.) Normally, they get three strikes. If they can't say anything decent within three posts, they get the royal flush. Sometimes, if I'm really not in the mood, they get it even sooner. My blog, my rules. If they don't like 'em, they can get their own; I promise I won't visit.

And if you really want to talk about intolerance and insensitivity, how about this?

This is the same fucking asshole who convened that flop-sweat rally to "restore honor". Nice, eh? And of course, he's a leading voice in the anti-mosque (really, anti-Muslim) "movement". The timing of his bullshit is no coincidence; he also heads up some travesty called the 9/12 Project. It claims to be "non-political" (there's that non-meaningful phrase again!), but it's just another fucking wingnut hijack. Glenn Beck, who is not a 9-11 survivor himself, has no shame about using the ugliest date of the past decade to his own selfish, hateful ends.

And he uses it to whip up the same selfishness and hate in others. The kind that raged on the day after September 11, 2001. The kind that led to the torching of the Hindu Samaj Temple in Hamilton, Ontario; the kind that led to numerous attacks on Sikhs; the kind that is now leading to attacks on existing mosques, mosques under construction, and a Muslim community centre that's still only on the drawing board.

I'm supposed to tolerate this hate-mongering crap in the name of "moderation", but you know what? I've had more than enough. I owe you "moderate", "non-political", "anti-agenda" rightards nothing. No tolerance for your intolerance, no acceptance for your meaningless redefinitions of words, and no platform for your absurd phantom visions of a "victory mosque". From now on, all you get out of me is a well-deserved Doc Marten bootprint on your sorry asses.

August 31, 2010

Strange case of serial murder in Argentina

You want more creepy? You got it:

A young man of 22 was arrested last weekend in Buenos Aires, accused of killing six persons in four weeks to fulfill a promise to "San La Muerte" (St. Death), a "saint" venerated in prisons and rural parts of Argentina, according to a police source on Tuesday.

"The killer made a pact with 'St. Death', in which he promised a death a week in exchange for the protection of his family," said the source.

Marcelo Antelo was arrested on Saturday, August 28, accused of having killed a philosophy student, 27 years old, who was found with a bullet wound to the chest in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Flores, south of the Argentine capital, near the accused killer's home.

Upon his arrest after an intense gunfight, the police confiscated a .38 calibre pistol, similar to those used by federal police officers.

At the moment, "Marcelito", as he was known in the barrio, is in custody for the murder of the philosophy student, but the police suspect that he may be the killer of five others, including a double homicide on August 15, five days before he celebrated the day of "St. Death".

"A half-dozen witnesses have already come forward. One of them gave us details of the pact with 'St. Death'," said an investigator in the case.

"St. Death" is a traditional figure of folk worship in the rural northeast of Argentina, particularly in the provinces of Corrientes, Chaco, and Formosa, and is also venerated in many prisons. His devotees invoke him for ordinary favors, such as to protect a harvest, but he is also sometimes called upon to bring death to an enemy.

In routine raids on the homes of suspects, the police have often found the image of "St. Death", in the form of a tiny human skeleton.

Translation mine.

The veneration of "St. Death" under various names (La Muerte, La Santa Muerte, San La Muerte, etc.) is not limited to Argentina. Mexicans, too, are known for their veneration of the unorthodox "saint", particularly on the Day of the Dead. He (or sometimes, she) is commonly invoked by members of crime gangs, for fairly obvious reasons. When even St. Jude, the patron of lost causes, won't do, St. Death seems the natural choice for drug-dealers locked in endless turf wars, or battles with the police (or both, simultaneously).

Of course, invoking Death brings karma down on you like a duck on a junebug, as this one unlucky Argentine found out. The elaborate tombs of Mexican drug-gangsters are also testimony to how well the double-edged sword of "St." Death can slice. Just something to consider, if ever you're tempted to make a pact with Death.

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 19, 2010

The true face of the IDF

Here you go, people...this is what the Middle East's One True Beacon of Democracy™ really looks like:

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Meet Eden Abergil, the Lynndie England of Israel. She's a piece of work, but she's far from alone in her nastitude; apparently it's commonplace for IDF soldiers to take trophy pictures of themselves with their victims.

And that's not all it's commonplace for them to do:

No one deluded himself that the Palestinian Ministry of Culture, which takes up five of the eight floors of a new building in the center of El Bireh, would be spared the fate of other Palestinian Authority offices in Ramallah and other cities - that is, the nearly total destruction of its contents and particularly its high-tech equipment.

After all, Israel Defense Forces troops were deployed in the building for about a month.

Armed vehicles were always parked in front of the building, around which the familiar pictures of destruction accumulated; crushed cars, banks of earth, deep ditches in the roads, broken pavements, dismantled stone fences, toppling electricity poles, loose cables and clouds of dust and dirt enveloping every vehicle, tree and roof in thickening layers.

The Ministry of Culture is located in the large residential area the IDF kept under curfew, even after its partial withdrawal from Ramallah on April 21 and its focus on the siege of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's headquarters.

Every night the neighbors, who hid in their houses, heard the sounds of objects smashing as they were hurled through the windows of the Ministry of Culture.

Shades of Kristallnacht, anyone?

Wait, it gets "better":

In other offices, all the high-tech and electronic equipment had been wrecked or had vanished - computers, photocopiers, cameras, scanners, hard disks, editing equipment worth thousands of dollars, television sets. The broadcast antenna on top of the building was destroyed.

Telephone sets vanished. A collection of Palestinian art objects (mostly hand embroideries) disappeared. Perhaps it was buried under the piles of documents and furniture, perhaps it had been spirited away. Furniture was dragged from place to place, broken by soldiers, piled up. Gas stoves for heating were overturned and thrown on heaps of scattered papers, discarded books, broken diskettes and discs and smashed windowpanes.

In the department for the encouragement of children's art, the soldiers had dirtied all the walls with gouache paints they found there and destroyed the children's paintings that hung there.

In every room of the various departments - literature, film, culture for children and youth books, discs, pamphlets and documents were piled up, soiled with urine and excrement.

There are two toilets on every floor, but the soldiers urinated and defecated everywhere else in the building, in several rooms of which they had lived for about a month. They did their business on the floors, in emptied flowerpots, even in drawers they had pulled out of desks.

They defecated into plastic bags, and these were scattered in several places. Some of them had burst. Someone even managed to defecate into a photocopier.

The soldiers urinated into empty mineral water bottles. These were scattered by the dozen in all the rooms of the building, in cardboard boxes, among the piles of rubbish and rubble, on desks, under desks, next to the furniture the solders had smashed, among the children's books that had been thrown down.

Some of the bottles had opened and the yellow liquid had spilled and left its stain. It was especially difficult to enter two floors of the building because of the pungent stench of feces and urine. Soiled toilet paper was also scattered everywhere.

In some of the rooms, not far from the heaps of feces and the toilet paper, remains of rotting food were scattered. In one corner, in the room in which someone had defecated into a drawer, full cartons of fruits and vegetables had been left behind. The toilets were left overflowing with bottles filled with urine, feces and toilet paper.

Yep, they really have a lot of respect for the West Bank Palestinians in the IDF. A lot of respect.

And this is who Harpo supports in all kinds of gungy, nefarious ways.

And this is who some people are standing by with xenophobic, racist, bigoted and just plain unfunny cartoons.

And then some have the gall to shriek about "delegitimization"? Israel seems to be doing a good enough job of that on its own; it doesn't need any help from without, heaven knows.

August 18, 2010

Bet this never happened to the REAL Judy Garland

coultergeist-bondage.jpg

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.

August 16, 2010

Surprise! G20 "security" law is nothing of the sort!

How on Earth does an anti-German war-measures act from 1939, which effectively became null and void at war's end, get dug out again for use against peaceful protesters--nearly 30 years after our Charter of Rights and Freedoms was formally enacted to prevent just such things? Well, apparently it's just for show, because any charges laid under it go poof when it's time to take it to court!

I guess Pierre Trudeau's good old Charter trumps Harpo and his sneak-thievish drive for supremacy after all (and along with him, Dalton "The Enabler" McGuinty.)

Be sure to watch it all. You'll get a chuckle out of the flustered police spokesman, who clearly wasn't expecting any reporters to challenge the official version of the bullshit--much less forearmed with the facts, as Paul Jay clearly was.

August 15, 2010

In which a persistent hasbara troll gets pwned...again.

aw-jeez.jpg

Hey! Remember how a few weeks ago, a wanker calling himself Jamie, and using a spoofed hotmail address, outed himself here? Well, he's ba-ack...and seeing as he's apparently also a masochist, I think I'll play with him a bit before I feed him to the spam eater for good:

An unapproved comment has been posted on your blog News of the Restless, for entry #2928 (Surveillance society tug-of-war in Berlin: a small but significant victory). You need to approve this comment before it will appear on your site.

This is also the Germany where police stood idly by as pro-Palestine
protesters broke into a house to rip down an Israeli flag in the
window.

Palestine is an apartheid society towards Jews and women -
pro-Palestinians are supporters of apartheid. Long live Israel!

Commenter name: Jamie
Commenter email address: binathebith@hotmail.com
Commenter URL:
Commenter IP address: 85.211.199.190

Needless to say, I'm not approving any more comments from this chicken-shit troll; after this, you'll never hear from "Jamie" again. Anyone who doesn't have the guts to post a real e-mail address doesn't deserve the dignity of being treated like a real commenter. But since he thought to "educate" me earlier about things I already know (and frankly don't give two shits about), I think it's time we educated HIM, yes?

So, with that in mind, I googled for the incident which he claimed took place. I wasn't expecting it to be real. But apparently, if all the pro-Israel whore media sites are to be believed, mirabile dictu, it was. Only, as you can probably guess, "Jamie" got the details grievously wrong. Here's the JTA on the incident (emphasis added):

Berlin police remove Israeli flags

January 12, 2009

BERLIN (JTA) -- Police removed two Israeli flags from the window of an apartment building along the route of an anti-Israel protest in a German town.

The incident in the city of Duisburg occurred toward the end of the Jan. 10 rally.

Demonstrators, mostly of Turkish background, were on their way home when they apparently spotted the two flags hanging in the fourth-floor window. Until then the two-hour demonstration had proceeded "without incident," the brief police report read.

Demonstrators stopped and "threw snowballs and other objects until the police removed the flags."

The young couple living in the apartment reported the incident in a blog entry. According to Sebastian M., he and his girlfriend hung two Israeli flags out their window, which was along the route where some 10,000 anti-Israel demonstrators were to pass.

"During the demonstration which went through our street, the police broke into our flat and removed the flag of Israel," Sebastian M. wrote, adding that the police said they were concerned that demonstrators would break into the building.

"We both were standing on the other side of the street and were shocked by seeing a police officer standing in our bedroom and opening the window to get the flag," he added.

So...no protesters broke into the house. The police--the same Berlin police whose chief wants to film peaceful protests (including, no doubt, Palestine supporters)!--came and took this little attempt at provocation (and pathetic try at victimhood) down. In so doing, they saved the little idiot provocateurs' necks. The incident was nipped in the bud, and no one got hurt.

And Jamie the ingrate doesn't even thank the Berlin police for doing their job correctly and keeping the peace between two angry factions. Instead he defames them, with the classic (and patently false) "Good German" smear, no less, saying they "stood idly by". Nice, eh? Tells you something very unflattering about his character, and why he feels he has to hide behind a fake e-mail address. Jamie is a crapagandist, and not even a very good one, since even the smelly hasbara-media contradicts him.

Now, about that Palestinian smear. Isn't it funny that Jamie feels the need to claim that Palestinians do...what Israelis themselves do, namely discriminate against Jews and women?

While the Knesset focuses on legislation pertaining to Muslim veils, it ignores processes the continuously reinforce the exclusion and humiliation of Jewish women. We already saw women being pushed to the backs of buses (an ongoing affair despite the High Court's ruling on the case,) women confined to one side of the streets in Jerusalem's haredi neighborhoods, and the humiliation of Mizrahi girls in Emmanuel. Earlier this week, we were told about the violent removal of girls from a go-karting facility at the same community.

At the end of this process we can expect to have a state managed by haredi men who discriminate against and humiliate women.

We've become accustomed to taking for granted political parties who disqualify women from taking office. These parties are nonetheless allowed to run in the elections, join governments, and lead the country despite their discriminatory conduct. Indeed, the State of Israel permits open, explicit, and legal disqualification of and discrimination against women; many women in this country are deprived of the basic civilian, democratic right to be elected.

Note that this is from an Israeli news site also.

BTW, Jamie is also full of shit when it comes to Palestinians in Gaza and their attitudes toward Jews and women:

Edith Lutz, a German Jewish member of the organization, said to Ynet the vessel is already anchored in Mediterranean waters, and that the organization had received many requests from Jews and non-Jews to take part in the flotilla.

"We began in Germany," she said, "but many have called us from England, Sweden and the US. There may also be another boat accompanying us, mainly carrying reporters."

Lutz explained that the Jewish flotilla aims to convey a message: Lift the siege.

"Our vessel can open a window between Israel and Gaza residents," she said. "Two years ago I took part in the Free Gaza flotilla and wore a Magen David (Star of David), and the kids said, 'Look, she's Jewish,' and they all accepted me very well. When we met (Hamas leader) Ismail Haniyeh and they told him about me, he turned to me and said they have nothing against Jews or Israel, only against the occupation."

Emphasis added.

German Jewish women are welcome in "apartheid" Gaza when they come in the name of peace! Who'd of thunk? Bueller?

There's only one bitch here, Jamie, and it's you.

PS: Jamie, I'm serious--post shit like this, and it's no wonder no one will "debate" you:

Oh "kiddie rockets"? Did a "kiddie rocket" cause this, Sabina - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d8/Beersheva_kindergarten_ after_rocket_attack_from_Gaza.jpg/170px-Beersheva_kindergarten_after_rocket_atta ck_from_Gaza.jpg It's some "kiddie rocket" that can do this much damage - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d5/Grad_Beersheba.jpg/220p x-Grad_Beersheba.jpg Try explaining to this guy of the little "kiddie rockets" that cause this - http://www.allworldwars.com/image/057/Gaza021.jpg It's very annoying when jumped up little trolls like you get blogs and read a few articles on Electronic Intifada, then think you know everything about the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Well get this you piece of pig-shit - YOU DON'T. You don't know jack-shit you stupid whore, so stop pretending you do, give up your stupid commie blog and sink into a life of loneliness and misery like you deserve. It's funny that you always claim any criticism of Israel is struck-down as anti-Semitism (which is, of course, a malicious lie, no doubt invented so you lot could cover up real anti-Semtism), but any debate to the bullshit you blog about is called "trolling" and anyone who dares question of the screed of 'Bina is a "masochist". Go fuck yourself you hypocritical piece of shit. (Oh, PS, that court rulling on the buses has been enforced and the whole situation came about not through state-sanctioned sexism, but from the intolerance of the Orthodox community. As for the women Knesset members - there are many. The State of Israel has no statutes banning women or Arabs from becoming members of the Knesset - it's just that some parties don't run them as candidates and those parties get voted in. Such is democracy. It would be wrong to ban these parties - fascist, even. You've got to stop equating the State of Israel with private establishments.) If you hate that some people say every criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, then why do you actively call every supportive statement of Israel "hasbara"? - That just highlights your inadequacies as a debater.

See why I don't want this turd coming back, and why anything else he writes will not be acknowledged, just flushed? This was his third strike; baseball rules. I have standards, and this is definitely lowering the tone of the discourse. (In fact, his mere presence does that.)

Now, let's get a few things straight: This is MY blog (which I'm definitely NOT giving up), and I don't bow and scrape to fascist idiots of ANY stripe here. I also don't take abuse in the form of ANY "jumped-up troll" (nice bit of projection there, Jamie, that's YOU) trying to "educate" me from the viewpoint of one who only reads rightard crap. As if he had anything of worth to impart. He probably knew he had nothing of value to say. Why else would he come on here all nasty, snotty and aggressive, calling me a bitch from the get-go when spouting his simplistic shit, using his spoofed (and poorly spelled) e-mail address as a vehicle for the limp-dicked insult?

And then he goes on doing it. Not once more, but twice. He comes into my house three times, each time leaving a steaming brown pile on the floor, and still expects me to treat him with tolerance, while not according ME the same dignity. Cognitive dissonance, thy name is Jamie.

And then he thinks he can lecture ME on debating? Bwahahahaha. Check out his masterful screed above--doesn't he have have a brilliant future ahead of him in the British House of Lords? (Whenever his testicles decide to drop, that is?) "Hypocritical piece of shit"--project much, again? Pretending to care about women, and then turning around and calling them ugly names when they don't simper and go "Oh, I'm sorry, you were right, don't mind me, I'll slink back into obscurity now like a good little woman"? Yep, winning gambit there, dude. (Snort.)

No wonder you're anonymous, Jamie--if I were as inept at this debating thing as you, and got my ass kicked good and hard for it by some leftist chick I thought I could batter into submission, I wouldn't want the world to know who I was, either.

And you even got pwned with material from your own side! How painful is that? Pretty damn painful, judging from the venom of the response. I thought using the pro-Israeli press to refute your nonsense would make an impression, but apparently it made no more impact on your little leaden skull than a Hamas rocket.

Free advice, Jamie, not that you're likely to take it, seeing as your reading comprehension is terribly poor: If you want to be respected, be respectful. LEARN TO READ, DAMMIT. (And make it something other than your silly wingnut blogs, fergawdsakes, they're nothing but a godforsaken echo chamber full of feces-flinging howler monkeys and rabid bats.) Stop your infantile whining. Dump your damn hypocrisy. Quit hating women. In fact, just quit hating, period. Use a real e-mail address, learn to apologize when you've been rude and wrong, and keep a civil tongue in your head--how hard is that? I don't think it's too much to ask.

And I don't have to tolerate anyone who "thinks" otherwise. Baseball rules...

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Adios, "bith". And don't bother replying on anything else here, either.

August 14, 2010

Surveillance society tug-of-war in Berlin: a small but significant victory

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If you need any evidence of how far Germany has come since the end of World War II, and how far by comparison Canada has sunk, look no further than this interesting little report in the Berliner Tagesspiegel ("Daily Mirror"):

Berlin police president Dieter Glietsch wants police agents to go on videotaping the participants of peaceful demonstrations, despite a court verdict.

He will appeal the court decision, he said on the RBB evening newscast on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a panel of judges declared the filming of peaceful protesters to be a violation of the protesters' rights. The police may only make videos in the event that a protest turns violent or results in vandalism. The judges based their decision on the contention that such measures would constitute an attack on freedom of assembly, as well as the right to informational self-determination.

Should his appeal fail, Glietsch plans to urge the Berlin House of Representatives to pass a by-law to allow the police to film peaceful demonstrations.

Translation mine.

This fight isn't over yet. But the fact that the court has ruled in favor of protesters over police indicates something important: The Germans have pulled ahead of Canada in allowing peaceful assembly over the clamor of the police/surveillance sector.

Granted that police are all alike, here and there--this one insists he'll get the law remade in his own favor. But still, the court has ruled in favor of freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.

Viewed in light of what happened at the G20 summit in Toronto two months ago, this should tell you something, nicht wahr?

August 7, 2010

Economics for Dummies: Dubya's Deficit, the gift that keeps on giving

The question is, to whom? Look at this chart and tell me who you think it could be, benefiting from the atrocity and obscenity of the US federal deficit:

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Anyone got an idea? Bueller???

July 29, 2010

Short 'n' Stubby: Dude, where are my criminal charges?

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Hidey-ho, folks, it's another G-20 roundup for ya. And here comes Ms. Manx with all the linkies you should clicky...

First up, the Toronto Star's Carol Goar draws up a score sheet for what's been done and what's still doing. Surprise: So far, not a single person arrested has actually had criminal charges laid that stuck. One month later, and it's Protesters 1, Cops 0. Goar's moment of untruth: "Peaceful advocacy groups tarnished their reputation by knowingly providing cover to protestors bent on violence." Carol, shame on you--the cops were not a peaceful advocacy group! I seem to recall at least one video where the peaceful advocacy groups were chastising the vandals. Is that what you call "knowingly providing cover"?

The Star and the Globe are both reporting that environmentalist Dave Vasey, one of the more prominent arrestees (he was singled out early on as a "leader"), has gone to court, only to find the charges against him not even on the docket. Maybe because the "five-metre rule" he was charged under was bogus? Or maybe just because the cops had nothing on him, and they knew it. Their purpose in making the arrest was not to lay charges, but strictly to intimidate Vasey and others (whom they presumed to be his "followers", no doubt), and thus curtail protest. As always, the operative question to be asked in cases like this is Cui bono?--for whose benefit?

That question is certainly topmost in my mind when it comes to this case, of a young Muslim woman being forcibly stripped of her headscarf and sweater. Violation of modesty is a specifically intimidating move when the victim is a Muslim. Was this violation of her person done to discourage her from protesting? It sure smells that way.

And you know things have come to a bad pass when a distinguished scientist and former holocaust survivor like Ursula Franklin looks at the G-20 fiasco and draws inescapable parallels to the fascist ordeal of her youth.

July 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Chavecito...here's the oppos' present to you!

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"The tongue as temple of pleasure". I shit you not, that's what the headline says. Do you want to read the whole thing, in Spanish? Or shall I just spare you that unsafe-for-work stuff?

Yes, it's Chavecito's birthday today, and the laughs and hate from the oppo whore media just keep on rolling, no matter what day it is. From Venezuelan prog-blogger Okrim, who dug the above jewel out a few days ago, I bring you...convulsions:

The obsession many opponents have with President Chávez is endlessly amazing. If you comment on anything to do with international politics, they compare this event with Chávez, even a suicide attack in a country where the average escuálido has never heard anything from before (such as one in eastern Germany). If you talk about how bad the weather is, they think of Chávez, and how "bad" the entire country is. If you talk about your last vacation, they say they didn't enjoy theirs because of Chávez (even if they just got back from a Mediterranean cruise). But I confess I've never found such a twisted example of obsession than the one I'm about to share with you.

On the ground floor of my apartment building, I found several pages of El Nacional the other day, and idly picked one up to read it. The article was about sex, particularly cunnilingus, that is, oral sex performed on a woman. I read it unawares, thinking--oh, in vain--that I would find none of the classic dissociated editorial line of Miguel Henrique Otero. I was wrong. After a series of explanations of the sexual practice in question, in which the use of the tongue is indispensable, I found the following pearl of wisdom:

"True, there are those who use their tongues to insult, and talk a mile a minute in cadenas [televised presidential speeches, required by Venezuelan law to be broadcast on all channels] but the most privileged know that the tongue represents [...] an infallible instrument to offer and achieve pleasure."

WTF? What level of dissociated obsession must a person have when talking about sex in the context of televised speeches by President Chávez? You can be sure that the most Chavista woman in the world isn't thinking of Chávez when the topic of conversation is oral sex. So what strange psychological mechanism is at work in some opposition sexologist mentioning the president in an article on oral sex? Fixation? Obsession? Persecution mania? Common, garden-variety craziness? All of the above?

The strange thing is, this sort of conduct is common in many oppositionists in the most diverse circumstances. They live thinking of the President: on the way to work, at work, at lunch, on the way home, at home, alone, with family, on vacation, and probably--though it's difficult to prove--even in a coma.

I understand them at the bottom of it all, poor bastards. If I thought about the President in each and every instant of my life, at all occasions and moments, in the face of any comment or situation, the way they do, I would surely hate him too.

Translated, in its entirety, by Your Humble One.

Yow. I know Chavecito is a sexy stud (and so do lots of other women, believe you me), and that his mouth is undoubtedly his handsomest (and most active) feature, but this obsession of his enemies with his tongue is just killingly funny. Even in bed, they just can't get him out of their heads! What must their sex lives be like, I shudder to ask?

Okrim is right...I'm the most Chavista woman in my hometown, maybe in Canada, maybe even all of North America, and even I don't think about it that way, at least not by daylight.* Most of the time, when I think about Chavecito's mouth, I think what hilarious truths have come out of it. He has no qualms making fun of his enemies, or denouncing them either. And he does it with wit and comic flair, which is in itself very sexy. He's not afraid to get a little goofy; that's an appealing trait, and no doubt explains a lot of his common touch. He can get along with anyone, and he can make anyone laugh--except maybe those obsessive oppos, who all walk around looking like a chronic case of indigestion, and little wonder.

When I picture myself meeting him, I imagine we'd have a helluva good conversation, in which he ignores my stumbling Spanish and I politely correct his restaurant English (that's what I call it when someone speaks just enough of a language to be able to order a meal.) And of course, I imagine laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. Laughter is a great icebreaker. And it's also a great leveller. I certainly don't think of him as a tyrant; actually, I think of him as someone you could have a beer with, unlike Dubya (who is a dry drunk, and in any case, if you don't belong to his grandparents' country club, you will never have so much as a glass of Coke with him.)

Yeah, I guess you could say that's the secret of Chavecito's sexiness right there. Women actually LIKE him, as a person, because he likes them--and everyone else, too, unless they give him solid reasons not to. Like, say, Dubya and that failed coup eight years ago, for example.

Liking and likability are two things the oppos don't have much of, if they have them at all (I've never seen any evidence that they did); hence their constant exercising of the bile ducts. Even when the topic is tongue-sex technique, somehow they figure out a way to work their hateful obsession with a capable, likable leader in there! Clearly their mothers never taught them that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar and gall. That's why I doubt that even a clear, detailed explanation of how to go down on your lady is going to help them much. Either you have it, or you don't, but you can't pick it up from reading a trashy newspaper article. Technique is just no substitute for a certain je ne sais quoi, y'know?

So, Chavecito, happy birthday...I can't give you anything more than my warmest greetings, but that's okay. You already have everything you need anyway. And those who have too much of all the wrong things and too little of the good stuff, well...they'll just go on eternally hating your guts for it.

Poor devils.

*I will confess to having had the odd naughty dream about him, though. And Rafael Correa and Evo, too, although not all in one go. I'm not that greedy!

July 25, 2010

A cracking good debate on burqa bans (and an article on Ground Zero mosques)

Am I giving too much away when I say that the woman in the headscarf is full of win? Just one of many interesting ironies in this half-hour of must-see TV.

Another thing that occurred to me while watching this: Why do we have to go to an English-language program from a RUSSIAN channel to see such interesting, reasoned debate? Why is it that when we turn on a "news" show here, we don't get to see nearly so much discussion, much less so intelligent? Yes, I'm glaring at FUX Snooze here, but I'm also glaring at the Chicken Noodle Network, and the all-news channels of CBC and CTV. They COULD have something like this going on, but they don't. One wonders why.

One also wonders why one has to go to the written word to get something that the talk shows have missed about the the so-called "mosque at Ground Zero" (which is not, in fact, actually located at Ground Zero, or even within eyesight of it). But for once, the NYTimes comes through:

Just to show you how naïve I am: When I first heard about the plan to build a mosque and community center two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks, I didn't envision any real opposition to it.

Sure, I can understand how some people traumatized by 9/11 -- firefighters who survived it, or people whose loved ones didn't -- might not like the idea. But I'd have thought that opinion leaders of all ideological stripes could reach consensus by applying a basic rule of thumb: Just ask, "What would Osama bin Laden want?" and then do the opposite.

Bin Laden would love to be able to say that in America you can build a church or synagogue anywhere you want, but not a mosque. That fits perfectly with his recruiting pitch -- that America has declared war on Islam. And bin Laden would thrill to the claim that a mosque near ground zero dishonors the victims of 9/11, because the unspoken premise is that the attacks really were, as he claims, a valid expression of Islam.

There then follows an astute attack on the Weekly Standard (or Weakly Substandard, as I prefer to call it--much more accurate) and two right-wing New York state candidates blatantly pandering to the scaredy-cat vote. It's a fine kick to the goolies. Go read the whole thing. And ask yourself, as I do: Have we heard from any actual 9-11 survivors or relatives of the fatal victims condemning this planned mosque? Because so far, all I've heard of this nature are the Paliness and her Palinettes, all parroting the stupid contention that this edifice will be a "stab to the heart". They do this, of course, from the safe distance of those who have never lived in New York, who were not there on that day, who are not struggling with lingering health problems as a result of inhaling the toxic dust and smoke of the World Trade Center, and who in any event don't consider New York to be part of "the real America" because it's not a vast stretch of sparsely inhabited land, like most of the so-called Red States. They forget that Muslims were among the victims that day, and no, not the ones hijacking the planes, either. (I have it on good authority that some of them, on their last days pre-martyrdom, spent time in sleazy bars, drinking and ogling the strippers. Not exactly the deeds of a devout, self-sacrificing Muslim.)

A great many groups lost someone to that terrorist act, and all of them have the right, in a real democracy, to places near the site where they can seek solace after their own fashion. To deny one group that right, just because 19 hijackers supposedly belonged to it, is not democracy, any more than is a veil ban. It is a cheap political stunt that actually sets back the efforts of those struggling to build bridges between ALL groups by way of unconditional equal rights, not forced conformity. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has the last word on the matter, and a good one it is:

"Government should never -- never -- be in the business of telling people how they should pray, or where they can pray," Bloomberg said last week. "We want to make sure that everybody from around the world feels comfortable coming here, living here and praying the way they want to pray."

Spoken like a true bridge builder, and one who is determined to let neither violent terrorists nor slimy scaremongers win.

Officer Bubbles is worse than you think

How is Adam Josephs, alias "Officer Bubbles", worse than you think? By virtue of the simple fact that he's not the only arrogant asshole on the Toronto police force. By virtue of the simple fact that protest has been criminalized, unannounced, in Canada. By virtue of the simple fact that Courtney Winkels would have been arrested even if she hadn't blown a single bubble. Because protest is illegal in Canada now, duh.

The question is, why did no one announce to the media that protest and community organization are now illegal? Maybe it's because to do so would be to declare that we aren't really a democracy; that martial law is essentially in effect where there is no just cause to implement it; in short, that we have crossed the line into fascism and dictatorship.

That's how Officer Bubbles is worse than you think. He's not just some random asshole in uniform, but a symptom of something deeply and chronically wrong within the system. Were he just a random asshole, he could be easily weeded out. But the fact is, police forces have a predilection for assholes, and not just in Canada. Think Dan Mitrione, the Indianapolis cop who trained CIA-backed torturers in Santo Domingo, Brazil and Uruguay before finally meeting justice at the hands of the Tupamaros in Montevideo. Mitrione got a hero's funeral, but he was no hero; he was a professional asshole in uniform.

Assholes-in-uniform have no compunction about arresting people for no good reason (a bandanna, a backpack full of street-medic supplies, a lawyer's phone number written with a Sharpie on a girl's arm, etc.--not good reasons.) Assholes-in-uniform have no problem doing assholish things as a matter of course. Assholery is their profession. They're trained to see the public as an adversary, an unruly dog to be kept at heel by any brutal means at hand; Josephs' own Facebook page refers to his job as "taking out human garbage" for the City of Toronto, after all.

And there is little question that the G-20 cops were taught to see the protesters as the Enemy, the forces of communism and anarchy, criminals for simply protesting. Human garbage, in other words. That's why no police broke the line; that's why not one of them said "this is not right" when peaceful protesters were corralled in a driving rain for five hours at Queen and Spadina. Not one of them failed to charge when the protesters had completed the last chorus of "O Canada". Not one of them laid down the baton and shield in protest of their comrades' blatantly unlawful behavior.

If even patriotic protest is illegal in this country, then we've come to a bad pass. All the right-wing whining about the "police state" of Cuba becomes ridiculous when viewed in the light of the G-20 in Toronto. In Cuba, when the so-called dissidents of communism demonstrate, they usually get ushered, unhurt, onto buses, and brought home. If jailed, they are still treated humanely; hunger strikers get medical care, even if they are hell-bent on suicide. In Toronto, when dissidents of capitalism demonstrate, they get bones broken, skulls cracked, sexually assaulted, threatened with gang-rape, and herded into Gitmo-like people-pens. Ah, the glorious freedoms of capitalism that we've all heard so much about!

The question no one dares to ask is, If capitalism makes us free, why do capitalists have the greatest number of prisoners per capita, political and otherwise?

Think about it.

Why did the glorious freedom of capitalism need a Dan Mitrione to teach its enforcers to torture not only criminals and so-called subversives, but even innocent people, in order to discourage disobedience? Why did it need him to teach police in three different countries how to electrocute people--not to make them talk, but just "to teach them a lesson" or even "to take out human garbage" by means of death? Mitrione's trainees in Brazil honed their craft on street beggars, after all. Why would anyone want them dead unless they had a human-trash mentality at the bottom of it--a learned mental defect that left them incapable of Christian empathy for those Jesus called "the least of these my brothers"? Mitrione was a devout Catholic with nine children. He couldn't possibly have missed that lesson in Sunday mass; priests teach it all the time as an example of the virtue of charity. Did he simply ignore it? Or did his later training as a professional asshole-in-uniform override it?

Given that Mitrione's mission in Latin America was to roll back all efforts of progressives to establish a more equitable and just state under socialism, and to keep those countries in subservience to the biggest capitalist nation of all, I'll go with the latter option. Right-wing Catholics like Dan Mitrione are taught to override Jesus's true teachings all the time. The disciples' simple, effective practice of holding all property in common, so that everybody is looked after and no one is stuffed while others starve, gets ignored routinely by such people. The message of mercy and loving kindness is obscured by the competing vision of the Old Testament God, the angry punisher, who decreed (via the elite priesthood) that disobedient men, women and even children should be stoned--that is, tortured--to death as an example to others.

Right-wing cops are no different. The basically positive message of community policing, "to serve and protect", is overridden by the human-garbage mentality of the asshole-in-uniform. The police are then no longer the citizenry's "friend and helper" (as the German police slogan would have it), but the friend and helper of the moneyed oligarchy--the sole interest they serve and protect.

The same polite, friendly, quintessentially Canadian cops who cleared the roads in my hometown so our little peace march could proceed in 2003, could nowadays be turned against us. Then, I proudly carried a Maple Leaf, as well as a Stars and Stripes with the stars rearranged in a peace symbol, to show solidarity for neighbors to the south who also opposed the war against Iraq. Nowadays, I'm not so sure I could get away with that. I'm being forced to reconsider whether I want to take part in any open demonstrations at all, even with my country's flag and the national anthem as rallying symbols. If the cops in Toronto could charge a peaceful demo where the protesters waved the flag and sang "O Canada", then no manifestation of free speech and peaceful assembly is immune. We are all subject to the modern equivalent of stoning, without mercy. We are all fodder for the Dan Mitriones.

And that's why Officer Bubbles is worse than you think--it's because he's more common than you think. He's not a random asshole or a bad apple in a basically good barrel; he's just one of a great many, specially selected and trained to think of all the rest of us as human garbage, to be taken out without compassion or compunction.

And that's what makes him so goddamn scary.

July 19, 2010

Who is this "silent majority", and why do they want to shut us up?

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I have always found the phrase "silent majority" irksome. Not just because Tricky Dick used it (and was, of course, lying his ass off when he did so), but because makes no sense. How do you know people who share your smugly conservative views are, in fact, a majority, when they're silent?

You don't, and that's just what makes this phrase so stupid. It takes a lot for granted.

It takes for granted, as Tricky Dick did, that just because a majority of people aren't out there at any given time demonstrating against some huge injustice, that they must therefore be FOR it, rather than against it and unable to do anything about it (like take time off work or travel many miles to go to a demo, say). It takes for granted that people are constantly free to speak their minds publicly, and if they don't, it's because their mind is already made up in favor of the prevailing order, or the ruling class, or whatever trash the TV is trying to sell them.

Of course, that's ridiculous. Not everyone who opposes the G-20 fuckery is going to be able to turn out to demonstrate against it; I'd say that maybe just one opponent in ten made it to Toronto for the big demo, and that's an optimistic number. Fewer still made it to the subsequent protests against police brutality and the violation of civil rights, but that hardly means, as Dalton McGuinty claimed when he appropriated Tricky Dick's phraseology, that those who showed up to speak out were a vocal minority. They were just the few who could afford to spare the time and energy to be there.

More insulting is the notion that the so-called "silent majority" assumed to be in favor of the fuckery has more wisdom and sense on the issues. In fact, those in favor are the ignorant ones. And to anyone who had the nerve to snark on the protesters, claiming they didn't know what they were against, here you go. Chow down on this open letter from someone who WAS there, and who knew full well what it was about:

First, why did we even protest the G20?

The G20 is the meeting of 20 leaders from the 20 richest countries in the world. They meet to discuss and implement economic policies. There is no administrative body, and the G20 is accountable to no one. The one thing that came out of this G20 meeting in Toronto was an agreement on 'austerity measures'.

In a nutshell, austerity measures is another way of saying cuts to public spending in order to bail out banks and corporations, which are the reasons for economic crisis in the first place.

A lot of people have been talking about neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is a cluster of policies or an ideology based on belief in the free market: that the market can best regulate itself, and should not be subject to interference. This includes taking for granted the assumption that capitalism is a good thing and that it's necessary. Capitalist enterprises such as corporations involve increasing profit by whatever means necessary: the responsibility of corporations is to their stockholders, not to those who are affected by corporate policies.

[...]

Neoliberal policies and practices have resulted in the economic crisis that we're currently in the midst of--where folks are laid off work, factories close, or companies move overseas where they can capitalize on more cheap labour to increase their profits.

Rather than questioning the roots and assumptions behind neoliberal policies, the G20 leaders have decided that the solution for neoliberalism, is, in effect, more neoliberalism. Rather than taxing banks or corporations, they are taking public money to bail out these institutions, which are by their nature unsustainable. Put simply, this is taking money from the poor, to bail out corporations and banks, which result in more money for those who own the companies or the people who own a lot of stocks.

This is a big part of why we protest the G20. Because we disagree with a small population imposing policies that make a few richer, while increasing the divide between the rich and the poor, and continuing to harm the majority of the world's population and the environment.

Those who protest are vocal, yes, but they are NOT a minority. Nor do they protest on behalf of a minority. They protest on behalf of the overwhelming, and TRULY silent, majority of the world that is NOT represented by the G-20 and its unethical, unaccountable so-called leaders.

The people Dalton McGuinty and Tricky Dick claimed for their own, as a "silent majority", are in fact the minority. They are every bit as vocal when they say that the "anarchist thugs" who were there "got what they deserved". I certainly don't see THEIR opinion being under-represented in the news, nor in online polls, nor in "official" polls by Angus Reid et al.

In fact, this manufactured opinion has been made to carry the day, because the discourse has been hijacked since before the G-20 summit began. The cops who arbitrarily decided to not let protesters within five metres of the fence were the terrorist musclemen, and the three levels of government who gave the keep-'em-out orders were the same who determined in advance what the tone of the discourse was to be: Everything going on inside the fence good, everyone protesting outside it bad. Everything inside the fence order and propriety, everyone protesting outside it anarchist thug.

Thus was a billion dollar security boondoggle sold to a thumb-sucking public who would, of course, be the ones footing the bill. And thus was said public manipulated into thinking, against all evidence to the contrary, that the cops had done the right thing when they arrested more than a thousand people on no actual charges.

A billion dollars and a thousand arrests for nothing. Nothing, that is, but a vastly unpopular fuck-over of the vast majority of the world's people--with cutbacks and shitty macroeconomic policies already proven by all of Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia not to work. Seems pretty steep, but it's nothing compared to the price the world's exploited people--and yes, Canada has 'em too--are going to pay.

Must keep that majority silent, since they weren't in on the consultation, right? Must ridicule, suppress and just plain shut them up. At all costs.

I propose that the so-called "silent majority" referred to by the Dalton McGuintys and Tricky Dicks of the world be referred to, instead, as the Silencing Minority. Because that is, in fact, what it is.

"It is so much easier sometimes to sit down and be resigned than to rise up and be indignant." --Nellie McClung

July 13, 2010

Conservative "libertarians"--whose allies?

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I was chided by a liberal today for very rudely telling off a gun guy who presumes that his side is the "right" one to be on in the battle for civil liberties here in Canada. I always love it when people supposedly on my side take up for the other; way to prove that "liberals are milquetoast" belief the right holds of you, pal. But you know what? I don't feel bad for telling the the con-job to fuck the hell off. Mr. Gunner had it coming; he was snotty and patronizing, and dared to use that "when I was young and foolish, I thought like you, too" canard on me.

BIG mistake.

You see, I'm not that young anymore. Youthful, yes, and I look young for my years, but I'm not exactly one of those green-haired kids you see at demos and some people think are the only ones that show up. I've already lived three years longer than Che Guevara, who died before he was 40. I don't think of myself as middle-aged, but clearly I'm not a kid, and haven't been one for quite some time. I have been in the struggle for all kinds of human and civil rights in Canada for more than two decades now, starting when I was 20 or so. I may not be a major figure, and I wouldn't go putting on airs of being a veteran, but neither am I just some snot-nosed punk with naïve notions about making the world a better place. I'm old enough to have much clearer ideas than that, and more concrete patience as to how they are to be implemented.

I am in the struggle, and I am committed to it for life. I committed myself to it little by little over more than half of my life to date. Each failure (and there have been many) has taught me something. I know the struggle is not going to be won by grand gestures or any other overnight victories. Time and experience and liberal lashings of extracurricular study have granted me that wisdom. That's why I am vocal about just how much I don't appreciate being patted on my pretty little curly red head by some good ol' Johnny-come-lately with a gun who thinks he's some kind of anti-authoritarian authority, just because he has a penis extension with an ammo clip.

(Or because he wants one and can't have it, thanks to the evil wicked federal government not granting him the privilege of having the supposed means to overthrow it. Same thing, really. Gun guys are all perpetual wannabes. Let them have a deer rifle, and they'll all cry because you won't let them have a machine-gun; let them have a machine-gun, and they'll cry because you didn't let them have a fucking bazooka. Big, fat, perpetually dissatisfied babies they are, at whatever age.)

Anyhow, this all has me thinking: Just because the right-wing flibbertigibbertarians are now joining in our clamor for civil liberties in the wake of the G-20 fiasco, should we on the left seriously consider them as allies?

My gut instinct tells me NO, WE SHOULD NOT. And my gut is not alone in this. My eyes and ears tell me so, too.

Even a cursory look around should be enough to prove my gut check correct. Where were these guys at the G-20 protests? Were they marching? Were they supporting from the sidelines? Were they reporting with cellphones and home movie cameras? Were they blogging and tweeting in support of the jailed?

None of the above.

The right-wing gun-guy flibbertigibbertarians were all conveniently elsewhere. They were not even raising their pipsqueak voices in solidarity from afar, as I was. They would never cheer for a leftist standing up to authority. In fact, I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that before the G-20, they were all rah-rah for the Harpocrats, because those guys promised to get rid of the long-gun registry and because they hated the Dirty Fucking Hippies, and considered anyone who would protest global capitalist hegemony to be an anarchist deserving to get his or her head bashed in, like that poor soul in London the last time (who was, incidentally, just a passer-by). These guys all had absolutely NO problem with that, other than maybe what it cost and how bad it made capitalism look for just a split second there. But it didn't concern these concern trolls. It was someone else's head being bashed in, not theirs. And it was all happening at a safe distance.

Now that it's all suddenly right here in Middle Canada among us, and the evidence is all out there on YouTube that the cops were heavy-handed on orders from above, NOW all of a sudden they pipe up. Not that I'm unhappy to hear it, exactly--but jeez, gun guys, why so late to the party? Were you expecting to make a grand entrance with your guns, your ammo and your god-awful camo, and proclaim yourselves the saviors of us all?

If so, you're full of shit.

You didn't show up with your guns to the G-20 to clear the line of armored cops away from the people they were beating on. You didn't show up at the jails, either, to blast the thousand-some arrestees free. No Molotov cocktails for you, oh no. That's Black Bloc tactics, pure DFH stuff. You didn't fire a single round in defence of the leftists, not even from a kiddie slingshot. Explain to me exactly how you and your weaponry are supposed to be the God-sent answer to tyranny, again?

Oh yeah, I forgot. The feds, the same ones you voted for because they were right-wing lawn-order types, wouldn't let you buy your widdle bang-bang guns and bring them in. And if you had, you'd have been mown down by the riot squad, not with rubber bullets either, and you knew it. You pissed your pants in fear of it.

Poor babies.

No, I don't trust a conservatard with a gun to fight for the rights I have yet to obtain, because I've already seen how worse than useless they are at merely defending the existing ones. And it's not because these guys have their hands shackled by us mean little lefties, or Big Bad Government, no matter how much they whine to that effect. It's the fault of no one but the cons themselves. These guys are no Che Guevara; to them, he's another Dirty Fucking Hippie. And a commie, oh noes. Those are the worst "authoritarians" of all, to hear the rightards tell it. They think every leftist is Joe Stalin underneath it all, even though there's ample evidence throughout Latin American history that the much-feared leftist guerrillas were in fact the biggest real libertarians of all, while the official Communist parties of the various countries were at pains to distance themselves from Moscow and the guerrillas both, and the guerrillas, in turn, disdained Moscow as too authoritarian and the official Communists as too stodgy, too reluctant to fight for the people, and too busy trying to build their own electoral legitimacy in a fake-democratic system which was blatantly stacked against the Left on all fronts.

But let's not trouble their australopithecine brains with those facts, shall we? The point is, these right-wingers, even when they manage to organize themselves, are no freedom fighters. They couldn't get up even the most half-assed of guerrilla armies. In Canada they have never done so yet, and in the US, they have only succeeded in making asses of themselves. They have much in common with the fascist cops they claim to despise--they eat too many doughnuts, and they LOOK like doughnuts, too. One would think they were cops manqués, and one wouldn't be wrong; they are. And if they ever passed the entrance exams to police academy (which, heaven knows, takes no geniuses), they would turn into the worst kind of cop: the Bullyboy With A Badge, the kind that's hot to crack hippie heads at a G-20 demo. They will never fight for others; they don't really care about the oppressed. Here or abroad, they will only jeer at the poor to "get a fuckin' job", ignoring the fact that most of those wretches already have two or three apiece and still can't make enough to buy a decent house. The only people they will fight for is themselves, although they might pat the likes of me smirkingly on our heads and nobly claim they're doing it for us, because we're too silly and wussy to scream for more and bigger guns. (They think we only scream for ice cream.) Some might even eloquently fool themselves (and a few of us) into believing that there really is some higher purpose to what they're doing.

But at bottom, no, they're not doing it for anybody but THEM. That's why they voted for the Tories in the first place--or local fringe parties who think the Tories aren't right-wing and authoritarian and pro-capitalist enough. It behooves us on the left to remember that. Don't watch their mouths when they talk; watch their feet when it comes time to vote. These guys will never vote for the common good. Pure, unenlightened self-interest is their modus operandi, now and forever.

Don't believe me? Fine, take a good hard look at anyone who ever accomplished anything for civil rights and liberties anywhere. Tell me who they were, what their politics were. Was Rosa Parks a right-wing white guy with a gun, agitating for the right to unlimited guns? No, she was a middle-aged black lady who'd been a staunch, quiet civil-rights campaigner for many years before she simply sat down and stayed put on that bus in Montgomery, and wouldn't budge when Whitey ordered her to. How about Gandhi? Damn, the dude kicked out the British Raj from India without firing a single shot--or even a literal kick! He walked around in white loincloths, not camo fatigues. He organized protests, not armies. And both of these heroes had such a mass following that it was impossible to ignore them. They won in the end, not with bullets but with ballots.

Closer to home, Tommy Douglas--CCF socialist and Baptist preacher--gave every individual in Saskatchewan the right to free healthcare, education, highways and more. His socialist initiatives were so successful that every other province in Canada eventually copied them, even those with conservative premiers. Under Lester B. Pearson, a Liberal, the changes wrought by the leftist Tommy Douglas and his provincial government became enshrined in federal law. Pearson also let the Vietnam-era draft dodgers, conscientious objectors, and peace activists in, and more than 25,000 of them came to call Canada home. All have praised its peacefulness and freedoms; none have tried to import US-style gun-mad politics here. And Pierre Elliot Trudeau--another Liberal--patriated our Constitution from Britain, and appended our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Thanks to those two documents, we are (or were, before Harpo) better off than our cousins to the south, rights-wise. I'll bet you good money that the rightards aren't even remotely familiar with the text of either one. I can tell you this much: Neither the Constitution nor the Charter guarantee ANYONE the right to guns.

And need I remind you that the Underground Railroad ended in Canada, where slavery was abolished long before it was even thought seriously about in the US? I'll give you a broad hint as to why that is: it certainly wasn't Tories, or any other conservatives, who agitated for that abolition. And it's a pretty safe bet that conservatives weren't sheltering any runaway slaves, either.

The entire history of the Americas is rife with conservative oppressors and liberal-to-leftist freedom fighters. There is not one conservative who ever fought for human rights, and not one socialist or true, un-milquetoasty liberal who didn't.

And no, the leftists didn't all have guns. They didn't all need them: Tommy Douglas needed only his pen, some paper and a microphone to become our Greatest Canadian. Even Dr. Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who famously left behind his medical kit and kept his rifle when fighting in the Cuban revolutionary war (which his column won at Santa Clara), would say that it the people's revolutionary consciousness, not his gun, that was his best and most effective weapon in the struggle for human rights. The gun was merely his back-up, a tool for holding off the enemy. It was not the instrument of change; the mind was. It was only when he could make no progress with the people that his revolutionary guerrilla armies failed.

Where no mind for change exists, there can be no revolution; there cannot even be a victorious struggle for one person's rights, let alone the "individual" rights of all. No individual's gun, nor indeed the collective ownership of lots of guns, can change that. The US is lousy with guns; have they overcome the tyranny of Wall Street and the Pentagon yet?

No, because the mind for positive social change is one thing conservatives have never had, and never will. Not even the so-called "libertarians" of the right. Those guys will fall right in behind authoritarians like dominoes, when all's said; the topdog/underdog mindset is all they know. And they want to be topdog; they don't resent authority unless they don't have it to themselves. They don't want to build a world where there are no topdogs or underdogs. They are conservatives, and the only thing they conserve is the old order, in which women and minorities stay in "their" underdog place, and white male topdogs with guns run the show.

No, they are not our allies. They never were, and never truly will be. And woe betide anyone who is lulled by a few nice words from them into thinking otherwise.

"If you tremble indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine." --Ernesto "Che" Guevara, one TRUE libertarian.

Some people just deserve one another

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Hey, kiddies, have I got a story for YOU. Make sure you're sitting down for this one. And have a paper bag handy to breathe (or vomit, as the case may be) into...you're gonna need it!

On Monday, it transpired that journalist Patricia Poleo and student leader Nixon Moreno had decided to marry, after just nine months together. Something that could be called "love in exile" is the relationship between these two Venezuelans.

The event has taken the Venezuelan media community by surprise. It seems to be a fait accompli, and Poleo has moved to Peru, where the student leader is taking asylum, to speed up the wedding because "she wants to be married as soon as possible".

The plans of Poleo and Moreno were confirmed to Marianella Salazar on her radio show [audio in Spanish available at the link]. According to press reports, the couple will make their home in Miami.

Translation mine.

My, this is so SUDDEN! But isn't it sweet that these two exiled lovebirds found one another? Everybody, repeat after me: Awwwwwwwwwwwww!

Only, as you may have guessed, there's a rub to all this. Nixon Moreno isn't really a student leader. Patricia Poleo isn't really a journalist. And neither of them is really in exile. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself, so let's back up this truck a bit.

Nixon Moreno is a wanted man. In 2006, at a violent "demonstration" by oppos in the university town of Mérida, he assaulted a policewoman named Sofia Aguilar. He beat her up, ripped her clothes off, and held a gun on her. He no doubt meant to go further with this sexual assault, but was stopped in time. Rather than submitting to arrest, he fled, then hid out in the Apostolic Nunciature in Caracas. (Yes, that's right, the house of the Vatican's ambassador to Venezuela. They shield perverts under their frocks as a matter of almost routine.) While there, he finally received his political science degree; shucks, it only took him an extra decade of squatting, taking up spaces that could have been occupied by three or four more deserving students! Then, diploma in his fat little hands, he fucked off to Lima, Peru--which, after Miami and Bogotá, is the most fashionable hangout for the scum de la scum of Latin America. He is still a wanted man:

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"WANTED: for murder, sadism, and rape."

And no, he's not a "student leader", he's a GANG leader. Nixon Moreno is a plain old garden-variety thug.

Patricia Poleo is something else. Something even worse. The daughter of oppo newspaper owner Rafael Poleo, she is also wanted by the Venezuelan federales. For what? For a car bombing that killed Danilo Anderson, the hot-shot young prosecutor who just happened to be investigating the coup d'état of April 2002. Anderson was getting perilously close to finding out who ordered all those deaths, both Chavista and oppo, on April 11, when two groups of demonstrators came under fire from rooftop snipers, undercover sharpshooters, and opposition-controlled Metro Caracas police. And it most certainly wasn't the big guy in the red shirt, whom the oppos keep scapegoating for literally every bad thing that happens in Venezuela! So Danilo Anderson had to be stopped somehow, and in November of 2004, he was--with an earth-shaking kaboom that broke windows for blocks around. The investigation has been hobbled ever since. "La Papo", as she is also known, is believed to be one of the intellectual authors of that assassination. (Another media mogul of the opposition, Nelson Mezerhane of Globovisión, who was also a banker, is believed to be her accomplice. He, too, is a fugitive from justice--and recently got a little karmic justice when his bank, the Banco Federal, went under and was taken over by the government. The feds bailed out the depositors--this is how it's done, Your Barackness, take note--but you can bet "El Turquito" Mezerhane won't be so lucky when they finally get their mitts on HIM.)

La Papo has an interesting tendency to leave dead bodies behind wherever she goes. Just in April of this year, her ex-husband, Gastón Alfredo Rodríguez Delgado, was found dead in Apostaderos de Pampatar, on the resort island of Margarita. The 54-year-old, who was the son of two well-known Venezuelan actors, was bound, gagged, and stabbed to death in an apparent home invasion. Just a random robbery gone wrong? Or a targeted killing? Given his past criminal career (he'd done time for various drug-trafficking-related offences in 1989), I'd say the latter.

So, it seems, La Papo, a criminal herself, has a taste for criminal hubbies. Which means that she and Nixon definitely deserve one another. Just like chocolate and peanut butter...if that is not too sweet an allusion for you. And if you should happen to chance upon them in Lima, whatever you do, do NOT approach them; they should be considered armed and dangerous, and turned in to the Venezuelan authorities, pronto.

July 12, 2010

Cops Behaving Badly: G-20 Dickweed of the Day

He threatens to arrest a girl for blowing bubbles. BUBBLES, people. You know, those harmless, rainbow-swirly little things made of soap, water and air? The kind little kids blow all the time, and laugh hysterically over when one pops on them? To this dickweed, though, that's "detergent", and constitutes an "assault".

Are you writing this down, people? Because it's useful information. Next time they come at you with rubber or plastic bullets, tasers, pepper spray and tear gas, you can have THEM charged with assault in turn--all of those things are a LOT more dangerous to the public order than soap, water and air. And I've never seen them used legitimately--or harmlessly--on anyone yet.

Meanwhile, what's the harm in a few soap bubbles? This big wuss sure seems to feel threatened by 'em. Maybe it's because they would pop on him and stain his nice, black polyester uniform. Or leave a spot on his sunglasses, oh dear. How can you intimidate people when you've got soap splotches on your shades? How can you even take yourself seriously?

Yeesh.

Dude really needs to lighten up, or man up, or both. Like the guy off-camera says, a billion of our tax dollars could have bought someone with a better attitude.

BTW, Dr. Dawg was taking names. Apparently, Dick Weed's real moniker is A. Josephs.

A. Hole is more like it.

July 9, 2010

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Meet the new mayor of Montevideo

Hey everybody, sorry this is coming at you so late in the day, but I thought you might want to get to know this lady:

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Her name is Ana Olivera. She's the newly inaugurated mayor of Montevideo, the federal district of Uruguay. Her priorities are public transport and making sure the garbage is cleaned up around town. She also vows to work with muncipal mayors on key issues. Her inauguration ceremony was attended by Uruguayan president Pepe Mujica, and her counterpart from across the Río de la Plata, the mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri. In her speech, she said, "This is an historic day, not only for my gender, but because we have fulfilled a dream 200 years old. Today, we have elected local governments." (They used to be appointed by state governors.)

So far, so boring, you say? Wait. I have yet to get to the good part. She's with the Frente Amplio, the broad-based party of the Uruguayan left, which was suppressed during the Dirty War Era. And just like her presidential comrade, who's a former Tupamaro guerrilla, she is one of those whom the US State Dept. tried very hard in those days to eradicate, and failed. She's a...

...wait for it...

...drumroll, please...

...a Communist.

EEK EEK SHRIEK SHRIEK ZOMG THE SKY IS FALLING!!!1111ATHOUSANDELVENTYONE!!!

Srsly, though--see what happens when you let people vote for whomever they want? A commie gets elected, and democracy still mysteriously manages to survive. And in Uruguay, it's now working just fine at the local level, too, for the first time in the 200 years since that beautiful little country's independence from Spain.

Congratulations, Montevideo--and good luck, Ana.

July 2, 2010

Cops Behaving Badly: The "Miami Model" at work

No, the Miami Model is not a tall, shapely, ex-Latin American beauty queen. This is the Miami Model, in two minutes or less:

Yeah hi, it's me, banging on about the so-called Black Bloc again. These guys have so much in common with the riot cops, don't they? Both groups are violent, destructive, and hellbent on throwing society into chaos and rendering it unrecognizable. They even seem to dress alike--all in black, sturdy footwear, faces obscured one way or another. One might almost say they were one and the same.

Actually, there are some differences. Anarchists didn't do this--the cops did. Funnily, though, there were some convenient ruffians in the paddywagon to make sure a peaceful demonstrator named Lacy was properly terrorized:

At that point at least two officers yanked me up, including a thug, who may have been a plain-clothes officer, and was a black male wearing a black T-shirt with curvy print on it, about 6'3, perhaps 250 lbs. Photos of this man show a muscular, powerful frame. For the sake of this write-up, I will call this person "Thug A." I later learned that this thug or one of the other thugs may have been named Officer Antonie. Several other thugs, who may have been plain-clothes police, were present. One of them was a tall black man wearing plaid shorts and a white T-shirt, who also may have been a plain-clothes officer. For the sake of this write-up, I will call this person "Thug B."

Please note that none of my attackers ever identified himself as a police officer. They were wearing plain clothes and were driving an unmarked vehicle that looked like a standard soccer-mom minivan. I have no qualms calling my attackers thugs. They never gave me any indication that they were anything but thugs.

I was yanked in an aggressive fashion toward a blue unmarked van. The door was open and the middle seat of the van was folded down. Thug B climbed into the back of the vehicle just before I was flung toward the open door. As I was tossed toward the open door of the vehicle, my right knee hit something which I believe was the edge of the van (the metal lip of the door step). I was pulled into the vehicle, with Thug A roughly pulling my legs into the vehicle.

As I was pulled into the van, another thug, who may have been a plain-clothes officer, was sitting in the driver's seat of the van. For the sake of this write-up, I will call the person sitting in the driver's seat "Thug C." While I was being pulled into the vehicle, Thug C reached back with his right hand and took hold of my neck. Thug C was white with brown hair and a beard and was wearing a black T-shirt and black baseball cap.

As the van began moving and the door to the van closed, the two thugs in the back seat pulled me around so that I was laying face up with my head almost in between the passenger and driver seat. As they were doing so, Thug A was punching me in the stomach, just hard enough to shock someone who is delicate but not hard enough to harm me. As they punched me and turned me over, they said statements such as "stop struggling," and "stop punching." (Again, my hands were cuffed.) I immediately realized that they may be making such completely erroneous statements because we were being recorded, and I loudly stated "I'm not struggling. I am not resisting arrest."

Thug A sat on top of me over my pelvic area. My handcuffs were digging into my wrists. My only goal was to live through the experience without losing my humanity, my spirit, or my presence of mind, to find out where I was being taken, and to find out as much as I could about these thugs, whether they were officers or some sort of private contractors, i.e. paramilitary groups.

Thug B then squeezed my throat with his right hand, digging his thumb deeply into my carotid artery area, on the right side of my throat. He held this for perhaps ten seconds, as Thug A stepped on me, re-adjusting himself overtop of me. I almost passed out at that point as the carotid artery is the chief artery that supplies blood to the brain. At some point during or before this strangulation, I wet myself. Urine seeped into and through my clothing. Darkness almost overtook me, but I held on and I did not lose consciousness.

During this whole time the thugs were calling me names such as: "cunt," "bitch," "whore," and "street trash." A constant barrage of their statements were phrases such as "Look at this street whore." In addition, Thug A was making statements such as, "So you think you can smash up Toronto? Think again, you dirty bitch."

When I did not lose consciousness from choking, Thug B punched the right side of my head with his left fist. This was done at least once, and may have been repeated. I did not lose consciousness, but I began telling them, "I am a good person. I don't know why you are doing this to me. I did not harm anything or anyone."

As I was saying this, Thug A, who had been sitting on top of me, began patting around my skirt. "Why is she wet?" he yelled. Thug B replied that I had "pissed" on myself. Thug A then expressed disgust and began calling me horrible names, and deriding me for "pissing on him." He stopped sitting on my pelvic area and moved further down my legs.

During a large part of this assault, Thug C was reaching back from the driver's seat and pulling my hair very hard, harder than it has ever been pulled. A man in a turquoise-colored shirt was sitting in the passenger seat of the van. For the sake of this write-up, I will call this person "Thug D."

[...]

They roughly turned me over face down. We were quite obviously taking the short ride around the block to the entrance to the jail cell. At some point before we reached the building, the thugs stopped the car in an area that appeared to be a parking lot. Both thugs in the back seat got out. I tried to turn my head to the right to see what Thug A was doing, but Thug A took his fist and brandished it about an inch from my face, saying, "If you move, this goes into your nose." I kept my face down toward the gray van carpet.

Thug A got back into the vehicle, but Thugs B and D must have left. Thug B was still driving. I remained where I was and asked where they were taking me. Thug A said, "We haven't driven very far. Where do you think, you dumb bitch?" Thug A continued verbally insulting me as the van pulled into the PCC.

As I the doors opened to the vehicle, many other uniformed officers were visible in the giant prisoner intake room. I began loudly orating that I had just been assaulted. The uniformed officer who had initially grabbed me, whose face was with mine on all the front pages of the Toronto Star on Monday, June 28, came and sat in the front seat. He asked Thug A who the arresting officers were, asking "me and you?" I gave them a moment to agree on who the arresting officers were, and demanded to know their names and badge numbers. Thug A said, "My badge number will be on the paperwork." I demanded perhaps five more times of both of them, but neither one would tell me.

There were several senior-looking uniformed police officers standing nearby, and I proceeded to orate about how these officers had assaulted me, and that there were some bad, bad police officers working in this department, and that this officer here was one of them. Thug A only complained to the officers that I had "pissed" on him. He asked whether I had "any diseases that he had to worry about." Regardless of the arrogant tone of his question, I thought it was a fair question, and I answered him that I didn't have any diseases I was aware of. I asked him whether he had children, and whether he would like it if they were mistreated for simply taking a photo at a demonstration. I told him that he was a very bad person, and repeated that I am a good person, I've done nothing wrong, and I have harmed nothing and nobody.

What's the difference between a plainclothes officer, a "Black Bloc anarchist" (note quotes; there are, in fact, REAL anarchists who look and act nothing like this bunch), and a plain old thug? Apparently, not a helluva lot.

If you ask the old question, Cui bono? and they all answer to the same effect, you can safely assume they're on the same side.

I also come to grips with the fact that the black-clad mob [protestors] in Toronto has left a lot of people not only in the general public but in the wider nonviolent social/global justice movements in Canada feeling disgusted, demoralized and dispirited. Just the result you want if your goal is to marginalize and stifle dissent. I would suggest that what the 'blocistes' accomplished was what many feminists have termed 'silencing'. While the more numerous non-violent voices were indeed heard on the streets and at Queen's Park (25 000 in the main march!), they weren't 'heard' in the more meaningful, mass sense as loudly as the same reels of destruction overplayed in the media, and the same accounts of destruction and violence witnessed to on the ground by journalists, activists and citizens. The blocistes, in other words, are the most effective tool on the ground for silencing the valid concerns of the broad social movements questioning neoliberalism, corporations, imperialism and war - because like a ball dropped in a glass of water, they take the discursive space away from the broader movements, inviting and indeed compelling the public (through the media, of course) to only focus on the violence of smashing, burning, destroying, throwing, hitting... which are all pointless, repulsive, destructive, and frightening.

Bingo. That's the whole idea, isn't it? To scare people the hell away from even thinking of demonstrating against something they know to be repugnant, repulsive and utterly evil?

Only, of course, it's backfiring. People turned out in force to demonstrate against the arrests and detentions of innocent demonstrators like Lacy. They are bent on showing themselves to be unintimidated by the crude tactics of the Miami Model. They also seem to be overwhelmingly distancing themselves from the Black Bloc. Many are doing so not only out of disgust at the futility of window-smashing, spray-painting and car-trashing, but also out of a suspicion--probably well founded--that every anarchist group resorting to Black Bloc tactics has been infiltrated by police provocateurs.

Even some anarchists themselves are distancing themselves from the rock-throwing vandals. Once more, I refer you to what I blogged in 2007, after three fake anarchists were unmasked as cops in Montebello, Québec. Anarchists--REAL ones--and unionists banded together against the phonies. THAT's what I call solidarity!

Alas, solidarity seems to have taken a real beating lately, along with all the innocent activists. It seems strange to note this, but seven years ago, I was in a peace demo here in my very sleepy, very stodgy, very conservative Southern Ontario town, and not only did the cops NOT beat us up, they gave us an escort, using their cruisers to keep the road clear of traffic so we could march without having to cram ourselves onto a narrow sidewalk!

Ah, the Good Old Days, when the cops were still Good Guys. Now, we can't tell the cops from the robbers, literally, unless we're willing to parse the finer details of their appearance, as well as asking that Latin Question. Something that some of us are apparently unwilling to do...to our detriment, I sadly fear. Give the cops too much benefit of the doubt, and you end up kissing goodbye to your civil rights, one after another, in short succession. Sometimes, as in Montebello, you have to jump to an un-PC conclusion based on "insufficient" evidence, and point out the naked emperor in your midst, or risk losing your own credibility. (That last is being steadily undermined by the major media already--also in cahoots with the cops.)

And on a final note, I offer you a tiny bit of surrealism. An anti-BB site using their name. There appears to be a corporation behind this recent addition to the Internets. Just one more of those wacky little things that make you go hmmm...

June 30, 2010

Authoritarians: Canada haz 'em.

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Ah, yes. I suppose a lot of others will be asking the same thing. Unfortunately, I already know what the answer will be.

Happy Canada Day Eve! Are you looking forward to the fireworks tomorrow, boyz 'n' girlz? That's nice, but trust me, they will be NOTHING compared to what happens when the Toronto 900 get their day(s) in court. How do I know? Oh, a little birdie has been perching on my left shoulder, whispering all kinds of interesting things in my ear.

So what has the little birdie been telling me? Well, here are a few things I heard just today:

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association--that's right, our own equivalent to the ACLU--is going to court on behalf of all those wrongfully arrested (read: ALL arrestees) during the G-20 summit. The suit will target Toronto police and all the other police forces trucked in for the occasion. (Some came from as far away as Calgary and Edmonton. Western fascists--boo, hissssssssss.)

And speaking of police, my friends Pale and Willy would like to know if you have seen a certain burly dude posing as an anarchist. His black duds looked way too new and clean. His shoes look nothing like the grubby sneaks a real anarchist would wear, but a great deal like the sturdy clodhoppers issued to the riot cops. He obviously has regular access to a gym. And that buzzcut? Standard police issue. If you know him, call your local Crimestoppers. In Toronto, that number is (416) 222-TIPS.

Other police beat (and beatdown) stuff: Joe Warmington of the Toronto Sun apparently has a number of unnamed sources in the Toronto police force, and they've told him some very interesting things. At times it makes you wonder who were the bigger victims of this blatant breach of democracy, the cops or the people they corralled. (Read all about the conditions in the jail and then tell me. I think it's no fucking contest.)

Meanwhile, Matttbastard is calling for a public inquiry. As are plenty of others. Five hours in a police corral in the pouring rain out at the intersection of Queen and Spadina does seem like pretty solid grounds. So does the fact that police chief Bill Blair makes up his own laws, lies about them, and then, after days of angry protest, finally admits his guilt. I would call that grounds for dismissal, and certainly for a public inquiry ASAP.

The inquiry should leave no one out. The Ontario government, like Bill Blair, has a lot of unethical (and unconstitutional) lawmaking to answer for (it's now denying its obvious role; what a load of mounted police horseshit). The feds are also far from innocent. I'm pretty sure that Harpo's hate-on for Ontario, and its capital city in particular, led to his sadistic decision to host the G-20 billion-dollar boondoggle there, just so he could see the famously progressive city punished for being the economic hub of the nation. Well, he got his secret wish; Torontonians are now appropriately traumatized. The Shock Doctrine has claimed another societal victim.

But all is not trauma and shock. Among the haul of so-called "weapons" seized by the coppers, there's a full set of medieval LARPing gear. Chainmail, crossbow, the works. Clicky here for a good laugh.

And while you're at it, you may also want to sign the CCLA's petition. Sure to be one of many circulating in the days and weeks to come.

Finally, read what this Saskatchewan blogger, who was there, saw that the major media aren't talking about. And then you'll understand why I feel that bloggers have a better handle on the situation than even the most experienced of the professional journalists who were there. Remember, bloggers don't have to self-censor and sanitize, nor do they have to stick to pre-scripted conventional media narratives. Bodes ill for the mainstream media; bodes rather well for us pixel-stained wretches.

And let's hope it bodes well for our home and native land, too. I'm not feeling that true patriot love this year.

June 29, 2010

Hey gun nuts, take note...

THIS is how you handle a crime in progress. No concealed carry (or any other "carry") necessary:

A would-be looter in Toronto this weekend got foiled by an alert, quick-thinking passer-by...who had no weapon other than a wicked tackle.

THIS is how people with real cojones do it. Not from the safe distance afforded to those with a pussy pistol or a taser, but hands-the-fuck-ON.

And yes, Mark Steyn, this is how CANADIANS do it, you effete ex-Brit twit. Try not to soak yourself again, 'kay?

(BTW, Toronto police, you too should be making a note of this. Where were YOU when this went down? Too busy leaving out decoy cars for your own to trash, I guess.)

Cops Behaving Badly: Do you recognize any of these "anarchists"?

Check 'em out!

Now, how could you be an anarchist--a real one--and NOT know who Che Guevara was, even when you're wearing his face all over your body?

Or for that matter--what's up with the pot-leaf bandanna? Dude looks much too straight to me, if you know what I mean.

But if by any chance you know who they are, please report them to the Toronto Police Service (or whatever police service they came from). I think it's time they turned in their badges. Worst undercover cops/agents provocateurs EVER.

June 28, 2010

A few random thoughts on the G-20, Black Bloc tactics and police brutality

I'm not sure what to make of this man. He seems belligerent. Yet he's wearing socialist and peace symbols on his shirt. WTF? Anyway, his situation (which could be street theatre, for all we know) pretty much encapsulates what went wrong in TO this past weekend. How ironic is it that consumerism got thwarted by the thugs of über-fucking-capitalism? Merchants, now you know: Capitalists are NOT your friends. But I'm getting ahead of myself here...and I love the goofy emo kid in there stealing the show, BTW.

Lately I've been hearing a lot of stupid petty bourgeois kvetching about the so-called Black Bloc, vandalism, broken windows, etc. As though a bunch of anarchists (or supposed anarchists) in black were the real culprits at the G-20 summit in Toronto, and all the violence was their fault. Here's a representative sampling of the drivel:

Our first foray today was to attend the Toronto Community Mobilization Network's press conference at 3 p.m., which was barely a press conference: it was in fact an extended chance for TCMN to whine at the press for being unsupportive. (At least when Bill Blair holds a press conference and bullshits to your face, he doesn't need a crowd cheering for him.) It was exactly what you'd expect: cops are bad, we're exercising our legal rights, the people who have been detained overnight are "political prisoners" (by the way, I've rung Aung San Suu Kyi on the phone just now, and she says "drama queen says what?") and on and on--a long-winded stream of the biggest heap of self-righteousness not seen since, well, since the last time I heard Stephen Harper criticize the left wing in this country.

And for all of that, protesters, you still could have come out the good guys today. It would have been so easy. You only had to do one thing, one single goddamn thing: "We don't approve of or condone the Black Bloc tactics and we don't approve of or condone violent protest." There you go. Say that, and you're heroes, plain and simple: people who chose not to let their grievances against the government be tainted by malice, even in the face of ridiculously overwrought police tactics. One lousy sentence; that's all we asked of you. Just show us a little good faith.

But of course it didn't happen--not from the top. We got weasel words worthy of Parliament. "We don't comment on the actions of individuals." "That's not the story here." And the reason for the weaseling out is really simple: organizers don't want to condemn Black Bloc tactics and bandana thugs. The radical protest movement in Canada (and let's call it that for lack of a better umbrella term, to distinguish it from the labour unions and NGOs that vamoosed on Saturday the moment they realized the goon squad had ruined everything) long ago decided that the Black Bloccers are part of the movement and welcome at their rallies, and that the next time they hold a protest the thugs will show up again and they'll break shit again, and the rest will just yell "solidarity" like a bunch of useless assholes.

Care for some cheese with that whine, journo boy? Little caviar on a cracker, perhaps?

Poor babies. How hard it must be to be you, or rather how easy: Just blame it all on a bunch of kids in black, get a few complaints and disavowals from activists in the same piece that directly prove you to be a pontificating jackass (as well as a liar), and just don't dig any deeper. And you wonder why they don't trust you media droids? If this is the best you can do, quit fucking wondering. Your shit is self-explanatory.

The kvetcher who wrote that was working for an LLC blog--that is, one of those corporate mouthpieces dressed up to look like hip, cool, internet-savvy cutting-edge independent whatever. Nothing independent about it, in actual point of fact; any "blog" with an LLC at the bottom is not a real blog. It's a corporate entity, not an independent media outlet, and reflects a corporatist worldview when all is said and done. This reporter is a perfect example of that. His final paragraphs also strike me as representative somehow:

The entire day was a pathetic waste. At the end of it, journalists and delegates partied inside the International Media Centre; the summit was done, they could now go home, and there was free booze to spare, so why not? It'd be a shame to come to the G20 summit and not get hammered by the fake lake.

Actually, in retrospect, the fake lake is honestly kind of nice. It only cost about fifty thousand bucks, not the one-point-two million everybody kept discussing, and it's really quite pleasant to sit in. But when a fake lake is the best part of your day, it's been a worthless day. That's the fault of pretty much every last one of us.

...not to mention disingenuous. That $1.2 million figure included the free booze, which our "alternative" bourgeois journo-boy did not disdain to drink. The "fifty thousand bucks" only refers to the centimetres-deep splash pool proper, but it's still a hefty sum of money for some plastic liner and a little bit of water. There are families in Toronto who manage to live on less than what that glorified splash-pad cost, for an entire year. (Trust me, dude, you don't want to see where they have to do it. There's no "kind of nice" about moldy, roach-and-rat-infested apartments in crime-ridden slums.)

Anyway, this is the kind of opinion you get when people's brains are eaten by corporatism--which, as Mussolini's speechwriter knew, was the essence of fascism. You get a whole lot of bitching about the wrong people, while the real culprits--definitely NOT "every last one of us", as Christopher Robin there says, but just a very very few--get off scot-free.

Oh what the hell...maybe some people just need pictures to help them understand what this was all about.

capitalism-pyramid.jpg

There you guys go. Succinctly put, no?

Notice that the "We Fool You" element is second from the top. They have the clergy, but the press would also fit in that tier. The press is, after all, the ruling class's instrument. Like the clergy, it's their job to justify God's ways to man--"God" being the ruling classes, "man" being the rest of us.

And don't get the idea that the "alternative" LLC "blogs" are any different. Actually, they're just a semi-hip repackaging of the same old thing you'll find in any crotchety old conservative rag. The excerpts I cited above are a prime example. They're full of smug, whiny-assed dismissal of legitimate protest, in case you hadn't noticed. It's like Christopher Robin there was just looking for excuses to dismiss the entire anti-G20 movement.

Which, of course, he was.

Now, why do you suppose he was doing that?

As always, the best question to ask first is that old Latin standby, Cui bono? In other words: Who benefits?

Well, corporatists benefit. That's a given. He wouldn't be writing for an LLC "blog" if not. Look at the pyramid, and remember: This guy is employed by those at the level of "We Fool You".

And after them, there's the ruling class. They like to see attention deflected from the real culprits to a few convenient scapegoats. "We Rule You" needs "We Fool You" to get the ruled masses to accept the rulership of the few.

And above the ruling class, there's...what? Anybody? Bueller?

Now. Let's look again at the middle-to-lower levels of that pyramid. Below "We Fool You" is the face of the oppressor we saw yesterday: "We Shoot At You". And below them are the useful idiots, the parrots we can always trust to squawk along at whatever propaganda "We Fool You" put out, along with "We Shoot At You". Yes, the "We Eat For You" bunch is contemptible as all hell, though very fashionably dressed (and very appreciative of all the free booze being served around the lame, overpriced fake lake. Belly up to the bar, boys.)

I'd say that Christopher Robin, while he writes for "We Fool You", is actually a member of "We Eat For You". Little wonder, then, that he feels compelled to piss on the peons below. What else do the eaters do when full of booze and there's a fake lake lapping at their feet, putting thoughts of pee-pee in their little pea brains? What else--just take a flying whiz at the producers without whom the entire pyramid, including their preening, smug layer, would crumble down.

And it would crumble. If the peons knew who their real enemy was, that is. Which is why "We Fool You" has been so busy this past weekend, tamping down dissent, stroking the bourgeois sense of entitlement at "We Eat For You", and defending and justifying the actions of "We Shoot At You" and "We Rule You". Even if they disingenuously deny it, as Christopher Robin does.

Unfortunately for Christopher Robin and his blame-the-Black-Bloc ilk at We Fool You, LLC, there's video like this one, showing undercover police in action...

...in which, if you look closely at about the 45-second mark, you'll see a masked, black-clad "anarchist" (conveniently marked with an arrow) melt in behind the police line. Something he wouldn't be able to do if he were not, in fact, one of them!

So much for blaming the so-called "Black Bloc". The real blame, a healthy portion of it at least, must fall on "We Rule You" and "We Shoot At You", and not the small radical anarchist element among "We Work For All" and "We Feed All". (The lion's share of the blame goes, of course, to the nameless, faceless entity at the top of the pyramid.)

And now we know why so much money was spent on unregistered security corporations at the Billion Dollar Boondoggle. And also why the same got that quickie licence, while the police got sudden, overnight, secret expanded powers. I'll bet these fake anarchists, put there to stir trouble among the real ones, were in fact the unaccredited security contractors in question. Who needs a real cause for mass arrests and suspension of civil rights when you can just manufacture a bogus one--using the services of a corporation?

Ah yes, "We Rule You" and "We Fool You", "We Shoot At You" and "We Eat For You". We See What You Did There.

And We Are No Longer Fooled.

Why all conservative voters should be ashamed

This, apparently, is what THEY voted for:

Pure, unadulterated human rights abusage. Riot thugs charged a peaceful protest this afternoon at the corner of Queen and Spadina in Toronto (note Steve's Music Store in the backdrop.) There is no excuse for what they did. All the protesters did was sing "O Canada", with emphasis on the words "We stand on guard for thee".

Apparently, they are the only ones who did.

The G-20, as Jesse Rosenfeld astutely points out in the UK Guardian, is an expansion of the failed G-8 in the aftermath of the global capitalist economic collapse. It was all about changing nothing, except maybe for the worse. It's all about capitalist globalization over and above all human rights, dignity and national sovereignty. (Harpo said so himself.)

Rosenfeld, incidentally, was singled out by riot thugs and beaten and held incommunicado for over 24 hours for that. He was one of many journalists to suffer a "detention" for covering the summit--and its many detractors. (There were more detractors than boosters for the G-20 bullshit. Doesn't that tell anyone anything?) Another Jesse, The Real News's Freeston, was beaten up, and two photographers for the arch-conservative National Post were jailed!

Gee, it's as if the "authorities" didn't want the media reporting an uncontrolled, unscripted version of the story, eh?

Well, of course they didn't. That would have been giving too much freedom of speech to the dissenters. And as my friend Sol points out, dissent is now illegal. You can't even march up to the "security fence" to state your viewpoint without being hassled for a fucking ID, for fuck's sake. And this draconian law was passed in secret!

Meanwhile, the going meme in the compliant whore media is that "peaceful protests turned violent". Bull-fucking-SHIT they did! If the media were fully honest, they would come right out and say "Peaceful protests were attacked by fully-armed riot police in an effort to quash all dissent", because that's just what happened! Again, my friend Sol is your go-to guy for what's wrong with this meme.

And of course, this meme is part of a larger strategy: Make all dissenters out to be criminals. Marginalize them all. And if they don't make violence themselves, throw in a few provocateurs and let THEM provide all the necessary pretexts.

There's just one problem with this: Nimble citizen journalists are now blogging. And they can spot the discrepancies with ease. Case in point: These two posts by Dammit Janet. Interesting how provocs wear the same shoes as the cops, no? And even more interesting how the cars deliberately left out to be torched were NOT working Toronto cop cars. (Wrong numbers. Also, one was missing its plates. Hmmm.)

The major media are doing a very half-assed job. Not surprising; their job is to prop up the existing order, not undermine it with too many pesky, incriminating facts. A pity it's all crumbling around them, and the questions are too many, too pointed and too hard to be "answered" with facile lies anymore. The fascism is naked now, and so's the emperor.

The only remaining question is, what are WE going to do about it?

PS: Here is one place to start.

June 17, 2010

Gaza Roundup 18: In which Ms. Manx gets snippy with Israel

Yes, folks, this one's a Short 'n' Stubby! You know what that means, don't you?

calico-manx.jpg

Yep, Queen 'Bina trots out the stump-tailed kitty.

So. Here we go, in no particular order:

First up, Ms. Manx (and National Geographic) would like you to know that Israel did not start out as a Jewish state, but a pagan one. Horrifying to the ultra-Orthodox types, no doubt, but something we Witches take totally for granted, along with evolution.

And didja know that until just very recently (like, oh, around the attack on the Mavi Marmara on the 31st of last month), Israel loved Turkey so much it suppressed all discussion of the Armenian genocide? And that, since the attack, it's been doing the opposite, calling the Turks islamofascist and all? It's true!

And here's something else that's ugly but true:

latma-truth.jpg

Which makes this shrieeeeeky press release unexpectedly funny. "We Con the World" (which you can see here) is made by a group which is not only projecting its own intentions big-time, but might as well call itself "USA for Israel".

And finally, if you want to blame someone for all those goddamned vuvuzelas, look no further.

June 15, 2010

Yes, it IS a sign from God. And not a reassuring one, either.

touchdown-jesus-burning.jpg

The glorious, Wicker Man-esque demise of Touchdown Jesus.

The arsonist? God herself.

The murder weapon? A lightning bolt.

Yes, kiddies, you read that right: A lightning bolt. The same the fundies keep telling us is going to hit us if we have sex before we're married/have an abortion/have a same-sex romance/etc., etc., ad nauseam.

Or if we don't go to church where they go to church, and peel off lots of the dollar bills to throw in the basket for Jesus.

No doubt that a lot of such money went into the construction of this fibreglass-and-plastic-foam monstrosity, which God finally saw fit to torch last night:

touchdown-jesus.jpg

Fundies, if I were you, I'd take this as a sign that megachurches are not where God wants you to be.

PS: Looks like this is not the first of the Giant Jeezi to meet with an undignified end.

June 14, 2010

Gaza Roundup 16: And the word of the day is...

gaywashing.jpg

...GAYWASHING. Can you say GAYWASHING, boys 'n' girls?

Very good!

So what's gaywashing? Well, it's the queer, LGBTetc. version of whitewashing--or greenwashing, for you enviro-types. It's basically using Teh Ghey, or seemingly pro-gay-rights-rhetoric, to cover up flagrantly abusive practices, in this case on the human rights front.

And specifically, in and by Israel.

So, with no further ado, here's how to use gaywashing in complete sentences and articles:

Ali Abunimah uses it to castigate the UK Guardian and the Israeli government for their cynicism. Key quote:

The use of gaywashing to try to make Israel appeal to Western liberal audiences and cover up war crimes in Gaza, including the war crime of collective punishment, and elsewhere has become part of the official campaign to rebrand Israel. It involves a specifically civilizational discourse contrasting a supposedly open, tolerant Israel with what is portrayed as a barbaric Palestinian, Muslim society that essentially deserves whatever it gets.

Mondoweiss gets a little more direct: "Stop gaywashing the occupation!" Also a good example of how to use the word in context. (The comments section on that one is loaded with good examples of just how thin the Israeli gaywash really is. Did you know, for example, that some hardline Israeli MKs are virtually indistinguishable from certain nutty Iranian mullahs when it comes to what causes earthquakes? It's true!)

And of course, the banning of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, or QuAIA, from the Toronto Pride parade is the biggest gaywash in Canada right now. Vociferously opposed by a growing number of prominent folks, and put to shame by Edmonton, of all places, where the local chapter of QuAIA marched without incident in that city's parade on Saturday. Puts the lie to all the anti-QuAIA talk about "not feeling safe", eh? ("Not feeling safe" is another kind of gaywash, kiddies.)

So, there ya go, kiddies...now you know what gaywashing is. And now you know that gay pride isn't just about being gay, it's about securing human rights for everyone. All the more reason, then, to take a stand against gaywashing.

June 12, 2010

Gaza Roundup 14: A video that deserves to go viral

Iara Lee's raw footage of the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara, in its entirety. There is no narration, nor are there subtitles, but the pictures (clear and of excellent quality) speak for themselves. This is the video that was somehow smuggled to safety so the Israelis could neither abuse it nor destroy it, nor deny the truth of what happened on the Marmara.

What really grabbed me here was the way the Muslims on the ship try to remain peaceful inwardly as they say their pre-dawn prayers, right before the Israelis come on with the speedboats and helicopters. Many of them keep on praying even as others are rushing to the rail, looking for ways to fend off the attack they know is coming. A few of the younger men use slingshots against the helicopter that hovers menacingly over them with its searchlight on--a modern-day David-and-Goliath image that will be hard to deny (and awfully ironic for Israel, claiming David's legacy as they do.) An Israeli speedboat then pulls alongside, and popping sounds of gunfire can be heard, along with a couple of deeper booms (which could be from a cannon firing the grappling hooks). At first it isn't clear what's being fired. Then some streaks of red appear alongside a ladderway. A reporter with a Scandinavian accent says they are paint, not blood--apparently this is the "paintball" phase of the assault. At some unspecified moment the paintballs are replaced by live ammo, and casualties begin to pile up. There is at least one man who appears to be dead, carried on a stretcher. An activist holds up a book with plastic-coated pages and blue Hebrew lettering on the cover--clearly an Israeli hit-list, indicating which passengers on the various boats to aim for. Meanwhile, medics and volunteers tend to the injured (which include some Israeli soldiers from the helicopter.) At the end come the now familiar calls over the ship's loudspeakers, also heard on the video which was broadcast last week by al-Jazeera, urging "all the brothers" to take their seats and remain calm.

Well, hasbara trolls, looks like your version is now, by definition, a complete and utter hash. All your amateurish attempts to justify this attack are bullshit. The Israeli standard squawk about "self-defence" is shot to hell by the IDF's own live ammo. The activists on the ship, as the video clearly shows, have no guns, no bullets, no grenades--only a few slingshots and improvised bludgeons to head off the Israeli assault. And the Israelis came with a hit-list of those they wanted dead--this much is now confirmed. All that remains is to determine whether they got everyone they came fully intending to kill, or whether some of their intended prey managed to make monkeys of them. There are still missing persons unaccounted for, and word is that the Israelis threw their bodies overboard.

Gaza Roundup 13: Beat the (Propaganda) Press

Little by little, the truth about the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla is leaking out. Press the play button on the video above to see some of it--including raw footage by Iara Lee, who was on the Mavi Marmara when the Israelis shot the place up.

And here are some more things the Israelis and their media lackeys aren't bound to like:

Kevin Neish's photos from the Marmara, plus transcript of his full interview at Rabble.ca.

Hamas has quit suicide bombings...quit them quite some time ago, actually, since they had a way of backfiring. That hasn't stopped Israel from crying victim, mind you. Or from obscuring the fact that Hamas was nonviolent before Israel started financing it as an "alternative" to Fatah.

Gary Leupp uncovers some interesting dirt on the smarmy "rabbi" who sent his equally smarmy son to play gotcha with Helen Thomas.

Harry Siegman re-dissects the Holocaust meme, but not the way hardline Zionists would like to see that done.

John Pilger finds parallels with the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Stuart Littlewood has a useful primer on hasbara and how to see through it.

Rick Telfer has a lotta linkage on AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobby groups with inordinate power here in Canada.

FAIR has four pieces worth your clickage: Pundits in Denial on Gaza Plight, Turkey Is Media's Latest Target for Alleged 'Terror' Ties, Misleading Media on Israel and Gaza Rockets, and Thousands of Rockets, Millions of Bullets?

And across the pond, Media Lens has also been doing spectacular work of unravelling the lies, with this two-part report.

And finally, here are some survivor testimonies from the Gaza flotilla.

June 9, 2010

Only in Canada, eh?

flying-my-flag.jpg

Sometimes, even in the midst of horrible Harpocracy, I still find reasons to be proud I'm Canadian. Like this little news item, retweeted by Antonia Zerbisias:

If the G20 leaders are hankering to read something by Noam Chomsky or a biography of Che Guevara by Fidel Castro during their summit, Chapters has it all laid out for them.

The book chain has created a reading list and series of G20 tables in its stores across Canada to "promote dialogue," said Bahram Olfati, Chapters' vice president for adult trade.

"You see people such as Bono talking about giving aid to Africa. We have included the book Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo, which says this aid isn't really helping," said Olfati. "It is one of my favourite books on the tables."

With subheads such as "Outlaw Literature," the tables are the product of a series of roundtable discussions among Chapters executives and staff to cover G20 issues from the left, right and centre, said Olfati.

But each store has the leeway to add to the table. And the one Chapters store inside the yellow security perimeter in downtown Toronto for the summit of 20 world leaders this month has decided to include titles by Chomsky, a long-time outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy, and a few on Guevara, including Che: A Memoir by Fidel Castro.

"They should have made the full list," allowed Olfati, who prefers to call the 35 core titles "provocative" rather than "subversive."

It's not often that I see Corporate Canada giving the corporatist parties a poke in the eye, so whenever that happens--even if once in a blue moon--I run my flag up the pole. A little early for Canada Day, but what the hell. It's a reminder that we are NOT a "centre-right" country after all, nor a melting-pot clone of the US, but a diverse, multicultural one with a sizable--and still thriving--left.

Take that to your fake lake and smoke it, Harpo!

PS: Che: A Memoir is actually not a bio of Che, or even a memoir, but a collection of Fidel's speeches (and one book introduction, written for the Bolivian Diary) about his friend. Just so's you know. I own it and recently finally got around to reading it myself. Like everything else Fidel writes, it sets things straight and excoriates the lying liars who twisted them.

June 8, 2010

Gaza Roundup 12: The true, ugly face of "Stand With Us"

A couple of weeks ago, a very persistent troll from the UK (on a DSL line with a dynamic IP pool, no doubt very handy for anonymous trolling) came on here uninvited, and spammed me (under at least four different identities, all with throwaway e-mail addies) with not only hate and insults (and death wishes), but links to a right-wing pro-Israel group called "Stand With Us", which I refused to publish. (You can google them yourself, if you want. But you may want to take a decontaminating shower afterwards.)

Well, that selfsame group recently showed its true face in a bigger place--San Francisco, when the Bay Area Women in Black and Jewish Voice for Peace held a silent march in protest of the attacks on Gaza and the Freedom Flotilla. And here is what the peace group's camera caught:

Nice, humane face, eh?

Not only some real Orwellian doublespeak in there ("Israel wants peace, Gaza wants war"--yeah, RIGHT), but also ugly, antisemitic insults (one woman in the peace contingent gets called "Kapo, Kapo, Kapo" repeatedly--a reference to Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz who acted as overseers at the command of SS guards in exchange for better food, clothing and other favors).

Then there are threats that "we will find out where you live, we will disrupt your life"--even the lives of the protesters' children. Is this how pro-Israeli Jews treat other Jews? Nice to know that even the lives of Jewish children aren't sacred to them. (That goes directly against the teachings of the Torah, BTW. And puts "Stand With Us" fully in a league with the KZ Kapos themselves.)

And two obviously retirement-age peace marchers are told to "get a job"--a phrase that could just easily apply to the sidewalk harassment brigade of "Stand With Us", who apparently have nothing better to do than stand out there, occupying the sidewalk like settlers in the West Bank, yelling insults and threats at those who are doing no harm to anyone. Unless, of course, you count peaceful demonstrations and protecting Palestinians as "doing harm"!

What kind of people are threatened by silent peace marchers, doing nothing but letting their opinions be known? The same who are threatened by obscure little bloggers like me. People who are profoundly threatened by any manifestation of real democracy. The same who claim that what they stand by is "the only democracy in the Middle East", as though none of those other countries had elections. (Shockingly, a great many of them do. Or did, before the US stepped in to mess things up, as in Iran, Iraq, etc., etc.) They cannot bear the slightest opposition, even if it's silent. They themselves are very loud, and by the sounds of things, very eliminationist and pro-extermination.

And these are the people who want me to "Stand With Us"? The same who tell me I should have been killed by that car that hit me when I was 14? The same who come on here uninvited, spamming me with lies and insults, and then, when I refute their nonsense, they come on here calling ME a bitch? That sort of person expects me to stand with them?

You have got to be fucking kidding me.

No, I'm not going to stand with you, Zionist troll from England, whatever your real name is. You can go straight to hell. These people--and you--are no fit company for any decent human being. Don't bother commenting again (you won't get any satisfaction)--just stay away from my blog. I don't need your paltry hits on my counter. Where I come from, we are known by the company we keep.

And I do not stand with anyone who stalks, harasses or wishes death upon others.

June 1, 2010

Paging Dr. Darwin...paging Dr. Charles Darwin...

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This is the safest way to carry a gun in your pants, guys. It's only a tattoo.

We have an admission for Sudden Gene Pool Exit, incoming...

A man accidentally shot himself in the testicles at Lowe's Home Improvement store in Lynnwood Sunday afternoon, police said.

The man's handgun, which was in the waistband of his pants, went off at about 12:30 p.m. -- an apparent "accidental discharge," according to Shannon Sessions, a Lynnwood police spokeswoman.

"It made a loud noise and scared a lot of people in the store," Sessions said. "I believe he shot himself in the testicles and he also had some injuries to his leg and foot. He was obviously in shock."

Nobody else was hurt and no one appeared to be with the man, she said.

Police and fire responded, and the man was rushed to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle before police had a chance to interview him extensively. Sessions had no further details about the man.

And this, gunboys, is why you don't get so blatant about your penis-compensation issues. You end up not only curing your own testosterone poisoning the hard way, you also blow any chances of producing more stupid gits like yourself. Also, you make yourself look like a real fucking idiot in that other bastion of masculinity--the hardware store.

Any questions?

May 11, 2010

Gee thanks, Dubya--FOR NOTHING. Love, Uganda.

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A typical USAID-sponsored anti-AIDS ad in Uganda; it tackles sex, not ignorance, and certainly not microbes. This is the "miracle" that was touted so highly just a few years ago. Now look how it's falling apart...

Uganda is the first and most obvious example of how the war on global AIDS is falling apart.

The last decade has been what some doctors call a "golden window" for treatment. Drugs that once cost $12,000 a year fell to less than $100, and the world was willing to pay.

In Uganda, where fewer than 10,000 were on drugs a decade ago, nearly 200,000 now are, largely as a result of American generosity. But the golden window is closing.

Uganda is the first country where major clinics routinely turn people away, but it will not be the last. In Kenya next door, grants to keep 200,000 on drugs will expire soon. An American-run program in Mozambique has been told to stop opening clinics. There have been drug shortages in Nigeria and Swaziland. Tanzania and Botswana are trimming treatment slots, according to a report by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders.

The collapse was set off by the global recession's effect on donors, and by a growing sense that more lives would be saved by fighting other, cheaper diseases. Even as the number of people infected by AIDS grows by a million a year, money for treatment has stopped growing.

So much for global capitalism and all its miracles. So much for "letting the market take care of it"! The market hasn't taken care of squat, since it was government money, not the market, that financed the only thing that's staved off a massive die-off--by providing condoms and drugs.

Then, in 2008, just as Dubya's reign of terrorism was drawing to a close, so was his experiment in unregulated capitalism. The markets collapsed, and with them, funding for AIDS drugs in the Third World. Now that governmental belt-tightening is in vogue, expect that massive die-off to start at any time. So, thanks for nothing, Invisible Hand of the Deregulated Market. Some fucking miracle YOU made!

And here's another nothing to thank Dubya for. Even as the markets were being deregulated, hyper-regulation of human behavior was in vogue. Look how that panned out:

And, most devastating of all, old-fashioned prevention has flopped. Too few people, particularly in Africa, are using the "ABC" approach pioneered here in Uganda: abstain, be faithful, use condoms.

Remember that? It was touted out the wazoo just a few short years ago. Here, let me refresh your memory:

After all, it was the ABC approach and a policy of openness inspired by President Yoweri Museveni which helped Uganda perform well in the fight against HIV/Aids compared to other countries.

Many African governments have fared miserably in attempting to counter the HIV pandemic, with devastating consequences.

By comparison, Uganda has performed well in bringing down the HIV prevalence to around 6%. In many parts of the country, it was at least three times as high during the early 1990s.

Alas, that useful message was already being diluted in favor of abstinence (at guess-whose behest):

Until a few months ago, a free magazine promoting safe sex was distributed to secondary schools by a non-profit organisation.

But this recently became controversial and faith-based organisations were concerned the magazine was encouraging sex.

As a result, the magazine has been ditched, and that avenue for getting the safe sex message to the students has now gone.

The head of guidance and counselling at Kitante Hill school, Samuel Along, is concerned that the safe sex message is not getting through.

"I have seen students at the school pairing up. They come and talk to me and I begin realising they have sexually transmitted diseases. And if we have been insisting on abstinence, don't you think there is a very good possibility they have not used a condom?"

I'd say it was virtually inevitable. The abstinence message is "condoms don't work, so don't bother; just don't have sex!" But how realistic is that in a poor country like Uganda, where prostitution is the only way for so many women (and girls) to make a living?

And let's not rule out a lack of education; a lot of people who don't even know what the word "sex" means, are having it. Unsafely, of course. For a living. And their survival job is killing them.

This is a respectable secondary school in the Ugandan capital where there is good access to information.

But the majority of young Ugandans do not make it beyond primary school and in a country where most people live on less than $1 a day, the link between poverty and sex is strong.

Rogers Kasirye works in the slums of Kampala with street children and teenage prostitutes. Poverty has forced many of them into taking risks.

"It is an economic problem. Many of the young people we are working with are surviving on sex, and the only option or barrier they have is the condom."

Naturally, condoms were the first thing that hit the chopping block when Dubya decided to push his fundamentalist anti-sex agenda:

Whilst churches are pushing the abstinence message, not all religious leaders are happy with President Bush.

Reverend Gideon Byamugisha is HIV-positive and he hopes the US will carefully assess the way in which it influences policy in Uganda.

"We are still hopeful that America, being a strong and well-meaning country, will not go down in history as a country which exported ideas at the expense of people's free will to choose."

Unfortunately, five years later, we know the answer. And it is not what the good Reverend had hoped...

Earlier this week the popular American religious fundamentalist Lou Engle took the stage in front of over 1,300 people at Makerere University in Uganda. He was speaking in the country as the organizer of TheCall Uganda, an event billed as "a gathering of fasting and prayer to confess our personal and national sins."

In reality, the event was a rabid defense of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which seeks to make being gay a capital crime.

Engle's organization TheCall -- which first gained national and worldwide fame as one of the loudest proponents of California's Prop 8 -- denied knowing anything about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill when it was first invited to Uganda. Engle even issued a press release before his event promising that he wouldn't promote the measure on the stage.

Of course, that was a lie. And the Ugandans fell for it, hook, line and sinker:

Pastor John Mulinde of Trumpet Church, in his prayer, condemned evils in society done by both homosexuals and heterosexuals. He emphasized that homosexuality is in schools, families, and the entire community. He also pointed out that many children are being deceived with school fees from homosexuals and recruit them into the act.

Pastor Lou Engle from America noted that he didn't know by the time of his invitation to Uganda that there was a homosexuality bill. He went ahead to emphasize that it is the Western World using non-government organizations to promote homosexuality. He warned the youth in the crowd that when America allowed homosexuals freedom it was the end of their nation.

He [Engle] called upon the government of Uganda to be firm and hold on its righteous stand against the evil. He mentioned that homosexuals have penetrated the educational system and Ugandans must be aware of the evil. He also lectured about how God planned marriage only between man and woman and that marriage is for procreation.

Honorable Minister of Ethics Nsaba Buturu was worse. He spoke out against homosexuality, saying that for those who think it's a human right issue 'Uganda cannot listen to that nonsense.' He asked the audience to pray for president Museveni and his government to maintain their firms stand against evil in our society.

Pastor Mulinde then called his fellow pastor to come forward and pray for Buturo and Bahati and the government to continue with their crusade against homosexuality.

US faith-based "aid" in action. See how well that works? While they pray...and prey...people are gonna die either way.

Uganda's efforts against HIV/AIDS were successful as long as A (abstinence) and B (being faithful) were buttressed by C (condoms). When Plan C was axed, A and B also fell apart. And Kill-the-Gays isn't going to work any better, given that the vast majority of Ugandan AIDS cases are the result of heterosexual intercourse.

But hey. Between death by homophobia and death by bean counting, I'm sure they'll have that crisis licked in no time...

According to the Uganda AIDS Commission, the lifetime bill for treating one Ugandan AIDS patient, counting drugs, tests and medical salaries, is $11,500.

Donors have decided that is too much, that more lives can be saved by concentrating on child-killers like stillbirth, pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles and tetanus. Cures for those killers, like antibiotics, mosquito nets, rehydration salts, water filters, shots and deworming pills, cost $1 to $10.

Under its new Global Health Initiative, the Obama administration has announced plans to shift its focus to mother-and-child health. The AIDS budget was increased by only 2 percent.

The British government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also said they would focus support on mother-child health.

...if only because one way or another, all the victims will be dead. Because new replacements are constantly being born, and they're cheaper too. And scratching a hole in the ground for the corpses is the cheapest "solution" of all.

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May 9, 2010

Happy Birth Control Pill Day!

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Courtesy of the New York Times, something that isn't whorish, for a change. Gail Collins writes:

This is by way of saying that on Sunday we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill. We live in troubled times. [...]

Like a great many of our anniversaries, this one is a movable feast. The Food and Drug Administration actually gave G.D. Searle the go-ahead to market the first oral contraceptive (not counting bees) on June 23, 1960. But the F.D.A. announced its intention to approve the pill on May 9, which also happens to be Mother's Day this year and, therefore, too good to resist.

I can hear all the fundies screeching already. How can one celebrate, on holy, sacred Mother's Day of all days, a pill that made motherhood merely optional, rather than de rigueur as it had been until then? Sacrilege!

Well, I guess the fundies have their piddling little right to be shocked, shocked! that the pesky thing that's been keeping them from filling their quivers is now fifty years old and still showing no signs of dying. They also have a perfect right not to use it themselves. But they have no right to deny it to others.

And there are plenty of others. Women have been trying to avoid compulsory motherhood, and to plan when and if they had children, since time immemorial. Birth control has saved women's lives, and by limiting family size (meaning more food to divide among fewer mouths), has done wonders for the lives and well-being of children, too. Malthus knew it, and had the temerity to say so. Even in the prissy, motherhood-glorifying Victorian era, birth control was a subterranean industry of remarkable proportions:

American women had been limiting the size of their families long before the pill came along. In the 19th century, the fertility rate was plummeting, and ads for everything from condoms to douching syringes helped keep urban newspapers solvent. My favorite factoid from this period is that a company called National Syringe offered a model with changeable nozzles so it could be used for both birth control and watering plants.

Fertility (for plants) and infertility (for the women who tend the plants) in one device! O, the irony.

But wait, it gets even better--and more deliciously ironic:

The powers-that-be believed that the only appropriate form of birth control was celibacy. "Can they not use self control?" demanded Anthony Comstock, the powerful crusader for the Sexual Purity campaign. "Or must they sink to the level of the beasts?"

Comstock managed to get New York authorities to grant him the powers to both arrest and censor, and he bragged that he sent 4,000 people to jail for helping women understand, and use, birth control. He seemed to take particular pleasure in the fact that 15 of them had committed suicide.

One of his targets was Margaret Sanger, a nurse who wrote a sex education column, "What Every Girl Should Know," for a left-wing New York newspaper, The Call. When Comstock banned her column on venereal disease, the paper ran an empty space with the title: "What Every Girl Should Know: Nothing, by Order of the U.S. Post Office."

Sanger was the first person to publish an evaluation of all the available forms of birth control. As a reward, she got a criminal obscenity charge. She fled to Europe to avoid going to jail, and her husband was imprisoned for passing out one of her pamphlets. In the end, he got 30 days, and Anthony Comstock got a chill during the trial that led to a fatal case of pneumonia.

Ha, ha. Pardon me if I don't have even a crocodile tear to shed for the blessed Anthony of Comstock, the martyred patron saint of sex-hatred and censorship. The man who tried to put a chill on women's efforts to limit their family size without celibacy, dead of a chill himself in the glorious golden age Before Penicillin! Too bad there was no pill to save him. One wonders if he'd have been as zealous about trying to stop research and information regarding antibiotics as he was when it came to contraception.

And here's another irony: it's "the level of the beasts" at which you find sex for procreation only. Humans are the among the few animals who don't have an estrus cycle. Meaning, we can have sex at any time, fertile or not. For us, it must therefore serve a purpose, or several purposes, not linked to reproduction. So Comstock was a bad scientist, among all else. There was no Jane Goodall yet to set him straight.

But Margaret Sanger outlived him, and persisted, and today we have her to thank. I thank her, in particular, for the fact that my period, which had gone haywire after an accident, could be made regular again. And for the fact that I bypassed fertility altogether during the so-called peak of my fertile years (which felt like a nadir to me), and was able to get my tubes tied without incident afterward. My own dear mother had six kids, and used birth control to make sure they did not become a dozen or two (or more, Bog help us all).

So even large families can give some thanks to the early advocates of family planning that they're not larger--or living in a house with its own graveyard of lost babies, as was commonplace not so long ago. In Canada, we know the value of our birth control, and we like it...and those of us who know and like it best, thank that true saint from just to the south of us for doing her time in martyrdom so that we could all be free. Blessed be the name of Margaret Sanger!

Meanwhile, just to the south of us, there's still a war a-waging:

And we lived happily ever after. Except that over the last 20 years, protests from the social right have made politicians frightened of mentioning birth control and school boards frightened of including it in the curriculum.

Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, remembers getting a pretty thorough grounding in sex and the ways to prevent pregnancy when she was in school -- back in the days when the raciest thing you saw on television was Rob and Laura Petrie waking up in twin beds on the opposite side of the room. "Kids growing up today watch 'Gossip Girl' and all these shows where every teenager is having sex every day -- and now we don't teach sex education in school," she noted.

Even though 100 million women take the pill every day, to the great relief of 100 million or so of their partners, the terror of mentioning birth control is so great that the humongous new health care reform act has managed to avoid bringing it up at all. Advocates are hoping that when the regulations are finally written, they will require health insurance to cover birth control pills like any other drug. But nobody is sure.

"If the administration would announce tomorrow that all birth control would be free for every woman in America, I think the health care plan would gain 30 points in popularity overnight," said Richards.

And the teabaggers and fundies would be out of a job, out of office, out of all real power. Now THAT would be something to celebrate.

Well, maybe if they could learn to stop protecting the drivel of the local Nazis and concentrate instead on protecting and promoting the REAL freedom of speech--the freedom to teach birth control, among other counter-oppressive things--they might just get something accomplished there. Then kids would learn the facts of life straight and undiluted from real teachers, not trashy TV shows...or precocious friends behind the bike sheds...or the hard way, as their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents often had to.

Let us pray...

May 6, 2010

Cops Behaving Badly: How NOT to search for a paltry amount of pot

Warning: What you're about to see is very disturbing, particularly the part where they shoot the poor screaming dog. Don't click the play button if you're highly sensitive to police brutality or ugly language.

And here's what that was all about...

Police arrested Jonathan E. Whitworth, 25, of 1501 Kinloch Court on Feb. 11 on suspicion of possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana and second-degree child endangerment.

A police SWAT team entered Whitworth's residence around 8:30 p.m. suspecting a large amount of marijuana at the location, police spokeswoman Officer Jessie Haden said. SWAT members encountered a pit bull upon entry, held back and then fatally shot the dog, which officers said was acting in an uncontrollably aggressive manner.

Whitworth was arrested, and his wife and 7-year-old son were present during the SWAT raid, Haden said. A second dog, which Whitworth's attorney Jeff Hilbrenner described as a corgi, also was shot but was not killed.

And if you're wondering what "second-degree child endangerment" actually means, well, consider what they netted in this ugly sting:

Police discovered a grinder, a pipe and a small amount of marijuana, Haden said. Because the SWAT team acts on the most updated information available, the team wanted to enter the house before marijuana believed to be at the location could be distributed, she said.

"If you let too much time go by, then the drugs are not there," she said.

Or maybe they were never there to begin with, other than the tiny amount that was obviously for personal use, which the cops found. Meaning, maybe this guy wasn't a "distributor" at all, but just an ordinary occasional user.

I would say this raid was a lot more child endangerment that the paltry pot possession in question, wouldn't you?

BTW, here's the latest on that story. It has led to an inquiry, which I would say IS justified. And amply so.

May 4, 2010

Oh, Cato Institute...look at your golden boy now!

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Poor, poor widdle Yon-Yon...he's out of a party and a job:

The directorate of the Primero Justicia party decided to expel Yon Goicoechea from the party, a source linked to the opposition revealed to Panorama last weekend.

"Yon took an advance position on his candidacy, which didn't sit well with the party. For example, he would say he 'wouldn't accept consolation prizes' when he talked of running for a seat in the Latin American Parliament," said the source.

The aspiration of the ex-student leader was to run for the congressional district of Altos Mirandinos, where, he said, "The polls are calling me the winner."

As part of the negotiations for the candidates of consensus, the parties of the "Unity Table" decided that Alfonso Marquina would run for that seat.

The source also revealed that Goicoechea's televised speech of the past week was "the straw that broke the camel's back". In it, Goicoechea was very critical of the consensus candidates, and said, "There are candidates of the opposition for whom I would not have voted."

Afterwards, he asked the "Unity Table" to make "more sacrifices", and aligned himself with a governor, Enrique Capriles, who showed himself to be in favor of primaries for the selection of candidates.

Goicoechea joined Primero Justicia in 2008, after leaving the ranks of the student opposition.

Translation mine.

This article is as revealing about the undemocratic (and oftentimes, overtly antidemocratic) nature of the Venezuelan opposition as it is about Yon-Yon and his puffed-up ego. The so-called "Mesa de la Unidad" (which I translated as "Unity Table"), a conglomeration of all the parties that oppose Chavecito and his PSUV, can't even decide whether to hold primaries or not, and in many cases, it didn't bother. It just hand-picked the candidates by "consensus" (of whom? reached how? Nobody seems able to say.) And one of the much-trumpeted and -ballyhooed candidates who lost out in the arcane and ricky-tricky selection process...was the Cato Institute's golden boy of democracy!

Is this the same Yon-Yon who won the Milton Friedman Prize? Why yes, it is. And this is how they treat him. This was Yankee capitalism's great white(-handed) hope, and instead, it's yet another blown investment. Half a million gringo dollars down the toilet.

Sob. Sniffle. Boohoohoo.

I'm really trying hard to squeeze out a few crocodile tears for all of them here, but I just can't seem to. That's because I had his number from way back. Only now, somebody--his own party--actually called it. A little late, but still.

My heart bleeds...no, really...bwahahahahahaha.

May 3, 2010

Viacom = Money Grubbing Hypocrites

Let Mike Mozart (normally a toy reviewer on YouTube) explain to you how "copyright infringement" REALLY works:

So, in summation: If you mash-up or otherwise post to YouTube any material copyrighted by Viacom, even if it's just a tribute and you're not making a cent off it, they can shut you down...but if THEY steal YOUR original stuff off YouTube and post it to their "viral video" site, disguising its true origins and gunking it up with ads that make money for them...well...you're fucked. Unless, of course, you make them feel it whammo in the pocketbook. Be sure to watch toward the end of the video, where Mike tells you just how to do that.

April 22, 2010

Teabonics: The Video

An illustrated lexicon of hardcore stupidity. Enjoy!

April 21, 2010

Taxing the patience of a nation

And no, I'm not referring to the gummint. I'm referring to these tea-tards here:

Note the doctrinaire (but ill-informed) rhetoric, the crazy accusations, the deer-in-the-headlights looks of a lot of them when pressed for specifics. These are people who are very angry about things they haven't thought through. Be sure to watch for former comedienne Victoria Jackson in a very sad and unamusing turn as a retarded rightard, and enjoy the ironic spectacle provided by a bug-eyed British lord (at a "patriotic American" rally? In a Stars 'n' Stripes tie??? Remind me what the revolution was about, again...)

Saddest of all is the woman in the cranberry turtleneck, who really should not be there. She's been deluded into thinking the government is out to rob public services, when its job (as she herself acknowledges) is to provide them. And what's up with the Mexican guy speaking out against immigration? And the token black dude rapping? He's rolling out the astroturf while claiming not to. How far through the Looking Glass ARE these people? And do they not see the extreme irony of their position?

One thing is for sure: the educational system is indeed badly underfunded if it turns out sorry people like these. And civics classes are more desperately needed now than at any previous time in history. If it weren't for all the wars and imperialism, they'd all get one hell of an education.

Whether they wanted it or not.

April 8, 2010

Short 'n' Stubby: Leftist Authoritarian Bitches-R-Us

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Yes, kiddies, Ms. Manx is back. Fear the Manx! For she brings you glad tidings of great joy, at least for us leftists. For you rightards out there (particularly the name-calling projectionist trolls from across the pond), well, not so much...

First off, a cannon blast from Keith Olbermann and John Dean. Dean uncovered some startling, long-forgotten findings in researching his latest book, and it bodes ill for those who call me a "leftist authoritarian bitch". 1% of the left is an awfully small number, and I'm not in it.

Next up, the lies of the right get unmasked by the News Corpse. What? FUX Snooze isn't popular? They lied even to the Nielsen ratings people? You don't say. Well, they certainly wouldn't, being rightard obscurantists and all. But I'll say it, because I believe in REAL freedom of speech! We leftist authoritarian bitches are funny that way.

Then, Candace Gingrich neatly dissects how right-wing authoritarianism works in schools, enabling bullies to exclude queer and disabled kids from their precious toy proms, and also to hound an innocent immigrant to death. And of course, Candace would know about right-wing authoritarians and their sneaky ways of playing hell; her brother, Newt, was the one who formulated that infamous "word list" that was geared directly at undermining the left. Happily, she is his polar opposite both personally and politically. Which is why she's lined up on the side of free speech, too, in exposing how insidious deceptions work.

And while we're on the subject of bullies, insidious deceptions, and the use of free speech to unmask the truth, please read this excellent piece by my fellow Canadian, Josh Frappier. And then spread it far and wide. It deserves to go viral. Let's roll!

Nations can be bullies, too, as Norman Finkelstein points out in this worthwhile longer piece at Alternet. It's an excerpt from his latest book, and dovetails nicely with the whole theme of right-wing authoritarianism, lying and obfuscation I've got going on here.

And does anyone seriously buy Glenn Beck's "I'm just an entertainer" schtick? And where have we heard all that before? From the Coultergeist, who seriously believes her own smack? From the Pigman, whose "entertainment" is all strictly political and authoritarian in nature (his followers are called dittoheads after all!) If these people are really just entertainers, and their shit is really just meant to be funny, then don't put them on the news. Don't clutter up the talk shows with them. Give them their own SCTV-style sketch-comedy show, and watch 'em tank. And then pull the plug, and never let us hear from them again. We have better things to do with the concept of free speech, and time's a-wastin'.

And finally, isn't it funny how the Randroids all claim to be libertarians when their beloved prophet-idiotess was anything but? Sorry, people, but "right-wing" and "libertarian" are opposing terms that cancel each other out. Ditto "left-wing" and "authoritarian", as John Dean found out to his utter surprise (see my first link again, if you don't believe me.) People who worship sociopaths who in turn worshipped psychopaths are NOT libertarian by any stretch of the imagination.

Right-wing nuts, you are hereby my bitches. You may now kneel down, hands behind your back, and lick my boots. I won't compel you, of course, as I'm terribly "authoritarian" that way.

April 6, 2010

Cruelty, the uncoolest cut of all

First, a little music to set the mood...

...because I'm really going to try for rationality and detachment here. It's not gonna be easy, because everything about this just triggers the old blue blaze of rage and pain that I felt as an ostracized, bullied child. Every time I got shut out or picked on, that blaze is what I felt. And I don't like admitting that I still feel it every time I see someone else get shut out and/or picked on. You're supposed to get over that old kid stuff, you know?

Only, here's the sad part: You don't. You really don't. And if you're honest with yourself, you admit it.

And if you're really REALLY honest, and painfully so, you admit that this shit goes on everywhere.

Okay, I admit it: This shit goes on everywhere. It goes on in supposedly liberal, enlightened, democratic-socialist CANADA, for God's sake. I know, because it happened to me.

And no, it didn't happen for the same reason as it happened to Constance McMillen. I'm not gay. I didn't have a prom date at all (at least not for MY high school's formal), much less one of my own sex. I was a shy, introverted, bespectacled, skinny, pale, redheaded, frizzy-haired, unathletic, unhip, unhot, too-damn-smart-for-my-own-good geek. And in a small town, where the narrowest definition of "cool" prevails, someone like that stands out. And standing out is unforgivable. The nail that sticks out, gets hammered down. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

And yeah, I got hammered. All through grade school and much of high school, I got fucking hammered.

I won't go into any specific incidents. I've already been triggered enough for one damn day. There are more of them than can be named, anyway, and it made going to school nauseating. And this was for a kid who enjoyed classes. A kid who really wanted to be a doctor someday; a kid whose teachers kept telling her she really ought to be a writer. Being seen enjoying the use of your own brains is apparently utterly unforgivable in a place where conformist mediocrity is prized, other than of course in athletics.

So I got hammered. And I continued to stick out anyway. I bent, but would not be hammered down. I tried to hide my brains: useless. (I still got high 90s in French without even trying. I could have slept through that class and still aced every test.) I tortured my hair with a curling iron, to straighten and feather it into some semblance of fashion: useless. (One small whiff of humidity, and foof it went.) I got contact lenses, so people could finally see that I had a pretty face and not just four eyes: useless. (They were in the habit of seeing me through their own distorted, invisible funhouse lenses. Nothing I did was going to shatter those.)

No, the only thing that saved me from the whole thing was graduating. And going to university in a modest-sized city, where things were bigger all around. And learning to be myself, instead of some cookie-cutter knockoff of every other ditzy chick with Farrah Fawcett wings in her hair. It meant accommodating my curls, accepting my introverted, geekish nature, and learning to flip the bird at convention (and sometimes, at conventional people). And it meant becoming someone radically different not only from what the others were, but from what I had been and thought I should be.

Even a nervous breakdown and the realization that I wasn't going to make it to med school wasn't nearly as bad as being forcibly flipped out of the pond like I was all through my grade- and high-school years. Even realizing I'd fallen hopelessly in love with a gay guy, and being damn near suicidal at the ripe old age of 20, was a piece of cake compared to being shut out. I could get over my thwarted dreams, go beyond the misplaced romantic interest (he's still my best friend to this day--how 'bout THEM apples?), and even get past the desire to just go to sleep and never wake up. But this? No. It follows you silently everywhere.

I thought I had gotten away from it at university, good fucking riddance to small towns and smaller minds--only to find myself suddenly struggling with all the unresolved pain, anger and stark terror of those days. And sometimes, in the dead of night, when I should be asleep but just can't, I still have those moments where I forget who I am, who I've worked so hard to become. I even forget that the town has grown, and is not the same bigoted little place anymore. All I remember is what I have yet to overcome.

And what I have to overcome is that poison cruelty that seems almost inherent in people. The same that prompted Jean-Paul Sartre to say that hell is other people. It's not inborn; it's learned. And it gets passed down through generations. Each one gets beaten by the previous one until it bears the identical scars. Then it turns on the next and starts beating on them until they, too, bear those scars...

So when I read the obscene self-justifications that some people go through, presenting themselves, the bullies, as the poor little victims of a nasty, gay revolution--well, why not just wave a red cape in front of me and every other excluded kid? I mean, it's not as if you're not just asking to get your sorry asses kicked, is it now?

And yeah, I would so love to kick every ass of every person who ever did this to another. Doesn't matter for what "reason". I don't give a shit for your justifications; spare me the "explanations", I'm in no mood to hear any of them. Don't bother to comment here; I'll either delete it or declare you a Wanker of the Week, depending on whether my mood is fair or foul. You cannot explain or justify this. I know what you did. It has a name: CRUELTY.

Cruel isn't cool, and I'm not fucking cool with anyone who's cruel. I want to kick cruel people's asses, ALL of them. I'd wear out my trusty old cherry Docs doing it, no doubt about that.

But we're not supposed to kick ass; we're supposed to be meek, mild and forgiving. We're supposed to grow beyond all that. We're supposed to Forget. I mean, it's only a silly prom, fergawdsakes. For a bright kid with a future, it's supposed to be just a stumbling-stone on the road to Better Things. It's only important to those who peaked in high school. That ain't me, right?

Well, fuck it. I haven't forgotten. And I'm not sure I've forgiven, either. The fact that a fake prom so far from where I grew up has the power to trigger all my buried outrage and bring it crashing back like it only happened yesterday, is a testimony to the power that cruelty has. It has the power to make me forget, or at least minimize, the fact that I did go to a prom, in another town, with a guy not from my high school. He liked me more than I liked him. He was not the guy I'd have gone with, had I been "cool" enough to be offered a choice of dates; still, I showed him mercy, because he was an even bigger geek than I was. He didn't know what a loser I was to all my peers. To him, I was actually pretty. For his sake I put on a brave face and a beautiful outfit. How elegant I looked in my own hand-made royal-blue strapless moiré dress and my mom's black elbow gloves (a damn sight better than these tacky little prats, that's for sure.)

And yeah, I made the dress myself. Pleated overbodice, six-inch-wide sash, floor-length skirt, the works. And the black organdy ruffled shawl, too. See what happens when you apply yourself in Home Ec, girls? And don't you guys wish your girlfriends were hot--and SMART--like me?

But this makes it hard to remember that. It has the power to make me forget that I'm not the ostracized kid anymore, that I quit being that kid even in my last year at high school, where I began to morph into an adult whom other adults actually like. It even has the power to make me forget, for a moment, just how strong I really am.

And that strength didn't come out of nowhere; it came out of being that excluded, bullied kid. Maybe it's made me a better adult, a better listener, a more worthwhile person to talk to and with?

Maybe.

One thing it definitely HAS made me is glad that I don't fit in, after all. Because if fitting in among the bullies who made my youth hell is such a prize, I don't want it. I'd have to turn into a piece of shit just like them. What's that old saying? "Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat", I believe is how it goes. Nope; no rodent here. Just a human being who doesn't need to pretend superiority.

And one who admires the hell out of Constance for taking you all on and showing you all up. She's got more class in her left pinky-nail than all of you have in your collective, pathetic, self-justifying carcass.

So yeah, bigoted kiddies, knock yourselves out claiming that you are the bullied ones, being shat on by northerners, gay revolutionary ACLUers, and people from the two coasts and God only knows where all else. Whine your sorry asses off about how everybody else looks down on you (as if YOU had a monopoly on pusillanimous shitheadedness!) Go play your smarmy phony victim card until it wears the hell out.

And it will, soon. Because it's flimsy. And because the rest of the world isn't stupid; it knows what lengths you went to in order to make sure your precious widdle prom was queer- and crip-cootie-free. That much secrecy takes planning and co-ordination. It takes a lot of complicity. It also takes massive amounts of cowardice. Not one of you kids had the stones to defy your parents, your school board, or your picky-picky peers; you are all a bunch of fucking wimps! You think you avoided "drama" by excluding Constance and her same-sex date, and a tiny bunch of disabled kids? HA! You just brought it on yourselves, ten-thousandfold. You deserve the shitstorm that you've got coming now.

And I, for one, will be pointing the finger at you and laughing when the verdict comes down against you. Because I love seeing the shoe go on the other foot, and pinching. It's not nice, I know. But it is satisfying. And it is so very, very richly deserved.

Sucks to be you, kids. Here, have another song. And try learning how to dance without that graceless booty-humping you did at your "drama-free" prom, 'kay? That shit's no cooler than your overt, deliberate cruelty was.

March 29, 2010

Short 'n' Stubby: Here come da 'pocalypse!

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Yes, Ms. Manx is back...and all who have not been "saved" are going to have their souls eaten by the Cats! And by "saved", I simply mean "educated in the use of the common sense their mamas gave them". Assuming their mamas didn't, which is surprisingly common in the Babylon to the south of us. Cases in point, coming right down...

Remember those infamous "Michigan Militia" groups of the Clinton era? They're ba-ack, and one of them is now going by the inexplicable name of Hutaree.

Wikipedia says they're not officially affiliated with the original goon squads, which disbanded around the time Clinton's latter term was coming to a close, but then, who can tell? These groups are all clandestine and seemingly autonomous, so formal connections would be hard to prove. But they do talk amongst themselves; they meet at gun shows and other far-right-wing functions. And "inspiration" is easy to spot, as is influence. So I wouldn't say that they're not a metastatic form of the original Michigan mental-as-anythings.

And why does all this shit happen in Michigan? Probably for the same reason that Tim McVeigh was from Western New York, which sits just across Lake Ontario from where I am. There be rednecks in the northern states, yep. And they're just as full of self-righteous grudgifyin' as any bubba from down south. Hilariously, some of them like to think they are freedom and homeland defence. Riiiiiight. With those guts? A pregnant cow could outrun them, and a well-oiled government machine could just bulldoze them where they stand, if it ever came to an actual showdown with the "tyranny" they dread. They may as well arm themselves with water pistols. But hey, they've issued a statement claiming to be pleased with the peaceful arrests of these strange dudes, so I'll give them credit for a little common sense, anyway. (That was one second of the two a day when these stopped clocks tell correct time, folks. Enjoy it while it lasts.)

Of course the Freeper Nazis, apparently none of whom work as Michigan cops themselves, think this is all just proof of how things have gone commie all of a sudden now that some niggruh is president. And that the country's gone to hell in a handbasket now and only now. Where the fuck were they when Dubya took the country there, handbasket and all, and then left it for the next guy to clean up (which he's not doing nearly fast enough, thanks to freaks like these)? Oh yeah: They were cheerleading for Dubya. Who of course could do no wrong, even when he was wrecking fucking everything.

There sure does seem to be a wave of Teh Crazy breaking across the US as of last week, when healthcare reform--very limited, very wimpy reform--finally passed. Alan Grayson's five-year-old son picked up the phone only to hear a loony woman threaten his dad's life (be sure you read the comments on that story, they're full of loonies too. Some of whom appear to be paid operatives for the electoral campaign of Grayson's Republican opponent.) Meanwhile, another true-believing wacko has threatened Eric Cantor, a Republican. Heaven only knows why. Perhaps because he wasn't obstructionist enough?

So who are these Hutaree people, and what are they on about? Here's a short primer. The leader's ex-wife, who says he "has a temper", "can get radical" and "wants things done his way", is interviewed here. (Little Hitler and Mussolini Piccolomini leaders in "freedom-loving" toy armies--oh, the ironies of militia life!)

And when you're done with all that, go visit Ms. Pale for further entertainment by the Father, the Son and the Holy Smoke. Apparently these rapturists think His Barackness is the Antichrist, and that this is the Tribulation, or some such. Nuh-unh...no rivers, oceans and fountains of blood. And no suddenly disappeared railroad engineers, streetcar motormen, or satanic zits from the Burny Place. Sorry, this is not the End Times. This is just another Great Disappointment!

Go home NOW, people, and put your guns away. You'll shoot your eye out! And you have trouble enough seeing straight as it is, no thanks to the big insurance corporations who should be the real targets of your ire.

March 28, 2010

Stupid Sex Tricks: People who should NEVER write about sex

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Jeezuschrist, what is it with right-wing men? Not only are they totally repulsive to look at, they're also gross when it comes to sex. Somehow, you can just guess it from the way they write about the subject:

"Suddenly the pouting sex kitten gave way to Diana the Huntress. She rolled onto him and was somehow sitting athwart his chest, her knees pinning his shoulders. 'Tell me, or I will make you do terrible things,' she hissed."

--Newt Gingrich, 1945

Cliché, cliché, vagueness, archaism, ouch factor, lame dialogue--in that order. That's a lot of crappy to pack into just 39 words!

"At age ten the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest."

--Irving Lewis "Scooter" Libby, The Apprentice

Kiddie porn, bestiality, unlawful confinement, major MAJOR yuck factor, vagueness (how does one arouse a bear with a stick, other than by poking the poor fella while he's hibernating?) Also stretches credibility: A bear is far more likely to devour a child than hump her. And since when do prostitutes fall in love with their clients, anyway? Talk about totally extraneous. Libby, you are one sick bastard.

"Tsa Li froze, her lips still enclosing Rand's glans."

--G. Gordon Liddy, Out of Control

Mister Penis Head, me love you long time! All of Southeast Asia is just one big bordello to you guys, isn't it. (Side note: Liddy's head looks like a...well, guess.)

"Say baby, put down that pipe and get my pipe up."

"I would like you to unhook your bra and let it slide down your arms. You can keep your shirt on."

"Cup your hands under your breasts and hold them for ten seconds."

"Off with those pants."

--Bill O'Reilly, Those Who Trespass

Why do I get the awful feeling he's said all those lame things and more in real life?

"She tried to scream. Then another hand rushed to her throat, discovered the top button of her jacket loosened as she had left it, and moved down to force the second button through the eye of her blouse. The hand forced its way under her blouse, moving down. Then the fingers were on her breast, slipping beneath her brassiere, and then pulling out, one hand hitting her throat as the other left her mouth."

--Marlin Fitzwater, Esther's Pillow

I'll bet he wrote all of that one-handed, too. Fucking pervert.

And since the right is big on token women, let's include one of theirs:

"The women who embraced in the wagon were Adam and Eve crossing a dark cathedral stage -- no, Eve and Eve, loving one another as they would not be able to once they ate of the fruit and knew themselves as they truly were."

--Lynne Cheney, Sisters

And this breathless tripe came out long before her daughter Mary did. Interesting. Makes me wonder if something doesn't run in the genes after all.

I have only one thing to say to all these people: Please don't ever write another word about sex. Nobody wants to do you anyway.

March 23, 2010

Chile: Robbing Peter to pay for reconstruction?

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A parody of one of Sebastián Piñera's campaign posters. The caption reads: "Reducing everyone's salaries. This is not how we want Chile!"

I said this man would try to run Chile like a business, and sure enough, he's gonna do just that. The question is, what kind of business will it be? Read this, and see if you can tell me...

The president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, said on Monday that eventually, some state companies could be privatized in order to finance the process of reconstruction after February's earthquake.

According to a Chilean television interview, printed today in the daily La Nación, the president admitted that the early days of his government have been "difficult and hard."

He remarked that the catastrophe will cost Chile some $30 billion, a sum equivalent to 17% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Piñera announced that the financing of the plan to recuperate the country will consider, among other things, fiscal austerity, reassignment of resources from programs which are not priorities, the use of Chilean savings in foreign banks, and even "adjustments in tax matters".

Translation mine.

And now, I think I know why he doesn't regret having boogied with Dictator Pinochet, and why he's all testy and defensive whenever anyone challenges him on it. It's because he thinks the economic catastrophe that the latter unleashed, back in his day--more than the equivalent of this earthquake in wreckage, both materially and morally--was not only acceptable, but the right thing to do.

This man appears to be hellbent on destroying the country in order to "save" it. A veritable economic My Lai in the making.

Oy vey.

March 20, 2010

Bolivian terror cell update: The "Che" connection

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If this man's face gives you an ugly feeling (as it does me), it's well warranted. This is one key member of the death squad responsible for the cowardly, secretive assassination of Latin America's most famous guerrilla hero. And that's apparently not the only death squad he ran with. It appears that his penchant for right-wing terror against leftist leaders continues to this day, and that he has branched out to democratically elected leaders, since there are no more guerrillas to go after. And his most recent associations are damning...

Gary Prado, the ex-general who captured the legendary guerrilla, Ernesto "Che" Guevara in the Bolivian jungle in 1967, faces the accusation of suspected links with a terrorist network in Bolivia.

Prado was summoned to make a statement on Friday before prosecutor Marcelo Soza, who accused him of exchanging "ultra-secret" e-mails with Eduardo Rózsa Flores, head of the terror cell, killed last April during a firefight with federal police in a hotel in Santa Cruz.

"Mr. Prado needs to explain why he exchanged encrypted electronic messages with Rózsa," said the prosecutor.

Seven persons are currently jailed in connection with the case, one of whom is the son of a former governor of Santa Cruz.

According to Soza, Prado used the pseudonym "Sucupira", and Rózsa was "Camba 3" when they exchanged secret e-mails with military codes. The content of the messages has not been divulged.

Prado formerly denied links to Rózsa, saying he sought him out as a journalist. He said he will not appear to testify in La Paz, where the investigation is based, but in Santa Cruz where the events took place.

Prado's son, who bears the same name and is a candidate for mayor of Santa Cruz under the banner of an opposition party, has also been summoned to testify on Friday over suspected ties to Rózsa's group.

"This is worse than a badly-written Venezuelan soap opera," said Prado Jr., announcing that he also would not show up in La Paz but is prepared to speak his piece in Santa Cruz.

Gary Prado Sr. was an army captain when his patrol captured Che in the southeastern jungles of Bolivia. The guerrilla leader was executed on October 9, 1967.

Mexican writer and movie critic Alberto Hijar once dashed a glass of wine in Prado's face while shouting a toast "to Che's health".

In 1981, while still in active service, Prado Sr. was hit by a bullet in the spine and remains disabled.

Eduardo Rózsa Flores was a Bolivian-Hungarian veteran of the Croatian war, who had been contracted by radical opposition separatists to organize a militia against Evo Morales, president of Bolivia. He died in April of last year, along with Magyarosi Arpád (Hungarian-Croatian) and Michael Martin Dwyer (Irish), in a hotel where they were staying. Detained in the same raid were Mario Tadic (Bolivian-Croat) and Elöd Tóásó (Hungarian).

Translation mine.

Considering how many of the thugs responsible for Che's death seem to have been hit with a curse immediately following the dirty deed, Gary Prado, Che's chief captor, has gotten off rather lightly. He's still alive, for one thing. Eduardo Galeano lists a litany of karmic curse-bearers in his excellent Days and Nights of Love and War.

Jon Lee Anderson's less poetic, but more factually detailed bio of Che also notes a chilling pattern:

Many of the men who were associated with Che's death in Bolivia went on to die violently, leading some to believe in a so-called "curse of Che." The first to die was Bolivia's military president, General René Barrientos, whose helicopter fell out of the sky in unexplained circumstances in April 1969. Honorato Rojas, the peasant collaborator who had betrayed Joaquín's column, was executed by the "second" ELN in late 1969. In 1971, Colonel Roberto Quintanilla, Arguedas's intelligence chief at the Ministry of the Interior, the man who made Che's fingerprints, was murdered in Germany.

The populist president General Juan José Torres--who as a member of Barrientos's joint chiefs of staff had cast his vote in favor of Che's execution in 1967--was murdered by the Argentine death squads in 1976, after his overthrow and flight into exile. Only two weeks earlier, General Joaquín Zenteno Anaya had been gunned down in Paris in an action claimed by the obscure "Che Guevara International Brigade."

After his acclaimed role in the "defeat of Che", however, Captain Gary Prado rose rapidly within the armed forces, eventually becoming a colonel. But, during an operation to suppress an armed revolt in Santa Cruz in 1981, he was shot and left paralyzed from the waist down. [...]

Lieutenant Colonel Andrés Selich fared the least well of those who were directly involved in the capture and execution of Che Guevara. In 1971, Selich led a military revolt that ousted President Juan José Torres and brought the right-wing General Hugo Banzer Suárez to power. After serving as Banzer's interior minister for only six months, however, Selich was sidelined and sent into diplomatic exile as ambassador to Paraguay. He soon began conspiring against the dictator, and after secretly re-entering Bolivia in 1973, preparing to launch a new revolt, he was caught and beaten to death by army thugs on Banzer's orders. [...]

The executioner, Mario Terán, is a pathetic figure, a man who continues to live in hiding--at times wearing wigs and other disguises--out of fear for his life, convinced he has long been targeted for assassination by Cuba or its allies. Given a series of menial jobs by the army to keep him going, including that of bartender in the officers' club of Santa Cruz Eighth Army Division headquarters, Terán is a deeply bitter man, seeing himself as a scapegoat for his superior officers [...]

Emphasis added.

Anderson also notes that the infamous Félix Rodríguez, the ex-Cuban CIA man who had relentlessly pursued Che, and who had a morbid trophy picture taken of himself with Che shortly before the latter's execution, and who was later to get his disgraceful come-uppance during the Iran-Contra affair, came down with an illness whose nature can only be described as karmically fitting:

Within a few days, Rodríguez was back in the United States for debriefings with his CIA bosses. He had brought back some personal relics from his trip, among them several Rolex watches found in Che's possession, and Che's last pouch of pipe tobacco, half-smoked, which he had wrapped in paper; later, he would put the tobacco inside a glass bubble set into the butt of his favorite revolver. The strangest legacy of all, though, was the shortness of breath he developed soon after arriving in Vallegrande [with Che's body, which was secretly buried there near a military airstrip]. "As I walked in the cool mountain air I realized that I was wheezing, and that it was becoming hard to breathe," Rodríguez wrote twenty-five years later. "Che may have been dead, but somehow his asthma--a condition I had never had in my life--had attached itself to me. To this day, my chronic shortness of breath is a constant reminder of Che and his last hours alive in the tiny town of La Higuera."

Touched by a ghost, perhaps?

Anderson downplays the curse angle, but the conclusion is inescapable. Che had a lot of mojo...and that spirit continued to make its presence felt long after his body lay moldering in its secret grave in Vallegrande, planted there by cowards who could not bear to bury him like a man.

And Evo is no slouch in that department, either. The opposition to him is crumbling; he has the support of two-thirds of Bolivia's population, and it cuts across class and color lines. Even in Santa Cruz, supposedly an oppo stronghold, Evo's popularity is growing. "A bad Venezuelan soap opera" it certainly is...and the right-wingers are the authors of their own damn farce in both countries. None of them can do politics without recourse to racism, sabotage, and murder, it seems. And the harder they try to topple him, the more Evo rises, and the more they sink. That, too, is karmically fitting.

I have a hunch that Prado's curse has not played out to its end, though. And since he seems to have taken part in a plot to kill Evo as well as Che, he's in for a heavy karmic whammy.

Sucks to be you, Gary Prado.

March 18, 2010

Spain schools Cuba in Democracy

Lesson 1: Democratic Policing.

Escorting "dissidents" onto buses without incident and driving them safely home is for pussies! Better to use armored riot cops and bash some heads in. That's what they do in free, democratic Spain.

PS: More enlightening videos (in Spanish) here.

How do these "diplomats" manage to keep their jobs?

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Diplomats from the European Union in Cuba: Volker Pellet, of the German embassy, and Frantisek Fleisman, of the Czech embassy. Odd that they would fraternize with one another on the streets of Havana like that; one expects rather more discretion from people of their profession. What are they doing together? Just enjoying a casual smoke break? Funny, I don't see any cigars.

Perhaps this might shed some light:

Lowell Dale Lawton, undersecretary for the Section of US Interests in Cuba, attended a church mass in the Párraga district of Havana, alongside members of the self-styled Ladies in White. When the liturgy was over, they all took to the streets together to protest against supposed human-rights violations in Cuba.

A televised report, broadcast on the "Round Table" program, showed the diplomat accompanying the so-called "dissidents" right down the main street of the Cuban capital.

The US diplomat blended in with the demonstrators and with them, walked the full length of Calle 23, to La Rampa. The provocation was spontaneously rejected by ordinary bystanders.

That evening, two European diplomats--Volker Pellet, from the German embassy, and Frantisek Fleisman, Third Secretary of the Czech embassy--participated in a similar demonstration, in open collaboration with little counterrevolutionary groups organized and financed by the United States and some European countries.

[...]

These provocative actions featuring US and Western European diplomats in Cuba took place in the midst of a corporate media campaign against the island. The campaign intensified after March 10, when the Europarliament adopted a resolution condemning Cuba for presumed human-rights violations.

The Cuban "Ladies in White" have acquired a certain fame in the Western press, which has elevated them to a symbol of the struggle for freedom. The women enjoy a degree of publicity that makes other opposition groups around the world green with envy, while in Cuba, they suffer the indifference or open rejection of the general population.

British diplomat Chris Stimpson assured that he was there only as an "observer to monitor human rights and freedom of expression". However, he did not say whether this "observation" is an habitual British practice in other countries as well.

Last December 11, Cubadebate published a report taken from the television news, which showed another provocative demonstration in Havana, in which Lowell Dale Lawton appeared, accompanied by members of the so-called Cuban "dissidents". Alongside Lawton was another functionary of the US Interests Section, Kathleen Duffy, a politico-economic assistant from the same office.

Also present were Volker Pellet of the German embassy, and Chris Stimpson, British diplomat, who made declarations to the international press against the government of Cuba until he was upbraided by counterdemonstrators, and had to be protected by Cuban security guards.

Translation mine.

The article suggests that the "Ladies in White" are paid employees of the US Interest Section. I don't know if that's true, but the very fact that this US diplomat...

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...was seen with them in public, not merely shaking their hands or talking to them briefly on the street, but engaging in a political march down the length of Havana's main street, well...doesn't that strike you as just a wee bit hinky? It does me...

And another thing: If there's no freedom of speech in Cuba, as the detractors all insist, and the human-rights situation is really so terrible and the island is just one big political prison, why aren't the "Ladies in White" all locked up? Their presence is criticized and scrutinized, as are all public demonstrations (here the same as there!), but they haven't been beaten, haven't been tear-gassed, haven't had armed police with dogs rounding them up and taking them to jail. In that sense, they enjoy a lot more freedom than I did as a journalism student, when I narrowly missed getting beaten up and arrested at Queen's Park by goon squads in the employ of a "freedom-loving" right-wing premier. (I was lucky enough to have left a demo before the riot cops showed up. Sometimes it's good to be cold, hungry, and in need of a toilet.)

No, these "Ladies" are very lucky indeed...they face less repression than leftist opponents of the prevailing order in Canada, the US and Europe. Maybe they really do have special immunity thanks to their intimate association with the US embassy!

And if none of these "diplomats" are called home (for "consultations"!) by their respective governments, I think we can only take it as a sign that they were not doing anything they weren't expressly sent to do.

Let's keep watching them, shall we, and see if they keep their jobs.

EDIT: Here's the "Round Table" video, in Spanish:

The Cuban report wasn't lying when it said that these women were widely rejected by ordinary citizens of Havana; they were clearly outnumbered by counterdemonstrators. And yes, the presence of both the German and the Czech diplomats is confirmed here, as is the strong likelihood that the "Ladies" are paid for their "dissident" activities by the US. One man on the street repeatedly asks: "How do they eat?" He then answers his own question: "Imperialism."

March 14, 2010

Spot what is wrong with this picture...

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One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong.
Can you tell me which one is not like the others
By the time I finish this song?

Co-workers say the alleged gunman in a fatal shooting at an Edmonton car dealership on Friday was recently suspended for making racial comments.

Police say a man with a gun walked into Great West Chrysler near Stony Plain Road and 178th Street at about 7:50 a.m. MT and started shooting.

It's believed he shot and killed one man, shot and wounded another and then turned the gun on himself.

Sources have identified the shooter as Dave Burns, 55, an employee who was recently suspended for making racial comments.

Co-workers say he didn't get along well with visible minorities, and some went as far as to describe him as a white supremacist.

They also tell CBC News that Burns had a swastika tattooed on his body and had a very hot temper.

[...]

"I had known the man for a long time. I just can't figure out what happened. He just snapped. Something went awry somehow. I know he was very attached to this dealership," he said.

"We have talked to a lot of people about it and that is what they are all saying. Not when they worked together for years."

One person who knew Burns from Alberta's four-by-four vehicle community said that when he heard about the shooting he just couldn't believe it.

"This was a guy who snapped for no apparent reason. It was not like he was a monster," said Corey Kruchkowski.

He said Burns helped organize the growing movement in the province to drive off-road vehicles in an environmentally responsible way.

"This guy obviously was an altruistic person in some parts of his personality. If you met him in the years before this happened you would never think that this was someone who could hurt people."

No, of course you wouldn't.

And the white supremacist rhetoric, gun nuttery, discomfort around visible minorities, and swastika tattoo were not "apparent reasons", either.

March 10, 2010

Short 'n' Stubby: Democracy 1, Crapitalism 0

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Ms. Manx is back...with some links from a place you probably never think of unless there's a Björk song playing on the radio:

An unprecedented referendum was recently held in Iceland, and confirmed that 93% of Icelanders are not stupid when it comes to money. That's the number that voted against sending any more of their hard-earned kronor out of country to pay for someone else's market gaming. Can you blame them, when the "repayment" scheme amounts to all Icelanders paying a quarter of their family income for the next eight years to foreigners (British and Dutch bankers) who've already robbed them?

The Dutch finance minister, on the other hand, hasn't heard yet that you can't get blood out of turnips. Any Dutch-speaking Icelanders out there wanna go explain it to him, especially the part about democracy?

A Briton writing for the Christian Science Monitor is more realistic, saying his country bears responsibility for its role in the crisis. "Interest well above the market rate" is always a flashing warning sign of a Ponzi scheme, but greedy imbeciles think it's a beacon for their business. They never learn!

Meanwhile, an Icelander writing for the UK Guardian (no doubt trying to reassure Brits that they'll get their mad money back) calls the vote "theatre of the absurd". Someone tell her she's in an extreme minority there. Icelanders, 93% of whom are not stupid, object to their money, their savings, being siphoned off by foreign bankers, who of course are not hurting. (When were they ever? When will they ever be?)

Want to get really, really sick? Read this, and read between the lines. Foreign aid on hold until Iceland cries "Uncle". Blood, stone, lather, rinse, repeat.

And if you want to know what's behind it all, read this Alternet piece. If you smell Uncle Miltie's rotting ideological corpse, pat yourself on the back for having such a good nose.

March 4, 2010

There once was this dude, Jason Kenney...

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Sorry, I'm not up for a limerick tonight. I just thought I'd share what happened to Jason Kenney's Wikipedia page before someone changes it back:

Kenney was born in Oakville, Ontario and raised in Saskatchewan. He graduated from the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, a Catholic, co-educational, boarding high school located in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. He studied philosophy at the St. Ignatius Institute of the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit university in San Francisco, California. However he dropped out before completing his undergraduate degree to begin work in Saskatchewan provincial politics. He did not always want to be a politician. He wanted to be a lumberjack. Leaping from tree to tree, as they float down the mighty rivers of British Columbia. The Giant Redwood. The Larch. The Fir! The mighty Scots Pine! The lofty flowering Cherry! The plucky little Apsen! The limping Roo tree of Nigeria. The towering Wattle of Aldershot! The Maidenhead Weeping Water Plant! The naughty Leicestershire Flashing Oak! The flatulent Elm of West Ruislip! The Quercus Maximus Bamber Gascoigni! The Epigillus! The Barter Hughius Greenus!

With my best buddy by my side, we'd sing! Sing! Sing!

[singing] I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay. I sleep all night and I work all day.

MOUNTIES: He's a lumberjack, and he's okay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

BARBER: I cut down trees. I eat my lunch. I go to the lavatory. On Wednesdays I go shoppin' And have buttered scones for tea.

MOUNTIES: He cuts down trees. He eats his lunch. He goes to the lavatory. On Wednesdays he goes shopping And has buttered scones for tea.

He's a lumberjack, and he's okay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

BARBER: I cut down trees. I skip and jump. I like to press wild flowers. I put on women's clothing And hang around in bars.

MOUNTIES: He cuts down trees. He skips and jumps. He likes to press wild flowers. He puts on women's clothing And hangs around in bars?!

He's a lumberjack, and he's okay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

BARBER: I cut down trees. I wear high heels, Suspendies, and a bra. I wish I'd been a girlie, Just like my dear Papa.

MOUNTIES: He cuts down trees. He wears high heels, Suspendies, and a bra?!

[talking] What's this? Wants to be a girlie?! Oh, My! And I thought you were so rugged! Poofter!...

[singing] He's a lumberjack, and he's okay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

He's a lumberjack, and he's okaaaaay. He sleeps all night and he works all day.

If you're wondering what brought this on, rumor has it that Jason is a screaming closet case. And certainly his removal of gay rights from all mention in the latest edition of the citizenship guide for would-be new Canadians would indicate the clanking presence of something skeletal and pink-tutu-clad doing the Watusi in five-inch heels behind his closet door...as would his priors.

(Heh: The little wanker is on the defensive already. This should be gooooood.)

February 18, 2010

Let's see Peter Kent explain THIS.

Since this report was filed, it's been confirmed that the assassins are, indeed, Mossad agents, and they were traveling under false passports. And there's an even weirder twist:

The Foreign Office was investigating how the identities of six innocent Britons -- at least three of whom lived in Israel -- came to be used by the alleged hit team.

[...]

As police in Dubai released CCTV footage of the suspects, some of the Britons whose identities were stolen voiced their anger after waking up to discover that they had been named in the plot.

"I have not left Israel for two years and I certainly have not been to Dubai recently," said Kent-born Paul Keeley, 42, a builder who has lived on a Kibbutz in northern Israel for the past 15 years.

"When I first heard about this I immediately looked to make sure my passport was still there and it was. It has not been stolen, so I don't know what on earth has happened.

"I woke up this morning and suddenly my life is like an espionage movie. It is all very worrying but I know I have not done anything wrong."

Mr Keeley's mother, Joan, of Yalding, near Maidstone, said the picture released by the Dubai police of a suspect named as "Paul Keeley" was similar to her son, suggesting that his identity had been used because of his resemblance to the alleged assassin.

[...]

The Foreign Office said the British passports were "fraudulent", while the Irish foreign ministry said it had issued "no such passports" in the names used. A spokesman for the government in Berlin said the passport number on the German document was also fake.

Another of the suspects named in Dubai was Harrow-born Melvyn Mildiner, 31, who lives near Jerusalem, and who said he was "angry, upset and scared" to discover that his passport had been forged.

"It's not me, which is one silver lining to this entire story because at least I can point to it and say, 'Look, that's not me.' It's not the picture that I have in my passport and it's not the picture that I have on my face that I walk around with every day," he said.

"I have my passport. It's in my house, and there are no Dubai stamps on it because I've never been to Dubai."

Mr Mildiner, who bears a resemblance to the picture on the forged passport used by the alleged assassin, added: "I don't know how this happened or who chose my name or why, but hopefully we'll find out soon."

The other Britons named in Dubai were Salford-born Stephen Hodes, 37, who works as a physiotherapist at a hospital in Jerusalem; Michael Lawrence Barney, 55, originally of north London, who is also understood to live in Israel; Jonathan Louis Graham, 31, of north London; and James Leonard Clarke, 47, who until recently lived in Brighton.

But what really leapt out at me was this bit near the bottom:

Mossad hit squads were known to have used forged foreign passports. Canada and New Zealand have both had disputes with Israel in recent years over suspected Mossad agents trying to use forged passports on operations.

Even Canada, eh? Pity.

And it's not just Canada. The Emerald Isle is also full of questions now:

The Irish government says the trio of alleged passport-holders identified on Monday in Dubai as Gail Folliard, Evan Dennings and Kevin Daveron do not appear in Ireland's records of legitimate passport-holders.

"We are unable to identify any of those three individuals as being genuine Irish citizens. Ireland has issued no passports in those names," the department said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The Irish government says the passport numbers publicised by Dubai authorities also are counterfeits, because they have the wrong number of digits and contain no letters.

Things that make you (and France, and Germany) go "hmmmm", eh?

There is literally no blow too low for the Mossad to strike, it seems. Interpol also wants a piece of these guys now.

And yet, Peter Kent said just the other day that an attack on Israel is an attack on Canada. Well, Peter? Let's see you explain this. And please, make it a good one. I want to know just how Interpol could possibly be tarred as "anti-Canadian".

Especially since they're going after an Israeli spy organization with a known history of forging Canadian passports.

February 8, 2010

Gaza in Plain Language

A short documentary that lays out what really happened there, and dares to ask why:

No matter how one feels about Israel's right to exist (and I for one think it has one, as does Palestine, in equal measure)--in light of the full facts about the attack on Gaza last year, no one who is truly honest can say it was "self-defence", much less measured.

And isn't it ironic how a nation composed of people who survived one holocaust, has turned around to become a perpetrator of the very crime--genocide--it once swore never to let happen again?

I should also add that what happened in Gaza is deeply un-kosher. And there is no shortage of Jews, in and outside of Israel, who condemn it for that very reason.

February 4, 2010

Headline Howler: Oops, Angus Reid did it again

..."it" being, you guessed it, screwing the pooch.

My friend Anthony, from Sweden, writes:

During the Uruguay campaign last year, I went into Angus Reid a lot to get the latest poll numbers. Today, while trying to find some other poll numbers, I noticed some really stupid things. First of all, an article about Evo Morales on the front page, refering to him as "Despotic Evo". Oh yeah, 'cause trying to save Bolivia from Nazi terrorists from Hungary and Croatia is evil! How dare he go after terrorists...I call outrage! Oy vey..

And then I was searching for "Argentina", trying to find the President's latest poll numbers, after some of the business stories I've read about. And this made me crack the fuck up: "Most Argentines Reject Same-Sex Marriage" and "Most Argentines Support Same-Sex Marriage" - on the same page! I'll give you a screencap, no alterings or whatever.

Here's the pic:

angus-reid-wtf.jpg

And here, for those who are curious, is "Despotic Evo". No mention whatsoever of the fact that he was up against a bunch of wanking crooks who were themselves too cowardly to debate, and whose "campaign" consisted mainly of whining and dumb-fuck publicity stunts, nada más.

Yep, Angus Reid is officially full of fail as a "global monitor". It is nothing but a stinking crapaganda sausage factory.

Any further questions?

February 2, 2010

The Washington Post lies--Haitians want foreign military troops out!

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The other day, I noted that the Washington Post was full of shit regarding Haiti. Today, an item in Aporrea confirms what I suspected: Haiti's poor may want and need aid, but they don't want it at gunpoint...from anywhere:

The opposition to the international military presence in Haiti consists mainly of followers of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ousted in 2004 and 1991 in coups attributed to the influence of Washington, and is based in neighborhoods such as Cité Soleil or Bel Air, where murals of Aristide's face reside alongside graffiti of Bob Marley and Martin Luther King.

"Aristide built everything here, and the Brazilians destroyed it," says a man named Jean, in one of the ruined streets of Bel Air, to a correspondent of the Brazilian newspaper, Folha de São Paulo. The Brazilians form the main contingent of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

One of the main tasks of MINUSTAH has been to disarm groups loyal to Aristide between 2004 and 2007. The Brazilian soldiers "are not our friends. They killed our people," said a director of Popular Masses, Vanel Louis Paul.

Other sectors of the population are more favorable to the presence of MINUSTAH, whose military direction comes from Brazil, but the Folha correspondent underscored that a "radicalized sector" exists, which the international mission is well aware of.

"We will not stop watching closely and with concern the actions of the partisans of Aristide, in spite of the weakness of their position", said the communications chief of the Brazilian battalion of MINUSTAH, Colonel Alan Santos.

Every year on the 28th of February, in Port-au-Prince, Aristide supporters demonstrate, recalling the coup d'état of 2004 and calling for the departure of MINUSTAH. This year, they will be joined by some 5,500 former members of armed groups, who were able to escape from prison in the earthquake of January 12.

The former president is exiled in South Africa, and has demanded to return to Haiti, promising not to run for office in the next presidential elections. However, his party, Fanmi Lavalas, still holds much influence, particularly among the poorest Haitians. "We're all over the country. We are the majority party," asserts the party president, Maryse Narcisse.

The former minister is diplomatic when speaking of the Brazilians, but still has asked for a timetable for their departure, something the UN says will not happen "for many years".

"We can't believe that MINUSTAH will be staying forever. We need international solidarity, but we must have dignity for ourselves," Narcisse said.

Translation mine.

Recall that MINUSTAH has suffered its own blow as a result of the earthquake; the building that housed its headquarters was levelled, and the leader of the mission was killed. Little wonder, then, that Washington decided to send in the Fourth Fleet...to "stabilize" and "secure" Haiti, of course. (And also to make sure that the Cuban/Venezuelan/Dominican/etc. relief efforts are stymied and limited, so that their own star can shine all the brighter. Never mind how little of the cash spent on it actually goes to Haiti.)

Meanwhile, some other foreign invaders--religious, rather than military--are also facing rejection by the Haitian people:

A woman claiming to be the mother of five of the 33 children taken by a US church group intending to remove them illegally from Haiti last Saturday, came to the local police on Monday and said she was sorry for having handed over the children.

The woman, who gave her name as Magonie, made the statement at the Judicial Police Centre (a provisional seat of the Government of Haiti) in the company of others who also said they were mothers of some of the children, and told journalists they thought their children would be better off with the US citizens.

"I gave them to the pastor (who headed the group) so he would give them a better life, but now I'm sorry I did it," said the woman, moments before police officers took her inside to make an official statement.

Translation, again, mine.

The article goes on to note that Haiti's judicial system is still in place (shocking, eh?) and that a government minister demanded that it be respected. Also that the children being taken had no official documents, and therefore were definitely being removed illegally from the country (and, it turns out, their still living parents.)

There are all kinds of hinky things about this account of supposed do-gooders trying to give poor kids a better life, but the one that leaps out most at me is the claim that they were supposedly being taken to an orphanage--still under construction--in the Dominican Republic. Why house homeless kids in an unfinished compound in another country, especially if they're not really orphans?

Again, it's just one more example of "aid" that really isn't. And that isn't anything except shameless opportunism in disguise. The sort of thing, in short, that deserves loud boos from everyone, even in the US itself.

Especially there.

January 26, 2010

Again with the ArsyTV...

pobrecitos-rctv-sambil.jpg

"Those poor little owners of Sambil and RCTV..." Hey, is that sarcasm I hear emanating from the slums?

Once more, the entire English-speaking media world has Teh Stoopid when it comes to Venezuela. Why else would even the Beeb misreport this?

RCTV International was among six cable channels shut for failing to carry Mr Chavez's speeches live as required.

Meanwhile, Vice President Ramon Carrizalez has resigned.

Mr Carrizalez, who also held the defence minister's post, said on Monday that he was stepping down, citing personal reasons.

"My resignation is not the result of any discrepancy with government decisions, and any other version about my reasons for resigning is false and malicious," he said.

Mr Carrizalez's wife, Environment Minister Yubiri Ortega, has also left her post.

Their resignations came as protesters, overwhelmingly students, took to the streets to oppose the decision to take several cable channels off air.

In the capital Caracas, police fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators who were trying to march on the headquarters of the state-run telecommunications agency.

"Freedom of expression is a right that we all embrace, and it must be defended," Alejandro Perdomo,19, told the Associated Press.

"One, two, three, Chavez you're struck out," demonstrators chanted, using sporting terminology in baseball-mad Venezuela to refer to a range of problems, including rising crime, the devaluation of the currency and electricity shortages.

In Merida, a pro-Chavez supporter was killed in clashes, officials said.

Notice some interesting things in there? I did:

1. They linked some unrelated things--namely, two (married) government ministers resigning for personal reasons--to the "closure" (which is actually only temporary and in line with Venezuelan law) of RCTV. Why? This makes it look as though the RCTV situation has unleashed a political crisis in Venezuela. (It hasn't, actually--it's a tempest in a teapot, but you'd never know it to read a typical English report!)

2. They only interview anti-Chávez students, and then in terms that make them look like they're in favor of freedom of speech (more on this bullshit later);

3. They don't devote more than a single line to the death of Yorsiño "Calcibón" Carrillo, whose name they couldn't even be bothered to publish. Yet they had no problem giving a name (and thus, a face and human status) to the anti-Chavista student, Alejandro Perdomo, who is still alive and unharmed. Doesn't that rather trivialize the death of Yorsiño Carrillo, or make it look as if his life is somehow worth less than that of Alejandro Perdomo? It does to me. Shit, even Reuters did better--albeit briefly so.

4. They're treating several unrelated, at times out of government control (such as the drought and the resulting need to ration electricity), irritating but hardly crisis-provoking problems as though these could be the downfall of Chávez. (They won't--his domestic popularity remains at 60% in spite of everything--but again, you'd never get that impression reading the anglo media.) In this, they're taking their lead from the oppos and their media mouthpieces--and the oppo students, who are always being trotted out as cannon fodder to make it look like something horrible and repressive is going on. Meanwhile, when a Chavista dies, it's treated as no biggie.

Some perspective would be in order, no? Well, fortunately, for that, you've got li'l ol' me.

Here's a little video showing just how much freedom of speech the oppos actually have when they claim not to have any:

An unauthorized oppo student demonstration arrives at the headquarters of VTV, Channel 8, the Venezuelan national public TV channel. They demand to be let inside, and in the end, five of them are. They get to speak personally with VTV president Yuri Pimentel. This is, by the way, unprecedented--Chavista students have never been allowed to speak personally with the presidents, managers or owners of any of the private, pro-opposition media in the country. But in the meantime, we get treated to some 20 minutes of oppo whining, overtalking of the channel's legal consultant (María Alejandra Díaz), and ear-torture about how horrible it is, how there's no freedom of speech, how Mario Silva (the host of the popular nightly program, La Hojilla) is calling for violence and should be taken off the air, etc., etc. ad nauseam.

Incidentally, Mario Silva does not engage in "violent discourse", as the oppo kid who hogs the camera above is insinuating. I've been following that show for quite some time, and never heard him say anything to the effect that there should be violence against the opposition. He does, however, not hesitate to point out when the oppos are being violent and/or calling for the death of the elected president:

Here, for example, he shows how Globovisión censors its own reporting when something unflattering to the opposition crops up--namely, a journalist named Oscar Yánez (with white mustache) who makes overt death threats against President Chávez during an opposition media forum. As soon as the talking heads realize what's going on, they get ordered to talk over him. Then, when a woman named Daniela Bergami, general manager of RCTV, gets up on the podium and politely chastises Yánez for his inappropriate remarks, again they cut her off. And then, in the screen behind the talking heads, you can see Yánez get up again, grab the mike from the next speaker, and unleash a barrage of (unheard) insults against her. When the producers of the show realize what's going on, they remove the forum from the screen altogether and replace it with the show logo.

And that's not the only thing the oppo media does; they also use the airwaves to create terror where none exists, by reporting "violence" that isn't actually happening. Sometimes, the end result is unexpectedly funny:

Here, host Nitu Pérez Osuna gets her ideological rug pulled out from under her by a spokeswoman for the private Andrés Bello Catholic University. Pérez Osuna claims that a helicopter belonging to the Venezuelan national guard was firing against the students; vice-rector Silvana Campagnaro denies this, saying that there have been helicopters overhead monitoring the situation, but no shots fired. Other than a few students in the infirmary recovering from exposure to tear gas, there are no injuries to report. Pérez Osuna has to change her tune to one of reassurance, instead of the panic she had set out to create. To her credit, she does it seamlessly!

And finally, here's a little something you're definitely not going to hear from the media up here:

...namely, oppo students thanking the management at evil, wicked, state propaganda channel VTV for receiving them and engaging in friendly, polite discussions.

I'd say they got more than enough freedom of speech there, wouldn't you?

January 22, 2010

Quotable: Thomas Jefferson on corporate "personhood"

"I hope we shall...crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of our country."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Logan, November 12, 1816

(Kudos to Ryan Blackhawke for posting that to Facebook!)

January 20, 2010

Opus Dei: A Silent Crusade

Video in Spanish. A 2005 documentary about the secretive cult-within-Catholicism, Opus Dei, and specifically, its inordinate political and economic influence in Chile.

Opus Dei, also known as La Obra (The Work) in Spanish, was founded in 1928 in Spain by a right-wing priest who has since been canonized. This strange sect, which promotes itself heavily as a "personal spiritual path", flourished in Franco's fascist Spain, thanks to its affinity for the authoritarian and reactionary piety of those Catholics who supported Franco. It is active today in many countries throughout the world (and yes, Canada is among them, unfortunately.) But it was particularly prominent--even instrumental--in Pinochet's fascist Chile.

To this day, the sect exercises an influence beyond the proportion of its members in Chilean society, but the influence is curiously lopsided: La Obra favors and rewards the rich, the powerful and the ultra-pious. Its membership is divided into two basic categories: "numeraries", who remain unmarried and dedicate their lives and entire incomes to the "Work", much like nuns or monks but without the habits and convents (many live, instead, in houses largely indistinguishable, outwardly, from ordinary family homes), and "supernumeraries", who typically marry and have large families, and bring their children up to be members of the sect also. ("Supernumeraries", often heading up wealthy and powerful families, are the Quiverfulls of the cult, one might say.)

One can't help noticing in this documentary that the "numeraries" tend to come from much humbler backgrounds than the "supernumeraries", and their positions in the cult tend to reflect this. Dedicated "numeraries" live ascetically, flagellating themselves and mortifying their flesh in order to recall the torments of Christ on the cross. They tend to work in a subservient capacity; many are menials in Opus Dei houses. (Women are disproportionately represented among these; sexism is rampant in the cult, and is excused/enforced with thinly disguised variations on the usual sin-of-Eve twaddle.)

All "numeraries" are taught from an early age not to aspire above the social station into which they were born. "Class warfare" is a mortal sin to the cult, so you will also not find labor unionists among its members--nor, for that matter, anyone espousing free thought and freedom of conscience (the "free market", however, is a notable exception, and reserved for powerful and wealthy "supernumeraries"--after all, they have to maintain the class order, and the coffers of the "Work", somehow).

"Supernumeraries" are not nearly as ascetic, although a certain degree of rigid mental discipline is still there; daily attendance at Mass is de rigueur. Social and political conservatism characterize them. Many are active in business and politics, where they seek to impose their reactionary tendencies covertly. The well-to-do ones are apparently not discouraged, however, from indulging in such blatant worldly luxuries as golf, complete with caddies ("numeraries", by any chance? It wouldn't surprise me...)

As long as there is no movement toward level playing fields, other than for soccer at the expensive private schools, apparently this double standard goes unnoticed--or at least, unchallenged from within the movement. From without, it has been increasingly questioned in recent years (most notably as a result of the runaway success of Dan Brown's novels), to the point where Opus Dei now has "opened its doors" and co-opted the media, turning them into unpaid propagandists for the sect. (You can find a particularly cloying array of pro-Opus videos here. View at your own risk.)

Opus Dei is the polar opposite of the progressive current within Catholicism known as Liberation Theology, and liberation theologians are anathema in all Opus Dei schools and colleges. You will not find, say, Leonardo Boff or Hans Küng on their library shelves, though you'll find a great many other things, including ultra-orthodox works lauding Fr. Josemaría Escrivá, the controversially-canonized founder of the "Work". If you want to know exactly what or whom the Vatican considers kosher, you need look no further than Opus Dei--any theologian who was silenced by the current pope back when he was head inquisitor is automatically excluded from the Opus Dei canon.

What really struck me in this documentary, looking at the members of the organization, is how very cultish they are, and how strangely alike their facial expressions, as though they had beaten all true individuality out of themselves. Their consciences do not truly belong to them; the rigors of their daily practice have seen to that. While they look benign enough on the surface, and talk very earnestly about love for their fellow man, you don't have to scratch very hard to find something scary about them. Even the children already have that fanatical light in their eyes, and that incurious orthodoxy of thought that one can recognize in any cult where extremely controlling leaders tell you how to do everything, right up to and including how to flog yourself with a whip of knotted cords. (That last is a scourge which Jesus himself, a liberationist if ever there was one, only used to drive out the moneychangers from the Temple--an irony utterly lost on the Opus Dei cultists!)

Little wonder, then, that Opus Dei is a thread that ties together capitalism, religious conservatism and fascism. The mental distortions it creates are the very kind necessary to sustain the head-spinning cognitive dissonance it took for Spaniards to accept the dissolution of the democratic Republic, and for so many Chileans to avert their eyes from the blatant human-rights abuses of the oh-so-pious Augusto Pinochet. Like the dying Opus Dei priest who narrates Roberto Bolaño's novel, By Night in Chile, the members of the sect all have a bad case of tunnel vision which, if challenged hard enough by reality but not softened in advance by an ability to question authority, will lead to mental breakdown.

January 17, 2010

Music for a Sunday: Haiti

"Haiti is here. Haiti is not here."

Full lyrics, and translation, here.

BTW, these lyrics, referring to racial injustice in Haiti and Brazil, are especially appropriate in light of a scandal concerning a Haitian diplomat in Brazil a couple of days ago:

The Haitian consul in São Paulo, George Samuel Antoine, not knowing that his microphone was open, commented before a journalistic interview that the earthquake "would be good for" his country, because thanks to it, "we are now more recognized". The diplomat blamed the ills of his country on the fact that "every place where there are Africans is fucked".

The consul also blamed the earthquake on macumba, the religion practiced by a majority of Haitians in spite of official Catholicism: "I believe that because of all this practice of macumba, we don't know if it's that. Africans are cursed in and of themselves."

Upon learning that his words, spoken in confidentiality to an investigator, had been recorded, the diplomat became very nervous and excused himself, saying that he could not speak Portuguese very well, and had been misinterpreted. However, he has been living in Brazil for 35 years, since 1975.

By way of apology, Antoine also recalled that his grandfather, born in Africa, was president of Haiti in the late 19th century, and being so nervous as a result of the earthquake in his country, he managed to avoid getting into an argument.

Throughout the interview, Antoine fingered a rosary. "It's to calm my nerves and receive positive energy," he said.

In Brazil, it is hoped that the government of Haiti takes a firm position on the matter, seeing that this is an offence not only against that country, but against all Africans.

Translation mine.

The reason this is so scandalous should be obvious.

In Brazil, as in Haiti, black slavery, though abolished, still works its malign influence to the present day in the form of racism (and in some cases, de facto slavery still).

A great many Brazilians--some estimate a majority--are mulattoes, although the higher up the class order you go, the less African and more European faces you'll see. It is possible for many a middle-class Brazilian to look white and still carry a lot of "black" blood, as Caetano Veloso does. But he is just as much a mulatto as his friend and collaborator in the song, Gilberto Gil, who looks more black.

In Haiti, as El Duderino reminds us, "black" is supposed to be a deracialized term (under the Haitian constitution), and even white-skinned permanent residents of the land are referred to as "blacks", in a radical interracial solidarity and a vehement rejection of the old slave-order of things. When all are black, all are equal, goes the reasoning; no one gets to lord anything over his neighbor, no matter what color. And no one gets to own another person outright, as chattel. To be a Haitian "black" is to be free, or so it should be.

Yet the racism of colonial times persists in the mentality of many. It is an internalized racism, and even a man of known African heritage can and does let it slip from time to time, as Mr. Antoine has done. The fear and mistrust of macumba, or Voudou, plays into this mindset; it is both racist and superstitious, since Voudounsis (practitioners) are largely peaceful and in fact have maintained the religion as a direct tie back to Africa, as well as a means of gaining liberty for Haiti (and by extension, the rest of the Americas). The fact that Voudou is syncretic is also proof of its peaceful nature; it signals a reconciliation of Catholic saints (bequeathed by white colonists) with African spirits, ancestors and deities. Voudounsis pray to both in the same breath and in the same ceremonies; in fact, they recognize that the "two" are one. The power summoned in the practice of Voudou is personal and can also be political, giving the practitioner the strength that a long struggle for liberty demands.

And that's why this internalized-racist statement of Africans being "cursed" and "fucked" by macumba is so offensive. It directly insults the entire Haitian (and Brazilian) struggle against slavery and racism--a struggle that still goes on to this day.

Haiti is here. Haiti is not here.

January 14, 2010

Ah, that "civil society" of the Venezuelan opposition...

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Such class! Such manners! Such elegance and eloquence! Such incorruptible parliamentary decorum! Yes, this is the way Venezuela should be governed in the glorious future when it is finally free of that odious "21st Century Socialism", and these are just the people to get rid of that nasty-wasty dictator Chávez...

The elections for municipal-chamber directors in Lagunillas and Machiques, in the state of Zulia, became scenes of confrontation and fist-fighting between members of the parties Acción Democrática, Primero Justicia, COPEI and Un Nuevo Tiempo. All parties were members of the so-called Democratic Unity Committee, according to the Wednesday edition of the Diario VEA newspaper.

In Lagunillas, the brawl between members of Un Nuevo Tiempo and COPEI left 30 persons injured, and a tear-gas canister was launched by the firefighters of Ciudad Ojeda in order to force the evacuation of the building.

Two councillors of the COPEI party and the mayor, Eduin Pirela, of Acción Democrática, were injured in the fighting and were later taken to private clinics.

Similar things occurred in Machiques, where groups of Acción Democrática and Primero Justicia members squared off over a violation of internal regulations of debate, in which the AD members attempted to impose the nomination of one of their members.

These events took place amid calls for the fragmented Venezuelan opposition to maintain unity amongst themselves in order to win seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Translation mine.

Looks like they're totally onto a winning unity strategy there. Keep it up, oppos! I'm pullin' for ya. We're all in this together. Keep yer sticks on the ice...hahahahahahahahaha...

December 30, 2009

Economics for Dummies: Capitalism + golf + scandal = ?

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O Eldrick*, what hast thou wrought, forsooth?

The sex scandal that engulfed Tiger Woods may have cost shareholders of companies endorsed by the world's No. 1 golfer up to $12 billion in losses, according to a study by two economics professors from the University of California, Davis.

The study, released on Monday by researchers Victor Stango and Christopher Knittel, gave an estimate for damage to the market value of Woods' main sponsors caused by revelations of alleged extramarital affairs that surfaced after he was involved in a minor car accident outside his Florida home on November 27.

"We estimate that shareholders of Tiger Woods' sponsors lost $5-12 billion after his car accident, relative to shareholders of firms that Mr. Woods does not endorse," the researchers wrote, adding that millions of shareholders were affected.

Linkage added.

Millions of shareholders.

Sit back and let that sink in for a bit.

Done soaking? All righty then:

In their study, the two professors said they looked at stock market returns for the 13 trading days after November 27, the date of the car incident that ignited the Woods scandal.

They compared returns for Woods' sponsors during this period to those of both the total stock market and of each sponsor's closest competitor. They also reviewed returns for four years before the car accident to build up a comparative picture of the sponsors' market performance.

[...]

Overall, Knittel and Stango concluded that the scandal reduced shareholder value in the sponsor companies by 2.3 percent, or about $12 billion.

They called the results statistically significant and said the overall pattern of losses at the parent companies was unlikely to stem from ordinary day-to-day variation in their stock prices."

"...unlikely to stem from ordinary day-to-day variation in their stock prices."

Once more, sit back and soak that up, kiddies.

And when you're done with that, ask yourselves: Is it wise to "let the markets decide"? Especially if you're one of the millions who lost money thanks to the indiscretions of the all-too-priapic Mr. Woods?

I can't tell you exactly what to do next (that, as always, is up to you, kids), but it may be prudent to reconsider two things held dear in Conservolandia: One, the reliance on markets for your well-being, instead of a proper social safety net; two, belief in the whole "family values", squeaky-clean image thing. Obviously, neither of them has served certain parties here.

And for the record: I divested myself of both stocks long ago, folkies.

*Tiger's real name, according to Bartcop. Bartcop also calls him "Tiger Woo", and now we can see why.

December 28, 2009

Goodbye, Blue Monday...

Excuse me, the Internets have an announcement to make:

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Damn. I never even knew there WAS such a thing, and now it's been cancelled on me!

I think I need a drink.

Oh, and speaking of "need a drink", read this and weep in thy beer, O my friend and neighbor to the south of us:

Here are a few truths: First, we've been living in a one-dollar, one-vote corporatized democracy for a long time. If this is news to you, then you're probably also shocked to learn that the U.S. Constitution, by awarding two senators to each of what H.L. Mencken called "the cow states" -- no insult to the cows in my own barn -- was deliberately crafted to make fundamental change difficult. Who made "moderates" like Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Joe Lieberman of Aetna mini-presidents? Alas, the founding fathers did.

Living in such a polity, anybody who thought entrenched interests like the insurance, pharmaceutical and hospital industries weren't going to find ways to make money off healthcare reform probably wasn't paying attention back at the beginning, when Obama said that despite the abstract appeal of a Canadian-style single-payer system, it was a political non-starter.

Really, Gene? Really, Barack? Our single-payer system up here, which is popular with nine out of ten of us, and which could bring down even a majority Conservative government if it ever foolishly tried to gut it, is just an "abstract" one? You "free", "independent" Yanks are that powerless against the corporations down there? Or are you just that cowardly? What do you have a government for, if not to put a leash on those snarling, dog-eating dogs, and muzzle them?

Oh, I get it. The dogs are the ones holding the leash in the United States of Amnesia, and with a wad of Benjamins, they muzzle YOU.

Spare us the old Soviet Union jokes, we've heard them all before.

Good thing Tommy Douglas is a-moldering in his grave, or he'd chew your asses up so badly, you'd never sit down again. He faced as much pressure from the forces of "free market medicine" as any US president ever could, but he didn't back down. Even when doctors went on strike in Saskatchewan, he just brought in doctors from elsewhere who were willing to take up the slack until those misguided MDs realized their mistake and came into the fold.

In Venezuela, it was so bad that Chavecito brought in Cuban doctors, as did Evo in Bolivia. Both of them had the gonads to go up against the oligarchs of their respective countries and do it, just as Tommy Douglas had the gonads to do here.

So, Barack, where are YOUR 'nads at?

And sorry, Gene, but imperfection is NOT a start...except to an even bigger débâcle down the road. Forcing fellow-citizens to buy insurance they couldn't afford in the first place is not going to provide them with the care they need. It will, however, help ensure that they can't afford a house, or a car, or maybe even food and clothing. All of which they're gonna need before they need a doctor or a hospital.

No, this gradualist approach is NOT going to lead to gradual improvements. It's going to lead to people avoiding care for as long as they can, until an emergency drives them to it.

And you can never underestimate the stupid stubbornness, or the stubborn stupidity, of a conservative, either. They WILL hold out until an emergency, or death, whichever comes first. They will spend the duration of their nasty, brutish and short lives muttering under their breath about how hard they work for their money, and about the dangers of relying on Big Government.

And for once they may be right, although not the way in which they think they are. In the US, government is beholden to Big Money. All US governments, Democratic or Republican, are conservative that way. Even FDR didn't make good on his early impulse to de-fang Wall Street! And a government beholden to moneyed interests is a government doomed to the distrust of its own citizens no matter their political affiliations. That distrust, of course, is richly deserved, because the citizens are the ones who will be left out in the cold. Unless, mirabile dictu, the government grows a spine and tells Big Money to go screw. And understands that it will have to fight--REALLY fight--for what's right.

Tommy Douglas saw that coming when he took the plunge in Saskatchewan, and did what the progressives of that province elected him to do. No gradualism for him; he knew what was right. He didn't go halfsies, and neither should anyone else whose intention it is to provide universal healthcare.

Now, I REALLY need a drink.

December 26, 2009

Since when does Santa's sleigh come with missiles?

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Kiddies, help your weak-eyed Auntie Bina out. Does that look like a sleigh to you? Nope...no reindeer. But what are those black things under the wings? Sure look like missiles to me...AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, if I'm not mistaken.

Respected Venezuelan journalist Eleazar Díaz Rangel picks apart the Colombian defence minister's snippy comments about another big, red-clad, real-life Santa Claus. Story from Ultimas Notícias, via Aporrea:

After the declarations of Colombian defence minister Gabriel Silva, and those of General Freddy Padilla, who denied all responsibility for the denounced incursion of an unmanned military plane over military targets in the Venezuelan state of Zulia, news agencies reported: "Neither Silva nor Padilla clarified whether any Colombian military bases had equipment like that described by the President of Venezuela, nor whether they received it as part of the co-operation agreements with the United States."

The two high-level functionaries did not dare to deny the existence of unmanned planes in any of the seven bases now controlled by the US, nor did they make any reference to whether Colombia had received any such aircraft.

Among unmanned drone planes, the RQ-1/MQ-1 Predator, built by General Atomics to replace the F-16 Falcon in 2001, stands out. The plane weighs about 500 kilos, can stay aloft for up to 24 hours, and cover thousands of kilometres.

This new craft, along with carrying out reconnaissance missions, "has the offensive capacity of carrying two Hellfire missiles", which it can fire with great precision.

According to the manufacturer's promotional material, on one occasion, in Iraq, in response to an attack by Iraqi rebels in a zone where US forces could not enter, a Predator plane located the target and, in order not to destroy the building where the sniper was hiding, fired a missile through a window and thus hit its mark.

Planes like these are currently being used in Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq, and were also used in Bosnia, Serbia and Yemen in the past. Their missiles have a range of up to 7 km. Germany has the Luna X 2000 drone; in Spain several models are being tested (Alba, Alo, Diana and Siva); Ecuador acquired several Searchers, with 20 hours of flight time at 200 km/h.

Former Venezuelan defence minister Gen. Raúl Baduel announced on January 31, 2007, that since the US embargo on military sales to Venezuela, "military aviation advanced a project on unmanned planes". In Argentina, the "Guardian" is currently under development.

With Predator drones, which are surely controlled and directed by US militaries from the ground, if it were true that Colombian intelligence knew the exact location of guerrilla chiefs alleged to be in Venezuela, they would not have had to use an air attack like the one on March 1 of 2008, when a FARC camp in Ecuador was bombed using an air-launched missile, whose advantage was surely that it did not leave behind any "footprints" to betray its origins.

It is said that those which Colombia has can only fly up to 40 kilometres.

Translation mine. Linkage added.

Kiddies, your Auntie Bina is gonna go waaaaaaayyyyy out on a limb here and conjecture that if you believe in the 40-kilometre-range of Colombian missiles or drones, especially in light of those seven gringo bases, you might as well believe in Santa Claus.

And ditto if you think this is all harmless, or just part of the War on Drugs.

December 20, 2009

Honduras: Shit you couldn't make up if you tried

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Two lovely items about Central America's luvverliest faux-democracy I simply had to share with you. First, this one from Aporrea, by Jean-Guy Allard:

The putschist Honduran leader, Roberto Micheletti, was declared a "national hero" on December 18 by the Civic Union for Peace and Democracy of Honduras for "his search for peace", according to putschist media.

The far-right politician, who directed the expulsion from the country of the constitutional president, Manuel Zelaya, and ordered the army to open fire on defenseless protesters, was pleased about the award and publicly thanked the organization.

The "Unión Cívica Democrática de Honduras", or UCD, is a creation of the "civil society participation" arm of USAID, the US State Department agency which subsidizes political interference through covert intelligence operations and destabilization efforts.

With the title of "national hero", the organization presented a metal plaque to the dictator in a special ceremony held at the presidential palace. The plaque was inscribed: "For our national hero, president Roberto Micheletti, with admiration and affection."

"Today we recognize Mr. Micheletti, who assumed with much dignity the role of national hero of Honduras and defender of peace, freedom and democracy," said the co-ordinator of the UCD, deputy Armida Villeda, who personally benefited from the favors of the putschist leader on multiple opportunities.

Giving thanks for the "prize", Micheletti thanked "the people and the friends who thought I deserved a recognition of this nature".

A few hours before the coup, demonstrators from the UCD, led by the same Armida Villeda, demanded the removal of OAS observers assigned to the referendum called by President Zelaya over the question of constitutional reform.

Immediately after the coup, on June 28, the UCD took the "initiative" to organize a demonstration in favor of the military and Micheletti, while a campaign of terror unfolded against the supporters of the expelled president.

Ironically, the UCD defines itself as "a group of social organizations with one thing in common: to detect, analyze and expose threats to the rule of law in Honduras".

According to investigator Eva Golinger, the UCD is a coalition which unites, among others, right-wing organizations, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP), the National Federation of Commerce and Industries of Honduras (FEDECAMARA), the Association of Communications Media (AMC), and the student group, Generation X Change.

For the fiscal year 2009, USAID contributed some $47 million US to organizations and groups in Honduras. Strange as it seems, the country with the most incoherent electoral system in the world provides technical assistance, among other things, to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) of Honduras, "for effective and transparent carrying-out of its responsibilities." The TSE has been one of the most loyal supporters of the usurper Micheletti in the operation that made a mockery of public opinion upon his illegal assumption of power.

Translation mine.

Then, this one from Spain's Público:

If you ever wondered how to win a Nobel Peace Prize, this is a good year to get an answer to that question. You can choose between waging a war, or bringing down a government by way of a coup d'état. Ever since the president of the United States, Barack Obama, won this award, it seems that any candidate is a valid one.

That's what they must be thinking in the Honduran Francisco Morazán Organization and Americas Democracy Watch, who have begun a signature-collecting campaign in support of the candidacy of the putschist "de facto president" of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

The activists of this Latin American community in Miami, Florida, have already informed of their intention to present the signatures formally to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, an institution named by the Norwegian parliament.

Micheletti has been occupying the presidency of Honduras since the coup d'état of June 28 of this year, when he ousted the elected president, Manuel Zelaya, who still remains in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.

If they agree to the petition of these organizations, the Norwegian parliamentarians will place Micheletti at the level of the only four Latin Americans to have won the prize: Carlos Saavedra Lamas (Argentina, 1936), Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (Argentina, 1980), Oscar Arias (Costa Rica, 1987) and Rigoberta Menchú (Guatemala, 1992).

Again, translation mio. Linkage added, so that you can see just what august company would be sullied by the inclusion of Gorilletti among the ranks of Nobel Peace prizewinners. BTW, Pérez Esquivel and Menchú have both come out in favor of a much worthier recipient, who's been snubbed at least twice now: Evo Morales of Bolivia.

I wonder, too, if USAID had anything to do with this astroturfer who flung bat guano at me on Facebook. The "group" it mentions certainly has that odor about it...

Whoever's behind it, though, I have to say that this really is the height of arrogance and absurdity. Prizes for crowning himself king of Honduras? Hmmm, where have I seen that before?

Actually, never. But this guy from Venezuela might well have been in the same boat, had he not lasted a mere 48 hours in power:

(Yes, the audio is fake. It's a spoof, using the coronation of the king of Spain by the dictator Franco for a soundtrack.)

BTW, the dictator from Venezuela is squatting in Miami right now, along with all those people who think the Honduran putsch was just groovy and worthy of a Nobel nom. Nice place, Miami; all the scum of Latin America has a funny way of washing ashore there sooner or later. Must be those ocean currents...

December 15, 2009

Oh crap, the world DIDN'T end, after all.

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Dang, dang, walla walla bing bang.

Another Great Disappointment! I have a feeling 2012 will be no better when it comes...

PS: What ass-ugly sites all these rapturists have. Guess they think it won't matter because they're not long for this world anyway. No wonder Jesus isn't rapturing them--he's afraid they'll redecorate Heaven, and badly.

Sexual harassment is a constant problem, say Arab women

This Al-Jazeera report is two years old. So what's changed in the meantime? Apparently, nothing:

Activists from 17 countries across the region met in Cairo for a two-day conference ending Monday and concluded that harassment was unchecked across the region because laws don't punish it, women don't report it and the authorities ignore it.

The harassment, including groping and verbal abuse, is a daily experience women in the region face and makes them wary of going into public spaces, whether it's the streets or jobs, the participants said. It happens regardless of what women are wearing.

With more and more women in schools, the workplace and politics, roles have changed but often traditional attitudes have not. Experts said in some places, like Egypt, harassment appears sometimes to be out of vengeance, from men blaming women for denied work opportunities.

Men blaming women? That sounds awfully familiar. We already know what extreme behaviors that can lead to.

But even in its less extreme forms, sexism is a constant, life-ruining problem--and for the very women who cover themselves up the most, at that:

Amal Madbouli, who wears the conservative face veil or niqab, told The Associated Press that despite her dress, she is harassed and described how a man came after her in the streets of her neighborhood.

"He hissed at me and kept asking me if I wanted to go with him to a quieter area, and to give him my phone number," said Madbouli, a mother of two. "This is a national security issue. I am a mother, and I want to be reassured when my daughters go out on the streets."

So much for the assertion that hijabs protect the virtue of a modest woman. I've long known (from experience, yet) that the worst threat to a woman's safety isn't immodesty on her part, but harassment on the part of a man who thinks he's entitled to whatever he can grab. And that sense of entitlement runs deep and wide in the very countries where women are the most covered-up. Covering isn't protecting them; if anything, it's like a beacon proclaiming to harassers who feel that women have no place in public life: Hey! There's a woman here!

How bad is the problem? Here are some stats:

As many as 90 percent of Yemeni women say they have been harassed, while in Egypt, out of a sample of 1,000, 83 percent reported being verbally or physically abused.

A study in Lebanon reported that more than 30 percent of women said they had been harassed there.

Notice that the stricter cultures have higher rates of reported harassment than those where veiling is less common. Not quite what you might expect if you think modesty is the Great Defender, eh?

Rape and other overtly lewd acts are criminalized, but that doesn't mean much when it comes to "lesser" harassments. And often, culture facilitates things for the harasser, while placing burden after burden on the woman:

Abul Komsan described how one of the victims of harassment she interviewed told her she had taken on the full-face veil to stave off the hassle.

"She told me 'I have put on the niqab. By God, what more can I do so they leave me alone,'" she said, quoting the woman. Some even said they were reconsidering going to work or school because of the constant harassment in the streets and on public transpiration.

Where segregation between the sexes is the norm and women are sheltered by religious or tribal customs, cases of sexual harassment are still common at homes and in the times when women must venture out, whether to markets, hospitals or government offices.

In Yemen, where nearly all women are covered from head to toe, activist Amal Basha said 90 percent of women in a published study reported harassment, specifically pinching.

"The religious leaders are always blaming the women, making them live in a constant state of fear because out there, someone is following them," she said.

If a harassment case is reported in Yemen, Basha added, traditional leaders interfere to cover it up, remove the evidence or terrorize the victim.

In Saudi Arabia, another country where women cover themselves completely and are nearly totally segregated from men in public life, women report harassment as well, according to Saudi activist Majid al-Eissa.

His organization, the National Family Safety Program, has been helping draft a law criminalizing violence against women in the conservative kingdom, where flirting can often cross the line into outright assault. Discussion of the law begins Tuesday.

"It will take time especially in this part of the world to absorb the gender mixture and the role each gender can play in society," he said. "We are coping with changes (of modern life), except in our minds."

And that's precisely where the change needs to happen. In the minds of the men. It had to happen here, and it's still very much a work in progress, as my most recent "Wankers" list confirms. Progressives combat the problem; conservatives protect and entrench it. The obvious answer, then, is not more conservatism in dress or actions; it's progress and social change. And the men are the ones who need to change the most.

Meanwhile, women's self-defence classes (I suggest Wen-Do) are a must. Men tend to think twice about doing it again if a woman lashes back. That alone is a good start to the mind-changing thing. If martial-arts classes for women were offered in Arab countries, I bet they'd be very well attended.

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...

December 11, 2009

Can we call Colombia a failed state yet?

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I mean, this many dead, in one grave, this year alone...it's kind of telling, isn't it?

During a visit by a British delegation of parliamentarians and union leaders, the remains of 2,000 persons were found in a mass grave in La Macarena.

According to current information, it is impossible to identify any of the victims.

Jairo Ramírez, spokesman of the Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, told Caracol Radio that forced disappearances are still occurring in Colombia.

According to Ramírez, several of those found in the mass grave were killed this year.

Translation mine.

Just to put things in a bit of perspective, three thousand desaparecidos were killed in Chile during the reign of Pinochet. That's just one thousand more than were found in this one grave in Colombia. An estimated thirty thousand is the number most commonly attributed to the Argentine military junta of 1976-83. How long has Colombia's civil war (and its offshoot drug-gang wars) been raging now? Five decades at least.

Two thousand is an awful lot for one mass grave alone in Colombia, and it's not the only one.

Meanwhile, for a further bit of perspective, let's look at a neighboring country...namely Ecuador, which got the Colombian treatment in March of last year:

"The strategic intelligence processed from the Manta base was fundamental for the pursuit and location of Raúl Reyes, who was a priority target for the government of Colombia," reads a report from the Truth and Transparency Commission created in Quito this past March.

According to the document, the treaty between Ecuador and the United States concerning the Manta base "for control of narcotrafficking, overstepped its stated ends". The investigation also found that the US financing of Ecuador for the presumed co-operation in the War on Drugs "determined the submission" of its security organisms.

On the other hand, the commission ruled out all relations between President Correa and the FARC, in contradiction to the Colombian government's claims. Last weekend, Correa responded to the contents of a book written by the Colombian ex-minister of defence, Juan Manuel Santos, assuring that Santos lied about the alleged ties between the government of Ecuador and the FARC.

"The ex-minister Santos, poor man, keeps lying to us," said Correa of Santos' book, "Checkmate to Terror", which tells the tale of the Uribe government against the armed group.

Again, translation mine.

Isn't it funny how intelligence processed at a US base in Ecuador--was used in a bombing of Ecuadorian turf? And isn't it funny how the bombers came from Colombia, where the US is now installing the seven bases it "needs" to replace the one that bad, bad Rafael Correa, damn his Ecuadorable little ass, isn't letting them use anymore to arrange further bombings of Ecuador, along with Venezuela and assorted peasant villages in the Colombian jungles?

And yet, Colombia is supposedly a model democracy, and Venezuela and Ecuador are the regional bad guys.

Go figure.

December 10, 2009

How very convenient...

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Why are these mothers still marching? Because justice has not been served...and their children are still missing.

Isn't it funny how many repressors from the dictatorial age of the Argentine junta are getting away with murder--literally? Look who's going to miss his own trial:

The repressor Alfredo Astiz was admitted to the Naval hospital in Buenos Aires, 24 hours before the beginning of the trial for the Task Force which operated in the Navy Mechanics' School (ESMA) during the last military dictatorship.

Astiz was transferred from the Marcos Paz penitentiary, where he was in preventive custody, due to an apparent complication of a kidney tumor.

The hospitalization of Astiz makes it unlikely that he will be present for the opening of the trial which Oral Tribunal No. 5 (TOF 5) will begin on Friday for 19 repressors, for crimes against humanity committed at the ESMA.

Among the 19 who will be tried, along with Astiz, are Jorge "El Tigre" Acosta, Antonio Pernías, Jorge Rádice, Juan Carlos Rolón, Carlos Capdevilla, and Ricardo Miguel Cavallo.

Among the crimes for which they will be tried are the kidnapping and disappearance of the journalist Rodolfo Walsh, and the French nuns Léonie Duquet and Alice Domon.

The trial against the ESMA torturers has already been suspended twice. The first time, it was postponed due to proceedings for crimes committed in the Campo de Mayo jurisdiction, in which life sentences were handed out to ex-subcommander Jorge Olivera Roverre and ex-colonel Bernardo Menéndez. Three other chiefs were acquitted. Later, the trial was again postponed because one of the tribunal judges had to be replaced.

This Thursday, from noon to midnight, several human-rights organizations will be holding a Resistance March, which takes place every December 10, at the Plaza de Mayo, in memory of the 30,000 disappeared persons.

The 29th march will be headed by the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, HIJOS, families of the disappeared and political prisoners, and Siblings. Among other things they are calling for the living reappearance of Julio López, the witness who disappeared just before the trial of the repressor, Miguel Etchecolatz.

Translation mine. Linkage added.

The comments at the site are full of anger, as well they might be. Alfredo Astiz is one of the most infamous of the ESMA's many foul repressors. Along with the murders of the French nuns, who had worked with the poor in the farming province of Corrientes, he is also known to have infiltrated the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, pretending he had lost a brother to the dictatorship. It was a lie, of course. As was Astiz's later claim that he was "just following orders". One of the leading Mothers wound up being "disappeared" herself; that was Astiz's doing.

Up to now, Astiz has gone largely unpunished. What justice has found him, has been at the hands of ordinary citizens taking revenge the only way they could. According to Marguerite Feitlowitz's A Lexicon of Terror,

The first assault was in the ski resort of San Carlos de Bariloche. Astiz and a female companion were waiting for the bus to take them to the slopes, when the Blond Angel [Astiz] was recognized by a former detainee in the camp called Vesuvius. "All I could see were [the Mothers'] white kerchiefs," said the assailant, Alfredo Chávez, a witness at the trial of the ex-commanders. "Son of a bitch! Killer of adolescents!" he yelled, and punched Astiz in the nose. [...] Encouraged by the [navy], Astiz filed suit. For counsel he retained Pedro Bianchi, the lawyer who was defending Erich Priebke, the Nazi who, until his extradition, lived close to the Bariloche ski resort. The next attack took place in greater Buenos Aires; the assailants this time were two brothers, age nineteen and twenty, taking their dog to the vet. [...] En route, a car pulled in front of them, blocking their way. From behind his window, the driver, Astiz, taunted the boys with an obscene gesture. The captain was recognized by the younger brother. Though this attack was worse, neither Astiz nor the navy reported it to the police. No one came to the captain's defense as the brothers pulled him from his car, hit him so hard in the mouth his dental plate popped out, then bashed in the hood of his vehicle. "Good boys! Kill him!" yelled a woman through the open window of a bus. [...] The boys' father, a devoutly religious man, did not defend his sons' behavior, but offered an explanation that struck a chord with many parents with whom I spoke: "This is what happens after you're obliged to tell your children that justice here doesn't function as it should, that the courts refused to castigate the most horrendous crimes of a horrendous dictatorship."

What the father said explains a lot, does it not?

This is why, in Argentina, there is still so much unresolved. The courts are often stacked with old repressors or their sympathizers; the police and military ranks likewise. Corrupt politicians are as common as dirt. With "authorities" like that, is it any wonder that ordinary citizens are reduced to hauling known repressors like Astiz out of their cars and beating the shit out of them?

And is it any wonder that the HIJOS, the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, the "reappeared" ones, and so many others, hold these big annual protest marches?

Until there is real change in Argentina, this seems to be the form that justice will take--a combination of angry, impulsive outbursts and dignified organized protests that make so much noise that no one could miss them.

(Muchas gracias to Otto for drawing my attention to this story.)

December 1, 2009

Welcome to Reality, Chuck...

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You know things are getting bad for fascism when prominent rats start leaving the ship.

November 29, 2009

Economics for Dummies: Why Bank of America fired a good employee

Listen to this young woman, and you will learn a lot. First off, you will learn what integrity really is; secondly, you will learn just why there is a credit crisis. (Yes, IS. Not WAS--IS. It's still there, and we may not have seen the worst of it yet.)

You will also learn a lot about human suffering and how money ties into it.

Finally, you will learn what integrity is NOT, and why Bank of America doesn't have it. When you praise somebody to high heaven even as you're firing her, you've got major cognitive dissonance going on. And you've lost a big chunk of your soul. Good luck getting it back, BoA people, you're gonna need it.

Fortunately, this lady has hers intact.

November 28, 2009

Short 'n' Stubby: A little bit of this, a little bit of that...

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Some small odds 'n' ends I couldn't go longer about:

Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, heartily sympathizes with Richard Colvin, the Canadian diplomat who found Afghanistan to be no better. He also demolishes all pro-torture arguments very nicely. Thanks to Rick B. at Ten Percent for this one.

In light of the current situation in Dubai, Johann Hari's highly observant piece from a few months ago in the UK Independent is worth revisiting. What say ye now, O ye detractors?

Honduras Coup 2009 says don't believe the hype; the "election" slated for tomorrow is a farce. Yeah, we kind of knew that already. But they have all the details on what makes it one. Essential reading!

LatAm's cutest president (and best foreign-trained economist) says South America won't recognize the outcome of the Honduran farce no matter who "wins". Why? Because everyone knows who's gonna lose. Trust the man, he knows a thing or two about making a once-unstable country governable. He got himself re-elected in a country famous for overthrowing presidents mid-term!

Eva Golinger exposes yet another shocking congressional cover-up over Colombia. Your taxpayer dollars at work, USA.

The IMF and Inter-American Development Bank are now lining up to praise Evo--for taking their advice and trashing it. El Duderino's got the goods.

Amy Goodman's plight has even made the news in Venezuela. I am REALLY hanging my head over this one!

Why is Roger Federer promoting lung cancer? Inquiring minds want to know.

And finally, if you like the little bumper-sticker on my right-hand column that says "I Support the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms", you can get a copy of it for your own site courtesy of Broughton Bob in BC. Don't know what the Charter's all about? Here ya go.

November 20, 2009

Crazy warmonger Chávez proved wrong again...

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

miguel-descoto.jpg

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:

machado-bush.jpg

...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!

November 19, 2009

More fun with Wikileaks: David Irving gets popped

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Looks like the best tool in the anti-fascist arsenal just might be the Internets, after all. Look who's the latest to get leaked on Wikileaks:

Attached is an email message database for the controversial holocaust historian David Irving. The email addresses used by Mr. Irving are focalp@aol.com and info@fpp.co.uk. The data was passed to WikiLeaks by an anti-fascist hacker.

The leak went public on November 14--the day Irving was slated to speak in New York City. No word on precisely where. This secrecy was apparently what prompted the hacking, according to the Phoenix New Times (and the leak itself). In the process, it turns out that his buxom blond assistant, Jaenelle Antas, who even posted to Stormfront on his behalf (iiiiiiiiick!), is getting fed up with the way he treats her:

You asked for more advance notice if I wanted to flounce out--I am considering it. You were very well behaved on this whole tour up until this past week when you have been snotty, rude, and disrespectful towards me. This is exactly the same way you behaved last summer and the very reason I flounced out then.

I don't care if you are frustrated, angry, stressed out, tired, or whatever--treating anybody the way you have been treating me is unacceptable. I bend over backwards to help you out on this tour, doing jobs that last year you would have done yourself, and not just making bookings, but also doing things like driving, helping you secure funds to reprint books and locating second-hand books. The only thanks I usually get are long whines about how something isn't exactly perfect.

Why would anybody in the world want to work with or even be friends with someone who is acting the way you have been acting lately? You like to say you treat me better than anyone else does, but the truth is, lately you have treated me worse than anyone else ever has. It hurts my feelings, it makes me angry and resentful, and it makes me question whether or not I should be doing this job anymore.

Hmmm. I wonder if this speaking engagement was one of the bookings she speaks of. Probably is!

And speaking of the engagement, here's a message revealing the probable venue:

*Hello "J" or David Irving,

Venue for New York City on Saturday Nov. 14, from 6-10PM or 7PM-11PM 4 hour
minimum:

Catholic Kolping Society
165 East 88th Street
(Between Lexington Avenue & 3rd Avenue)
New York, NY 10028

Should not be more than $300.00--Will know exact cost later...Call me anytime: 917-974-6367

Peace.

Michael Santomauro

Editorial Director

Call anytime: 917-974-6367

ReporterNotebook@Gmail.com

"Peace"?

Oh boy, somebody is in for major embarrassment now. He's the "editorial director" for this slimy revisionist site. You can read more about him and the kind of bogus "hidden history" he espouses here. And here is another interesting indictment of his character, and that of those he pals around with and/or inspires to new heights of paranoia.

And surprise! He's on Stormfront, too. So much for his playing-both-sides denials that he's an antisemite. You don't find anyone there who's not one.

BTW, the event was cancelled when the Kolping Society got wind of what was really going on. Looks good on ya, Michael.

And here are some other major embarrassments for you to peruse and chuckle over:

NJ list for tomorrow incl latecomers

From: Focalp@aol.com

To: xxxxxxxxxxx@hotmail.com

Date: Fri, Nov 13, 2009 12:00 am

[Attachment] NJ_list_incl_latecomers_12.11.09

Darling J, you are so efficient and beautiful. Please work your magic on (a)
attached list (b) me

That's from Irving to his lovely assistant. I wonder what he meant by (b)...

Question about this Saturday in NYC

From: Allen Rouse

To: focalp@aol.com

Date: Thu, Nov 12, 2009 12:37 pm

Hello Mr.Irving,

My name is Allen Rouse and my wife and I will be attending your talk this Saturday in NYC. I am part of the media group at Stormfront, I do a weekly program on Stormfront Radio called "The Staropramen Show", Staropramen is my username there. I would like to know if it would be possible for me to videotape the talk on Saturday for Stormfront. Don Black, SF's proprietor has informed us that a major overhaul is being done to the site in the coming weeks which will include our own video hosting capabilities and it would be nice to have this talk for this new feature. I look forward to meeting you and enjoying your always brilliant and informative talks.

Yours truly,

Allen Rouse/Staropramen

Uh oh, looks like somebody's been outed! Heh heh heh. (This one was apparently also at the NYC engagement--or rather, hoping to be.)

And here's one that frankly creeps me out:

Larry D---- [xxxxxxxxxx@hotmail.com] has written:


I enjoyed your Houston lecture very much and was glad to see that you were well, especially because you have been through quite a bit since I saw you in Idaho
some four years ago. I have been a fan for years, but I found particular
interest in last night's talk due to the fact that I have just embarked on a new
career in Military Intelligence. I find myself referencing WW2 with each new
concept I learn in training, resulting in [I believe] a better understanding of
the material than my peers who do not study history. For this knowledge of WW2, I thank you. Your books are quite compelling and have been my favorites.

Your lovely assistant mentioned that she will send a copy of your web-archives
on disk, just as you agreed to do for another gentlemen in attendance last
night. I thank you (both) very much.

Your tour of Rastenburg looks as if it is a one of a kind event. I do hope that
things go well enough in order for you to have a second one; I will be unable to
go to this one, as I will still be in training. Perhaps I can follow your trip online.

Kindest Regards,

The signature says he's a second lieutenant in the US Air Force. Uh, USAF? You may want to vet your officers more closely. Just a friendly suggestion.

You may also want to take a closer look at this one, while you're at it:

Montgomery,AL Visit

From: xxxxxxx@aol.com

To: Focalp@aol.com

Date: Tue, Oct 20, 2009 2:18 pm

Will be out of town in Gulf Shores, AL playing in a golf tournament during your
visit. I look forward to your new WW II book.

Sorry I am going to miss this visit. I will send a donation to Key West to help
with expenses.

Two questions:

1.If I could arrange it, would you be interested in speaking at the US Air Force
top professional military officers school the Air War College located here in
Montgomery at Maxwell AFB on some future visits? The college has about 300
colonels/ lieutenant colonels in attendance. I was a senior faculty member at
the College when I retired.

2. What did you think of Pat Buchanan's book "Churchill, Hitler, and the
Unnecessary War"?

Respectfully,

The signed name (and home address) is that of an Air Force colonel in Alabama. Yeek. If this he's on active duty, he should definitely come to the generals' attention, no?

Here you go, Generals dear--check 'em all out for yourselves: That Wikleaks link, again...

I stripped the major identifiers from them here, but you can find the uncensored versions there without undue difficulty. Happy hunting!

And maybe it's time to consider just what the ramifications of protecting Nazi nonsense under the rubric of "free speech" really are, eh? After all, didn't your forces fight against this during World War II? Be a damned shame if it ended up destroying what you've pledged to defend, no?

fascism-obvious.jpg

November 9, 2009

Berlin Wall/German reunification: Still believe in the myth of the "freedom-hating" communist East?

abandoned-trabis.jpg

Prepare for another big shocker, then. This landed in my mailbox yesterday:

Washington, D.C., November 8, 2009 - Just before the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago, even the hardline Czechoslovak Communist leaders called for the opening of the German border, according to documents from high-level archives in Berlin, Bonn and Prague published for the first time in English and posted on the Web today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University. Czech police try to stop wall jumpers

Compiled and edited by Czech historian Vilem Precan and translated by Todd Hammond, the documents show that waves of East German refugees fleeing to the West through Czechoslovakia (more than 62,000 just in the period from November 4 to 10, 1989) so alarmed the Czechoslovak Communist authorities - who previously had resisted the reforms under way in Poland, Hungary and in Moscow - that they asked the East German leadership on November 8 to allow its citizens to go directly to West Germany, in effect to open the border.

The documents posted today include the secret diplomatic exchanges between the West German foreign ministry and its embassy in Prague where thousands of refugees took shelter, between East German diplomats in Prague and their bosses in East Berlin, between Czechoslovak diplomats and Party officials and their counterparts, and eyewitness accounts by dissident Charter 77 spokespeople about the refugee crisis.

The posting also includes contemporaneous photographs of the scene at the West German embassy in Prague, Czech police attempting to prevent refugees from scaling the embassy walls, the tent city that arose in its courtyard, and rows of abandoned Trabant cars in the streets of Prague.

The detailed essay by Vilem Precan, "Through Prague to Freedom," that accompanies the documents cites the Czechoslovak government's demarche to East Berlin on November 8 as "a kind of ultimatum" that forced the East German Communists into a rapid "modification of rules for permanent exit" - a reform famously announced and flubbed by an East German Politburo member at a press conference on November 9. The statements by Gunter Schabowski led Western TV reporters to declare the Berlin Wall open when it was not, but the televised news brought crowds of East Germans to the checkpoints in East Berlin that evening who eventually forced their way through and made the media reports ultimately accurate.

I've never been to Prague. My mother and grandmother passed through it once, though--on their way out of northern Yugoslavia in 1944, as displaced persons, fleeing the Russian invasion. Their memories of that great artists' city were anything but golden; the Czech authorities robbed them blind. They literally came out of there with nothing but the clothes they wore. Ordinary locals weren't terribly friendly to the German-speaking refugees passing through, either, even though these ethnic Germans had nothing to do with what those other Germans were doing to Eastern Europe. If they didn't know a word of Czech, how could they explain that their family had lived in Yugoslavia for some 200 years? Well, they couldn't--and no one was listening anyway. All too soon, the mistrust became mutual. My mom says a lot of women from the DP camps were raped by "partisans". Even little girls, which my mom and aunt were at the time, were not safe. The Batschka-German refugees huddled in fear, and were only too glad to leave as soon as the opportunity presented itself, if not sooner. From Prague they went on through Silesia; my mom's family ended up in the countryside in Bavaria. None of them ever went back to Prague again, not even to visit--not even when it became fashionable for Germans to do so again.

So it comes as some surprise to learn that the Czechs--and their hardline communist leaders, at that--later became allies, however inadvertent, to Eastern Germans wanting to go west. It's one more irony for wingnuts to break their teeth on--and one more proof that the West, not the East, stood to profit more from the continuance of the Iron Curtain and the Wall. It's also the ideal bookend to my post from the other day. There's a real wealth of surprising information there, folks, so here's that link again. Go read!

November 7, 2009

Berlin Wall/German reunification: Still believe in the myth of the "freedom-loving" capitalist west?

A short history of the Berlin Wall. The very fitting song is "Wind of Change", by the Scorpions--a German band. Who the hell needs those fucking U2 poseurs and their new, CAPITALIST wall of shame?

Sometimes, it pays to be on the Internets bright and early of a Saturday. Look what just landed in my mailbox, from the National Security Archive in Washington:

Washington, DC, November 7, 2009 - The fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago generated major anxiety in capitals from Warsaw to Washington, to the point of outright opposition to the possibility of German unification, according to documents from Soviet, American and European secret files posted on the Web today by the National Security Archive.

Solidarity hero Lech Walesa told West German chancellor Helmut Kohl on the very day the Wall would fall that "events in the GDR [East Germany] are developing too quickly" and "at the wrong time," that the Wall could fall in a week or two (it would be a matter of hours) and then Kohl and the West would shift all their attention and aid to the GDR, leaving poor Poland "in the background." And indeed, Kohl cut short his visit to Warsaw and flew back to Germany as soon as the news arrived of the breach of the Wall.

British prime minister Margaret Thatcher earlier had told Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev that "Britain and Western Europe are not interested in the unification of Germany. The words written in the NATO communique may sound different, but disregard them." Top Gorbachev aide Anatoly Chernyaev concluded that Thatcher wanted to prevent unification "with our hands" and not her own.

Gee, what a surprise. All these "freedom-lovers", from Lech Walesa to dear old Maggie, were really opposed to reunification, because it interfered with their own glorification. Color me so shocked!

Well, not quite. Being German myself, I know full well that the German people--MY people--always wanted reunification, ALWAYS opposed the building of the Wall, and that on both sides of the divide, they were chomping at the bit to get the damn thing down again. The wall was the work of politicians, not the people. The people, regardless of ideology, did not EVER want it. It literally pulled families and friends apart; it was not merely political, but deeply personal for an untold number of Germans. It was a trauma that stayed with many of them for decades, and even now, the psychic wounds it left still run deep. There is even a saying that describes that trauma, in German: Die Mauer im Kopf--the wall in the head.

This confirms what I've always felt in my gut to be true--that when reunification happened, as it inevitably would, it would not be the work of any leader, communist or capitalist--it would be the doing of the German people. (Duh--who do you think was chipping at that wall the entire time?)

On a related note, I was watching a documentary last night on Vision TV about a group of Germans--let's not draw any artificial lines between West and East, because THEY didn't--who undermined the whole thing by laboriously hand-digging a tunnel from West Berlin into the East Zone, less than a year after the Wall went up. It started out as the work of a handful of people, then grew to more than forty diggers as word of mouth spread clandestinely through West Berlin that a tunnel was being dug. Many of the newcomers did not know the original diggers personally; they had simply heard a rumor and had to find out, first, if it were true; then, what they could do to help the project, and finally, get their families across too. The project was the subject of an NBC documentary that later won several awards; the crew was able to film the tunnel construction in progress, thanks to some wheeling and dealing and a $50,000 cheque. (Incidentally, the West Berlin CIA station soon learned of the project, too--but did nothing to help it in any way, although they surely must have had some construction experts on hand somewhere. All they did was spy, spook and sit on what they knew. Yeah, talk to me some more about how THEY were defending freedom from the big red menace of communism...)

One of the stories really caught at my heartstrings. A man from the east had managed to duck through the wires of the fence that preceded the wall, but his pregnant wife and small daughter had to stay behind, because the soldiers patrolling the fence had just shot another runner dead. This man was one of those who later joined in the digging; he actually dared to face arrest for trespassing when he found the place where the tunnel began and nosed around trying to see if it was real. The diggers feared the worst; they thought he was a spy. But when it became clear that he only wanted to reunite with his family, the West Berlin police let him go, and the diggers, after a long argument, were persuaded to let him help with the tunneling. In the meantime, his wife gave birth; their son was four months old before they were finally able to crawl through that filthy, waterlogged tunnel to the west with a group of others. The NBC cameras caught one muddy, matted-haired figure after another, emerging from the dark and climbing the ladder to safety and hugging their loved ones. The women's clothes and high-heeled shoes were ruined; their stockings were shredded at the knees. The babies were crying.

What this story made clear to me was that the wall, right from the start, was a terrible mistake--and that a small but determined group of people were able to undermine it even before it was fully built. For many months they sacrificed time, energy, money and so much more to build their tunnel, reconnecting what a wall had divided.

Another thing that I realized--but only now, as I sat here writing this--was how nobody in the documentary talked about which was better, communism or capitalism. Stands to reason--none of them cared! All they wanted was to be together with their families, to live and work in peace, without political police of any stripe breathing down their necks. Freedom, for them, was independent of theoretical ideologies; what mattered was that they were the masters of their own lives. One could truly say that these were the first Germans to punch a hole in the wall, more than 25 years before it finally fell.

This is why it's so instructive to unpick the hypocrisy of the "pro-freedom" leaders who claimed credit, quite undeservedly, for the fall of the Wall. If the Western leaders had wanted to, they could have demolished that wall, sabotaged its building, dynamited it repeatedly. They did nothing! And for a very good reason: The Wall was worth more to Reagan, Thatcher, Walesa, etc. when it stood than when it fell. They didn't stay away from it because demolishing it would have unleashed World War III; that's just a convenient excuse. It would have done no such thing. No, the Wall gave them something to point to, something that would silence their own critics--especially those of the repressive Reagan and Thatcher administrations. It was something that they could point to and say, "Don't call US oppressive--THOSE people are worse!" In its way, the Wall served the capitalists; it granted them bragging rights. It also gave them a convenient smokescreen on which to project their false visions of freedom.

But with the Wall gone, so too was capitalism's last bulwark, although nobody seems to have thought of that at the time. We were being carefully (and falsely) instructed to see it as capitalism's hour of triumph. While the media hype focused on how the poor oppressed East Germans could finally buy whatever consumer goods they wanted, the uncomfortable truth has emerged only slowly over the years that they lacked the means--that capitalism costs too much. The physical wall is gone, but there is still an economic wall around the east-zone of Germany; the place is economically retarded. And no, communism can't take all the blame for this one. If capitalists really cared, if they were as industrious and hard-working as they claim to be, and if their ideology was worth all the trees killed to print it, the deficit could have been made good within a decade. That hasn't happened. The trickle-down economics so touted by Reagan/Bush and Thatcher have failed to bring about the "rising tide that lifts all boats". The little boats of Eastern Europe still sit, slowly rotting, on mud that will not float them anywhere.

And yes, die Mauer is still very much im Kopf.

So the next time you hear some wingnut blatting on about how Ronald Reagan was a saint, how he brought down the wall, just keep this in mind. The real freedom-seekers of Berlin weren't out in front of the wall with megaphones; they were digging quietly underneath it, sometimes with their own bare hands. They served no ideology, because no ideology served them. They did not wait for capitalism to save them. They put in the sweat equity all on their own, with no expectation of any gain except a little freedom and unity. (A quarter-century later, again, it was ordinary Germans who did the hard work in bringing the Wall down.) The media, the CIA, the western governments, all merely stood by and watched--and, hypocritically, applauded. Later, they turned this humble independent effort into self-serving propaganda. They basically left the refugees to risk their lives and muddle through--literally--on their own.

A fine lot of freedom-defenders they turned out to be!

November 4, 2009

Isn't it romantic?

uribe-weds-uncle-sam.jpg

The bells are ringing for Uncle Sam and his gal, Colombia. But guess who objects to this unholy matrimony:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Colombia became a "colony" when it granted the U.S. permission to expand its military presence in Colombian territory in an accord signed on October 30th, the details of which became public on Tuesday.

"Colombia decided to hand over its sovereignty to the United States... Colombia no longer governs its territory," said Chavez in a televised meeting of his Council of Ministers. "Colombia today is no longer a sovereign country... it is a kind of colony."

Nyeahhhhh...mean Chavecito party-pooper!

So, what are the terms of this mésalliance, anyway?

The ten-year accord grants the U.S. access, use, and free movement among two air bases, two naval bases, three army bases, and "the rest of the installations and locations" in Colombia, in accordance with Colombian law.

The bases and any enhancements carried out on them by the U.S. remain the property of Colombia. Meanwhile, U.S. military, civilian, and diplomatic personnel, contractors, ships and planes working under the accord are exempt from customs duties, tariffs, rent, taxes, and most inspections of its cargo, according to the deal.

In addition, the accord grants diplomatic immunity to U.S. personnel. To reinforce this immunity, "Colombia will guarantee that its authorities will verify, in the least amount of time possible, the status of immunity of the personnel of the United States and their dependents who are suspected of criminal activity in Colombia, and will turn them over to the appropriate U.S. military or diplomatic authorities," the accord states.

No, that doesn't sound a bit like an abuse of power just waiting to happen!

Meanwhile, what are Colombians making of all this? By the sounds of things, a break for the Venezuelan border:

It is estimated that by the end of 2009, 301 Colombians will be entering the country daily. The migration from the neighbouring country is no longer the same as that experienced in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, when one person per family group migrated.

Colombian families are now collectively mobilizing to Venezuela in search of the realization of a quality of life that is impossible for them to find in their home country, given the economic conditions in which they are forced to live as a result of the armed conflict.

"...a quality of life that is impossible for them to find in their home country, given the economic conditions in which they are forced to live as a result of the armed conflict."

Sit back and let that sink in for a moment, kiddies. That's what El Narco's policy--totally in line with the Washington Consensus--is doing to ordinary Colombians. It's forcing them to flee to Venezuela, where life is ten times better at the very minimum.

And it's not hard to imagine why, either. Let's tally up the reasons, shall we?

Venezuela doesn't have a fifty-plus year civil war still raging.

Venezuela doesn't have a president with a penchant for falsely labelling his opponents terrorists.

Venezuela doesn't have a president who likes to kill his "terrorist" opponents--or at least, stand by with hands in pockets, whistling, while the killings go on unabated.

Venezuela doesn't have puppet strings from Washington attached at every appendage.

Venezuela isn't loaning any of its military bases to the US.

Venezuela isn't improving its economic figures at the expense of its people.

That last one is especially significant when you consider this:

According to figures divulged by the investigation, conducted in 16 states with a sample of 136,600 Colombians, people arrive in bulk because it is cheaper to live in Venezuela.

The reasons for the migration of 75% of those citizens are overwhelmingly economic.

According to Tanus, "the war consumes the entire budget (of Colombia) and people have to go find other means of life in other countries. Seventy-five % moved for economic reasons, but basically these reasons are a product of the development of the war, of the social conflict, because some of those 136,600 people are heads of families who come from areas where the Colombian armed conflict has unfolded."

"...the war consumes the entire budget (of Colombia) and people have to go find other means of life in other countries."

Yeah, I'm just loving El Narco more and more every day, reading stuff like that. So busy spending the country's entire budget on war, nothing's left over for public services anymore. Meanwhile, life gets prohibitively expensive. What to do but move to Venezuela, where the living is cheaper (thanks to Chavecito and his missions) and there's no war to eat up the national budget, so these new immigrants will have no problem settling in, finding doctors, schools, etc.?

One day, Colombians will want a divorce. The question is, will they have to wait the whole ten years before this bad marriage is annulled, or will they have to wait even longer?

In the meantime, Colombia's loss is Venezuela's gain.

PS: Oh look, TIME has published yet another TIME-ly hit piece. Trying to debunk the facts again. I feel so sorry for the CIA, it's really got its media work cut out for it here!

November 2, 2009

Venezuela, Peru: Compare and contrast...

...the way they treat their indigenous:

This 24-minute documentary (in Spanish) concerns an incident among the Yukpa in the Sierra de Perijá. You can read an English account about it here, in Venezuelanalysis.

What struck me about this video is not so much what happens in it, as what doesn't happen. The soldiers of the Venezuelan army and national guard show up, along with officers of the federal criminal-investigative police (CICPC--the Venezuelan equivalent of the FBI, roughly.) The investigation into the shootings seems to have gotten bungled somewhat, and a cacique (chief) was apparently detained by mistake, but what's really notable is that no further violence breaks out, even when members of the community confront the uniformed men with machetes. The arguments put forth by the Yukpa are vehement and emotional, but they don't escalate into a more serious conflict. There seems to be some sort of attempt at respectful, constructive dialogue going on--uneven, but it's an effort. The soldiers don't repress the indigenous with gunfire; the police don't round everyone up and disappear them arbitrarily. While the situation is not a total victory for human rights, it is a mark of real progress that the repression of the Fourth Republic is not in evidence here.

And for some real perspective on how things have progressed (and continue to progress) in Venezuela, why not compare this incident to the current situation in Peru? You can follow one particular case--that of Hunt Oil, currently illegally encroaching on indigenous territory--here at Otto's blog, or here at El Duderino's. Both are keeping a running tally of what promises to become a most explosive situation, with echoes of another recent massacre of Peruvian indigenous people--that of Bagua. You'll note that the Peruvian government doesn't hesitate to send out the troops to fire indiscriminately on the indigenous, nor to repress protests, however legitimate and peaceful, with deadly violence.

Somehow, this comparison makes you think, no? Or at least, it should. Next time you hear another ignoramus pontificating about how "fascist" and/or "communist" Venezuela has gotten over the past ten years, just bear in mind that it's not the Venezuelan government killing indigenous people. Unlike in that oh-so-"democratic" Peru, where everything is apparently for sale--including virgin rainforest territory that is supposed to be protected from the depredations of the gringo. And when it comes to actual fascists facing criminal prosecution in Venezuela, it should be noted that Peru doesn't hesitate to harbor them.

Why the Peruvian government favors foreign criminals (who contribute nothing materially or culturally) over the rights of innocent natives (who do contribute, in a major way) is a mystery I have yet to hear convincingly explained--just as I have yet to hear any legitimate proof that Venezuela has taken a turn for the authoritarian!

October 26, 2009

Uruguay: Pepe Mujica wins, but...

...something still smells like the same old, same old all over again:

The candidate for the Broad Front, who won 47% of the votes yesterday but could not become president and must now fight a second round, criticized the elections system in his country, where a candidate has to win fifty percent of the vote, plus one, in order to win. "We have to go on struggling," Mujica said.

In an interview with Radio 10, Mujica said that "in some parts of the world, a party with 47% wins the elections, but in Uruguay, no."

Mujica considers that "we have a right-wing bloc divided into two parties who help each other when the chips are down."

Translation mine:

Ah yes, the old Blanco/Colorado oligarchy, that's governed Uruguay for almost as long as there have been elections in that land. That's what he's referring to, and undoubtedly it's true. When the same two parties keep swapping rule but nothing really changes, you know you're dealing with a duopoly. And when the duopoly gives way to a military dictatorship, as it did during the 1970s, you know that it was a farce all along.

José "Pepe" Mujica, who fought against both the duopoly and the dictatorship at various times during his Tupamaro days, undoubtedly knows this well-scripted farce by heart. He may be 74 and look like a nice old grandfather now, but he hasn't forgotten what he took up arms against when he was a young man. While the weapon has changed (it's now ballots, not bullets), the struggle has not.

And he notes, quite rightly, that second rounds are not necessary everywhere; right here in Canada, the latest government took much less than 47% of the ballots in the last two elections. Harpo would kill for anything approaching Pepe's degree of popularity, probably because it would give him carte blanche to ram through something utterly unpopular (such as this) over the loud objections of a very clear majority of Canadians! All that's holding him back is that he hasn't got a majority of 50%, much less 50 + 1. And while we're not a duopoly to the extent that Uruguay for the longest time was, we're not far from it, either; we've got a long-time farce of Liberal vs. Conservative swapping going on, although it's acrimonious rather than buddy-buddy as in Uruguay. Still, at times it's hard to tell which is which, and that's never good.

But one thing we don't have, which Uruguay does, is that burden of the need for a clear majority in order to form a government. It's a burden which stacks the deck in favor of established parties, and makes it harder for a leftist coalition like the Frente Amplio (Mujica's party, or more accurately, parties) to gain a foothold--not that a first-past-the-post system necessarily makes anything easier, as we up here know only too well. Either system clearly favors the oligarchs, and unless a leftist with true mass appeal breaks out in a big way, as in Venezuela and Bolivia, well--we're stuck.

Meanwhile, in Uruguay, a second round--totally unnecessary, except for keeping up appearances (and tensions) will go down on November 29. It's practically a foregone conclusion that Pepe Mujica will win, because his opponent is a truly loathsome old oligarch and an apologist for the dictatorship. But it's not a "clear majority", so the very farce that Pepe fought against as a young man is perpetuating itself--and inadvertently proving that he was right all along.

Ironically, had he moved further to the left, instead of trying to make a play for the "mushy middle" (which always goes to the conservatives, when all's said, out of cowardice), he might have gotten the outright majority and then some on the first round, as Chavecito did in Venezuela, ten years ago. Venezuela was deeply embroiled in a long-term crisis, starting in the mid-1980s. Uruguay isn't there yet. But if the global economic crisis deepens, as I suspect it will, and foreign investments end up sacking it as they have in the past, we may well see a shift at last. And then perhaps Pepe Mujica may have to reconsider his "reformist" tendencies and become a real revolutionary once more. And then we may end up seeing some truly hilarious backpedalling from people like the morons at the Wall Street Urinal, who felt the need to recast Mujica--obviously no neoliberal--in the most capitalist-friendly light possible, just to keep up the artificial dichotomy between the "good" left and the "bad". Which, if the video below has anything to say, is a farce, too:

Mujica, far from wanting to distance himself from Chavecito, wants to learn more from him. Can you blame the man? Nothing succeeds like success, and Chavecito knows it well. You can bet he'll be helping Mujica steer a better path after the 29th of next month. And when he does, it will throw a puck in the Wall Street Urinal--and any other media cloaca that burbles happy horseshit about how neoliberalism is poised to make a comeback.

October 21, 2009

OMG, they really think Michael Moore was serious!

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Teh Stoopid! It BURNS!!!

Well, this is par for the course at El Luniversal, since they never fact-check a goddamned thing they write anyway (and neither does the AP, which inhabits the same building.) They also have no sense of humor, and their hatred for all things Chavecito would blind them to what the rest of us can see is an obvious joke.

But really, Eva Golinger, I expected better of you, because I know you're smarter than that. Have you been living out of the US so long that you've forgotten Michael Moore's ironic sense of humor, which he turns quite mercilessly on his own country? (And Franz Lee, that goes for you, too. Lighten up, comrade!)

Fortunately, someone at Complutense University in Madrid gets the joke. I'll let Juan Carlos Monedero explain it to you:

Michael Moore, Nasty Liar

Dear friends:

I've been watching the video in which Michael Moore supposedly disrespects President Chávez and lies repeatedly about him to sully the revolution. How is he a traitor? How the strategy of the opposition has caused us to lose perspective. It's all a big joke. What happened to the irony?

Let's look at this with some tranquility. What was Moore doing in that interview before the viewers of that program? He was laughing at North Americans and their gringo stereotype of the president and all Latin Americans, not at President Chávez and the Venezuelan people! It's just a joke.

Moore is on board with what's happening in Latin America, but his public persona is precisely that: a guy who seems not to know much about anything, constantly telling jokes and pointing out ironies. If we damn him to hell or think he's a liar, it's because we don't understand what he's trying to say! I reiterate: Let's not let the constant lies of the opposition cause us to lose sight of when someone is being serious, and when he is joking.

It's abundantly clear that what he's saying, from the get-go, is just one big leg-pull. He points out Foreign Minister Maduro and says he's a bodyguard! It's obvious that he doesn't want to look like an imbecile who confuses Maduro with one of the security men.

On the other hand, what does the Empire think of Latin America? (1) That all its inhabitants are the same, whatever country they are from and whatever ethnic group they happen to be; (2) that all of them are not only alike, they are like the Mexicans; (3) that the Mexicans, the prototype of all Latin Americans, are people who make noise at all hours (especially in the night and in hotels where honored gringos are trying to rest below them) and that they all drink tequila. That's the joke which Moore repeats in the interview! If we take it as real, we're falling for the same cliché that Moore is laughing at!

Revolutions have to be able to laugh at themselves.

Translation mine.

I don't know about you, but I love to laugh. There's plenty of humor and irony in the Bolivarian Revolution, and while I'm totally down with it, that doesn't mean I can't giggle over goofy pictures of Chavecito doing something wacky and silly. He's often funny on purpose; he's not, in fact, the buffoon the oppos make him out to be. (Real buffoons are funny only by accident--as many of Chavecito's predecessors and opponents definitely are.) I take his serious deeds seriously, and his funny deeds in the spirit they were intended.

Same goes for Michael Moore. The man sticks a whoopee cushion under every pompous ass he meets, the better to get us thinking seriously about what we need to do. In other words: Just like Chavecito! I absolutely loved it that they got together in Venice and had a good chat. I figured they were two peas in a pod for having serious minds and light hearts. It did my heart good to see them getting along famously, as I knew they would.

And I bet Chavecito gets this joke, too. Let's see if and when he weighs in. I bet he'll be chuckling. (Anyone wanna lose some money betting against me? A quick hundred or two?)

So what's the punchline of this joke? Simple: The oppos got punked...again. By none other than the gringo they were hoping to co-opt.

What's less funny is that some serious good people still don't seem to get it. Once more, with feeling:

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See? It's okay to laugh. Go on now...giggle. You know you wanna.

Dang, I'm GOOD.

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Remember how I predicted the Paliness was headed for the remainder bin even before her book is due out?

Well, it's already underway:

Former governor Sarah Palin completed her memoir in four months. She knew what she wanted to say, apparently, and had Lynn Vincent, a senior writer for the Christian publication World Magazine, bang it out. The book is due November 17 and is originally listed at $28.99 at Amazon, except that it's already available at a cut-rate discount: Going Rogue is priced-to-sell at a mere $9- that's for a hardcover due out in three weeks. Which raises the question: How many bestseller lists can the book top before it's printed?

Actually, it raises another, far more pertinent (and probably rhetorical) question: Will it earn out its advance?

BTW, there's a screen-grab from Amazon at the site. Go see it before Going, Going, Gone is down to a quarter (or less) of its MSR price, instead of the third where it currently sits.

And when you're ready for some real laughs, click here.

And don't say I didn't tell you so!

October 20, 2009

A bizarre dream I had the other night, or, L'esprit de l'escalier

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Staircase/bookshelf designed by Tim Sloan, featured in Marie Claire Maison. Now this is what I call a dream worth having!

I've been debating with myself about whether or not I should blog this, because it's so embarrassing and personal and silly, and I've decided--oh, what the hey.

Yesterday morning, just before waking, I had the most peculiar dream. I was in a swimming pool, doing what I thought was a very good backstroke. Really in the rhythm, perfectly co-ordinated, all limbs in sync, no self-consciousness as I circled around and around, lap after lap, never tiring. It was the sort of thing a cerebral klutz often dreams--and always dreams of it going wrong just as it's going great. Which of course is what I dreamed!

Suddenly I found that there was no water in the pool, and that I was just windmilling my arms in the air, feeling like a total jackass. People walked by and snickered. That's when I realized that someone else was responsible for this.

So I set out to find the person. I found her sitting by the side of the pool, studying me with an amused expression. She was a friend--or someone I had thought was a friend. I knew that the pool would stay dry unless I got back into her good graces, so I just hung out with her, liking what she liked, disparaging whatever she didn't.

Well, that was a bad approach, as you can imagine. She told me she didn't like ME!

Why? I asked her.

So she named all kinds of ridiculous, trivial, embarrassingly personal reasons. The more she rambled on, the sorrier I felt for her. I thought her self-esteem was obviously down in the dumps, which was why she was taking it out on me. I was a vulnerable target, no doubt: solitary, introverted, self-sufficient, and damn, I really thought I was doing so well at the backstroke, there!

Then a group of young guys, in their teens or early twenties by the looks of them, strolled by. One of them tossed off another casual, yet horribly personal insult at me, a slang term I'd never heard. Called me a "Bigelow wife". Meaning, some nerdy single chick who's married to her teapot. (This insult does not exist in the "real" world, as far as I can tell. And yes, I googled.)

Just as I'd figured that out, I began to wake up. I tried to get back to sleep, but it was no use--I was wide awake, full of excitement because I'd come up with the perfect come-back for all this negativity and shit. I was going to say something like:

"Oh yeah? Well, I know your flavor--Constant Cruelty!"

In short: A perfect case of l'esprit de l'escalier, foiled by wakefulness. (Just call me Treppenwolf!)

Is this what it takes to stop the bleeding?

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From France, something mightily disturbing about where privatization of formerly public companies goes if taken to the crapitalist extreme...

France Télécom today shelved its restructuring programme after the suicides of 25 workers whose deaths have been linked to a modernisation drive at the group.

The former state monopoly said it had called-off its controversial corporate shake-up until next year.

The announcement follows a wave of deaths at the group and a further spate of attempted suicides since February 2008. The deaths, which have shocked the country, have led to calls for the resignation of Didier Lombard, France Télécom's chief executive.

A spokesman said: "We will suspend all restructuring until December 31, 2009."

And after that, all bets will be off, the "modernization" drive will be on again, and so will the suicides. Brilliant!

And after that, the Deluge...of government intervention:

The French Government summoned Mr Lombard to a crisis meeting last month about the deaths, which unions blame on a deep malaise caused by the restructuring. He was asked to produce an urgent action plan.

Critics say staff at the company, two thirds of whom were taken on when the group was a state monopoly and, as such, considered themselves unsackable, had become desperate after being asked to overhaul working practices. The shake-up was aimed at making the Gallic group more competitive in the international market.

A total of 10,000 employees have changed jobs in the past three years.

And if you think it's easy to change jobs in France, where positions have until recently tended to be full-time, decently paid and career-long, or that American-style ultracapitalism would cut the fat, may I remind you that (a) the French have lower obesity rates by far than the Yanks, and (b) the US capital crisis--still happening!--is a direct result of that ultracapitalism.

And so, it turns out, is something like this:

One of the most recent deaths occurred last month when a 51-year-old employee killed himself in the French Alps. The man, who was married with two children, left a note blaming the "atmosphere" at work before throwing himself off a motorway bridge in Alby-sur-Cheran.

He had recently switched jobs to a call centre where he faced performance objectives.

Call centres are notoriously stressful, with jobs directly dependent on a quota of sales, and poor remuneration to boot--which is not much improved even on the off chance that you exceed your quota. The last thing anyone in my neck of the woods dreams of being is a call-centre employee, and for reasons good. It's a shitty job, with rejection being a daily norm (seeing as the job basically entails cold-calling people who don't want to be called, and annoying the hell out of them.) It is, from a psychological standpoint, a sheer nightmare. That's something no amount of money can make good, much less the lousy pay (barely above minimum wage) that a telemarketer makes. The turnover is high, and no wonder: Ditch digging is less of a hassle, and better paid!

So I hope you'll pardon me for laughing (sardonically, and with little mirth) at things like this:

Mr Lombard had already announced an end to the programme of compulsory job changes for managers and suspended staff performance indicators at the call centre as he sought to end what he called a "death spiral" at the group.

He has also hired 100 additional advisers in human resources and launched negotiations with unions on workplace stress.

It's going to take a hell of a lot more than piddling measures like those to stop the bleeding, Monsieur Lombard. It will take nothing less than a candid admission that capitalism does not work, and a return to the days when phone service was publicly provided and cheap--and a source of steady, secure employment that didn't see middle-aged family men hanging themselves en masse.

PS: This article in the Spiegel is also surprisingly good, as it points the finger in all the right directions. Sarko's pronouncement at the end pleasantly surprised me, but perhaps it shouldn't. After all, it's France, and happiness is sacred there.

PPS: And for a look at some real assholes who prescribe capitalism but don't make the connection between it and suicide, click here. (Warning: raw sewage!)

October 14, 2009

Dangerous times for Colombian university students

Video in three parts; click through at the end for parts #2 and #3. Spanish, with English subtitles by Tlaxcala.

The last ten years have been deadly ones for university students in Colombia. Anyone who has any grievances or disputes with the authorities and/or the government, faces death threats and persecution. At least 35 students have been murdered in this time span alone. In the face of this, politically active progressive university students have taken to hooding their faces so that the authorities cannot track them down. It is the only way they can speak out, but the media and the authorities have demonized them for it as criminals and accuse them of having ties to the FARC and ELN. They seize on literally any excuse to come down harder on the students, to the point where all opposition to the hard-right Uribe government becomes a potential death sentence.

Next time you hear Venezuelan right-wing oppos whining about a crackdown on them, bear in mind that they face nothing nearly so bad as what their Colombian leftist counterparts do.

And also, remember this: In the eyes of Washington, Colombia is a model democracy!

What a truly unworthy Nobel peace prize winner looks like

This is an old film clip from 1977, included in a documentary called Nuestros Desaparecidos (Our Disappeared). An Argentine reporter asks Henry Kissinger (Nobel peace prize, 1973) what he thinks of the general leading the Argentine junta:

Kissinger's reply is par for the course--for Kissinger. He never met a butcher he couldn't like, and General Videla is no exception. In fact, Kissinger was helping the Argentine junta behind the scenes through the Dirty War, as well as praising them openly before the cameras, and he knew full well what was going on.

Now, I don't agree with Barack Obama getting the Nobel without having done more to earn it. But at least he still has ample potential and opportunity to become a true peacemaker and undo the bad moves of his predecessor. I hope he takes it in the spirit it was intended--as an incentive to do better. Kissinger, a cynical butcher all the way, lost no opportunity to urinate all over his prize.

Incidentally, Kissinger's co-recipient of the 1973 Nobel, Le Duc Tho, turned it down, on the grounds that his country (Vietnam) was not yet at peace. Maybe it was also because he didn't want his good name tainted by sharing a prize with Henry Kissinger. If so, one could hardly blame him!

(Thanks to El Gaviero for linking to the documentary site and bringing this to my attention.)

October 13, 2009

Interview with a torturer

An Uruguayan journalist goes face-to-face with one of the three men who tortured him when he was a prisoner during the Dirty War in Argentina:

Video in Spanish, with English subtitles, from Al-Jazeera.

The torturer's name is Héctor Julio Simón, nickname El Turco Julián (Julian the Turk). I had not heard of him before reading this item at Memory in Latin America (a good place to go for backgrounder on all kinds of Latin American dirty war abuses, BTW.)

Like many torturers, "Julián", a convinced fascist and rabid antisemite known for his Hitler salutes, who worked out of the infamous Olimpo prison (among other places), has a strange and uncomfortable relationship to his erstwhile victim. This even though Gerardo, the journalist, has forgiven him and is now only seeking answers--chief among them, the names of the other two, who were truly vicious to him. One, nicknamed "Kung Fu" for his brutal martial-arts style of prisoner abuse, remains unnamed at the end, although Gerardo has managed to find out who the other one, known as "Colores", was.

"Julián", as you can see, can't quite meet his victim-turned-interrogator's eyes. And he's full of excuses and attempts at deflection. But he does let slip a crucial truth: that torture twists the torturer as much as it does the victim, in its own perverse way. After his stint as a torturer ended, Julio Simón's troubles began in earnest; he became jumpy and restless, feeling that no place was safe, and he ended up living out of his car, desperate to hide and unable to escape the demons now eating him from within.

One can see that torture isn't really about obtaining intelligence (ordinary questioning, without coercion, can do it better, as can exercising a lawful search warrant.) Most of the "information" obtained through torture is useless, since a victim will say anything it takes to make it stop. It's about power, about making sure the victim knows that s/he is powerless, and about holding that person's life in the balance, for whatever purpose the higher-ups have in mind--until the authorities decide that the person has learned a lesson and can be let go. Or else the bodies are dumped from planes into the sea to destroy the evidence, as was the case in Argentina. And yes, some torturers are truly sadistic, and enjoy other people's suffering--or have convinced themselves that the victim is not the right sort of person, maybe not even human at all, and is therefore fair game. For them, the power trip is as much a high as any drug.

But what is less well understood is that the torturer, unless he is a complete automaton, can also feel profoundly helpless long after his career as a professional tormentor is over, especially if he is no longer with the military, the police or any other agency where he can go on exercising that inordinate power he used to have. Cut loose from the monstrous machinery that sustained him in his bloody career, he soon realizes that he is illegitimate, without credibility, as well as helpless. He cannot go seamlessly back to a normal life, a family, an innocent job, although he may, for a long time, pretend quite successfully. But there comes a time when the pretense breaks down, and it happens most often to torturers who no longer exist in a state of authority and impunity. Perhaps he knows that whatever he has done, someone else in turn can do to him. The paranoid mindset of fascist times stays with him wherever he goes, long after democracy is restored. In fact, it is then that he will be at his most uneasy. He may fear that his former colleagues, especially the more brutal ones like "Kung Fu", will track him down and kill him if he squeals, as "Julián" does. He may also feel guilt, or even empathy, that he does not want to feel again if face to face with one of his victims, as here. He will do anything to avoid confronting and reliving the past, even when such a confrontation is the only thing that can help him. (To admit the past is to admit one's own role in it--and one's own powerlessness.) He may be a tangled knot of contradictions and attempts at self-justification, scrambling to weave some solid identity out of the torn cloth of his destroyed character. But whatever the case may be, torture has left its own mark on him. No sense of normality is ever possible again after that.

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 7, 2009

An ironic death in Russia

From La Jornada (of Mexico) via Aporrea, an item both ironic and sobering about what has become of Russian glasnost:

Journalists, politicians and many ordinary readers of Izvestia, the daily newspaper which marked a crucial period in Russian history, attended a funeral on Tuesday for Igor Golembiovsky at Royekurovskoye cemetery.

Golembiovsky, a symbol of freedom of expression along with Yegor Yakovlev, of the weekly paper Moskovskiye Novosti, and Vitali Korotich, of the weekly Ogoniok--reached fame in the years prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and in the 1990s.

Golembiovsky, who died a few days after his 74th birthday, was buried in the same cemetery as Anna Politkovskaya, who was assassinated three years ago by a gunman.

But Golembiovsky, one of the architects of glasnost in the days of Mikhail Gorbachev, did not die of an assassin's bullets; his brilliant journalistic career at an end, sick and marginalized, as a victim of the market economy, the same he had always promoted as a viable alternative to socialism.

In the early 1980s, in the days of Yuri Andropov, Golembiovsky, considered a "problematic" journalist, was sent to Mexico as a correspondent for Izvestia. He lived his first exile there until, at the end of Konstantin Chernenko's reign, with Gorbachev in power, he was able to return to Moscow as bureau chief of that newspaper.

Even during his days as sub-director, in 1990, the new Communist party hierarchs, and above all the most conservative ideological wing, considered Golembiovsky "too liberal" and sent him to Spain. A few months later, he quit as correspondent and asked to return to Moscow to become a columnist for the paper.

On August 23, 1991, two days after the failed coup against Gorbachev, Golembiovsky became editor-in-chief of Izvestia, elected to the post by the same journalists and newspaper workers who, in an assembly, proclaimed themselves independent of the Supreme Soviet, which until then had financed them.

With the help of Boris Yeltsin, whose government he did not hesitate to criticize when in his opinion there were reasons, Golembiovsky led Izvestia to its golden age, with a daily press run of 11 million copies. Unlike some editors, who enriched themselves by appropriating the infrastructure inherited from the Soviet era, Golembiovsky wanted the paper to finance itself as a limited corporation, dividing earnings between journalists and workers, as well as attracting important capitalist partners who, gradually, took control of the enterprise.

In 1997 the powerful lost patience with the criticisms. Golembiovsky, true to his journalistic convictions, considered it worth reproducing an article from the French periodical, Le Monde, which attributed to the then prime minister of Russia, Viktor Chernomyrdin, an estimated personal fortune of some $5 billion US.

The permier flew into a rage and demanded that the corporations Lukoil and the Oneximbank, majority shareholders in Izvestia, fire Golembiovsky. Along with him, a number of journalists left, and a short time later, they founded Noviye Izvestia, a new paper financed by magnate Boris Berezovsky, formerly a member of Yeltsin's inner circle.

But Berezovsky came to grief in a personal confrontation with Vladimir Putin. Golembiovsky had to leave Noviye Izvestia in 2003, after the Kremlin launched a palace coup in its editorial department and several members of the old team abandoned him to his fate.

Still, Golembiovsky found the strength to start a new paper, the Russky Kurier, which soon had to close because it could not withstand the pressures of the authorities, judicial charges on all manner of pretexts, and the growing advertiser boycott launched against it.

All these battles took their toll on his health and, in 2005, after suffering an embolism, Golembiovsky became bedridden, but still remained lucid and interested in the political situation in Russia, without ever losing his irrepressible sense of irony.

As luck would have it, the funeral of Golembiovsky, always in solidarity with critical voices, would coincide with the date on which a lower-court judge in Moscow exonerated the president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, of all responsibility for the murder of Natalia Estemirova, a human-rights activist from the Memorial organization, kidnapped and executed in the Chechen capital city of Grozny last July 15. The director of Memorial, Oleg Orlov, accused Kadyrov of ordering Estemirova's death, and, in the face of the obvious impossibility of presenting conclusive proof, the judge ordered the organization to publish a retraction on its web page and pay Kadyrov the ruble equivalent of $2.3 million US in damages. Memorial plans to appeal the sentence.

Translation mine.

Aporrea headlined this piece as "Russian journalist, architect of glasnost, dies a victim of the market economy." I'd say that sounds about right.

RIP Igor Golembiovsky, ironic victim of the very policies he had every reason, at the time anyway, to believe would be successful. If only he had known...