Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hillary Clinton Scared to go to Puerto Rico

Sen. Clinton Cancels Visit to Puerto Rico
By STEVENSON JACOBS, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 3 minutes ago

Puerto Rican police tightened security at federal buildings and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton canceled a visit to the island amid fears the killing of a Puerto Rican nationalist in an FBI shootout could lead to a resurgence of pro-independence violence.

Police chief Pedro Toledo acknowledged the potential for unrest, saying the death of Filiberto Ojeda Rios had generated "rancor and rage."

Ojeda Rios, 72, was shot to death Friday by FBI agents who came to arrest him at his farmhouse in southwestern Puerto Rico for the 1983 armed robbery of a Wells Fargo depot in Connecticut. He was the leader of the militant independence movement known as the Macheteros, or Cane Cutters, and had been on the run for 15 years.

Protests immediately erupted in the streets of the capital San Juan during which demonstrators burned American flags and scrawled graffiti on two McDonald's restaurants.

Federal agents said they shot Ojeda Rios after he fired on them, but his widow, who escaped the farmhouse unharmed, said the FBI fired first. Puerto Ricans also criticized the FBI for waiting almost 24 hours to enter the farmhouse where the fugitive lay wounded.

The FBI has ordered an independent probe into the shooting but that has done little to abate the anger.

On Tuesday thousands of people turned out for his funeral, many waving Puerto Rican flags and singing revolutionary ballads. The Macheteros vowed to avenge his death in a statement read by the funeral's master of ceremonies.

"Yankees murderers, your days are numbered! ... The fight will continue now and until the Yankees leave our soil," read the letter, which was signed by a Commander Guasabara "from somewhere on the island."


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

$82 Billion: Cost to Cuba of Illegal and Immoral Blockade

For more than 40 years, U.S. policy on Cuba has been characterized by an aggressiveness that has increased in recent times. Now, the island is once again presenting a detailed report to the UN on how the Cuban people are affected by the intensification of economic restrictions against the island.

"We are talking about an economic war against our country," Bruno Rodriguez, Cuba's Deputy Foreign Minister said Tuesday. "It is unfounded, unfair, and, moreover, deeply illegal."

U.S. officials defend the embargo, saying unfettered trade and travel to the island would prop up Fidel Castro's government.

"Because the blockade’s measures include so many elements and affect every nook and cranny of our country’s economy, it is impossible to do a meticulous estimate, but conservatively speaking, it can be affirmed that financial losses for Cuba amount to more than $82 billion," Rodríguez added.

The report also detailed the effects of Bush's further tightening of the laws on families travelling home to Cuba. Just 57,145 Cuban-Americans visited their native country last year, compared with 115,050 in 2003 a 50 percent drop.

In 2004, a total of 77 companies and banking institutions from around the world were fined by the U.S. government for what it considered actions in violation of the blockade laws."

In 2004, 179 countries voted to end the blockade at the UN, which is the longest and cruelest in the history of humanity.

US Sides With Biggest Terrorist of North America

The global "War on Terrorism" is officially over, and you couldn't even read about it in your newspaper let alone "news channel." Any shred of credibility it had left disappeared yesterday when a US judge ruled that Cuban-American terrorist mastermind Luis Posada Carriles MAY NOT be deported to Venezuela, where an extradition request has been filed in connection to an airline bombing that killed 73 people, which Posada has ADMITTED to on tape and the CIA hadconcrete upfront knowledge of.

Predictably, but exremely cynically, the Judge ruled Posada could not be returned because Posada faced a supposed threat of torture in Venezuela. This despite the US Government having to admit that there is NO EVIDENCE that Venezuela uses torture. It is even more rich considering that Posada (nevermind Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib) is Venezuela's last torturer himself, with his victims still alive in Venezuela (he was head of the feared intelligence agency there when they were hunting down leftists).

Under Bush's famous declataion then, who is harboring the Western Hemisphere's biggest terrorist? Who is refusing to extradite a terrorist, despite the historic post 9/11 UN agreements to do so no questions asked? Who has decided to turn a volumous terrorism case into a ICE extradition hearing? Who saw fit to put at risk all the Post 9/11 goodwill? Who saw fit to not even handcuff this man upon catchng him? Who allowed him to sit and flaunt his freedom in Miami until the embarrassment reached too high? Who has also freed his terrorist accomplice, Orlando Bosch, in a pitifully reminsescent scene?

But the real question is why is this sickening and hypocritical injustice happening? Why is this man worth protecting so much? The answer is very simple, yet apparently too uncomfortable for ANY US MEDIA to attempt to even address, let alone answer. The answer is that he was doing his terrorism for us. For you and me. We paid for his training, for the bombs, for his high-profile lifestyle. He knows far too much about State crime, and therefore he must be protected from justice.

The case has been closely watched by the politically powerful anti-Castro Cuban-American community, whose leaders say Posada should be freed and allowed to live in Miami.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Puerto Rican Independence Activist Shot by FBI

Longtime Puerto Rican nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios has been killed by the FBI. The shooting occurred Friday after FBI agents surrounded a house where he was staying. According to an autopsy, Rios bled to death after being hit with a single bullet. Officials didn’t enter his home until Saturday, many hours after he was shot.

The FBI claimed the 72-year-old Ojeda Rios fired first but independence activists accused the FBI of assassinating him. For the past four decades Ojeda Rios had been a leading figure in the fight for Puerto Rican independence and against U.S. colonial rule.

The US seized Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War of 1898. Puerto Ricans are US citizens but cannot vote in US presidential elections and do not pay US income tax.

The FBI considered Ojeda Rios a wanted fugitive because of his ties to a $7 million bank robbery in 1983 in Connecticut, which funded his political operations. He had been living underground for 15 years in rural Puerto Rico, living as a rose gardener.

On Friday night, as word or the murder spread, 500 supporters of independence protested the shooting by blocking one of the main roads in San Juan.

Read a transcript between Democracy Now and Juan-Manuel Garcia-Passalacqua, Puerto Rican political analyst and radio host. Or the BBC's take.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Injustice in Haiti

What country has the US had a hand in ending 2 democratically-elected presidential in the last 15 years? It is Haiti, a country that has been descending into chaos and the economic depths since the February 2004 kidnapping and overthrow of the Haitian Government and elected leader Bertrand Aristide.

The Haitian election is coming up soon and the "election Council" there has been axing potential candidates. While the (miniscule) press attention to Haiti, which is ALSO suffering because of the Bush doctrine, has gone to the disloyal of an American citizen/businessman (big news) there has been next to nothing on the barring of Mr. Gerard Jean-Juste, a respected ex-Lavalas leader.

Mr JEan-Juste, a Priest and former Senator, was prevented being the Lavalas Party candidate because he is in jail on BS charges of a kidnapping that took place when he was in Miami.

Meanwhile, the arms and money behind the coup were certified as AOK. Mr. Guy Phillipe, a top hemispheric criminal, is cool to run, as is the head of the disgusting Business Federation head, Henri Baker (aka moneybags).

This really should be huge news because the country is on Civil War footing and getting the old lower-class urban Lavalas militants on board is critical to averting that. You could say they need a little faith in the system. Faith that one of their unjustly imprisoned leaders would not be barred from running because he is not there in person to register. Of course, the constitutional Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, has been in jail for over a year, accused of a 'massacre' in St. Marc on sketchy evidence, provoking UN officials to ask for his release or at least due process to be followed. Now they will boycott what hardcore call the "sanctioning of the coup" and violence will remain as the option.

In better news, a Commission of Inquiry led by Former Atty. General Ramsey Clarke has been formed to investigate the crimes and murders during and prior to the February 2004 kidnapping and overthrow of theHaitiann Government and elected leader Bertrand Aristide.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Katrina Exposes Bankrupt Conservative Policies

If you think Bush is suffering now from the Katrina, wait until September 2008, when New Orleans and the Mississippi Coast still lies fallow, vacant, dead. While the inept preparation for and response to Katrina exposed fisal conservatism and bureacracy as barriers to saving lives, it is appearing the rebuilding will expose something much larger: The bankruptcy of the free-market approach to community building. Consider:

+++The day after Katrina hit, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) began issuing housing vouchers to survivors. Two days later Bush officials had a meeting with HUD, and a couple hours later HUD STOPPED issuing vouchers. HUD officials had to lie and say that the housing problem will be solved by FEMA's trailors park ghettos.

+++Instead of opening up Government health insurance to (many injured) without insurance, Bush said that the few, already overburdaned and underfunded emergency hospitals that accept the uninsured have to take the burden of meeting the immense needs. Even in disaster the Government enforces the two Americas.

+++Case in point, US taxpayers are will be paying 10k a year for displaced relatively privliged children to continue going to private schools. God forbid they had to "sacrifice" to be in a public school.

+++Even worse, Bush has placed a $25,000 limit on all evacued families, including ALL benefits (housing, health, food, etc). Meanwhile WE'RE cutting checks for $250,000 for each ISRAELI settler who "evacuated" Gaza.

+++Even worse, we can house an estimated 100,000 people resettle in dry, safe communties right now in vacant housing. At least 23,000 New Orleans area units in dry areas were vacant BEFORE Katrina, never mind the thousands of deserted homes. But taking use of them to house people in relatively well-off, high-ground areas would accomplish everything we should want in a recovery: integration, opportunity, a quick back to normalcy... and the landlords shouldn't complain.

+++Bush's two redevlopment policy appears to be expanding the underwhelming Empowerment Zones (EZs) and tax credits. A marked failure in America's inner cities, EZ's are of ZERO help to small businesses, who aren't big enough to qualify. Tax Credits for people who OWN property, which can be built upon, if you get non-profit support is the other stupid proposal. Both show a commitment to broke ideology over people.

+++We all know he's stripped livable wages for the workers who rebuild and completely put aside environmental concerns (i'm not saying we didn't need to make hard choices).

+++We know he's not concerned with finding out what really went wrong. We know who will profit in the end, we know who will get screwed.

+++We know those without insurance will likely not be able to afford housing in the new Big Easy. We know those can rebuild will maximize profit and capitalize on the inbalance of supply and demand, leaving the poor out.

+++The every man for himself ideology has no business in the 21st Century.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


A Distorted Reality
Cuba: a medley of religions.
By Gladys Blanco and Luz Marina Fornieles Special for AIN

Numerous churches and religious denominations practice their faiths freely on the island, said Samuel Kobia, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), following his recent visit to the Caribbean island.

The presumed lack of any kind of freedom in Cuba is among the many distortions that exist today regarding the island's reality.

Born in Miathene, Kenya, in 1947, and elected General Secretary of the WCC in 2003, Kobia affirmed that while on the island he had the opportunity to meet not only with followers of the member churches of his organization (Methodist and Presbyterian churches), but also with representatives of other churches, thus concluding that freedom of religion "is a reality in Cuba."

Kobia, the first African to hold such a high position, which he formally assumed in January 2004, became the leader of an organization that groups over 400 million Christians the world over. It was in that capacity that he visited Cuba.

Speaking with Cuban and foreign press, Samuel Kobia revealed that he and his delegation met one night with President Fidel Castro and had a long and "very good" conversation.

"We discussed different issues, among them Church-State relations. We also requested permission to build new churches on the island that facilitate our pastoral mission," said Kobia, who affirmed that "the Cuban government places no restrictions on religion and supports the building of new churches."

Putting a New Face on Domination

With the demise of both the infamous rapid anti-Castro top diplomats for Latin America - Otto Reich and Roger Noriega - the Bush Administration appears to have recognized that naked aggression has gotten the US nowhere fast. The new appointee for the top spot, assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere., is Thomas Shannon a career foreign service and wonkish academic, who appears to represent a change in attitude, if not policy, on Latin America.

At his confirmation hearing yesterday, Shannon said the present situation with Venezuela is a "tragedy," but put all the blame on President Hugo Chavez. Shannon did acknowledge that the US has "not done a good job that we need to do in articulating our policies and our goals in the region" and that he is prepared to engage with Chavez in a "battle of ideas."

Interestingly, the term "battle of ideas" is Fidel Castro's. It refers to the rededication to socialist values in after some deviation during the post-Soviet economic troubles in the early 90s. If the US is truly willing to engage the leftists of Latin America in a battle of ideas, I can't wait. What lies and distortions will they come up with to prove that the past 25 years of neo-liberalism and privitization have actually made the continent better. How will they battle these damning facts:

· For the first 5 years of the current decade, 2000-2004, per capita GDP in Latin America is expected to grow by 0.2 percent annually, or about 1 percent for the whole period.

· This continues a long period of economic failure: for the prior 20 years, 1980-1999, the region grew by only 11 percent (in per capita terms) over the whole period. This is the worst 20-year growth performance for more than a century, even including the years of the Great Depression.

· By comparison, for the two decades from 1960-1979, Latin America experienced per capita GDP growth of 80 percent.

Maybe we should listen to our own (even conservative) EXPERTS first. Like Michael Shifter, from the right-wing, pro-business Inter-American Dialogue: "There's a lot of suspicion about the motives of the use of U.S. power, and also there is a sense that many of the economic models that were advocated by Washington have not really produced very satisfactory results for most Latin Americans," he said. "A lot of the opening of markets, privatization, liberalizing trade have taken place and yet Latin Americans, most of them, are not doing better. Poverty levels are still high, inequality has increased in almost every country. So there's a sense that somehow the prescriptions that Washington urged Latin Americans to adopt, and which they did adopt, really haven't produced the results that were expected."

But it appears to be more of the same from Shannon. For him, like good capitalist-apologists everywhere, the problem is that these failing countries just haven't gone far enough. It's all about "making tough decisions to strengthen democratic institutions, to open up their economies, to punish people for being corrupt, to make it easier to start a business, to get more credit to the private sector because that's how you're going to have sustained economic growth," he said. "These are hard things and the United States will stand by countries that help themselves." And those that want to try a new route?? They will look at the hell Chavez has had to endure from its friendly northern neighbors and its rich elite surrogates.

Roger Noreiega, on his way out the door, had some more choice words for Venezuela. "Just as we respect the sovereignty of Venezuela, even though we occasionally... (back coups, spread disinformation, fabricate election results, fund opposition political figures and ignore international law regarding extradition)... we nevertheless respect its sovereignty and we would hope Venezuela would respect the sovereignty of its neighbors too." I love when the US lectures sovereignty while its hands are dirty trying to overthrow a democratically elected government.

Meanwhile, whateveritisimagainstit found noteworthy Shannon's comments about "populism" (in relation to Chavez's "populism" of course). He says,"The United States went through a similar process of populism, and our party structure found a way to contain it." Lefti adds the definition of Populism: "A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite." Definitely something that needs to be "contained."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cuba to create doctors' brigade

Cuban doctors sit with their backpacks ready at a moment's notice to leave for the Gulf Coast, during a speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana September 4, 2005.

By Fernando Ravsberg
BBC Mundo, Havana

Cuba's president has announced the creation of an international medical brigade to assist countries affected by natural disasters or serious epidemics.

It would initially be formed by the 1,500 doctors Cuba offered the US after Hurricane Katrina, Fidel Castro said.

The brigade has been named Henry Reeve, in honour of a US doctor who fought in Cuba's independence war. The doctors must have epidemiological knowledge, speak two languages and be in good physical condition.

The brigade is expected to be 3,300-strong as recently graduated doctors and students in their final years join.

They would assist any country that faced severe problems from hurricanes, floods or other natural disasters, President Castro said at a doctors' graduation ceremony. He added that the brigade could be used in the fight against epidemics.

If developed countries decided to fight HIV in Africa they would need doctors prepared to work under those conditions, he said.

The Cuban president said the US had not replied to his offer to send 1,500 doctors to the US. "It hurts to think about it, but maybe some of those desperate people, surrounded by water and on the verge of death, could have been saved," he said.

"That's a hard lesson for those whose false pride and erroneous concepts have driven them not to respond, even late, to our offer,'' Castro said of American officials.

Congrats also goes to Cuba for bringing home the gold medal at the World Basebal Championship as well as the women's basketball championship.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Chavez on ABC: Evidence Bush planned to invade Venezuela

President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, left, and New York Congressman, Jose Serrano greet community members as they arrive at the 'Point Community Development Corporation' in New York's South Bronx

From the DailyKos, a 200 comment long discussion about Hugo Chavez and the numerous stories swirling about.... his UN speech, Robertson, the US's decertification of their drug war cooperation (despuite record seizures), his trip to the South Bronx, and now this:

Hugo Chavez blasted the Bush administration in a lengthy interview with Ted Koppel in New York on Nightline last night. It was one of the most devastating attacks on Bush that I have ever seen aired on network TV. Chavez described his attempts to build a solid relationship of mutual respect with the US and his success under the Clinton administration, which he contrasted to the hostile, lawless, and disingenuous behavior of Bush.

One charge was especially explosive. Chavez said that he does in fact possess documentation about a secret US plan to invade Venezuela, codenamed Operation Balboa. He said that an aircraft carrier had been sent to the Caribbean recently to conduct exercises related to Balboa. Koppel interrupted him to confirm that Chavez was claiming to have actual evidence of this plan, and he asked Chavez if he would hand over the evidence to ABC. Chavez said that he would give some of the evidence to Koppel.

"You hit me on one cheek, and I'll try to respond by helping you, I don't care. We're not doing this for the administration. We're doing it for the people of the United States," the left-wing leader said.

"Sometimes I make mistakes, I tend to respond to any official from the government of Mr. Bush who verbally attacks Venezuela," Chavez said during a speech at a Manhattan church. He acknowledged that he has occasionally "gone too far with words" when responding to U.S. officials who criticize his government, and he said his criticism of the Bush administration has sometimes been misunderstood as attacks against the American public.

Chavez also echoed a common urban planning critique regarding the massive amounts of driver-only cars chugging oil found on US shighways as a reason why "the world cannot afford the US lifestyle."

Friday, September 16, 2005

Chavez Gets Loudest Applause at UN Summit

Venezuela Pres Hugo Chavez calls the UN Summit document "illegal" because it was delivered to delegates only five minutes before the summit started and only in English.

Chavez Says U.N. to Move to Jerusalem
The Associated Press
Thursday, September 15, 2005; 11:05 PM

UNITED NATIONS -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq on Thursday and told world leaders they should consider moving the U.N. headquarters out of the United States because of it.

The leftist leader said the fact that the war was fought without U.N. authorization showed that Washington has no respect for the world body...

World leaders had been asked to speak for five minutes, and when Chavez kept talking, the presiding diplomat passed him a note that his time was up. The Venezuelan leader threw the note on the floor and said if Bush could speak for 20 minutes at Wednesday's opening session, so could he.

At the end, Chavez's remarks got what observers said was the loudest applause of the summit.

The article goes on to talk about the intensification of attacks on Venezuela, with the decertification of it's Drug War efforts earlier that day, despite the ackowledged consecutive increases in drug busts since 2000.

+++Then it goes on to mention the preferential oil trade deal (PetroCaribe) that Chavez offered last week to 13 Caribbean countries. Under the plan, Venezuela will soon sell up to 190,000 barrels of fuel a day to countries from Jamaica to St. Lucia, offering favorable financing while shipping fuel directly to reduce costs. It is expected to help those countries save millions of dollars.

On the eve of the summit, negotiations from the 191 U.N. member states agreed on a watered-down document for world leaders to adopt that takes some initial steps to meet U.N. development goals and reform the United Nations. Venezuela and Cuba were the only two countries to reserve judgment on the 35-page document, which is expected to be adopted on Friday when the three-day summit ends.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Failing the Weak at the UN Summit

Despite the best attempts of the US press to obscure the real failure and real blame for this week's watered down UN Miilenium Development Goals (MDG) Summit, anyone paying attention knows that it was the US who sabotaged the document's chances and sent us backwards from the (already weakened) Millenium Development Goals agreed to in Gleneagles just months ago.

Two weeks ago, I highlighted the WMD our new UN Ambassador John Bolton tossed into the document in the form of 750 Amendments at the last minute. Fortuately, not all of them made it it to the final text. But enough of them did, to consider this historic opportunity effectively lost.

The meeting´s final document does not express the world´s real problems or solutions. It ignores meaningful steps towards WMD disamament, weakened wording on the environment and took out specific dates and goals to meet MDG targets for poverty reduction and aid increases.

The summit has become an ambiguous mish-mash of meaningless hyperbole because it blatantently ingnored 150 countries in the negotiation process.. perhaps a planned necessity because of Bolton's last minute rewrite. In addition, too many countries only shut their mouths in public about the blatant hypocrisy.

But in the US media, all we hear about is how the document failed because it did not address such controversial topics as the definition of terrorism and reform of the UN Human Rights Commission (HRC). I for one, am thankful these important items did not get the short-thrift other items got and hold out for a larger, more transparent debate on those subjects. Not one US media outlet that criticized the document on these grouds (and countries like Pakistan, Egypt and Cuba, rather than the US) saw fit to mention that the UN gathering had originally been called to review progress on its Millennium Development Goals to tackle poverty and disease, not address these issues.

The result is that, with the lack of urgency in this document, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) general director now states that the goal to reduce the almost 900 million starving people of the planet by half for 2005 will be achieved in 2115 instead.

But lets be clear, the third world does not want handouts. It simply wants to control its own destiny and stop the transfer of ITS resources to the West. As the Jamaican President stated during his speech: Since 2000, the developing world has transferred $1.2 TRILLION dollars to the rich countries.

Give Kofi Annan credit for calling a spade a spade, saying the lack of progress on disamament and development was "a real disgrace". Kudos on the genocide provisions, the only rear tangible step forward.

For more analysis check the Globe and Mail, or Bob Geldoff in the Independent

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Venezuela's (Not So)Civil Society - Sumate

The most democratic woman in Venezuela, or just a US pawn?

According to the Miami Herald, the US Government is finalizing plans to double the spending of our money ($100,000) to a discredited, treasonous group operating under the guise of "democracy promotion" in Venezuela. Here is what I've learned about the group, with bits edited from here and here.

The group, called Sumate (or join-up), plans to use to the funds to "strengthen the democratic process in Venezuela." As it turns out, this would be laughable if the stakes weren't so high and opposite so apparent. For example, as one of her chief democracy strengthening activities, Sumate's leader Maria Corina Machado, signed a decree supporting the (just a wee bit) anti-democratic 2003 military coup and the corresponding attempt to dissolve the Constitution and the National Assemly. This support for a US-backed big-business directed dictatorship in the waiting has led the Venezuelan government to file legal charges against the group's leaders for treason - a trial that is looming ever larger.

According to Machado, who gained organizing experience trying to privitize homeless shelters, Súmate is "an objective non-partisan civil association." However, Súmate has worked exclusively with the Venezuelan opposition since its inception in 2002. Their controversial role conducting flawed exit polls during the referendum (specifically criticized by the Carter Center and OAS observation missions in Venezuela) and their subsequent rejection of the referendum results (though both the Carter Center and the OAS declared them to be free and fair) have cast doubt on Súmate's professed "neutrality" to say the least.

The funding also shines the light back on the US approach to Venezuela since Chavez has been in office, which is about everything BUT democracy building. Declassified records show the US quadrupled financing specifically to anti-Chávez groups, at the time that U.S. officials knew that the very same organizations and individuals clearly were planning a coup. This shows that they had the intention to support those activities. Since 2001, the total calculated amount of transparent (non CIA) US financing is a little over $27 million. And it's not just financing, it’s training and political support, and military support.

Some of you might be thinking, who cares about this one group? But this Sumate organization - and its trial that has not yet begun - are critical to the pressure that is elevating on Venezuela, from the US Government as well as human rights groups. When you hear that Chavez is "eroding democracy" from Sec. Rice, she is referring primarily to this group and their trial. So lets focus on the legality of taking money from foriegn governments to engage in political activity a bit more.

First off, the Venezuelan laws are more relaxed than our own in the US. In the US it is straight-up illegal for any political campaign to get money from a foreign government. In terms of a foreign government funding, say, an NGO or a PR group, they would have to be registered in the US with the Foreign Agent Registration Act under DOJ. They would have to report on their activities in a determined period and what is reported would have to correlate with actual actions, unlike in Sumate's case. Sumate was approved for "supervising the collection of recall election signatures," when we know they were far more involved in partisan politicking, propaganda dissemination and organizing during the recall. In Venezuuela, the law under consideration is whether Sumate tried to overthrow the Venezuelan government while receiving foriegn government money. Their appearance at the swearing-in ceremony for 2-day President Carmona and Mochado's signature on the decree that dissolved Consitution, would appear to be proof, but we'll see what the courts say.

Now of course, Chavez has held - and his supporters have won - more elections in his time in office than anyone else on the planet. Participation in elections has skyrocketed from the dismal US ranges to 90% for the referendum, where Chavez won with 60%. Participation in the affairs of the State at all levels is a guiding principle of Chavez's revolution. It was Chavez's idea to allow recall elections, lets remember. But still, the NED has us believing democracy is at risk in Venezuela and that they are supporting the "most moderate, and democratic elements." Yeah right.

We know the score, we've seen the US pull these tricks before in Nicaragua and the Phillipines. It coalesces a factured opposition, often with boatloads of undiscolsed cash, chooses its leaders from the elite of society, then chooses its moment to pounce.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Sickening Politics of Hurricane Aid

So, the Government says they are not inserting politics into AID offers but we know nothing regarding Cuba and Venezuela goes on without the right-wingers getting their dirty hands all over it. (Venezuela's offered millions from Citgo and also offered to selling cheap gas directly to poor communities. Cuba offered of 1,500 medical personnel).

But compare what we want to believe to the reality below: "Our function here at the State Department, to help coordinate with FEMA as well as other U.S. Government agencies, is to see what the American people need, to see what these people who have been affected by the hurricane need. That is our criterion." Sean McCormack, State Dept. Spokeman.

On Venezuela's "cheap gas" offer however, Mr. McCormack made crystal clear that selling gas cheaply to Americans is not gonna happen: "But I have to point out that that is -- that the sales of that gasoline product will be based on whatever the market prices are. It's just they're making more gasoline available on the market, but the sales will be commercial sales at whatever the market price is." I wonder what the people in those poor communities who desperately need cheap gas would think of that if it ever became news.

Then on Cuba's Doctor offer, they have the nerve to say that all in hunky dorry and that the health care needs are in the bag: "I will say after talking to some of my colleagues at the Health and Human Services (HHS) Agency.... (and) there has been a robust response from the American medical community in terms of medical supplies, in terms of medical professionals, doctors, nurses, as well as public health officials."

But i wonder if he or anyone else actually did speak with HHS. Because if they did they would know they have put out a desperate call for medical personnel, as has the Red Cross - not just for right now but for the next few months at lease. And I wonder if he has read any of the hundreds of reports that continue to come out of the region talking about the desperate need for more medical personnel. Google helped me compile a few reports to prove the point.

How the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the Surgeon General has requested physicians from Kaiser for Houston and Scripps in San Diego to "volunteer" their service.

How the federal government is picking up the tab for transportation and housing of these "volunteers," while Cuba offered to pay all expenses

How in Mississippi, there is only one hospital in 6 counties up and running. And more damaged residents are coming back daily.

How in New Orleans, 10/13 hospitals are shuttered and clinics only open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.

How "greatly needed" medical supplies were, and how even FEMA abd Red Cross workers did not have their tetnus shots and

How volunteers are pouring in but Red Cross "the agency needs licensed doctors, nurses and mental health professionals."

How lines with thousands of people at mass triage centers are popping up.

How Doctors and Nurses worked around the clock

How the need for medical services is growing by the day

How Doctors in MO expect to be inundated when the city allows tens of thousands of people back to see their homes or what’s left of them. In the meantime, Doctors are calling the Feds saying they need MASH units, military doctors and nurses,

How oveerwhelmed Doctors had to ditch and kill their patients

How health-care officials say they are concerned about tuberculosis, leptospirosis and West Nile virus, as well as gastrointestinal viruses.

How 8,000 people with HIV and AIDS who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina now face the massive challenge of trying to manage their disease without their doctors, their clinics and their support systems.

How 45 patients died becaue of the lack of medical personnel able to cope with the deteriorating conditions

Monday, September 12, 2005

Red-Green Coalition Set to Rule Norway

Ok, it's about as far from the "South" as you can get, but it is the nation of (the majority) of my ancestors, so it gets some props here. The left-wing Labor Party had ruled Norway for most of the post-War years, reponsible for the creating one of the most generous welfare states around (#1 on the UN's human development index, see below). But they had been ouut of power for a while to the right, who while not screwing up royally irked enough people with their (symbolic) pro-Iraq invasion policies, tax-cuts for the rich and ignoring of the safety net. Norweigens made clear they are not content to rest on their laurels, and want even more social benefits. Who can blame them, once they've had a good 40 year taste of multi-year maternity leave, free child care and all the rest. Labor wil join the Green Party, the Socialist Left Party and probably even the Communists in new Government, based on early eleciton results.

Read about it in UK's The Independent

Friday, September 09, 2005

Can We Learn From Cuba?

Now at a time when we are all trying to figure out what went wrong and how we should have acted better, why is this the first and only story I have read about Cuba's exemplery model of Hurricane preparation in the US press? I wonder. It might be the same reason we're not accepting the offer of 1,566 Doctors. Instead, our governement sees fit to 1) first ignore the offer by not publicly acknowledging it until the press started asking questions at State, 2) try to mealy-mouth their way around the issue by not accepting it nor denying it, 3) use the offer as an excuse to take swipes at the man who made the generous offer. Too bad our so-called liberal LA Times editorial page chief sees fit to do the same, by comparing Castro to Osama Bin Laden in their supposed shared "glee" over the disaster. Never mind the nationall televised moment of silence Castro led while Bush was still nowhere to be seen. Disgusting.

The tiny country is known for its hurricane planning that keeps its people prepared and fatalities low.

September 9, 2005

Before Hurricane Ivan whipped Cuba last year with 160 mph winds, the government evacuated nearly 2-million people. The result: not a single death or serious injury.

Although it is a small, poor country in the heart of hurricane alley, Cuba is widely acknowledged to do an exemplary job of protecting its 11.3-million residents from natural disasters. Its record is even more impressive in light of the catastrophic loss of life that the United States - the world's richest and most technologically advanced nation - is experiencing from Hurricane Katrina.

"Cuba has not only an evacuation plan but an overall plan for hurricanes and other disasters that is very well developed and organized," says Dusan Zupka of the United Nations' International Secretariat for Disaster Reduction.

"I would dare to say that Cuba is a good example for other countries in terms of preparedness and prevention."

Cuba's form of government - communist and authoritarian - undoubtedly helps it to quickly mobilize in emergencies. But the real key to success is a "culture of safety" in which people at all levels of government and society are committed to reducing risks and saving lives, according to a study by Oxfam, a charity that works in ravaged areas worldwide."


Thursday, September 08, 2005

UN Says Parts of US as Poor as Third World

Claims that the New Orleans floods have laid bare a growing racial and economic divide in the US have, until now, been rejected by the American political establishment as emotional rhetoric. But yesterday's UN report provides statistical proof that for many - well beyond those affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - the great American Dream is an ongoing nightmare.

The annual UN Deveopment Program's 2005 Human Development Index was released yesterday. In my estimation, this is the most important set of stats released each year. It esentially compares and ranks countries based on a wide range of health, education and social welfare indices. It appears this year, the took it a step forward, looking more closely at inequality WITHIN nations, not just between them.
Last year, I focussed on Cuba's amazing distinciton of being #2 in terms of their human development ranking for the size of their economy. This year they are #1 in the world in that regard. And it's not that their economy has been lagging, in fact at 3.5% annual growth since 1999, their growth is the top 4 of the 57 "highly-developed" countries in the world. I also noted all the top countries (Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, etc.) have a far more socialist orientation than the US (now at #10) and the UK (at #15).

The results this year are equally facinating. The big news getting press is that the former Soviet countries continue to be worse off in their human development, compared to their positions in 1990. They share this dubious distinction of decline only with the most ravaged parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. 20% of those living in these countries now subsides on less than $2 a day, compared to 5% in 1990. Tajikistan has fallen 21 places; Ukraine, 17; and Russia, 15. "Ukraine has one of the fastest-growing rates of HIV infection in the world, with Russia a close second. The decline also reflected high levels of corruption in nations from Russia to Central Asia."

The report also challenges the claim that globalisation is an automatic guarantee of greater prosperity for all. (Socialist) Vietnam, for instance, has managed to fight poverty with export growth but in Mexico 'rapid import liberalisation in agriculture has further marginalized the rural poor,' the report said. Africa has seen increases in exports, but its human devlopment is getting worse.

Meanwhile the United States has fallen 2 spots since just last year, to 10th. But it is some of the more detailed inter-America stats that are particularly revealing:

Child mortality is on the rise in the United States. For half a century the US has seen a sustained decline in the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. But since 2000 this trend has been reversed.

Spending the most on health care, but nothing on inequities. Although the US leads the world in healthcare spending this high level goes disproportionately on the care of white Americans. It has not been targeted to eradicate large disparities in infant death rates based on race, wealth and state of residence.

A baby boy from one of the top 5 per cent richest families in America will live 25 per cent longer than a boy born in the bottom 5 per cent. The infant mortality rate in the US is the same as Malaysia, which has a quarter of America's income.

Blacks in Washington DC have a higher infant death rate than people in the Indian state of Kerala The health of US citizens is influenced by differences in insurance, income, language and education. Black mothers are twice as likely as white mothers to give birth to a low birthweight baby. And their children are more likely to become ill.

Hispanic Americans are nearly three times as likely as white Americans to have no health coverage (34% vs. 13%). The US is the only wealthy country with no universal health insurance system.

If the gap in health care between black and white Americans was eliminated it would save nearly 85,000 lives a year.

Child poverty rates in the United States are now more than 20 per cent. The US - with Mexico - has the dubious distinction of seeing its child poverty rates increase to more than 20 per cent. The UK has shown how quickly child poverty can decrease with targeted tax breaks and benefits.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Bush Ignores Offer of 1,500 Cuban Doctors for Katrina

Rueters, By Sue Pleming
Tue Sep 6, 5:17 PM ET

The United States gave longtime foe Cuba the cold shoulder on Tuesday over its offer to send more than 1,500 doctors to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, which created a humanitarian disaster after pummeling the U.S. Gulf Coast.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said U.S. officials were reviewing Cuba's offer but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had indicated there was a "robust" response from U.S. doctors who have volunteered to help.

Asked whether this meant Cuba's doctors would not be needed, McCormack replied: "No, I'm not saying that. What I'm trying to do is describe for you the facts of what the response has been. And in terms of the international offers of assistance, our criterion is: What's needed?"

Cuban President Fidel Castro has complained Washington has not responded to its offer and on Sunday he gathered 1,586 doctors in white uniforms ready to be flown to the United States with satchels of medical supplies.

"Go forth, generous defenders of health and life, conquerors of pain and death," the 79-year-old Cuban leader said to the medics, who have been on stand-by in Havana for several days.

Venezuela, which has close ties with Cuba and prickly relations with the United States, offered up to $1 million assistance to the Red Cross. McCormack said he did not have any details on how the United States responded to Venezuela's offer.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Storm After the Storm

Never thought I'd print capitalist apologist David Brooks here. But it is as an enlightened analysis of the spirit enveloping LA and MISS as I've seen so far. He recognizes the revolutionary potential these tragedies bring forth.

September 1, 2005
The Storm After the Storm

Hurricanes come in two waves. First comes the rainstorm, and then comes what the historian John Barry calls the "human storm" - the recriminations, the political conflict and the battle over compensation. Floods wash away the surface of society, the settled way things have been done. They expose the underlying power structures, the injustices, the patterns of corruption and the unacknowledged inequalities. When you look back over the meteorological turbulence in this nation's history, it's striking how often political turbulence followed.

In 1889 in Pennsylvania, a great flood washed away much of Johnstown. The water's crushing destruction sounded to one person like a "lot of horses grinding oats." Witnesses watched hundreds of people trapped on a burning bridge, forced to choose between burning to death or throwing themselves into the churning waters to drown.

The flood was so abnormal that the country seemed to have trouble grasping what had happened. The national media were filled with wild exaggerations and fabrications: stories of rivers dammed with corpses, of children who died while playing ring-around-the-rosy and who were found with their hands still clasped and with smiles still on their faces.

Prejudices were let loose. Hungarians then were akin to today's illegal Mexican immigrants - hard-working people who took jobs no one else wanted. Newspapers carried accounts of gangs of Hungarian men cutting off dead women's fingers to steal their rings. "Drunken Hungarians, Dancing, Singing, Cursing and Fighting Amid the Ruins" a New York Herald headline blared.

Then, as David McCullough notes in "The Johnstown Flood," public fury turned on the Pittsburgh millionaires whose club's fishing pond had emptied on the town. The Chicago Herald depicted the millionaires as Roman aristocrats, seeking pleasure while the poor died like beasts in the Coliseum.

Even before the flood, public resentment was building against the newly rich industrialists. Protests were growing against the trusts, against industrialization and against the new concentrations of wealth. The Johnstown flood crystallized popular anger, for the fishing club was indeed partly to blame. Public reaction to the disaster helped set the stage for the progressive movement and the trust-busting that was to come.