Sunday, November 30, 2008
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science..." Uncle Albert said that and I love the concept.
I'm working on a project preparing for a residency that requires a 90 minute Art Theory presentation each morning. So I'm sifting through the archives and creating a visual 'influences, inspirations and fundamental practices' approach.
This piece 'Emergence' is an old friend from 1981.
I was reading Seth. I wrote a fan letter to Jane Roberts. I still love that material...the idea of consciously choosing intuition, truth, love, joy and creativity.
By Joshua Brandt
When Jeff Moss, general manager of 24th Street's Streetlight Records, recalled the store's humble beginnings, he couldn't resist a wistful smile.
"I was just a kid looking for some spending money. It was a placeholder job. We had one sign, about 50 square feet, and saggy cardboard boxes with used records--and this was before anyone understood the concept of used records.
"I was always kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop," Moss said.
Despite his trepidations, for over three decades--from rock to disco to hip-hop to hyphy--Streetlight thrived as a magnet for music collectors. People would come from miles around to sift through the store's dusty bins, crammed with the hottest new--and hippest old--albums, tapes, and CDs.
But that other shoe may be dropping now. After 33 years in Noe Valley, Streetlight owner Robert Fallon gave word to employees last month that he will close the store at 3979 24th Street on Jan. 31, at the end of the holiday season.
"It's really hard to swallow," said Moss, who has been with the shop for all but two of those years. "On an emotional level it's very difficult. I've gone through all the stages, I guess you could say. There was anger, denial, bargaining, and finally, acceptance."
Still, he understands the factors that went into Fallon's decision to give up the store: the sour economy, competition from other retailers and the Internet, and an iPod culture that promotes one-hit wonders instead of whole albums.
"The music industry doesn't promote full-length artistic works like [Pink Floyd's] Dark Side of the Moon anymore," said Moss. "The big-box stores offer the name groups way below cost, and people just download one song per album. It's tough for a small, local store to survive under those conditions. The unfortunate reality is that the day of the neighborhood record store has come and gone."
Fallon, who launched Streetlight in 1976, thought long and hard before deciding to close the Noe Valley location, instead of his other San Francisco location on Market Street. (Streetlight also has stores in San Jose and Santa Cruz. Many of the 24th Street employees will be switching over to the Market Street store in some capacity.)
In the end, it was a decision based on hard facts. "I happen to love Noe Valley, and I was a member of this community for over 20 years before I moved to Big Sur. This area has one of the world's best promenades, and I have many fond memories of the store and neighborhood.
"But emotions don't pay the bills," Fallon said, "and we've been losing money steadily since 2001."
The Market Street store had better foot traffic and visibility, he said, so the Noe Valley store was the logical choice.
'Like a Bad Dream'
The reaction from longtime customers was swift and visceral.
"Wow, I'm shocked and stunned," said Dennis White. "Shocked and stunned," repeated White, an employee of nearby Noe Valley Music and a Streetlight customer for 20 years.
"The street is not going to be the same. That's just terrible. I talk to those guys at the shop all the time. They're so passionate and knowledgeable. I thought that some of those guys should run for Mayor of 24th Street.... They would've won in a landslide."
Over at Phoenix Books and Records, store manager James Koehneke was equally dismayed.
"I'm devastated. It's like a bad dream. We consider them old friends because we kind of grew up together on the block. But I guess stores like this may just be the products of another era, where the economic conditions were more merciful and artists and musicians who supported the independent stores could live in the neighborhood.
"I'm really sorry. It's really sad," Koehneke said. "People need to think about what kind of city they want to live in when we lose stores like Streetlight."
Calls for Wake-Up Calls
Neighborhood resident Chuck Hubbell agreed, saying the store's demise should be a wake-up call for Noe Valley.
"People should be pissed about this," said Hubbell, who has made almost daily stops at Streetlight Records for 18 years. "The times are changing, and they aren't changing for the better. This is a real village here, and healthy villages are comprised of healthy small businesses. Without it, neighborhoods are stale and irrelevant. Period."
Coral Reiff, a Noe Valley resident since 1972, called Streetlight's closing "an outrage. I saw many of these employees--mostly young men--grow up, go to college, and get married. They were like family to me. Whenever I walk into the store, someone will call me by name and tell me about a new opera release, or a new digitized Hendrix recording.
"You know, I could easily shop online, but I choose not to because of Streetlight. This is just a microcosm of what's going on in the world, and people have to wake up before more precious institutions are lost."
Don't Discount Passion for Music
Another fan, Kenn Durrence, who drove up from San Jose on a recent weekend just to shop at Streetlight, thinks the store is making a big mistake.
"First of all, sales of vinyl have doubled every year since 2000, and the sale of record players was up 80 percent last year. It used to be that vinyl just appealed to middle-aged guys like me in big Hawaiian T-shirts, but now a lot of kids aged 18 to 22 are getting into it.
"I mean look at these two beauties that just came out," said Durrence, holding up copies of the Pixies' Bossanova and Trompe le Monde.
"This is 180-gram vinyl, which is really substantial. You can feel the magic when you hold it. You can frame it. This is really art. And at places like this store, you can always find hidden treasures like rare deejay-stamped promotional albums that aren't available in other places. I'll tell you one thing--never discount the passion people have for their music."
That's exactly the sentiment that buffers store manager Sunlight Weismehl during a time of "disbelief."
"I've worked at this store for 20 years. I got hired when I brought an old Jethro Tull album back because the liner wasn't in mint condition."
Weismehl laughed at the memory, adding that any "flute-rock devotee" had to be considered an excellent candidate to work behind the counter.
"I have a memory of every nook and cranny in this place. I know where the floors creak or the paint on the walls is chipping. This store is all I've thought about for two decades. I have to admit that my optimism is shrinking, but I still have that little ray of hope that the store will remain open.
"I just can't fully give that hope up."
LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivia's leftist government said on Sunday it was preparing to charge a top leader of an autonomy movement with "terrorism" after violent protests in September.
The government of President Evo Morales said Branko Marinkovic, who helped lead an autonomy push by Bolivia's four richest provinces, would be charged for instigating attacks in which at least 17 people were killed.
"We have enough evidence in this investigation to allow us to link Mr. Marinkovic with the acts of terrorism that occurred in several parts of the country in September," government minister Alfredo Rada told state radio.
Twenty people, including a governor and another civic leader, are already behind bars for the violence that erupted in four opposition-controlled regions when anti-Morales protesters stormed government buildings, sabotaged natural gas pipelines and battled with the president's supporters.
Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, boosted his political standing through his handling of the crisis while his opponents, including wealthy landowner Marinkovic, emerged weakened.
Marinkovic, behind the autonomy movement in resource-rich Santa Cruz, did not comment on the government case. His supporters say he is a victim of political persecution.
Rada said Marinkovic's possible arrest would depend on the justice system.
"What Mr. Marinkovic has to do is prepare his defense and not try to run," he said.
Marinkovic and Santa Cruz governor Ruben Costas led the so-called Half Moon group of eastern provinces, also including Tarija, Beni and Pando, seeking autonomy from the government so that they could have more control of vast oil, gas and agricultural resources.
Bolivia is South America's poorest country and has a long history of political instability.
Morales came to power as a champion of landless Indians and promptly nationalized the energy industry to return resource wealth to the people.
(Editing by Alan Elsner)
The Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chávez, has not had things all his own way recently, but at least he has famous friends
Falling oil prices and some significant losses in recent elections may have delivered blows to Hugo Chávez's self-styled socialist revolution, but he can still count on the support of Sean Penn.
In the video above, the actor defends the democratically elected Chávez against US allegations of dictatorship and voices concerns that America is "becoming increasingly gullible to the demonising of foreign states or leaders".
The video includes clips of commentators on Fox News variously describing Chávez as an "economic terrorist" and (horror of horrors) "a socialist".
In an article accompanying the video on the Nation, in which Penn also talks about his meeting with another US bogeyman, the Cuban leader Raul Castro, he writes:
It's true, Chávez may not be a good man. But he may well be a great one.
Penn, a renowned liberal (and we all now how that word goes down in the US), will no doubt attract the ire of rightwing commentators (in this 2007 interview on Fox News, a New York councilman is called a "son of a bitch" by a reporter for defending Chávez, after 7mins 22s), but his support illustrates how the Venezuelan leader polarises opinion.
The Russian president, Dimitry Medvedev, is the latest leader of a state on not exactly friendly terms with the US to reach out to the Venezuelan president. He is due to arrive in Caracas today.
According to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, "the unstated reason he is in Venezuela now is that both he and Chávez want to express defiance to the United States".
Supporters credit Chávez with increasing access to education and healthcare and trying to improve the lot of the impoverished majority.
But the CIA website lists concerns such as "a weakening of democratic institutions, political polarization, a politicized military, drug-related violence along the Colombian border, increasing internal drug consumption, overdependence on the petroleum industry with its price fluctuations, and irresponsible mining operations that are endangering the rainforest and indigenous peoples".
Is Chávez a "great man", or is he the demon portrayed by the US? Or is the truth rather more mundane: that he lies somewhere between the two extremes?
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Decisive revolutionary defeat of capitalist class still a must
A record 10 million Venezuelan voters turned out for state and municipal elections on Nov. 23, in the first electoral run of the new Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
In the country’s popular vote, 5.3 million people supported the PSUV candidates, and 4 million backed the right-wing opposition. The 65.45 percent voter turnout is the highest ever for regional and local elections
Venezuelans waiting to vote,
The PSUV candidates won 17 of the 22 governorships, or 77 percent, and 265 out of 327 municipalities, or 81 percent, in an election widely seen as a referendum on the socialist vision of the Bolivarian revolution. There are 23 states in Venezuela, but the southernmost one, Amazonas, did not have elections this year.
This was also the first election to take place since the pro-Chávez forces lost a major December 2007 referendum on some 60 economic and social reforms. This time, almost 6 million people voted for the newly-formed PSUV, a gain of 1.5 million more than in Dec. 2007.
Chávez and other PSUV leaders declared the day after the vote that from the elections must come a deepening of the revolutionary process.
While the country’s right-wing and U.S. imperialism are trying to extract an assessment of victory for those who oppose the Bolivarian revolution, it is clear that there is majority support among the masses for the PSUV.
In the municipalities, the pro-Chávez forces have steadily gained more seats in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 elections. In 2000, 105 municipalities voted Bolivarian and 146 went for the right wing; in 2004, 220 municipalities voted Bolivarian and 60 voted opposition. This year, 265 out of 327 of the country’s municipalities, or 81 percent, voted for the PSUV, and little more than 50 municipalities voted for the opposition candidates.
Still, some of the elections around the capital reflected discontent with quality-of-life issues and an unpopular incumbent governor running on the PSUV ticket in Miranda. The state of Miranda is next to Caracas federal district, and much of the capital resides within that state.
Many people were unhappy with the extremely high rates of violent crime, drug trafficking and deteriorated infrastructure in the city and surrounding area. They blamed PSUV incumbent candidate Deodato Cabello for failing to resolve these problems and corruption.
That left a wide opening for the U.S.-financed right-wing candidate Henrique Capriles Radonsky. Capriles was one of the coup plotters against Chávez in April 2002, when he helped lead a violent demonstration against the Cuban embassy in Caracas when he was mayor of the Baruta municipality of Caracas.
The day after the elections, Chávez warned the opposition politicians not to continue with their counter-revolutionary actions, and referred specifically to Capriles, now newly-elected governor of Miranda. "I will be evaluating him, because five years ago he was one of the leaders of the coup d’état and was assaulting the Cuban embassy here in Caracas."
Chávez has issued two messages: He has cautioned the right-wing not to use its new offices as a base for organizing against the revolution, and he has pointed to the gains of the Bolivarian revolution since 1998 as a strong mandate to deepen the revolutionary struggle.
The right-wing opposition won the governorship in five states—Táchira, Carabobo, Nueva Esparta, Zulia and Miranda. However, Táchira and Carabobo were extremely close votes. The states of Zulia, Miranda and Carabobo have the largest populations in Venezuela.
Additionally, the right wing lost three states—Sucre, Guárico, and Aragua—whose governors were elected on a pro-Chávez platform in 2005 but who joined the opposition in 2007.
In the capital city of Caracas, there were two contending victories. Opposition candidate Antonio Ledezma was elected mayor of metropolitan Caracas, the capital’s executive office, while PSUV candidate Jorge Rodríguez was elected mayor of Libertador, the most important of Caracas’ five municipalities. Ironically, Ledezma, an ally of right-wing ex-president Carlos Andrés Pérez, was Caracas mayor from 1992 to 1995, when conditions were at their worst in the capital city.
The importance of Washington’s support for the counter-revolutionary forces cannot be underestimated. The U.S. government has funneled millions of dollars to subversive groups that are targeting communities and regions in order to build an opposition and destabilize Venezuela’s society. The U.S. Agency for International Development—closely coordinated with the CIA’s subversion strategy—channels funds through the U.S. Embassy-based Office of Transition Initiatives. Venezuela and Bolivia are the only countries with OTI offices that are not emerging from civil wars.
Investigator Eva Golinger’s new book, "The Imperial Spiderweb: An Encyclopedia of Invasion and Subversion," details the extensive network of U.S. agencies providing that counterrevolutionary funding and direction.
She writes: "USAID and [the National Endowment for Democracy], and others like Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (Germany), FAES (Spain), FOCAL (Canada), Friederich Ebert Stiftung (FES), among others, have been working in Venezuela for years, advising and financing parties such as Justice First, A New Time, and We Can, to help them create platforms and political strategies that reflect the needs and desires of the Venezuelan people, but that are directing a hidden agenda that promotes a neo-liberal and anti-socialist vision."
Venezuela cannot escape U.S. imperialist designs to subvert and sabotage the revolutionary process without inflicting a decisive defeat on the capitalist class and their organizations and agents. Presently, those reactionary elements are still free to function. The class polarization and extreme poverty in Venezuela requires the expropriation of the wealth and resources of the ultra-rich capitalists and the use of those resources to solve the economic and social problems that beset Venezuela.
Progressive activists in the United States must first and foremost extend real solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution and expose the schemes of the CIA and the Pentagon, which aim to smash the revolutionary process.
On November 23, Venezuela held regional and local elections for governors, mayors and other municipal offices. Over 5000 candidates contested in 603 races for 22 state governors, 328 mayors, 233 state legislative council members, 13 Caracas Metropolitan area council members, and seven others for the Alto Apure District Council.
As mandated under Article 56 of the Bolivarian Constitution: "All persons have the right to be registered (to vote) free of charge with the Civil Registry Office after birth, and to obtain public documents constituting evidence of the biological identity, in accordance with the law."
It's a constitutional mandate to let all Venezuelans vote. Once registered, none are purged from the rolls, obstructed, or prevented from having their vote count like so often happens in America. In Venezuela, democracy works.
In 2003, Hugo Chavez undertook a major successful initiative called Mision Itentidad (Mission Identity) to implement the law. Prior to it in 2000, 11 million Venezuelans were registered to vote. By September 2006, it was 16 million, and now it's 16.8 million in a country of 27 million people.
How the Process Works
The electoral process is administered by the National Electoral Council (CNE). Unlike America's privatized system, it's an independent body, separate from the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government or any private corporate interests. It's comprised of 11 members of the National Assembly and 10 representatives of civil society, none of whom are appointed by the President.
Elections are conducted using Smartmatic touchscreen electronic voting machines with verifiable paper ballot receipts. Voters can thus check to confirm their votes and their accuracy. The CNE then saves them as a permanent record to be used in case a recount is needed. It also requires voters to leave an electronic thumbprint to assure no one votes more than once.
The machines work as intended, and, after the 2006 election, the Carter Center said: based on its observations, Venezuela's "automated machines worked well and the voting results do reflect the will of the people." Further earlier independent studies verified the same thing, including ones carried out by vote-process experts at the University of California Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, Stanford and elsewhere.
In design, great care was taken to eliminate the possibility of tampering. It required a special technology that split the security codes into four parts. As a result, numerous voting security reports endorse the process they say makes Venezuelan machines the most advanced and accurate in the world.
On November 23, CNE president Tibisay Lucena said voters turned out in unprecedented numbers at 65.45%, the largest ever total for a regional election. The people spoke and registered a resounding, but not one-sided, victory for Hugo Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) candidates - and sent a message. They affirmed the success of Bolivarianism and want it continued.
As the Venezuela Information Office reported, PSUV candidates won 77% of governorships (17 of 22), 81% of mayoral offices, 77% of all contests, and 58% of the popular vote - an impressive result by any standard anywhere in an election that 134 independent observers from 54 countries (from America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the 34-member country Organization of American States - OAS) judged open, free, fair, and efficient like all others under Chavez. OAS secretary general Jose Miguel Insulza called this one "peaceful and exemplary" and described it as a powerful expression of democratic maturity and the trust Venezuelans have in it under Chavez.
Other observer comments were as follows:
- Colombia's CNE representative, Joaquin Vives, called Venezuela's electoral process "a pioneer in the world (and added) Many things dazzled us" about it, such as voters "great desire to construct democracy in Venezuela;"
- Greek legislator Sofia Sakorafa called the process "one that expresses the will of the people and is characterized by a commitment to social and political inclusion;"
- Costa Rica's Maria Elena Salazar said the election was "beautiful, participative, of which all Latin Americans should be proud;" and
- Anthony Gonzales from America admired well-equipped and secured voting centers and that the election was held on a weekend to make it easier for working people.
Long-time Latin American expert James Petras commented on the significance of the victory:
- few European, North or South American parties have as high a level of support as the PSUV; certainly none in the United States in particular where growing numbers of voters have little faith in a deeply corrupted process;
- the PSUV is popular "in the context of several radical economic measures, including the nationalization of major cement, steel, financial and other private capitalist monopolies;" even so, business in Venezuela remains strong (though slowing) at a time of a global economic crisis;
- the PSUV won in spite of declining oil prices; fluctuating around $50 a barrel, they're down about two-thirds from their peak price; even so, "the government maintained most of its funding for its social programs" and intends to continue doing it - in contrast to America where social programs have eroded for years and show no signs of revitalization under either party;
- the electorate was selective in its voting choices - "rewarding candidates who performed adequately in providing government services and punishing those who ignored or were unresponsive to popular demands;"
- most important: "the decisive (PSUV) victory provides the basis for confronting the deepening collapse of world capitalism with (impressive and workable) socialist measures;" compare them to the looting of the US Treasury to reward criminal bankers for their malfeasance and failures; the differences between both countries are dramatic and breathtaking - democratically impressive (though not perfect) in Venezuela compared to criminally corrupted under either party in America; no one dares mention this in the corporate media.
In the election's aftermath, Petras explained that "most Venezuelan firms are heavily indebted to the state and local banks." Chavez can ask them "to repay their debts or hand over the keys (and be able to bring) about a painless and eminently legal transition to socialism." It remains to be seen if he'll do it to advance his socialism of the 21st century - or perhaps remain defensive, proceed cautiously, and fail to take advantage of an important opportunity.
Responses from the Dominant Media
With some exceptions, it's been pretty much as expected - one-sided, distorted, inaccurate, and not at all reflecting the will of Venezuelans and their impressive support for Chavez and Bolivarianism.
For example, The New York Times in a November 25 editorial headlined: "Hugo Chavez's Choice." After he took office in February 1999, The Times kept up a steady attack against him in editorials and commentaries. Here it states: Hugo Chavez "is not feeling the love. Collapsing oil prices have sharply curtailed his ability to 'buy' public sympathies," and after Barack Obama's election he no longer has "a convenient foe."
Sunday's elections "showed just how fed up (Venezuelans) are with his government's 'authoritarianism and incompetence' by rejecting the president's allies in significant races." Even by Times standards, these comments are way over the top and mirror opposite of the facts.
The Times continues: "Mr. Chavez did pretty much everything he could to skew the elections. His government increased public spending by 60 percent in the last year." Of course, he's always used the nation's wealth for his people and not as handouts to the rich like in America.
"A government watchdog (also) disqualified many opposition candidates," but The Times omitted saying that the Venezuelan Supreme Court (YSJ) barred them because of corruption, misuse of public funds, and convictions of these offenses. The Times called them "bogus."
It then exaggerated Sunday's results, suggested Chavez's popular support is waning, referred to his "rejected (December) power-grabbing constitutional reform," and stated "Venezuelans don't want to give Mr. Chavez even more power. He should heed the message (and) accept democratic limits to his rule." Unstated was:
- Chavez's popular support at over 60% compared to George Bush scoring lowest ever for a US president at around 20%;
- the nation's impressive social democracy;
- the kind few other nations have;
- the type absent in America;
- the kind Venezuelans never before had and cherish; and
- are committed never to give up.
Simon Romero is The Times man in Caracas where his reporting is mediocre and inaccurate. His November 24 article was typical. It's headlined: "Chavez Supporters Suffer Defeat in State and Municipal Races" in which he refers to their "stinging defeat in several state and municipal races." Unnoticed were all the victories and how impressively they were won.
Instead Romero noted "festering discontent" and how "celebratory fireworks went off over parts of (Caracas) after the results were announced." Perhaps so but mostly for Chavez and his PSUV.
Romero preferred to quote Caracas opposition mayoral winner, Antonio Ledezma, saying "Those who should feel defeated are the criminals." An urban Caracas Petare carpenter as well being "tired of Chavez treating the entire country as if it were his military barracks."
Well into his article, Romero had to say that "Voting unfolded without reports of major irregularities" but ignored the fact that few at all occurred and they were minor. He also admitted that pro-Chavez candidates won 17 of 22 states but added sour grapes about some being small "in terms of population."
On the same day, Romero wrote another commentary headlined: "Once Considered Invincible, Chavez Takes a Blow" with as many inaccuracies as the above one. He referred to "many of (Chavez's) supporters desert(ing) him....in areas where he was once thought invincible," but had to admit the results might not "slow his Socialist-inspired revolution or check his power." Why should it when most Venezuelans want it.
He repeated much from his other article, added a few inaccurate quotes (like it's a "myth" to believe "only Chavez can be a champion of the poor"), omitted the most important facts, but again admitted the obvious - that "Mr. Chavez remains by far the dominant and most popular figure in Venezuelan politics," and the election results showed it.
Even so, Romero downplayed his victory and said Chavez candidates won mostly in largely rural states. He quoted economist Luis Pedro Espana, director of the Economic and Social Research Institute at Venezuela's Andres Bello Catholic University, stating: "The more modern part of the country wants political change." What he means, but didn't say, is the more affluent part, now forced to share some of the nation's wealth with its least advantaged and most in need people - the great majority who support Chavez overwhelmingly.
On November 25, the Wall Street Journal was extremely hostile in two post-election articles - one on the results and another feature story headlined: "Chavez Lets Colombian Rebels Wield Power Inside Venezuela." It reeks of inaccuracies, uses Washington and the Colombian military as its sources, and claims that Chavez is providing a growing "safe haven" for FARC-EP and ELN "guerrillas."
Unreported was anything about Chavez's Colombian peace intervention and his successful efforts to arrange FARC-EP held hostage releases - in spite of Washington and Colombia's president Uribe conspiring to prevent it.
Journal writer Jose de Cordoba accused the Venezuelan military and police of "turning a blind eye to guerrilla activity, and at times cooperating in areas including the trafficking of arms and cocaine." This and other anti-Chavez agitprop show up often in Journal commentaries, but this time in far more detail compared to much less said about the election results.
That was in a page six article headlined: "Chavez Base Rebukes Him at Polls." Writer John Lyon referred to Chavez's "dual ambitions - to stay in power for life and wield outsize influence on the global stage." He added how "the very people that brought him to power" rebuked him: "the urban poor."
Like The Times, the article reeked with inaccuracies that are increasingly common on both the Journal's op-ed and news pages. Lyon suggests trouble for Chavez with his electoral "setbacks add(ing) to a list of growing problems that are likely to slow his swagger." For example, falling oil prices that may crimp his "checkbook diplomacy that has won him allies outside his borders...."
He also compared him to Fidel Castro, referred to his "foreign adventures....backfir(ing) amid the global financial crisis," and said his base is "dwindling" at a time it's impressively strong. He quoted opposition candidate Antonio Ledezma (as did Romero) saying "Now is the time for true change" by which he means ending Bolivarianism, its social democracy, returning power to the privileged oligarchs, and throwing most Venezuelans back into deep poverty. Lyon apparently approves and quotes a leading opposition newspaper, Tal Cual, headlining: "We hit him where it hurts." For the past 10 years, the Venezuelan people have had the last word.
The Washington Post was just as hostile in a November 25 editorial headlined "How to Beat Mr. Chavez" and his "Cuban-style socialist regime." It called him "Venezuela's strongman (and) caudillo" and over-hyped Sunday's results much the way the Journal and Times did it. It added that Chavez "shows no sign that he is listening to the country," and post-election said the voters' message was to "continue down the same road." Indeed it was and will be.
According to the Post, "the opposition now has an opportunity to show that it can offer a workable alternative to Mr. Chavez's policies." Unmentioned was that they had generations to "show" it, failed dismally, Venezuelans overwhelmingly reject them, and want no part of their kind of "change."
With its large anti-Castro population, Miami is a hotbed of anti-Chavismo, and the Miami Herald reflects it. Post-election, it headlined "Despite foes' gains, Hugo Chavez will try to get another term in Venezuela." It referred to state and local elections "slow(ing) his grand ambitions to yank Venezuela and Latin America to the left" but not enough to stop him according to unnamed analysts.
It suggested an upcoming "titanic battle" as Chavez is expected to hold a national plebiscite next year "that would allow him to campaign for an additional six-year presidential term in 2012." It quoted pollster Luis Vincente Leon of Datanalisis, who publicly called for Chavez's assassination, saying: "He wants to change the constitution to run again. There's no doubt about that," but again unsaid is what the people want. Chavez wants them to choose and like always will honor their will.
On November 23, the far right Washington Times headlined a John Thomson commentary on "Chavez's fraud game" and referred to "The kinds and extent of fraud already being applied by the Venezuelan government to crucial elections today." He called them "unprecedented (and) unmitigated electoral larceny (and) Venezuela's pilfer process starts well before the day the votes are cast and counted."
In an age of breathtaking anti-Chavez agitprop, this comment takes the cake or at least matches the worst of it. Thomson called the "fraud potential" on election day "staggering" and listed a menu of absurdities and rubbish ranging from "jumbled" voting lists to "rigged" voting machines, and "manipulation" of results.
It's much like Journal writer Mary O'Grady's agitprop - her latest on November 17 in a commentary headlined: "Dodd's Democrat Tightens His Grip." Dodd, of course, is Senator Chris Dodd, and her article is about Venezuela's election, the country's "numerous setbacks for democracy," and the chance Venezuelans have to "rid themselves of Mr. Chavez."
She refers to his "authoritarian powers....deteriorating living standards (and) the widespread assumption that the government will use tricks to win" on November 23. "Venezuelans saw this coming. From his earliest days as president in 1999, Mr. Chavez began working to destroy any checks on his power."
She attacked Chris Dodd for "throw(ing) a fit over Mr. Chavez's (48-hour) removal" in April 2002. "This self-styled Latin American expert (referred to) a US-backed coup and insisted that since Mr. Chavez (was) democratically elected in a fair vote" no one should question his legitimacy.
"Of course it wasn't a coup," according to O'Grady, as she questions the "circumstances (of his) political resurrection," again called him a "strongman," warned earlier about his budding "dictatorship," and now says her view about him is accurate.
"Political prisoners are rotting in Venezuelan jails without trials. Being identified as a political opponent of the revolution is a ticket to the end of the unemployment line. Private property has zero protection under the law and the economy's private sector has been all but destroyed....(and Chavez) has made it clear he will not accept defeat at the polls."
Breathtaking hardly describes this rant. It's mirror opposite the truth. Venezuela's social democracy is unimaginable in America, and one reason why O'Grady and others vilify it. It's also why they reported inaccurately on Sunday's election.
A Sane Voice in the Wilderness
On November 22, the London Independent published "Letters: In praise of Hugo Chavez." One confronted Latin American writer Phil Gunson's "bleak picture" of Venezuela in his article titled: "Tough-talking Chavez faces rising dissent." It was grossly inaccurate, mentioned the usual kinds of criticisms, and pretty much read like the US and Venezuelan corporate media agitprop.
The writer asked: If Gunson is right, "why are President Chavez's approval ratings at 58%, as he reports." He doesn't mention "how (his) government has delivered free healthcare to millions of people for the first time, eradicated illiteracy and used the country's best economic performance for decades to halve the poverty levels."
Suggesting that poll results may trigger a "violent reaction....turn(s) reality on its head. It was the Chavez government itself that was briefly the victim of an opposition-led military coup in 2002. In contrast, (his) government has showed a consistent commitment to democracy....Moreover, last week the respected Latinbarametro survey showed that Venezuela is now the country with the greatest support for democracy in Latin America and the region's second-most satisfied with the functioning of its democracy. Venezuela's combination of democracy and social progress under Chavez has inspired widespread support."
It's signed by Colin Burgon, MP, Chair, Labour Friends of Venezuela group of MPs, House of Commons. He adds more as well, and the Independent published it. It's unlike major US broadsheets that cover Chavez one way - with venomous inaccuracy and very rare exceptions that hardly draw notice.
The Venezuela Information Office reviewed the election in detail, and it's summarized below as follows:
- for a regional election, voter turnout was unprecedented at over 65%;
- independent observers judged the process open, free, fair and efficient and according to OAS secretary general Insulza "peaceful and exemplary;"
- PSUV candidates won impressive victories, far exceeding the opposition;
- pro-government candidates gained a large majority of offices throughout the country - for governors, mayors and other posts;
- like for the past decade, most Venezuelans will continue to live under pro-Chavez regional and local leaders because they want them;
- the PSUV scored important victories in strategic areas of the country, but not all of them;
- pro-government candidates won by wide margins affirming Venezuelans faith in Bolivarianism;
- although the metropolitan Caracas mayoralty went to the opposition, residents of the largest city municipality voted for the PSUV;
- even in states won by the opposition, key municipalities went to the PSUV; and
- Venezuela's Electoral Authority (CNE) handled the record voter turnout impressively.
The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other publications falsely reported that a majority of the population is under opposition control. Official statistics show otherwise but were ignored.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM - 1PM for cutting-edge discussions on world and national topics with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Written with the purpose of giving insights and understanding of the rapidly modernizing people of Asia, PASSAGE THROUGH BANGKOK is one book you should not miss reading.
Timothy E. Boyajian creates a book in a form of chronicles derived from over seven hundred pages of journal notes written during the course of his journey. This book gives you a unique view of the world untainted by political forces. From the thrill of adventure to the intrigues of spies and dangers of war and disease, let this book open your eyes to a completely new world.
Part one of this book deals with the author’s initial encounters in Bangkok, which includes dealing with different cultures, and being in refugee camps.
Part two concerns his trials and tribulations in Bangkok after returning from the border. His experiences in the city evolved into a slowly maturing worldly view of the realities of international politics in Southeast Asia.
The book also gives you a glimpse of the suffering that war brings to people in terms of poverty, disease and hunger.
ORDER A COPY NOW!
ISBN13 (TP) 978-1-4363-5271-0
ISBN13 (HB) 978-1-4363-5271-0
Friday, November 28, 2008
| | Submitted by Fernando on Fri, 11/28/2008 - 12:06am.
November 28, 2008
I know I write for most of your bloggers when I express teh deep appreciation we all have for teh sacrifices and heart aches you go through every day to maintain your blog. We know technology scares you but you keep trying anyway. How do you do it? I figure you must be tired, working five days a week for a whole forty five minutes a day, with a mouse killer, and we can see it is affecting your stutter and with double posts too. I really got concerned when I found out you were dreaming of waking up naked next to Joe Lieberman. Yikes boss, that screams of red warning flags to me. You need a break buddy. Today is your special day, and we all want you to wallow in the heart felt embrace and deep love that we all have for you.
So this year for your birthday, I got you a hoe. Who doesn't want a naked chick - right? Go shave your nut sack and put on some deodorant old man because you are about to get schooled in hot and dirty.
Let me assure you that it wasn't easy finding a cut rate hoe that would loiter around waiting for you at a PO box either. I had to look far and wide for a model desperate enough to even go there with you. It's impossible to expedite a hoe too. Trust me, I tried. Be ready when she gets there though, because when she arrives I was promised it would be very much worth the wait. A 100% satisfaction guarantee is part of the deal. Ain't that a donkey slap!
Now this isn't your average garden variety hoe. We all know about some of the women you've associated with, and they are often women in trouble. Take it easy, here is one that just knows how to hula, and that is all the spice you need buster. You can get real rough, or dress up and get as dirty as you want cowboy.
This hoe is flexible, loves getting dirty and when you are all taken care of, she'll even clean up for you. Beat it up like a bastard child. You can use her again and again until you are raw and exhausted. So just enjoy, play safe, take in a pole dance, and release all that pent up frustration with some hard thrusting back and forth, go ahead and put your back into it. Don't even think of stopping till you are spent with sweat dripping off of you. Make that hoe earn it boy!
Enjoy yourself, you deserve it. But When you are finished, you should wash up, and come back to us refreshed for another year of hard work and drudgery. Cheers to you Sam!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
OTTAWA – Researchers say they have located the world’s oldest stash of marijuana, in a tomb in a remote part of China.
The cache of cannabis is about 2,700 years old and was clearly “cultivated for psychoactive purposes,” rather than as fibre for clothing or as food, says a research paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany.
The 789 grams of dried cannabis was buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, likely a shaman of the Gushi culture, near Turpan in northwestern China.
The extremely dry conditions and alkaline soil acted as preservatives, allowing a team of scientists to carefully analyze the stash, which still looked green though it had lost its distinctive odour.
“To our knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent,” says the newly published paper, whose lead author was American neurologist Dr. Ethan B. Russo.
Remnants of cannabis have been found in ancient Egypt and other sites, and the substance has been referred to by authors such as the Greek historian Herodotus. But the tomb stash is the oldest so far that could be thoroughly tested for its properties.
The 18 researchers, most of them based in China, subjected the cannabis to a battery of tests, including carbon dating and genetic analysis. Scientists also tried to germinate 100 of the seeds found in the cache, without success.
The marijuana was found to have a relatively high content of THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, but the sample was too old to determine a precise percentage.
Researchers also could not determine whether the cannabis was smoked or ingested, as there were no pipes or other clues in the tomb of the shaman, who was about 45 years old.
The large cache was contained in a leather basket and in a wooden bowl, and was likely meant to be used by the shaman in the afterlife.
“This materially is unequivocally cannabis, and no material has previously had this degree of analysis possible,” Russo said in an interview from Missoula, Mont.
“It was common practice in burials to provide materials needed for the afterlife. No hemp or seeds were provided for fabric or food. Rather, cannabis as medicine or for visionary purposes was supplied.”
The tomb also contained bridles, archery equipment and a harp, confirming the man’s high social standing.
Russo is a full-time consultant with GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine approved in Canada for pain linked to multiple sclerosis and cancer.
The company operates a cannabis-testing laboratory at a secret location in southern England to monitor crop quality for producing Sativex, and allowed Russo use of the facility for tests on 11 grams of the tomb cannabis.
Researchers needed about 10 months to cut red tape barring the transfer of the cannabis to England from China, Russo said.
The inter-disciplinary study was published this week by the British-based botany journal, which uses independent reviewers to ensure the accuracy and objectivity of all submitted papers.
The substance has been found in two of the 500 Gushi tombs excavated so far in northwestern China, indicating that cannabis was either restricted for use by a few individuals or was administered as a medicine to others through shamans, Russo said.
“It certainly does indicate that cannabis has been used by man for a variety of purposes for thousands of years.”
Russo, who had a neurology practice for 20 years, has previously published studies examining the history of cannabis.
“I hope we can avoid some of the political liabilities of the issue,” he said, referring to his latest paper.
The region of China where the tomb is located, Xinjiang, is considered an original source of many cannabis strains worldwide.
The Cuban president, Raul Casto, has offered to meet Barack Obama - and end a diplomatic freeze going back more than 40 years - in an interview with Sean Penn.
The Cuban leader has used the unlikely medium of an interview with the US actor and filmmaker Sean Penn to offer to meet president-elect Barack Obama.
Bar a brief handshake and exchange of words between Bill Clinton and Castro's brother and predecessor as president, Fidel, in 2000 the leaders of the two countries have not met since Fidel Castro grabbed power in 1959.
Penn, who also met another US bogeyman, Hugo Chavez, recently, asked Castro whether he would meet Obama in an interview before the US election, which was published yesterday. But it was only after he repeated the question a number of times that Castro answered it directly:
"We should meet in a neutral place. Perhaps we could meet at Guantánamo. We must meet and begin to solve our problems, and at the end of the meeting, we could give the president a gift...we could send him home with the American flag that waves over Guantánamo Bay."
Castro told Penn that the number one priority of a meeting would be to "normalise trade", with reference to the US embargo on Cuba.
"The only reason for the blockade is to hurt us. Nothing can deter the revolution. Let Cubans come to visit with their families. Let Americans come to Cuba," he said.
In May, Obama said he would not lift the blockade but in a debate with Hillary Clinton during the contest to be the Democratic candidate for president he offered to meet Castro immediately.
Music by Annie Humphrey - The Heron Smiled - Makoche
Robert Scheer, Creators Syndicate
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Maybe Ralph Nader was right in predicting that the same Wall Street hustlers would have a lock on our government no matter which major party won the election. I hate to admit it, since it wasn't that long ago that I heatedly challenged Nader in a debate on this very point.
But how else is one to respond to Barack Obama's picking the very folks who helped get us into this financial mess to now lead us out of it? Watching the president-elect's Monday introduction of his economic team, my brother-in-law Pete said, "You can see the feathers coming out of their mouths" as the foxes were once again put in charge of the henhouse. He didn't have time to expound on his point, having to get ready to go sort mail in his job at the post office, but he showed me a statement from Citigroup showing that the interest rate on Pete the Postal Worker's credit card was 28.9 percent, an amount that all major religions would justly condemn as usurious.
Moments earlier, Obama had put his seal of approval on the Citigroup bailout, which his new economic team, led by protégés of Citigroup Executive Committee Chairman Robert Rubin, enthusiastically endorsed. A bailout that brings to $45 billion the taxpayer money thrown at Citigroup and the guarantee of $306 billion for the bank's "toxic securities" that would have been illegal if not for changes in the law that Citigroup secured with the decisive help of Rubin and Lawrence Summers, the man who replaced him as Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration.
As Summers stayed on to ensure passage of deregulatory laws that enabled enormous banking greed, Rubin was rewarded with a $15 million-a-year executive position at Citigroup, a job that only got more lucrative as the bank went from one disaster, beginning with its involvement with Enron in which Rubin played an active role, to its huge role in the mortgage debacle. It is widely acknowledged that Citigroup fell victim to a merger mania, which Rubin and Summers made legal during their tenure at Treasury.
Yet despite that dismal record of dismantling sound regulation, Summers has been picked by Obama to be the top White House economic adviser and another Rubin disciple, Timothy Geithner, is the new Treasury secretary. Geithner, thanks in part to the strong recommendation of Rubin, had been appointed chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Bank after working for Rubin and Summers during the Clinton years. Once at the New York Fed, he was the main government official charged with regulating Citigroup, a task at which he obviously failed. Yet over the weekend, it was Geithner who hammered out the Citigroup bailout deal with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and a very actively involved Rubin.
As the Washington Post reported, Paulson had indicated last week that no further bailouts were planned before the new administration took office until "Rubin, an old colleague from Goldman Sachs, told Paulson in phone calls that the government had to act." Rubin conceded in an interview with the Post that he had played a key role in the politics of the bailout.
This outrageous conflict of interest in which Rubin gets to exploit his ties to both the outgoing and incoming administrations was best described by Washington Post writer Steven Pearlstein: "The ultimate irony, of course, is that just as Rubin and Co. at Citi were being bailed out by the Bush Administration, President-elect Barack Obama was getting set to announce a new economic team drawn almost entirely from Rubin acolytes."
As opposed to the far tougher deal negotiated on the bailout of AIG, the arrangement with Citigroup leaves the executives, including Rubin, who brought Citigroup to the brink of ruin, still in charge. Nor is there any guarantee of the value of the mortgage bundles that taxpayers will be guaranteeing. That is because, as candidate Obama clearly stated in his major economics address back in March, the deregulation pushed though during the Clinton years ended transparency in banking.
Why then has he appointed the very people responsible for this disaster to now make it all better? Why not ask him? Heck, yes, it is time for the many of us who responded to his e-mails during the campaign to now challenge our e-mail buddy as to why he suddenly acts as if the interests of Wall Street and Main Street are one and the same.
posted b: Jonathan Phillips
Reality Sandwich is proud to be a media sponsor for a Journey with the Sound of Crystal Bowls featuring Philippe Garnier at the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in NYC on December 4th.
This will be an opportunity to feel yourself energized and vibrating at a higher frequency, merging with the sacred sound of crystal bowls, experiencing scared spaceand letting the healing take place.
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December 4 at 8pm
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Since I wrote last week about Google’s Secret Sexual No-Fly List, Tony Comstock has been doing some more digging into the perversities of Google’s various admitted and secret adult keyword filters. He’s been blogging up a storm about it, with posts like this:
In that last one, Tony shared the startling discovery that Google’s SafeSearch algorithm returns thirty three million “safe” results for [penis], but not a single one for [clitoris]. On top of all the other problems, Google’s filters are sexist! Tony expounded on this in his subsequent post, Dragged into Google’s Sex Ghetto, Kicking and Screaming:
As mentioned previously, I had been working on a post tentatively entitled “Does the Googlebot have Asperger’s Syndrome?” but I realize now that the analogy is too generous. People with Asperger’s see and understand the world differently from “normal” people, but I’ve never read anything about Asperger’s that suggests that Aspies are especially lazy or malfeasant.
The way that Google’s SafeSearch filter handles returns for [penis] vs. the way it handles them for [clitoris] isn’t a product of seeing things differently. It’s just plain lazy. Somewhere inside of Google, an engineer was tasked with filtering “adult” sites from returning under “strict filtering” searches. Somehow he (I’m going to have to assume this engineer is a man,) when confronted with the vagaries English language, was able to write an algorithm that allowed 30 million “safe” returns for [penis]. But when faced with the same problem for [clitoris] he found it easier to simply put clitoris on a list of banned words.
That’s not Aspie-ish, that’s just lazy and sexiest.
[Erotic] was too much trouble for him, so it got banned too. [Nude] and [naked] were too much trouble, so they were out. His algorithm couldn’t tell the difference between a nursery rhyme rooster and a raging hard-on, so [cock] got banned. Is this webpage talking about kitty-cats or cunts? His algorithm couldn’t tell, so [pussy] went on to the list, along with [bastard] and [anus]. For some reason his algorithm could find 4.7 million “safe” returns for [glans] and 2.5 million “safe” returns for [testicle], but not a single “safe” return for [fellatio] or [cunnilingus], so they went on the list as well.
That’s not the product of a odd blind spot to social interaction, that’s just lazy and ass-covering; not to mention laughable coming from a company that touts its “advance proprietary technology.” (I’ll leave it to someone else to decide whether or not it’s [evil].)
Now Susie Bright has gotten her teeth into the sexist implications of the penis versus clitoris filtering, and has written, in “Clitoris” on Google’s Banned Word List:
I recall the 1970s abortion rights poster that read “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” The sexism of the Internet infrastructure is the same joke. There is no way that men would consider “prostate cancer” an inappropriate search or conversation item. They would never for a moment consider that their “penis” was a word that couldn’t be allowed in a respectable business or learning environment.
But women’s bodies? Oh, you’re familiar with the filthy and unspeakable territory those will lead you into. It’s in the Bible, right?
Let’s stop coddling Internet censorship as if it were an etiquette or a “children’s” issue. The people suffering from being firewalled and banned aren’t commercial porn-makers with some gonzo to pitch — they’re educators, healthcare professionals, midwives, nurses, doctors, researchers, artists, writers, filmmakers, political activists, critics and analysts— all of whom find their interest in women’s lives to be shrouded in the great Internet burqa of “safeness.”
Look. I write a blog with “sex” right up in the title, and I make part of a living at it. So it’s no surprise that I’ve always hated the lame and weak approach to filtering that Google (well, all the search engines, but who else matters?) uses to disrupt and marginalize the great internet conversation about sex. It’s also no surprise that I can’t talk about this without some mental genius popping up in my comments to suggest that I wouldn’t care about this if I didn’t want more visitors to my blog. Happens, I’ve got six years of blog posts that prove I care passionately about the free exchange of sexual ideas, so I don’t let the nattering slow me down much. All of which is preface to my point, which is that I’m freaking delighted to see the beginnings of a noisy conversation about this.
Is there any hope that the sex bloggers of America can shame Google into being less shame-faced about the sexual contents of its search index? Given the massively overwhelming numerical superiority of the prudish majority to whom Google is catering with searches “safe” from female sexuality, probably not. But it’s important to remember that the actual people at Google are unlikely to be all that prudish or sexist; they are just, as Tony has pointed out so well, taking the lazy way out when attempting to do something (catering to sexist prudes) that they’d probably rather not be doing anyway, but for their perception (or perhaps assumption?) that it’s a corporate necessity.
Thus, I see at least a faint hope that if the mockery of their weak and lame filtering shortcuts is loud enough, they’ll have to improve their filtering systems out of a mix of professional pride and a sense of public relations necessity. If we can just disrupt their comfortable assumption that all sexual discussion is acceptable collateral damage, to be readily sacrificed in their (very difficult and endless) war against spammy porn sites, that alone would be a worthwhile step in the right direction.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
|START DATE: || Thursday November 27 |
| TIME: || 4:00 AM - 9:00 AM |
| Location Details: |
Wharf, Pier # 31
in San Francisco
| Event Type: || Other |
| International Indian Treaty Council & American Indian Contemporary Arts present:
ANNUAL SUNRISE GATHERING
ON ALCATRAZ ISLAND
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2008
Join us in this day to give thanks for the Creator's gifts, renew our commitment to protect Mother
Earth, honor the many heroes of our struggles, celebrate Indigenous Peoples' survival and build solidarity
among all Peoples.
Tobacco and prayers will be offered to the fire for the Earth and coming generations, and for All Our
Masters of Ceremonies: Morning Star Gali, Lakota Harden and Bill Means. Featuring the All Nations
Drum, Traditional Aztec and Pomo Dancers, and special guest speakers and presentations. All are
For more info, contact IITC at (415) 641-4482 or email AICA at janeenantoine [at] mac.com.
Time: Ticket booths open at 4 AM, boats depart at:
4:30, 4:45; 5:00; 5:15; 5:30; 5:45; 6:00. All return
by 9 AM. Wheel chair accessible, minimal parking,
wear something warm. Purchase advance tickets at
http://www.alcatrazcruises.com, or call 415-981-7625. |
Monday, November 24, 2008
City officials have ordered 22 New York churches to stop providing beds to homeless people.
With temperatures well below freezing early Saturday, the churches must obey a city rule requiring faith-based shelters to be open at least five days a week -- or not at all.
Arnold Cohen, president of the Partnership for the Homeless, a nonprofit that serves as a link with the city, said he had to tell the churches they no longer qualify.
He said hundreds of people now won't have a place to sleep.
The Department of Homeless Services said the city offers other shelters with the capacity to accept all those who have been sleeping in the churches. The city had 8,000 beds waiting.
Last year, four unsheltered homeless people died in the city during cold weather, so three dozen emergency outreach teams were prepped to respond to reports of homeless people outdoors or in the subways.
"We really don't want people sleeping on the streets, on grates, on church steps. We want people sleeping in beds," said Homeless Commissioner Robert Hess.
The homeless can be coaxed indoors but not forced unless their life is in danger.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's left-wing party won most state races in elections on Sunday, shoring up his dominance in much of the OPEC nation, but the opposition scored victories in important power centers.
Chavez's Socialist Party won in 17 of 20 states with another two races too close to call, the national electoral authority said early on Monday.
The multi-party opposition held onto the two states it won at the last regional elections four years ago and wrested from the government control of the state metropolitan area around Caracas as well as the mayoralty of the capital.
The results in tight races in Venezuela's remaining two states were due to be announced later on Monday.
Sunday's results could make more challenging Chavez's goal of pushing through legal reforms that would allow him to run for reelection, especially after Venezuelans narrowly rejected the move last year in a referendum.
The anti-U.S. leader's party immediately declared victory, although there was not the usual explosion of celebrations around Caracas that have followed other election wins.
The opposition can point to its gains too, and will seek to use its momentum in the capital to stifle the president's ambitions to run for reelection in 2012.
The opposition fended off an aggressive Chavez campaign and retained control of the oil-producing state of Zulia, the country's most populous.
Combined with victories in the capital against veteran Chavez aides, the opposition now holds sway over major urban areas that will be pivotal in future elections. It also held on to the Caribbean tourist island state of Nueva Esparta.
Chavez, who calls former Cuban President Fidel Castro his mentor, cast Sunday's vote as crucial to his political future.
Popular for spending oil wealth on the majority poor, Chavez frenetically campaigned at rallies of redshirted supporters across a nation that he has allied with Iran and Russia despite being a top oil supplier to the United States.
Chavez also faces tough economic times ahead.
Venezuela's government relies on oil for more than 50 percent of its income and the value of crude has plummeted about $100 per barrel since July. (Editing by Kieran Murray)
November 23rd, 2008
Today, November 23rd, I was slated to give remarks in Damascus, Syria at a Conference being held to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, sadly, the 60th year that the Palestinian people have been denied their Right of Return enshrined in that Universal Declaration. But a funny thing happened to me while at the Atlanta airport on my way to the Conference: I was not allowed to exit the country.
I do believe that it was just a misunderstanding. But the insecurity experienced on a daily basis by innocent Palestinians is not. Innocent Palestinians are trapped in a violent, stateless twilight zone imposed on them by an international order that favors a country reported to have completed its nuclear triad as many as eight years ago, although Israel has remained ambiguous on the subject. President Jimmy Carter informed us that Israel had as many as 150 nuclear weapons, and Israel’s allies are among the most militarily sophisticated on the planet. Military engagement, then, is untenable. Therefore the exigency of diplomacy and international law.
The Palestinians should at least be able to count on the protections of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What is happening to Palestinians in Gaza right now, subjected to an Israeli-imposed blockade, has drawn the attention of the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, who noted that over half of the civilians in Gaza are children. Even The Los Angeles Times criticized Israel’s lockdown of Gaza that is keeping food, fuel, and medicine from civilians. Even so, Israel stood fast by its decision to seal Gaza’s openings. But where are the voices of concern coming from the corridors of power inside the United States? Is the subject of Palestinian human rights taboo inside the United States Government and its government-to-be? I hope not. Following is the speech I would have given today had I been able to attend the Damascus Conference.
Right of Return Congregation
November 23, 2008
Thank you to our hosts for inviting me to participate in this most important and timely First Arab-International Congregation for the Right of Return. Words are an insufficient expression of my appreciation for being remembered as one willing to stand for justice in Washington, D.C., even in the face of tremendously difficult pressures.
Former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir, thank you for including me in the Malaysian Peace Organisation’s monumental effort to criminalize war, to show the horrors of the treatment of innocent individuals during the war against and occupation of Iraq by the militaries and their corporate contractors of Britain, Israel, and the United States. Thank you for standing up to huge international economic forces trying to dominate your country and showing an impressionable woman like me that it is possible to stand up to “the big boys” and win. And thank you for your efforts to bring war criminal, torturer, decimator of the United States Constitution, the George W. Bush Administration, to justice in international litigation.
Delegates and participants, I must declare that at a time when scientists agree that the climate of the earth is changing in unpredictable and possibly calamitous ways, such that the future of humankind hangs in the balance, it is unconscionable that we have to dedicate this time to and focus our energies on policies that represent a blatant and utter disregard for human rights and self-determination and that represent in many respects, a denial of human life, itself.
In the same year as Palestinians endured a series of massacres and expulsions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights became international law. And while the United Nations is proud that the Declaration was flown into Outer Space just a few days ago on the Space Shuttle, if one were to read it and then land in the Middle East, I think it would be clear that Palestine is the place that the Universal Declaration forgot.
Sadly, both the spirit of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the noblest ideals of the United Nations are broken. This has occurred in large measure due to policies that emanate from Washington, D.C. If we want to change those policies, and I do believe that we can, then we have to change the underlying values of those who become Washington’s policy makers. In other words, we must launch the necessary movement that puts people in office who share our values.
We need to do this now more than ever because, sadly, Palestine is not Washington’s only victim. Enshrined in the Universal Declaration is the dignity of humankind and the responsibility of states to protect that dignity. Yet, the underlying contradictions between its words and what has become standard international practice lay exposed to the world this year when then-United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour proclaimed:
“In the course of this year, unprecedented efforts must be made to ensure that every person in the world can rely on just laws for his or her protection. In advancing all human rights for all, we will move towards the greatest fulfillment of human potential, a promise which is at the heart of the Universal Declaration.”
How insulting it was to hear those words coming from her, for those of us who know, because it was she who, as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, willfully participated in the cover-up of an act of terror that resulted in the assassination of two democratically-elected Presidents and that unleashed a torrent of murder and bloodletting in which one million souls were vanquished. That sad episode in human history has become known as the Rwanda Genocide. And shockingly, after the cover-up, Louise Arbour was rewarded with the highest position on the planet, in charge of Human Rights.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that justice delayed is justice denied. And 60 years is too long to wait for justice.
The Palestinian people deserve respected self-determination, protected human rights, justice, and above all, peace.
On the night before his murder, Dr. King announced that he was happy to be living at the end of the 20th Century where, all over the world, men and women were struggling to be free.
Today, we can touch and feel the results of those cries, on the African Continent where apartheid no longer exists as a fact of law. A concerted, uncompromising domestic and international effort led to its demise.
And in Latin America, the shackles of U.S. domination have been broken. In a series of unprecedented peaceful, people-powered revolutions, voters in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and most recently Paraguay used the power of the political process to materially change their countries’ leadership and policy orientation toward the United States. Americans, accustomed to the Monroe Doctrine which proclaimed U.S. suzerainty over all politics in the Western Hemisphere, must now think the unthinkable given what has occurred in the last decade.
Voters in Cote d’Ivoire, Haiti, Spain, and India also took matters clearly in their hands to make “a clean break” from policies that were an affront to the interests of the majority of the people in those countries.
In country after country, against tremendous odds, people stood up and took their fates in their hands. They did what Mario Savio, in the 1960s, asked people in the United States to do. These people-powered, peaceful revolutions saw individuals put their bodies against the levers and the gears and the wheels of the U.S. imperial machine and they said to the owners if you don’t stop it, we will. And I know that people of conscience inside my country can do it, too: especially now that the engines of imperial oppression are running out of gas.
Even though the Democratic Party, at the Convention that nominated Barack Obama, denied its microphone to Former President Jimmy Carter because of his views on Palestine, let me make it clear that Former President Carter is not the only person inside the United States who believes that peace with justice is possible in Palestine.
Inside the United States, millions who are not of Arab descent, disagree vehemently with the policy of our government to provide the military and civilian hardware that snuffs out innocent human life that is also Arab.
Millions of Americans do not pray to Allah, but recognize that it is an inalienable right of those who do to live and pray in peace wherever they are–including inside the United States.
Even though their opportunities are severely limited, there are millions of people inside the United States struggling to express themselves on all of these issues, but whose efforts are stymied by a political process that robs them of any opportunity to be heard.
And then there are the former elected officials who spoke out for what was right, for universal application of the Universal Declaration, and who were roundly condemned and put out of office as a result. My father is one such politician, punished—kicked out of office–because of the views of his daughter.
In my case, I dared to raise my voice in support of the World Conference Against Racism and against the sieges of Ramallah, Jenin, and the Church of the Nativity. I raised my voice against the religious profiling in my country that targets innocent Muslims and Arabs for harassment, imprisonment, financial ruin, or worse. Yes, I have felt the sting of the special interests since my entry onto the national stage when, in my very first Congressional campaign, I refused to sign a pledge committing that I would vote to maintain the military superiority of Israel over its neighbors, and that Jerusalem should be its capital city.
Other commitments were on that pledge as well, like continued financial assistance to Israel at agreed upon levels.
As a result of my refusal to make such a commitment, and just like the old slave woman, Sojourner Truth, who bared her back and showed the scars from the lashes meted out to her by her slave master, I too, bear scars from the lashes of public humiliation meted out to me by the special interests in Washington, D.C. because of my refusal to tow the line on Israel policy. This “line” is the policy accepted by both the Democratic and Republican Party leadership and why they could cooperate so well to coordinate my ouster from Congress. But I have survived because I come from the strongest stock of Africans, stolen then enslaved, and yet my people survived. I know how to never give up, give in, or give out. And I also know how to learn a good political lesson. And one lesson I’ve learned is that the treatment accorded to me pales in comparison to what Palestinian victims still living in refugee camps face every day of their lives.
The treatment accorded to me pales in comparison to the fact that human life is at stake if the just-released International Atomic Energy Agency report is true when it writes that “The only explanation for the presence of these modified uranium particles is that they were contained in the missiles dropped from the Israeli planes.” What are the health effects of these weapons, what role did the U.S. military play in providing them or the technology that underlies them, why is there such silence on this, and most fundamentally, what is going on in this part of the world that international law has forgotten?
Clearly, not only the faces of U.S. politicians must change; we must change their values, too. We, in the United States, must utilize our votes to effect the same kind of people-powered change in the United States as has been done in all those other countries. And now, with more people than ever inside the United States actually paying attention to politics, this is our moment; we must seize this time. We must become the leaders we are looking for and get people who share our values elected to Congress and the White House.
Now, I hope you believe me when I say to you that this is not rocket science. I have learned politics from its best players. And I say to you that even with the failabilities of the U.S. system, it is possible for us to do more than vote for a slogan of change, we can actually have it. But if we fail to seize this moment, we will continue to get what we’ve always been given: handpicked leaders who don’t truly represent us.
With the kind of U.S. weapons that are being used in this part of the world, from white phosphorus to depleted uranium, from cluster bombs to bunker busting bombs, nothing less than the soul of my country is at stake. But for the world, it is the fate of humankind that is at stake.
The people in my country just invested their hopes for a better world and a better government in their votes for President-elect Obama. However, during an unprecedented two year Presidential campaign, the exact kind of change we are to get was never fully defined. Therefore, we the people of the United States must act now with boldness and confidence. We can set the stage for the kind of change that reflects our values.
Now is not the time for timidity. The U.S. economy is in shambles, unemployment and health insecurity are soaring, half of our young people do not even graduate from high school; college is unaffordable. The middle class that was invested in the stock market is seeing their life savings stripped from them by the hour. What we are witnessing is the pauperization of a country, in much the same way that Russia was pauperized after the fall of the Soviet Union. There are clear winners and the losers all know who they are. The attentive public in the United States is growing because of these conditions. Now is the time for our values to rise because people in the United States are now willing to listen.
So the question really is, “Which way, America?”
Today we uplift the humanity of the Palestinian people. And what I am recommending is the creation of a political movement inside my country that will constitute a surgical strike for global justice. This gathering is the equivalent of us stepping to the microphone to be heard.
We don’t have to lose because we have commitment to the people.
And we don’t have to lose because we refuse to compromise our core values.
We don’t have to lose because we seek peace with justice and diplomacy over war.
We don’t have to lose.
By committing to do some things we’ve never done before I’m certain that we can also have some things we’ve never had before.
I return to the U.S. committed to do my part to make our dream come true.
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