Tag Archives: Venezuela

Why the United States should keep its fucking hands off of Venezuela

Two peas in a pod, really. Both have disturbing autocratic tendencies, including their mistreatment of the press, and if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro wasn’t duly elected, U.S. “President” Pussygrabber certainly wasn’t, either; he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million.

I like and I respect Mexican-American telejournalist Jorge Ramos of Univision. A passionate advocate for Latin Americans seeking a better life, he has reported on their plight and has written several books about it as well.

I believe Ramos’ report of what happened to him and his crew when he recently tried to report on Venezuela. Ramos wrote for The New York Times:

I was expelled from Venezuela on Tuesday [yesterday] after a contentious interview with Nicolás Maduro, the country’s strongman. He stood up in the middle of our conversation and his security agents confiscated our television cameras, the memory cards and our cellphones. Yes, Mr. Maduro stole the interview so nobody could watch it.

We got the interview the old fashioned way: by making a phone call and requesting it. A producer from Univision — the television network where I’ve worked since 1984 — contacted the government’s communications minister, Jorge Rodríguez, and asked if Mr. Maduro wanted to do the interview. The leader said: “Come to Caracas.” And so we did, with official entry papers in hand.

The interview started on Monday evening, three hours late, at the Miraflores Palace. Mr. Maduro had spoken a few minutes before with Tom Llamas of ABC News, and he seemed to be in a good mood. The humanitarian aid that the political opposition — with the help of an international coalition — had tried to get into the country over the Colombian and Brazilian borders had been largely stopped, and Mr. Maduro felt emboldened. This was supposed to be a good day.

But it wasn’t. The first question I asked Mr. Maduro was whether I should call him “Presidente” or “Dictador,” as many Venezuelans do. I confronted him about human rights violations and cases of torture that have been reported by Human Rights Watch, and with the existence of political prisoners. I questioned his claim that he had won the 2013 and the 2018 presidential elections without fraud and, most important, his assurances that Venezuela was not experiencing a humanitarian crisis. That’s when I opened up my iPad.

The day before I had recorded on my cellphone three young men looking for food on the back of a garbage truck in a poor neighborhood minutes away from the presidential palace. I showed those images to Mr. Maduro. Each frame contradicted his narrative of a prosperous and progressive Venezuela 20 years after the revolution. That’s when he broke.

About 17 minutes into the interview, Mr. Maduro stood up, comically tried to block the images on my iPad and declared that the interview was over. “That’s what dictators do,” I told him. …

I also heard Ramos give this account on NPR. Again, I believe Ramos; he is credible.

I don’t dispute such assertions as that Maduro is an authoritarian (if not technically a dictator, since there was at least the semblance of some election that at least initially put Maduro in power) or that many Venezuelans are so desperate that they’re combing through garbage for sustenance.

These reports are so widespread that I little doubt their veracity, although I’m always leery of the right wing shamelessly lying and exaggerating for political gain.

The problem, though, is how to solve the problems that plague Venezuela and who should solve them.

It should not be the psychopathic, fascist likes of “President” Pussygrabber or “Vice President” Mike Pence — who didn’t win their own fucking election, for fuck’s sake (Billary Clinton won by about 3 more million votes) — to deal with Maduro. (It’s always stupid white men, too; John “I Am the Walrus” Bolton — an abject wingnut who of course is “President” Pussygrabber’s “national security adviser” — also is a Venezuela hawk, of course.)

The people of the sovereign nation of Venezuela should deal with Maduro.

The claims of the illegitimate Pussygrabber regime and its jackbooted supporters that they care so much about Venezuela’s humanitarian problems are beyond laughable.

The Pussygrabber regime and its aiders and abettors don’t give a flying fuck about the American citizens in the American territory of Puerto Rico, which still is reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which struck in September 2017, for fuck’s sake, so for them to claim to care so much about the plight of the Venezuelans is incredibly incredible.

No, the right-wing, unelected Pussygrabber regime and its supporters want two things from Venezuela, not necessarily in this order: (1) its vast oil wealth (like Iraq’s, which was the No. 1 reason for the illegal, immoral, unjust and unprovoked Vietraq War) and (2) to install a right-wing government in Venezuela that will do corporate America’s bidding, especially in terms of just handing over the nation’s natural resources like a good Latin American nation should.

Did I mention Venezuela’s vast oil wealth? It has the largest oil reserves in the world.

Venezuela is not a democratic socialist nation. Its current government started off with socialist aspirations, but now it has an autocrat, not a democratic socialist, at the helm. (To be fair, this autocracy began under the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, but further to be fair, the Venezuelan right wing, with the full support of the unelected, illegitimate, right-wing second Bush regime, did try to overthrow Chavez after his democratic election — spectacularly unsuccessfully — in April 2002, which probably accounts for Chavez’s turn toward autocracy; I mean, you’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you!)

It’s easy to criticize the Venezuelan government (the real one, not the fake one that the wingnuts so badly wish to install, as they tried to do in April 2002 [they tried to impose a right-wing oil magnate on the people of Venezuela as their new, wholly unelected “president”]), but look at the United States of America: The only reason that “President” Pussygrabber isn’t acting just like Maduro right now, perhaps especially in regards to the treatment of the press, is that the American system (thus far, anyway) has reined the “president” in.

Jorge Ramos again is a great example. Then-“presidential” candidate Pussygrabber infamously kicked Ramos out of a news conference in August 2015, telling him to “Go back to Univision” and motioning to one of his thugs to eject Ramos from the room. One of Pussygrabber’s jackbooted thugs (yet another stupid white man, of course) in the hallway to which Ramos had been ejected was more direct; he told Ramos, who is an American citizen, for fuck’s sake, “Get out of my country!”

Americans who act like Pussygrabber — who as I type this sentence is palling around with North Korean dictator (yup, wholly unelected and dynastic) Kim Jong Un, who treats his people far worse than Maduro treats his, replete with gulags — is better at heart than is Maduro are deluded or liars or deluded liars, and they’re huge fucking hypocrites.

Again, Maduro is simply doing what Pussygrabber would do if Pussygrabber could. (Totally unrestrained, my bet is that Pussygrabber would do far worse than anything that Maduro has done thus far.)

Therefore, the United States of America, as long as it remains occupied by the unelected, illegitimate, fascist Pussygrabber regime, should keep its fucking hands off of Venezuela.

The United States of America right now could only make things in Venezuela worse, not better. The “aid” that the wingnuts wish to bring to the people of Venezuela is just a Trojan horse, because the wingnuts’ ultimate aim is the subjugation of Venezuela — not its betterment.

This is obvious to anyone who is honest, sane and who has been paying attention to the ugly history of U.S. intervention in Latin America and elsewhere in the world.

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RIP, Fidel; if you were a monster, the United States of America created you

Image result for fidel castro

Fidel Castro, the “dictator” next door to the United States for decades, died yesterday. If Castro was a monster — and like almost all human beings are, he was, of course, neither a devil nor an angel but a mixed bag — then the United States of America created him.

As I’ve written before, love him or hate him, Cuban leader Fidel Castro was a survivor. He made it to 90 years before he died yesterday.

Within the United States, Castro very mostly was a bogeyman — but rarely have we Americans been given much, if any, detail as to why we’re supposed to hate him blindly obediently. (At most, we’re told simplistically that he’s a “bad” man, a “Commie,” a “dictator,” a “tyrant” who “hates the United States of America,” “hates freedom,” etc., etc.* Even to question this knee-jerk, right-wing narrative is to risk being called anti-American.)

All of that is because intellectually and ethically honest detail would reveal how the United States of America has meddled anti-democratically in Latin American affairs for decades, having imperialistically and anti-democratically considered the entire Western hemisphere subject to its own jurisdiction at least since the Monroe Doctrine was issued in 1823.

There were so many attempts by the United States to assassinate or otherwise topple Castro — we’re talking not just the Bay of Pigs (the miserably failed U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow Castro in April 1961), but also numerous unsuccessful assassination attempts that were perpetrated by the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. State Department — as well as by the American Mafia — that it’s no fucking wonder that over the years Castro became more autocratic.

You’re not paranoid if they really are trying to kill you or oust you, and had Castro not ruled Cuba with an iron fist, no doubt his greedy, self-serving detractors would have done their damnedest to turn the sovereign nation of Cuba into an American colony for corporate profiteering once again.

We saw the dynamic with Fidel Castro repeated with the late socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; a U.S.-backed anti-democratic coup attempt against Chavez in April 2002 failed (Chavez was only briefly deposed and replaced with an unelected right-wing oil magnate before the people of Venezuela took to the streets and demanded Chavez’s return), and that failed anti-democratic coup attempt (which was a bit like a Bay of Pigs 2.0) no doubt made Chavez more autocratic, and of course Chavez’s detractors conveniently acted thereafter as though the failed 2002 coup attempt by anti-democratic right-wingers had never happened at all.

The United States made Chavez, and before him it had made Castro.

If a Latin American nation wants a left-of-center, truly democratic government that, entirely unlike the U.S. government, actually does its job — which is to serve the needs and wishes of its people instead of the greed of American and transnational corporations and the treasonous plutocrats and kleptocrats who own them and profiteer from them — then it must protect itself from anti-democratic, toxic capitalist infiltration from abroad.

American wingnuts criticize Latin America for simply defending itself from foreign invasion and infiltration, although of course the United States always reserves the right to protect itself from such. Latin America is to disarm unilaterally, you see, and just allow American and other corporate robber barons to destroy it.

Fidel Castro stood up to the foreign anti-democratic and capitalist invasion and infiltration of his nation for decades. He was so hated because he was so successful; he was so hated because he refused to simply hand over his nation’s resources and well-being to the American and transnational corporations in exchange for for his own selfish, treasonous enrichment, like a “good” Latin American leader “should.”*

None of this is to simply and wholly overlook Castro’s wrongdoings.

Amnesty International’s nutshell on Cuba is this:

Government critics continue to be imprisoned; many report that they were beaten during arrest. Restrictions on freedom of expression is widespread. The government curtails freedom of association and assembly. The U.S. embargo against Cuba remains, despite increasing opposition to it within and outside the U.S.A.

Human Rights Watch’s nutshell on Cuba is similar:

The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and discourage public criticism. It now relies less on long-term prison sentences to punish its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public acts of shaming, and the termination of employment.

I don’t defend all of this, but at the same time it’s not ethically or intellectually honest to strip Cuba from its historical, sociopolitical context, including having the world’s most imperialist nation ever-lurking and ever-looming just to its north.

If Castro had governed Cuba with a laissez-faire philosophy, as the capitalists always have claimed that he should have, how long would Cuba have been free from foreign corporate domination?

Um, yeah.

We Americans can hate Fidel Castro all that we want, but we can’t deny that we created him.

Cuba’s first struggle was to free itself from imperialist Spain; then its struggle was to free itself from the imperialist United States of America.

And Cuba still struggles to be free, because the “freedom” that the United States would impose upon it — and yes, the United States ironically and hypocritically believes in imposing “freedom” — would only once again make it a slave to the United States.

P.S. I would be remiss of me not to note Cuba’s world-class education and health-care systems.

Cuba’s literacy rate of 99.8 percent and high-school graduation rate of 94 percent is higher than the United States’ official literacy rate of 99 percent (which some believe is quite inflated) and high-school graduation rate of 82 percent, and Cuba’s life expectancy of 79.1 years puts it just behind the United States’ life expectancy of 79.3 years.

Castro’s Cuba achieved this despite the United States’ having tried to destroy it (again, in the name of “freedom,” ironically and hypocritically) — and having desired to turn it back into a subservient slave state — for decades.

*And let’s fucking face it: Whether the American right wing calls you a “dictator” or a “tyrant” or the like depends not upon whether you were democratically elected, but depends entirely upon whether you have done the bidding of the American right wing.

Brutal Chilean dictator Augosto Pinochet, for instance, was a mass murderer and torturer who most definitely was not elected but who — with the help of the U.S. government (surprise, surprise!) — overthrew the actually democratically elected socialist Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973 and ruled Chile until 1990.

However, the American right wing (as well as the fascist Margaret Thatcher) loved Pinochet because he did their bidding.

The right wing hated Castro because unlike Pinochet did, Castro refused to be their lapdog.

May the sovereign nation of Cuba continue to resist colonization by the rapacious, imperialist United States of America — and work on improving human rights while preserving the gains of the Cuban Revolution.

P.S. I didn’t even need to mention Pinochet, although he’s a textbook example of a U.S.-backed dictator in Latin America. I could have stayed within Cuba itself.

Most “news” write-ups of Fidel Castro’s death conveniently ignore the fact that Castro overthrew the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, who ruled Cuba in the 1950s while unelected.

Wikipedia notes of Batista’s reign (links are Wikipedia’s):

… Back in power, and receiving financial, military, and logistical support from the United States government, Batista suspended the 1940 Constitution and revoked most political liberties, including the right to strike. He then aligned with the wealthiest landowners who owned the largest sugar plantations, and presided over a stagnating economy that widened the gap between rich and poor Cubans.

Eventually it reached the point where most of the sugar industry was in U.S. hands, and foreigners owned 70 percent of the arable land. As such, Batista’s increasingly corrupt and repressive government then began to systematically profit from the exploitation of Cuba’s commercial interests, by negotiating lucrative relationships with both the American Mafia, who controlled the drug, gambling, and prostitution businesses in Havana, and with large U.S.-based multinational companies who were awarded lucrative contracts.

To quell the growing discontent among the populace — which was subsequently displayed through frequent student riots and demonstrations — Batista established tighter censorship of the media, while also utilizing his Bureau for the Repression of Communist Activities secret police to carry out wide-scale violence, torture and public executions; ultimately killing anywhere from hundreds to 20,000 people. …

Again: In the right-wing United States of America, drunk on toxic capitalism, a dictator is called a dictator only if he isn’t a right-wing dictator and doesn’t do what the American right wing wants him to do. Treasonously selling out his own nation to American profiteers makes him a “good” dictator (only, of course, in that event, we don’t even call him a dictator).

It doesn’t matter in and of itself if a dictator suspends his nation’s constitution, revokes his nation’s citizens’ rights, tortures and kills his political dissidents, refuses to stand for election, etc.; all that matters is whether or not he does the bidding of the hypocritical assholes of the United States of America.

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Notes on the Oscars that I didn’t watch

Cate Blanchett holds her Oscar for Best Actress for the film "Blue Jasmine" at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California

Cate Blanchett is not just a pretty face, but a talented actress whose work should have been recognized with a Best Actress award more than a decade ago. Best Supporting Actor winner Jared Leto, on the other hand, unfortunately is just a pretty face…

Jared Leto, holds his Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club" at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California

Reuters photos

I don’t have cable television and don’t desire ever to have cable TV, and so I didn’t watch the Oscars last night (this year, for the first time ever, ABC made live streaming available — but only to those in certain markets who already have cable!), but I still have plenty of opinions about this year’s.

First off, it was about time that Cate Blanchett won a Best-Actress Oscar. She was robbed in 1998, when she was nominated for the award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in “Elizabeth” but lost to Gwyneth Paltrow. I don’t hate Paltrow as so many others apparently do, but she didn’t turn in the best performance that year.

Blanchett was nominated for Best Actress again in 2007 for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” but the academy passed on her again, so last night was the third time and the charm for Blanchett, and she deserved it, as she turned in the best performance of the year, hands down.*

Indeed, Blanchett’s performance is what saves “Blue Jasmine,” which is not one of Woody Allen’s best scripts, even though it earned him yet another nomination for Best Original Screenplay (he did not win, and deservedly so, since the screenplay is a fairly trite rehash).

I’m glad that the members of the academy didn’t snub Blanchett again, this time because they didn’t want to appear to be supporters of child molestation, because to the hysterical members of the pro-Mia-Farrow camp, you see, anyone remotely associated with Woody Allen is for child molestation. (Under this “logic,” not only does Blanchett support child molestation for having worked with Allen, but if you even cast your Oscar ballot for Blanchett, then you, too, support child molestation, by extension.)

“12 Years a Slave” is a worthy Best Picture winner, but I would have been OK with either “Philomena” or “Nebraska” having won (of those two, “Philomena” probably is my favorite).

I saw all of the nominees for Best Picture except for “Her,” “Captain Phillips” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” I would like to catch “Her,” and probably will, but the subject matter of neither “Captain Phillips” nor “The Wolf of Wall Street” appeals to me, and I’m a bit overdosed on Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio as it is (one word: overexposure). (Seriously, though, it wasn’t long ago enough that I saw DiCaprio as the Great Gatsby. I’m good for a while.)

“American Hustle” is an OK film — good, but not great — and “Gravity” and “Dallas Buyers Club” both have been over-hyped. None of those three nominees deserved to be named Best Picture.

“Gravity” is watchable (I saw it at IMAX), but, in my book, fatally flawed by its incredible — literally incredible, as in unbelievable — plot.

“Dallas Buyers Club” also is watchable enough, but come on, it’s like “Philadelphia” meets “Transamerica.” This gay man is as sick of movies about gay and/or transgender people being about AIDS as black folks are sick of movies being about slavery.

That said, yes, obviously the academy is filled with (mostly white) liberal guilt, and so if you make a movie about slavery, AIDS or the Holocaust, yes, your chances of winning an Oscar go up astronomically.

Again, “12 Years a Slave” is a worthy film, as I noted when it came out, but I do believe that (white) liberal guilt boosted it, just as it boosted “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Speaking further of which, I have enjoyed the return of Matthew McConaughey, whose performances in “Bernie,” “Killer Joe” and “Mud” all were good, but it seems to me that the main reason that he won Best Actor for “Dallas Buyers Club” is that he lost so much weight to play the role, which is not quite the same as great acting, but also because he played a man with AIDS, which also sure was good for Tom Hanks (who won Best Actor for the unworthy film “Philadelphia”).

I’d have given Best Actor to Chiwetel Ejiofor** for his performance in “12 Years a Slave” — not out of white liberal guilt, but because I think that he gave the best performance of the year.

At least the enthralling Lupita Nyong’o wasn’t robbed of the Best Supporting Actress award for her great performance in “12 Years a Slave.” Again, no white liberal guilt there — she earned that award, turning in a performance that probably is the heart and soul of the film. (I love Jennifer Lawrence, who did a good job in “American Hustle,” but this award wasn’t hers.)

And Jared Leto — don’t even get me started on him.

OK, so just as McConaughey won Best Actor for having lost a lot of weight and played a guy with AIDS, Leto won Best Supporting Actor for having lost a significant amount of weight and played a transgender individual with AIDS.

This was the result of full-blown liberal guilt. I don’t see that Leto’s performance was better than was Bradley Cooper’s in “American Hustle” or Michael Fassbender’s in “12 Years a Slave.” It was the transgender person with AIDS angle that did it.

I fully support equality for transgender individuals — I am a gay man myself — but isn’t coddling a historically oppressed minority group in a saccharin, maudlin manner just the flipside of oppressing that group?

Also, just as “Gravity’s” fatal flaw, in my book, is that its protagonist’s fantastic feats are just not believable, in my book “Dallas Buyers Club’s” fatal flaw is its portrayal of the protagonist, Ron Woodroof, as a homophobic heterosexual man with AIDS when, in fact, very apparently those who knew the real-life Woodroof — including his ex-wife — have said that he actually was at least bisexual, but possibly, if not even probably, gay. (Indeed, the photos of him that I’ve seen of him make my gaydar smoke.) Oh, and those who knew Woodroof dispute that he ever displayed homophobia (which, admittedly, a closeted gay man might do, especially in a homophobic state like Texas and in that day and time, to “prove” that he’s “heterosexual”).

Why the apparent change of such an important detail (the protagonist’s sexual orientation)?

Would Woodroof’s story have been less interesting if it had been that of just another faggot who had died of AIDS?

Can you pretend to be respectful of the gay “community” when you change a central character in a “real-life” story from non-heterosexual to heterosexual?

And in Jared Leto’s acceptance speech, he gave an unfortunate (but fortunately brief) shout-out to the “dreamers” of Venezuela and Ukraine. Wow.

On the surface, the “causes” of Venezuela and Ukraine appear to be great bandwagons for a good guilty white liberal to jump upon, but when you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find that those so-called-by-Jared-Leto “dreamers” are, in Venezuela, plutocratic and pro-plutocratic wingnuts who are just bitter that the socialist president there won the last presidential election — not by much, but he still won. They’re bitter that they lost the election and so they’re trying to force a do-over election (this was done in my state of California in 2003, with the gubernatorial recall election, which was, for all intents and purposes, just a do-over of the previous close gubernatorial election).

I fully expect wingnuts to support the Venezuelan “cause” of toppling a democratically elected socialist president because he is not a right-wing, pro-plutocratic president, but Leto, who presumably fashions himself to be a good liberal, should know better.

And the “dreamers” in Ukraine are largely far-right-wing nationalists, some of them even actual neo-Nazis.

Sure, they have a “dream.” Hitler had a dream, too.

These dreams might be great for them, but others of us, these dreams are nightmares.

Jared Leto, if he wants to be remembered as having been more than just pretty, really, really, really should do his homework before he endorses a “cause” in front of a massive, worldwide audience.

*OK, to be fair and thorough, I  saw all of the performances that were nominated for Best Actress except for Meryl Streep’s in “August: Osage County,” since the film’s previews suggest that it’s a mediocre, sappy film, worthy of perhaps catching on DVD. Still, I can’t imagine that Streep’s performance in that surpassed Blanchett’s in “Blue Jasmine.” My second choice for best actress would have been Judi Dench for “Philomena.”

**To be fair and thorough, I saw all of the performances that were nominated for Best Actor except for Leonardo DiCaprio’s in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” (Hey, if I got paid to see [and write about] movies that I wouldn’t ordinarily see, that would be different!)

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An Astroturf uprising in Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez speaks to supporters before handing himself over in Caracas

Reuters photo

The U.S.-educated, right-wing, pro-plutocratic Venezuelan Leopoldo Lopez is no revolutionary — he is a traitor who actively participated in the anti-democratic, treasonous right wing’s failed treasonous attempt to unseat duly democratically elected Venezuela President Hugo Chavez in 2002. Lopez’s pro-plutocratic supporters likewise hardly are revolutionaries, unless we now are defining the overprivileged, anti-democratic 1 percent as “revolutionaries.”

I’m no expert on Venezuela, but not being an expert on a topic often has not stopped me from talking or writing about it before, and my intuition about a person and/or situation is usually spot-on.

So in the news coverage of the street fracases that are being reported in Venezuela right now, my main question has been: Is this really a populist uprising of the typical Venezuelan against socialist President Nicolas Maduro, or is this yet another show put on by right-wingers with a political agenda?

Then I spotted these tidbits of information in a Reuters news story from today:

… Tensions [in Venezuela] have escalated since opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, a 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist, turned himself in to [government] troops this week. He is being held in Caracas’ Ramo Verde military jail on charges of fomenting the violence.

“Change depends on every one of us. Don’t give up!” Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, said on Twitter.

Local TV channels are providing almost no live coverage of the unrest, so Venezuelans are turning to social media to swap information and images, though falsified photos are circulating.

Both sides rolled out competing evidence of the latest violence [today], with ruling Socialist Party governors showing photos and video of charred streets and torched vehicles, while the opposition posted footage of brutal behavior which they said was by national guard troops.

Maduro, elected last year to succeed [the late] socialist leader Hugo Chavez, says Lopez and “small fascist groups” are in league with the U.S. government and want a coup. …

Street protests were the backdrop to a short-lived coup against Chavez in 2002 before military loyalists and supporters helped bring him back. There is no evidence the military, which was the decisive factor in 2002, may turn on Maduro now. …

Detractors call Lopez a dangerous hothead. He has frequently squabbled with fellow opposition leaders and was involved in the 2002 coup, even helping arrest a minister. [Emphasis mine.]

Though the majority of demonstrators have been peaceful, an increasingly prominent radical fringe has been attacking police, blocking roads and vandalizing buildings. …

Sounds like textbook right-wing thuggery to me: start a fight, provoke a response, and then blame the leftists whom you oppose for their “oppression” of you.

Leopoldo Lopez is lucky to still be alive. Had he been a leftist who had participated in a failed coup of a right-wing leader in Latin America, the right-wingers most likely would have executed him for his treason, or at least imprisoned him for life. But despite the late Hugo Chavez’s having relentlessly been called a murderous dictator by his detractors, even after his political opponents quite treasonously tried to overthrow the duly democratically elected Chavez in 2002, he had not one of the traitors executed.

So here is anti-democratic, right-wing traitor Leopoldo Lopez, back again, trying to subvert the will of the majority of the voters of Venezuela. He and his right-wing cohorts can’t win presidential elections in Venezuela, and so they’ll try to treasonously and anti-democrtically seize power again, just like they did in 2002.

Lopez doesn’t deserve to be allowed to continue to draw breath, since he’s a fucking traitor, but here he is, trying to commit even more treason.

The world — including, of course, the Obama White House — needs to recognize this tattered and faded old page from the right-wing playbook for what it is; when the wingnuts stir up shit abroad in order to try to get sympathy from abroad by playing the “innocent” “victims,” we need to open our eyes, not be taken in by superficial appearances or rumors, and examine the facts, and see them, clearly, for what they are.

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Patriot Ed Snowden evokes Nuremberg in his ongoing fight for freedom

Snowden wants Russia asylum, lawmaker says

Associated Press image

American patriot Edward Snowden during a press conference at a Moscow airport today stated that he has been following “the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: ‘Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.'” Amen. The U.S. government does not own us. We own it. Ultimately, all of us, every single human being, is a citizen of the world — and not the property of any one nation. (The full transcript of Snowden’s remarks of today are below; I recommend that you read every word.)

I was just asking to be rescued from the ocean of freedom in which I’m drowning (U-S-A! U-S-A!), but I’m still drowning in all of that freedom!

Very apparently, the elites in D.C., who stopped representing our interests long, long ago, believe that they have the right to restrict our right to travel freely.

To me, the right to travel freely — until and unless one has been demonstrated in a fair trial in a court of law to pose an actual (and not a hypothetical) threat to others — is a universal human right, and if we bash certain other nations for restricting their citizens’ right to travel freely (and we do), then we’re fucking hypocrites (as usual) when we do the same.

To wit: The Repugnican-Tea-Party-controlled U.S. House of Representatives — and remember, these very same wingnuts claim that they’re all about “freedom” — apparently want to put further restrictions on American citizens’ right to travel to Cuba.

The pro-capitalist/pro-feudalism wingnuts hate the anti-capitalist Cuba, you see, and they want the continued monetary support of Cuban Americans, the majority of whom (like Florida’s Marco Rubio and Texas’ Ted Cruz) are wingnuts, so, to keep the tiny minority of Americans who are of Cuban descent happy and to keep their campaign contributions (well, their bribes) flowing, the wingnuts want to tell us Americans which nations we may visit and which nations we may not.

Where Cuba is concerned, this is for purely political/ideological reasons, and therefore it is a blatant violation of our human rights. We Americans essentially are to be political prisoners of the right wing. Yes, to me, restricting someone’s free travel is in same league as false imprisonment: You are unjustly restricting someone’s freedom of movement from one place to another.

This isn’t just a Repugnican Tea Party thing.

American patriot Edward Snowden’s latest pronouncement (which he made during a press conference in Russia today) is that (as we already knew) the U.S. government is doing its damnedest to keep him virtually imprisoned in Russia. Snowden has asked for temporary asylum in Russia while he figures out how to travel to one of the Latin American nations, including Venezuela, that have offered him permanent asylum.

Snowden should be able to travel anywhere on the planet, but the U.S. government, the biggest bully on the planet, has been strong-arming weaker nations into preventing Snowden from flying over their airspace; these weakers nations fear that if they don’t succumb tot he U.S. government’s demands, the U.S. government will retaliate against them.

That’s called bullying, and bullying comes from a space of cowardice, not of strength. A strong nation doesn’t need to violate a single individual’s human rights. We say this all the time of individuals: If you have nothing to hide, then what are you worried about? I say the same thing to the treasonous elites of the U.S. government: If you have no wrongdoing to hide, then why the hell are you working so hard to persecute Edward Snowden?

It’s obvious that Snowden can’t get a fair trial in the U.S., not when the American “justice” system is controlled by the same treasonous elites who want his head on a silver platter. Therefore, because he is the victim of political persecution, his application for political asylum in another nation is apt.

While the treasonous elites in D.C. more or less have stopped calling Snowden a “traitor,” they’re still doing what they can to snare him, and if we allow them to persecute him, then we are enabling them to expand their net until one day, sooner rather than later, any of us commoners who have embarrassed and/or pissed off the treasonous elites can be branded as “traitors” — not because we actually harmed the nation in any way, of course, but only because we dared to cross our overlords.

Of course, perhaps the reason that the treasonous elites in D.C. more or less have stopped calling Snowden a “traitor” — aside from the fact that such pronouncements have demonstrated already that he cannot get a fair trial in the U.S. — is that Snowden’s status as a “traitor” is the minority view.

While the results of the Quinnipiac University poll of more than 2,000 registered voters nationwide that was taken from June 28 through July 8 admittedly are a bit schizophrenic, the answer to at least one of the questions seems fairly clear. That question was “Do you regard Edward Snowden — the national security consultant who released information to the media about the phone-scanning program [that’s not exactly all of it, but whatever ] — as more of a traitor, or more of a whistleblower?”

Only 34 percent of the poll respondents were willing to brand Snowden a “traitor,” while 55 percent deemed him a “whistleblower,” and 11 percent (for some reason) were “unsure.”

So entrapped are they in their Big Bubble of Privilege that the treasonous elites in D.C. from both of the duopolistic, pro-plutocratic, pro-corporate parties casually pronounced Snowden a “traitor,” when only about a third of the Americans whose interests these elites actually claim to represent agree with that assessment, while more than half of them — of us — disagree with that assessment. (Can you say “Out of fucking touch”?)

It seems to me that the elites in D.C. need to tread with caution. Maybe, just maybe, Americans are waking up to the fact that it’s our over-privileged overlords, and not young patriots like Edward Snowden, who are the real traitors who are doing the real damage to this nation and to the rest of the world.

P.S. Thus far Edward Snowden’s legal defense fund through the Progressive Change Campaign Committee has raised more than $37,000. I’ve given $30 thus far; if you wish, you can contribute here (be sure to give to the “PCCC Strategic Fund”).

Here is the transcript of Snowden’s remarks of today:

Hello. My name is Ed Snowden. A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize and read your communications. Anyone’s communications at any time. That is the power to change people’s fates.

It is also a serious violation of the law. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance.

While the U.S. Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair. These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice – that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law.

I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”

Accordingly, I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing. I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell U.S. secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice.

That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets.

Since that time, the government and intelligence services of the United States of America have attempted to make an example of me, a warning to all others who might speak out as I have. I have been made stateless and hounded for my act of political expression.

The United States Government has placed me on no-fly lists. It demanded Hong Kong return me outside of the framework of its laws, in direct violation of the principle of non-refoulement – the Law of Nations. It has threatened with sanctions countries who would stand up for my human rights and the [United Nations] asylum system. It has even taken the unprecedented step of ordering military allies to ground a Latin American president’s plane in search for a political refugee.

These dangerous escalations represent a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America, but to the basic rights shared by every person, every nation, to live free from persecution, and to seek and enjoy asylum.

Yet even in the face of this historically disproportionate aggression, countries around the world have offered support and asylum. These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world. It is my intention to travel to each of these countries to extend my personal thanks to their people and leaders.

I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future. With, for example, the grant of asylum provided by Venezuela’s President Maduro, my asylee status is now formal, and no state has a basis by which to limit or interfere with my right to enjoy that asylum.

As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights.

This willingness by powerful states to act extra-legally represents a threat to all of us, and must not be allowed to succeed. Accordingly, I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted. I will be submitting my request to Russia today, and hope it will be accepted favorably.

If you have any questions, I will answer what I can.

Thank you.

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HELP MEEE!!! I’m DROWNING in all of this FREEDOM!

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters as he arrives for a national assembly in Caracas

NSA whistleblower Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is interviewed by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong

Reuters images

To smug Americans for whom freedom is only a word and for whom “freedom” is defined by our corporate and plutocratic overlords, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and American patriot Edward Snowden are easy targets to bash in order to feel better about their small, pathetic selves, so should Venezuela take Snowden in, predictably, the hypocritical rhetoric about how “free” and “good” the United States is and how “unfree” and “bad” Venezuela is will freely flow.

My best guess is that “Public Enemy Number One” Edward Snowden will end up in Venezuela, which, predictably, is going to result in a maelstrom of even more Venezuela bashing here in the United States. (The government of Venezuela, you see, has the audacity to govern the nation as a sovereign nation and not as a satellite of the United States, as a “good” nation “should.”)

Even so-called members of the so-called U.S. left wing mindlessly engage in Venezuela bashing, as though the United States — with its stolen presidential elections, its bloated-beyond-belief military-corporate complex and its bogus wars, its killer drones and its extralegal executions, its Abu Ghraib House of Horrors (and other acts of torture and crimes against humanity), its ridiculous income gap between the rich and the poor, its right-wing Supreme Court that routinely rules against the people and for the plutocrats (gay marriage doesn’t harm anyone’s profits, you see), its bought-and-paid-for-by-the-corporations Congress, and its government’s gargantuan electronic storage of the records of much or most or even almost all of our phone calls, e-mails, Internet activity, and even our snail mail — were the paragon of a truly free and open nation.

Salon.com, for instance, in “seriously” examining Edward Snowden’s options for political asylum, helpfully notes that on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being the most free and 7 being the least free, Venezuela ranks only a 5, according to some organization called Freedom House, which conveniently gives the United States a 1 for freedom.

Wow. Especially after I just learned that apparently all of the snail mail that I receive is photographed* and the images of my snail mail are stored by the federal government (along with my phone-call records, e-mails, Internet activity, etc.), I, for one, don’t feel that the U.S. is No. 1 in terms of freedom. (In Freedom House’s defense, maybe they gave the U.S. a 1 for freedom before NSAgate broke, but I am confident that they’d still give the U.S. a 1, regardless.)

I wonder if Salon.com’s writer even bothered to look up Freedom House on Wikipedia, for fuck’s sake. Wikipedia notes of Freedom House (all emphases are mine):

Freedom House is a U.S.-based non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights. Freedom House was founded in October 1941, and Wendell Willkie and Eleanor Roosevelt served as its first honorary chairpersons. It describes itself as a “clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world.”

The organization’s annual Freedom in the World report, which assesses each country’s degree of political freedoms and civil liberties, is frequently cited by political scientists, journalists, and policy-makers. Freedom of the Press and Freedom of the Net, which monitor censorship, intimidation and violence against journalists, and public access to information, are among its other signature reports.

As of 2010, grants awarded from the U.S. government accounted for most of Freedom House’s funding; the grants were not earmarked by the government but allocated through a competitive process. Freedom House is widely regarded as a reliable source. Nonetheless, some critics have accused Freedom House’s reports of bias or of promoting U.S. government interests abroad.

Well, yeah. Duh. If the U.S. government is funding you, could you give the U.S. government anything but the highest mark possible? I mean, who is going to pay for a report that is unflattering?

That and we need to define “freedom” and truly examine how much freedom a nation’s citizens actually have.

Freedom of the press, for instance — sure, Americans at least in theory have freedom of the press, but unless you are very wealthy, how can you possibly even remotely compete with the corporate media machine, which pumps out pro-corporate and pro-plutocratic and pro-status-quo messages relentlessly? Sure, at least in theory, you can say whatever you want — but who will ever hear you?

Democracy, too — sure, in theory you could run for political office, even for the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate or even for U.S. president, but, regardless of how bright and talented you are, how successful are you actually going to be in your quest for political office without a shitload of money?

About half of the members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives are millionaires. The median net worth of the typical American household, by comparison, is not even $70K. (And if you think that the Democrats are on your side, know that the typical Democrat in Congress is even richer than is the typical Repugnican. Really, you’re so fucked. We’re so fucked.)

So — can the average American really run for political office? Or, like freedom of speech is, is it a rich person’s game? Are hundreds of millionaires in D.C. truly representative of the average American’s interests?

What we have in the United States is the veneer of freedom. “Freedom” is defined for us by the plutocrats, and so therefore in the U.S., “freedom” is pretty much synonymous with “capitalism.” We Americans are free (if we have the money) to buy shit that we don’t need. We are free to go into debt (if the all-powerful credit-reporting agencies deem us worthy enough) in order to buy shit that we don’t need. We are free to pick a wage-slave job (McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, etc.). We are free to go to college in order to be in student-loan debt for life while there aren’t any jobs for which we can even use our college degrees for which we can’t afford to pay. We are free to be inundated with corporately produced propaganda telling us how “free” we are, and we are free to vote for pro-corporate candidates, at least around half of whom are millionaires.

So much fucking freedom!

It’s a fucking joke to hear and read Americans boasting about how free and wonderful the United States of America is when there are mountain ranges of evidence to the contrary.

I don’t maintain that other, Latin American nations that even a supposedly left-wing website like Salon.com has bashed recently, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, are perfect nations, are Utopias, but so smug are we Americans, the planet’s biggest fucking assholes, that we apparently are completely oblivious to our own glaringly obvious flaws while we (even those of us who call ourselves “liberals” or “progressives” or the like) gleefully bash other nations as supposedly being less free than we are (“free” according to our plutocratic overlords, of course).

Sick fucking shit.

Venezuela is looking pretty fucking good to me right about now.

P.S. In case you are wondering, on the so-called Freedom House’s “freedom scale” of 1 to 7, I’d give the U.S. a rating of 3.5, maybe 3.0, at best. And from what I know of Venezuela, I’d give it no worse a rating than the U.S.

*We’re “assured” that our snail mail isn’t ever actually opened without a court order allowing it, but that only the outside of our snail mail is photographed. I, however, don’t trust “my” government at all. Human beings tend to abuse their power whenever and wherever they can get away with doing so, and Edward Snowden’s biggest “crime” is exposing such ubiquitous abuse of power here in the land of the so-called “free.”

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Nicolas Maduro wins mandate!

Venezuelan presidential candidate Maduro celebrates after official results gave him a victory in Caracas

Reuters photo

Nicolas Maduro, the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor, celebrates his victory in Venezuela’s presidential election yesterday. The sore losers on the right are trying to cripple Maduro right out of the gate by casting unsubstantiated charges of election fraud, just like the wingnuts do here at home.

I say that tongue in cheek. Of course 50.7 percent of the vote isn’t a mandate (the definition of which to me is something like “unquestionably strong majority support,” which, I suppose, would need to at least approach 60 percent), but I am struck by the irony of how the unelected Bush regime (and its friends in the corporately owned and controlled media) called its 50.7 percent of the popular vote in 2004 a “mandate” while the very same wingnuts say that Nicolas Maduro’s 50.7 percent in yesterday’s presidential election in Venezuela means that the Chavistas are in deep doo-doo because Maduro didn’t do better than he did.

Why wasn’t George W. Bush’s 50.7 percent painted as a problem for his party in 2004 — even though, in retrospect, it seems fairly clear that Bush’s 50.7 percent was, in fact, far from being a “mandate,” actually a harbinger of upcoming presidential election losses for the Repugnican Party?

(Bush’s 50.7 percent in 2004 was higher than the 47.9 percent that he got in 2000 — when he was defeated by Democrat Al Gore, who got 48.4 percent of the popular vote — but Barack Obama, with his popular vote wins of 52.9 percent in 2008 and 51.1 percent in 2012 [to Mittens Romney’s awfully ironic 47.2 percent], earned more popular votes that Bush ever did.)

It fits the right wing’s narrative nicely to assert that Nicolas Maduro is a weakened president from Day One. It wasn’t in the wingnuts’ best interests to assert that Bush was a weakened president, so instead they claimed the opposite — that his 50.7 represented a “mandate.” Bush himself bragged about having earned “political capital” that he was going to spend on a shopping spree.

Indeed, Bush not only spent any “political capital” that he’d actually earned, but he ran up his party’s credit card debt, a debt that still plagues his party. (Not only do the Repugnican Tea Party traitors still talk as though Ronald Reagan was the last Repugnican president, but I clearly recall that even while Bush still sat in the White House in 2008, neither John McCainosaurus nor Sarah Palin mentioned him in their televised national debates or in their public appearances, but also pretended that Reagan was the last president from their party.)

So: If you are a right-wing politician, then your 50.7 percent is a “mandate.” But if you are a left-wing politician, then your 50.7 percent means that the vote was so freakin’ close that you might as well just step aside and allow your opponent to take office instead of you.

Sickly, even many on the left fall into this double-standard bullshit, and, as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) noted in November, while Bush’s “re”-election immediately was branded a “mandate,” even though he “won” only 286 electoral votes in 2004, Obama’s win of more than 300 electoral votes in November was “definitely not a mandate.” (After all of the votes were counted, it turns out that Obama won 332 electoral votes in November.)

When push comes to shove, it doesn’t matter whether Nicolas Maduro won a “mandate” yesterday. All that he needed to do was get the higher number of votes — to the victor goes the spoils — and he apparently did that. His right-wing opponent, Henrique Capriles, has demanded a recount, and Maduro has said that he’s fine with every vote being recounted.

Of course, Maduro can’t claim, as the unelected Bush regime falsely did in 2004, that he has a “mandate,” but at the same time he shouldn’t allow himself to be stymied by the right-wing sore losers’ attempts to cripple him right out of the gate. A win is a win, and very apparently he, not Capriles, was chosen by the majority of the people.

(Despite right-wing charges of rampant election fraud in Venezuela, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose organization monitors elections around the world, said last year, “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” [Of course, Jimmy Carter is just a “socialist,” too, so of course he would say that!])

Maduro, no doubt, has his work cut out for him. My guess is that the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, after he had consolidated his political power, in his later years didn’t work as hard for the people as he had in the past (in fairness, though, of course his battle with cancer no doubt slowed him down), and Maduro needs to be more about improving Venezuela than about maintaining a rock-star brand name, especially the Chavez brand name.

Chavez  is gone, and while it’s fine to carry on his ideals — I hope that they are carried on not only in Venezuela, but that they spread to the United States of America one day — it’s a mistake to make a movement about one person instead of about principles, because while principles can be eternal, the flesh is weak and quite impermanent.

As long as Maduro and his supporters refuse to get caught up in the right wing’s bullshit propagandistic narrative that Maduro didn’t really win the election, and as long as Maduro works hard for the greatest number of Venezuelans — as his own person, and not as the clone of Chavez — Maduro can be re-elected in another six years.

In the meantime, all of us on the left, regardless of which nation we live in, need to be vigilant about the double standards. The bar always has been set higher for those on the left than it has been for those on the right, and at the minimum we on the left need to stop cooperating with that bullshit. The wingnuts act like they’re winners even when they’ve lost, and we on the left tend to act like we’re losers even when we’ve won.

And Senor Presidente: That pornstache prolly should go. Just sayin’.

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