29 April 2005

Americans "oppressed..."

I love this!


Venezuelan leader: U.S. citizens oppressed

HAVANA, Cuba (AP) -- Saying that U.S. citizens are oppressed by their own government, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez promised Friday that he would not visit the United States again until Americans "liberate" their nation.

Chavez, in Havana for trade talks, told an international gathering of activists here that before an earlier trip to Cuba, a U.S. State Department undersecretary he did not identify warned him not to go because he would no longer be received in Washington.

He said he went ahead with that trip anyway, and later traveled to the United States to visit U.S. President George W. Bush, who he said greeted him with a Coca-Cola in his hand.

"I have not returned, nor do I think about returning again, until the people of the United States liberate that nation," said Chavez, saying that Americans are "oppressed" by their government and U.S. media.

Chavez considers Cuban President Fidel Castro a political ally and close personal friend, and Washington has grown increasingly alarmed by their deepening political and economic alliance.

During Chavez's current visit, the two countries have signed a host of economic and other accords, including a deal for Cuba to buy $412 million in goods from the South American nation, with Cuba waiving all import duties.

Venezuela's state oil company also has opened an office in Havana this week, agreeing to help explore for and refine any crude deposits discovered off the island's coast. It also announced that the 53,000 barrels it has been sending to Cuba since 2000 at preferential terms was recently increased to up to 90,000 barrels daily.

Chavez also criticized the current Latin American tour by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, referring to her as an "imperial lady" who is trying to divide and conquer the hemisphere's developing nations.

Despite Chavez's anti-U.S. comments, his country is the world's fifth largest oil exporter and a top crude supplier to the United States.

24 April 2005

Hilo my hometown...

Hilo can drive you crazy, get on your nerves, then one day show you how sweet and beautiful she can be. Oh well, I never intended to leave forever, or get this place completely out of my head and heart. But the wedding yesterday really gave me crazy homesickness pangs. I kind of feel like a traitor... for all these years of being a Hilo booster, "the Big Island's so great," etc... now I'm the one who's bailing. Wah.

David wants to throw me a huge party on Cinco de Mayo (but really on Siete de Mayo because Cinco's on a Thursday this year). And Mrs. Miyashiro wants to make me a huge turkey dinner. Wah. Wah. Waaah!

I know I'm doing the right thing, it's not that. It's just more painful than I had thought to uproot myself.

21 April 2005

Benedictus Sextus Decimus...

Former Hitler Youth. Headed (until today) the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, formerly known as the Inquisition. Thinks Turkey is "too Muslim" for the EU (which has like 50 million Muslims). Tells American Catholics how to vote... and may have handed the election to George W. Bush. Believes civil unions is "the legalisation of evil."The silencer of Hans Küng. The liquidator of Liberation Theology. The "Panzerkardinal."

Well, as Yoda said, "always two there are; a Master and an Apprentice." So, we should keep an eye on Darth Benedict's student...

05 April 2005


I have been trying really hard, over the past number of years, to come to terms with my Christian heritage. I'm a pretty spiritual man, and though nominally a Buddhist for some time, I really support the Dalai Lama's injunction to stick to one's religion of birth. But, despite all the many wonderful Catholics I have met and read about, there's just far too much in the tradition and the dogma that I cannot accept, and I no longer feel at home in the Church.

I have been able to develop a good respect for the many great things that committed Christians have done to further the cause of social justice and the search for transcendent truths, either as a result of, or in spite of, their faith. So it's really hard for me to accept the increasing intolerance of American Christians, and the sort of naked grab for power. This certainly involves many Catholics, but it is mostly Protestant fundamentalists - activist, politically-connected, and rich - that are leading the charge. As a non-Christian, I don't feel like I'm picking on any one sect, but rather a whole political drift that offends and worries me. Call it Christo-fascism.

>One glaring and painfully obvious example - and one that is totally off the radar of the national media - is Senate bill S. 520 (House version H.R. 1070), AKA the "Constitution Restoration Act" (CRA). The stated purpose of this bill - right at the top, without any weasel words or fudging - is to prevent the Supreme Court from having "jurisdiction to review... any matter... against an entity of Federal, State, or local government, or against an officer or agent of Federal, State, or local government... concerning that entity's, officer's, or agent's acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."

Goddess help us!

This is another scary chapter in the spread of a certain kind of millenialism in American society. In every era there has been one or another group of Christians adamant in their belief that Christ's return is imminent. What's new about these times is that there are End-Timers in positions of power in the most powerful country on the planet. It may be years before we know the degree to which the Iraq war was at least partly advocated by those who wanted to provoke Armageddon in the Middle East in order to hasten the Glorious Appearing of Jesus Christ. But what is manifestly obvious - from the Terri Schiavo shitstorm to the illegalization of D & X and on and on - is that the voices of people who believe the world is ending are louder than ever in the halls of government. And they are almost unopposed, largely I think because of successful (and untrue) propaganda that the ruling party's victory in the last national election was due to the electorate's "moral values."

We are being manipulated, lied to, and confused into what may well be an American Taliban state. And progressives, rationalists and freethinkers are silent and marginalised.

Keep your eye on the CRA here.

And pray.

04 April 2005

The Bolivarian revolution in the time of "World War IV..."

We're moving into an era of stark choices and harsh realities. American millenialist fundamentalism, wedded to good old fashioned economic imperialism, is locked in a death struggle with its freakish mirror image: Muslim jihadists bent on a restoration of the ancient Caliphate. Hovering around the edges is a sort of nervous European "kinder, gentler" capitalism: too timid to be a real counterweight to the US, but unhappy with its extremism. China seems to be sitting this one out.

And then there is the global South.

The billions below the Equator have never done well with modernity, and they were pawns in the global power struggle of the last century. But some of the best ideas on how to build a saner society have come from the South. Despite this marginalisation, one nation in particular - oil-rich Venezuela - is increasingly drawing attention to itself for its novel political ideas.

The Bolivarian revolution is often associated with Chávez, and while he obviously provided a strong initial impetus - not to mention, political power - towards that work, it is clear that at this point the movement has a life of its own.The goal of the Bolivarian revolution involve social change in the context of a participatory democracy, where citizens are carrying out programs in their own communities, under their own control. I liken this dynamic element of the Bolivarian revolution, echoes of the old principle of subsidiarity, that revolutionary principle first enunciated by, of all people, a Catholic Pope.

A significant element in the Bolivarian revolution is the importance of education. The goal is to have free education from childhood to the graduate level carried out to further Bolivarian ideals in different spheres of work. According to the rector of the Bolivarian University: “education is not just to create professionals. Education is much more than that. Knowledge is power, and more people with knowledge empowers the whole population. Educating women empowers not only the women educated, but the whole population. Creating critical thinkers, a population of intellectuals, is a much more profound project than just preparing people for jobs.”

An interesting part of all this is that the revolution, for once, is well funded. In these years of high prices for oil, Venezuela's state oil company is generating big profits to be invested in social programs: what Chávez has called sembrar el petróleo (to harvest the oil). In this instance, the rich are not being expropriated to finance the revolution. Rather, in a geopolitical act of jiujitsu breathtaking in its irony, the capitalist system's thirst for oil is being exploited to finance a post-capitalist alternative. This is probably one of my favourite elements in this whole story.

The Venezuelan government under Chávez has created a number of different programs which are called "missions:" Mission Robinson, which is concerned with elementary level education; Mission Ribas, for high-school level education; Mission Sucre at the college level and Mission Vuelvan Caras ("about face"), which provides education in the trades. In addition,Mission Mercal brings staple foods to the barrios and countryside at prices affordable by Venezuela's poor. And Mission Barrio Adentro ("into the neighborhood") is establishing an expanding network of neigborhood clinics. This effort has been spearheaded by Cuban medics - who are, however, soon to be replaced by Cuban-educated Venezuelans - to staff clinics for the poor.

The Bolivarian revolution presents an alternative model for a real and participative democracy. The Bolivarians pursue the old socialist goals of health care for all, free access to education and a decent quality of life, but without the stultifying bureaucracy and social injustice that doomed the dinosaurs of the Soviet bloc. If it delivers on even a fraction of its promise, it will stand as a shining example that the world need not follow the scary and dehumanising path laid out by the dour men and their Bibles and Korans.

[*] Heinberg, Richard, “The Party’s is Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies”, 3rd Edition Revised, New Society Publishers, Canada 2003.

03 April 2005

Using the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression...

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: The Garrote of Courteous Debate.

Get yours.

01 April 2005

RIP Karol Józef Wojtyła...

I saw the pope in 1979, with a million other people in a monster outdoor Mass at Logan Square in Philadelphia. He spoke with a heavy accent and made his famous declaration "the priesthood is to be permanent, celibate and male." A tough, conservative Pontiff went over huge in tough, conservative Philadelphia, and I was in one of my brief Catholic periods. I went to Mass maybe five times that year.

Eventually I got some perspective on the Pope... all the anti-woman, anti-gay, top-down, do-as-We-say rhetoric took the shine off his halo for me. The final straw was when he purged Liberation Theology in Latin America, at a time when the Church was the only institution standing up for the poor, and priests and nuns were raped and slaughtered.

Of course, my heart goes out to all who are touched by his death. And big ups to him for recognising anti-semitism and promoting humility and atonement among Catholics. But, to me, this hard-line, hard-ass Pope was no Saint.
RIP Terry Schiavo...

I almost don't want to post anything on this, cause it's been so incredibly overplayed. But lost in all the crazy Culture War atmospherics is an incredibly poignant fact: this woman lay in a "persistent vegetative state" (whatever the fuck that means) for years due to complications of her bulimia.

Now imagine that neither her husband and her family claims to be aware of her condition. She lost more than a hundred pounds. She had stopped menstruating. Her eyes were bloodshot, her nails brittle, she bruised easily. I mean Jesus Christ.

It's just amazing than no one wants to talk about this. How many other women are dead and dying of this horrible sickness, this hidden secret of our thin-obsessed society?