Thursday, November 30, 2006

Chavez's Opponents Prepare to Cry "Foul"

An update on the "New Axis of Evil"TM

With independent, reputable polling organizations showing Hugo Chavez with a commanding (20-30 point) lead in the Venezuelan Presidential campaign, supporters of his opponent, Manuel Rosales, are already saying "We wuz robbed!!!"

This, despite the fact that no reputable polling company has produced a survey giving the lead to Rosales, governor of the state of Zulia.

A number of serious polls -- including a recent one commissioned by the Associated Press -- suggest that Sunday's result will likely be not much different from those of 1998, 2000 and the midterm recall referendum of 2004. All were won by Chávez by a roughly 60-40 margin.

Calvin Tucker in the Guardian (UK) breaks these polls down as follows:
The six most recent polls conducted by recognised firms put the gap between the two candidates as follows: Zogby - University of Miami: 29%, Associated Press - IPSOS: 32%, Datanalysis: 27%, Datos: 27%, Consultores 21: 17%, Evans McDonough: 22%.
How in the world does Manuel Rosales's campaign claim to be winning in the face of these polls? In Chicago lore, one of the ways to win friends and influence people -- especially people who need some product or service -- is the phrase, "I got a guy..." Well, Rosales has got a guy. The US Government. And they have some pollsters. And they have done this kind of thing before (wink, wink...nudge, nudge).

One of the pollsters whose results indicate that Rosales is mysteriously pulling ahead is Penn, Schoen, and Berland. Now, PSB is an actual public opinion research company. They've been around for thirty years. But some of their recent projects call their work on behalf of the Rosales campaign into question.
  • To their credit, they were involved in US efforts to undermine the authority of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, helping to train opposition organizers, equipping them with technology and providing them with techniques to shape public opinion. That's fine; it's just not objective.
  • They were involved in the 2004 Recall election in Venezuela. Voters kept Chavez in power by an 18 point margin, with 70% of eligible voters voting, in an election monitored by the Organization of American States and other international observers (including President Jimmy Carter). PSB exit polls showed Chavez losing the recall by a 60-40 margin. Chavez opponents cried "fraud!"
  • They worked for the 2006 re-election campaign of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi -- through his right-wing party Forza Italia. They were the only polling organization to predict a Forza Italia victory.
Jonathan Mowat writing in the Online Journal notes the growing role of public opinion research and strategies in the post-modern "coup":
Polling operations in the recent coups have been overseen by such outfits as Penn, Schoen and Berland, top advisors to Microsoft and Bill Clinton. Praising their role in subverting Serbia, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (and later Chairman of NDI) , in an October 2000 letter to the firm quoted on its website, stated: "Your work with the National Democratic Institute and the Yugoslav opposition contributed directly and decisively to the recent breakthrough for democracy in that country . . . This may be one of the first instances where polling has played such an important role in setting and securing foreign policy objectives."

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if you want a common sense explanation of why Chavez has won in the past, survived a coup because millions rose up against the plotters, was re-elected, survived a re-call, and will be re-elected this weekend, it is simply because he is the first Venezuelan leader in my lifetime to put the needs of all Venezuelans, but especially poor Venezuelans, before the demands of global, un-regulated, laissez faire, "free-market" capitalism. And in Venezuela, the poor vote.

It's as simple as that. Now watch the opposition howl on Monday.

Quote of the Week (#1)

Affluence creates poverty. -- Marshall McLuhan

Pew : Catholics, Black and White Protestants, and Secularists Support the Democratic Congress

It should be clear by now that most Americans (with the exception of Howie) are glad that the Democrats won the 2006 midterm elections and took control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. But according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center support for the Democrats extends to at least a few groups who, for the last two decades, have been solidly in the GOP camp.

It should be no surprise that 72% of American secularists are happy the Democrats won, or even that 84% of Black Protestants were. But 60% of Catholics say they are happy with the political change in Congress, and even 56% of mainline Protestants agree. It is only among white Evangelical Protestants that we see a majority who are unhappy. But even here, 4 in 10 Evangelicals support the Democrats.

Full story at the link.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Iran and Venezuela Plot Villainy

An update on the "New Axis of Evil"TM

Venezuela and Iran are up to no good. They recently signed a deal to cooperate on an industrial modernization deal. The first factory resulting from that deal was officially inaugurated yesterday in Central Venezuela. What will these evildoers be producing there?

Cars and tractors.

Venezuela, long dependent on US imports, wants to broaden its industrial base and expand its market with non-aligned nations.

In a related story, President Hugo Chavez, after a long and open campaign season, is expected to be re-elected as President of Venezuela this Sunday. His opponent, Manuel Rosales, has been gaining ground in political opinion polls. According to reports, several hundred thousand supporters rallied for his election last saturday. But "hundreds of thousands" turned out the very next day to support Chavez, who holds a 30 point lead in opinion polls. That could be because Chavez is a "hero" to the Venezuelan poor, who still constitute a majority of the population, and who vote. Chavez has done more in the last six years to protect the Venezuelan poor from the ravages of global, un-regulated, laissez faire "free-market" capitalism than any Venezuelan leader in the last two and a half centuries. That's why the Venezuelan right -- and the Bush administration -- hates him. Chavez puts it this way:
I am a socialist...and I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, who was the first socialist, just as Judas was the first capitalist.

Yes. That's going to make you some friends in Texas.

Meanwhile the Cato Institute has just released a "policy analysis" that accuses the Chavez government of "Corruption, Mismanagement, and Abuse of Power." So far, only similar far right outlets have picked it up (Standard Newswire, NewsMax, and the Hawaii Reporter). But it is still early. The analysis was written by Gustavo Coronel, a 28 year oil industry veteran, and former member of PDVSA, Petroleos de Venezuela.

I leave it to you to read the entire policy analysis for yourself, but I can make some general observations.

Chavez and Coronel define "corruption" differently. In 1999, Venezuelan Vice President (then Interior Minister) Jose Vicente Rangel described the corruption that the new Chavez government sought to undo: the type of corruption that saw much of Venezuela's oil going to the United States while virtually none of it went to other Latin American countries; the type that saw oil revenues going to multinational corporations while schools and hospitals lached essential resources; the type that saw $100 billion go to multinational contractors overseas for two decades for domestic public works; in other words, the essential corruption of global, un-regulated, l;aissez faire, "free-market" capitalism. Coronel describes corruption as keeping what are fundamentally Venezuelan jobs within Venezuela, even at the risk of closing those jobs to external, independent contractors.

Coronel defines "mismanagement" from within a fairly biased perspective. From my reading of this "policy analysis," he takes the point of view that oil revenues that go back to the people through social programs are essentially "wasted" and therefore constitute evidence of "mismanagement."

But read it for yourself.

We report. You decide.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Venezuelan Dictatorship

A Hopeful People by Joseph J. Fahey, America: The Catholic Weekly Magazine

An update on the "New Axis of Evil"TM

In this week's issue of America, the National Catholic Weekly, Joseph J. Fahey writes of his recent experiences in Venezuela as part of a delegation of Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelical Christians who were invited by Fundlatin, a Venezuelan ecumenical human rights organization, to see the direct effects Hugo Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution were having on Venezuela's poor. The delegation was independent, sponsored neith by the Venezuelan government nor by its (US sponsored) opposition.
Daily we met scores of residents who explained the “revolution” (a word we heard everywhere) that has taken place in their lives during the past five years. The revolution has included literacy classes, the formation of small agrarian and industrial cooperatives, clean water and improved sanitary conditions, and free medical services. Their spirit of enthusiasm and hope filled the air.
Fahey uses a symbol -- "three little girls" who he met on his journey -- to represent broader social improvements taking place in barrios surrounding Caracas, Barquisimeto and Sanare.

I met them at a recently built day care center set up to look after them while their parents worked at nearby cooperatives. Some of the parents were building new homes or working in social services. Each day the children are bathed, since many homes (single-room shacks) in the barrio are still without running water. They are fed nutritious meals with food often made at one of the worker cooperatives (the Pavia co-op, for example, makes bread).

The little girls receive free health services at a new building offering dental and ophthalmologic services; family doctors are nearby. These medical services are called “Misio Barrio Adentro” (“Mission Inside the Neighborhood”). They represent a major improvement in the local residents’ quality of life. The medical missions are staffed largely by Cuban doctors and their Venezuelan assistants. We were told that some 15,000 Cuban doctors and other medical professionals work in Venezuela, because the government exchanges its oil for these services. The Cubans tend to serve the poorest areas, where most people had never seen a doctor or a clinic. The medical teams train local young people so that they can become doctors and other medical professionals in their own right. They also practice preventive medicine, visiting schools and homes to care for the lame, the elderly and newborns.

These dramatic changes flow from the 1999 Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, passed by popular referendum (following emphases are mine):

The Preamble calls on the “protection of God” and “the historic example of our liberator Simon Bolívar” to “establish a democratic, participatory and self-reliant, multiethnic and multicultural society in a just, federal, and decentralized state” that “guarantees the right to life, work, learning, education, social justice and equality.”

The Venezuelan Constitution guarantees the right to health through a national public health system “governed by the principles of gratuity, universality, completeness, fairness, social integration and solidarity.”

Far from being the Godless Socialist state suggested in the rhetoric of the Bush administration, Fahey, a Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College (Jesuits) in Riverdale, NY, sees parallels to Catholic teaching on social justice.
The extensive human rights agenda in Venezuela’s Constitution bears a strong resemblance to Catholic social teaching. Indeed, the sections on “Fundamental Principles,” “Duties, Human Rights and Guarantees” and “Socioeconomic System” are similar to the newly released Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Many of the lay leaders, religious, deacons and priests we met praised the constitution and described it as the blueprint for the social changes taking place in Venezuela today.
The Venezuelans -- especially the Venezuelan poor -- are hopeful, Fahey observes. But they still have fears of a US invasion or other attempt to subvert the Bolivarian recvolution. They remember the coup attempt of 2002, supported by the CIA and National Endowment for Democracy, and are aware that the main opposition party to Chavez's government, Primera Justicia, is also funded by the NED. He is up for reelection in December.

If, as feared, the United States interferes, the people in the barrios told us they will protest by the millions, as they did during the attempted coup against Chávez in 2002. Citizen-based National Guard units are being armed and trained in case the country is invaded. Young people told us they would fight to the death for their country and their Constitution.

What position the American people take in response to overt or covert attempts by the U.S. government to overthrow the legitimate government of Venezuela is, for the people in the barrios, the key question. They begged us to tell the American people to leave them alone so that they can develop as they see fit. They know from personal experience that governments respond to the will of the people. They fervently pray that their sisters and brothers in the North will demand that the U.S.
government act justly toward Venezuela.

The balls in our court, Mr. Bush. Do we believe in Democracy or not? Or was all that rhetoric just a smoke screen, and our real interest is the spread of global, un-regulated, laissez faire, "free market" capitalism?

I think Americans -- and American Catholics -- would like to know.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


An electronic acquaintance on an e-mail listserve I belong to posed a challenge in all seriousness a year or so ago that I just had to chuckle over. He was wondering why post-modernists generally, and the political left particularly, had no "manifesto," no (in the words of the Cambridge Dictionary) "written statement of the beliefs, aims and policies of an organization, especially a political party."

I noted that commonality of beliefs is certainly foundational to the manifesto of any group, and therefore post-modernists are unlikely to agree on enough to construct, let alone to rally around, a bona fide manifesto. When you focus on the individual -- or on small groups -- the common good seems to recede into the background. When you look at all of reality as essentially just a sham designed to justify an unequal social distribution of power and wealth, then you will always be looking out for your own best interests and "let the devil take the hindmost."

This is the foundation of the cheap right-wing accusation, I believe, that the Democratic Party "has no plan," not just for Iraq, but for anything. This is the foundation of the perception that "the Democratic party doesn't stand for anything." The Democratic Party, being since the middle of the twentieth century a coalition of marginalized people and groups in the US -- workers, the poor, African-Americans, and increasingly in the last quarter of the century women, gays, lesbians, and those who wish to protect the environment -- has necessarily been a party with the biggest tent and the most diffuse message. This is the Democratic Party's greatest strength; it is also, history suggests, its biggest weakness.

GOP propaganda snipers over the last third of a century have been fairly successful at "picking off" the various Democratic constitutencies with a powerful rifle of recreant rhetoric. "Radical feminism." "The homosexual agenda." "Big labor." "Tree huggers." "Welfare queens." Poor folks lacking "personal responsibility." "Murphy Brown" working women lacking "family values." The hardest working, the least well-paid, the un- or under-represented, the disenfranchised, the disadvantaged, the victims of discrimination, folks who would just like to get by, to live their lives, to raise (or even to HAVE) their families, and to have the same opportunities as the rest of America -- THESE folks, Americans all, have come to be known, thanks to GOP propaganda, as "special interests." Not the oil or energy companies, not the media, not Halliburton, not the defense industry (what President Dwight D. Eisenhower called the "military industrial complex"), not the coal-mining industry, not the arms industry -- not any of the huge corporations (many of them multi-national or foreign-owned) who can afford to spend billions of dollars every year to influence our representatives in Congress -- THESE are NOT the "special interests." It's the "little guy."

It's US.

And yet...understanding, as Jacques Ellul points out, that effective propaganda must be built on at least the germ of truth, can we say that the left (In America, anyway -- anywhere else in the world we'd be the solid center) bears no responsibility for its disorganization and lack of focus? Have we focused far too much on our own parochial concerns and ignored the larger, far more important issues that we now see threatened? Have we, as women, been far too concerned with "a woman's right to choose" and not nearly enough with the human right to a job and a living wage? Have we, as gays and lesbians, been too focused on the Catholic Church's antipathy toward homosexuality, and ignored its progressive stance on labor, healthcare, and issues of social justice? Have we, as workers, focused too much on our own working conditions, our own work week, our own paychecks, without paying sufficient attention to the plight of poorer Americans?

We now have control of the US House of Representatives. As I write this, it looks very much as though we have won control of the US Senate. Why am I not dancing for joy?

We didn't win. The Republicans lost. Because of their venality, their corruption, their inflexibility, their incompetence, their pig-headedness, their obnoxious self-righteousness and their sheer hypocrisy (go ahead, throw a dart at the GOP; you'll hit someone who fits at least one, maybe more, of the above) the GOP surrendered control of the Congress. Now the Democrats have it.

So, what are we going to do about it?

Will we become beholden to corporate interests?

Will we forget who we work for?

Will we continue, as the Republicans began, to hold the Constitution of the United States in contempt?

Will we become rigid ideologues, believing that a global, un-regulated, laissez faire, "free market" economy is more central to American values and more deserving of our defense, even to the point of pre-emptive war, than the Bill of Rights?

I hope not. I pray not. And I don't believe we will.

But will we put the interests of some Americans (whether they be Catholics, women, Jews, African-Americans, Gays, workers, or corporate CEOs) ahead of all Americans?

Let's never forget that the thing that most closely binds us is our common humanity. The very fact of our humanity endows us with certain unalienable rights, among those being life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Let's never forget that those unalienable rights are enshrined for us all in the first ten amendments of our Constitution. And let's never forget that when one person is denied his rights, all people are diminished. And America is diminished.

Let the Democratic Party be known as the party of human rights. Let it be known once again as the party of social responsibility.

We'll be okay.

Welcome to Year Three

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Thanks to our faithful readers.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


If you're not voting for this:

From the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

From the Constitution of the United States:

Article I
Section 8.

(Congress shall have the power)
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

Section 9.

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

Article II.

Section 2.

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;

Section 4.

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The Bill of Rights

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
Amendment VII
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines: Stand down Mr. Rumsfeld, you have lost control in Iraq

Four military newspapers (Air Force Times, Navy Times, Marine Corp and Army Times) are calling for Donald Rumsfelds resignation, saying that he is losing control in Iraq. The editorials go on to say that Rumsfeld has neither the support of our fighting men nor the support of top militarial officials.

The Air Force Times puts it like this :

"It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation’s current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads."

However, our Commander in Thief still believes Rumsfeld is doin' a "heck of a job". The White House believes that this, as they do with anything else, is politically motivated.

How long can this president ignore the will of not only the American people but also our men and women in harms way fighting for democracy for the Iraqi people?

I, for one, "support our troops" in calling for your resignation Mr. Rumsfeld.

An Edge of Your Seat, White-Knuckled, Hold Your Breath Election

Rasmussen Reports, one of the more conservative (in the methodological, not political, sense) public opinion polling organizations, now says it looks like a dead heat in the Senate. 48 seats will go to the Democrats, and 48 to the Republicans. Four seats, Missouri and Virginia, remain "toss ups."

In Missouri, Claire McCaskill holds a tenuous one point lead over Republican incumbent Jim Talent. In Virginia, Jim Webb and George Allen both command 49% of the vote. In Montana, Jon Tester holds a two point lead over Republican incumbent Conrad Burns. And in Tennessee, Republican Bob Corker holds a four point lead over Harold Ford.

Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum will be replaced by Democrat Bob Casey. Sherrod Brown looks to crush Mike Dewine in Ohio.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Brits : Bush is a Menace

A new poll taken by British public opinion research company ICM for the Guardian Unlimited (UK) indicates that Brits see George W. Bush as a greater threat to world peace than North Korean madman Kim Jong Il. This should make the crazies over at Songun Blog happy.

The poll was one of four polls caried out simultaneously in Britain, in Israel (by Haaretz), Canada (by La Presse and Toronto Star) and Mexico (Reforma). Across the board, pollsters found that world citizens believe that Bush has made the world more, rather than less, dangerous.
The finding is mirrored in America's immediate northern and southern neighbours, Canada and Mexico, with 62% of Canadians and 57% of Mexicans saying the world has become more dangerous because of US policy.
Howie has blamed me -- and what he calls "the left" -- for mindlessly hating Bush. This is an indication that much of the world sees this administration the same way most Americans do: we don't hate Bush. We hate what he has done to America, and to the world.

See the actual British (ICM) poll here and the data set here.