Music for a Sunday: A hammer for you, a sickle for me…

Never screw with a kangaroo!

Camera drones may be great for amateur aerial wildlife photography…but not if the wildlife is big, mean, renowned for its boxing skills…and in this case, awfully jumpy. Here’s the story to go with the video:

Drones are quickly flying to the top of Christmas wishlists for 2014 despite growing privacy and safety concerns. But what do the kangaroos in Hunter Valley, Australia make of all this? A video has emerged from the moment a drone flew near to a group of kangaroos. Just as the flying camera gets up close, one kangaroo decided enough was enough, leapt up, and dealt a knock out blow to the drone. The footage was rescued but the drone is now beyond repair.

Let that be a lesson to you…never screw with a kangaroo!

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Today, we are ALL barbudos!

Yesterday, Contrainjerencia brought footage of the three remaining members of the Cuban Five coming home. You want to talk joyful reunions now, or would you rather just group-hug first? Awwwwww…

And here’s the story…

On Wednesday, the president of Cuba, Raúl Castro, received the three Cubans newly freed by the United States, Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernández and Ramón Labañino, at Havana International Airport, as seen on local TV.

The leader appeared very happy, embracing the three agents several times, and he told them: “Proud of you for the resistance you showed, for your valor and the example that represents for everyone.”

Castro had informed at mid-day of the liberation of the agents, and of US contractor Alan Gross, imprisoned on the island since 2009, and of a US spy of Cuban descent, whose name was not revealed, in the same TV broadcast in which he announced the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, after half a century of confrontations.

“General, we’re still emotional, we can’t get the words out, but above all, thank you,” said agent Gerardo Hernández, a graduate in International Relations who had been sentenced to two life sentences plus fifteen years in prison.

Especially emotional was the embrace between Hernández and his wife Adriana Pérez, who could not visit him in the US because Washington never granted her a visa.

For his part, Antonio Guerrero, who had been sentenced to 22 years in prison and five years’ probation, said: “Tell the Commander-in-Chief [Fidel Castro] that we’re here to go on doing what needs to be done.”

Recall that Guerrero, Hernández and Labañino were part of the group of five Cubans who were arrested in 1998 and sentenced in 2001 by a court in Miami, the last bastion of anti-Castro sentiment.

Cuba recognized them as agents, but specified that they were not spying on the United States, but on anti-Castro groups who were plotting terrorist attacks against the island, and the Cuban parliament declared the Five to be “Heroes of the Republic of Cuba”.

Translation mine.

What can I say but that it’s lovely that they’re finally all home, together again with family and friends? And that more than a decade and a half of injustice has finally been put right. There was never the slightest shred of evidence that the Five were spying on the US government or its military. The only way one could come to such a harebrained conclusion is if one accepts the notion that the batshit-loopy anti-Castro ex-Cubans of Miami as undeclared legislators, or US military/espionage agents — a conclusion the US authorities have strenuously denied even while taking advantage of their fanaticism for Washington’s ends.

Certainly the CIA’s role in the formation and training of everyone of those groups is no secret, though there have been all sorts of inept attempts to cover it up. The US military’s ties to the groups are likewise evident if one looks hard enough; where else would they get such distinctly non-civilian weaponry as bazookas?

But since the US government doesn’t want to admit that these ugly terrorist groups are their boys, well…they can’t have it both ways, eh? And in fact, the FBI was watching the terrorists, too, and even receiving information from various Cuban agents — loyal to Castro! — who had infiltrated the terror groups. The fact that they then turned on their helpful informants and put them in prison for over a decade is shameful, and it reflects badly on the Bureau, which has apparently changed little since J. Edgar Hoover’s day.

Was the FBI taking orders from someplace else? I don’t know, but I have my suspicions. It’s either that, or they completely bungled their job. Either way, it looks bad on them.

And either way, it’s good that now, the Cuban Five are free, reunited…and HOME.

And if Tony Guerrero’s words are any indication, they’re ready to get back to work at what needs doing — and there is sure to be plenty of that. You really can’t keep a good man down.

Especially not if he’s Cuban.

Hey Jian, it’s never too soon to contemplate a new career…

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You know, I really did wonder what they were going to do with that wall-size blow-up of Jian Ghomeshi that they took down from CBC headquarters a few weeks ago. I’m so glad it found a home. And in such a fitting place, too…

Dalhousie University in Halifax has launched an investigation into disturbing, sexually explicit Facebook posts attributed to male students in the faculty of dentistry, CBC News has learned.

The men were part of a Facebook group called the Class of DDS 2015 Gentlemen. The group was removed from Facebook late last week.

[…]

In one post, members were polled and asked, “Who would you hate f–k?” They were given two names to vote on.

Another post shows a woman wearing a bikini. The caption says, “Bang until stress is relieved or unconscious (girl).”

[…]

Their conversations also include jokes about using chloroform on women.

The words: “Does this rag smell like chloroform to you??” were superimposed on one photo.

In response to another photo of a bikini-clad woman, two members wrote: “Can you tell me what this chloroform smells like?” and “Does this mask smell like nitrous oxide to you?”

The group had at least 12 members.

Fine, upstanding “gentlemen” all, I’m sure. And yes, I’m certain that they can be trusted with nitrous oxide and other dental anesthesia, too.

There’s a Change.org petition to sign to get these bozos expelled, BTW. Please sign and share it.

Oh, and Jian? Here’s a little song you might like, as you consider your next career move…

It seems that you have quite a talent for causing pain yourself. And if Dalhousie doesn’t expel those other rapey guys, you might just have a ready-made clique to fit in with, too.

Economics for Dummies: The real reasons for the lifting of the Cuba blockade?

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This is Puerto Mariel, Cuba. It looks pretty sleepy from the air right now, but don’t be fooled. What you’re looking at there is actually a sleeping giant with the potential to shake markets as far away as New York, if Telesur’s report (via Contrainjerencia) has anything to say. And if it reawakens before the Yanks come in with their suitcases full of money…

Mariel was built by Brazil and Cuba, during the government of Dilma Rousseff, with an investment of 957 million dollars, meaning that Brazil would become Cuba’s greatest economic partner.

In 2011, Brazil and Cuba obtained a combined market of $571 million, which surpassed the markets of China and Venezuela.

The port, which received $682 million from the National Development Bank of Brazil (BNDES) is considered to be one of the most modern ports, compared to those of Kingston (Jamaica) and Freeport (Bahamas). It has the capacity to receive large ships of the “Super Post Panamax” class.

Another benefit of the expected economic improvement of the Caribbean island, and especially for Brazil, is the geographic zone, which lies near the coast of the US, just 150 kilometres away; and it is from there that Brazilian companies could export to the US.

Translation mine.

Could this be what put a fire under the gringos’ butts? Oh, possibly. And if not that, there’s always a good chance that it would be that sweet, sweet, offshore Cuban crude oil that’s got them thinking that maybe, just maybe, an ideologically motivated anti-socialist blockade might not the the best thing for their capitalism, either:

Under the current embargo, Cuba cannot access U.S. oilfield equipment for both drilling and environmental protection. The embargo prohibits the exporting and re-exporting of items that contain more than 10 percent American components under the De Minimus Rule under Sections 734.4 and 736.2 (b)(2) of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). What is particularly interesting about the embargo is the fact that Washington refued to allow an exemption for U.S. oil spill prevention and response companies even though the Obama Administration was very concerned about potential oil spills from drilling operations located relatively close to the U.S. – Cuba maritime boundary in 2012.   

Of course, with Venezuela firing up a plan to help Cuba exploit that oil itself, and with PDVSA’s significant presence in Cuba already, and with their access to equipment not of US provenance, well…that would put quite the crimp in the US’s blockade, not to mention any hopes Gringolandia’s oilmen might have of a future right to exploit those considerable offshore reserves!

And with Chavecito’s ALBA being nearly ten years old now, that means there’s been plenty of time for Cuba to strike up good mutual economic relations with not only Venezuela, but a number of other Latin American countries as well.

No wonder Gringolandia is out in the cold when it comes to the oilfields. And no wonder they want in now, before big, bad, socialistic-progressive Brazil and other Latin American countries gobble up all of that yummy, yummy Cuban economic pie.

So, THIS happened.

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Cuban students celebrating the release of the remaining three members of the Cuban Five — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero — who were freed and arrived on the island today. They are now with their families, and according to all local reports, are well and enjoying an emotional reunion. Two others, René González and Fernando González (no relations), have already been released — the former in 2011, when he was paroled, and the latter in February of this year, when he completed his sentence.

All five men were accused and convicted of espionage, although none of them were what one could properly call spies; all were antiterrorist agents of the Cuban government, and had uncovered terrorist plotting on the part of right-wing anti-Castro organizations in Miami. Rather than receive their shared information with the gratitude it deserved, the FBI colluded with the wrong side, and sent them to prison instead. It was one of the worst miscarriages of justice in international history, and today it was finally put right. The US has straight-up admitted that its anti-communist Cuba policy has been an epic failure, and is now seeking normalized relations with its island neighbor. Hence the freeing of the three remaining members of the Five, in exchange for Cuba releasing USAID agent Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned there for five years. It’s a nice goodwill gesture on both parts, and one dares hope it will lead to a whole lot more in future. (I, for one, would really love to see the permanent closure of Gitmo. Get on it, you guys!)

Meanwhile, actual spies and terrorists who have never been punished are still walking free. Chief among them is an ugly old coot named Luis Posada Carriles, a.k.a. the CubanaBomber. Before September 11, 2001, he was the author of the worst airline terrorist incident in history, along with the late Orlando Bosch; together, they planted a bomb on a Cubana jetliner that killed 73 civilians. Posada is still stinking up the gutters of Miami, despite being in the US illegally. He remains a national embarrassment, and one that’s gone studiously unaddressed by at least two administrations. Will he now be handed over to Venezuela or Cuba, both of whom want him for crimes against humanity? No word yet; stay tuned. If His Barackness is smart, he’ll hand the old motherfucker over. Two countries have been waiting long enough to finally bring him to justice, so here’s hoping he picks one. (I’m guessing he’ll pick Cuba, since the current policy in Washington is still to punish Venezuela by isolation and sanctions for not selling all its oil to the Texas barons for a song. Venezuela is no more isolated than Cuba — in fact, it’s been THE key player in bringing Cuba back into the Latin American fold — so this is just way too fucking funny.)

Meanwhile, in Colombia, something even more momentous has happened: The FARC have announced a unilateral, indefinite ceasefire, following the news of this sudden thaw in US-Cuban relations. Given that they’ve been at war with various more or less right-wing governments there for over 60 years, pretty much ever since the Bogotazo, this is HUGE.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that they came to this decision, and made this announcement, during a peace summit in Havana? El Narco must be steaming like a well-brewed cup of coffee, having been denied his victory in office, and having failed at his repeated putsch attempts ever since. All those paramilitaries and peasant massacres and false positives for nothing, boooooo hooooooooo.

So yes, Cuba is the big winner today, and on multiple fronts. The US has admitted that its unnaturally prolonged Cold War isolationist policy has failed. The bulk of Latin America, with one or two shameful exceptions (ahem, Colombia and Peru) has pulled behind Cuba, offering solidarity and fair trade through the ALBA alliance, as well as Mercosur. The dire climate of the post-Soviet Special Period, which the Miami mafia terrorists were hoping to capitalize on at the time the Cuban Five infiltrated their various rats’ nests, is long gone. Cuba is still surviving and thriving, albeit on a modest scale. They’re exporting doctors and educators and locally-made medicaments, and receiving Venezuelan oil (and Venezuelan oil expertise, too, as Cuba is sitting on some very promising offshore deposits that it’s looking to tap into).

Moreover, they have the political support of all the key Latin American leaders, while those who have tried to isolate Cuba remain isolated themselves, and are looking increasingly foolish for having done so. The Cuban government remains as it is, despite all US talk of “freedom” and “democracy” and “change” (note the quotes, there for a reason). Not one elected Cuban leader has been sacrificed in the making of this deal…and yes, they are all elected! This island nation will not end up like Puerto Rico, annexed and stripped of rights in exchange for — what, exactly? Creeping gringoization? The privilege of housing US naval bases? The fun of having to clean up after them, as the Puerto Ricans have had to do with Vieques?

Nope. Can’t happen. Won’t happen. The test of time has been stood. The Revolution has triumphed. Cuba is still Cuban, no matter what.

And that’s the way it’s going to stay, whatever comes next.

Venezuelan LGBTI rights activist murdered; activists seek equal rights under law

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Giniveth Soto and her spouse, Migdelis Miranda, holding their son. It will be a terribly hard holiday season now for Migdelis, as Giniveth was taken from her and their son most brutally on Saturday in the wee hours. The crime is still unsolved, and worse, it points to a lingering deficiency in Venezuelan law, too:

Giniveth Soto, lesbian, psychologist and Venezuelan activist for the human rights of the sex-diverse populatio, was brutally murdered in the early morning hours of Saturday, December 13, while working as a taxi driver to support her family.

Giniveth, who was also the niece of National Assembly deputy Fernando Soto Rojas, had married Migdelis Miranda a year and a half ago in Argentina. Together, they conceived a son with the help of artificial insemination, and he was born three and a half months ago, also in Argentina. The decision to marry, as well as to conceive a son who was born in a country other than their own were difficult decisions, but part of a clear and radical struggle for recognition of the dignity of loving relationships between persons of the same sex and/or gender, as well as legality and full inclusion for families formed by gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people, transsexuals, and intersex people (LGBTI) in Venezuela.

In Argentina, as of 2010, same-sex marriage is possible, for non-resident foreigners as well; also, Uruguay and Brazil, both members of Mercosur, have advanced significantly in the dignification of the citizenships and humanities of all persons, guaranteeing them equal rights, impacted by the leadership of Venezuela in a process of significant changes which has resulted in more than 15 years of full social inclusion.

The Bolivarian Revolution is based in the essential goal of defending and promoting the development of persons and respect for their dignity, guaranteeing the progressivity and pre-eminence of human rights, equality without discrimination, no subordination of any kind, social justice, and equality as basis for the construction of a just, egalitarian and peace-loving society. However, human rights for the LGBTI population have been rendered invisible by a system dominated by functionaries in service of a lay state, who use the Bible instead of the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela to make decisions and justify discrimination, for which reason they must be removed from office.

With great bravery and courage, Giniveth militated in AC Venezuela Igualitaria, which represented the struggle in which she, along with her beloved spouse, joined, demanding that Venezuela recognize the right to register their Argentine marriage, and that the birth of their son be registered recognizing the maternity of both women, as expressed by Argentine authorities upon the birth of the boy in their land, as well as legislation in favor of the right for any two people who love one another to marry freely and with consent and live together without regard for their sexual orientation or gender identity. And she believed, with revolutionary consciousness, that these changes would only be possible under a Bolivarian socialist doctrine which promotes decolonization and depatriarchalization as key motors of a cultural change which would permit the cultivation of a truly egalitarian and just society.

However, she was not able to see these changes become reality. Under the Bolivarian government, there was evidently a process of discrimination and of profound psychological and moral violence, as regards requests made for social protection for her family, across the silence which pervaded between the decisions of the institutions of the state and her demands, a situation which repeates itself for thousands of Venezuelan families who cannot access the rights which seem to be privileges for certain models of family.

It is important to emphasize that when the Principal Registry Office and the National Electoral Council do not give positive responses to the requests for registration of the marriage of Giniveth and Migdelis, or for the registration of the birth of their son, they are exposing the juridical non-recognition of the Venezuelan citizenry of their son, and the non-protection of her spouse by rights which the institution of marriage awards to married couples (such as community property), leaving them only the protection of the laws of the Republic of Argentina, a country where they are subjects of full rights.

Her spouse Migdelis, demoralized and in tears during the wake, said: “Giniveth was right, we homosexuals are second-class citizens. I’m painted on the wall here; nothing I think or decide matters to anyone.” Meanwhile, Giniveth’s family decided to cremate a body which was the victim of a murder, and take away the ashes without consulting her spouse, at the same time as they said they understood and completely respected the relationship between the two women.

It is urgent to solve the murder of our valiant and unstoppable activist. A crime may not remain unpunished, and more so still if it is a crime that painfully afflicts the bases of the struggle for the defence of human rights of the Venezuelan sex-diverse population. It is imperative to do justice, but also it is critical to strengthen our public powers to guarantee the effective exercise of the right to live in freedom and equality, without discrimination or stigmas based in atavistic Judeo-Christian prejudices, without psychological or moral violence as consequences of a heterosexist, sexist and machista culture, in order to thus begin in Venezuela the socio-cultural change so longed for by her, developing concrete public policies such as the approval of the Equal Civil Marriage Law.

Translation mine.

In recognition of the need for equal rights and protection under law for Venezuelan LGBTIs, there was a demonstration this morning at 9 a.m. Activists called together by Giniveth’s group, AC Venezuela Igualitaria, as well as the Ejército Emancipador, gathered before the Legislative Palace, where the National Assembly meets, to request that National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello and the PSUV assembly members work to pass laws to protect and grant equal rights to the sex/gender-diverse community, in accordance with the principles set out by sections 2.2.4.2, 2.2.4.3, and 2.2.4.4 of the Bolivarian Constitution.

Chavecito himself said that “gays have a place in the Revolution, too”. That place cannot be secured by anything other than full equality. Otherwise, we’ll only end up hearing more stories like this, in which a same-sex spouse was shoved aside by blood relations and never consulted in the most basic matters, while a murder remains unsolved and the killer, whose motives and identity are still unknown at this hour, remains unpunished.

UPDATE: La Iguana TV reports that three parliamentarians have been designated to take on the equal-marriage legal project proposed by the activists. They are Modesto Ruíz, Dinorah Figuera and Eduardo Piñate. A petition of more than 20,000 signatures was delivered to the National Assembly last January, and it looks as though now, things are starting to speed up. Meanwhile, the Public Ministry has assigned the 48th national prosecutor, Víctor Hugo Barreto, and Caracas prosecutor Susan Ferreira, to investigate the murder of Giniveth Soto. Here’s hoping there’s plenty of action on that front, too.

Music for a Sunday: Me, I don’t care anyway…

…because I’m still on a Supertramp kick:

But I do care that it’s not Roger Hodgson singing or on the keys anymore, he was much more nimble. The badass saxes from the Paris live recording of 1980 are also sadly missing. Oh well…

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Evo is full of win, again

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Well, hi there yourself, Evo! You’re looking mighty good lately. And so is Bolivia. Probably because there are fewer hungry, malnourished and food-insecure people there now:

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will present a certificate of recognition to Bolivian president Evo Morales in 2015 for reducing hunger by half in Bolivia.

According to the newspaper Cambio, regional FAO representative Crispín Moreira said that they look forward to the presentation on World Food Day, next October 16.

Moreira considers Bolivia to be “an exceptional case” in Latin America since it succeeded in reducing the number of persons suffering from hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity from two million to one million.

He emphasized the elaboration of a legal project, the implementation of programs, and the distribution of resources in favor of the production of foodstuffs.

Moreira also applauded the Bolivian government’s strategy of incentives for food farming, which improved the productivity of peasant farmers, reduced the immediate needs of the vulnerable population through programs of social protection, and contributed in lowering extreme poverty to 17 percent.

The FAO is a United Nations organization specialized in directing international activities aimed at eradicating hunger throughout the world.

Translation mine.

Imagine that. Extreme poverty down, hunger reduced by half, without any imposed conditions from foreign capital. And on top of all else, Bolivia is winning the war on drugs, too…without any help from the DEA. And Bolivia also has a satellite working in orbit, with plans for another to be launched soon. Without any help from NASA.

Gee, it’s like home-grown solutions really do work for local problems! Who’d of thunk it?

PUA racism at its finest

Seen on the tweeter today:

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Yes, that’s right. One of Julien Fucking Blanc’s little ass-barnacles is calling for all of Japan to be wiped out just because they won’t let him in to teach hapless morons how to sexually assault Japanese women with shouts of “Pikachu!”, “Pokémon” and, no doubt, “Sushi!”

(Thanks to Rudderhouse for alerting me to this one.)