Jian Ghomeshi: Kinky, or hinky?

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“Hey, ladies. Want a piece of this? Better lawyer up, because I am gonna FUCK YOU UP.”

No, Jian Ghomeshi didn’t actually say that to anyone, as far as I know. But that, in effect, is what he said this week, when he announced that he was suing the CBC for $55 million, following a sudden dismissal after 14 seemingly very successful years. And when he posted a 1,586-word Facebook status (yes, I counted) claiming he was just a poor innocent kinkster, being let go by a bunch of sex-negative fuddy-duddies who were afraid of, in his words, a “jilted ex-girlfriend and a freelance writer” wreaking havoc on their family-friendly brand.

On the surface of things, it was a masterstroke in terms of PR and pre-emptive strikes. However much Ghomeshi paid that “reputation recovery” firm for their services, it would appear to have paid off handsomely. The women in question (four of them, initially) were more afraid than ever to go public with their stories, much less press criminal charges. If it were a simple matter of “he said, she said”, then what he said carried the day. Even though there was way more than one she. Even though he’s officially out of the CBC, Jian Ghomeshi is by no means out of power and control.

And of course, right away, his fans only amplified the big noise he made. Reactions ranged from purblind defences of male privilege and sexual-satisfaction-at-any-cost, to an unbelievable amount of very ironic slut-shaming aimed at the women (eight of them now) who have accused him of assault, harassment and stalking. There’s even a Change.org petition (which I will neither link to nor endorse here) to sign for his reinstatement, and it’s racked up thousands of signatures in just a couple of days. Remember the Fukushima tsunami? This was, easily, the media equivalent. The sheer magnitude of his chutzpah, the unheard-of damages he’s seeking in this far-from-litigious land, the avalanche of slut-shaming, victim-blaming and fan outcry combined — well, who wouldn’t be intimidated by all that? And who wouldn’t be cowed into silence and submission?

If one reads between the lines, however, a very different picture emerges. And it is one that bears talking about, and criticizing, rather nicely. It may even spell a turning of the very tide he has tried to steer in his own favor.

For starters, it seems highly unlikely that the CBC would turn their most profitable radio cash cow out to pasture over a little thing like a naughty-naughty kinkster image. Ghomeshi’s radio show, Q, is not only popular north of the 49th Parallel, but also syndicated to some 180 US public-radio stations. At a time of deepening government cutbacks, CBC is keen to keep the cash flowing from wherever they can get it. Letting him go, lawsuit or no, is already costing them money, and that’s not something they’d countenance unless they had a compelling reason to fire him in the first place.

And private matters like a consensual BDSM lifestyle don’t, generally speaking, count as such. Q is, after all, a pop-culture show by and for mature adults. It’s not aimed at small children. The discussions featured on it are not “family” fare. Not everything that CBC does is strictly family-oriented, nor do Canadians expect it to be. We’re a liberal country, and CBC is a liberal network. So the idea that an overt-but-consensual kinkster would be fatal for CBC’s wholesome “family” image simply doesn’t wash.

Also, it’s hardly the first time a CBC radio host has had a brush with sexual controversy. In 2006, Sook-Yin Lee (of Definitely Not the Opera) appeared in the indie film Shortbus (whose focus, significantly, is open sexual experimentation), not only fully nude but masturbating. To an actual, unsimulated orgasm, yet. And while it drew a lot of outrage from the usual pearl-clutchy places, she was not let go. DNTO is still alive and well. After all, Sook-Yin’s erotic movie role had no bearing on her CBC radio antics, which were already pretty irreverent. And, more to the point, she also didn’t go around hitting and choking people, grabbing people’s asses, forcing them to supply sex, and making lewd propositions to unwilling ears.

All of which Jian Ghomeshi stands accused of doing, in and out of CBC’s downtown Toronto broadcast centre. The accusations against him are not about sex, but about violence.

Granted, no charges have been filed…yet. And there is no police investigation…yet. Nobody has even filed civil suit against him…yet.

And yet, and yet.

I’ve perused an eye-glazing number of comments on various websites breaking news of the story. And while the commenters are anonymous, a startling number of them are saying the same basic things: Jian Ghomeshi is arrogant as hell; as he’s grown older (he’s 47), he’s hit on on progressively younger women, the most recent ones a good 20 years his junior; he routinely oversteps the boundaries of propriety too; and yes, physical violence is a prominent part of that. And no, it’s NOT consensual.

A damning pattern, to be sure. And one easily dismissed as just hearsay, not legally actionable, and so forth. But it constitutes a groundswell of sorts, and one that he’ll be absolutely unable to control if it continues to grow, as indeed it has.

But anonymous scuttlebutt commenters aren’t the only ones with the power to undermine his carefully-wrought PR campaign. Sex educators — and specifically, ones specializing in kink issues — are also calling him out. And they’re pointing out the flaws in his argument with the meticulous communicative skills that are vital to their practices. After all, in kink, you have to use your words, safe and otherwise. People can get hurt badly if you don’t. Accidental deaths due to kinky activities are rare, but they have been known to happen. And, all too predictably, the kink community has also seen a number of straight-up abusers hiding behind the kink shield, and thus endangering real kinksters, especially women, in ways that go far beyond just a battering of the community’s reputation. This sort of thing is just what they don’t want, or need, to raise their profile. So whenever a well-known and reputable kinkster says “hell no, Jian’s not one of us, what he’s doing isn’t safe, sane, OR consensual”, you can be sure I’ll chalk up one more point against him on my mental scoreboard. (And yes, I’m keeping one.)

If it ever comes down to a civil lawsuit, or a criminal prosecution in this case, kink educators and writers should be called as expert witnesses. They are undoubtedly the best ones qualified to poke holes in Jian Ghomeshi’s assertions that his troublesome behavior was just a “lite” version of Fifty Shades of Grey. (And for the record, that god-awful trilogy isn’t about BDSM, it’s about physical and mental abuse. Actual kinksters have said as much. Which makes that reference just one more creepy little red flag among many.)

Legal experts like Brenda Cossman, too, are weighing in on where “consensual kinky sex” ends and actual, sexualized violence begins. And what they’re saying points, again, not to sex but to violence. Because in Canadian law, the more extreme forms of BDSM are not treated the same as the lighter stuff. If it can cause serious injury or death, it doesn’t matter if you gave consent beforehand; you have to be able to withdraw it at any time. And this, too, is important; in matters of life and limb, there’s no such thing as no-holds-barred. Some holds are legally barred for safety’s sake. It’s one thing to be open-minded about sexual experimentation; quite another to let one’s brains fall out. And when it comes to the risk of severe brain damage (or psychological harm equivalent thereto), the law errs on the side of barring that hold.

Our law also errs on the side of refusals being non-negotiable safewords, incidentally. No means no; you cannot legally negotiate no, don’t, and stop into meaning “no, don’t stop!” Because there is always a chance that a sub may accidentally forget to say “pomegranate”, “brambleberry”, “palomino”, or whatever. No is a perfectly good safeword to fall back on when you can’t remember anything else.

And if the word NO isn’t respected in kink, where negotiation is key to all interaction and even a weak demurral should spell an immediate halt, then that sets a bad precedent for the non-kinky world as well. Rape culture, which Jian Ghomeshi earlier this year reprehensibly characterized as a mere “debate”, is already so pervasive everywhere. There is no “debate” about it; it is a constant, horrid fact of women’s lives. Do we really need to have a former pop singer turned radio host blurring those lines out of all recognition with a whiny, windy, possibly scripted but definitely douchey manifesto, full of “nutty and slutty” dog-whistles?

Yeah, NO. Because that’s not kinky. That’s hinky.

And that creepy screed, like the rape culture that spawned it, is just downright stinky.

UPDATES:

Looks like Jian is strangely silent now that the first of his named accusers has bravely come forward to tell on him. He issued a terse tweet, but no new manifestos about “jilted girlfriends”. Meanwhile, the big long whine on his Facebook page is losing support by the hour. Cheese with that, Jian?

Also, there is a petition to show love and support for all the women in question. Several leading Canadian musicians have added their names to it; please consider doing so as well. There’s also this one, to Change.org, asking them to take the other ones supporting Jian Ghomeshi down.

Dramatic shoot-out on an Argentine roadway

Could this have been an attack by paramilitary thugs?

The federal prosecutor’s bodyguard shot it out with criminals who, from cars and motorcycles, assaulted a motorist in front of the official vehicle in which the functionary was riding, on the Illia highway.

In those circumstances, according what sources with the Federal and Metropolitan police forces told the Telam news agency, delinquents in a Citroën and a VW Bora intercepted, with possible intent to rob, the driver of the other car, which the guard intervened to prevent.

Seven men of Colombian nationality were detained at the scene, while other suspects fled on motorcycles. There were no injuries, according to the sources.

Prosecutor Carlos Stornelli told the press that they were driving along Costanera Rafael Obligado Avenue, just about to turn onto the freeway, when his escort “noticed strange movements on the part of some motorcycles”, whose occupants had “cellphones connected to earpieces”.

“They had all the appearance of being about to commit some illicit act, some got off their bikes, opened the door of a car, which is why my bodyguard got out and yelled at them, and they started to run away then,” said the functionary.

According to Stornelli, one of the delinquents passed in front of the car where he was sitting, and then there was “an exchange of shots”.

“I heard three or four shots. My bodyguard was able to stop two cars, seven of the delinquents, all of Colombian nationality,” Stornelli said.

The functionary of the Public Ministry stated that seven other assailants fled using three motorcycles and a car.
“I was in the line of fire for one moment, but the delinquent took off. I kept a prudent distance until all were arrested,” said Stornelli.

A Nissan Tiida was found this afternoon, bullet-riddled and parked in front of the Jorge Newbery Metropolitan Airport, metres away from the Fishermen’s Club. Investigators worked to determine if it might be another of the cars used by the gang.

National security secretary Sergio Berni told the press that “this week began with seven Colombian criminals who came to Argentina to commit crimes.”

“Due to the type of crime [they committed], I believe that tonight they’ll already be free, and I can assure you that in thirty, sixty or ninety days, one of them will be detained again by the Federal Police,” Berni complained.

Berni said that his declarations “are not xenophobic”, nor does he want to blame all crimes “on foreigners”, but he did emphasize that last week, there were 25 detentions of “criminals of Colombmian, Peruvian and Paraguayan nationality.”

“This is what society has to know, we have to discuss the Criminal Code in order to give the Justice Department the tools so that these persons be deported immediately and not come back again,” the secretary concluded.

Translation mine.

So, were they paracos? Let’s do the math.

Fourteen Colombian criminals, obviously banding together, wearing earpieces. Clearly a very well-organized criminal gang. Were they really only out to commit highway robbery? It’s not as though THAT never happens in Argentina…

The idea that this was just a common highway robbery gone awry falls apart when you realize that right behind the apparent “robbery” victim, there happened to be a federal prosecutor, riding with his bodyguard. In Latin America, federal prosecutors have what are easily some of the most dangerous jobs in the land, since they investigate and imprison every kind of nasty thug from drug smugglers to political assassins. And those who don’t submit to corruption are often marked for extermination. Was Carlos Stornelli one of those?

Oddly, according to this Yahoo story, Stornelli, a former minister of security for the capital city of Buenos Aires, asserts that no shots were aimed at himself. Which means that either these foreign “robbers” were incredibly unlucky in their choice of random targets to stick up, OR they were mistaken in which car they were being directed, via their earpieces, to overtake and shoot up.

Getting busted in flagrante by no less than a federal prosecutor and his bodyguard seems a bit too coincidental to be merely coincidental, though. A bigwig like Stornelli getting caught in such a close call, just a botched highway robbery aimed at somebody else? Yeah, just a total coinkydink. Uh-huh. Surrrrrrre.

Toronto election: Photo du jour

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Yup, that’s right, Robbo’s brother didn’t get the seat upgrade he was hoping for. He’s now headed back to the family business, which is probably the best place for him. Who won? The OTHER sexist-racist white male choice. Who else?

So glad I don’t live in Toronto right now. Their political situation is just one big right-wing shitshow.

Music for a Sunday: The bullet in the chamber of the gun

The other day, the lead singer of this band got into a spot of tweeter trouble for telling nothing worse than the truth. He’ll probably get into it again if the feds read the lyrics to this song, even though it’s not nearly as damning and scary as what Justin Bourque posted on his Facebook right before he went on a murderous rampage that none dare call terrorism.

BTW, Bourque is set to be sentenced for that tomorrow. Let’s see if the media uses the T-word then to describe him, or whether the fact that he’s not a Muslim will give him a metaphorical get-out-of-jail-free card in the court of public opinion. (UPDATE: They didn’t. Quel surprise!)

Also, Stars has a new record out just this week. I’m very proud to say I bought it the day it was released, because their last offering (on which the above song figures) was truly top-notch, and I knew this one would be worth it. And proud, too, to see a fellow Canadian using his free speech rights to condemn what SHOULD be condemned by us all.

Canada’s real terrorism problem

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This mosque in Cold Lake, Alberta, was spray-painted by xenophobic vandals. The town is home to an airbase from which CF-18 jet fighters recently departed en route to the war zone of Iraq. The people of Cold Lake have since banded together to clean up the graffiti while the police search for the perpetrators.

Oh, Canada. What’s happening to you?

You used to be such a nice place. Liberal. Socialist, even. And it worked out great for you while it lasted.

You used to be such a livable, lovable place. The country to the immediate south of us may have billed itself the Land of Opportunity, but when it came to real opportunities, we had them beat. Our social safety net ensured that no one got left too far behind by the ups and downs of the mixed economy.

Everyone who came here used to feel so welcome. We got immigrants from all over the world, and they helped make this the most diverse country on the planet. And the most multicultural. And the place where the most disparate people had a chance to coexist peacefully. From Vietnam War draft dodgers to Iraq War refugees, we’ve been enriched by the presence of people who were outcasts in their own lands. And the religious and ethnic clashes of the old country were left far behind, much to the relief and joy of all. Here, it didn’t matter who you were, what you were or where you came from; you were accepted. You were always at home.

And now I feel like a stranger in my own land, even though I was born here.

We seem to have caught terrorism-itis from south of the border. Everyone’s so paranoid now. Instead of waiting to learn what’s going on, we start jumping to false conclusions. The embarrassing truth leaks out too late every time.

Like this week. These past few days saw us “attacked” by two “terrorists” who, it turns out, were something else altogether. One was a paranoid schizophrenic; the other, a drug addict. But since both were Muslims, and chose to attack and kill soldiers of the Canadian army, with a confused mess of ISIL propaganda and madness roaring through their heads, they just automatically got labelled as terrorists. As if they had flown fully loaded passenger jets into the Peace Tower and the banking district of downtown Toronto on a suicide mission co-ordinated from a cave somewhere near the Pak-Afghan border.

The truth is stranger, and sadder, and nowhere near as dramatic as that.

In fact, the “terrorists” were not foreigners, as was initially reported/speculated. They were both native-born French-Canadians. And they both had mental problems that could easily have been treated. This tragedy was totally avoidable, and neither a war nor even changes to our nation’s security systems was necessary to avert it.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at who these guys were, and how they acted.

Martin Couture-Rouleau was a convert to Islam; he converted only last year. He was not an immigrant. He was not even remotely an Arab, or Muslim by birth. His religious conversion appears to have arisen out of a growing heap of personal problems. Apparently he made enough radical-sounding noises that the RCMP was investigating him, and his passport was revoked, preventing him from travelling to Turkey (and presumably, from there, to Syria to join ISIL forces). He was alienated from his family, and everyone who knew him was bewildered by the recent changes to his personality. He was divorced, and his ex-wife was apparently frightened enough of him to seek sole custody of their child. It was not Islam that had made him that way, though; it was his own schizophrenia. His “radicalization” was concurrent with the worsening of his illness. And his own imam struggled in vain to dissuade him from supporting ISIL or taking up battle — or terrorism — on their behalf.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was also not an immigrant, although his father was one (from Libya), and his mother a deputy chair at the federal immigration department. At school he was simply known as Mike Bibeau, the big, gregarious good-time guy voted most likely to succeed, especially with the ladies. But drug addiction shortly after his graduation from high school put an end to all that. He was known to police, but only as a petty criminal and drug abuser. His parents are long divorced, and bewildered as to what has become of him. Like Martin Couture-Rouleau, he was alienated from his family; his mother said she hadn’t seen him in five years. In that time, he had fled to BC, looking in vain to escape his addiction (which had shifted from marijuana and PCP usage to crack cocaine). He tried everything from religion to prison to cure himself. He wasn’t jailed long enough to keep him away from the dealers, and the imam of the mosque where he broke in at night to sleep on the floor locked him out. His religious fervor was a direct outgrowth of his efforts to replace one drug with another. At the time of his final desperate acts, he was homeless and so isolated from humanity that even at the Ottawa homeless shelter where he’d taken refuge, he was an outsider.

Neither man was connected to the other, nor to any known terrorist groups. Both were entirely isolated, and more so thanks to their respective mental conditions.

Meanwhile, our social safety net has eroded. Mental health services have faced severe cutbacks in all provinces. People who should have been hospitalized, as much for their own safety as anyone else’s, are instead left to roam the street, helpless and untreated. A few years ago, we were horrified by a beheading on a Greyhound bus; the killer, in that case, was a schizophrenic too, and should have been hospitalized. Not until he’d killed and partially eaten a complete stranger in the thick of a psychotic episode did he finally get the help he needed. If by “help” one means psychiatric incarceration, that is.

Six years after Vince Weiguang Li began his treatment, our mental health system has not improved a whit. It is still chronically starved of funding and professionals. The mental hospitals we so desperately need are still closed, with no new ones opened to replace them. The few still remaining have waiting lists a mile long. Those who can’t afford private counselling and rehab are shit out of luck.

And worse, we no longer have a federal long-gun registry. That’s right; a crime-fighting tool born out of a terrorist attack in Montréal was scrapped by the same wonderful Conservative party that’s also behind all the other rips in our social safety net! The police are thus officially hamstrung. Who knows if we’ll ever find out how Mike Bibeau, who was legally prohibited from owning firearms due to his criminal and drug record, managed to get his hands on the rifle that enabled him to kill Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard at the federal War Memorial?

Yeah, tell me the Conservatives are not the real terrorists in all this. They’re using the hysteria surrounding these events, even now, to push their own very anti-Canadian agenda. And the sad part is, too many people are all too happy to LET them.

Of course, salient facts like that have escaped the major media, or the myriads of know-nothings who pontificate in the comments sections of their websites. Most of them seem quite convinced that if we only shut our doors tightly enough, ramped up the security high enough, and went to war in enough foreign countries to “bomb them back to the Stone Age” and “teach them a good lesson”, the “terrorist” problem would be best addressed. Never mind that neither of these guys was a foreigner, and that both in fact were born right here.

Or they’re all full of self-righteous Islamophobia, oblivious to the fact that in both cases, imams actually tried to deter these guys from taking the criminal turns they did. And oblivious, too, to the fact that Canadian Muslims are right on the same page with all the rest of us in condemning such attacks, and terrorism in general.

And above all, they’re oblivious to the role that a too-easy access to guns, and a too-hard access to mental health care, played in this whole goddamn mess. They simply cannot and will not see those connections, even though it doesn’t take a brilliant sociologist to draw them.

Oh yeah, and that’s another thing: We’re not supposed to commit sociology in times of terrorism, according to none other than Stephen Fucking Harper himself. Yes, that’s right…the tough-talking macho PM, who bravely, bravely hid in a broom closet while his underlings barricaded the door with spears made from flag poles!

But hey. At least the parliamentary Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, proved that his role is not merely ceremonial, even though his costume may be. Like René Jalbert many years before him, he was the one who engaged a confused, deranged gunman hellbent on wreaking terror. Unlike Jalbert, though, he couldn’t talk the shooter out of it; he ended up having to kill him. “Terrorist” crisis ended, either way.

And all this without recourse to war.

Now the PM’s security detail has modified its protocol so that they can enter the Commons chamber and protect him at all times. That’s fine; at least it doesn’t unduly curtail anyone’s civil liberties. Not so fine, however, is the legislation the government apparently passed on the same day as Martin Couture-Rouleau ran down Patrice Vincent in a fit of psychosis. We’re now facing intrusive, unconstitutional online surveillance under the pretext of “crime prevention”! Yay!

So, now you know. And if this is the last post you see from me, you’ll know why. I’ll have been arrested for committing the supreme terrorist act of daring to think un-conservatively and sociologically, and tying together all the things they don’t want us to understand are related. If you think Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau were crazy (and they were, alas), you ain’t seen nothin’ . My own country just totally outclassed them in the losing-one’s-shit department.

And since it’s already at war in Iraq, too, it’s also outdone them in terms of real terrorism.

Reuters is up to its old dirty tricks in Venezuela

Oh Reuters. You nest of hacks. Do you think Venezuela isn’t onto you? Or, for that matter, every person with a brain? It’s not like you’ve never tried THIS before…

The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro Moros, denounced a media campaign by the Reuters news agency against Venezuela to create an opinion matrix of a country supposedly in “default” or unable to make payments.

“Venezuela has the economic and financial capacity; the resources, the strategic politics and the supreme will to continue on its path and comply with international financial commitments,” said the president during a meeting of the Federal Council of Government taking place at the White Palace in Caracas.

“I denounce this news agency, Reuters, because they are doing harm with all their international wire stories, trying to create alarm in Venezuela,” said the president, regarding news published in recent days of a supposed case of ebola in Venezuela.

Maduro emphasized that the interest of the journalists is monetary, “being paid in dollars to do damage to their country. There is a Venezuelan journalist working there.”

Translation mine.

“Being paid in dollars” means something more in Venezuela than it does, say, in North America. Journalists being paid that kind of salary are not only being paid in non-local currency; they are also being paid to promote non-local interests, albeit covertly. If you’re working in Venezuela and drawing your pay in dollars rather than bolivars, that’s a handy way for employers to foster loyalty to foreign interests and causes. And in a country like Venezuela, where disloyal locals are all too easily riled up by irresponsible reporting by private media interests (who do you think has been actively promoting all those coups?), it doesn’t take much to start the next round of bogus accusations and calls for foreign “intervention” from the not-so-loyal opposition. If Reuters is smart, they’ll watch their backs…and not try to pass off rumormongering as “reporting”, as they’ve done all too often in the past. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves personae non gratae.

Young Communist office in Caracas firebombed

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(Photo: Yury Weky.)

The Communist Youth of Venezuela building in Caracas was firebombed by vandals, no doubt fascist in nature, in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. Note the streaks of soot around the door and window of the building. Here’s the story:

The Central Excecutive Commission of the Central Council of the Communist Youth of Venezuela (JCV) denounced a terrorist attack in the early morning hours of Tuesday on their head office in El Paraíso, Caracas.

In a communiqué, the JCV indicated that the installations were attacked by incendiary artefacts launched simultaneously from various points, affecting the front of the building, the meeting room, and constituting an attempt on the lives of members of the brigade, who were working at that hour on a propaganda offensive.

The communiqué affirmed that “this incident is part of the escalation of violence imposed by fascism since February of this year and executed by mercenaries and paramilitary groups in the service of the pro-imperialist far right.

“Its objective is none other than to infuse terror, attempting to demobilize the combative revolutionary student movement of Venezuela,” says the communiqué, which calls for militancy in “responding with the organization, mystique and discipline which characterize our lines.”

The vice-president for Agitation, Propaganda and Communication of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Ernesto Villegas, expressed on behalf of president Nicolás Maduro and the political organization he represents, his solidarity with the political bureau of the Communist Party of Venezuela and the JCV following the violent events.

On his Twitter account @VillegasPoljak, he stated that the message of support is directed especially “to the young comrades of the JCV, victims of terrorist practices of a right-wing profoundly anticommunist and antinational.”

Villegas also stated that “the president has ordered an exhaustive investigation” to find those responsible for the attack. “We are certain that this act is one more in a long list of historic aggressions by fascism against the Venezuelan communists and could not have existed without the commitment to revolutionary ideas and practices,” he added.

“We have offered support for the prompt rehabilitation of the burned building, which serves as the national directorate of the JCV,” said Villegas.

He added that thanks to the opportune intervention of the Firefighters’ Corps of the Capital District, it was possible to save the lives of the five young Communists and two other persons, one 48 and the other 80 years old, who were in the building.

The fire started on the first of the two storeys of the building, around 3:00 a.m., leaving traces of violent combustion on the building’s front, says Villegas. “The flames destroyed a small stencil-type printing press. There are no signs of defects in the electrical system.”

“Once more they call for cowardly attacks against our young people, such as what occurred with the abominable crime against our comrade Robert Serra,” Villegas emphasized.

Translation mine.

So we can see that here again, the pattern of fascist violence repeats itself. While most of the assaults have been against members of the United Socialist Party (PSUV), the Communist Party (PCV) has also been singled out in this instance because, while it didn’t opt to join the PSUV when it was formed, it tends to vote along the same lines on issues of importance, and there is strong solidarity between the two separate entities.

What makes this attack truly cowardly is the fact that it was waged against young people. Like the murder of 27-year-old Robert Serra, the PSUV’s youngest parliamentary deputy, and one of its most energetic, charismatic and beloved figures. It seems pretty clear that this attack was meant not only to kill, but also to demoralize and demobilize the young Communists. Luckily, no one died, and if anything, this attack will only serve to steel their spines against the attackers…whoever they turn out to be. The old-order antisocialists and anticommunists are losing, and they know it; hence their desperate and ugly tactics.

¡No pasarán!

Argentine torturers took military courses in Spain — and vice versa

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A cordial letter from the Spanish ministry of exterior relations to the Embassy of Argentina in Madrid. Note the date stamp: September 14, 1979. Even at the height of the junta’s horrors, Spain was awfully chummy with Argentina.

Spain supposedly reverted to democracy, after decades of fascist dictatorship, with the death of Generalissimo Franco in 1975. At about the same time, Argentina’s already rampant authoritarianism was deepening into outright fascism; the following year, a military coup brought to power a junta that would reign by way of terror and ample bloodshed from 1976 until 1983. But how “democratic” was Spain really, so soon post-Franco? A report by the Spanish alternative site LibreRed has some intriguing answers:

The Videla régime [of Argentina] and Suárez government [of Spain] maintained an active collaboration in terms of repression, according to secret archives from both countries.

The Argentine lieutenant Antonio “Trueno” Pernías, currently in a Buenos Aires prison for crimes against humanity, was a man of action: through his hands — and his torture chamber — passed many men and women who still have not reappeared today. His comrade Enrique Scheller, alias “Pingüino”, was also accused by various survivors as a sadistic torturer. Between 1978 and 1980, both individuals worked for the Argentine embassy in Spain, where they dedicated themselves to persecuting and controlling the large group of Argentine refugees who lived in that land. In spite of the denunciations against them, the Suárez government gave them passports and permitted them to carry revolvers.

Their names are not an isolated case. As confirmed by diverse documents held in public reserves, the Argentine diplomatic delegation was utilized as one of the principal centres of operations for the dictatorship in Europe, with a double mission: Controlling the exiles, and counteracting international denunciations against the junta. All went about armed there, thanks to licences which the government of Adolfo Suárez granted without a murmur. According to secret archives, ambassador Leandro Enrique Anaya had permission to use a Smith & Wesson .38 calibre pistol. His secretary, Jorge Vigano, carried an Astra revolver, while the economic and commercial consul, Carlos Vailati, carried a Colt revolver. Nor did they lack for gunpowder in the Consul General’s office in Madrid, where the chief, Luis Vila Ayres, enjoyed a “carrying permit for weapons of personal defence”, a Browning 7.65 calibre pistol.

Besides giving armaments to their functionaries, the Argentine military junta mounted an espionage service with principal seat in the embassy of Madrid, and subsidiaries in the consular offices of Barcelona, Bilbao and Cádiz. In this tight-woven network, not only functionaries of the diplomatic installations participared, but also soldiers who were sent to Spain under the pretext of taking “training courses” in the installations of the Spanish army and navy.

One of the first to complete these functions was Lt.-Col. Antonio José Deimundo Piñeiro, who attended the school of the Army High Command in Madrid in 1976-77. In or out of the school, Piñeiro had the authorization of the Spanish governmetn to carry a Colt .38 calibre “detective model” revolver and an official passport, along with his wife and children. Upon returning to Argentina in 1977, the proven officer dedicated himself to co-ordinating the savage repression in the Misiones province, in northern Argentina.

Documents received by LibreRed confirm that Spain and Argentina maintained a close-linked interchange of military and police officers completing official courses. On September 23, 1977, Edmundo René Ojeda, the Chief of Federal Police in Argentina — one of the repressive forces which kidnapped, tortured and killed anti-dictatorship militants — sent the Spanish government an annual plan of scholarships for that body. For the first time, the Videla dictatorship’s offer included members of the Civil Guard and the Police.

The Suárez government would not reject the Argentine junta’s offer. On November 25, 1977, the minister of the Exterior, Marcelino Oreja, confirmed via letter that an officer of the Civil Guard and another from the Armed Police would study in Argentina. The chosen officers would complete a course in explosives, which began on October 23, 1978, and lasted 10 days, in which the attendees received training in the “handling, disarming and transportation of incendiary artefacts and/or explosives and the completion of investigations or judicial reports”.

During those same days, the Moncloa Palace responded to the generosity of Argentina with a very special proposal to one of its naval officers, the frigate lieutenant Jorge Osvaldo Troitiño. According to a confidential document of the Argentine Navy, Troitiño travelled to Europe to “serve in the Naval attachement” of the embassy in Madrid, although he used that as camouflage for his participation in the High Command course in the Navy War School. Thanks to permission granted by the Civil Guard, he was allowed to carry a Smith & Wesson .38 calibre revolver in his belt. On May 6, 1978, his Spanish professors chose him to conduct an exposition on Argentina, so that he could explain to his comrades the generosities of the “political régime” of Videla and its “future development”.

Troitiño was one of the most active “students” sent by the dictatorship to Spain, but not the only one. According to official listings, 33 Argentine militaries passed through the military dependencies of Spain between 1976 and 1983. Seven of them attended the High Command course of the Army Superior School, while others did their stint in the Military War School. Among these last is the navy officer Carlos José Pazo, one of the torturers who worked in the concentration camp of the Navy Mechanics’ School (ESMA), one of the principal centres of extermination in Argentina.

Another of his fellow torturers, Lieutenant Néstor Savio, was also gifted with a trip to Spain to complete a course of Command of Naval Infantry in San Fernándo (Cádiz), while Ricardo César Arajuo — a naval officer very active in the so-called “anti-subversive fight” — managed to be sent by his naval chiefs to Madrid “on permanent commission” — which granted him governmental protection — to attend the course on “Command and High Command of Naval Infantry”.

According to a confidential note of the Naval High Command of Argentina, Araujo was to stay in Spain between August of 1980 and November 1981. In his dossier, his chiefs recognized his “active participation” in the “fight against subversion” in Bahía Blanca, a city 600 kilometres from Buenos Aires. Precisely for that, three decades later, a tribunal from that locality accused him of “having formed part of a criminal, clandestine and illegal plan to kidnap, torture, murder and cause disappearance of persons”. When he went to Spain, Araujo already had all those despicable acts behind him.

The participation of the 33 Argentines in courses taught by the Armed Forces was reciprocated by the Suárez government with the journey of 14 Spanish officers to Buenos Aires to study various subjects in the schools of the Army and Navy. “The courses taken by these officers took place amid an exchange of alumni and as a consequence of accords signed in reciprocity with countries with which diplomatic relations were maintained for many years, and which continue to the present day.” Thus, in 1998, did the Spanish ministry of defence justify it in the face of a freedom-of-information request by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who was then trying to investigate crimes against humanity in Argentina.

According to the list distributed at that time by the ministry, between 1979 and 1983 eight members of the Spanish Army took the intelligence course offered by the dictatorship. Some of them visited the ESMA, the same installation which served as a concentration camp. Then-commandant Cristóbal Gil y Gil would admit as much to Garzón, before whom he had to testify on June 16, 1998. According to his testimony, Gil y Gil — who worked for Spanish intelligence — had travelled to Buenos Aires in April 1981 to participate in a course of “personnel studies”, aimed at “teaching police techniques of identifying fingerprints and microfilms of documentation, as well as techniques of modernization of the Intelligence Service”.

When consulted about his visits to the ESMA, the officer affirmed that he had been there on three occasions. When Garzón asked him the names of his hosts, he replied that he could not remember any. In the face of his lack of memory, the judge showed him various photos of the repressors who moved through that centre, but it didn’t help; Gil’s mind remained blank. Prosecuting attorneys asked him if he had received instructions “over forms of combatting subversion”, to which Gil y Gil also replied evasively: “Those were techniques known in Spain and every other western country.”

Nor was the CESID commander aware of the use of the ESMA as a concentration camp, an aspect that has been denounced on numerous occasions at an international level by human-rights organizations. In his statement, Gil y Gil alleged that he never even knew that there were disappeared persons in Argentina. Like many, he believed that there existed a “confrontation between military authorities and disparate ideological groups.” The toll was 30,000 persons murdered by way of state terrorism.

Translation mine.

So we know that Spain and Argentina, despite their supposedly different politics of the day, were not so different below the surface. Military repressors and torturers went back and forth between the two countries, receiving training of a highly suspicious nature. The word “intelligence” alone has sinister connotations here, since the Argentines used torture to extract information from captured “subversives” in order to kidnap, torture and kill others. Many active leftists had to flee Argentina under those circumstances. Many landed in neighboring South American lands, but others went as far as North America and Spain. Far from being safe in Europe, they were continually harassed and persecuted there, thanks to the fact that Spanish military attachés and embassy and consular functionaries were allowed to carry pistols and conduct those persecutions while the Suárez government — “democratic”, cough cough — looked politely the other way. It was not until the late 1990s, with the rise of the intrepid crusader judge Baltasar Garzón, that Spain began to show some genuine democratic leanings, or at least in the general direction of human rights.

What we still don’t know is why the government of Spain looked the other way when it had to be at least dimly aware that something was not kosher in Argentina. Were they still so accustomed to oppression that Argentina’s horrors — easily equal to those of Franco during and after the Civil War — simply didn’t look so bad to them? Or was — IS — there some sinister undercurrent at work in the Spanish military, something that might spring back to life even now, at any moment — should there arise any “subversion” on the part of Spain’s still-existing (and increasingly restless) anarchists, communists, Catalan and Basque separatists, and socialists?

Evo’s new diplomatic sweet spot

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Whoa, Evo’s lookin’ good…and I’m not just talking about those stylish threads he’s wearing (although those, too, are fabulous). With over 60% of the vote in the latest Bolivian presidential election, he’s riding higher than ever, and by now, only a fool would doubt that he is very much THE leader of his land. And it looks like Washington is taking notice, too, because now there’s talk of re-established diplomatic relations:

Bolivian president Evo Morales says that respect for the sovereignty of the land and the goodwill of Washington are keys for the re-establishment of diplomatic ties with the United States, given that bilateral relations have been marked by political tensions since 2008.

Bolivia and the US plan to restore ambassadors. “It’s not that we don’t want a new ambassador to come, but that they respect Bolivia. We will respect each other,” Morales said in an interview with public media.

The ambassador should not come to impose, nor to finance political parties of the opposition, Morales added. He was re-elected last Sunday with 61% of the vote, to govern the Andean-Amazonian country until 2020.

A few days ago, the US embassy in Bolivia also expressed its desire to re-establish a relationship of “mutual respect” with the Morales government.

“We hope with interest to work with the government of Bolivia in areas of common interest, in order to establish productive bilateral relations based in mutual respect and shared objectives, for the well-being of the people of Bolivia and of the United States,” said the US chargé d’affaires, Peter Brennan.

Translation mine.

Bear in mind that the last US ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, was a spy. He was caught on camera holding clandestine meetings with leading figures of the Bolivian opposition, including the prefects of the then “breakaway” departments of the so-called “Media Luna” (Half Moon, for their roughly crescent shape when taken together; also called “Nación Camba”, for its mostly-white populace). And there is ample evidence that everyone from USAID to the Peace Corps and even Fulbright Scholars (!) was involved in some political interference or other, all of it directed at sponsoring or supporting the right-wing opposition. It was a huge scandal, and it totally blew up in the faces of all involved.

At the time, Evo’s popular support was at a bit more than 50%, and it was thought that it wouldn’t take much to tip things the other way again, to the liking of Goldilocks’s superiors in Washington. Then, in April 2009, a fascist terror cell comprised of half a dozen or so foreign mercenaries and would-be machos, found to have ties to those same opposition politicos, was literally shot to pieces before it could kill Evo, his vice-president Álvaro García Linera, and their cabinet, and who-knows-who-all-else. They had fortunately missed a seemingly golden opportunity when Evo headed up a floating parliament on Lake Titicaca; the cell’s leader was caught on cellphone video moaning about how cool it would have been if only they could have blown that Bolivian navy vessel sky-high, with all the MAS government members in it. Instead, it was the terror cell that got blown up, in a hotel where they were holing up and plotting their moves. The cell’s leader was killed by federal police, along with a couple of others; a couple more escaped; the rest were jailed. And the Media Luna’s rogue prefects went on the lam, where they remain to this day. With that, the opposition got a harsh object lesson on what kind of political gambits will no longer play in Bolivia.

And now, with Evo’s vote count at over 60% and still climbing, Bolivia’s economy likewise on the up-and-up, and no more terrorists in sight, Washington seems to have no choice but to start showing some respect for The Little Injun That Could. So they’re talking of a new, more “mutually” respectful relationship. And it seems that Evo is very well situated to hold them to it.

But you can be sure that no one will be letting their guard down. The huge popular support Evo enjoys is the backing for a very wise, very shrewd and vigilant government, which has already proved its mettle at putting paid to old-style fascist putschist politicking…which, as always, had the backing of Washington. And if anything should happen to Evo, the revolt will make the dramatic response to the Venezuelan coup-flop of ’02 look like a pleasant day’s outing in the park. Bolivian workers, the miners and farmers in particular, have decades of experience in fighting back at any cost, and they are Evo’s key base of support.

Moreover, thanks to Cuban help, Bolivia is now fully literate, politically awake, and therefore that much harder to deceive. There will not be any more docile acceptance of Yanqui interference and military dictatorship, as there was in decades past. The people of Bolivia are prospering, but they are not so prosperous yet that they are totally unprepared to fight, if they must.

And if they must, they WILL.

Majunche’s not-so-excellent foreign adventure

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Ah, Keanu. Well might you ask. It turns out that the answer may be as simple as that old biblical saying: By their fruits shall ye know them.

So, by Majunche’s fruits, what can we know about him? Well, a certain vice-president of Venezuela has some ideas:

Venezuelan vice-president Elías Jaua denounced on Saturday that the upcoming trip by opposition politician Henrique Capriles Radonski to Spain and the United States is part of a “destabilization campaign” to “interrupt democracy” in Venezuela.

Jaua pointed out that Capriles plans to travel between October 20 and 24 to Spain and the US to meet with representatives of the far right to receive “outlines and financial oxygen to continue the destabilization campaign against Venezuelan democracy.”

Jaua also informed that president Nicolás Maduro has ordered the Legislative Council of the state of Miranda, of which Capriles is governor, to demand explanations of the opposition politician as to why he is absenting himself from his functions for five days.

Jaua, also a former foreign minister, called the claim that Capriles is the most moderate of the Venezuelan opposition a lie, recalling that the governor of Miranda plays a principal role in “a game to interrupt democracy and the plan to destabilize our homeland.”

He also deemed “absolutely irresponsible” the declarations of Capriles over a supposed cutback in the Miranda state budget due to the fact that the price of oil established in the national budget does not correspond to the real prices established.

In this context, Jaua emphasized that Capriles, a representative of the opposition “Democratic Unity Table” (MUD) party, uses such allegations as excuses for not dedicating himself to his duties, such as attending to culture, sport and education in Miranda.

Venezuelan authorities have accused the sectors of the Venezuelan opposition on repeated occasions, supported from abroad, of plotting to launch a coup d’état against the Maduro government.

Translation mine.

It’s already well known that Spain and the US (and the far fascist right of both) have active, vested interests in seeing Venezuelan democracy kicked to the curb. Both were, in fact, found actively backing the coup of ’02. Does anyone seriously believe that they’ve since changed their stripes?

If you do, you might be as big a doofus as Bill. Or Ted.

If you don’t, keep watching Majunche. Or this space, which will certainly keep its eyes trained on him.