When Fidel left office: a never-before-seen moment


Fidel Castro, signing a document on his sickbed authorizing a transfer of presidential power to his younger brother, Raúl. The photo was taken by Fidel’s official photographer and documentary filmmaker, Roberto Chile. It was publicized by a CBC journalist and his Colombian colleague for the first time in the world this week:

Images of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, hospitalized, signing the document with which he left the presidency: this is the journalistic material presented today by reporters Jean-Michel Leprince and his Colombian colleague, Martín Movilla, on CBC/Radio-Canada.

This material, of indubitable historical value, was obtained through official routes, after the completion of a report on the island over the figure of Fidel, and after negotiations that took three months, says Movilla.

“Our last interview was with Roberto Chile” [a renowned Cuban photographer and filmmaker], Movilla said. “Fidel’s former cameraman was also our guide in our attempts to gain access to the persons who spoke in the documentary. But neither I nor the rest of the team could have known what he was about to tell us in secret. Something which even the people of Cuba — the politicians and the citizens — didn’t know.

“Our cameraman, Martin Cloutier, was looking directly at Chile when he began to reveal his emotions. We knew he was going to cry. And it was in that moment when the unexpected happened: Chile said that he had filmed Fidel when he made the transfer of power, and left his office as president.

“Immediately after this revelation, Chile realized that he had just said something he was not supposed to say, but which he had to get off his chest, through his heart and his honesty.

“Three months of negotiations, exchanges of letters, secret meetings, talks and explanations of the journalistic value of these images were necessary, but we got the positive response we were hoping for.

“After new efforts, a reliable source told me: ‘It’s Fidel who will make the decision.’ Fidel Castro finally conceded, and the Cubans also understood that it was better to teach this difficult moment” than to leave it to the people of the world to imagine whatever things.

“Finally, in just two weeks, the pictures arrived. A Cuban diplomat brought them to Canada. The director and the editor, Christine Campestre and Hélène Morin, had to change the documentary at the last minute to allow people to see the exclusive images,” Movilla concluded.

Translation mine.

As you can see from the pictures, Fidel’s resignation (retirement, rather) as president came as a result of health problems. The hand holding the paper is noticeably swollen, and there’s a blood-flow monitor clipped to his fingertip. Whether Fidel feared he was going to die is not known, but it’s obvious that he was no longer feeling well enough to do the highly stressful job he’d been doing ever since 1959. Happily, he’s still alive to see another highly historic moment: a lifting of the US blockade and embargo against Cuba. And all without compromising a shred of Cuba’s dignity…or sovereignty.

¡Viva Cuba, todavía libre! ¡Viva Fidel! ¡Hasta la victoria siempre!

Posted in Canadian Counterpunch, Cuba, Libre (de los Yanquis). Comments Off on When Fidel left office: a never-before-seen moment »

Compare and Contrast: Harpo vs. Harpo


Leadership you can trust? LeaderSHIT, is more like it. Typical ShitHead…


Quotable: Ashley Callingbull on using one’s voice


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Chris Alexander, refugee killer


Chris Alexander killed little Alan Kurdi.

Alan is the three-year-old Syrian boy whose drowned body, washed up on a Turkish beach, has been plastered all over the media, Facebook, Twitter, you name it. His mother, Reham, and older brother Galib, 5, also died trying to reach Greece in an overloaded rowboat. Only the boys’ father, Abdullah, survived the journey.

It was a journey they might never have had to make had they not been denied asylum here in Canada. Abdullah’s sister, already living here, was ready to vouch for them. But the Minister of Immigration, Chris Alexander, refused even to see their claim. So they were forced to take the most dangerous and desperate route: the waters of the Mediterranean, in a tiny and fragile boat not capable of withstanding the rough conditions of that sea, overcrowded with other desperate refugees. On that boat, they were 13 in all.

And three members of the family paid for that passage with their lives.

Alan’s small, pathetic body, still fully clothed and shod, made headlines as a Turkish policeman scooped him up and carried him out of the surf. And the damning pictures from that tragic moment have forced refugee-shy European countries to rethink their harsh immigration policies.

It’s all too little and too late for the thousands of families like the Kurdis, who have been streaming across the Mediterranean from the east and south in a desperate effort to escape various war zones and the dire poverty that stalks countries rich in resources, but made poor by colonialism and capitalism. The same global north, also known as “The West”, that has forced unwanted regime changes upon their lands and invaded them politically and economically in order for its corporations to scoop up all the resources they can, is unwilling to accept the consequences of its actions. Those consequences are human, they are hungry, and they are desperate enough to die trying to get away from what has been foisted upon them. And those who did the foisting are trying futilely to beat them back, any way they can.

In Hungary, trainloads of refugees have been held up for days, for no apparent reason. Hungary is in the grip of a far-right government with a fetish for control, but no clear notions of what to do about the influx of people who just want to get through Hungary and into some more hospitable final destination. It’s an awful irony when you consider that just a few short decades ago, Hungary was itself a civil war zone, and refugees were fleeing from there to other European lands, and across the ocean to Canada. (One of them, Stephen Vizinczey, even worked his refugee experiences into his acclaimed novel, In Praise of Older Women.)

But in a way, Hungary’s irony is emblematic of the shitheadedness that prevails more or less throughout Europe right now. Right-wing governments everywhere, and not one of them can work up a drop of empathy for refugees. German chancellor Angela Merkel was caught flatfooted when a Palestinian girl burst into tears before her upon learning that she was probably going to be deported. The incident was much mocked in the media, and caused a hasty backpedal on the part of the German government. Germany is now a much-sought destination for Syrian and other Middle Eastern and North African refugees. And the German people are clear on where they stand, even as their government waffles ineffectually away; whole cities and towns are stepping up to help the newcomers, and the German internet is buzzing with families opening their homes to refugees, giving them a place to stay until they can make a more permanent home somewhere.

I am a Canadian of German immigrant parentage. My mother, born to ethnic German parents in pre-World War II Yugoslavia, came “home” to Germany after some 200 years in the Balkans when war and the invasion of the Russian army drove them out in 1944. Her family were refugees. That makes me, in turn, the daughter of a refugee. And the descendant of other refugees, too: What was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire once took in Germans fleeing religious persecution back home. My mother’s ancestors, Lutheran protestants, fled a Catholic-ruled land. It was either convert to the local princeling’s religion, or else, back then. They chose “or else”. And that meant moving to the Balkans, where the Austrian queen, Maria Theresia, hoped to stave off the invasion of the Turks by populating the land with German-speaking Christians. It didn’t matter to her whether they were Catholic or Protestant, as long as they kept the Turks out. And then they were forced to flee, and my mother’s family became refugees once more…

And now, in an ironic twist of fate, the Turks are in Germany anyway, and the only parts where it’s truly gone to hell in a handbasket are the ones where local neo-Nazis have terrorized and murdered them. And after the Turks, the Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and other refugees have come. Germany hasn’t “gone Muslim” as PEGIDA and other right-wing fearmongers have claimed it would. Rather, the Christian spirit of charity and loving-thy-neighbor is making itself felt. German families are helping refugee families to acclimatize, to make a home, to learn whatever they need to learn, and to find their place in the world.

It wasn’t nearly so hospitable when my mom and her family arrived during the war, though; the refugees, though every bit as German as the locals, were looked down upon endlessly because they came from the Balkans. Whatever refugee-abuse wasn’t the result of Nazism, was down to plain old snobbery. And this went on for years after the war ended, too; the refugees were never fully accepted. My mother ended up going to work in New York for the local Daimler-Benz importer and his family as an au pair, and on a vacation to Canada, in northern Ontario, she met my dad, by then a landed immigrant himself. They married three months later.

I am proud of my ancestral people for having learned history’s lessons so well. And I am ashamed of my home and native land for having turned its back on Syrians, just as it did to Jews during World War II. Clearly, Chris Alexander hasn’t learned a thing from history.

And that is why I call him a murderer. He is just as responsible for the deaths of Alan, Galib and Reham Kurdi as if he had held their heads underwater himself. Because by cold-bloodedly refusing even to see the family’s refugee claim, that’s exactly what he did. By making the rules so that relatives could only sponsor one family member at a time, he ensured that Alan’s father did not even get a look-in. It’s the same, in effect, as denying outright the claim of Alan’s uncle, Mohammed, which he also did. Let’s dispense with inane technicalities here: The truth is that with the Harper government’s cruel changes to our immigration and refugee policy, the Kurdi family was doomed from the outset.

Cursed are those who refuse to learn from the past, because they will be doomed to repeat it.

PS: Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East has a petition up calling for Chris Alexander’s resignation. You can sign it no matter where in the world you are. Please do!


Music for a Sunday: Tunes for Harpo to hate

So, it would appear Harpo really hates it when people sing about him and what he’s done to our fair land. And he’s slapped the censure on a scientist who did just that. Well, it looks like he’s gonna have a lot more protest-songs to hate, because Canadians of all stripes are now Idle No More. And they’re coming up with some good tunes, too.

First, there’s this one:

And then there’s its sequel, made with a little help from commenters on the first one who contributed their own additional verses:

Twelve-bar blues beat SupposiTory blues anytime. Especially with a native beat at the roots.

Posted in Canadian Counterpunch, Environmentally Ill, Music for a Sunday, Teh Injunz, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off on Music for a Sunday: Tunes for Harpo to hate »

Quotable: Buffy Sainte-Marie on violence against women


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It’s Canada Day, ya bastards!

Stompin’ Tom is sorely missed, but he’s still here in spirit, never fear.

And here’s another notable Pied Piper of Canadian music…bandleader Bobby Gimby, opening Expo ’67 in Montréal:

Posted in Artsy-Fartsy Culture Stuff, Canadian Counterpunch. Comments Off on It’s Canada Day, ya bastards! »

Scotland gets its own PSUV


A united left party for Scotland? Och aye:

The new electoral pact, anchored around the Scottish Socialist Party and the grassroots Scottish Left Project, will meet representatives of Greece’s ruling party Syriza in Edinburgh today, as well as members of Spain’s left-wing Podemos movement.

The gathering is expected to discuss tactics for the 2016 election, when the new Scottish anti-austerity coalition hopes to return Socialist MSPs through the regional list system.

The development comes just days after Quebec Solidaire, the radical coalition in Quebec’s National Assembly, agreed to give its support to the Scottish alliance.

Delegates unanimously backed the move at their conference in Montreal last week, at which Scottish trade union activist Cat Boyd spoke on the Left’s post-referendum revival.

And yes, that IS a Canadian connection there. We have at least as many Scots here as there are in Scotland, it seems.

And this unite-the-left move gives a boost to those on this side of the pond, as well:

Amir Khadir, a Quebec Solidaire National Assembly member, said: “Austerity, whether British or Canadian, has left the vulnerable behind and impoverished ordinary people.

“But there is hope, as Cat Boyd reminded us about the struggle of ordinary people in Scotland and how Yes voters said Yes to a new and different country.

“The rising momentum behind the Scottish Left Project gives us hope and courage to fight for justice at home and solidarity abroad.”

Having a united left party puts Scotland not only on a par with Greece and Spain, but also Venezuela, whose ruling party, the PSUV, is the example to follow. When Chavecito first became president in late 1998, he was backed by Venezuela’s many small leftist parties, as well as his own, called the MVR (Fifth Republic Movement). This coalition broke the four-decade-old Fourth Republic duopoly of the “liberal” AD and the religious-conservative COPEI, which was put in place by the Punto Fijo pact after the ouster of Venezuela’s last military dictator, Marcos Pérez Jiménez. Prior to that, there were many leftist parties and splinter movements breaking off of each from time to time, but with no single presidential candidate to back, they lost to the corruptos of the ruling class every time. No matter how unpopular an AD or COPEI candidate was, he could still roll right over the leftists, even though their combined numbers were greater. It took an outstanding candidate — Hugo Chávez, already a national hero since his failed uprising in 1992 — to change all that. He later united all but a few of his leftist supporters in one party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), while in office. (The Venezuelan Communist Party, the PCV, supported him and still supports his successor, Nicolás Maduro, but would not come under the PSUV umbrella, preferring to retain a separate party identity. Splinter factions of various other pre-existing left parties also chose to go their own way; their lack of power and conviction speaks for itself.)

If the yet-to-be named Scottish left party manages to follow Venezuela’s example and get behind a candidate who is intelligent, brave, and serious about unity, like Chavecito, it should have nowhere to go but up. In spite of wankers like this:

Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: “It’s no surprise to see this group modelling itself on a party currently presiding over the most chaotic economy in Europe.

“I’m sure they can come up with enough of their own crazily damaging ideas without getting input from other radical left-wingers.”

That’s right, Alex, sneer while you can. You won’t be able to work up the energy once one of them has taken your seat!

Posted in Canadian Counterpunch, Greek Salad, Huguito Chavecito, True Scotsmen (and WOMEN!), Under the Name of Spain. Comments Off on Scotland gets its own PSUV »

Nudity blamed for earthquake, AGAIN…


Tourists on Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia, stripping down…very much against local law.

Hey! Remember the Boobquake of a few years back, when some silly mullah in Iran blamed women’s “immodest dress” for causing earthquakes in that land (which happens to be located on a number of major geological faultlines, and therefore, is prone to earthquakes no matter what)? Well, something happened in Malaysia recently that is kinda-sorta like that, and this time, it’s immodest foreigners being blamed:

Rescuers recovered the bodies of 11 more climbers from Malaysia’s highest peak on Saturday, a day after it was struck by a strong earthquake, bringing the total number of dead to 13.

Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan blamed the tragedy on a group of 10 foreigners who “showed disrespect to the sacred mountain” by posing naked at the peak last week. He said a special ritual would be conducted later to “appease the mountain spirit.”

According to a police report, the two Canadian tourists involved in the incident are Lindsey Petersen and Danielle Petersen. Along with two Dutch and a German national, they broke away from their entourage and stripped naked before taking photos at the mountain peak on May 30, officials have said.

Five of the tourists are believed to still be in Malaysia and will be barred from leaving on the offence of gross indecency, police have said.

Actually, silly naked tourists did NOT cause this disaster. Malaysia, like Iran, is situated on top of a VERY geologically active bit of the Earth’s crust, where several tectonic plates are in conflict with one another. This particular hotspot is one of the most volcanically active areas on Earth.

So it’s not too surprising that local natives, who probably don’t have a whole lot of modern geophysical knowledge at their disposal, would have evolved a set of beliefs and superstitions about the frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity that rock their homeland, causing death and destruction. And if the spirits and deities of the mountains aren’t appeased, so the logic goes, bad things happen. Or if uppity foreigners come in, all ignorant of local customs, and offend them — same thing.

Of course, nudity and immodesty don’t cause earthquakes. The ground under our feet doesn’t care what we wear. We could all go starkers anytime we wanted and it wouldn’t make a difference. The only thing that does make a difference is whether your particular patch of dirt is located on or near a massive subduction zone.

But try telling that to the local authorities of Malaysia, who are already none too keen on foreigners coming in and doing idiotic stunts on sacred ground just for the sake of some forgettable postings on Instagram or Facebook. These bozos came with the intent of creating some transgressive memories for life, and got a LOT more than they bargained for, thanks to the worst timing ever. But even if their timing didn’t suck, they still would have landed in deep shit. Why tempt a government that is already itching to prosecute foreigners for the slightest infraction? YOLO is the philosophy of the Hardcore Stupid.

Meanwhile, Mark Morford has the sanest take on the whole loopy tragedy. Read it, and if you take anything at all away from this incident, let it be that you, as a visitor in another country, should still be mindful and respectful of local customs…whether you agree with the beliefs behind them or not.

Aside from local customs, you should also be aware of the dangers if you’re travelling in a region known for its geological hazards, as Malaysia is. Scaling the highest mountain in the region on a lark, only to get blamed for an earthquake, is a seriously stupid way to round out your bucket list.

If you don’t end up kicking the bucket prematurely, that is.


The Harper Legacy: empty monuments, nothing for native women


Meet “Mother Canada”. If you’ve never heard of her, you’re not alone. She’s a figment of Harpocratic imagination, with no real basis in Canadian culture or history. And she’s supposedly meant to honor the veterans and the dead of World War II. But those whom she’s meant to please aren’t so impressed:

“It’s vulgar and ostentatious. It doesn’t do anything for veterans or definitely not for the people who are dead,” says Valerie Bird, a 93-year-old Second World War veteran.

And environmental experts are even less enthused:

“It will be a huge scientific loss to the whole Canadian scientific community if this project goes ahead.”

The statue by the Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation, dubbed Mother Canada, would be 30 metres high and feature a woman with her arms outstretched toward Europe. The plan also includes parking for 300 vehicles, a restaurant, souvenir shop and an interpretive centre.

Howard said the complex isn’t compatible with Parks Canada’s mandate to preserve and protect the land for future generations. He believes it will deter visitors who are attracted to the region and the Cabot Trail for its geography and natural beauty.

“It will go right over the most precious part of the geological formation,” he says. “There’s nothing like it in national parks before. They’ll do a lot of damage by Christmas, unless we stand up now.”

But hey, guess who loves it? Yup, Cons with a fetish for war…and European immigration:

Lewis MacKenzie, a retired major-general, is one of the prominent backers of the project. He said the location is ideal because it may have been one of the last parts of Canada seen by people leaving for the First World War and the Second World War, and one of the first seen upon their return.

“The design, when you see it, is extremely attractive,” he said. “It’s extremely welcoming not only to the souls of those interred abroad, but also for new Canadians. If it’s a spot for reflection, I can’t think of a better one.”

And what about new Canadians coming from Africa, Asia, Oceania, the US, Latin America and the Caribbean? What monuments do they get to see, beyond the arrivals centre of whatever airport they flew in through? Will there be a replica of this statue on every baggage carousel, or what? Somehow, I just can’t see any Mother Canada figures facing west or south. Apparently, people from those directions are less likely to be white, and since we didn’t fight on their behalf during the world wars, but only for England, well…sorry, folks, you just don’t count.

But don’t feel too bad. You’re not the only ones who don’t count for Harpo & Co.:

Federal Conservatives have suggested they will reject calls from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for both a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and Canada’s implementation of a landmark United Nations document on First Nations’ rights.

On Tuesday, the TRC released a long-awaited report on the shameful legacy of the residential school system. The push for a national inquiry and adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People were both included among 94 wide-ranging recommendations.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has previously ruled out taking both actions and, in question period, hinted its position was unlikely to change.


Canada was the only country to flag objections about the declaration at a special UN General Assembly meeting in September. Ottawa expressed concern at the time over legal wording that could be construed as giving a possible “veto for aboriginal groups.”

Last month, Conservatives also voted down a private member’s bill from Cree NDP MP Romeo Saganash — a residential school survivor — that sought to align Canadian law with the declaration.

So there you go. Native Canadians, especially missing and murdered women (who were often sold in human trafficking and prostitution) get nothing. No monument, no public inquiry, and certainly no say in what gets done about the injustices done to them over many decades. Nothing. Nada. Bupkus. Zippo. Zilch. Nothing but empty words of “apology” from Harpo, and an even emptier “I already said it, what more do you want?”

And this even though an indigenous child’s chances of dying horribly in residential school were roughly equal to a Canadian servicemember’s odds of dying in World War II, which “Mother Canada” is meant to commemorate.

So, there’s the Harper Legacy in a nutshell. You’ll get hideous monuments to war and Europeanism, and even to the “victims of Communism”. But if you don’t fit Harpo’s narrow, racist definition of a “real Canadian”, you get bugger-all. And a tanked economy, too.

Mother Canada really ought to turn Harpo over her knee and spank him. Too bad she’s not his real mom, eh?

Posted in Canadian Counterpunch, Environmentally Ill, Isn't It Ironic?, Isn't That Racist?, Not So Compassionate Conservatism, Teh Injunz, Uppity Wimmin. Comments Off on The Harper Legacy: empty monuments, nothing for native women »