Chile: Loco — er, LOCAL pastor blames gays for fire


“Chile under punishment!” For what, you ask? Well, according to one local preacher-man, for even contemplating letting same-sex couples live like any other couple:

Incredibly, and taking advantage of the terrible tragedy in Valparaíso due to the fire, not only politicians and pseudo-analysts have come out to comment in an inopportune manner. Now, no less than a religious “pastor” has joined in.

“Javier Soto Ch Pastor Misionero”, as he likes to call himself, has attributed this tragedy and others to a “DIVINE PUNISHMENT” for seeking rights for homosexuals, such as the AVP (Acuerdo de Vida en Pareja, “Couple Life Accord”). According to him, [this was] announced in a prophecy.

So Soto, with no possible logic other than his deviant mind, called for Chile to reject the AVP or “else, this will follow” (namely, catastrophes).

Translation mine. BBC link added; others as in original.

Here are some of Pastor Loco’s “thoughts” on the Valparaíso fires:


“Let’s tell VALPARAÍSO
‘this is God’s grace, God’s love, God’s prosperity’

The picture quotes Solomon 94:10: “He who punishes nations, will he not rebuke?”


“The order is: Put an end to the ‘AVP’ project. Or else this will follow…
“Romans 1:18: ‘For the wrath of God manifests itself from heaven against all impiety and injustice of those men who unjustly withhold the truth.’”

I will hereby note that in Canada, we’ve had fully legal same-sex marriage for almost a decade now, and our capital cities have NOT burned down. And all those queer couples who got married? Living totally normal lives, just like everyone else. No divine punishment in sight; nothing but the intermittent moanings of public nuisances like Charles McVety and a few others. (Who are duly ignored.)

Meanwhile, how do we know that those who perished in the Valparaíso fire are all LGBT? We don’t…and in fact, it’s far more likely that they are not. If this is God’s unfailing punishment on the queers for going up against Divine Will, wouldn’t God be, you know, a little bit more precise in the aiming of those divine firebombs?

If I were that pastor, I’d be a bit more judicious about flinging the words of notable misanthropes like Saul of Tarsus around and passing man-made prejudice off as the word of God. Never mind trying to link it to civil laws ensuring equal rights for everyone…even those as queer as God made them.

High treason in the Venezuelan air force; three generals arrested

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, addressing all of South America’s foreign ministers at the UNASUR summit today. He’s referring to these events from yesterday, in which three Venezuelan air-force generals were arrested for conspiring against the government.

It’s worth noting that all of UNASUR is behind Madurito, and that he’s repeatedly offered the opposition peace talks, all of which have been rejected. At this point, I think we can safely cut all the bullshit about “protests” and just call this month-long shitstorm what it really is: another coup attempt. Which is, mercifully, failing — and failing badly. The military was no doubt the putschists’ best hope, but the bulk of it is loyal to the government, and it shows in the fact that the traitors are now being captured. Madurito is finally getting down to brass tacks, and I have to say that he’s been awfully patient. Here in Canada, such “protests” wouldn’t have lasted a day.

What’s up with airlines in Venezuela?


Further to my post the other day on Air Canada and how it’s embarrassed my country, here’s a little something which shows the larger picture…and just how it plays into the whole putschist mess that Venezuela is still mucking its way through:

The Administration and Services Commission of the Venezuelan National Assembly held a meeting on Wednesday with representatives of national and international airlines and travel agencies to discuss the situation of the sector amid numerous denunciations received from users, in particular concerning the lack of tickets offered for flights out of country, and high prices.

The president of the commission, deputy Claudio Farías of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), stated that they would propose to the national executive that they examine in depth the fare issue, since they had received denunciations that the airlines are only selling the most expensive tickets.

“We have cordially solicited that they look into this situation, and we have approved raising this situation before the national executive so as not to affect the passengers, and we will study the possibility of working on a law that might regulate aeronautical services,” said the parliamentarian.


“Concerning prices, there is no logical explanation. For that reason we have brought up the possibility of an in-depth review of the topic of the offers they make. Supposedly every airline has a policy in this area. We intend that this should be regulated and normalized in Venezuela,” Farías added.

The case of Nancy Landaeta exemplifies this situation. Although she was able to travel to Madrid last year with a ticket that cost her 9,000 bolivars with Air Europe, at the beginning of this year she tried to buy a ticket with the same destination for next April, and quote she received a few days ago set the price at 50,000 bolivars and no guarantee of a return allowance.

In the meeting in the National Assembly, airline representatives said that bilateral treaties have for decades defined a fare system which offers low costs to those who buy well in advance.

However, this does not seem to be an option for Venezuelans. Sandra González, of the Venezuelan Association for Travel and Tourism Agencies (AVAVIT), said that the activity of these companies is threatened because since the end of last year, airlines have been blocking the possibility of buying tickets in advance, and only allow them to be sold a maximum of 30 days before the trip. This therefore implies that one can only buy a ticket at the highest price.

“There are 15,000 jobs in danger because airlines keep presenting failures at the moment of ticket sales,” González said.

During the meeting, representatives of the airlines spoke of what they called the “distortion” of the sector in 2013. There was a great demand for tickets, which exhausted quotas rapidly, with many sold to passengers who did not arrive, and who only bought the ticket to take advantage of the travel allowance granted by the state, and thus illegally convert it into dollars.

A second element was the massive sale to persons from other lands, who bought in bolivars in order to take advantage of the exchange rates.

Giovanna Petrillo, of Avianca, commented to the Commission that as a result of this situation, there were flights with as many as 60% of seats vacant, even though all had been sold.

Both issues have tended toward normalization this year, according to the airlines who attended the meeting, thanks to measures adopted in conjunction with the government.

Farías denounced that the entire fare rise follows a speculative line and also carries a political intent: to generate ill-will in users, so as to create a crisis in this sector in Venezuela.

“The exit of Air Canada has an intention, it’s a political exit. Canada has a policy against Venezuela, and Air Canada obeys this policy. We will not fall into this trap, and for that reason, it is important that airlines make clear their situation today. All have stated that they will continue to operate in Venezuela,” said the deputy.

On Tuesday, the minister of Aquatic and Aerial Transportation, Hébert García Plaza, informed that Venezuela had terminated commercial relations with Air Canada, after that airline had decided unilaterally to suspend flights to and from Caracas.

Translation mine.

The meeting, incidentally, was attended by representatives of Aserca, Iberia, Margarita International Airlines, Aerolíneas Argentinas, American Airlines, Caribbean Airlines, Avianca and Taca. All of them — yes, even AMERICAN Airlines — are still operating normally, and advance tickets are being sold as far ahead as a year from now. So you can see that Air Canada’s unilateral decision to chicken out of flying to Caracas is even more ridiculous now. If even the Yanks aren’t sanctioning Venezuela, what the fuck is up with Canada?

Well, I can tell you exactly what’s up. We have a bunch of fascists and putschists squatting on Parliament Hill right now. They straight-up STOLE the federal election of 2011, fraudulently “winning” as many as 200 ridings even though Stephen Harper was already massively unpopular (and is even more so today). Now, they are unilaterally imposing their will on us Canadians. They’ve quashed demonstrations with police brutality, and we’ve even been told, flat out, that this is not Canada anymore. And they’re trying to prevent Elections Canada from stopping any further such frauds in the future. So it stands to reason that they will get their corporate cronies to line up.

And of course, they will do so with particular regard to all countries where the “tyranny” of a good example reigns. So naturally, Venezuela, with its internationally certified free and fair elections, where the good guys have overwhelmingly won for the last 15 years, gets kicked in the teeth. Including, of course, in the travel sector.

Can’t have Canadians sampling the sweet taste of Bolivarian socialism and actually LIKING it, now, can we?

PS: Looks like I’m not the only Canadian disgruntled with our so-called national airline. There’s a whole tweeter devoted to, well, how Air Canada sucks. There’s also a website totting up the reasons why. Ha, ha.

Air Canada, our international embarrassment


Yesterday, I took CBC to task for bullshitting us about Venezuela. Today, it’s our so-called national airline’s turn:

The minister for aquatic and air transportation, Hebert García Plaza, informed that Venezuela has ended commercial relations with Air Canada after the airline decided, unilaterally, to suspend flights to Caracas.

García Plaza indicated that Air Canada, beyond suspending flights, planned a rupture in commercial relations.

For that reason, the administrative procedure to end relations begins immediately, said García Plaza, in a statement to the media from Fort Tiuna, Caracas, where he met with representatives from 21 international airlines.

“We will begin the necessary procedures via the Foreign Ministry. We will terminate relations with Air Canada until the President (Nicolás Maduro) decides otherwise,” said the minister.

Air Canada evaded international norms and did not inform the National Civil Aeronautics Institute (INAC) of its decision to suspend flights, denounced the minister.

“It was a sudden blow. They took a unilateral decision,” said García Plaza, referring to the suspension by the Canadian company.

Canada, allied with the United States, recently advocated for an intervention in Venezuela in the extraordinary session of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) on March 7.

“We won’t converse with them when they won’t converse with us,” García Plaza said.

The transport minister lamented Air Canada’s decision because it principally affects Canadian tourists who come to Venezuela to enjoy its natural beauty.

“We lament that they have taken a unilateral decision, because no matter what, Canadians will continue to come to Venezuela. That I assure you,” García emphasized.

He added that “geographically, Venezuela will continue to be the north-Caribbean face of the continent, and we will continue to be a country friendly to the world, with a way of being that motivates receptive tourism.”

García recalled that Air Canada flies to other countries “with a much graver security situation than our country has.”

Upon review of the airline’s press releases, it was revealed that Air Canada did not suspend service to Ukraine, which is embroiled in a grave situation of violence, territorial breakaway, and possible military conflict.

Air Canada offices remain open in Ukraine, a country in which it operates by way of alliances with airlines such as Lufthansa, LOT and others.

Recently, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro vowed to take strict measures against airlines that reduce the frequency of their flights to Venezuela.

“Any airline that leaves Venezuela, will not return as long as we are the government. They will have to oust us,” Maduro warned.

Translation mine.

So, thanks a lot, Air Canada, for joining the Harper Government™ and all our god-awful mining companies in embarrassing us horribly on the international stage. It’s thanks to corporatist clowns like you that Canadians can no longer hold their heads up in Latin America, and are being forced to apologize for what is not our personal fault. You’re still flying to Ukraine following a fascist coup in Kiev, and in the midst of some blindingly obvious political instability that might just turn into a shooting war over Crimea…but you let a few fascist punks in Venezuela convince you that it’s no longer safe to fly to Caracas? I call bullshit.

And I urge every Canadian who is sincerely opposed to fascism (which, in the end, is just capitalism minus gloves) to boycott any airline which will fly to Kiev…but not Caracas. I will be doing so until Air Canada demonstrates good faith, good sense, or both, and reverses this ridiculous situation.

PS: And if anyone else feels inclined to troll or criticize me for this, have a little light reading. Seems that our government is also in on this shitty piece of international relations. Air Canada is NOT acting alone.



Looks like the SupposiTories have won their war against our national news channel, eh? I remember the good old days when CBC used to just broadcast the news, from coast to coast to coast and from around the world. Nowadays, they’ve become a right-wing crapaganda mouthpiece, and nowhere is that more evident than in their reporting on the fascist movements of Ukraine…and Venezuela:

Air Canada has suspended flights to and from Venezuela as month-long protests against the government continue in the South American country.

“Due to ongoing civil unrest in Venezuela, Air Canada can no longer ensure the safety of its operation and has suspended flights to Caracas until further notice,” the airline said in a statement on its website.

“Air Canada will continue to monitor the situation and will evaluate the reintroduction of flights with the objective of resuming operations on the route once Air Canada is satisfied that the situation in Venezuela has stabilized.”

The first flights affected are a flight from Toronto to Caracas on Tuesday evening, and a return flight from Caracas to Toronto Wednesday morning.

The airline and travel agents have started notifying affected customers, and that its reservations and ticketing office in Caracas remains open.

Air Canada says that affected travellers can obtain refunds if they have not already begun travelling, and those who have already started their trip may be re-booked on other airlines at no additional cost or obtain a refund.

Prior to the suspension, Air Canada was operating three return flights weekly between Toronto and Caracas.

Air Canada’s suspension came just a few days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said any airline that reduced or suspended flights in and out of Venezuela would face severe measures.

Maduro said any airline that leaves won’t be allowed back while he is in power.

So you can see that they’re trying very hard to paint Madurito as some kind of tyrant, when in fact he is taking reasonable measures against foreign corporations aiding and abetting the attempted coup. Meanwhile, locally owned and operated airlines, such as Conviasa, will be more than happy to take up chickenshit profiteer Air Canada’s slack. (They’re not reporting that, obviously. Wouldn’t want to give the impression that Venezuela is actually still tourist-friendly — and right at the height of the winter travel season, too!)

The rest of the piece is all the usual arglebargle about inflation (remember what precipitated the Caracazo? CBC doesn’t), instability (ditto), violence in the streets (megadittoes) and all that other shit. They don’t mention, obviamente, that the “demonstrators” are paid out of Washington’s pockets, to the tune of an astronomical 5,000 bolivars a week, to maintain their illegal blockades. They don’t mention that food trucks carrying products to government-subsidized markets have been sabotaged, or that hoarded goods have been smuggled and illegally sold across the Colombian border. They don’t mention that all of this began right after the government announced a new law to…well, prevent all of that!

They also don’t mention those infamous trip-wires the not-so-starving kids of the so-called middle class have been seen stringing at intersections to catch motorcyclists (many of them Chavistas from the poor parts of town), or the homemade spike belts those innocent little angels have been laying, or the fact that they’ve been burning National Guard motorbikes after killing their riders.

They don’t mention the deranged opposition general holing up in his fancy mansion with his machine gun, vowing to kill anyone who comes to arrest him, or the Colombian paramilitaries caught with C-4 explosive.

They don’t mention the oppos’ “tollbooths”, which consist mainly of masked thugs extorting bribes from passing motorists. Nor do they mention how a renowned orchestra director from Maracaibo was pelted with rocks at such a “tollbooth” in his wheelchair, and his dog thrown into a burning heap of trash, because he tried to intercede on behalf of a family trying to take a sick kid to the doctor.

They don’t mention that a Chilean woman got killed by those “peaceful” protesters. They’re also not reporting that those “peaceful” demonstrators are violent even as far away as New York. And they certainly don’t mention how unpopular all these violent, extremist measures are.

None of that makes it onto CBC, because all of that makes it clear that the real problem isn’t the government, it’s the little local brownshirts trying to oust it.

And they are most definitely not reporting this. Did you know we have a new ambassador to Caracas, and that he’s a specialist in “democratic transitions”, in line with the Washington Consensus? If you did, chances are you didn’t hear it from CBC. They’re not reporting THAT. Because that would make Madurito’s disgust at the likes of Air Canada seem very well justified. And heaven knows the CBC don’t want the president of Venezuela to look reasonable and intelligent — at least not as long as he’s a Bolivarian!

So, no accurate and responsible reporting on the real situation in Venezuela. Nope…instead, we just get yet another wear-out-the-panic-button tale of how evil and awful the Bolivarian government of Venezuela is for stepping in and trying to prevent a bunch of local thugs (and their foreign and corporate puppetmasters) from taking power that they were not elected, and therefore are not entitled, to. They don’t care what real Venezuelans think about all these inane media wars at all. Their “job” is clearly not to inform the Canadian public, but to mislead it about anyone whom the US, and by extension our own lackeys on Parliament Hill, have deemed to be The Enemy.

Oh CBC, how far your democratic star has fallen.

Happy Friday. Happy Pi Day!

Posted in Canadian Counterpunch, Good to Know, The WTF? Files. Comments Off »

Shyness: not a human rights violation.


Sorry, Men’s Rightsers. If you were hoping to make a test case for your ideology out of this guy, the facts of the matter have just made a hash out of it:

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint by University of Toronto student Wongene Daniel Kim, who accused his professor of discriminating against him as a male when she docked him marks for not coming to class because he was too shy to be the only guy.

The second-year health science major arrived at the opening of a Women and Gender Studies course for which he had signed up in the fall of 2012 — “It had spaces left and fit into my timetable” — only to discover a room full of women and nary a man in sight.

“I felt anxiety; I didn’t expect it would be all women and it was a small classroom and about 40 women were sort of sitting in a semicircle and the thought of spending two hours every week sitting there for the next four months was overwhelming,” said Kim, 20, adding he manages a part-time job with women because there are also other men.

“I’m generally a shy person, especially around women, and it would have been a burden if I had had to choose a group for group work.”

He didn’t stay for class — that day, or ever — but continued in the course and asked Professor Sarah Trimble to waive the 15 per cent of the mark earned by class participation and attendance.

She refused.

Which is only fair. Everyone is expected to do the same work; a gender-based pass for Kim wouldn’t have been fair to his classmates.

In other words: The work women have done over the past few decades to eliminate sex-based discrimination hasn’t created a situation of reverse discrimination; it has created, rather, a level playing field, where men and women are expected to work together no matter the gender ratio, and where marks are based on how well they do, not on what reproductive plumbing they have.

So far, so good. But then this happened:

Kim got poor marks on assignments and ended up failing the course, which he said he found frustrating after spending the money on course materials.

He asked Trimble to reconsider his mark. When she refused, he complained to the Human Rights Tribunal that she was penalizing him because he was male.

Which, clearly, was NOT the case. Class attendance counted for 15% of the mark — no exceptions.

And if he was being discriminated against on account of gender, why was there not a sign on the door reading “NO MEN”? Or a marker on the course calendar indicating “Female students only”?

Oh yeah, that’s right: because THAT would have been sex discrimination. And that would be, if not outright illegal, certainly unethical.

Kim said he had been unaware how poorly he was doing until it was too late because Trimble didn’t post marks on the course website. She handed assignments back in class.

“We live in a digital era, why couldn’t she have posted the marks online?” Kim said in an interview. “I believe if you want to attract more males to these courses, you have to work with them. My request for accommodation was reasonable.”

Except that no one else was asking for special accommodations; everyone else was happy to comply with the course requirements, and didn’t find them at all unreasonable.

Given all the whining from the “manosphere” about how women are always expecting special treatment (with lowered expectations, natch), it’s hilarious and ironic that when someone does demand just that on the basis of sex, it turns out to be a male. And he’s suffering from the very affliction that supposedly makes women too delicate to live in a man’s world: shyness.

“The applicant has not satisfied me that his claimed discomfort in a classroom of women requires accommodation under the (Ontario Human Rights) Code,” wrote adjudicator Mary Truemner. “He admitted that his discomfort is based on his own ‘individual preference’ as a shy person . . . and stated he thought they (the women) would not be willing to interact with him because of his gender.”

This was “merely speculation as he never gave the class, or the women, a chance,” wrote Truemner, vice-chair of the tribunal.

Kim had no evidence of being “excluded, disadvantaged or treated unequally on the basis of” his gender, she said.

This is true. Kim was the only person keeping Kim from attending on the basis of gender.

I can attest that classroom participation was actually a great help in overcoming my own once crippling shyness. Many third-year classes were small seminar-style courses, in which the big, anonymous lecture hall of the first and second years was gone, and the students and prof all just sat around a square of tables, discussing things like Old Norse sagas and Beowulf. Despite the initial linguistic challenges (imagine having to learn two new languages in one year!), I found that I was finally in my element. After that, I was able to speak up anywhere, without stage fright.

Here’s another salient point: I also availed myself of the university’s counselling service. That’s what it’s there for: to help troubled students before they’re forced to drop out. I got tested, found out that introversion is natural and normal, and that you can learn to live with it, and yes, even succeed with it. And I did.

It’s a matter of being able to distinguish between the political and the personal. And to not hide behind the one when the other is the real issue.

In this case, there was no discrimination on the basis of sex. Kim didn’t recognize in time that his own shyness was tripping him up. Maybe next time, he’ll seek help. It’s a lot easier to go in for a few counselling sessions than it is to sit through the ignominy of a failed human-rights complaint, when all’s said.

L’affaire Hollande: What “sophistication” costs a woman

Bit of mood music, maestra:

Zut alors! You think François Hollande is in hot water, thanks to his affair with an actress? Bof. He’s doing just fine. His consequences, personal and political, will be minimal, thanks to his adroit cowardice, and especially his gender. But for the women? Well, that’s another story…as EMMA’s Alice Schwarzer writes:

We feminists have fundamentally questioned marriage and advised women against it. At least earlier, when marriage placed men at a judicial advantage, and women at a disadvantage. Now we have to ask if we shouldn’t in fact urgently advise women to marry, at least in some cases. For example, in the case of the French president, François Hollande, 59, and his life companion, Valérie Trierweiler, 48.

What happened?

On January 11, the French gossip magazine, Closer, revealed that the president was having an affair with Julie Gayet, 41. In the meantime, we know that the story has been going on for over two years. The president would meet with the actress in an apartment a few hundred metres from the Elysée Palace. He would ride there on the back of a motor scooter, hanging on to his bodyguard, whom he sometimes ordered to leave croissants at the door in the mornings. Spicy extra detail: The apartment belongs to an actor who is currently in jail due to his connections to the Corsican Mafia.

On January 13, the tabloid, Le Parisien, revealed that Trierweiler had been hospitalized for a “nervous breakdown”. But just two days later, she made it known that she was ready to forgive him. He, however, remained silent, and only visited her sickbed days later.

The rumors of the affair had been running for months through Paris. But she seemed totally caught off guard. The president and his première dame had just come off a state visit to Brazil in December, she in high heels and Frenchly elegant, as well as spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve together. But now Hollande was telling the anxiously waiting nation that he would speak of the matter on February 11. Other than that, the president forbade every question, even at his big new year’s press conference, regarding his “private” life.

Private life? Trierweiler, a journalist by profession, was by no means living privately as the life-companion of the president. At the beginning of Hollande’s presidency, in May 2012, she gave up her career, except for her column in Paris Match, and acted as First Lady to the nation: state visits, receptions, opening daycare centres, honorary postings. For that, she had an office in the Elysée Palace, a budget, and several staffers.

Thanks to the president’s overt affair, all of that has been called into question. Who is Valérie Trierweiler? A mistress. One of several. She is not even Madame Hollande, unlike Mme. Chirac or Mme. Mitterrand. There was plenty of gossip over the affairs of both those presidents as well. But at least their wives were the social and legitimate wives at their men’s side. Even Mitterrand, who supported a second family for decades — with taxes, right down to the rent money and riding lessons for his out-of-wedlock daughter — never called his wife Danielle into question.

But what place does an abandoned mistress have, when her man takes a new mistress? And when the new one, as in this case, is even more popular than the old one, the highly unpopular Trierweiler? Unpopular, because she was often openly nasty to her predecessor. That was the well-known politician, Ségolène Royal, with whom Hollande had lived for 25 years and had four children. With her, too, he was not married.

When Hollande’s affair with Trierweiler became public in 2007, during Royal’s presidential campaign of all times (and surely this was not a coincidence) — that time, too, the then life companion was quickly prepared to forgive him. Royal went even further: She asked Hollande to marry her, with cameras rolling. After 25 years. And what did he do? Remained silent. But shortly thereafter, he spoke. The lover told journalists that Valérie Trierweiler was “the love of my life”. After 25 years with Royal, and four children together.

Hollande and Royal met as students. They are both close to 60 nowadays. 40 years ago, they were 20, and inspired by the May 1968 uprising and the women’s movement. Both are socialists, and Royal a noted feminist. Two modern people, who considered it unnecessary to marry. Just as Hollande later never thought of it either, with Trierweiler. Which now, as he will probably leave her, turns out to be downright practical. For him. He ends a relationship without any documented connection — and she falls into nothingness.

Valérie Trierweiler has just been released from hospital. It’s said that she will go to a spa, she needs “rest”. How convenient for Hollande. Because on February 11, he’s going on a state visit to the Obamas, where the modern French couple was already expected. Surely he won’t be able to take Julie Gayet along to the White House. Not yet.

What a man-drama! Die Welt‘s correspondent in France, Sascha Lehnartz, hit the nail on the head. He wrote: “Please try to imagine the following situation: Angela Merkel has been carrying on for months with [actor] Götz George…and three to five times a week, incognito, rides a moped from the Chancellor’s office to an apartment in Moabit, rented to Bushido. Sometimes she would bring her lover poppy-seed buns from the Chancellery’s own bakery. Joachim Sauer found it out on Friday through an article in the Super-Illu, and is now lying in the neurological department of the Charité with a nervous breakdown. And on Tuesday, Angela Merkel gave an international press conference, in which she said that the minimum wage is a great thing. That, roughly, is the current situation in France. Parbleu.

In actual fact, such stories can’t be turned around. A female head of state, who would never comport herself thus, would have to step down, because everyone would say that she had lost her marbles. But a male head of state who acts that way, according to 77 percent of all French(wo)men, well, that’s just “his private matter”. And they don’t even seem to ask the question whether someone who is so half-hearted and conflict-shy about his love life would not act the same way at his job, as president.

What conclusions are to be drawn from all this? What could one have advised Valérie Trierweiler to do at the beginning of the relationship? To that, there are two contradictory answers. The first one: Get married! The second: Remain strictly autonomous, like Joachim Sauer, the German chancellor’s husband.

The personal is political. So goes one of the most famous slogans of the women’s movement. It has been much misunderstood. In times of rampant exposition, some think that it means that women as well as men should make their private life public. No, it means just what we have just seen in the Hollande/Trierweiler case: The disenfranchisement of women plays itself out even in so-called private life. And that is not the personal problem of the woman in question, but that of all of society.

Translation mine.

Is getting married the feminist thing to do, then? Maybe not in and of itself. But yes, in the case of a prominent and public couple, who are in the spotlight and presumably have a lot of property as well as reputations at stake, it’s a different matter. Especially if, like Valérie Trierweiler, you are actually working in the official capacity of first lady of the land, and not in your original trade (journalism, in her case.) If that’s the way it’s going to be, then yes, marriage is the better way to go.

Whether a first couple has to be “traditional” about it is another matter. When the current president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, married his long-time common-law partner, Cilia Flores (they have a grown son together), it was couched as a patriotic act. They wanted to “strengthen the Venezuelan family”, so they said. They decided to set an example and make a statement about their love. And so they got married…not in white, not in church, but in their everyday clothes and at a registry office in Caracas, with their friend the mayor officiating. Flores is now known as “First Combatant”, not “First Lady”. As a long-time politician and former national-assembly president herself, she has quietly redefined the role of a female politician and political spouse simultaneously. And as a feminist and a strong woman in her own right, she will brook no scandal…and no disenfranchisement on any level. Her comportment during the putsch of 2002 made that clear: Flores, driven into hiding along with several other prominent Bolivarian members of parliament, released a video of herself even as the drama was still unfolding, vehemently protesting the coup and vowing to return at the first moment. Which she did, even though passing through streets potentially filled with unknown assassins and snipers posed a risk to her very life.

How different it is for Madame Trierweiler! She entered her political career (for that is what it is) on the wrong foot, displacing a popular and long-time partner with whom Hollande had four children. She humiliated Ségolène Royal publicly, forcing the latter to propose marriage on camera…and be rejected in the most cowardly manner. She triumphed off her rival’s tragedy. It must have been a heady moment, back when it was all amour fou and making youppi.

And now what’s gone around, has come around. She has gone from being the Other Woman, to being the woman about to get left for yet another Other Woman. And she doesn’t even have the small dignity of a legal marriage to protect her. She gave up everything she was doing…for this. As unsympathetic as she comes off for what she did to Ségo and her four kids, one can’t help pitying her a bit now. Her reputation, already shaky, is in tatters. And so’s her career, which will remain on hold until she regains her health. Who knows when, if or how she will bounce back? The workplace is not kind to middle-aged women re-entering it. Or even women well under middle age; just ask anyone who took time out from her career to be a stay-home mother. A few years can change everything, and bosses are fickle.

But I don’t suppose any of that matters very much to M. Hollande. He already showed what he was made of earlier, with his unceremonious dumping of his partner of a quarter-century. Once more, he conforms to an established pattern. Tant pis.

What has me scratching my head, though, is the blasé attitude toward all this in France. I guess, to a populace jaded with the tax-supported mistress and children of Mitterand, or the way Nicolas Sarkozy, mid-presidency, divorced his femme for a former supermodel (and mistress to Mick Jagger), or the whoremongering, maid-assaulting antics of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, this all must look a bit, well, routine. But there is a growing feminist current in France, as well, and they can’t be unaware of the legal implications of an unmarried couple in this unusual, and very awkward, position. Certainly they can no longer shrug off the sexist implications.

In Canada, this union would be considered a common-law marriage, since Hollande and Trierweiler have been living together for more than three years. As a de facto spouse, Valérie Trierweiler could sue, if not for divorce, then for half of his property, to ensure that she is not left wholly destitute by this sudden abandonment. She would need it, too, if she is unable to work at the moment, as appears to be the case.

Taking mistresses may be practically a marital tradition in France; the term “French marriage” was coined for situations where a couple stays married, but one or both still may have assignations on the side. Unfortunately, it appears that there aren’t sufficient provisions in French law here for a mistress who is married in all but name, and who gave up everything for her lover’s career. Not only is the situation awkward in that there is an unmarried first couple, but if he leaves her, it appears that he can make a complete getaway on his motor scooter, unscathed…and she is left scrambling to pick up the pieces of her very publicly shattered life.

Yes, the personal is political, even in modern France. And amatory “sophistication” comes with its own price, one paid in much more than just heart’s blood. Sadly, the women in François Hollande’s life have found out just how little recourse they truly have, and how steeply the deck is stacked against them.

Ecuador wins Canadian case against Chevron Texaco


Big Polluting Oil just lost a major judgment in the last place I expected it to: right here, in Harpolandia. How about THESE apples?

Pablo Fajardo, attorney for the Union of Those Affected by Texaco Operations, announced that the group won a legal case yesterday in Canada, when the Appeals Court of Ontario unanimously recognized that it had jurisdiction and competency to validate the Ecuadorian sentence and execute it in that country.

Fajardo specified that with this recognition, which three trial judges gave, it would be “an important step” to embargo Chevron assets in Canada and make the transnational pay for the judgment in Ecuador. He commented that the multinational has an investment there; that is, it extracts petroleum, an investment worth more than 10 billion dollars.

“This case opens the doors to make the business pay,” Fajardo said.

Fajardo says that this was an appeal presented by the multinational in Canada, and that the corporation could seek another recourse, before the Supreme Court at the federal level, but that it would be “very difficult for them to succeed at the Supreme Court; this case is very important in the battle with Chevron-Texaco.”

The lawyer maintains that the Canadian recognition opens the doors so that those affected can file suits in countries such as Australia, one of the nations in which the multinational has more assets. Of the 60 countries in which Chevron has assets, the Union of Those Affected has filed suit in three: Canada, Brazil and Argentina.

Translation mine.

$10 billion in assets. Of course they’re going to appeal this at the highest level, but if they lose…that’s gonna clean up an awful lot of rainforest in Ecuador. Which, by coincidence, is just what these big-time polluters mucked up.


Tories have wrecked Canada’s refugee system


Damage to a downtown Vancouver neighborhood by the racist Asiatic Exclusion League, September, 1907. In the last hundred or so years, it’s astonishing how little has changed, at least in the way our government treats non-white immigrants.

If you ever wondered how fucked-up our immigration policy has become, wonder no more. Just look at how our lovely right-wing government treats refugees from what is surely the most despised and ridiculed régime on the planet right now:

A recent decision by the refugee appeal tribunal to side with Ottawa and overturn a North Korean woman’s refugee status has sent shockwaves among asylum seekers who fled the Communist regime.

Minseo Kim, 45, and her daughter, Sangah Rhee, 2, came to Canada via South Korea in early 2013 and were granted asylum by the Immigration and Refugee Board in April.

However, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander successfully appealed the decision with the board’s newly established refugee appeal division, arguing that Kim and Rhee should not be recognized as refugees because North Koreans are automatically South Korean citizens.

Gee, you’d think such a bunch of fascists as we have in government here would never miss a chance to stick their fingers in the eye of Kim Jong-un. After all, he’s a dirty commie. But no, their own cheapskate capitalist tendencies have got the better of them:

Historically, North Korean refugees have had an acceptance rate over 50 per cent, peaking at 72 per cent in 2010. However, the number of claims has been steadily creeping up. In 2012 alone, 718 new claims were received, prompting concern from the federal government.

“Concern”? A few hundred refugee claims, back in the old days, wouldn’t have been cause for batting an eyelash. If these had been white Eastern Europeans back in the Cold War era, the government would have waved them though, and maybe even discreetly pumped them for sensitive information on their countries of origin, if they seemed in a position to give any.

As it is, this government is only too happy to import cheap Chinese labor for the tar sands and its associated pipeline projects. It’s hardly “concerned” about all the jobs Canadian workers stand to lose under those circumstance. So why make an issue of a few little Korean refugees? How much taxpayer money could they possibly eat up? Why are they so “concerned” that we are a more popular refugee destination of choice than our neighbor to the south?

At this rate, one wonders why we have a refugee policy at all. Why not bring back the old anti-Asian exclusion laws, if you’re going to be this irrational and hateful?

A pregnant woman from North Korea who is still waiting for a refugee hearing had her interim federal health coverage stripped in November, said Wright, because immigration officials deemed her a South Korean national. She gave birth at Sunnybrook hospital and is now $3,000 in debt.

“This is outrageous,” said Wright. “It just shows the mean-spiritedness of the government.”

Over the past year, Ottawa has designated 35 countries as “safe” for refugees and added South Korea to the list in May. It said it has no plan to put the “safe country” label on North Korea.

Given that North Korean refugees are treated as spies and enemy aliens in the “safe” South, this move could hardly be more cynical.