Press freedom under threat again in Venezuela and Ecuador

Press freedom is deteriorating rapidly in South America. Two politicians — one from Venezuela, one from Ecuador — attack a Dutch reporter for asking critical questions:

Ha, ha, whoops. That didn’t happen in South America. It happened in Europe — Brussels, to be exact. The politicians were not from Venezuela and Ecuador, but from the Czech Republic and Italy. And here’s what went down, according to a German business news site:

EU delegates are paid strictly according to their achievements. If they are present for a sitting, they get “day money”. This is to cover their accommodations and expenses for one day. For every day that the delegates are physically present in the EU Parliament, in either Brussels or Strasbourg. In order to confirm that they were in Parliament — perchance, to work there — the delegates have to show up on the spot and sign in.

In practice, the politicians have found a very efficient form of presence: Many EU delegates only go into Parliament for a short time, formally announce themselves, and then disappear again. For this, they collect 300 euros “day money”. That works out to 1800 euros an hour, when you take into account that the whole process takes just ten minutes, elevator trips up and down included.

The taxpayer has to carry these costs. Any colleague in private business would say it was betrayal.

A Dutch journalist, Tom Staal from GeenStijl, went to Brussels not so long ago, in order to see if this method, criticized for years, was still in effect.

He got lucky fast.

The Czech delegate, Miroslav Ransdorf, of the European leftist party GUE, and the Italian delegate, Raffaele Baldassare, of the European People’s Party, are two such fine examples — of those who shamelessly cash in on taxpayers’ money without working for it.

First the Dutch journalist met up with Miroslav Ransdorf. He had just come in to Brussels from the Czech Republic, shown up in Parliament, and left a few minutes later. His apartment is just a few hundred metres from the parliament building. When Staal confronted him with it, Ransdorf walked away. “But you just pocketed 300 euros, without having done anything, and now you’re going again. You only just arrived, you signed in, and then you go,” Staal added. Ransdorf hit the microphone, trying to fend off the journalist like a pesky insect, and played dumb: “I have no idea what you’re here for” — and kept going. “I work here,” said Ransdorf a little later. “Is it normal for someone who works to show up at six o’clock in the evening and then leave again at five after six?” the Dutch reporter persisted. “Isn’t that unfair to the other EU citizens?” He got no reply; the Czech delegate vanished behind the door of a house.

Staal got no explanation at all from the Italian delegate, Raffaele Baldassare. “We saw how you just signed in, and it’s 6:30 p.m. Isn’t that a little late to show up for work?” Staal asked. Baldassare went into the Parliament with his suitcase at 6:30, and left a little later. “I don’t understand,” Baldassare replied, in English. Because he understood full well that he’d been caught, he later replied only in Italian. As Staal repeated himself several times, the same answer came. Three times Staal asked the question, then tried to follow Baldassare into the elevator. That’s when Baldassare went off on him, trying to throw him out by force, hitting at him and not letting go.

Translation mine.

Can you just imagine what the media would say if this happened in Venezuela or Ecuador, though? The IAPOA would be on it like a duck on a junebug. They’d be jumping down the throat of Nicolás Maduro — or Rafael Correa — and calling them commie-fascist strongmen and thugs, and accusing them of censorship, interfering with the freedom of the press, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

But since this was just a couple of crummy Europarliament deputies, one a nominally leftist Czech and the other a conservative Italian, well…it’s kind of hard to blame Bolivarian socialism for that. So the whole thing gets no mention in the anglo-whore media at all.

I’m really trying to muster up the energy to yawn at this, but somehow I just can’t even do that anymore.

Stupid Sex Tricks: Banking and wanking, together at last

No. Oh, no. NO:

In case you were wondering what that was all about, Copyranter explains:

Komerční Banka is a member of the Société Générale Group, and is one of the leading financial institutions in the Czech Republic. Copy translation, according to the YouTube poster: “Enjoy the first banking transaction.”

There’s another of these spots for the guys, too:

They don’t show who’s screwing these ecstatic customers on behalf of the faceless corporation. I’m going to go waaaaaay out on a limb here and assume that this is an ad for self-serve, uh, BANKING. Yeah. That’s it.

How do these “diplomats” manage to keep their jobs?

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Diplomats from the European Union in Cuba: Volker Pellet, of the German embassy, and Frantisek Fleisman, of the Czech embassy. Odd that they would fraternize with one another on the streets of Havana like that; one expects rather more discretion from people of their profession. What are they doing together? Just enjoying a casual smoke break? Funny, I don’t see any cigars.

Perhaps this might shed some light:


Lowell Dale Lawton, undersecretary for the Section of US Interests in Cuba, attended a church mass in the Párraga district of Havana, alongside members of the self-styled Ladies in White. When the liturgy was over, they all took to the streets together to protest against supposed human-rights violations in Cuba.

A televised report, broadcast on the “Round Table” program, showed the diplomat accompanying the so-called “dissidents” right down the main street of the Cuban capital.

The US diplomat blended in with the demonstrators and with them, walked the full length of Calle 23, to La Rampa. The provocation was spontaneously rejected by ordinary bystanders.

That evening, two European diplomats–Volker Pellet, from the German embassy, and Frantisek Fleisman, Third Secretary of the Czech embassy–participated in a similar demonstration, in open collaboration with little counterrevolutionary groups organized and financed by the United States and some European countries.

[…]

These provocative actions featuring US and Western European diplomats in Cuba took place in the midst of a corporate media campaign against the island. The campaign intensified after March 10, when the Europarliament adopted a resolution condemning Cuba for presumed human-rights violations.

The Cuban “Ladies in White” have acquired a certain fame in the Western press, which has elevated them to a symbol of the struggle for freedom. The women enjoy a degree of publicity that makes other opposition groups around the world green with envy, while in Cuba, they suffer the indifference or open rejection of the general population.

British diplomat Chris Stimpson assured that he was there only as an “observer to monitor human rights and freedom of expression”. However, he did not say whether this “observation” is an habitual British practice in other countries as well.

Last December 11, Cubadebate published a report taken from the television news, which showed another provocative demonstration in Havana, in which Lowell Dale Lawton appeared, accompanied by members of the so-called Cuban “dissidents”. Alongside Lawton was another functionary of the US Interests Section, Kathleen Duffy, a politico-economic assistant from the same office.

Also present were Volker Pellet of the German embassy, and Chris Stimpson, British diplomat, who made declarations to the international press against the government of Cuba until he was upbraided by counterdemonstrators, and had to be protected by Cuban security guards.

Translation mine.

The article suggests that the “Ladies in White” are paid employees of the US Interest Section. I don’t know if that’s true, but the very fact that this US diplomat…

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…was seen with them in public, not merely shaking their hands or talking to them briefly on the street, but engaging in a political march down the length of Havana’s main street, well…doesn’t that strike you as just a wee bit hinky? It does me…

And another thing: If there’s no freedom of speech in Cuba, as the detractors all insist, and the human-rights situation is really so terrible and the island is just one big political prison, why aren’t the “Ladies in White” all locked up? Their presence is criticized and scrutinized, as are all public demonstrations (here the same as there!), but they haven’t been beaten, haven’t been tear-gassed, haven’t had armed police with dogs rounding them up and taking them to jail. In that sense, they enjoy a lot more freedom than I did as a journalism student, when I narrowly missed getting beaten up and arrested at Queen’s Park by goon squads in the employ of a “freedom-loving” right-wing premier. (I was lucky enough to have left a demo before the riot cops showed up. Sometimes it’s good to be cold, hungry, and in need of a toilet.)

No, these “Ladies” are very lucky indeed…they face less repression than leftist opponents of the prevailing order in Canada, the US and Europe. Maybe they really do have special immunity thanks to their intimate association with the US embassy!

And if none of these “diplomats” are called home (for “consultations”!) by their respective governments, I think we can only take it as a sign that they were not doing anything they weren’t expressly sent to do.

Let’s keep watching them, shall we, and see if they keep their jobs.

EDIT: Here’s the “Round Table” video, in Spanish:

The Cuban report wasn’t lying when it said that these women were widely rejected by ordinary citizens of Havana; they were clearly outnumbered by counterdemonstrators. And yes, the presence of both the German and the Czech diplomats is confirmed here, as is the strong likelihood that the “Ladies” are paid for their “dissident” activities by the US. One man on the street repeatedly asks: “How do they eat?” He then answers his own question: “Imperialism.”

Berlin Wall/German reunification: Still believe in the myth of the “freedom-hating” communist East?

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Prepare for another big shocker, then. This landed in my mailbox yesterday:


Washington, D.C., November 8, 2009 – Just before the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago, even the hardline Czechoslovak Communist leaders called for the opening of the German border, according to documents from high-level archives in Berlin, Bonn and Prague published for the first time in English and posted on the Web today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

Czech police try to stop wall jumpers

Compiled and edited by Czech historian Vilem Precan and translated by Todd Hammond, the documents show that waves of East German refugees fleeing to the West through Czechoslovakia (more than 62,000 just in the period from November 4 to 10, 1989) so alarmed the Czechoslovak Communist authorities – who previously had resisted the reforms under way in Poland, Hungary and in Moscow – that they asked the East German leadership on November 8 to allow its citizens to go directly to West Germany, in effect to open the border.

The documents posted today include the secret diplomatic exchanges between the West German foreign ministry and its embassy in Prague where thousands of refugees took shelter, between East German diplomats in Prague and their bosses in East Berlin, between Czechoslovak diplomats and Party officials and their counterparts, and eyewitness accounts by dissident Charter 77 spokespeople about the refugee crisis.

The posting also includes contemporaneous photographs of the scene at the West German embassy in Prague, Czech police attempting to prevent refugees from scaling the embassy walls, the tent city that arose in its courtyard, and rows of abandoned Trabant cars in the streets of Prague.

The detailed essay by Vilem Precan, “Through Prague to Freedom,” that accompanies the documents cites the Czechoslovak government’s demarche to East Berlin on November 8 as “a kind of ultimatum” that forced the East German Communists into a rapid “modification of rules for permanent exit” – a reform famously announced and flubbed by an East German Politburo member at a press conference on November 9. The statements by Gunter Schabowski led Western TV reporters to declare the Berlin Wall open when it was not, but the televised news brought crowds of East Germans to the checkpoints in East Berlin that evening who eventually forced their way through and made the media reports ultimately accurate.

I’ve never been to Prague. My mother and grandmother passed through it once, though–on their way out of northern Yugoslavia in 1944, as displaced persons, fleeing the Russian invasion. Their memories of that great artists’ city were anything but golden; the Czech authorities robbed them blind. They literally came out of there with nothing but the clothes they wore. Ordinary locals weren’t terribly friendly to the German-speaking refugees passing through, either, even though these ethnic Germans had nothing to do with what those other Germans were doing to Eastern Europe. If they didn’t know a word of Czech, how could they explain that their family had lived in Yugoslavia for some 200 years? Well, they couldn’t–and no one was listening anyway. All too soon, the mistrust became mutual. My mom says a lot of women from the DP camps were raped by “partisans”. Even little girls, which my mom and aunt were at the time, were not safe. The Batschka-German refugees huddled in fear, and were only too glad to leave as soon as the opportunity presented itself, if not sooner. From Prague they went on through Silesia; my mom’s family ended up in the countryside in Bavaria. None of them ever went back to Prague again, not even to visit–not even when it became fashionable for Germans to do so again.

So it comes as some surprise to learn that the Czechs–and their hardline communist leaders, at that–later became allies, however inadvertent, to Eastern Germans wanting to go west. It’s one more irony for wingnuts to break their teeth on–and one more proof that the West, not the East, stood to profit more from the continuance of the Iron Curtain and the Wall. It’s also the ideal bookend to my post from the other day. There’s a real wealth of surprising information there, folks, so here’s that link again. Go read!

Wankers of the Week: Nobel Peace Prize Idiots edition

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Some people, like these two, get it–and got out to give their president a gentle reminder of the job to be done. Others…well…

Last week’s out-of-the-blue announcement that the world’s first pre-emptive Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded to Barack Obama has unleashed a firestorm of stupidities, most of them from people who probably still believe in pre-emptive war even after nearly a decade of living (and dying) proof of its utter futility. Some of their shit actually landed in my mailbox (which will now have to be fumigated for typhus, dengue and a host of other fever-swamp diseases of the wingnut brain.) Here we go with the wanks, in no particular order:

1. Tilman Fucking Walker. Obscure right-wing blogger thinks Chavecito was just being jealous when he stated the plain truth–that Obama had not yet done enough to earn the Nobel Peace Prize. And of course, trots out the old “dictator” canard, too. So tired. Especially when you consider that the “dictator” enjoys the support of a full two-thirds of Venezuelansstill. Funniest of all is that all two of the blogger’s little ass-barnacle commentators…agree with Chavecito (although one suspects it’s strictly partisan, knee-jerk hatred of Democrats and/or blacks on their part.)

2. Vaclav Fucking Havel. Irrelevant former Czech president (and still, inexplicably, neoliberal in spite of the economic disaster it unleashed on his country) criticizes Obama for–not meeting with the Dalai Lama? Iraq is still burning, Afghanistan is unable to dig out from under its own rubble, the US nuclear arsenal is still very much in place (as is Israel’s not-so-secret one)–and this is Havel’s idea of a peace chore to be accomplished? Someone has a bizarre sense of priorities in Prague.

3. Benjamin Fucking Netanyahu. Israeli warmonger fawns over peace prize winner with empty rhetoric, probably secretly hoping he’ll bomb Iran. Dude, STFU and clean your own house. Pay special attention to Dimona. Otherwise, you’ll never win one.

4. The Fucking RNC. Why? Well,

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THAT’s why.

5. through 13. Rush Fucking Limbaugh, Glenn Fucking Beck, John Fucking Bolton, James Fucking Inhofe, Andy Fucking McCarthy, Erick Fucking Erickson, Ron Fucking Radosh, Paul Fucking Mirengoff, and Orly Fucking Taitz. See above, and add lockstep predictability on every front. Not a thought in any of their puny skulls other than “Waaaaaaaa! We want WAR WAR WAR!!!”, “Gimme money for my fascist 9/12 tea party!”, “Buh-buh-bub-but what about Bill Ayers?” and of course, the obligatory, but never speakable, subtext: “Nigger nigger nigger…”

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14. Susan Fucking Davis. For failing to note that the “turn-it-down trend” is only a trend on the right. On the left, people are saying more or less the same thing: “Great, congrats, accept it, take it as an advance on promises to be delivered, and GET ‘ER DONE!”

15., 16. and 17. Matt Fucking Drudge, Joe Fucking Scarborough and Mark Fucking Halperin. The one gets his bons mots du jour from an Islamist jihadist, the other mocks and insults Obama, and the third mocks and insults Marisa Tomei. Stay classy, turds.

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18. Robert Fucking Spencer. Obama’s Nobel is bad because he talked to Hamas! Oh NOES!!!

19. Mike Fucking Huckabee. Not only for fixating, with typical partisan myopia, on how “right-wing whining” tarnishes the GOP’s image (as if it could be any further tarnished than it already is!), but for saying “…allow those on the left to explain what he did in his first two weeks as President that merited such recognition.” Um yeah, he earned it in just two weeks. What more do we need from a failed (and probably very bitter) Repug presidential wannabe?

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20. Michelle Fucking Malkin. Has this hypocritical, war-mongering, anchor-baby bitch ever considered that one day, her penchant for turning her ankle-biting minions on people is gonna backfire when she is sued for invasion of privacy–and so is every one of the ankle-biters? These people have no shame–they harassed an innocent woman for no reason other than that she went to law school with the current president. I’d nominate anyone who brings the hammer down on them for a Nobel peace prize, myself–it would sure clean up the violent, racist filth that clogs the Internets!

21. AllahFuckingPundit. Yeah, as a matter of fact, he DID get it for not being Dubya. He got it for trying to be the anti-Dubya. And this is a problem WHY? Putz.

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22. Michael Fucking Steele. You know, there is such a thing as being TOO much of an Uncle Tom…to the point where even Ol’ Massa doesn’t know what to make of you anymore (except, maybe, a mess of chitlins). It really doesn’t pay to toady to those who secretly see your skin as the mark of their enemy. They could turn around and lynch YOU when the Secret Service does too good a job of protecting their intended target from them.

23. Sarah Fucking Palin, AGAIN. For winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. WTF? WTFF?? WTFFF???

Oh. Wait. It’s a spoof. Ha ha ha snurk!

But wait, maybe it’s not so spoofy after all…

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…ya think?

24. These crazy drug-ass motherfuckers right here. Honestly, words fail.

25. Tammy Fucking Bruce. Why be subtle about your own racism? Let’s dog-whistle using photos of raccoons hunting through boxes of Cracker Jack for the prize. Get it? COON HUNTS FOR PRIZE! So clever. Fuck yeah!

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26. Thomas Fucking Friedman. Blah blah blah yadda yadda meaningless faux-clever glurge from a warmongering dumbfuck who, as usual, has no idea what he’s babbling on about.

27. Claudia Fucking Rosett. First time I’ve ever heard of her; hope it’s the last. Won’t ever win any prizes except the booby kind, thank Goddess.

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28. Jonah Fucking Goldberg. Have I mentioned him in here yet? I forget. Just in case I haven’t, he’s a wanker too. So what’s new?

And just to close out this week’s wankapedia, check out who was NOT a wanker about it. Yes, the Recipient himself–schooling friends and foes alike on how one handles such an unexpected honor:

Great speech, Barack No-Drama. “A call to action” it certainly is. Now go and do what you were called to do.

Cops Behaving Badly: Slugfest in Slovakia

According to this report, the police forced these Romany Gypsy boys to hit one another. Why they did it is still unknown, but I suspect old ingrained prejudice may have something to do with it.

Posted in Cops Behaving Badly, Czech This Out. Comments Off »