“Germany, a paradise for johns and human traffickers.” Photo: EMMA.
Once again, the German prostitution industry comes under a harsh spotlight — one that it thoroughly deserves, in my unhumble opinion. This time, it’s a documentary film that exposes its unattractive innards:
Sometimes, in the face of empty talk shows, trashy afternoon soaps, brainless shows and earnest magazine features in the midnight hours, a well-meaning person might ask oneself what right the public channels have to charge such high rates. And then there are occasional moments that make it all worthwhile. One of them is the extensively researched NDR reportage, “Sex — Made in Germany”, which will be shown this Monday. What the film tells is the story of a shattering — namely, that of legalized prostitution.
The goal of the 2002 law was to give prostitutes rights, and free them from dependence on criminal gangs. It was a “red-green” (Social Democratic Party/Green Party) reform project that partially achieved these goals. Prostitution would no longer be morally offensive, but from then on, treated (and taxed) like a totally normal profession. But that is what it is simply not, even though the creators of parallel worlds of speech came up with such silly concepts as “sex workers”. Journalists Sonia Kennebeck and Tina Soliman researched the results of the legalization, and what they found is disturbing: “The good intention of empowering prostitutes through legislation has turned into its opposite. Woman has become a resource, to be used as efficiently as possible. Outside of this transactional business, however, she loses all worth.”
Germany, according to the film, has become Europe’s bordello. Men come in droves from Japan, the US, and even strictly-moralistic Arabia to have their fun. 30,000 visitors a month come to Köln’s mega-bordello, “Pascha”. One part of the film shows some johns on hidden camera, sizing up the meat market in a big bordello, and one doesn’t have to be overly moralistic to feel that one has stepped into Dante’s Inferno.
The proprietors of such places are no longer tattooed hoodlums, but rather they see themselves as businessmen following the laws of the marketplace, of supply and demand. What the men prattle on about sounds like a shrill parody of the snake-oil promises of neoliberalism. The “press spokesman” of a bordello whines about statist regulation, even though the regulations have almost all disappeared. The owner of an Internet sex exchange says: “We see ourselves as a lifestyle marketplace.” The client, male or female, can rate the offerings with stars, like a reader with a book on Amazon.com. There are exchanges where the highest bidder can buy sex with virgins, pregnant women, or without a condom. If a prostitute is out of luck, and the auction goes badly for lack of demand, she might have to spend a night with two guys who pay her three euros. All of this was more or less illegal prior to 2001.
Flat discount rates are also very popular. The law was supposed to give the women back their dignity. That hasn’t happened. In the free-market atmosphere of the German sex industry, they are just interchangeable wares, and replaceable at any time. Kennebeck and her cameraman, Torsten Lapp, also travelled to Romania, where many of these women came from, and what they found out there, reveals all talk of free will and free markets as what it really is: a lie.
More than half the prostitutes of a flat-rate bordello in Berlin come from Romania and Bulgaria, and few of them knew what was waiting for them in Germany. The owner, again a total marketing man, tells the camera: “These women are just more engaged, because they’re new in the business. Let’s just say they can take more abuse.”
A Romanian woman named Sorana tells how the pimps lured her to Germany. She knew that she wouldn’t be working as a babysitter, that it had to do with sex. She didn’t know that she would be on call, like a slave, in a flat-rate bordello for up to 40 johns a day: “Some nights I only had two or three hours’ sleep. I couldn’t refuse any client. It was awful.” They were “treated like trash”: Many of these women, says Tina Soliman, “were kidnapped, emotionally manipulated, forced into prostitution in Germany”. That is, naturally, still illegal, but no brothel owner sees himself in any way responsible: “Not my job,” says one, as long as the papers are in order. He has so many women working for him, how should he run a background check every time? That’s the state’s job.
And the state is very interested in the red-light palaces, that have lured sex tourists to Germany as they previously did for Thailand. The inspectors don’t want to know, however, what human dramas play out here. They cash in heavily, even from streetwalkers. The women are the ones who have to pay. When asked why the johns aren’t taxed, the man from Stuttgart city hall says: “Well, we don’t know him, the john.”
The makers of this great film reveal all this without pathos, or even accusations. They judge no one, hold no morality lectures. They only tell it like it is. And yet, their pictures show a world that no society would wish for itself. Good intentions are always simple. But the world that they are meant to change is unfortunately not.
This comes at a crucial juncture for Canada, as three old prostitution laws have been struck down in Ontario and the debate is now on as to how (or whether) to replace them, and with what. Several so-called “sex workers’ rights” groups claim that any laws governing pimps and johns constitute de facto criminalization of the prostitutes, who are mostly (but not always) women and girls.
But are they? The liberal German laws, which purport to decriminalize prostitution and dignify the lives of the prostituted, have clearly had the opposite effect. Organized crime has stepped in, using the mantle of legitimacy to conduct its unsavory business at ever greater profits to the mafias, and ever greater costs to the women and girls they have imported, most of them from the poorest parts of Eastern Europe. And with zero accountability to the state, which is supposed to protect the prostitutes.
And yet, we are meant to understand this as “a job (or profession) just like any other”. What other jobs and professions are governed by the bosses of organized crime syndicates? And what other jobs and professions have the government looking the other way, except to tax the workers — milking that cash cow twice?
And that cow does get milked. Not so far back, EMMA had a piece on the horrors of the flat-rate brothels, where men pay a shockingly small fee for unlimited sex. No time limit, no limit on the number of women he can use — and often, no limit on what he can do to them, either. Again, the women are imported from Eastern Europe…because as Kajsa Ekis Ekman found (and I translated), there is never enough home-grown “talent” to supply the ravenous demand, and because the local girls aren’t as willing to put up with abusive or dangerous practices.
Yes, there are some freelance prostitutes, and even a fortunate few who have made a good living on their own terms that way, but the trafficked ones grossly outnumber them. Because, go figure, most women (cisgender or trans), and gay men too, have difficulty overcoming their distaste for sex with strangers they don’t actually want to have sex with. And money, strangely, doesn’t always mitigate that.
Much less when organized crime is holding the purse strings, and the state is looking the other way…except, of course, at tax time.
Ahem…a little mood music, maestro:
Further to last night’s (now amended) piece on how badly Reuters gets Venezuela wrong, it looks like the Associated Press (or Dissociated Press, as I prefer to call them) is no better. Aporrea columnist Ivana Cardinale takes them to task:
Miguel Rodríguez Torres, the new minister of Interior Relations and Justice, informed the country on Thursday morning of the capture of a US citizen named Timothy Hallett Tracy.
According to the minister, Tracy is linked to a right-wing conspiracy against Venezuela, and its objective was to lead us into a civil war and so provoke immediate intervention on the part of a foreign power. He added that he has documents and videos as proof.
The US daily, The Washington Post, immediately published an article from the Associated Press agency, which should really be called the Associated Pentagon, since many of us know that it is the propaganda arm of the Pentagon. In it, the family of the detainee says that he is an “innocent filmmaker”, who is in Venezuela to make a documentary.
According to the detainee’s father, his son is a graduate of Georgetown University, who majored in English, and has been “filming” for the past year in Venezuela.
The AP article indicates that the gringo detainee made a documentary in 2009 called “American Harmony”, and another documentary, recently filmed, called “Under Siege”, for the Discovery Channel. Both documentaries were directed and produced by one Aengus James, not Timothy Tracy. Once more, AP lies. The name of Timothy Hallett Tracy appears nowhere on the Internet in connection to the filming of one or both of the documentaries.
I searched the Internet for information on him, and the only thing that appeared was his detention in Venezuela. As for the rest, no information on Tracy anywhere. Nothing on documentaries or films by this US citizen. If he is a filmmaker, as they say, there would be information on the Web over his work, and as I said, it does not exist.
The strange thing is that “Under Siege” was broadcast in the US one month ago, in March, by the Discovery Channel. If we take AP at its word that Timothy Hallett Tracy filmed that documentary, how could Tracy, who according to his father, has been filming in Venezuela for the past year, be making films in two different countries at the same time?
These little details betray an intent to conceal. It is evident that this is a CIA operation in Venezuela which uses the AP news agency to publish false information over Tracy, claiming him to be producer and director of two documentaries which in reality were made by Aengus James.
500 videos were seized in the raid. The AP agency says that Tracy was detained twice in Venezuela before April 14 and let go. What AP doesn’t say is that Timothy Hallett Tracy belongs to an intelligence agency, has been trained in these matters, received foreign financing, which was later passed on to young Venezuelans hungry for dollars, who came from the extreme right wing, with the objective to generate violent incidents and provoke a civil war.
BTW, I looked up Aengus James. He is a real person, and he is a real filmmaker. He’s on Twitter. Here’s an interview he gave about his film, American Harmony, which is a documentary on barbershop quartets. He doesn’t look much like Tim Tracy. If I had to guess at his politics, from his tweets (which reference Paul Krugman), I would say he’s a liberal Democrat — hardly the sort of guy who’d want to hang out with a bunch of overt fascists like JAVU. His work doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that would inspire the CIA to tap him as a front man for one of their operations, either. And I don’t think he’d be at all impressed to hear that his films have been attributed by an agency as big and prominent as the AP to this Tim Tracy guy.
So, AP, what the hell is your explanation for all this? And please, make it a good one. I can hardly wait to hear how you got these two guys so badly mixed up.
Dear Reuters: You fail so hard at journalism…
Venezuela has detained an American citizen it says was financing opposition student demonstrations after this month’s disputed presidential election, the latest in a flurry of accusations over last week’s post-vote violence.
Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said Timothy Hallet Tracy had been seeking to destabilize the country on behalf of an unnamed U.S. intelligence agency after President Nicolas Maduro’s narrow presidential victory.
“We detected the presence of an American who began developing close relations with these (students),” said Rodriguez in a press conference. “His actions clearly show training as an intelligence agent, there can be no doubt about it. He knows how to work in clandestine operations.”
Rodriguez said Tracy, 35, from Michigan, had received financing from a foreign non-profit organization and had redirected those funds toward student organizations. The ultimate aim was to provoke “civil war,” he said.
A U.S. embassy official had no immediate comment.
The government has given scant evidence for a flurry of headline-grabbing accusations ranging from an assassination plot against Maduro to alleged sabotage of the electricity grid.
…because this is the real story, and your version is laughable even on the surface of it:
The minister for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace, Miguel Rodríguez Torres, informed on Thursday of the capture of a US citizen, Timothy Hallett Tracy, linked to a conspiracy of the far-right against Venezuelan democracy.
The actions of Timothy Hallett Tracy are related to groups of the far right who are attempting to destabilize the country with attacks in the street following the presidential elections of April 14.
The minister stated that the objective of the plan is to generate chaos throughout the country with the creation of a violent post-election scenario in order to make it ungovernable.
“it is important to inform the people over situations which are occurring; we will show the motivations and connections they have in order to develop a series of events which we have been living through ever since the night after the elections of April 14,” said Rodríguez Torres, in a press conference.
The minister stated that as of October, November and December of 2012, the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) had been conducting investigations into an operation called “April Connection”.
“All the indicators we have been gathering indicated that we would arrive at election day with complete normality, but following the release of the results by the National Electoral Council (CNE), there was to be a non-recognition on the part of the right-wing candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski,” Rodríguez Torres explained.
He added that during the investigations they managed to detect a person of US origin, who had formed close relations with right-wing youth who were members of the so-called “Operation Sovereignty”.
“When we detected this relationship, we began to conduct surveillance and stakeouts, and we saw how this man was able to infiltrate revolutionary groups to gain their protection, but had intimate relations with the extreme right wing,” Rodríguez Torres said. He commented that it is presumed that this US citizen belonged to an intelligence organization, and had received financing from various foreign NGOs.
Rodríguez Torres explained that the objective of Operation April Connection was to generate mobilizations following the release of the results of the presidential vote, and to conduct a civil war.
“Their objective was that, to lead us into a civil war, and we have the documents proving that they exchanged [information] amongst themselves by way of some [computer] chips, which a messenger brought from the Plaza La Castellana to the home of the ‘gringo’,” Rodríguez Torres said.
He informed that, according to this right-wing sector, the idea was to launch a civil war in Venezuela and thus immediately provoke intervention from a foreign power.
“These were their desired ends, and they continue to be. We have more than 500 videos which we seized during a raid. We asked ourselves: Do the ordinary householders who voted for the opposition want a civil war, or do the Venezuelan taxi drivers want that? We are sure that nobody in this land, independent of their position, wants that, except these extremist groups, directed by extremists of the parties of the right who do want civil war,” he added.
During his press conference, the minister showed a video in which it is evident that retired general Antonio Rivero is passing instructions to guarimberos [insurrectionary right-wing demonstrators, presumably "students"] in the upper class district of Altamira, telling them how to create disturbances.
All the proofs seized during the raid, which took place on Wednesday night, were brought to the appropriate authorities.
Rodríguez Torres said that, thanks to the work of intelligence agents, the national government was able to act in time to continue to guarantee peace for the people of Venezuela.
“The President of the Republic, Nicolás Maduro, has emphasized that in this country, we will always go the way of peace and coexistence. That has to be an effort made by all Venezuelans, independent of their ideological and political posture. We must reject and isolate these fascist factors who live among us, and who are trying to get us Venezuelans to hate and kill one another. We cannot allow that,” he insisted.
BTW, O Reuters gurus, I have your “scant evidence” right here. And, spoiler alert, it ain’t so “scant”:
You’ll have to wait till the 6:50 mark or thereabouts, but yeah, the proof is there, and yeah, it’s substantial. Video evidence that Tim Tracy has been meeting with the druggy, drinky, dollar-hungry JAVU punks (whose terrorist manifesto I’ve already translated and discussed here.) That’s one of 500 videos shot by the perps themselves, all taken into custody by the SEBIN agents as evidence of their plot. JAVU and Tracy are, in short, thoroughly fucked. As is a certain ex-general who also appears in the video, advising the punks on how to organize:
Ah yes, the peaceful, democratic Venezuelan opposition. So credible. And their gringo spook candy-man. So innocent. Meanwhile, there’s about 500 videos, all shot by themselves, to attest the opposite.
Yeah, that’s “scant” evidence, all right.
Hey, Reuters? Maybe you should learn some Spanish. And maybe learn journalism too, while you’re at it. At the very least, try learning how not to sleep through a fucking press conference. Okay?
Note: This entry has been amended following release of a longer, better version of last night’s Aporrea story.
If you ever wonder why I don’t think very highly of Andrés Oppenheimer, the Miami Horrid’s little scribbler of untruths and inanities on all things Venezuela, maybe this will provide you some clues. He is, among other things, a rude and disingenuous little shit:
Venezuelan deputy and now chargé d’affaires to the United States, Calixto Ortega, debunked the false accusations of Argentine journalist Andrés Oppenheimer against the revolutionary government and President Nicolás Maduro.
“You made statements which don’t correspond to reality, maybe you’re misinformed,” said the parliamentarian, addressing Oppenheimer.
Oppenheimer, upon being “blown away” by Ortega, cut the interviewee’s audio, and made excuses, saying: “A public apology to Venezuelan deputy Calixto Ortega for Skype being down when we were talking.”
The video was shown by the host of VTV’s “Dossier”, Walter Martínez, who commented: “How nice — another worthy example of the garbage of Fox News and CNN, that Señor Oppenheimer.”
Here’s the video of that:
See, this is why journalism is going downhill in the Northern Hemisphere. They don’t have enough people like Walter Martínez, who is honest and courteous, and never makes excuses…because he never HAS to. Instead, we up here get a whole slew of drecky Schloppenheimers.
And that, gentle reader, is why you won’t know shit about Venezuela as long as you trust the media up here.
I have a terrible confession to make: When the news of the Petraeus sex scandal broke this past week, my first reaction was to chuckle. Not in the usual “ha ha, another cheatypants got caught, serves him right” sense (although there was no small amount of Schadenfreude there, either); it was more out of a sardonic sense of irresistible metaphor. It was all about an irony that had been hiding, as all such ironies do, in very plain sight.
And yes, I have to admit, the embarrassment of it all tickled me, too. Aren’t intelligence agents constantly being warned about the dangers of seduction, when they’re not being instructed to use it to gain information they can’t get any other way? How delicious, then, to see the head of the world’s most feared and hated spy agency caught in the same trap his covert agents have set repeatedly, all over the world. And how hilariously ironic that the same terrorist traps the FBI keeps setting in vain, under the auspices of the so-called Patriot Act, ended up catching not some obscure cell with nefarious world-takeover plans, but a four-star general who’d at one point led the war against precisely such insurgencies. Or so we’re told by our lovely presstitutes.
After all, the former general and CIA director wasn’t just boinking some boring little bottle-blonde secretary; the Other Woman was his chief hagiographer. She was a military veteran and West Point grad herself. Just like him, she was in the business of selling neoconservatism, bad ideologies, and wars that cost a fucking fortune in every conceivable sense. She did not keep a low profile, as Other Women are wont to do. She was constantly thrusting herself into the spotlight to sing his praises (and promote her magnum opus). She was the person who spit-shined his medals to a high gloss in a “biography” that seemed to be written, at times, from straight inside his pants. There was no pretense of objectivity, only a constant, unremitting effort to elevate David Petraeus to divinity. A divinity which, even then, we peaceniks and Dirty Fucking Hippies knew he did not deserve.
But the media brushed right past us. It ignored what the former intelligence professionals were saying, too, about the BushCo wars being unwinnable. They hopped right on the pro-war bandwagon. They praised the “brilliant” strategy and lost sight of the reality on the ground. Gosh oh golly gee wow, isn’t David Petraeus wonderful? Yeah, that Iraq surge went great. So great that Iraq is now permanently fucked. Petraeus made that.
And that’s not all he made. He damn near dragged the Obama administration into yet another unwinnable neo-con war, this one with Iran. And on the flimsiest and dumbest of pretexts, too:
One person familiar with the Obama administration’s thinking said President Obama was never close to Petraeus, who was viewed as a favorite of the neoconservatives and someone who had undercut a possible solution to Iran’s nuclear program in 2011 by pushing a bizarre claim that Iranian intelligence was behind an assassination plot aimed at the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
As that case initially evolved, the White House and Justice Department were skeptical that the plot traced back to the Iranian government, but Petraeus pushed the alleged connection which was then made public in a high-profile indictment. The charges further strained relations with Iran, making a possible military confrontation more likely.
At the time, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, a favored recipient of official CIA leaks, reported that “one big reason [top U.S. officials became convinced the plot was real] is that CIA and other intelligence agencies gathered information corroborating the informant’s juicy allegations and showing that the plot had support from the top leadership of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the covert action arm of the Iranian government.”
Ignatius added that, “it was this intelligence collected in Iran” that swung the balance. But Ignatius offered no examples of what that intelligence was. Nor did Ignatius show any skepticism regarding Petraeus’s well-known hostility toward Iran and how that might have influenced the CIA’s judgment.
As it turned out, the case was based primarily on statements from an Iranian-American car dealer Mansour Arbabsiar, who clumsily tried to hire drug dealers to murder Saudi Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir, though Arbabsiar was actually talking to a Drug Enforcement Agency informant. Arbabsiar pled guilty last month as his lawyers argued that their client suffers from a bipolar disorder. In other words, Petraeus and his CIA escalated an international crisis largely on the word of a person diagnosed by doctors of his own defense team as having a severe psychiatric disorder.
Despite the implausibility of the assassination story and the unreliability of the key source, the Washington press corps quickly accepted the Iranian assassination plot as real. That assessment reflected the continued influence of neoconservatives in Official Washington and Petraeus’s out-sized reputation among journalists.
The neocons, who directed much of President George W. Bush’s disastrous foreign policy and filled the ranks of Mitt Romney’s national security team, have favored a heightened confrontation with Iran in line with the hardline position of Israel’s Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the post-election period, it is a top neocon goal to derail Obama’s efforts to work out a peaceful settlement of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. The neocons favor “regime change.”
If ever there was a reason to be glad Mitt Romney lost the election, there it is. One more foreign policy disaster. Brought to you by the same PNAC/Likud faction that brought you the Afghan and Iraq catastrophes. Let’s not forget that Iran was always on the keeker; it was part of the “Axis of Evil”, remember?
Thankfully Barack Obama wasn’t dumb enough to fall for that flimsy tale. (You can see now why he was wise to end the Iraq invasion, too, can’t you? We’ll talk more about Afghanistan when he realizes it’s past time to shut that one down, too. Maybe now he’ll finally start firing all those BushCo leftovers on his team and start fresh with sane people. Hope ‘n’ change, people — get the fuck ON with it.)
Meanwhile, the same media imbeciles who were so busy promoting every highly-polished Petraeus turd that they couldn’t even look up for an instant, are in mourning. The same David Ignatius who took the Iranian lunatic’s lie and ran with it is now weeping tears of blood. Too bad he forgot something:
Ignatius adoringly adduces the following quote from Petraeus as proof of the ex-general’s acute vision: “As I see it, strategic leadership is fundamentally about big ideas, and, in particular, about four tasks connected with big ideas. First, of course, you have to get the big ideas right — you have to determine the right overarching concepts and intellectual underpinnings to accomplish your organization’s mission.
“Second, you have to communicate the big ideas effectively through the breadth and depth of the organization. Third, you have to oversee the implementation of the big ideas. And fourth, and finally, you have to capture lessons from the implementation of the big ideas, so that you can refine the overarching concepts and repeat the overall process.”
Got that? That’s probably right out of Petraeus’s PhD dissertation at Princeton, or from a how-to book that might be called “Management Rhetoric for Dummies.”
If only Petraeus and his colleague generals remembered the smaller – but far more relevant – ideas inculcated in all of us Army officers in Infantry School at Fort Benning in the early Sixties. This is what I recall from memory regarding what an infantry officer needed to do before launching an operation – big or small – division or squad size.
Corny (and gratuitous) as it may sound, we were taught that the absolute requirement was to do an “Estimate of the Situation” that included the following key factors: Enemy strength, numbers and weapons; Enemy disposition, where are they?; Terrain; Weather; and Lines of communication and supply (LOCS). In other words, we were trained to take into account those “little ideas,” like facts and feasibility that, if ignored, could turn the “big ideas” into a March of Folly that would get a lot of people killed for no good reason.
Could it be that they stopped teaching these fundamentals as Petraeus went through West Point and Benning several years later? Did military history no longer include the futile efforts of imperial armies to avoid falling into the “graveyard of empires” in Afghanistan?
What about those LOCS? When you can’t get there from here, is it really a good idea to send troops and armaments the length of Pakistan and then over the Hindu Kush? And does anyone know how much that kind of adventure might end up costing?
To Army officers schooled in the basics, it was VERY hard to understand why the top Army leadership persuaded President Barack Obama to double down, twice, in reinforcing troops for a fool’s errand. And let’s face it, unless you posit that the generals and the neoconservative strategic “experts” at Brookings and AEI were clueless, the doubling down was not only dumb but unconscionable.
Small wonder all the talk about “long war” and Petraeus’s glib prediction that our grandchildren will still be fighting the kind of wars in which he impressed the likes of David Ignatius.
Ike Eisenhower wasn’t kidding when he talked about the Military-Industrial Complex. And Smedley Butler wasn’t talking out his hat either when he said that war was a racket. What Ray McGovern, the veteran intel pro who opposed these wars from the outset, understands that the media doesn’t, is that wars are not won or lost on the basis of who’s got the “big ideas” and “overarching concepts”. The people on the ground don’t give a shit for those. And the locals will only see foreign invaders and oppressors, NOT Big Ideas And Overarching Concepts. They’re not stupid; they know what a foreign uniform and gun mean. Their hearts and minds are not winnable with big talk; you might as well be tossing cluster bombs to their kids as candy from the tank turrets.
The salesmanlike bullshit of Petraeus ought to be apparent even to those of us who don’t have the privilege of a West Point officer-training course. If you’ve heard similar things from some civilian in a cheap suit and dismissed it accordingly (and I have, and I bet you have too), why buy it when it comes courtesy of some big-brass guy with a folksy-shucksy grin and a chestful of medals?
Oh yeah, that’s right: the only bright spot, if you can call it that, in the Bush Recession, was that there were plenty of job opportunities for young, poor, barely-educated cannon fodder. It’s the economy, stupid! At a time when well-paying manufacturing jobs are being cut and shipped overseas to where labor is so cheap that at times it amounts to outright slavery, what’s left at home? The so-called service economy. Which is also so poorly paid that it might as well be slavery. You can’t afford rent, much less a starter home, on a McJob paycheque. So when the handsome young guys in the spiffy uniforms approach you, ever so personably, at the mall, trying to interest you in the Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines, and tell you you can get your college education and better job opportunities that way, you start to think of entering a different kind of service opportunity, one that will glorify you some day as a Veteran. Assuming that you come out alive. Would you like fries with that?
So yeah, the snickering from my corner is full of a sense of vindication. What has the whole neo-con project been, if not a vast international fuckfest replete with lies, deception, doubletalk and crapaganda? One in which the media whores focused with lover-like intensity on the well-polished turds falling from the lips of “institute” hacks and four-star generals alike, while troops on the ground were killing and dying for, well, nothing?
Ah, maybe I shouldn’t say nothing. They killed and died, committed atrocities and fell victim to atrocities, for something, all right.
They did it all for bullshit.
A lifelike reconstruction of Simón Bolívar’s face, based on the skeletal remains from his tomb. It looks recognizably close to his many official likenesses.
Further to yesterday’s evisceration of Daniel Wallis’s shitty snarkathon at the expense of one democratically elected president, one Liberator, and five proud South American countries, I present the following excerpt from the official report on the forensic investigation into the death of Simón Bolívar:
Studies were done in order to determine via molecular biology the presence of different microbiological pathogens, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium bovis, Treponema pallidum, Brucella, Paracoccidioides brasiliensis, Plasmodium sp. Leishmania donovani and L. cutanea, all of which were negative.
Still pending is an investigation to determine the possibility of an infection by Histoplasma capsulatum. This process will permit us to compare and determine the existence of that particular pattern in ancient DNA. This fungus is the causative agent of chronic pulmonary histoplasmosis, in which there may be adenomegalies and disseminated calcifications in the lungs and spleen. This illness presets signs and symptoms very similar to those of chronic pulmonary tuberculosis with cavitations. It is most common in men of middle age, elderly persons, and patients with immune deficiencies, developing over a period of months or years, with lapses of inactivity and sometimes, spontaneous healing; or it can lead to death if not treated properly.
Chemical analyses to determine the presence of arsenic (As) were not conclusive; although there is no clinical evidence of poisoning by this element, it is a known fact that the records of the treating physician of the Liberator, Dr. Alejandro Próspero Reverend, describe a treatment in which [Bolívar] received medicaments containing arsenic.
The administration of cantharide powder, obtained from a dried insect (Lytta vesicatoria), given to the Liberator in elevated doses and in the form of plasters, is a poison which produces blisters on the skin at the site of administration, and acts on the genito-urinary system. Cantharide poisoning presents the following symptoms: difficulty urinating, more frequent urination, and blood in the urine, alterations which can progress to the point of anuria (cessation of urination) and thus, to acute renal failure, this bringing about the final chain of events in the death of the Liberator.
These clinical manifestations, added to the resurgent chronic broncho-pulmonary disease, evidenced by difficulty breathing, thoracic pain (more intense on the right side), cough with mucopurulent expectoration and fever, caused in the Liberator a hypoxia marked by diminished oxygen pressure and hydro-electric disturbances, which manifested with greater intensity at brain level, bringing about lapses of consciousness, raised capillary permeability, leakage of liquid from the intercellular and intravascular spaces into the interstitial space, with the consequent cerebral edema, which was accentuated by the hypoxia until it reached the cerebellar amygdalas and compressed the brain stem in which the centres governing respiration and cardiac function are located, leading to a cardio-respiratory cessation and, in consequence, death.
And there you have it. TB didn’t kill Bolívar; someone please get Daniel Wallis on the horn and tell him that the official report found no evidence of it in the Liberator’s remains. No DNA from TB bacilli, either human OR bovine. How ’bout them apples?
But another possible cause of death is still undetermined, and its symptoms mimic those of TB. The fungal disease histoplasmosis does sound like a good candidate for the severe lung disease that is believed to have killed him. We’ll have to wait and see if indeed it is the culprit.
Meanwhile, arsenic is definitely NOT ruled out, as its use is listed in the papers of the Liberator’s treating physician. Is the exact dosage accurately listed, or was somebody fudging something? It’s hard to say for certain. The Liberator died in Colombia (home turf of his chief betrayer, Santander), waiting to get well enough leave South America and enter exile. Deliberate arsenic poisoning is a distinct possibility still. We’ll have to wait and see with this one, too.
Meanwhile, another interesting potential poison is listed: Cantharide powder, better known as “Spanish fly”. It is, as the report makes clear, a very nasty and highly toxic substance. If you’re looking to make someone horny, forget this one — unless you’re a necrophiliac, because it can cause a potentially lethal acute kidney failure, as it did in Bolívar. (Remember, this was more than a hundred years before the invention of the kidney dialysis machine, so the condition would not have been reversible, as it is today.) Bolívar’s physician gave it to him in the form of blister-raising plasters on the skin, possibly intending to draw down his fever; it ended up pulling his renal function down instead. This was one of the worst things anyone could have done to an already ailing Liberator, right up there with arsenic poisoning and bloodletting. But, like the other two, it could have been done with the best OR the worst of intentions. It’s a treatment that has long since fallen out of fashion, mercifully.
Long story short: Chavecito wasn’t wrong when he speculated that the Liberator was poisoned. He was indeed, and with more than one medicament. There is still the question of motive, and still the possibility that it was wholly unintentional. There is also the possibility that he did, in fact, die of histoplasmosis, or would have no matter how he was treated. The favored remedies of the day were all terrible, and he would have fared better without any of them.
But whatever actually killed the Liberator, tuberculosis has been ruled out. And I do believe that calls for a hearty chorus of “Suck it, Reuters!”
Class, your attention please. We have a very special guest today showing us what crappy coverage of a certain South American country looks like. Daniel Wallis of Reuters, please come forward…
Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez unveiled a 3D image of South America’s 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar on Tuesday, based on bones the president ordered exhumed two years ago to test his theory that Bolivar was murdered.
Okay, stop right there. This is imputing motive. Chávez wasn’t “testing his theory that Bolívar was murdered”, he had him exhumed to determine the cause of death, which was mysterious and under dispute for over a century. The possibility that Bolívar was murdered did not originate with Hugo Chávez, it was there from the beginning. And, as an avid student of history, Chávez wants to know the truth. As should we all. This isn’t conspiracy theory, it’s called learning the facts, and right away we can see that our man from Reuters isn’t into it.
And the following confirms that even further:
The socialist leader reveres Bolivar – he renamed the country the “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” – and has wrapped his leftist “revolution” in the imagery and language of the region’s battle to break free of colonial power Spain.
All right, Mr. Wallis, what’s with all the scare quotes? Very unprofessional writing, that. Reminds me of “Dr. Evil”, with his “laser” on the “Moon”. See how silly that looks?
And very disrespectful of history, too. Look, Chavecito is hardly the only Venezuelan to revere Bolívar. Or, for that matter, the only South American. The man liberated no fewer than five countries. And three of them — Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador — all happen to fall under the rubric of what was once called Gran Colombia. Their flags, to this day, all bear the Bolivarian configuration of colors: a lemon-yellow horizontal stripe over a blue stripe over a red. And in fact, they are all called the Bolivarian countries, because Bolívar liberated this region from the yoke of the Spanish Empire first, and actually ruled it for a brief period following the liberation (and preceding his fatal exile). That means they are all Bolivarian republics. Don’t believe me? Read Philip Agee’s book, CIA Diary. The late former CIA operative (he ended up defecting to Cuba) referred to Ecuador, where he was stationed in the late 1960s, as a Bolivarian country, along with Colombia and Venezuela. He did so very matter-of-factly. If a former US spy, whose agenda could not have been more anti-Bolivarian at the time, could get that right and do it without snark, why not a crappy Reuters reporter?
BTW, those scare quotes around revolution are very telling, too. What happened in Venezuela following the election of Chávez IS a revolution. It was the beginning of the end for the US empire, which took over where the Spaniards left off — or tried to. And that scares the shit out of the US, because it means that the place is no longer a petro-state puppet of theirs. What the oil companies used to own is now irrevocably Venezuela’s sovereign purview, and Venezuela calls the shots. Chávez can tear up an agreement anytime Big Foreign Oil doesn’t want to hold to it, or tries to press for an unfair advantage. And that’s why the people elected him: to end the foreign oil barons’ hegemony in their land. But hey, let’s diminish that very important point by putting it in scare quotes, shall we?
Chavez, in his fight against the “Yankee imperialism” of the United States, repeatedly invokes Bolivar, who is second only to Jesus as a figure of reverence in parts of South America.
Again with the scare quotes. But at least now we see the devil in the details, eh? And hooray, finally Wallis acknowledges that it’s not just Chávez who reveres Bolívar! Only buried halfway down the friggin’ piece, mind you.
Venezuela’s opposition accuses the president of cynically seeking to boost his popularity by linking himself to Bolivar, and says he is really an autocrat who carefully avoids quoting some of Bolivar’s words on freedom and rights.
And here’s the obligatory blah-de-blah from the Venezuelan right. This is the same shit we’ve heard from these fascists from the get-go, including during the coup of ’02, when they were blatantly killing people in the streets, blockading the Cuban embassy, and beating up democratically elected colleagues of the legitimate president. We’ll get to them again later, don’t worry. I have a choice morsel of theirs that I’m saving for last.
Chavez denies it and cites Bolivar as the inspiration for his leftist policies. He has long suggested Bolivar was poisoned by enemies in Colombia, rejecting the more common version cited by historians that he died of tuberculosis there in 1830.
Unwritten subtext: Chávez is a conspiracy nut.
Actually, what the historians cite is only a vague supposition. Remember, tuberculosis was not definitively diagnosed in those days. It was decades before Robert Koch identified the TB bacillus, and the tuberculin test was still far in the future, as was pasteurization. And the symptoms of Bolívar’s fatal illness were only ever vaguely described, and his body hastily interred, without autopsy. The cause of the Liberator’s death is still very much in question. But let’s elide all that and pretend it’s all settled history and that there’s no chance that he was actually poisoned by oligarchs who didn’t lack for motives, eh?
Two years ago, amid unusual scenes of a military honor guard in white biohazard suits and face masks exhuming the remains during a pre-dawn ceremony at the National Pantheon, the president assigned a team to investigate Bolivar’s death.
And now we’re just devolving into silliness here. What’s so “unusual” about people wearing biohazard suits to exhume a body? Especially one that might have been killed by TB? I thought it was all settled. This is just one of the sillier contradictions of this report. Here’s another:
A year ago, it reported back that “the Liberator” may have died of accidental poisoning – probably as a result of taking toxic medicines that were widely used at the time. They did not rule out tuberculosis.
“May have died of accidental poisoning”? “Did not rule out tuberculosis”? Nice word salad there. The poisoning could also have been deliberate, and done under the pretext of curing tuberculosis. Yes, people did take arsenic all the time for all kinds of bacterial infections in those days (antibiotics weren’t available yet, either). And a lot of them did die from the build-up of the toxic element in their bodies. A lot of them also died of blood-loss from bloodletting, which was another common “cure” for TB in those days. But how hard is it to imagine that a clever assassin could simply administer too much arsenic, or “let” too much blood? For this cowardly and unimaginative reporter, apparently, very.
Okay, I promised you some fun at the expense of the oppos. Here comes the first bit, courtesy of the article itself:
Adulation of Bolivar transcends both sides of Venezuela’s polarized pre-vote politics. Chavez’s election rival, state governor Henrique Capriles, began Tuesday by tweeting a string of inspirational Bolivar quotes from his @hcapriles account.
A local genealogist caused a small stir last weekend by suggesting Capriles was a distant relative of the independence hero – prompting derision from Diosdado Cabello, the head of the National Assembly and a pugnacious Chavez ally.
“Talent is not inherited. Neither is patriotism, nor love for one’s neighbor,” Cabello told a news conference.
If you’ve seen The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, you’ve seen Diosdado Cabello. He’s the vice-president who was temporarily sworn in as president to fill the power vacuum while Chavecito’s government reassembled, scuttled the putschists, and sent the army to return the real president to the palace. Cabello was needed to give the return order to the soldiers (and override traitors in the military high command, many of whom were unmasked as members of the opposition during the coup). And Cabello is right; it doesn’t matter if Capriles IS distantly related to Bolívar (who, BTW, had no children of his own). Venezuela is not a dynastic monarchy, after all. And I think Bolívar would be properly horrified to see this piggy-eyed little fascist (who, incidentally, was responsible for the human-rights violations at the Cuban embassy during the coup) as a descendant of his sister.
But let’s give the last word to the true voice of the Venezuelan opposition. Her surname, too, happens to be Capriles, although I don’t know if she’s related. She certainly is his ideological co-religionist, though:
And here’s what she said, verbatim:
the poor dont deserve all that shit come on we have to privatize healthcare and education
we have to get rid of the missions privatize education and healthcare eliminated all aid to those poor fuckers we need those universities our pdvsa which a big part belonged to my family and the transnationals we have to return cantv electricity and basic industries and the exploitation of minerals we have to return them to those they were expropriated from
Translation mine; lack of capitalization and punctuation, and abominable sentence structure, hers.
What better advertisement for what Venezuela will degenerate back to if not for liberators like Chavecito, eh? That’s something that I’m not about to hold my breath waiting for Reuters to cover.