Best makeup tutorial EVER.

Ladies! Ever wonder how YOU can cover up everything just to save face? Take a lesson from the NFL and watch this:

Not sure how it works on black eyes, broken noses, or split lips. But it’s worth a try, right?

More mass graves found in rural Venezuela

Video by Aporrea, featuring an interview with a spokesman for the state of Barinas, Venezuela, on a shocking recent discovery made by peasants in the area who had recently been assigned plots of redistributed land on what used to be a latifundio (large, mostly unused estate owned by illegal land-grabbers). Here’s the story:

Rómulo Undas, spokesman for the Communications Department of the state of Barinas, informed of the finding of common graves in the municipality of Rojas, near Santa Rosa, on the Mata Redonda ranch (now known as San Pancracio), in the state of Barinas, in an interview with Aporrea’s Roberto Sanabria.

A peasant, who was excavating in order to build a well in ground assigned by INTI, made the macabre discovery.

At the moment 31 cadavers have been found, according to the information given by Undas.

Horrifying details have been shared by old peasants in the area over this case, which for unknown reasons has not had much coverage in the national media, private as well as public.

Translation mine.

Barinas happens to be the home state of the late president, Hugo Chávez. It is largely rural, mostly plains. Most of the people are literally dirt-poor there; the original meaning of the phrase was “poor in soil”, that is, landless. Arable lands were largely the domain of the big, greedy land-owner. Most of them, however, remained unused. People fled to the big cities seeking jobs, and the slums around them swelled. Villages were small and squalid as a result, and Venezuela wound up importing 80% of the foods it consumed because so little was being grown there. Chavecito himself was born in the village of Sabaneta, in a hut with mud walls and an earthen floor, and grew up in one, too. His revolution, among other things, aimed to get unused lands back into the hands of the peasant farmers who once worked them, so that Venezuela could stop being dependent on imported foods. Hence INTI, the institute for land reclamation and redistribution. And hence the finding by a peasant digging a well for his little farm.

According to the spokesman for Radio Barinas, Rómulo Undas, the corpses found in the grave date back to the Fourth Republic. That is, Before Chávez. The government of those days was nominally a democracy, but it was a democracy in name only. It was a dictatorship in practice, with nothing changing but the faces of the “elected” caudillos. As far as kidnappings, tortures, murders and secret mass graves go, the “democratic” Fourth Republic of the Punto Fijo era was no better than the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez which immediately preceded it. Just because there were suddenly two official parties swapping the throne between them, doesn’t mean there was any improvement in the human-rights situation of the land. Far from it; thanks to the ample assistance of the CIA (and its “benevolent” developmental arm, USAID), the ruling class was able to shed its military uniform, but only to trade it for that of the feared and reviled political police, the DISIP. It was the DISIP who co-ordinated operations, sending the army out to crush what they claimed were Marxist guerrillas, but what more often turned out to be nothing more than peasants, struggling to survive on tiny parcels of land that they had tried to chip off some large estate. Chavecito himself found it out as a young army officer, recently graduated from university, when he was sent to a region near the Colombian border to fight guerrillas, and found absolutely none — well, none that had been active recently, anyhow. The only evidence of Marxist guerrillas in the area was the abandoned hulk of an old Mercedes whose trunk was full of musty old socialist literature, which Chavecito collected and cleaned up and began reading on his own time. The owners of the car had been killed in a shootout long ago. What he did find, was that other army officers routinely beat up and even killed innocent peasants. A similar situation prevailed in other rural areas, too, for four decades; and since the peasants were poor and powerless, it was easy to conceal the evidence of military and DISIP oppression in some out-of-the-way spot, like a forest. Or a disused part of some huge old estate.

Most likely, it is those same peasants whose bodies were found in those mass graves…hidden, probably, for political expediency. After all, you can’t have a sham democracy without a hell of a lot of pretending that you’re a vast improvement over what came before, even if you are just as bad or worse. But now that Venezuela finally has a real democracy, expect a lot more of these once hidden peasant massacres to come to light, and to finally receive the attention that they are due.

Compare and Contrast: The Bundy Ranch vs. Ferguson, Missouri

Dear men: Nobody owes you “pretty”.

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Nope, nobody. Not even these totally imaginary ladies.

Yes, kiddies, it’s that time again. Time for another anti-boner note to the menz from your ol’ Auntie Bina.

So, this US senator decided to share with us the stupid shit that others (all male, older, and white) have said to her over the years. Most of them with no idea how sexist, condescending and just plain stupid it all is. A representative sampling:

“Good thing you’re working out, because you wouldn’t want to get porky!” – an older male colleague

“You know, Kirsten, you’re even pretty when you’re fat.” – a Southern member of Congress, while holding her arm

“When I first met you in 2006 you were beautiful, a breath of fresh air. To win [the special election], you need to be beautiful again.” – a labor leader

“Don’t lose too much weight now. I like my girls chubby.” – one of her favorite members, while squeezing her waist

What do these different dudes’ remarks all have in common? I’ll give you a broad hint: It’s the ENTITLEMENT, honey.

These men are all in effect telling Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that she needs to be pretty for them. Or for the special election. Some are telling her not to gain weight, others not to lose it. But all of them apparently think they have a right to tell her how she should look. Or NOT look. All of them are telling her, in effect, that she owes them “pretty”. And that she would be nobody and nothing without boner-appeal. (Sign this petition if you agree that this is fucked up and bullshit.)

Would they do that to other men? I’m guessing that no, they would not. They’d hold their tongues and keep any judgments on a male colleague’s looks to themselves, right? And they’d keep their hands off each other’s bodies, too, because no homo, bro!

But since Sen. Gillibrand is a woman, they feel they have a perfect right to do all that to her. A perfect right to paw her body and tell her what to do with it, as if she had no right to dignity, autonomy and respect that was not somehow tied intimately and constantly to her good looks. And by implication, that she could have no career if she did not look the way older white men wanted her to look. Because heaven knows that young people, women, and non-whites don’t vote, right? And that nobody votes for you if you don’t look like a strong contender for Miss America.

This sort of thing is disgusting and all too typical. And it doesn’t happen in a vacuum, either. It happens in a culture of rape and entitlement.

Right now, in a heartening development, there’s a lot of pushback going on against street harassment. (There’s even an app for that.) And there is, in a disheartening turn, pushback going on against the pushback. Recently, the New York Post (which has never passed up an opportunity to throw anyone’s dignity under the bus for dollars) published some contrarian clickbait in praise of street harassment, by some female sexist idiot claiming that it “empowers” women and makes them feel sexy.

It does nothing of the sort.

Anyone who’s ever been catcalled (I have, enough times to lose count), horn-honked at (ditto), followed around by a strange man (double-ditto) and touched by some dude very much against her will (diddly-ditto) can attest to how much it does NOT make a woman’s day to have to deal with this; it actually ruins it. Because the idea that one’s body is being regarded, and treated, as property by any man with the nerve to claim it, is profoundly unsettling. Don’t I belong to myself? Don’t I have a right to be left alone when every part of my body language is screaming as much?

Well, yeah. One would think so, wouldn’t one?

Funnily, I never hear men complaining of getting similar harassment from women. And really, when’s the last time you saw a construction worker, even a really super hunky one, getting hollered at by passersby in miniskirts and high heels? (Anyone? Bueller?) I’ve never seen it, never done it, and I don’t know anyone else who has, either. It never happens. Know why that is?

I’ll give you another broad hint: Women are not entitled to do that shit.

I’ve never assumed that any man, not even one near and dear to me, has ever showered, shaved, combed his hair or put on clean clothes expressly for my benefit. And if he told me he did, I would think it odd that he saw fit to emphasize the point. I did not grow up believing that they do any of that just for us. I didn’t grow up believing they HAD to. They don’t owe us anything, except (that obvious pipe dream) equality. And basic respect and consideration. And those are independent of how well-dressed and groomed a guy is. I’ve gotten them from big burly biker types, homeless guys, and dudes just as middle-class as I am. Any man can do it. It’s not rocket science, fellas.

Conversely, I’ve been harassed by all kinds of dudes. Black dudes. White dudes. Boys much younger than me. Classmates at school. Guys a few years older than me at university. Men much older than me. Blue-collar, working-class types. And yes, even men in suits. Older, well-groomed, educated white guys. Guys that, by their appearance, one would think they’d know better. Shockingly, they don’t. And the reason they don’t is that they grew up feeling perfectly entitled to do all that, and more. All straight males, regardless of age, race, religion, or class, have been taught to think they are entitled to OWN a woman, if not a very young girl. It’s never formally stated; it’s just “understood” that this is “the way things are”. It underpins every catcall that ever got yelled. It pervades society at all strata.

Once, I tried to impress upon a classmate at j-school that this was a serious issue. He was from Cyprus. He was Greek. Maybe this is some kind of cultural difference, I thought; maybe that’s why he doesn’t get it. So I explained it long, loud and clear. And he still didn’t get it. He spoke perfect, unaccented English, every bit as good as mine, even though it was a second language for both of us. It couldn’t be a language barrier, that much I knew. Maybe he just needed a more graphic example. So then I whacked him on the ass, hard enough to hurt, to show how demeaning that sort of thing is. He merely grinned over his shoulder at me. God damn him, he liked it. He probably figured I was hitting on him, who had a fiancée waiting back home. What I was trying to teach him totally backfired. He never did catch the lesson, and for all I know, he still hasn’t. Well, DUH. In the back of my mind, I knew that the playing field wasn’t really level. The entitlement wasn’t there for me. But it was for him.

And he was so entitled that he could even feel perfectly free to ignore the fact that he WAS entitled. That’s the really insane part.

Every dude, from the lowly hardhat to the bigwig in the Savile Row suit, is tacitly expected to show dominance on the sexual front. And multiple sexual fronts, at that. Long after his own hormones have begun to decline, he’s still explicitly allowed to do all sorts of things no respectable woman could even dream of getting away with. Why do I get all skeptical whenever anyone talks about “sex-positive” bullshit? Yet another broad hint: It’s the ENTITLEMENT, baby. A middle-aged or elderly woman paying for sex with handsome young men would be laughed at and pitied and held in contempt, no matter how high her social rank. A much older man doing that to pretty young women, no matter how low his social rank? Perfectly fucking normal, because he’s perfectly fucking entitled.

Same goes for older men in politics, church and state alike, policing who gets to have birth control and abortions, and who doesn’t. One would think that since it’s not their bodies, it’s not their issue. But they do think it’s their issue, because our bodies, so they think, are theirs to own and control.

Women’s bodies are treated as public property, to be displayed like objects, and pawed at random, and accorded no respect. To be born female is to put up with a lot of shit from entitled menfolks.

And it starts early.

I first became aware of it around the time I hit puberty, just before my tenth birthday. As soon as my breasts started budding — BAM! — instant sexual harassment. Just add hormones. And it had me hunching, slouching, crossing my arms, and wearing baggy, weather-inappropriate clothing for years in an effort to fend it all off. It didn’t work. It’s absolutely amazing how boobs, even ones barely bigger than a little kid’s mosquito bites, will attract unwanted attention. If a girl’s nipples poke up against her top, they will get gawked at, grabbed at, and twiddled like radio knobs. Failing that, there’s always that other, more juvenile statement of entitlement and ownership: the snapping of the bra strap. (Which, boys take note, does nothing to make a girl want you. Oh, she’ll notice you, all right, but not in a good way. Just think how you’d feel if she gave you an atomic wedgie or pantsed you in front of the entire class, and you’ll know how she feels about you doing that to her.)

And then we have the pedophiles, who also feel perfectly entitled to molest girls too young for even their first “training” bra. And who bitterly resent the fact that it’s illegal, and that there is any age of consent at all. But at the same time, they are grotesquely turned on by the fillip of doing something so illicit. Some of them are even willing to travel for the privilege of paying for what no one could even pretend was an encounter between consenting equals. I’ve never been approached by one them that I could remember, but then, maybe I was just plain lucky never to have encountered any. And when you’re too young to know what sex is, how can you even tell?

Now, of course, with the ubiquity of the Internet, one can’t get away from them. Or from guys who disingenuously argue that with the onset of puberty, a girl becomes fair game for any grotty thing a man might have in mind. (It’s worth noting that the Taliban thought Malala Yousufzai was fair game for shooting in the head because she was already pubescent.) There are all kinds of guys who, very “rationally” and “logically”, argue that if she’s old enough to bleed, she’s old enough to breed, and that the age of consent should be dropped in favor of “whenever she’s physically mature”. It doesn’t matter if she’s mentally mature or not; her job, it seems, is to be available to all comers, and to submit “willingly” to their advances. What she wants doesn’t matter. Physically developed girl = Total Slut Totally Asking For It. (It’s also worth noting that the average age for first-time prostitutes in North America is not 18 to 21, or even 16-18, it’s 11-14. Not only are girls that age considered “fair game”, they are highly profitable game. And yes, the johns know how old they are, and don’t give a damn that they can’t legally consent. They demand them that age, after all.)

The “old enough to breed” fallacy is never more glaring than in cases of precocious puberty, where girls as young as five (and some even younger!) have exhibited signs, such as breast development and menstruation, that one normally wouldn’t expect to see before age 11 or 12. Five years old is old enough for kindergarten; it is NOT old enough for sex. Never mind if she can already fill a bra. Not even if she’s getting her periods regularly. But it has been known to happen. I’ve lost count of how many such sickening instances I’ve come across. And there is nothing more jarring than seeing a five-year-old girl with adult-size breasts and a huge pregnant belly, who has no way of explaining how it happened. She hasn’t yet learned the words for all her body parts, and has no clear concept of sex, regardless of how “mature” she may outwardly appear to be. To take advantage of her, just because she looks like a miniature adult, is to ignore her right to a full, safe, unmolested childhood. (And again: How many women do you know of who have taken advantage of a precocious little boy’s accelerated puberty? Even Mary Kay Letourneau picked a kid who was of normal pubertal age and development — and if you’ve ever read her story, and know the arch-conservative circumstances of her upbringing, you’ll know just how messed up she is!)

And then again, sometimes you get wingnuts who just infantilize ALL women. Because they have to feel superior to them somehow.

No, there’s no way of getting around the sexist notion that all women, just by virtue of being female, owe something to all men. And that thing is access to their bodies. And accessibility, it seems, is signalled by conforming to the notion that we owe them “pretty”. And that we owe them “ladylike”. And that we owe them a degree of deference and respect which is merely optional when it goes the other way. And that if we don’t smile, and comply, and above all, remain silent, we’re the baddies in the whole fairytale.

We get insulted implicitly whenever we’re told “But you’d be so pretty if you only smiled!” (So, we’re ugly if we don’t? Wow, what a compliment!) We get insulted explicitly if we refuse to smile. We get flamed, insulted and harassed if we refuse to put up with shit on the Internet. Some of us get chased out of our homes by trolls for it. Some of us even get assaulted for it. We go from pretty princess to ugly hag and wicked stepmother combined. And all for just not complying.

Well, fuck that noise. I don’t owe “pretty” to complete strangers, or “ladylike” to anyone who pesters me. No woman does.

I always make a point of learning the “bad” words early in any foreign language I undertake, so that I can pull them out as needed when travelling or talking on the Internets. I can now cuss like a well-travelled sailor in at least half a dozen languages. It even stands me in good stead in my semi-professional capacity as a literary translator; it’s actually gotten me jobs, because it demonstrates full competence in the language in question. And I don’t take kindly to anyone who considers me “fair game” for sexual harassment or assault because I cuss, either.

I do not smile on command; I only smile if I feel like it. Anyone who tries to make me smile against my will, gets an exaggerated version of my resting bitchface.

If you honk your horn or throw a “nice tits” at me, expect to see a one-fingered salute, held high so everyone else can see it too.

If you harass me on the Internet and I can expose your data to hackers and police alike, I damn well will. And even if I can’t do that, I can still mock and ridicule you, and use my right to free speech against you. I hate trolls because they make the world so goddamn fucking ugly.

I don’t owe compliance to any man. I don’t owe you the time of day. And I certainly don’t owe you “pretty”.

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A Children’s Treasury of Wingnuttia

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I don’t know what’s funnier…the fact that there’s a book for kids on the “virtues” of open carry, that it’s “frequently bought together” with other forgettable trashery like Raising Boys Feminists Will Hate, or these Amazon.com reviews for it:

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Yes indeed, this book is a classic in the making. I can smell it already. No, wait…that’s just burnt gunpowder and stale flop-sweat. My mistake!

Manuel Zelaya speaks out: “The president of Honduras is John Kerry”

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This man is the last true democratically elected president Honduras has had. Five years ago, he was deposed in a violent military putsch, backed to the hilt by Washington. Manuel Zelaya was sent into exile, very much against his will, and even more so against the will of the Honduran people. Ever since then, there’s been a campaign to silence all critics of the US-imposed puppet régimes (there have been three so far) in the wake of the coup. Sham elections have not been enough to buy off the populace, and criticism has been growing. This year, things came to a head when child refugees from Central America, thousands of them, began arriving at the border with Mexico, unaccompanied by adults, but often in possession of their birth certificates and other documents identifying them and their countries of origin. Honduras is heavily represented among those lands, and if you wonder why, let the last real president of the land explain it all to you:

A short time after the fifth anniversary of the coup d’état that brought down his government, former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya spoke with Miradas al Sur about the current situation in Honduras and Latin America.


Manuel Zelaya only began to be affectionately called “Mel” by large parts of the population of Honduras in the second half of his mandate as president there. Until then, and for a good part of the peoples of Latin America, he had only been the progressive face of the Honduran Liberal Party, one of the traditional axes of power in the Central American country. But as of 2008, his way of wielding power began to turn toward the creation of a state closer to the humble folk, and more disposed toward solidarity with the popular sectors not only of his own land, but of all the Caribbean. Zelaya put conservative noses out of joint, and even those of his own comrades, upon confirming the leftward turn of his government, with a 60% minimum wage increase and an explicit turn toward 20th-century socialism. That same year, and hand in hand with Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, Honduras formally entered into Petrocaribe and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). “Petrocaribe is a commercial alliance. ALBA is an alliance of Latin American integration. I entered into both. Those countries who want to establish another system for a world which is still possible, must join ALBA. Not just Petrocaribe. That is more for business dealings,” Zelaya explained.

But while a good part of Latin America and the Caribbean was drawing closer to “Mel”, there were some in Honduras and the United States who grieved for politicians like Zelaya, and even more for those who preceded him. So it was that on June 28, 2009, the armed forces, backed by the supreme court of the nation, carried out a coup d’état which did away with the progressive profile of Honduras. “The result of the coup was that the security apparatus or the economic apparatus or the economic system began to be 99% directed by policies designed in Washington,” said the former president. “And, lamentably, they are policies of the most reactionary right-wing elements in the United States, very sectarian groups of the far right. After the coup, narcotrafficking and crime increased. The exploitation of the transnational mining firms is deepening, the privatization of all public services such as roadways, ports, telecommunications. They’ve even privatized things that belong to civil society and the state, such as collecting customs duties. And one of the most classic forms that the North American right has for controlling our countries is militarism. Now, here, soldiers have been substituted for the police. They’re substituting for the powers of the state in all matters and have given them extraordinary powers, as if we were living in a de facto dictatorial state. The separation of powers disappeared. There’s just one power of state, which the president wields over the military. If we review all the indicators of the land, we will find that everything has deteriorated from the coup to the present. The internal and external debt has quintupled. In five years, they’ve managed to indebt the country like it was in the 1960s, and it’s the largest debt in our history. The murder rate has converted us into the most violent country on the planet. We were a small and peaceful country. We are the poorest society in Latin America. We have always been at some level of poverty, but never like it is now. The president of Honduras is not Juan Orlando Hernández; he was imposed by way of a fraud. The presidnet of Honduras is named John Kerry, and his policies are those of the United States.”

Following his removal from office, and after several months in exile, Zelaya joined the National Front of Popular Resistance, which became the party of Freedom and Refoundation (LIBRE), over which he presides today. In November of 2013, LIBRE participated in the presidential elections with Xiomara Castro, Zelaya’s wife, as candidate, reaching second place and breaking up the historic bipartisanism of the National Party and the Liberals.

A few weeks ago, Zelaya himself denounced that he had been repressed, along with all his party, at the doors of the National Congress.

“That incident is just one more proof of the militarization of the land, and its absorption in neoliberal politics,” Zelaya pointed out. And with respect to this point, he emphasized that “we have to get back to calling it neoliberalism. Because neoliberalism in itself was the monetary and fiscal control of a society, but now it has advanced in military politics, in looting and exploitation, in diseases, epidemics, pestilence, death. Now it’s a neoliberalism of disaster which is being applied here. We were expelled from the congress at bayonet-point, and with tear gas, because one of the characteristics of the governments of force is that they don’t accept the opposition. For them, the opposition has to disappear, and for that reason, they have to limit our access to the media. There is an exaggerated media blockade today in Honduras. We have no option to defend ourselves practically in any media outlet. Everything is against us. But we ourselves have grown stronger. We are much stronger than before, especially because the popular consciousness has grown in recognizing what affects us. We understand that the United States won’t go away; what we need is to have honest, respectful relations with them. Which is what we don’t have right now, because those currently governing [in Honduras] are those who duck their heads and bow down to serve Washington’s orders.”

In effect, as well as having an enormous weight in Honduran internal politics, the United STates are now the centre of a very deep international debate which affects Central American societies. In the last months, the phenomenon of child migration toward the northern country has taken on a worrisome importance, to the point where the affected countries are trying to begin joint actions to deal with it. In June alone, it is estimated that 2,000 Salvadoran, Honduran and Mexican children crossed the border into the United States every week.

“The problem is that the great powers were born of migration, but don’t want to recognize the migrants of the 20th and 21st centuries,” said Zelaya. “They are products of migration, but they close themselves off in an anti-historical nationalism because emigrating is a right, not a crime. We all have that right because we were born in a world which is shared among all, in one human race. Those who managed to get to those nations are telling them to take their children. And now they’re hunting those children without pity. Now the powers are on display before the world. Because first they deny their parents the right to be legalized, and now they’re persecuting the children. Just as at the time when Jesus was born, they’re ordering them to kill all the children who were born then so that no messiah can emerge. Worse than the persecutions of the holocaust. They’re persecuting children, torturing them, denying them the right to reunite with their families. This is not a humanitarian crisis, it’s a humanitarian crime of the neoliberal model against the poor of Latin America and Africa.”

Translation mine.

I have to admit that Mel Zelaya didn’t really appear on my radar until he joined the ALBA, which is the late Chavecito’s baby and which has been going from strength to strength even now, after his death. At first Mel seemed like just another too-conservative-for-my-liking leader, but when he began to demonstrate that his heart was in the right place and his feet were headed in a good direction, I was sold. Not only was Mel the last real president of Honduras, he was also unequivocally the best. Under him, the socioeconomic profile of that poor little country was beginning to rise. Poor people were getting access to social services that had been denied them before: doctors, schools, hospitals. Literacy was going up; poverty rates were beginning to fall. And all that, which should have been terrific news, was greeted by Washington in the kind of doomsday-prophet tones you’d expect in the advent of a Category 5 hurricane about to make landfall along the eastern seaboard.

Which, of course, the ALBA was. A hurricane of promise, hope and rapid improvement. A hurricane of mutual aid and regional autonomy. Countries that used to rely abjectly on foreign “aid” from the US and elsewhere began to stand up on their own feet, and walk unassisted. That was bad news for those who used to turn obscene profits from the poverty and dependency of those little Latin American lands. They were used to taking advantage of those poor, ill-educated, highly dependent folks — as cheap labor, cannon fodder for proxy wars, and houseboys to the empire. The fact that those same people were now becoming aware that they could be so much more than that did not sit well with Washington. Hence, the coup.

It gives me no satisfaction to see blowback arriving in the form it has taken. Child refugees are the most helpless and vulnerable of them all. Along the way, who knows how many have been robbed, raped, beaten and killed? The ones we hear about arriving in Texas and Arizona are the lucky ones, the ones that made it through in one piece.

Honduras is embroiled in a civil war, although the US media won’t report that. And the death squads that we thought had died out with the evil 1980s? They’re back with a vengeance. That’s why so many desperate Central American parents are sending their kids to the country which, in a massive and humorless irony, is the author of their misfortunes.

When will it all end? When democracy is restored in Honduras, of course. But for that to happen, first the sham “democracy” installed by Washington must be trashed and kicked to the curb. The last real president of the land has not finished his mandate, and the three impostors who were tapped to “replace” him know this full well.

So do the people of Honduras, and they are absolutely furious that their will has been trampled under the boots of a fascism that everyone except the “freedom-loving”, “democratic” country behind it is willing to call by its right name. Little wonder that they are willing to give up even their own children to place the problem back at the door of its source!

The ironies of the Venezuelan opposition, part 54

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Behold, a white horse. And a pale rider.

Good morning, and welcome to today’s installment of VenOpIronía. Today, we have a very special guest from Miami, where all the flotsam and jetsam of corrupt and failed Latin American right-wing political hackery has a funny way of washing ashore. Please give it up for yet another failed Venezuelan presidential candidate…this one having the unfortunate honor of being the first man to lose the presidential elections to Chavecito himself:

Henrique Salas Römer, ex-governor of the state of Carabobo and fugitive from Venezuelan justice, stated in an interview on a Miami channel that the “Exit” was a movement dreamed up by Leopoldo López, whom he called erratic and politically hasty.

Salas also confirmed that Henrique Capriles Radonski, if he had won the presidential elections, would not have been able to efficiently govern the country, and relegated the most minimal commentary to María Corina Machado, whom he only referred to as a “special” person. In Salas Römer’s words, political inexperience and bad time management have taken their toll on these three personages.

“Capriles is behind the wave, and it overthrew Leopoldo, and María Corina is a very special being,” was the ex-governor’s observation in describing the current situation of the most renowned directors of the the MUD.

Of Capriles, Salas says that he “was lucky, because he has been very fortunate in political life in not having won”, because he would not have been able to accurately exercise the presidency. That would have provoked the immediate loss of his followers and the confidence of an important sector of the citizenry in the opposition.

Salas Römer explained that the “Exit” was Leopoldo López’s initiative. “He took it because there was something which was called “La Movida” (The Happening)…They [Machado and López] were switching from one day to the next, changing the term “La Movida” to “La Salida” (The Exit), which I consider to have been a bit hasty.”

Finally, the fugitive Salas reiterated that he had no part in “The Exit”, as an extremist and radical movement, although he was in agreement with the protest as a means of opposition to the Bolivarian Revolution.

There is no doubt that Leopoldo López, national director of the terrorist cells of Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) is growing more isolated every day in the Venezuelan political panorama.

Translation mine.

You’ll notice in the picture at that top that Salas is mounted on a white horse. That was taken in 1998, during his flopped presidential campaign against Chavecito. Salas is trying hard to look, if not exactly youthful (to compete with handsome young Chavecito, who was quite the hottie in ’98), then at least macho and still relevant. Unfortunately for him, the gambit didn’t pay off. For one thing, a chubby old man waving his cowboy hat on a white horse is still just a chubby old man on a horse. For another, the horse’s name was Frijolito (Little Bean) — not exactly a dignified name for a great leader’s trusty steed. And last but certainly not least, Frijolito — sorry, Salas — was already tainted by virtue of being a member of the old Venezuelan political establishment. The same that the Bolivarian Revolution was then on the verge of sweeping out for good. But Salas, bless his heart, was blissfully unaware that Venezuelan politics had moved beyond clownish, superficial displays by then. And just as blissfully unaware that being a member of the political establishment was not enough to get the vote anymore. On the contrary, it was working against him, as he found out during his trouncing at the polls later that year.

That’s why it’s ironic and hilarious to hear him criticizing these young whippersnappers. All of them are just as much products of the old Punto Fijo/Fourth Republic political establishment as Salas himself, and all of them, no doubt, want the same things as he: an end to all this pesky socialism, and progress, and rich people like themselves being made to pay their taxes, and so on. Salas isn’t objecting to their silly anti-progressive agenda, but rather to their haste. As though a great leap backward could be accomplished by plodding. He’s totally clueless to the fact that these leaders all failed not just by being “hasty” (or “special”, in the case of that specialest of snowflakes Maricori), but because they are all right-wing, and because Venezuela is sick and tired of their shit. Sick of old-order politics-as-usual, in which votes were bought with cans of paint and bags of groceries in the poor neighborhoods; sicker still of neo-fascist putschism, and 24/7/365 hatemongering, violence and death. And sickest of all when it comes to all these talking heads bla-bla-blathering away, proposing “movements” and “happenings” and “exits” that are never going to get off the ground, no matter how many people have to die on either side. For them, Henrique Salas Römer is just a reanimated political corpse, and one that should have been buried long ago. The fact that he has to go to Miami to be taken seriously by a talk-show host should tell you all you need to know.

Honestly, Frijolito the horse stands a better chance of being taken seriously as an opposition political candidate. If he weren’t already tainted by an unfortunate association with Salas’s ass, that is.

It was 30 years ago today…

Then-US Secretary of Health, Margaret Heckler, announces the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS. Initially (mis)classified as a third member of the HTLV leukemia virus family (there were two others, both discovered by Robert Gallo), the virus later known as HIV is seen and described on TV for the first time. Also seen are clips from a few prominent AIDS deaths: Actor Rock Hudson, who kept his illness a secret until he had to seek treatment overseas; and Ryan White, an Indiana schoolboy born with hemophilia, who caught HIV from a tainted batch of Factor VIII, a coagulant made from donor blood. The clip closes with a view of the Names Project quilt, a massive tribute to the thousands who died of AIDS during the 1980s, when politicians all fiddled while victims — mostly gay men, but with a fast growing contingent of women and children — burned.

One can’t help wondering what would have happened if AIDS had been transmitted like flu — not sexually, not by blood contact, but simply through casual transmission, via the airborne route. I have no doubt that we’d be seeing a working vaccine for it now, instead of the continued foot-dragging that has characterized political response to the disease from the moment it first appeared on the public-health radar.

Happy Fourth of July!

“The Price of the World Cup” — dead children?

A Danish journalist has uncovered some shocking allegations about how the Brazilian cities where the World Cup matches are currently underway have chosen to “clean” their streets of homeless people, especially street kids. It forms part of an overall critical look at how the neo-corporatist World Cup agenda has run roughshod over the locals in those cities. Everything from cablecars being built over favelas where people have lived for decades, to insufferable gentrification, to allegations of death squads roaming the streets, gets an airing here. It really puts the lie to the common canard that Brazil is a “racial democracy”, since most of the suffering has been borne by the poor and non-white people of the land.

And the allegations of state-sanctioned murder squads, if true, signify a shocking holdover from the days of the US-backed military fascist dictatorship that seized power in a not-so-bloodless coup in 1964 and later murdered the legitimately elected president, João Goulart. The same that also kidnapped and tortured the current president, Dilma Rousseff, when she was a young Marxist guerrilla. Those kidnappers, torturers and murderers cut their teeth on homeless people even before the coup that unseated Goulart, receiving instruction in their ugly craft from US police and military officers and spies. And their methods clearly live on in the municipal police and armed forces of present-day Brazil. Remember this?

Dan Mitrione, the police torture instructor discussed in this short clip, was fictionalized slightly (as “Philip Michael Santore”) for the movie State of Siege. Before his posting to Uruguay, where he was captured and eventually executed by the Tupamaro guerrillas, Mitrione spent time in Brazil…and there is a memorably horrifying scene in that same movie showing naked men — beggars yanked off the streets — being tortured and electrocuted on stage in a massive lecture hall filled with military and police officers. Those same officers have not been cleansed out of the Brazilian police and armed forces; on the contrary, their methods have survived and flourished with complete impunity. In other words: In Brazil, Dan Mitrione still lives.

Every Brazilian who’s been asked about how they feel about the World Cup seems to say the same thing, whether it’s expats interviewed by the Deutsche Welle in Germany, or my Brazilian friends here on the other side of the pond. They love soccer, but they hate the World Cup and all the upheaval it brings, from gentrification to an uptick in child prostitution on the streets…and of course, death squads. All agree that the money spent on building and renovating big stadiums was a waste, and that it should have gone to social programs. Healthcare, education, social housing. And that street people and favela dwellers should not have been expelled and killed, as they apparently have been. But it would appear that local mayors — or perhaps we should say, local death-squad capos — disagree. Bullets are so much cheaper than giving some “worthless” street kid an education, food, a home, and a good job. Somehow, human beings just don’t merit that kind of consideration when there are big bucks at play on the soccer field.

It is shocking that a president who was once a victim of this same insanity could turn a blind eye to its continuation four decades later. Let’s hope that Dilma finally does something about this. Just don’t look for anything to start happening while the World Cup is still on.