Friday, December 07, 2007


Last week after Washington Redskins player Sean Taylor was murdered, I was listening to a local talk radio show proclaiming how it was just what you would expect from a guy who led a thug lifestyle. What? Sean Taylor, thug, got what he deserved?

Taylor was shot in his home by armed robbers. He wasn't doing anything remotely wrong. He was in bed sleeping.

Anyway, I thought to myself, can you imagine this conversation taking place if the player killed was say Payton Manning or some other white star? Never happen.

But all across this great land of ours the murder of Taylor somehow became a search for Sean Taylor the thug. The "evidence" against Taylor: He was pulled over for a DUI in 2004, but the charges were thrown out. In 2005, Taylor was arrested for aggravated assault and faced 46 years in jail for waving a gun and beating up the alleged thieves of his ATVs. He pleaded no contest to reduced charges, and was sentenced to 18 months probation. His SUV was later shot 15 times in a drive-by. These events indicate that Taylor may not have been an angel, but they don't indicate that he was some kind of gangster. By the way since the drive by shooting Taylor had done everything he could to hew the straight and narrow. He'd grown up. Whatever the case, Sean Taylor didn't deserved to be murdered in bed next to his long time girlfriend and their 18 month old child.

But lots of idiots like the local radio guys here saw it differently. Take for example, Michael Wilbon, an analyst for ESPN and Washington Post who commented as Taylor lay dying, “It’s sad, yes, but hardly surprising."

Michael you and those like you should be ashamed.

The following is from
Edge of Sports.

Kicking a Man When He's Dead: To Slander Sean Taylor
By Dave Zirin

WASHINGTON FOOTBALL player Sean Taylor is dead at the age of 24, shot and killed at home in front of his partner and 18-month-old daughter. Four people have already been arrested, three of them teenagers.

They were expecting to break into the empty house of a wealthy football player. Instead, they panicked, hit Taylor in the leg with a bullet and ran. The bullet tore into his femoral artery and Taylor died the next day.

It’s the kind of senseless, random violence that makes you put your hands on your ears and squeeze your eyes shut until the tears pry loose. The initial reaction here in D.C. has been an avalanche of unbearable sadness. Hundreds of people left flowers, notes and other offerings in front of the team practice facility. Everywhere you looked people were wearing the team colors of burgundy and gold.

I can understand how strange this must seem at a distance. It’s not like there are shortages of people to mourn in the nation’s capital. D.C. is the violent crime mecca of the United States. We lose children who haven’t seen their 10th birthday to stray bullets.

We have the highest HIV rate in the country, recently described as “an epidemic.” We are where the Masters of War crafted the lies that have led to the deaths of one million Iraqis and 3,900 U.S. troops. And yet we ache for Sean Taylor.

But on the ground in D.C., it somehow makes all the sense in the world. Sean Taylor was drafted as a 20-year-old safety with an almost otherworldly ability to play the game he loved.

Over the last four years, the city has seen him evolve from a talented but undisciplined player, to an All-Pro wunderkind. Off the field—in this era of oversaturated sports coverage—we followed his journey closely from “wild child” to adulthood, to fatherhood.

Media illusion or not, we felt we knew Sean Taylor—and have wept for his family and their loss. There is nothing wrong with this. If anything, we’ve borne witness to people’s capacity to reach out and care.

BUT NOT everyone felt the better angels of their nature emerge. Within hours—minutes—of Taylor’s death, a collection of sportswriters tried to turn this tragedy into to a brazenly racist “life lesson.” They speculated that Taylor effectively got what he deserved, the fruits born of a “thug life.”

Never mind that Taylor was the son of a police chief who attended the same private schools as the Florida wing of the Bush family. The narrative of a young Black athlete dying by gunfire was too succulent to resist. The callous copy ran rampant, and this time went beyond Fox Sports Jason Whitlock’s easily dismissible, painfully predictable hot air.

Far more “respectable” voices like the Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon wrote, “It’s sad, yes, but hardly surprising.” Fellow Post columnist Leonard Shapiro had an entire column called, “Taylor Death Is Tragic But Not Surprising.”

They were only two of many to take this tack. It was such a slap in the face to Taylor’s family, friends and all in D.C. who mourned that Washington Times football beat writer John Mitchell broke the typical press box wall of silence and called Shapiro in anger, “a racist conniving dog of a skunk.”

Sports radio was even worse. Examples stained the airwaves, but the repellent Colin Cowherd of ESPN radio incensed a city by saying, “Sean Taylor, a great player has a history of really really bad judgment, really really bad judgment….I’m supposed to believe his judgment got significantly better in two years, from horrible to fantastic?…‘Oh, wah wah wah, sensitivity, he’s a great person, wah wah wah.’ Hey, I don’t care, that’s fine, he died.”

The hypocrisy is breathtaking. If Taylor was white, imagine how this story would be played out: “Hero tragically dies defending his family in home invasion.” Instead, we get yet another example of how sports has become an absolute trash receptacle of racism over the past several years: an acceptable place for troglodytic writers and announcers to yip about “hip hop culture” and “thug life,” being the rot at the heart of professional athletics.

Now that the truth has come out about Taylor’s death, there has been a welcome backlash against the “rush to judgment,” with columnists like ESPN’s Jemele Hill writing, “It’s not like Taylor was out at the club, or at the wrong place, wrong time. If the police thought his past troubles were related to his murder, then I understand it.

“But it seems as if this is being framed as, he got what was coming to him, when he’d been trouble-free for some time. Maybe I’m being oversensitive, but I just have a hard time believing that if Brett Favre got shot, there would be grafs about his personal drug abuse issues.”

Hill’s words are welcome. But frankly we should care less if he was in his home, the club, Baghdad, Brooklyn or Brixton. I don’t care if he went to private school, public school or reform school. No one deserves to die before their 25th birthday. And no family deserves to have their son/lover/father slandered in death by reptilian journalists rehashing their own racist rhetoric.

Yes we weep for Sean Taylor, and by doing so we attempt to reclaim all that a cynical media fronting for a brutal system attempt to take away: our capacity to dare to be human.

Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to


One sorry fact about being wealthy in America is that you seldom get to have a garbage dump in the middle of your neighborhood. It's a sad but true fact that you just can't hardly find a ritzy upscale area these days with easy access to a dump.

What is a rich person to do?

I'll tell y'a what. I bet the folks living in the poorer section of Hallandale Beach in Broward County, Florida would be more than happy to let wealthy citizens have theirs...and at no extra cost.

Even those these giving citizens are predominately black, I bet they'd let some white folks have the dump that's proposed for their area of town. That's just the kind of folks they are.

And Even though City Manager Mike Good told the folks at a recent meeting to discuss the dump (which was held on the other side of town) how swell the new dump will be, I just know they would still willing to share the bounty.

I'm sure some nearby wealthy white neighborhood would jump up and accept the offer. I mean why let black folks have all the fun of rats and smelly air. It's about a time that the upper classes got a share of the action. After all they create most of the garbage.

The following is from the Miami Herald.

Hallandale 'garbage dump' plan protested

Upset that the city plans to install a ''garbage dump'' in the predominantly black part of town, Hallandale Beach residents on Monday asked the City Commission to consider another site.

They're concerned that the project would attract rats and birds, and that it would smell like garbage.

But City Manager Mike Good said the proposed ''transfer storage facility'' won't be as bad as residents think, and could save the city $1.2 million per year compared to the current system of trucking the city's garbage to a facility 30 miles away.

Residents were so unconvinced by Good's assurances that at one point they laughed at him.

''If there are too many problems, the facility would shut down,'' Good said, drawing the laughs. One man called out, ``Everything you said is a lie!`'

About 100 residents came to the meeting, which was held in a community center on the opposite side of town from their neighborhood.

The northwest neighborhood hasn't had a City Commission representative since the 1970s, but city commissioners have voted down plans to create a district system to make that happen.

On Monday, the Rev. Josh Brown of the Hallandale Church of God called the situation ``taxation without representation.''

Other residents reproached the city for instances in which they say the needs of the neighborhood have been neglected.

''There's no way to pretty it up. It stinks,'' neighborhood resident Denise Cobb, 40, told commissioners. ``It's nasty, will cause our community cancer and asthma. Why didn't you put it by your house?''

After Cobb spoke, residents erupted in cheers.

The city says trash would be stored at the station for no more than 12 hours, then trucked to a landfill. To ease residents' concerns, commissioners have told them the trash would not be left there overnight.

The city already has purchased the site at 310 Ansin Blvd. for $2.9 million.

''We don't have a need for this,'' said Herscha Roberts, 66, who has lived in northwest Hallandale Beach most of her life.

``They talk about saving money. How about saving lives?''

After Roberts said ''We don't need this,'' residents in the crowd chanted ``We don't need it! We don't need it!''

Throughout the meeting, commissioners sat silently among the crowd.

Before the facility is built, the city would have to file an application with the Broward County Environmental Protection Department.

Jeffrey Halsey, a division director for that department, told residents his office inspects such facilities every four months.

Waste Management Inc. has agreed to build the million-dollar facility.

In exchange, the city would sign a long-term contract with the company to operate the facility and haul the trash to a landfill each day.


Israel's High Court of Justice upheld the government's reduction in fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip.

The High Court on Friday rejected petitions by human-rights groups which had argued that the Israeli Defense Ministry's decision last month to reduce fuel supplies to Gaza in response to Palestinian rocket fire constituted illegal "collective punishment".

In its ruling, the three-justice panel said it had been persuaded that Israel has not deprived Hamas-ruled Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians of fuel required for "humanitarian" activities like running the territory's power plant. But the High Court postponed a Defense Ministry plan to begin cutting back Israeli-supplied electricity to Gaza on Sunday, saying it wanted more details on how that measure would affect the Palestinian populace.

The government was given 12 days to respond, after which the petitioners will have a week for rebuttals.

So some Israeli activists decided to give a demonstration about what the loss of power would mean to Israeli's in Israel,s two largest cities (see article which follows).

Even before the court's decision thanks to a month old Israeli reduction if fuel shipments gas stations across the Gaza Strip had shut their pumps. Tens of thousands of people had no fresh water. Hospitals have grounded ambulances, and bicycles are the new favored form of transportation.

Between Hamas and the Israeli government, it seems unlikely that anything can be done to me.

The following is from Ha'aretz.

Leftists announce mock power cuts to protest Gaza fuel slash

Residents of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were surprised Thursday morning to find on the doors to their homes mock notices announcing that the flow of electricity to the two cities would be cut off next week.

The 10,000 or so fake notices were posted across both cities by some 70 left-wing activists in response to the government’s decision to reduce the supply of fuel to the Gaza Strip, and its plan to cut power flow in the near future.

The High Court of Justice on Sunday ordered the state to delay its reduction of power supplies to the Gaza Strip by at least one week, pending a full presentation detailing the proposed operation.

The justices upheld the state’s plan to reduce fuel transfers to the Strip, as long as the humanitarian needs of Gaza’s residents were given primary consideration.

The notices posted Thursday by the activists read: “We wish to inform you that there will be a wave of cessation and severance of electricity. We have no choice but to cut off power and we are forced to do it because in your cities reside the commanders of an army that harms civilians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

“For humanitarian reasons, the cessation of electricity will not be permanent and should leave you to consider: should the flow allotted be directed to hospitals, water systems, sewers or private homes. We apologize for the temporary inconvenience this might cause you and emphasize that this is a necessary defense move,” read the notices.

According to the activists, the notices were hung to draw attention to the government’s “arbitrary” decision to cut fuel and power from the civilian Palestinian population.

“There is no legitimacy for the collective punishment on civilians. We are talking about a move that even the army has admitted has no chance of stopping Qassam fire on Sderot.”

“Through this activity we are interested in raising the awareness of Israeli citizens to the arbitrariness of these offensive moves and to try to create solidarity with the plight of civilians in Gaza,” said the activists.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


What would you do if you were confronted by an intruder in your home late one night? Would you run for the hills? Would you ask the intruder what they were up to? Would you defend the place, yourself, your loved ones.? Well, in lots of states if you choose self defense and shoot the intruder you'd better be able to prove you were in immediate danger of great bodily harm...or you might get sued.

In Ohio they're trying to reverse that and force the intruder to prove he wasn't a danger to you.

I don't know, call me crazy, but that sounds damn reasonable to me...well, depending on how the law reads anyway.

I'm not talking about shooting some cat burglar who is trying to crawl OUT the window or trying to escape out the door. You know I don't want to kill someone over a bit of property. I swear I'm not into shooting people for nothing.

But if I felt my life or someone I loved life was in danger, well then, yeah, I'd want the right to defend myself and them without worry about civil actions. Truth is it's really doubtful anyone in that situation would worry about getting sued. And truth is, it's hard to imagine a jury giving a judgment to a bad guy under those circumstances, but you never know and the price of defending yourself in such a civil suit, well, read about poor Ryan Cundiff in the article below.

I know the argument that we don't need a whole bunch of accidental shootings of sons and daughters coming in late at night, but it shouldn't take to long to determine if the intruder is a bad guy or your grandma. If the intruder is coming at you, it might not hurt to yell out for the person to identify themselves. You know, the old, "stop or I'll shoot." Unless they happen to be pointing a firearm at you.

If possible your best line of defense is probably to retreat. Confronting intruders doesn't necessarily work out so well anyway. You don't know what you're up against--how many people there are, where they are, and what they're armed with.

But if you do pull a gun on someone, you'd better be prepared to use it...and most of us really aren't. Most of us really down deep don't want to shoot anybody.

"If you reasonably think you are in danger, you can defend yourself," Marie Failinger, who teaches criminal law at Hamline University in Minnesota told told WCCO after a 73 year old man shot and killed an intruder in the Twin Cities. "People have to fear that the person breaking in is going to harm them seriously or kill them."

Actually, in Minnesota the laws goes further than that.

It states that "...taking a life is not authorized except when necessary in resisting or preventing an offense which one reasonably believes exposes one to great bodily harm or death or preventing the commission of a felony in one's place of abode."

That includes stealing valuable property, worth at least $250. It's what the law calls "defense of dwelling," and the intruder doesn't even have to have a weapon.

I wouldn't shoot someone for a piece of property and I don't think we ought to be encouraging people to do so. The trouble is how do you know what's up in any particular situation. The question is should the burden of proof be on you or the intruder?

I mean would you punish the pregnant women in North Carolina who last year shot an armed intruder trying to rob her home. Detectives said 23-year-old Crystal Strickland -- 9 months pregnant and mother of two small children -- acted in self defense

"He broke into the apartment, she ran into the back bedroom where there were some children in the apartment to defend them, and when he entered into the bedroom area, shots were fired," said Debbie Tanna with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

Strickland told authorities she did not know the armed man. Her two young girls were taking a nap when the violent encounter happened. The 3-year-old said she wasn't scared.

"I didn't get hurt," she said.

Strickland, like most people in that situation didn't really have time to take out a law book and check on local statutes. She didn't really feel like asking the man if his intentions were bad. She thought of her self and her kids and she took action.

Can't blame her.

The following is from the Crescent News (Defiance, Ohio).

Testimony heard on self-defense legislation in Ohio

COLUMBUS -- A note to crooks thinking about breaking into Ellen Wickham's home.

If you get past the locks, the lights, the alarms and the 160-pound Great Dane (named Henry), you can expect to be shot. On sight.

"Of course, I will call 911, but I won't wait for the police to arrive," the Columbus-area woman told state lawmakers Wednesday morning. "I, along with my firearm, am my first line of defense. Crime scene investigators are great photographers, but I prefer my pictures without blood and bruises."

Wickham was one of several proponents to testify before the Senate's Criminal Justice Committee in favor of Senate Bill 184, sponsored by 1st District Sen. Steve Buerher, R-Delta. (75th District Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, a Republican from Napoleon, introduced companion legislation in the Ohio House.)

The self-defense legislation would create the legal presumption that residents fighting back against home intruders acted in self defense and would grant them immunity from future civil claims made by the perpetrator. Under existing law, residents defending their homes against intruders must prove the perpetrators were close enough to do them harm and intended to do harm. The proposed legislation reverses those roles, forcing criminals to prove they did not intend to harm occupants. The civil provision would cover acts of self defense in homes or elsewhere and would prevent criminals from seeking civil recourse if injured while attacking others.

The change would help people like Ryan Cundiff, who recounted for lawmakers an attack that occurred on a rural farm in Carroll County six years ago. He and his girlfriend were camping on private property when they were accosted by a couple of trespassers. The situation escalated into an late-evening assault, with one of the drunken assailants hitting Cundiff's girlfriend on the side of the head with a paving brick, he said.

Cundiff shot the individual with a handgun he carried, seriously injuring him. He told lawmakers he has spent $30,000 defending himself against subsequent criminal charges against him (he was acquitted) and a pending civil complaint.

"I'm angry with my life," he said. "I could have graduated from graduate school this past year. Instead, I clean trash out of vacant foreclosed homes. ... (O)n the eve of that shooting I was 20 years old. Last month, I turned 27 years old and this case still has not gone to trial. My college fund was spent defending myself and I'm still defending myself to this day."

He added, "I've never been in trouble with the law until that fateful night. I did what I had to do, I protected myself and my life has been changed forever."

Wickham urged lawmakers to approve the bill and the "reasonable change in Ohio statutes" its provisions would provide to "law-abiding citizens."

"Why, when someone forcibly enters my home or forcibly holds me against my will, would I be held accountable for any injury I inflicted upon them?" she asked. "Why am I at risk for losing everything I have worked hard for if the criminal I defended myself against sues me in civil court? Who broke the law, and who is the real victim?"


Doctors, nurses and other health workers are sick and tired of attacks by the Sri Lankan Army on ambulances and other humanitarian vehicles. Today they staged a brave protest of the Army's Deep Penetration Unit which is responsible for the outrageous actions.

On top of everything else, the Army has punished the victims.

For example, a recent Claymore attack carried out by Sri Lanka Army (SLA) Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) at Mudkompan, Pooneryn, that seriously injured the driver of the Mu'langkaavil hospital ambulance has resulted in the SLA introducing new regulations limiting the transport of patients by ambulance from Vanni only up to Omanthai.

TamilNet reports according to SLA regulations implemented on November 25th, the ambulances carrying patients from Vanni to Vavuniya hospital are stopped at Omanthai check point, patients forced to get down, subjected to rigorous checking, and then transported in SLA- operated ambulances to Vavuniyaa.

Nearly 45 patients from the General hospitals in Ki’linochchii, Mullaitheevu and from Puthukkudiyiruppu regional hospital in Vanni are transported to Vavuniyaa hospital for further treatment on a daily basis.

The patients include expectant mothers, children, women and the elderly. Apart from this some of the patients are seriously ill. Each ambulance arriving from Vavuniyaa transports up to ten patients. After the patients alight from the ambulance at SLA check point in Omanthai only three of them are allowed into the SLA operated ambulances and taken to Vavuniyaa, escorted by armed SLA troopers, sources said.

The rest of the patients including those requiring emergency treatment have to languish at the check point awaiting the arrival of the next SLA-operated ambulance from Vavuniyaa.

The ambulances which bbring patients up to Omanthai are forced to wait long hours till the army operated ambulances return from Vavuniyaa.

Meanwhile, at least 18 people were killed in Sri Lanka on Wednesday in two bomb attacks blamed on Tamil Tiger rebels, officials said, one day after the guerrillas' leader said peace with Colombo was impossible.

A powerful parcel bomb exploded outside a clothing store on the outskirts of the capital Colombo, killing 17, wounding 43 others and leaving the street littered with body parts, police said.

The attack came just hours after a disabled female suicide bomber blew herself up outside the office of a Tamil government minister, killing his secretary and injuring two security guards.

Great place to live.

The following is from TamilNet.

Medical staff in Vanni protest against DPU Claymore attacks on ambulances

More than 700 medical staff in Vanni, including doctors, nurses, technical staff, midwives and minor staff from K'ilinochchi and Mullaiththeevu districts, Thursday morning staged a protest against targeted Claymore attacks by the Sri Lanka Army Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) on ambulances and humanitarian vehicles. In August last year, a DPU attack on the ambulance of Nedungkea'ni claimed the lives of the doctor of Nedungkea'ni hospital, his wife, two nurses and the driver of the ambulance. On 25November, the driver of the ambulance of Muzhangkaavil hospital was seriously wounded in a Claymore attack at Mudkompan in Poonakari (Pooneryn).

The protesters had brought the ambulance which was damaged in a DPU attack at Mudkompan.

This is the first time after 15 years medical staff in the above districts have staged a wide scale protest, according to medical staff of the Ki'linochchi hospital.

Protests were staged at Ki'linochchi General hospital, at the office of the Regional Director of Health Services, Akkarayan Hospital, Muzhangkaavil hospital, Tharmapuram Hospital and Mullaiththeevu Hospital. The protesters demanded their security guaranteed from DPU attacks.

Vehicles belonging to Road Development Authority, Agricultural Department, Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society, North-East Irrigated Agriculture Project (NEIAP), humanitarian organisations engaged in serving the needs of displaced people and the vehicles of private firms engaged in development work (contractors) have also been targeted by the DPU Claymore attacks during the past 24 months. Civilians fleeing from air and artillery attacks from the SLA in bicycles, tractors and motorbikes have also become victims of the DPU Claymore attacks.

Details of some of the DPU attacks follow:

27 November 2007:
Seven school girls, three male volunteers and the driver of a Hiace van, engaged in rural first aid service, were killed on the spot at Iyangkea'ni on Kokkaavil - Thu'nukkaay Road in a Claymore attack carried out by an SLA DPU unit.

25 November 2007:
An ambulance that belongs to Muzhangkaavil hospital, engaged on medical service to the displaced civilians from Poonakari living in Mudkompan area, was targeted by a SLA DPU Claymore attack at Mudkompan. The driver of the ambulance, Thavaseelan, 29, was seriously wounded in the attack.

26 September 2007
the Mannaar district coordinator of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) was killed when Sri Lanka Army Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) attackers launched a Claymore attack on his Hiace vehicle, at Kalvi'laan on Maangku'lam - Ve'l'laangku'lam road. The JRS vehicle was bringing in baby milk and essential humanitarian supplies for displaced children.

09 August 2006:
A medical doctor, his wife, two nurses and the driver of the ambulance belonging to Nedunkea'ni hospital, were killed Tuesday night when Sri Lanka Army (SLA) Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) attacked the ambulance, medical sources in Puthukudiyiruppu hospital said. Three Claymore mines in a row were exploded.

08 June 2006:
Four health officials of Tamileelam Health Service Mobile Medical Service, including a nurse and the driver of the vehicle, were wounded at Akkarayaan, 20 km from Ki'linochchi when an SLA DPU team exploded a Claymore mine


What? The leader of a major religion saying a woman could be his successor. Is it possible? Can it be? Run for your lives. Could the Pope meet such a person? Would there be riots in the Islamic world? Would the old Rabbis in Jerusalem have a hissy fit? Film at ten!!!!

The following is from the Times of India.

My successor could be a woman: Dalai

Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Thursday suggested that his successor could be a woman.

"If a woman reveals herself as more useful the lama could very well be reincarnated in this form," the 14th Dalai Lama told reporters in Milan, where he arrived for a private visit on Wednesday.

The 72-year-old Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile since 1959, said last week that his successor could be chosen outside of Tibet if he were to die abroad.

He also mooted the possibility of choosing the 15th Dalai Lama himself. According to centuries of tradition, high-ranking monks in Tibet choose the Dalai Lama's reincarnation after the death of the incumbent.

China, which has ruled Tibet since 1951 and has violently crushed protests there, recently announced that so-called living Buddhas in Tibet needed permission from the government, officially atheist, to be reincarnated.

The Buddhist leader also said his 11-day visit to Italy was "not political" and that he did not intend to "cause problems for the state and the (Italian) authorities."

Beijing has complained to the Italian foreign ministry over the visit, which will take the 1989 Nobel peace prize laureate to Rome for four days from December 12, even though he will not meet with any members of the Italian government.

A planned meeting with Pope Benedict XVI was cancelled, in a decision that Italian media reports said facilitated the ordination on Tuesday of a new bishop in Guangdong, southern China, with the Vatican's approval.

The political high point of the Dalai Lama's stay will likely be his meeting with Italian lawmakers.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Don't be a miner in the Ukraine. That's the best advice I can give right now.

President Victor Yushchenko ordered the suspension of operations at the Zasyadko coal-mine in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine after a third, and fatal, explosion in the mine on Sunday. His political rival, Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich, has also issued a public call for suspending mine operations.

Better late then never I suppose...unless you're already dead.

Mineweb reports a videotape, prepared and posted on the internet by the miners, following the November 18 explosion, shows that dangerous concentrations of methane gas were chronic in the mine at the 8% level. (Methane is potentially explosive at concentrations of between 5 and 15%). The miners also say that gas detection and equipment shutoff systems had been disabled, in order to facilitate what the miners call an extreme mining production plan, impossible to fulfill.

A local mining source told Mineweb: "They have very old, almost non-operational methane detection equipment, and workers are pushed by [company director Yefim Zvyagilsky] to work without enough security. The problem is that the country needs coking coal for steel making."

Miners say the mine's chairman and apparent proprietor, Yefim Zvagilsky, is to blame for unsafe working conditions at the mine, and for imposing steep shift production quotas that led to the suppression of methane detection and shut-off systems.

Zvagilsky is the chairman of the mine company's board of directors. He is well-known as an entrepreneur in the Ukraine, a parliamentary deputy, and for five days in September 1993, Zvagilsky was prime minister. He also appears to be the controlling shareholder of the company, though the circumstances in which the state transferred its control of the mine are unclear. Yuri Zayets, head of the Zasyadko coal mine's trade union, told Mineweb "the owner of the mine is the Ukrainian government. But it landed on to the staff of the mine for operations." This is disputed by Donetskugol, the state enterprise which used to own Zasyadko. A source there told Mineweb: "The Zasyadko mine is no longer on the books of our enterprise" The source claimed he was unable to say when it was sold, or to whom.

Mineweb has repeatedly requested that Zvagilsky respond to questions. A secretary at his office said she would attempt to pass questions to him, but Zvagilsky has refused to reply.

The following is from the web site of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions.

String of Blasts Hit Ukraine’s Zasyadko Coal Mine, Killing 5 More, Injuring 44 Workers

Thirteen days after an explosion inside an eastern Ukrainian coal mine killed 101 workers, a second methane blast at privately-held Zasyadko’s mine near Donetsk sent 44 miners to the hospital. This second explosion happened at 05h00 on Saturday, 1 December.

And then on Sunday, 2 December, a third blast inside the stricken mine killed five rescue workers. Thirty-three rescue workers and 33 other miners were injured in this third blast. Many of the hospitalised are in serious condition.

The explosions follow the worst Ukrainian coal disaster in recent years. The death count from the 18 November explosion, deep inside several shafts of Zasyadko’s Donbass region mine, reached 101 on 29 November, when a worker died in a Donetsk hospital. Ten miners remain unaccounted for from that methane explosion, which occurred 1,000 metres below ground. Another 40 miners remain hospitalised.

The ICEM had sent its condolences to both the Ukrainian Coal Industry Workers’ Union (PRUP) and the Independent Miners’ Union of Ukraine.

The cause of the 18 November explosion is believed to be defect electrical equipment. Reportedly, sensors did not show a build-up of methane gas. The mine was privatised by state-run Donetskugol and assets transferred to prominent Ukrainian politician Efim Zvyagilsky. Igor Gryaznov serves as director of the enterprise. It yields 10,000 tons per day, and is one of Ukraine’s larger collieries.

The Zasyadjo mine has a history of tragedies. One worker died in February 2007, while in September 2006, 13 miners were killed due to a methane blast. In 2002, 20 miners were killed in the same manner, a tragedy which brought criminal charges to six managers of the mine for violation of safety procedures. Other tragedies happened at Zasyadjo in 2001, when 55 lives were lost, and in 1999, when 50 miners perished.

Also in Ukraine, on 25 November, two miners were killed and one seriously injured when a rock slide caused a shaft to collapse. That occurred at the Arbis coal mine, also eastern Ukraine, but in the Lugansk region. The same day, a fire occurred inside a shaft in the Belorechenskaya mine in the same region. There were no fatalities there


Along with everyone else in Pakistan two members of Code Pink have been targeted by the police protesting the emergency rule imposed by one of President Bush's most favorite people.

Lahore police arrested the two US nationals, Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry, who who had come to Pakistan in order to participate in the protest demonstration against the detention of Chaudary Aitzaz Ahsan and curbs on media.

An outspoken critic of the Musharraf administration -- Aitzaz,the former federal minister, PPP member of parliament in the outgoing National Assembly and recently-elected president of the Supreme Court Bar Association -- was one of the first persons to be taken into custody when emergency was declared on November 3.

He was scheduled for release on December 3, but instead the government added 30 days to his confinement.

According to International: The News (Pakistan):

"Aitzaz is, by any yardstick, a popular politician, a brilliant orator and a successful lawyer -- right now he is the man the government is so scared of that he has again been caged for 30 days. He is also a candidate in the Jan 8 election and how can he possibly woo his constituents if he is detained. This would suggest that what the government is doing in his case is nothing more than pre-poll rigging -- and that too of the most blatant kind."

Talking to reporters, Benjamin said they had come to Pakistan to learn about the political situation after the imposition of emergency rule. She said Musharraf’s claims that all lawyers and politicians had been freed were false because the SCBA president was still under house arrest. Pointing to a board outside Aitzaz’s residence declaring the house a ‘sub-jail’, she said, “This is ridiculous. We love Pakistan. We want peace to prevail in Pakistan. If Musharraf is a democrat, he should free Aitzaz and restore the deposed judges.”

The following is from the Washington Times.

Pakistan to deport Code Pink protesters

Pakistan authorities today ordered the deportation of the leader of the feminist U.S. antiwar group Code Pink, who was in Lahore to join protests against the emergency rule imposed by President Pervez Musharraf, according to a spokeswoman for the group.

Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of the group, said she was arrested at a student demonstration by agents of the Pakistan Inter-Service Intelligence and detained for about four hours before being released with orders to leave the country tomorrow morning. Pakistan officials told Ms. Benjamin that she was being deported for joining illegal protests.

"I'm OK — a little shaken up," Ms. Benjamin told The Washington Times by telephone from her hotel in Lahore. "They mistreated us."

Ms. Benjamin said she feared for her life as the agents held her at gunpoint in a car speeding through the city to the police station.

"I thought I was going to die in the car," she said. "They totally terrorized us."

Pakistani authorities also detained and then ordered the deportation of Tighe Barry, a longtime Code Pink activist who was participating with the student rally outside the Lahore Press Club.

"It's a sad state of affairs when the Pakistani government, a government that is trying to portray itself to the West as democratic, tries to harass and deport U.S. human rights activists," Ms. Benjamin said at the press club before her arrest. "If they do this to us, who have the protection of being U.S. citizens, imagine what they do to their own citizens."

Code Pink activists are arrested regularly in Washington for disrupting congressional hearings on the war, targeting Democrats and Republicans with protests.

A Code Pink activist was arrested in October after rushing up to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, wrapping her arms around Miss Rice and screaming "war criminal" as she displayed her red-painted hands.

The plainclothes officers first approached Ms. Benjamin and Mr. Barry as the pair arrived at the rally and told them that their visas had expired and that they would have to leave, she said.

Ms. Benjamin said their visas were valid at the time of the arrest.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy was not available for immediate comment.

An altercation ensued after the agents told them to leave, said Code Pink spokeswoman Dana Balicki.

"The government agents grabbed Barry by the arm and tried to hold him. Benjamin got help from some journalists, who managed to escort the two activists inside the club," Ms. Balicki said.

Ms. Benjamin said that when she and Mr. Barry left the club, the agents on three motorcycles followed the car through the city. Agents in another car cut them off and then, with guns drawn, the officers took them into custody.

Ms. Benjamin and Mr. Barry have been in Pakistan since Nov. 25 to support opponents of the emergency rule, including lawyers, judges and students.

Earlier, they conducted a 24-hour vigil outside the home of lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, who is under house arrest.

Protests against the war in Iraq by Code Pink members, often clad in pink shirts and pink tiaras, have become a fixture on Capitol Hill.

Ms. Benjamin said her ordeal in Pakistan had not changed her view of the protest she leads in the United States. Rather, she said, she was inspired by the struggle of lawyers, judges and students against the emergency rule imposed Nov. 3 by Mr. Musharraf.

"We'll probably be doing a protest at the Pakistan Embassy as soon as we get back to D.C.," Ms. Benjamin said.

Ms. Benjamin and Mr. Barry plan to fly back to Washington tomorrow.


Are you tired of hearing all the griping by Bill O'Reilly and his buddies about the war on Christmas? I mean come on folks, is Christmas really in any danger here? Are not Christians the dominant religion in this country? Is there some other religious group that I don't know about that is taking over? Give me a break already.

Aren't there other things to be concerned about for good Christians in regards to Christmas.

I mean I'm only a Jew so my views about the day which celebrates the birth of one of the most famous members of the tribe probably aren't worth much, but that's never stopped me from mouthing off before. So I'll say this, and I've said it before on this very blog, if I were a Christian I'd sure think the real War on Christmas is the one which has succeeded in turning what I would think would be a very holy day of peace into a vast consumer spending spree celebrated across the land with hordes of television commercials and shopper sales. I mean what other religious group has seen a holy day desecrated like that.

But what is Bill and company worried about? They fret about whether or not someone (who, we have no idea) complains about someone else telling them "Merry Christmas." It is my personal belief that the person who reported spotting this grouch who complained may very well be the same person who spotted all those anti-war protesters back in the sixties spitting on returning troops.

The good news is that a group of Christian folk are calling on Bo'reilly to get off this shtick and help them restore a focus on the common good during this holy season.

I say more power to them.

Far be it from me to speak for Jesus but my reading of the guy is he'd think that would be a good idea and since it's his birthday that's getting celebrated maybe it ought to revolve more around his message then around what's happening at the local mall.

I'll let you in on a little secret on Christmas eve when I'm out walking my dog I enjoy a sense of peace. Now maybe it's just the cold weather and the lack of others out wondering around but to me, a non-Christian, it is a special part of the holiday season y'all refer to as Christmas.

I'm sorry Bill O'Reilly can't seem to do that.

The following piece from my friend Bill Berkowitz comes from Talk to Action.

Religious leaders push back against right's "War on Christmas"
By Bill Berkowitz
Coalition of religious leaders urges Bill O'Reilly and other Christmas Warriors to consider a cease fire

Over the past few years, the "War on Christmas" -- a shared project of the Religious Right and the Fox News Channel - has become as much a part of the holiday season as the showing of Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life" and Charles Schulz`s "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on television every year.

Now, after a few years of sitting on the sidelines while an assortment of conservative Christian leaders and Fox's talking heads grinched and groaned about a so-called "War on Christmas," some Christian leaders have decided to fight back - and they're doing it with an interesting twist; placing the emphasis on peace and charity this holiday season.

Today, according to a press release issued yesterday by Faith in Public Life, a group of religious leaders are placing advertisements in the Washington Times and the New York Post "challenging Bill O'Reilly of Fox News and others who have lashed out against a so-called secular `War on Christmas' to join them in a new campaign that restores a focus on the common good during this holy season."

"War on Christmas" good for religious right's bottom line

Last year, the Alliance Defense Fund, American Family Association, Focus on the Family, and Concerned Women for America banded together for a special Christmas Project. "Chief on its agenda," Religion News Service reported at the time, "is a list of `nice' retailers that use the word `Christmas' in their stores and catalogues and `naughty' ones that do not."

The "War on Christmas" apparently has been good for the bottom line of several conservative Christian organizations. In 2006, the American Family Association maintained that it sold more than 500,000 buttons and 125,000 bumper stickers bearing the slogan "Merry Christmas: It's Worth Saying." The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal aid group that boasts a network of some 900 lawyers standing ready to "defend Christmas," says it has moved about 20,000 "Christmas packs" - two legal pins and a three-page legal memo given for a $29 donation. And Liberty Counsel, a conservative law firm affiliated with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, said it distributed for free 16,000 legal memos on celebrating Christmas.

The problem with Christmas in the US of A, according to an "Open Letter to Christmas Culture Warriors" -- signed onto by a group of Catholic social justice leaders, priests, religious sisters and evangelical Christians -- is not that some department stores use "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" in their holiday advertising. Nor is it so-called efforts to removal of Christmas celebrations from the public square by liberals/atheists.

"We believe the real assault on Christmas is how a season of peace, forgiveness and goodwill has been sidelined by a focus on excessive consumerism," the letter states. "The powerful message Christ brings to the world is `good news for the poor.' Instead, Christmas is being reduced to a corporate-sponsored holiday that idolizes commerce and materialism."

Urging Fox's talking heads to take the high road

A press release issued on Monday, December 3, by Faith in Public Life, a not-for-profit nonpartisan 501(c) (3) communications and organizing resource center "dedicated to reclaiming the values debate in America ... [and] strengthen[ing] and increase[ing] the visibility of faith leaders dedicated to justice and the common good," points out religious leaders "are challenging Bill O'Reilly of Fox News and others who have lashed out against a so-called secular `War on Christmas' to join them in a new campaign that restores a focus on the common good during this holy season."

The group's "Open Letter to Christmas Culture Warriors" is to be published as an advertisement in the December 4 issue of New York Post and Washington Times and in the December 14 issue of the National Catholic Reporter,

Faith in Public Life's press release notes that Fox News commentator John Gibson's 2005 book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought, "denounced what he and other pundits describe as a secular agenda intent on destroying Christmas and driving religion from the public square." William Donohue, executive director of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, "has warned of `cultural fascists' taking over Christmas" and Fox's top talking head, Bill O'Reilly, "has made the `War on Christmas' a prominent seasonal feature of his popular Fox broadcast."

Christianity Today's Ted Olsen recently described the evolution of the battles surrounding the Christmas season this way:

The Christmas wars have changed focus in the last few years. There are still the reruns of fights over displaying nativity scenes, stars of Bethlehem, and less religious displays like Christmas trees on government-run spaces. Hundreds of lawyers are standing by, waiting for a city council to squelch caroling or a school principal to crush a candy-cane handout."

But since 2005, when the "war on Christmas" reached a fever pitch, some organizations and many individual Christians have put more emphasis on the season's greeting. At the grocery store last year, I was surprised by the indignation of a fellow shopper when the clerk wished her "Happy Holidays." The woman glowered for a moment, then responded, without a hint of merriment, "Merry Christmas."

Honoring the words of Christ

"Christmas marks a season of hope, peace and the light of justice illuminating the dark corners of our world," said Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

"At a time when soldiers and innocent civilians are dying in a real war in Iraq and 37 million Americans live still in poverty we should be focusing on those moral scandals not having petty shouting matches on television about a supposed `secular conspiracy' to subvert Christmas."

"When we consider the true meaning of Christmas, its sacredness is not validated by prescribed greetings or slogans in department stores," said Rev. Derrick Harkins, Senior Pastor of the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and a Board member of the evangelical humanitarian relief agency World Relief, "If we are truly serious about the importance of Christmas, we will remember that its message of love and hope was shared with disenfranchised shepherds first, which should prompt us to be far more concerned with how the season is shared in word and deed with the poor and hurting among us."

Monday, December 03, 2007


As the Presidential candidates all present health care proposals, in West Harlem residents just want their local health center to open...after more than five years of being shut down.

The Manhattanville Health Center was closed the authorities said for some needed renovations.

Well, despite the availability of funds, Manhattanville Health Center has not been rehabilitated. Programs originally on site have dispersed with no guarantee of their return.

Local politicians say its no big deal as patient visits had declined over the years. Could be the reasons were cuts in services provided and managed Medicaid. The latter assigns Medicaid patients to a particular provider and does not allow them to go elsewhere. Since many patients never receive or don't understand notices asking them to choose an MD, they are assigned one and never know it.

Falling patient visits certainly weren't caused by a lack of need. The death rate in the area is 40 percent higher than in the city as a whole, and the poverty rate is 50 percent higher. Twenty-four percent of Harlem residents do not have a primary source of health care and 11 percent use the ER for emergencies. HIV deaths are more than double the rate in NYC; cancer is the leading cause of premature death. Rates of cancer, asthma, diabetes and heart disease are higher than anywhere else. These are NYC Dept of Health statistics.

But city officials say no problem.

And, of course, if you've been reading the OD lately you know that Colombia University has a plan to deal with this anyway. That would be there expansion plan which would simply exile 5000 or more people from the community. No people means no sick people. A novel idea, I'd say.

Did I mention that the renovations which were to have taken place were themselves the result of community action.

Residents in the area are back in the streets trying to get their health center back. They shouldn't have to be doing this. It doesn't take any brains to see the need.

At a speech in Harlem late last month Barack Obama touched on many issues central to his campaign, including closing the achievement gap in education and health care reform. “We will have health care for every American by the end of my first term as President of the United States.”

He didn't mention the Manhattanville Health Center.

My guess is he's never heard of it.

And there is part of the problem.

The following is from the Columbia Spectator.

Residents Call for Reopening of Health Center
By Melissa Repko

Led by Sunday-school students carrying brightly-colored banners, approximately 30 people marched from St. Mary’s Church to the Manhattanville Health Center to protest it being closed for the last four years.

The protest, which urged the center to reopen, tied together what protesters perceive as Columbia’s disregard for the neighborhood with its expansion plans and the general disregard for the public health of the area. It included many community activists who oppose the way the University plans to expand into Manhattanville, but centered around the need for improved public health in Harlem.

The Manhattanville Health Center, a city-run clinic, was originally closed for renovations four years ago, but was never reopened because of decisions made by the mayor and the Department of Health. Though the portico was redone to look more modern, no one has used the building since renovations began.

The protesters were a mixture of students, neighborhood residents, and churchgoers. Several members of the Columbia group Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification—including former hunger striker Samantha Barron, BC ’10—were in attendance.

Before heading out into the cold, Jim White, mental health advocate and Sunday-school teacher, joked with people gathering in the church’s basement. “We lovingly call it St. Mary’s the Militant,” he said, noting the church’s long history of speaking out and fighting for change.

Tom DeMott, CC ’80, of the Coalition to Preserve Community, spoke of the need for clinics in the area, particularly because disease rates are much higher than in other parts of Manhattan. He said the health and facilities committee of the West Harlem Local Development Corporation, a group formed to negotiate a community benefits agreement with Columbia, came up with very strong demands to address public health concerns. Yet, he recently resigned from the LDC citing backdoor political decisions and said that among other ideas, committee demands related to health were “facing a heavy dilution process.”

The relatively small group made noise and handed out fliers about both the health center and Columbia’s 197-c plan to rezone the area to build a campus. Many in the area smiled or joined into the chants as the protesters walked by. At one point, two people cheered out of an apartment building window.

Most of the commentary focused on promoting public health for the working poor by eliminating racism. “There’s a tremendous amount of racism in the way Harlem residents’ lives are disregarded,” said Dr. Ellen Isaacs, who lives in the area.

Isaacs explained that many blame the sick poor for not taking care of themselves without considering the great expense of healthier foods and gym memberships. “There’s a lot of writing about our lifestyle, what we eat, and how much we exercise.... There is an extreme amount of social, institutionalized racism,” she said, adding that Columbia should use its medical knowledge to reach out to the nearby community rather than researching diseases like the West Nile virus.

Reverend Earl Kooperkamp of St. Mary’s church said he was frustrated by the building being closed and that it should be full of needy patients, not locked up and full of boxes. “The only thing there is a security guard to keep the door locked 24 hours a day,” he said.


A New Zealand man is about to sail solo to the Southern Ocean to take on the might of the Japanese whaling fleet in a risky David versus Goliath battle over the slaughter of the endangered humpback and other species.

Of the Japanese action the yachtsman, David Taylor (pictured here in a photo from the Bay of Plenty Times), told the Times, "There's no excuse for it at all, not by any stretch of the imagination. It's definitely not scientific. There's just no need for it. They don't require it for food ... It's threatening an endangered species _ we lose species around the world too often and there's no excuse for this one."

Taylor said the humpbacks were endangered and scientifically there was no need to kill whales for research.

"The Japanese say it's a scientific study, that's just a complete farce," he said.

"It's only just testing the waters to see if they can get away with it."

The Humpback whale is an endangered species almost hunted to extinction until it was protected by a 1965 worldwide moratorium.

The following press release is from Scoop (NZ).

Yachtsman Solo Protest Sail To Southern Ocean

David Taylor a Tauranga yachtsman is about to sail solo down to the Southern Ocean in protest at the appalling planned killing of Humpback whales along with Fin and Minki whales by Japan. His aim is raise awareness and hopefully action from fellow New Zealander’s.

The Humpback whale is an endangered species almost hunted to extinction until it was protected by a 1965 worldwide moratorium but the Japanese whaling fleet left Japan on the 18th November to kill 50 Humpbacks under the guise of scientific study along with 1000 other whales.

David has a science degree and has helped survey Humpbacks in Niue and Tonga, Killing even one whale is not necessary let alone 50, and the breeding stock will not stand this kind of loss. The Japanese are constantly increasing the number of whales they kill under the guise of science and must be encouraged to stop, this will only happen with pressure from other governments and public outcry. David’s hope is that by undertaking this protest, that other New Zealanders will ask or demand that their members of parliament force the government to take more assertive action. This solo sailing in the Southern Ocean is a challenging task not only on David and boat but also on family and loved ones he leaves behind.

David a 54 year old father of two grown daughters and two grand daughters, is engaged about to remarry in the New Year.

A dedicated and experienced yachtsman he has sailed the Pacific many times over many years. He returned as an adult in 2000 to study and gain a degree a Bachelor of Applied Science and then a postgraduate degree in secondary school teaching.

David has a passion for the sea and life. Sailing the Southern Ocean is a risky and expensive undertaking David would gratefully welcome any sponsors in helping get the likes of a satellite phone, survival gear, collision avoidance system, provisions etc. Also in promoting and advancement of this protest voyage. David is hoping for a web page that he can up date during the two months of protest.

If you have any feeling of injustice or disgust at this proposed killing of the Humpbacks and other whales tell others, be active, contact your Member of Parliament, sign a petition, do something or nothing will change and this year we will lose 50 Humpbacks and next year who knows what will be targeted. Think of the future what is lost cannot be replaced.


So the big vote in Venezuela went against Hugo Chavez. The margin was small, but the result was significant.

The final report by the CNE (Consejo Nacional Electoral) of the vote on the Constitutional Reforms reported 50.7% against the reforms and 49.29% for the reforms. The CNE also reports 40% abstentia in this vote.

Right wing forces and the White House will crow about the beginning of the end of Chavez.
Chavez and company will blame those who abstained and the US for the loss.

Supporters of Chavez will point to the fact that he has accepted the results as proof that his regime is a democratic one.

Opponents of Chavez will warn that the President plans to push ahead with his planned reforms one way or another. They will point to the words of the President who said while conceding defeat his proposals would remain “alive" as proof that he is no democrat.

Lots of folks won't say anything, because they simply aren't sure what to think.

I've decided though I find it hard to write about Hugo Chavez I'll go ahead and make some off the cuff comments.

Personally, I believe that Hugo Chavez is more of a "egotist" then a "socialist." I have no doubt that Chavez enjoys the power he has and would like more. He relishes his appearances on the world scene more than anyone I've seen since the early days of the Brother Leader Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi. In fact, he reminds me a of the Brother Leader (who once had the coolest wardrobe of any world leader). His Bolivarian rhetoric is not dissimilar to al_Gaddafi's Pan-Islamist. Chavez is a populist of sorts with lots of cash thanks to his country's oil reserves (so was al-Gaddafi). He is loved by the poor for the simple fact that he recognizes they exist and he is willing to spend some of that money on programs that actually benefit them (so was al-Gaddafi). He posits himself as the center of the battle against US imperialism (so did al-Gaddafi). He's charismatic (so was al-Gaddafi). He is in love with himself (so was al-Gaddafi). Most importantly, he's no socialist despite what he says (neither was al-Gaddafi).

I hate being overly critical because I think the forces that make up the main opposition to Chavez are far worse than him (And I do get kick out of the way Chavez needles our own illustrious leader, the way he simply drives the Bushies mad). The oligarchy's return to power would be a total disaster for the vast majority of the people of Venezuela. Bush's wild support of those forces isn't for nothing folks.

What I think is really needed is a truly revolutionary movement in Venezuela which for one forces Chavez toward the actual left and eventually replaces him with a real socialist not a phony cardboard one.

And that will be anything but easy. For now, its virtually impossible.

So what to do with a guy who thinks it A-OK to cozy up to the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (no friend of progressive people anywhere)?

My honest answer right now is "beats the hell out of me."

The only thing I want to make clear is that Chavezism is not the same thing as what I believe in.

I wish I could point to a state or a world leader off hand that is.

The following comment comes from the London based Guardian.

A good day for democracy
Conor Foley

"I thank you and I congratulate you," said Hugo Chávez to his opponents. "I recognise the decision a people have made."

Neither a socialist saviour nor a fascist dictator, Venezuela's leader has shown again how far off the mark European and North American perceptions of Latin America tend to be. Only a couple of days ago Richard Gott was predicting here that the "Chávez revolution is clearly here to stay". Tariq Ali earlier proclaimed that "Latin America is on the march again in a 'struggle spearheaded by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela." Yet on Sunday voters narrowly rejected his proposals for constitutional reform which would have enabled him to stay in power until 2050 and Chávez graciously, perhaps after some behind the scenes arm-twisting, accepted the result.

Latin America has witnessed a kind of revolution over the past few years as a "pink tide" has brought leftwing parties to power in country after country. This shift clearly reflects a rejection of the so-called Washington consensus, but it masks the fact that there are two quite different political trends within the Latin American left and these differences have their origins in the different social and economic conditions within the continent. As Max Cameron has pointed out, countries such as Chile, Uruguay and Costa Rica have all have made sustained investments in human development which has included the creation of efficient public sector institutions based on the rule of law and the separation of powers. The left here clearly has an easier task than in countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia, where the power of the traditional oligarchs is much stronger. This is what has produced fiery leftists such as Chávez and Evo Morales.

Chávez's brand of political populism should be seen in this political context. It draws on a tradition most famously used by Juan Domingo Perón of Argentina who successfully exploited his people's nationalist sentiment and built up a heavily corporate state which many accused of quasi-fascist leanings. Populism has been used by the right as much as by the left in Latin America although, since the advent of George Bush in the White House, it has been much easier for the left to appropriate this territory. Indeed, if there is one clear lesson that can be drawn from Chávez's defeat it is the counterproductive nature of the attempts to demonise him.

One of the main factors behind Chávez's rise to power has been the spectacular incompetence of Venezuela's political opposition. These have mounted boycotts, political strikes and an attempted coup in an effort to oust him, all of which has only strengthened his political dominance. Up until a couple of weeks ago many were advocating a boycott of Sunday's poll and it was only the growing influence of the student protesters who helped to tip the balance. Ironically, by accepting defeat at the polls, Chávez has refuted his opponents' strongest charge against him.

However much some of his political stunts have irritated other left political forces on the continent, they have remained publicly supportive out of a sense of basic solidarity. President Lula of Brazil is due to finish his term of office in 2010. His Workers' Party (PT) has no obvious successor and there are some moves to change the constitution to enable him to run for another term. Lula has publicly rejected the suggestion and many of his supporters would also oppose it on principle, but it would be nobody else's business if that is what Brazilians were to decide.

Latin America has only emerged from the shadow of its northern neighbour quite recently and anti-US opinion here still runs deeply. Chávez regularly brands his opponents as serving Washington's interests because he knows that this taps a groundswell of popular feeling and western attacks on him only reinforce this sentiment. Western foreign policy-makers might choose to ponder on this point for its wider implications, but Chávez's advice to his supporters yesterday to not feel sad has a wider resonance. Yesterday was a good day for democracy.