Peace Patriot's Journal
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President Obama the other day said that if he had a son, he would hesitate to let him play football (because of the prevalence of serious and permanent injuries to both young and older players).
I am a sometime football fan--married to a former college football player who absolutely LOVED football (not to watch; to play), and what with Superbowl fever this week--a contest that I'm interested in (rooting for the Niners, though some sympathy for the Ravens, too--just hope it's a really good and clean game)-- I am hearing and reading A LOT of talk about the INCREASE in football injuries, from within the sports world itself, including very serious concerns, from sports commentators, columnists, former players, parents of young players (feature in Sports Illustrated this week) and others. I find it interesting and unusual that reasons NOT to play football, NOT to let your kids play football, and (implied) NOT to support football--especially in the current atmosphere, wherein some coaches at all levels encourage players to seriously hurt and disable opposing players (concuss them, break their legs)--in the week before the Super Bowl.
It gives me pause about my own enthusiasm for this game. And one of the facts I picked up from all this extraordinary discussion within and the around the sport, about injuries, is that many retired pro-football players suffer early dementia, directly caused by repeated brain concussions and serious visible (in x-rays) damage to the brain. That's not the only serious and permanent injury that occurs, but it is perhaps the most tragic, because it is so frequent and because it eventually deprives the sufferers of their reason--their minds, their ability to think and communicate. (i work with dementia patients so I know how serious this is. There is no cure. There is no hope. The "person" is mostly gone, often long before they die. It is a heartbreaker.)
Another commentator said that he did not know a single retired professional football player who was not suffering a serious permanent injury from football, of one kind or another. I also heard about quite young players--children, teenagers--being crippled for life or dying, due to football injuries. Even one such incident is bad. It happens much too frequently to be considered an anomaly. The culture itself demands winning at any cost, in a sport that--more than any other except boxing--requires frequent physical battering as the price of admission. Not a quirk. Not an anomaly. A way of life.
Should a 9 year old or a 15 year old be permitted to choose this (or worse, be pressured into it)? Should battering of the head in particular--with helmets that are NOT preventing repeated concussions leading to early dementia--be allowed to continue as a national sport? Should we all be cheering on these future dementia patients, or future cripples?
I've also been thinking about gladiators--way back during the Roman Empire. There was a period or periods during the Roman Empire when those contests were incredibly bloody and murderous, and disgustingly prurient, as to the sadism of the spectators. The contestants were slaves and seldom benefitted from any skill they might demonstrate. And while our modern professional football players are not slaves--most are well paid, with many perks including the best sports medicine and the best protective equipment--are there not some haunting similarities here?
For instance, does money mean anything to a professional football player who is descending into dementia at an early age? What good is his money to him? Are these owners and corporations who run football not luring him with lots of money into sacrificing his life for them? Also, those on the lower rungs of the sport are not so well paid, and the young players--the kids--aren't paid at all. In any case, what good is money OR fame, if your mind is gone? What good is a scholarship if, two years or five years later, you are undergoing multiple surgeries with, say, only a 50/50 chance of being fully ambulatory again, and no chance at playing sports again? What kind of career is that? Who benefits from that? Who pays for that? What is that worth?
I do understand the male need for danger, having had four brothers (two football players) a football player and AF jet bomber pilot husband and a son (not football but other dangers). Some woman have this need, though in my experience it's mostly a male thing. Women can be aggressive and competitive, and do engage in dangerous sports and love it--but I've never known a woman who wants to be hurt playing sports, the way men court that danger in football. Probably this will change and some day there will be no difference. Anyway, a physical challenge is one thing; courting physical injury is quite another. It is no accident that 18 to 25 year old men have the highest auto insurance rates. They are more reckless than women their age. They do things on a dare that young women would never do (or only the rare young woman would do). Utterly stupid things--to prove their manhood, to show they are not afraid, to show they don't care about themselves but yield their life to the group. It probably goes way back in our evolution to our early hunter-gatherer beginnings and male differentiation into communal hunters. It seems to be a NEED, not a choice.
I wanted to struggle with this thought because I admire heroics--physical heroics (but much more so, ethical heroics). We need heroes; we need models; we are an imitative species and are heartened by heroics of various kinds. It's not a bad thing. It's who we are. And it's not bad to test yourself--learn your limits, your fears and how to handle them, discover your skills and strengths; and feel confident that you can defend yourself and others. We are all surrounded by known and unknown dangers. We all face death. Of all humans, though, I think it is young men who least believe in their inevitable deaths. Indeed, they don't believe in it at all, most of them. They think they will live forever--and it is so like them to scoff at the danger of permanent injury from playing football, and then to court that danger, to invite it. We CANNOT shield everyone from everything. They WILL court danger. But should we be encouraging it, in this case of known, frequently occurring permanent injury? Should we be glorifying excessively aggressive football, football that demands harm and injury?
My once football-loving husband agrees with these concerns (on his own--I didn't badger him). He says that he was never happier in his life than when he was playing football in high school and college. He was very good at it. He never got seriously hurt on the field (that we know about yet). He clearly was a daredevil in his youth--many risks, many accidents (non-football). But he now thinks that football is much too violent and also way too corporatized. He doesn't have any desire to watch televised (or any) football games, and won't be watching the Superbowl.
I will be watching and probably enjoying the game on Sunday, in fits and starts. I will be at work tending to dementia and other patients. I've never, ever wanted players injured in any game or sport. I don't have any desire to see one side or the other playing dirty football. But I must say that these discussions have sobered me. And I want the sport to be reformed--for the long term health of its players and for all the kids who play it.
One other suggestion--regarding corporate sports. Our entire culture--and our democracy--is in the process of being destroyed by transglobal corporate powers--from the riggable voting machines, to the outsourcing of jobs and destruction of communities, to poisonous food, to toxic wastes, to the oil wars and more. So much that is good about our country and our people is being despoiled. Perhaps the answer, as to football, is a weekly show on "reality TV" of local community or family touch football games, that could be even more engaging than these multi-million dollar gladiators and their sponsors' one-long-commercial, gawdy spectacles.
Every community in the country could plan a little one-week touch football festival--one neighborhood vs another, or one side of the block vs the other side--with a big potluck picnic as the centerpiece and the game, played by everyone, for fun and recreation. It doesn't matter who wins--or it matters only for the fun of it. The only thing that really matters is being together.
I'm modeling this on some wonderful family picnics that I have attended. The food was great. The flag football competition was ferocious--but no one got hurt and no one cared (or can even remember) who won. Winning wasn't the point. Playing was the point. Entertaining each other was the point. For the oldsters, testing whether you could get up on your legs and run like a kid again, or throw a ball with conviction. For the youngsters, seeing their elders make fools of themselves or being surprised by their dash and daring. Feeling the thrill of a successful play or the agony of bad one. Joining the fray as a novice and botching your assignment, or not--succeeding, making a touchdown your first time out. Laughing at it all. Giving the young ones good memories. Giving "the bench" a good show. And--my brilliant idea--sharing it with the whole nation.
Could it replace the Superbowl? Could it change football into something better for all of us, as well as for the future dementia patients that we will be watching on Sunday? Las Vegas could even bet on these little community or family games and someone could take on the role of local sports announcer. All for fun. Amateurism seems to be a new trend. Why not amateur football? (But no kicking anybody off islands or ridiculing their talents! Straight-up play time. No boo's. No trophies. Bets limited to a dollar.)
Well, maybe it's a silly idea. I don't know. What about all those billions of dollars--the vendors, the jobs, the "camps," the hotels, the souvenirs, the development corporations, the stadiums, the mansions, the yachts and so on--lots and lots of money spread around, to big incomes and small ones. Like a war machine, once an economy is invested in it, it's very difficult to stop or even curtail it. It becomes its own justification. That's how the Romans went off the deep end--with war after war to expand and protect their empire, and an addiction to violent spectacles at home, for entertainment. A little simplistic, yeah--but the parallel is there. Do we really care about these gladiators that we are going to gawk at on Sunday more than the Romans cared about their gladiators? A shocking question. Of course we do...don't we?
Do we really care if they start losing their minds at age 45, to extreme damage that multiple concussions have done to their brains? Do we care if our kids suffer multiple concussions or other serious injuries before they even get out of childhood, after being encouraged to win at any cost? And if we care, how do we channel that energy, and how do we create a national entertainment, that doesn't demand permanent injury, or, at the very least, changes the culture to greatly reduce the harm?
Posted by Peace Patriot | Thu Jan 31, 2013, 07:56 PM (0 replies)
...but we don't live in the "Old West" any more. The Transglobal Corporate powers that rule over us are much, much, MUCH more sophisticated in their techniques of control than Athens' corrupt mayor and sheriff. For instance, all vote counting is now done with electronics, using 'TRADE SECRET' code, owned and controlled largely by one, private, far rightwing-connected corporation (ES&S, which bought out Diebold). How ya gonna use guns to overturn that kind of power? It's not possible. The government has bigger guns, and more of them, and drones and other lethal aircraft, and impenetrable tanks, and machines with hoses that spray suffocating substances at fire hose pressures, and whatever else they need for total physical control of the population, including impenetrable prisons and out-of-control spying.
We have a much different sort of problem than a local dirty political machine. We have a huge, transglobal and impenetrably dirty political-financial machine which has hijacked the U.S. military for a corporate oil war, which installed Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in power, which clearly has President Obama on a short leash, and which has gone a long, long way toward destroying our democracy altogether, not to mention robbing us blind.
If you think that even the arsenal of assault weapons in American homes can overturn these powers--can "run them out of town"--you are very foolish, indeed. We need to match the quite staggering power of transglobal corporations and their unprecedented war machine with People Power of a different kind than personal weapons, that don't have a chance against them and that shouldn't be used that way, in any case. Making war on the government? I mean, really. If you want bloodshed, go to a war theatre. There are plenty of them. Don't bring any more of it here!
No, don't go 'there." Sorry I said that. I don't wish more bloodshed on ANYONE.
We have to be a lot smarter than that, to outsmart the forces that are destroying our democracy and impoverishing us and others--and we need to be a lot more aware of, and compassionate toward, the victims of bloody conflict--the ones who always take the brunt of it--children, girls, women, parents, the elderly, the helpless. You want our people engaged in bloody conflict with the government? You want people shooting our own people--our police, our soldiers? You want our police and our soldiers put in the position of being ordered to shoot us? You want buildings and buses and airplanes and trains and bridges being blown up? You want social mayhem? You want loss of medical services and food supplies? You want blood all over the streets? You know much about civil wars? You know much about any wars?
Try to take your musket down to the local voter Registrar to get a look at that 'TRADE SECRET' code--and see how far you get.
We have a very difficult, long developing, complicated problem to solve, that requires brains not brawn, and moral courage, not battle courage. We need a Martin Luther King to lead it, or, best of all, many Martin Luther Kings. And we need it to be peaceful. And anyone who doesn't understand this--who eggs people on to think that buying guns is going to protect them from corrupt and oppressive government--is inviting the ruination of our people and our country.
This video is a neat little story--satisfying like some cowboy movies where the good and the true win out. But it does not apply to our situation, except that the integrity of the vote count is involved. But how do you get the ballot boxes out of the hands of the bad guys if there are no ballot boxes? If they are fiddling the results remotely, ten states away, or in another country? (You know where ES&S manufactures their touchscreen voting machines? In the Philippines! In sweatshop conditions!) You can go shoot up your local voting machines, and get yourself a long prison term, and they will just bring in more such machines--and maybe take your house to pay for the damage, and put your family out on the street.
Collective action we will surely need--but it has to be smart and it has to be peaceful. Nothing else has any chance of success--if the goal is improving our democracy and the fairness and decency of our country. If the goal is some teenage boy's dream of gunplay and social mayhem and dystopia, where the he-man with the biggest gun wins, go to the movies, please, and stop peddling nonsense.
One other thing: How many of those good guys and bad guys would have lived, in that conflict in Athens, if even one of them had been armed with an assault weapon that shoots six bullets per second? SIX BULLETS PER SECOND! It's bad enough to think of those men, good and bad, lying in bloody heaps, dead--having had no chance whatsoever to get away or fight back. Now think about a kindergarten shot up with such a weapon--the little tykes shivering in their shoes, maybe trying to run away--and getting blown to bits, in mere seconds, with multiple, deadly wounds, and no chance at all. You and others have carried this 2nd Amendment crapola way, way too far. We are not that country any more. We are a country where five year olds get massacred and we can't do anything about it because people like you get maudlin over your guns and want more and more guns, and faster and more deadly means of mowing down your "enemies." But who gets mowed down, hm?
Two days before the Newtown massacre, I heard an ad on the radio in my car. Imagine a radio ad by an Animal Shelter that uses soft music and softer words to urge you to adopt a cute little puppy for Christmas, and tells you that a homeless puppy is waiting there to love you. Now substitute "gun" for "cute little puppy." That's the ad I heard, from a gunshop in Fresno, CA. They had guns that wanted to love you, that were waiting for you to "adopt" them.
It's sick. That's what it is. Getting so maudlin over guns that you can't see reality any more.
Posted by Peace Patriot | Thu Jan 10, 2013, 10:16 PM (2 replies)
...and most Americans and most people in the world (except those with leftist governments such as Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay and others in Latin America).
As we try to cross the room, from our births to our deaths, working more and more for less and less pay (if we can find work at all), seeking educations that cost more and more and MORE and that throw us into lifelong debt, paying into Social Security all the while to find our benefits, at retirement, way, WAY behind inflation, with yet more cuts intended by vicious politicians who don't represent us (were (s)elected by ES&S/Diebold and their 'TRADE SECRET' code), who find our Social Security checks dunned for Medicare but not for all of Medicare, leaving us to come up with 20% of hugely inflated medical costs while getting even LESS of our Social Security pension, should we get ill or disabled by old age, finding the cost of running the vehicles to which we have been deliberately addicted rise higher and higher and HIGHER for no reason at all ($4 frigging dollars per gallon! Jeez!), finding the costs of all energy and other essential life commodities getting beyond our reach, unable to put food on the table, unable to buy our kids Christmas presents let alone diapers, clothes, proper nutrition, books, sports uniforms, musical instruments, educational trips and all the tacked on costs of public education (if their schools even have sports any more, or orchestras, or teachers), some of us unable to even put a roof over their heads...
...and on and on, while the rich beat us along our way and take large chunks out of our flesh, as we try to cross the room (live our lives), with dreams of "putting a little away" for our kids, or "putting a little away" for that trip to Hawaii that we've put off for decades, while we worked more and more for less and less pay (if we can find work at all) gone up in smoke. No dreams any more--not even modest little dreams, like paying off the mortgage before we die and our kids inheriting the house free and clear. All gone.
We reach the middle of the room and find that we have gotten nowhere. We try to make the next couple of steps and find ourselves being pushed backwards. Zeno comes into play--logic's biggest joke come true, in real life, in 21st Century America and other places run by transglobal corporate monsters and the 1%. Most people will die, become sick or disabled, or "get kicked off the island" before they even get a chance to approach the middle point of the second half of the paradox, because, to the transglobal corporate monsters who rule over us, and the 1% who support them--getting richer and richer, while the rest of us get poorer and poorer--we are not really people; we are lines on a graph, where our modest gains go down and down, and their ungodly wealth goes up and up.
It is no surprise at all that these same forces have lied to us, time and again, about "saving energy" or "saving money" (har-har) and it is no surprise that, whatever we do, energy and other life essentials, and everything that energy produces, will cost more and more, as our incomes decline. That is the "Zeno's Paradox" of this horrible system of Corporate Rule--a philosopher's joke made manifest.
Whether Zeno's Paradox applies to "energy efficiency" in this system is pretty obvious to me. It does. But not in the way discussed (and argued about) above. It is applicable in this way: The profits of the few go up as the viability of Planet Earth goes down. These two things are tied to each other, inversely. And any effort to get past the half way point, and to start putting the decline of Planet Earth in reverse, is impossible until we STOP the profits of the few from GOING UP as the result of their extremely destructive behavior--whether it is deforestation or frakking or oil spills or oil wars, or their imperiling the food system with GMOs and pesticides, or their vast plastics pollution, or their growing of tasteless, messed-with strawberries in Chile and flying them to Los Angeles, or their avoidance of environmental laws by manufacturing in China, or their de-funding of the EPA, or their assault on every resource agency in the country and in other countries where they can get at them, or their slave labor palm oil farms and (you heard it here first) GMO marijuana farms in Colombia, or any of their other goddamn schemes to subvert democracy and workers' rights and destroy the very planet we live on, for more and more and MORE profits for the few.
We can't really tinker with this--by introducing better light bulbs or better cars--and testing out this or that economic paradox. And we CANNOT solve it as individuals, nor as isolated communities, because WE DON'T HAVE TIME. Even if we were to convert the entire USA to less individual consumption and to growing vegetable gardens instead of lawns, these powers go elsewhere--they are already there--to Asia, to Africa, to the parts of Latin America that they've been able to hold onto, not to mention the Middle East, forcing and bribing and encouraging them down the same utterly unsustainable path that we have trod. We really have to grab these Destroyers by the throat, and start deconstructing their corporations--pulling their corporate charters, dismantling them and seizing their assets for the common good.
How do we do that? First of all, we must understand that it is doable and that it is our right, as a sovereign people. Second, GET RID OF THE CORPORATE-CONTROLLED 'TRADE SECRET' VOTING MACHINES. You want to see a miracle happen to our dying democracy? That's where to start. Thirdly, we need a much bigger "Occupy" coalition, involving all the hurting people in the country--the poorly paid, the out of work, the hurting old, the hurting young, middle classers sinking into poverty, worthy professionals who hate injustice and can't do their jobs in the ethical way they would like to (doctors, nurses, teachers, fire fighters, first responders, police, social workers, et al) or whose unions are getting busted, and so on. The coalition might even include some Republicans who believe that votes should be counted in the PUBLIC venue and Corporate Rule has destroyed "main street" businesses.
This takes time we don't have too--a political coalition to END Corporate Rule--but I think it would be easier than weening Americans from over-consumption. For one thing, if your piece of crap appliance, manufactured in China, falls apart in a year, or doesn't work at all, you pretty much have to buy another. With stinking corporate policies like "planned obsolescence" and utter lack of accountability, and with millions and millions of people dependent on an urban or suburban lifestyle (can't grow their own foods or don't know how to; have long commutes, etc.), you can't just overturn these dependences overnight. A political coalition of the majority--all the hurting people in the country--while also difficult, could occur a lot faster--and could do what I've proposed here--END Corporate Rule--provided that its targets are very pointed and focused--for instance, on the 'TRADE SECRET' voting machines (for starters). Another powerful action could a boycott of all products made out of the country, or out of specific countries with obnoxious labor and/or environmental policies. However, I think political power is more important, in the near future, for saving Planet Earth--the power to start pulling corporate charters--and that requires vote counting in the PUBLIC VENUE.
Why do you think Congress has the approval rating of a dead skunk? Because a great many of them WERE NOT ELECTED. They have NO right to the power they wield. We've got to change that first--and the first step toward changing that is restoring a PUBLIC vote count. We could start ending Corporate Rule and saving Planet Earth in the next congressional elections, if we had a PUBLIC vote count.
We don't have one now. Why is that? How is it that ONE, PRIVATE, FAR-RIGHTWING CONNECTED CORPORATION--ES&S, which bought out Diebold--now controls 75% of the voting machines in the USA, using 'TRADE SECRET' code--code that the public is forbidden to review--and with half the states in the country doing NO AUDIT AT ALL of these machines?
How is that? Why is that? Think about it. And don' worry so much about Zeno and lightbulbs. Our problem--and the peril to Planet Earth--goes way beyond what products are best or what effect they might have.
Just to say: I don't discount the potential power of ideas to spread among the collective populace--ideas such as walking, bicycling or taking mass transit (if you have it), or growing your own food or buying from local farmers (if that's possible), or using less paper, plastic and energy. And I greatly admire and approve of those who are implementing these and other such ideas, and who are helping to make them popular. But I think that such movements are chancier, and more difficult for most people to implement, than restoring our rightful political power, which would appeal to most sectors of society immediately. I mean, who wants Exxon Mobil and Chevron fixing gas prices? Who wants their appliances made in China? Who wants their town destroyed and their jobs outsourced? Who wants usurious credit card rates? Who wants trillions of our tax dollars going to transglobal banksters and the transglobal Pentagon for its resource wars? Who wants their votes 'counted' with 'TRADE SECRET' code? (or who would want it if they knew about it?)
The answer to all of these questions is: Almost nobody! And the same parties who are inflicting us with these and other ills are the ones destroying Planet Earth. We have common cause among all of the people inflicted with these ills, whether they are aware of, or care about, the peril to Planet Earth, or not. That is why I think that regaining our rightful political power, as a People, is a quicker route to saving the Planet than trying to change consumer habits, dickering with consumer products or trying to make "the Market" (controlled by the transglobal corporations) 'respond' to the Planet's dire peril--or trying to transform entire cities and suburbs, containing billions of people, into "green zones." It can't happen soon and even if it did, what of these transglobal corporations' transglobal activities? We need People Power--we need a strong, vibrant democracy--to curtail their power, starting here, where most of them are chartered by U.S. states and where congress could seriously curtail them as well, if only we had a congress that represents us.
Posted by Peace Patriot | Thu Jan 10, 2013, 08:08 PM (0 replies)
Exposing Five Key Media Myths about Chavez’s Health and Swearing-in
By EWAN ROBERTSON AND TAMARA PEARSON - VENEZUELANALYSIS.COM , January 8th 2013
Over the last few weeks the private English media has stepped up its campaign against the Venezuelan revolution, spreading a number of lies and misconceptions around President Hugo Chavez’s health, the politics and legalities involved in his swearing-in for his new term, and the Venezuelan government’s handling of the situation.
The media, often taking its line directly from Venezuela’s right-wing opposition, is exploiting a sad time for the Venezuelan people. Media Observatory journalist Mariclem Stelling, talking on public television station VTV, called it a “combination of glee, irony, and necrophilia...an attempt to remove (Chavez) from his political role”.
“They build the news from the economic and political interests to which they respond,” she said.
Here, Venezuelanalysis.com debunks the top five lies currently being spread by private media.
1) The Venezuelan government is being secretive about Chavez’s health
This charge has been made by international media since Chavez first announced he had cancer in June 2011. Criticisms by the private media of government “secrecy” around his condition have intensified as the swearing-in date approaches, in part reflecting an increasingly fractious Venezuelan opposition anxious for details they could use to their advantage.
Mass media sources describe Chavez’s medical condition as “a mystery”, with outlets such as the Los Angeles Times referring to government information on Chavez’s post-operatory recovery as “sporadic and thinly detailed medical updates”. Outlets such as the British BBC and the Australian have picked up the opposition’s call for the Venezuelan government to tell the “truth” on Chavez’s health, implying that the government is withholding information, or outright lying.
The argument that the Venezuelan government is keeping secrets feeds into the discourse most mainstream media use in relation to the Bolivarian revolution, recently describing the government as “despots” (Chicago Tribune) and “autocratic populists” (Washington Post).
Other media has put out its own versions of Chavez’s state of health, with the Spanish ABC going to great lengths to describe even his bowel movements, and reporting that he is in a coma, and the multinational Terra mistaking its desires for reality, reporting that Chavez is already dead. These media outlets have just one “anonymous” source for their reports; they somehow, apparently, have an infiltrator (or an “intelligence source” as they call it) among Chavez’s Cuban medical team.
The government has in fact released 28 statements updating the public on Chavez’s condition since his operation on 11 December, an average of around 1 per day. These statements are available in full text on the internet, and are also being read out by communication minister Ernesto Villegas on all Venezuelan public television and radio.
In the latest statement, released yesterday, Villegas said that Chavez’s condition remains “stationary” compared to the last report, where the public was informed that he has a respiratory “deficiency” due to a pulmonary infection.
It is true however, that beyond mentioning the general cancer site; the pelvic region, the government hasn’t revealed the exact type of cancer that Chavez has, nor the exact nature of the operation that he underwent on 11 December. This is possibly due to privacy reasons.
When asked directly about this issue in a recent interview, Jorge Rodriguez, a doctor and key figure in Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), said “I’d give the example of Mrs. Hilary Clinton, who had a cerebral vascular accident. There are three factors which influence these cases: the part of the brain where it happens, the size of the affected zone, and if it produces a hemorrhage or obstruction. Well fine, I’ve not seen any serious and decent doctor ask in which zone she had the lesion. And I think it’s fine that they don’t ask because that lady has the right to privacy. I’ve not seen Ramon Guillermo Aveledo (the executive secretary of the opposition’s MUD coalition) asking to know if her accident affected her in the frontal lobe, in which case, of course, she couldn’t continue giving the instructions she normally gives”.
Of course, when the international media report on the Venezuelan opposition’s stance towards Chavez’s health situation, they invariably fail to mention that the opposition’s approach has a lot less to do with a crusade for truth, and more to do with its hopes of creating a political and constitutional crisis over the issue. They make out that the Venezuelan government is being deliberately misleading and manipulative with information, but would never point the finger at Western leaders such as George Bush or Barack Obama for not announcing the exact locations of their frequent, long, and luxurious vacations, for example.
2) It is unconstitutional if Chavez doesn’t take the oath of office on 10 January
This is another lie that takes a leaf straight from the opposition’s book. Most opposition leaders, and even the Venezuelan Catholic Church, are arguing that if Chavez cannot be officially sworn-in as president on 10 January then he will lose his status as president of Venezuela. They say that in that case, Chavez should be declared “permanently absent”, and the head of the national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, would have to take over as president and call fresh elections. The opposition also claim that the swearing-in ceremony cannot be postponed, and that if Chavez continues on as president after 10 January it would be a “flagrant violation of the constitution”. Their strategy is to use their own interpretation of the constitution in order to try and depose Chavez on a technicality while the president-elect lies in Cuba struggling in post-surgery recovery.
Private media outlets have latched onto this argument, and misinformed about the Venezuelan constitution. In a highly misleading article, the Washington Post claimed that a delay in Chavez’s inauguration ceremony would be “a stretch of the constitution’s ambiguous wording”. Similar comments were made in other U.S. outlets, with Time arguing that Venezuela’s constitution is “a murky map that could send the western hemisphere’s most oil-rich nation into precarious governmental limbo this year”. Reuters argued that the Venezuelan government is “violating the constitution” and the country will be “left in a power vacuum”, and the BBC, which maintained a more reserved tone, still portrayed interpretations of the constitution as muddied debate between government and opposition.
However, Venezuela’s constitution is clear on the situation. The conditions under which a president can be declared permanently absent and new elections called are covered by article 233, and are, “death, resignation, destitution decreed by the Supreme Court, mental or physical incapacity certified by a medical council designated by the Supreme Court with the approval of the National Assembly, abandonment of the post, a popular recall of the mandate”.
Currently Chavez’s status is that of “absence from the national territory”, a status which is granted by the national assembly. This could eventually be declared a “temporary absence” from the presidency, which is granted by the national assembly for a period of ninety days, and can be extended for 90 further days, as outlined by articles 234 and 235 of the constitution.
What the opposition are trying to do is use article 231 of the constitution, which describes the presidential inauguration, to argue for Chavez’s deposal. The article states that the president elect “will assume their mandate on the 10th of January of the first year of their constitutional period, through a swearing-in ceremony in front of the National Assembly”. The opposition claim that Chavez’s inability to attend that ceremony means that he has not assumed his term and his “permanent absence” should be declared. However, as noted above, not being able to attend the inauguration ceremony is not considered a reason for “permanent absence” in the Venezuelan constitution, leaving the Venezuelan opposition without a constitutional leg to stand on.
Rather, this situation is dealt with by the second half of article 231, which states, “If for any supervening reason the president cannot take office in front of the National Assembly, s/he will do so before the Supreme Court”. No date is specified.
Venezuelan constitutional lawyer Harman Escarra, an opposition supporter who helped draft the 1999 constitution, explained in an interview with Venezuelan daily Ciudad CCS that constitutionally, even if the president can’t attend the 10 January ceremony, the new presidential term still begins, including the constitutional mandate of the president’s council of state, the vice-president, and government ministers. As such, he affirmed that in Venezuela “there isn’t a power vacuum”.
The constitutional lawyer further explained that under both the letter and spirit of article 231 of the constitution, “The President, from the point of view of sovereignty, is the President. There’s no other, and the mandate of the popular majority cannot not be overturned because of the issue of a date at a specific moment, because that would be to violate a sacred principle that is in article five of the constitution, which says that power resides in the sovereignty of the people”.
Therefore, it is erroneous for international media to report that Venezuela is entering a constitutionally ambiguous situation in which either the status of the president or the next constitutional step is not clear. Further, it is not only misleading, but dangerous to wrongly paint Chavez allies as looking to subvert the constitution to stay in power, when the opposition is trying to question the government’s constitutional legitimacy in order to provoke a political crisis and depose Chavez as president. The opposition is not the “critical” and “unbiased” democratic voice that the private media represent them as. Such reporting also displays a certain level of hypocrisy, as one can be sure that if the U.S. president or British prime minister were unable to assume a particular inauguration ceremony for health reasons, such outlets would not start casting doubt on their legitimacy, as they are currently doing with Chavez.
3) Should elections have to be called, they may not be “fair”**, and opposition leader Henrique Capriles has a good chance of winning
This third myth adds to the previous two to create the impression that the Bolivarian revolution is undemocratic. It is spouted by most private media, but especially media from the US, which rarely points out the utterly unfair conditions in which elections are held in its own country.
The Washington Post claimed that if Chavez were to die and new elections had to be called, “Chavez’s inner circle…may consider postponing the election or even calling it off”.
“That’s why the first responsibility of the United States and Venezuelan neighbors such as Brazil should be to insist that the presidential election be held and that it be free and fair**,” the WP said, and even suggested that “Mr Chavez’s followers or military leaders” might “attempt a coup”.
The US State Department has also called for any elections that Venezuela has to be “free and transparent”** and the Chicago Tribune in an article today said, “In October, Chavez vanquished his first serious challenger, Henrique Capriles, despite being too sick to campaign... Too sick to give speeches, he bought votes through political stunts like awarding a free government-built home to his 3 millionth Twitter follower.”
The Chicago Tribune’s statement is a lie; Chavez attended one to two huge rallies around the country in the month before the presidential elections, including one in Merida the authors of this article attended, as well as fulfilling his duties as president. And, of course there is no basis or need for these calls for “fair” elections. None of the private media will remind its readers of the 16 elections held over the last 14 years, that 81% of Venezuelans voluntarily turned out to vote in the October presidential elections, that Venezuela is building up participatory democracy through its communal councils, and that Venezuelans have access to completely free and widely available health care, education, and even to subsidised housing—basic conditions necessary for democracy to be practiced.
The Washington Post argued that the Venezuelan government “fears” free elections** because “a fair vote would be won by opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost the October presidential ballot but is more popular than Mr. Maduro.” This is wishful thinking, another example of the media mistaking its desire for reality. The opposition did not receive more votes than the governing PSUV in the recent 16 December regional elections, despite Chavez’s absence. The opposition is weak, divided, disillusioned after 14 years of losing election after election (except the 2007 constitutional referendum), has no street presence what so ever, and has no program or cause to unite around, beyond wanting power.
4) A split within the Chavista leadership between Maduro and Cabello is coming
This is another idea bandied about by the Venezuelan opposition and propagated by the international media. The notion, or hope, is that if the worst were to happen and Chavez were to die, Chavismo would immediately become divided among itself and fall apart. In particular, it is argued that national assembly president Diosdado Cabello would try to seize the presidential candidacy of the PSUV from Vice-president Nicolas Maduro. Some opposition figures appear to be actively encouraging this, with opposition legislator Maria Corina Machado demanding that Diosdado Cabello take power on 10 January and that “distrust” and “fear” exist between Cabello and Maduro.
On cue, always backed by vague “analysts” or “observers”, the international media has informed the public of, “A potential rift inside Chavismo between Maduro’s more socialist faction and that of the more pragmatic Cabello” (TIME), or, “Mr Cabello wields considerable power and is thought to harbour his own political ambitions” (BBC), and that, “Chavez's death or resignation could set off a power struggle within the party among Maduro, Cabello, Chavez's brother Adan and state governors” (LA Times).
Such commentary has been slammed by Maduro, Cabello and other leaders within Chavismo, who all stress the unity of different currents within the Bolivarian movement in the current difficult situation. Indeed, the scenario of a direct power grab by Cabello or any other figure within Chavismo of Maduro’s role as successor if Chavez cannot assume his presidential term is very unlikely. Just before Chavez flew off to Cuba for surgery in December, he told the nation that, “If such a scenario were to occur, I ask you from my heart that you elect Nicolas Maduro as constitutional president of the republic”. Chavez has such strong support and respect from among his followers that it would be almost unthinkable for another leader within Chavismo to publicly go against Chavez’s express wish that Maduro be his successor. Any attempt to usurp Maduro’s leadership and candidacy in fresh presidential elections would be seen as political suicide.
5) That the revolution is over without Chavez
Most private media have also subtly cast doubt that the revolution will continue without Chavez, suggesting that the leadership will collapse, that Venezuela is already in “economic chaos” and “disaster”, that Venezuela is living a political “crisis” right now, and that the revolutionary process can’t survive without Chavez. The Chicago Tribune said that, “Whoever ends up running Venezuela will preside over the mess Chavez made of a prosperous and promising nation” and there is now “high unemployment, record inflation and rampant crime”. This is despite Venezuela ending 2012 with 19.9% inflation, the lowest in years, and unemployment lower than the US.
The media is ignoring the fact that the country has been doing fine this last month without Chavez, that the PSUV leadership won 20 out of 23 states in the regional elections in December, without Chavez’s presence, that there is no crisis here; schools started again as normal today, the barrio adentro clinics are open, people are working, shopping, returning from Christmas season vacations, as normal. There is no panic buying, no looting, no political unrest.
Most importantly, the media is ignoring, is invisibilising the biggest factor there is; the people of Venezuela. Chavez isn’t just a person, or a leader, he represents a political project; of economic and cultural sovereignty, of Latin American unity, of freedom from US intervention, of all basic rights satisfied, and of participatory democracy. The majority of Venezuelans have showed their support for that project by turning out to vote en masse time and time again, including in elections in which Chavez wasn’t running, with voting rates generally increasing each year. In most other countries people would be tired and would have gotten over so many elections by now. Venezuelans have marched in the thousands and millions around the country again and again, not just to support electoral candidates, but to march for workers’ rights on May Day, as well as for other causes such as gay rights, defending journalists against violent attacks by the opposition, in support of various laws, and more. It was Venezuelans, en masse, who helped overturn the coup against Chavez in 2002.
The list of gains over the last 14 years is a long one. To mention just a few: complete literacy, broadly available and free university education, free healthcare centres in most communities, free laptops to primary school children, free meals for primary school children, subsidised food, subsidised books, increased street culture and street art, a range of new public infrastructure such as train lines and cable cars, laws supporting the rights of disabled people, women, and so on, government assisted urban agriculture, legalised community and worker organising, nearly a 1000 free internet centres, music programs, pensions for the elderly, and much more. These huge changes can’t be quickly reversed, and the Venezuelan people have every reason not to let them be.
Further, over the last 14 years, Venezuelans have woken up. They read and know their laws, everyone, even opposition supporters, spends hours each day debating and discussing politics and economics. Apathy still exists, but is way down. There is a political consciousness and depth that can’t be turned off overnight.
While it is true that after Chavez there will probably be bureaucracy, corruption, reformism, and some internal disagreements, these issues existed with him as a leader as well. Any change in political circumstances is an opportunity to bring these problems to the surface and to confront them.
The people of the Bolivarian movement are fighters, and are here to stay.
This work is licensed under a Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives Creative Commons license
(CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE, my emphasis)
NOTE BY ME:
**The U.S. State Department, the Washington Psst and assorted other shills of the transglobal corporate rulers demanding "fair and transparent" elections is so egregiously absurd, hypocritical and "Big Lie"-false that one hardly knows where to begin. Let me begin with the facts about Venezuela's election system vs. this farce we call an election system in the U.S.
Venezuela uses electronic voting, but the programming code is OPEN SOURCE CODE--code that anyone may review--and they conduct a whopping 55% audit (comparison of ballots to electronic totals)--over five times the necessary audit to detect fraud in an electronic voting system.
The U.S. uses electronic voting, but it is run on 'TRADE SECRET' code--code that the public is forbidden to review-- and half the states in the U.S. DO NO AUDIT AT ALL of the electronic totals, and the other half do a miserably inadequate 1% audit. Furthermore, 75% of the voting systems in the U.S. are controlled by ONE, PRIVATE, FAR RIGHTWING-CONNECTED corporation--ES&S, which bought out Diebold.
There are many other election system issues on which Venezuela shines--shines so brightly, indeed, that Jimmy Carter recently said that Venezuela has "the best election system in the world." Venezuela's system has been closely monitored and its elections certified by every major election monitoring group on earth.
Our system stinks to high heaven. Venezuela's system is superior in every respect, from its transparency and verifiability to public participation and enthusiasm. Our system is MADE TO ORDER FOR FRAUD. Venezuela's system is made to order to reflect the will of the people. Our system is invisible, shadowy, controlled by "TRADE SECRETS" and vast amounts of dirty money and dirty deals. Venezuela's system is transparent, open, public and accountable--and it is a system in which you don't have to be a millionaire to run office--everyone has a chance to rise to leadership positions and to be elected to office.
Venezuela is a DEMOCRACY. Is the U.S.? It is arguable that it is NOT--though I believe that we still are a democratic people, longing for good government and a real and fair say it how it is run and what our tax dollars are used for, and are mystified about its failure to represent us and are very, very demoralized about changing things for the better.
Not so in Venezuela. Venezuelans ARE running their own affairs, as a sovereign people, and they are among the most positive-minded people in the world. (They rated their country fifth in the world, as to their own happiness and future prospects!)
This is what makes these lectures from corporate shills about "fair and transparent elections" so utterly ridiculous--so mind-bendingly unreal, and, in truth, so evil--because the perpetrators of this kind of lie are not doing it in ignorance. They know exactly what they are doing. They are turning the truth on its head.
Posted by Peace Patriot | Wed Jan 9, 2013, 03:57 AM (2 replies)
...Chavez--and who fear that, if he dies, this revolution will be over, I assure you that you have been disinformed.
Disinformation is a CIA technique of substituting a plausible lie in place of the truth--in this case, substituting a very false creation--bogeyman Chavez the dictator--for the truth that the leftist democracy revolution in Latin America is ENTIRELY the creation of THE PEOPLE OF LATIN AMERICA. The "New Deal" that they have voted for themselves in numerous countries is the result of their long hard work on their civic structure--for instance, honest, transparent elections*--remarkable grass roots organization, dauntless persistence and dauntless courage, and an abiding belief in social justice and fairness that has survived every bloody effort, by the U.S. government and its corporate rulers, to destroy that democratic spirit in Latin America.
It is NOT about one man--neither in Venezuela, nor in Brazil, nor in Argentina, nor in Bolivia, nor in Ecuador, nor in Uruguay, nor in Nicaragua, nor in El Salvador, nor in Peru--nor in any LatAm country where this remarkable movement has been successful and has been able to elect leftist governments. Neither is it about one man in the countries where the people are still struggling for democracy (as in Honduras).
The corporate media--including the goddamned Guardian, the BBCons and NPRats--have been waging this disinformation war for nearly a decade: creating a PHANTOM, "Chavez the Dictator" (and, more recently, "Chavez the Incompetent Dictator"), so they can knock him down. And why do they do this? To deny US the information that it is not about Chavez; it is about DEMOCRACY and how democracy, if it is real, is also FAIR, to everybody--results in fair trade, fair wages, decent jobs, high employment, fair access to health care, fair educational opportunity, fair use of a country's resources to help the people who live there, fair and inclusive public participation, dignity and civil rights for all, and--lo and behold!--prosperity for all!
Jimmy Carter recently said that Venezuela's election system is "the best in the world." It is the truth. I have looked into it myself. So, how is it that an incompetent dictator--as Chavez has been portrayed by the corporate press--has not only been repeatedly elected by big majorities in an honest, transparent election system (by a 10% margin in the last presidential election, and including the socialists winning 20 of 23 governorships in the more recent by-election), but also was defended and restored to office by the PEOPLE OF VENEZUELA, a million of whom poured into the streets, facing down a military coup and rightwing mobs egged on the by corporate media in 2002?
It's not about Chavez. It's about the people who put him in office! It's not about Rafael Correa (Ecuador). It's about the people who put him in office. It's not about Evo Morales (Bolivia). It's about the people who put him in office. Remember this, as each demonization of a democratically elected leftist leader arises, as each dirty trick unfolds, as each carefully calibrated or gross lie rattles around in your head, about "caudillos" and "dictators" in Latin America, about how "New Deal" economics, though plainly, obviously--according to hard data--hugely successful at creating prosperity, is nevertheless doomed, how sharing the wealth and giving everybody a chance leads to ruination, how denying a broadcast license to a coup-mongering corporate TV station and expanding public access to the public airwaves is "dictatorial," and on and on.
I cannot stress enough how totally we have been disinformed by the entirety of the 1%-er press, on this historic and inspiring leftist democracy movement in Latin America: by the New York Slimes, by the Associated Pukes, by the Miami Hairball, by Rotters, by the alphabet soup of monopolists of our public airwaves (CBS-NBC-ABC-CNN-NPR-BBC and of course Faux News) and, most shocking of all, by the Guardian. (BP's tentacles are long and lethal, apparently.) It is across the board in ALL corporate media, and in media that is not supposed to be corporate but IS. Goddamned lies. Pervasive lies. "Big Lies" of the Stalinist kind (repeat a lie often enough and people come to believe that it is reality).
That Chavez is a dictator.
That Chavez elects himself.
That Chavez is ruining Venezuela.
That Chavez is against "free speech."
That anything that goes wrong in Venezuela is Chavez's fault.
That Chavez is incompetent.
So, if these are your only sources of information--and you have nevertheless been inspired by Chavez and figured out that he represents something real--DO NOT DESPAIR because Chavez may well be dying. (It doesn't look good for him.) HE is NOT the movement. He is merely one elected leader of this vast and inspiring movement--a courageous man, yes, a visionary leader, yes, a true representative of Venezuela's majority, yes, pugnacious and articulate, yes, comparable to our own FDR, absolutely--but he could not have been elected and re-elected, and could not have done what he has done--transform Venezuela from an extremely unfair country into a fair one, with opportunity for all--without the Venezuelan peoples' extraordinary efforts in creating and defending their democracy, and an extraordinarily competent and talented government comprised of hundreds of leaders--and, furthermore, without the cooperation, networking and backing of leftist movements and leaders throughout the region.
They don't want you to know this--that Chavez is just one man, one leader, of a vast and REAL democracy movement--because they don't want it to happen here (or in the UK). The 1%, the banksters, the war machine and the transglobal corporate monsters that rule over us would be seriously imperiled if real democracy happened here (or in the UK). So, after creating Phantom Chavez, in order to knock down a movement involving multi-millions of people, they are now in the process of creating Chavez the Icon, whose death will mean the death of THE LEFT.
You may mourn Chavez or not, depending on how you feel about it. (I will mourn him. I think he's a brilliant and courageous man.) But don't be fooled about WHO created Venezuelan democracy in its fairest manifestation over the last decade, and WHO has created the huge, important and inspiring leftist movement throughout the region: The people themselves--ordinary people like you and me, organizing, doing our civic duty (for instance, creating honest, transparent elections), envisioning and then implementing a better future, and electing leaders who are "of, by and for" the people--who listen to us, who act for us, who attend to the common good.
Posted by Peace Patriot | Fri Jan 4, 2013, 11:45 AM (0 replies)
This is WHY Chavez was elected to a third term--these jobs and economic growth realities--PLUS the most amazing phenomenon of all (from our point of view here in the USA), that the wealth is BEING SHARED. (Venezuela was recently designated "THE most equal country in Latin America," by the UN Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean.)
...in case you were wondering how an incompetent dictator who is ruining Venezuela could get elected (1998), re-elected (2000), beat a recall election (2004), get re-elected (2006) and re-elected (2012), in an election system that Jimmy Carter recently said is "the best in the world." It's easy to get a completely wrong impression of Venezuela from the corpo-fascist press.
In addition to all this, Venezuelan voters just gave a drubbing to the rightwing opposition on governorships (the socialists won 20 of 23 governorships), with Chavez too ill to campaign for his party's candidates. Meaning: These by-elections were mostly not "about Chavez" but rather about POLICY--i.e., economic and social FAIRNESS.
This is something else that it is easy to get wrong about Venezuela, if your only news/opinion sources are the corpo-fascist press. Venezuela's "New Deal" is more about the people who demanded it, and who organized and got leaders elected who would do the will of the people, and about those who did their civic homework and created "the best election system in the world," than it is about one man, one leader, whom the corpo-fascist press set up as a sort of buffoon dictator in order to knock him down, and who calls him the "firebrand" leader of Venezuela while rarely reporting what he actually says. The corpo-fascist press loves to dis Chavez while completely ignoring the people who elected him, who saved him from a U.S.-supported coup d'tat and who are creating and benefiting from their own democracy.
Whatever happens to Chavez--whether he dies from his struggle with cancer, or is too ill to take office and see out his third term--the people of Venezuela RULE.
We need to remind ourselves of this in the coming weeks and months, as the corpo-fascist press tries to spin Chavez's disablement or death as the end of the leftist movement in Latin America. In every country to which the leftist democracy movement has spread, pioneered by and inspired by the people of Venezuela--Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Peru, Nicaragua, El Salvador--and where there are on-going struggles to create a leftist democracy revolution often in the face of U.S. interference (such as in Honduras), IT IS ABOUT THE PEOPLE--what they want, what they are doing and what they are demanding of their leaders.
This. Is. What. Democracy. Looks. Like.
Posted by Peace Patriot | Wed Jan 2, 2013, 02:28 AM (6 replies)
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