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Wednesday, May 30, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Venezuela head in new TV warning

In a national address shown by all TV stations, Mr Chavez defended his decision to close RCTV as a public service, denouncing the 53-year-old station – Venezuela’s most popular – as a “permanent attack on public morals”.

He also called news network Globovision an enemy of the state, attacking its coverage of the protests against RCTV’s closure.

“Enemies of the homeland, particularly those behind the scenes, I will give you a name: Globovision. Greetings, gentlemen of Globovision, you should watch where you are going,” Mr Chavez said.

“I recommend you take a tranquiliser and get into gear, because if not, I am going to do what is necessary.”

On Monday, Venezuela’s government announced it was suing Globovision for allegedly broadcasting material to incite a possible assassination of Mr Chavez. It also accused US news network CNN of linking him to al-Qaeda. Globovision and CNN have both denied the claims.

The attacks on Globovision in the wake of the RCTV business are clearly designed to frighten the station’s managers, editors and reporters to watch themselves in terms of criticism of the regime lest they, too, lose their license.

It should be noted that under a law passed at Chávez’s behest, all broadcast outlets have to broadcast whatever message the president wishes to send whenever he wants to send it.

BTW, one of the tip offs that this is about Chávez trying to expand power is the constant references to how the content of RCTV’s programming was damaging to the nation. Because, after all, Chávez only wants to do what is good for the people of Venezuela by keeping all that immorality off of their television sets. Also notice: he is taking Globovision’s airing of the protests against the government and the alleged incitement to assassination as attacks on the “homeland” yet the attacks, such as they are, are not aimed at Venezuela writ large, they are aimed at Chávez, yet Chávez conflates himself with the homeland. The rhetoric has a clear authoritarian flavor to it.

It is also noteworthy that those who protest or oppose his actions are dubbed “fascists”:

In his broadcast Mr Chavez also accused protesters and opposition media of stirring unrest.

“Sound the alarm in the hills, neighbourhoods and towns to defend our revolution from this new fascist attack,” he said.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Zoellick to be named to World Bank.

A better choice than Wolfowitz. Zoellick has at least some experience with international economic issues/finance and has managerial experience.

And to answer (at least in part) a question left in the comment section earlier today:

By tradition, the World Bank has been run by an American, while its sister agency the
International Monetary Fund is headed by a European. The United States, the bank’s biggest financial contributor and largest shareholder wants to keep that going. However, some aid groups and other critics have called for the decades-old practice to be scrapped.

Another procedural note:

Bush’s selection of Zoellick must be approved by the World Bank’s 24-member board.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Miami Herald: Hot-headed shooter wanted more chili sauce:

A Wendy’s restaurant manager almost lost his life to a disgruntled customer early Tuesday morning.

The cause?

Chili sauce. The shooter wanted more.

[...]

The attendant told him restaurant policy prohibits a customer getting more than three packets.

The customer insisted on 10.

[...]

”The manager came out to inform him of company policy, and he shot at him several times,” said Mary Walters, a Miami-Dade police spokeswoman.

Egads.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Click.

Be sure you read the whole thing.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Frist withdraws name from World Bank

Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has withdrawn his name from consideration for World Bank president, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Monday.

A good move on Frist’s part and one wonders how seriously he was being considered for the position. Quite frankly he would have been a rather bad choice given his utter lack of a record in terms of economics, finance of development. For that matter, I don’t think he has any requisite management experience, either. I know that he volunteers time and skills in regards to the poor in Africa, but I don’t think that qualifies him to even be considered for the presidency of the World Bank.

The following make more sense:

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is leading the effort to find a replacement for Wolfowitz.

Other names mentioned for the post include: former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who was Bush’s former trade chief; Robert Kimmitt, No. 2 at the Treasury Department; Stanley Fischer, who once worked at the International Monetary Fund and is now with the Bank of Israel; former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker; former Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa; and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.

Indeed, Paulson, Fischer and Volker would all seem to be logical choices.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Space.com: 28 New Exoplanets Discovered

Astronomers have discovered 28 new planets outside of our solar system, increasing to 236 the number of known exoplanets, revealing that planets can exist around a broad spectrum of stellar types-from tiny, dim stars to giants.

“We added 12 percent to the total in the last year, and we’re very proud of that,” said one of the study team members Jason Wright of the University of California at Berkeley. “This provides new planetary systems so that we can study their properties as an ensemble.”

Spiffy.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Second Venezuela TV is under fire

Venezuela’s government has accused a TV station of inciting a murder attempt on President Hugo Chavez, hours after taking another network off the air.

It said footage shown on Globovision implicitly called for Mr Chavez to be killed. The station denies the claim.

It would appear that the government is watching television rather closely these days, and with an interpretative eye. The call for assassination was as follows:

Communications Minister William Lara said Globovision had called for the death of Mr Chavez by airing footage of the 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II with the song “This Does Not Stop Here” sung by Ruben Blades, now Panama’s tourism minister.

“The conclusion of the specialists … is that (in this segment) they are inciting the assassination of the president of Venezuela,” Mr Lara said, as he filed a lawsuit against the news network at the state prosecutor’s office.

Now, granted, all I have to go by is the description above, but it does strike me as something of a stretch (to put it mildly) that the footage described could be interpreted as a call for Chavez’s death.

Further, the notion that the Communications Minister’s “specialists” are so closely monitoring Venezuelan TV looking for possible slights of President is odd at best. Given the RCTV situation, one wonders if the government isn’t looking for reasons to shut down other private stations.

Indeed, it is worth noting that the accusations come in the context of the following:

Globovision was the only TV station to air footage of a large demonstration against the government’s growing control over the media.

While they are at it, the government is suing CNN:

The government was also suing the US station CNN for allegedly linking Mr Chavez to al-Qaeda, Mr Lara said.

“CNN broadcast a lie which linked President Chavez to violence and murder,” he said.

In a statement, CNN said they “strongly deny” being “engaged in a campaign to discredit or attack Venezuela”.

The Houston Chronicle has more on the CNN issue:

Venezuela’s government asked the attorney general to investigate Time Warner’s Cable News Network and local television station Globovision for “lies” and inciting violence against President Hugo Chavez.

Communications and Information Minister Willian Lara said CNN last week falsely portrayed a Mexican protest as being in Caracas and displayed images of Chavez alongside an al-Qaida leader.

[...]

“This is an effort to associate Hugo Chavez with two things, violence and death,” Lara said in a televised news conference today in Caracas. “CNN lies about Venezuela.”

The Chávez government’s interest in controlling media and the media message about the administration is, at a minimum, unhealthy for democracy and pluralism in Venezuela. More specifically it is troublesome that the government acts as if its job is to protect Chávez’s public image continues to make it look as if the goal is build a cult of personality around him. Leaders in democracies are supposed to suffer the slings and arrows of often vicious criticism as if it doesn’t bother them. And certainly they are not supposed to send government functionaries after media outlets for perceived slights. If factually incorrect information is disseminated then the administration in a democracy is supposed to simply try and present a case for their interpretation–they aren’t supposed to send the AG after the offending party.

Of course, I think that the public criticism of Globovision is clearly an attempt to creating a chilling effect in Venezuela’s public discourse. The message is clear: the government just shut down RCTV as a broadcast entity under the argument that it illegally challenged the government. Now Globovision is being accused of promoting the assassination of the President (after being the only station to show the anti-government protests over the RCTV situation). That is not coincidence and it is clearly a warning shot across the bow of Globovision and other media outlets in Venezuela.

The CNN move is probably more about propaganda about standing up to the Big American News Network.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: US anti-war mother ends protest

Cindy Sheehan, the bereaved mother who became a figurehead for the US anti-war movement, is abandoning her fight after growing disenchanted with the campaign.

She has camped outside President Bush’s ranch since 2005, demanding a meeting over the death of her son in Iraq.

But announcing the end of her campaign, she also hit out at Democrats and anti-war campaigners who put “personal egos above peace and human life”.

She said she had sacrificed her health, her marriage and her finances.

In a letter on the Daily Kos website titled Good Riddance Attention Whore – a reference to the abuse she says she has suffered, Ms Sheehan said: “I am going to take whatever I have left and go home.

The blog entry in question is here: “Good Riddance Attention Whore”.

The whole thing ends up being very sad, especially with statements like this:

I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey’s brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings.

And, there is, of course, the death of Casey Sheehan in Iraq that started the whole situation.

The thing about this situation that I find especially tragic is that Ms. Sheehan not only lost a son, but seems to have damaged the rest of her family as well as a result. She had every right to do what she did, but I have long wondered about the choices that she made in the pursuit of her goals. Without getting into all the specifics of her time spent as a activist, let’s face facts: camping out in front of the President’s ranch was not an especially good use of her time or resources–even if she had managed to get a meeting with the President, what good would it have done in terms of her goals? It is possible to be a peace activist without sacrificing one’s marriage, one’s finances and time with one’s living children.

Her bitterness is understandable, but I can’t help but notice she did make her own choices. Like I said: a very sad situation.

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Monday, May 28, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

Bill Richardson, arguably one of the more qualified candidates in the Democratic field, has an uphill battle to fight for the Democratic nomination–a fight he is almost certain to lose, as passing up Clinton, Obama, Edwards and any number of other second and third tiers types is improbable, shall we say.

He doesn’t help himself by making gaffes that become news more easily than do his resume or his policy positions.

To wit, we have getting into a public disagreement with the mother of a fallen soldier (via the AP): Richardson to Stop Using Name of Marine (also discussed of yesterday’s MTP). Despite the outrage! of some, I would note that while Richardson should stop recounting the story (and he says he will), the more important issue should be (and is) the issue of Richardson’s work to increase the death benefits for the families of New Mexico National Guardsmen/Guardswomen who die in the service of their country.

And then there’s the ever dangerous sports minefield (via the BoGlo): Contender Richardson wants to have it all

Democratic candidate Bill Richardson wants to have it all.

“I’m a Red Sox fan,” said the New Mexico governor, who was born in Pasadena, Calif., but spent his early childhood in Mexico City.

[...]

Earlier this year, Richardson said that if he were not running for president, his dream job would be playing for the Yankees. Yesterday, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he explained: “I’ve always been a Red Sox fan. But I said if I weren’t running for president, I would like to be No. 7 — Mickey Mantle — playing center field for the New York Yankees.

“My favorite team has always been the Red Sox,” he said, then added, “I’m also a Yankees fan. . . . This is the thing about me. I can bring people together.”

First, given that he was born in SoCal and grew up in Mexico City, it seems disingenuous to claim to east coast teams. Second, claiming both the Yanks and the Sox simply makes one look like one is trying too hard to be on both sides of an issue–which makes one look like a panderer who can’t take a stand.

Now, ultimately, neither of these things really, truly matters–but they are the kinds of things that can wound a campaign seriously.

At any rate, the bottom line is that these kinds of issues will get more press than anything else about the Richardson campaign.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Cops: Japanese minister commits suicide

Japan’s agriculture minister died Monday after hanging himself just hours before he was to face questioning in a political scandal, officials said, dealing a powerful blow to the increasingly beleaguered government ahead of July elections.

Toshikatsu Matsuoka, 62, was found in his apartment Monday unconscious and declared dead hours later.

[...]

Matsuoka had faced heavy criticism over a scandal involving suspicious bookkeeping practices in his offices, and was scheduled to appear before a parliamentary committee Monday afternoon for further questioning.

He was under fire for allegedly claiming more than $236,600 in utility fees even though he rented a parliamentary office where utility costs are free. Opposition lawmakers had demanded his resignation, but Matsuoka denied any wrongdoing.

[...]

Matsuoka had been dogged by scandal. Along with the utilities questions, he apologized publicly just three days after taking office for not declaring $8,500 in political donations.

He acknowledged the undeclared funds, which came in the form of purchased tickets to a fundraising party, saying he was unaware that the contributions had not been reported. Matsuoka had since corrected his political funds report for 2005.

And please: no jokes about US politicians and the suicide route…

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