Bolívar’s afterlife in the Americas (Review)

October 27th, 2020


A statue of Simón Bolívar en Guayaquil, Ecuador PHOTO/ Oscar Padilla Álvarez, Flickr.

A new history of Bolívar by Robert T. Conn explores his contested legacy in Latin America.

The preeminent figure in Latin American history, Simón Bolívar (1783-1830) is a wellspring of ideologies, political movements, and creative arts.

In Bolívar’s Afterlife in the Americas: Biography, Ideology, and the Public Sphere, historian Robert T. Conn of Wesleyan University analyzes the ways politicians and intellectuals in Venezuela and across the Americas have represented his life and debated his thought.

As Conn demonstrates, Bolívar’s life was complex and paradoxical. For example, during his campaign to liberate northern South America, he executed a mixed-race general on the grounds of insubordination, but spared whites who contested his leadership. After fighting Spanish imperialism, he wanted a major European colonial power to safeguard his new republic’s sovereignty. And most famously of all, a month before his death, the man who was a revolutionary leader for nearly two decades wrote, “He who serves revolution ploughs the sea.”

Conn conveys that these inconsistencies created the conditions for the disparate interpretations of later generations.Bolívar left behind a vast written record of manifestos, speeches, and correspondence (the latter of which, he wanted burned after his death). Conn illustrates how this colossal canon allows Bolívar to be read as a dictator or a champion of liberty, a racist or a willing emancipator of African-descendants (pardos), a class-blind proponent of equality or a classist defender of the creole elite. Conn conveys that these inconsistencies created the conditions for the disparate interpretations of later generations.

After outlining this thesis and sketching biographical details, Conn studies the way Bolívar’s name was used by José Antonio Páez, Venezuela’s first president since secession from Bolívar’s Gran Colombia (present-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, and parts of Peru and Brazil). The book then explores Bolívar’s influence in Venezuela over the following hundred years, before turning to the Bolivarian narrative across the continent. However, Conn’s decision not to thoroughly examine Bolívar’s afterlife in the chavista movement—surely the most influential and contentious use of Bolívar’s name—is a glaring and incomprehensible oversight.

The North American Congress on Latin America for more

MI6’s “man of mystery” is “smoking gun:” Britain’s complicity in 1953 Iranian coup revealed

October 27th, 2020


As reenacted in the new documentary entitled “Coup 53,” British MI6 agent Norman Darbyshire reveals all the dirty details in suppressed interview. PHOTO/

Must-See New Documentary Exposes Britain’s Complicity in the 1953 Bloody Coup in Iran–A Collusion which the UK Continues to Officially Deny After 67 Years

After 60 years of foot-dragging and dissembling, the U.S. government finally confessed and admitted its role in the bloody 1953 coup that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government led by Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh. With Coup 53’s compelling documentary evidence, its now Britain’s turn to fess up.

More than 300 were killed and thousands imprisoned for “treason” in an MI6/CIA-backed coup that left the country condemned to a 25-year reign of terror under the dictatorship of U.S.-backed Shah, Mohmmad Reza Pahlevi.

In 2013, the CIA officially fessed up and admitted to (1) bribing high Iranian government officials, (2) spreading defamatory anti-government propaganda, (3) hiring Tehran’s most brutal criminal gangs to riot in the streets and ultimately (4) orchestrating the 1953 coup d’état in Iran as an act of U.S. foreign policy planned and approved by the highest levels of government


But not a peep from Great Britain—which admitted nothing and concealed everything. The British government may even have arranged to conceal an interview with a talkative MI6 spy named Norman Darbyshire, who actually revealed his—and Britain’s—complicity in the Iranian coup during a 1985 BBC documentary called End of Empire. But his incriminating testimony was mysteriously edited out of the broadcast before it aired.

However, the transcript of agent Darbyshire’s lost interview has now resurfaced in numerous independent locations and has been reenacted, prominently, in this new documentary.[1]

The film’s director Taghi Amirani, an Iranian who traveled around the world seeking new details about the coup that devastated his homeland, stated:

Even though it has been an open secret for decades, the UK government has not officially admitted its fundamental role in the coup. Finding the Darbyshire transcript is like finding the smoking gun. It is a historic discovery.[2]

What Agent Darbyshire Reveals

Darbyshire served as head of the MI6’s Persian division based in Cyprus and worked in Iran from 1943 to 1947 and then again from 1949 until he was kicked out by Mossadegh in 1952. His motive for granting the interview to the BBC appears to have been to counter the boastful claims of CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt who wanted to take credit for the coup. In the all-important interview, Darbyshire stated his belief that Mossadegh was a weak character, an ardent nationalist and xenophobe who would have soon been overwhelmed by the communists if the British had not stepped in.

Covert Action for more

The journey of Australia’s first Asian language (book review)

October 27th, 2020


In his introduction to Talking North, Paul Thomas suggests that the study of Indonesian language and culture in Australia might be described as a ‘national project’, a pathway to a deeper understanding and engagement with our nearest Asian neighbour. The contributors to this book, as a group of people deeply involved in and committed to this project, reflect on its history and current development, and relate their own experiences, first as curious students then as passionate teachers of Indonesian.

The first section of the book focuses on the changing fortunes of Indonesian language teaching programs and the political, economic forces and government policies which have shaped them. Paul’s two chapters provide a broad historical context for these processes. His first chapter describes how Malay language was used in early interactions between the indigenous people of northern Australia and Indonesian traders, as a lingua franca in the mixed-race settlements of the north in 19th century, then promoted to facilitate trade with the Indonesian archipelago in the 1930s and for military purposes during World War II.

The second chapter takes the story forward into the 1950s, when Australia was attempting to work out its relationship with newly-independent Indonesia. Paul enlivens the narrative with some intriguing anecdotes about important historical figures involved in this activity, such as Prime Minister Menzies, writing a speech in his bathtub, then delivering it in Bahasa Indonesia on his state visit to Indonesia, despite being declared ‘language deaf’ by the Indonesian-speaking Australian diplomat called in to coach him for the task. A key focus of Paul’s account are efforts by Australian governments to promote the study of Indonesian, largely for political and economic purposes, by encouraging and helping to fund the establishment of Indonesian language programs in universities and schools.

The other chapters in the first section of the book report on the ‘roller coaster’ history, the times of expanding growth then plummeting decline of these courses themselves.

Inside Indonesia for more 

An attack on Edward Said’s legacy

October 26th, 2020


PHOTO/Briantrejo – CC BY-SA 3.0

I traveled to Israel and the Occupied Territories in the early 2000s with the progressive group Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. We made an effort to gain insight into most of the players in the conflict, and so a series of interviews was arranged with members of the Israeli right wing. I remember that one of them was Caroline Glick, an ardent American-Israeli Zionist. She lectured us on the positive personal relationships allegedly prevalent between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.

It was an interesting and somewhat embarrassing experience. Glick and I are both American and both Jewish. Growing up, I had this understanding that American plus Jewish always meant being anti-racist. To be so was, in my mind, the prime lesson of modern Jewish history. What being anti-racist meant to Glick was unclear. She spent the better part of an hour giving us a defense of Israeli-Jewish treatment of Palestinians based on the classic “some of my best friends are Black” (read Palestinian) defense. In the words of the New York Times journalist John Eligon, this line of argument “has so often been relied on by those facing accusations of racism that it has become shorthand for weak denials of bigotry—a punch line about the absence of thoughtfulness and rigor in our conversations about racism.” And so it was with Glick, who explained that she, and many other Israeli Jews, had Palestinians who do small jobs for them and are treated well, and that this proves a lack of cultural and societal racism. It was such a vacuous argument that I remember feeling embarrassed for her.

Things haven’t gotten much better when it comes to Ms. Glick’s worldview. She is now a senior columnist at Israel Hayom (Israel Today, a pro-Netanyahu newspaper owned by the family of Sheldon Adelson) and contributor to such questionable U.S. outlets as Breitbart NewsShealso directs the Israeli Security Project at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. There can be little doubt that she continues to see the world through the distorting lens of a particularly hardline variant of Zionism.

Glick’s Attack on Edward Said’s Legacy 

Recently, Caroline Glick launched an attack on the legacy of the late American-Palestinian scholar and teacher Edward Said. Entitled “Edward Said, Prophet of Political Violence in America,” it was recently (7 July 2020) published in the U.S. by Newsweek—a news magazine with an increasingly pro-Zionist editorial stand. As it turns out, one cannot find a better example of how ideology can distort one’s outlook to the point of absurdity. Below is an analysis of Glick’s piece in a point-by-point fashion. Ultimately, the ideological basis for her argument will become clear.

1. Glick begins by resurrecting a twenty-year-old event. “On July 3, 2000, an incident occurred along the Lebanese border with Israel that, at the time, seemed both bizarre and … unimportant. That day, Columbia University professor Edward Said was photographed on the Hezbollah-controlled Lebanese side of the border with Israel throwing a rock at an Israel Defense Forces watchtower 30 feet away.” She goes on to describe this act as “Said’s rock attack on Israel” and the “soldiers protecting their border.”

We need some context to put all of this in perspective: Israel is an expansionist state, and the original Zionist aim (as presented to the Paris Peace Conference following World War I) was to incorporate parts of southern Lebanon into what is now Israel. Southern Lebanon also briefly became a staging area for Palestinian retaliatory attacks into Israel. Thus, Israel invaded Lebanon multiple times only to be forced to withdraw in the face of resistance led by Hezbollah, a strong Lebanese Shiite militia in control of much of southern Lebanon.

Said relates that during his 2000 visit to the Lebanese border with his family, he threw a pebble (not a “rock”) at a deserted Israeli watchtower (no Israeli soldiers were “defending their border”).  Said saw this as a symbolic act of defiance against Israeli occupation. Over the years stone throwing by Palestinian youth had become just such a symbolic act. And, it was from their example that Said might have taken his cue.

Counterpunch for more

Losing trade, tech war means end of US imperialism

October 26th, 2020


The US is losing its tech war with China. PHOTO/Twitter/AFP/Getty

A pending Chinese ban of exports of strategic materials and technology foreshadows an end to the US-dominated world order

China on Tuesday announced intent to move forward on a legislative initiative to ban the export of strategic substances and technology to foreign companies that could pose a “national security threat.”

The legislation is expected to be ratified early next year after China’s law-making body, the National People’s Congress, green-lights it.

This legislation may be the first of its kind in China’s commercial history.

The law could ban the export of strategically essential supplies such as rare-earth materials and technology to US companies and their foreign subsidiary entities.

Earlier, in late August, China’s ministries of Commerce and of Science and Technology jointly announced an update on the catalog of “technologies prohibited or restricted from export.” It was the catalog’s first update since 2008.

These decisions look like tit-for-tat to the “Entity List” issued by the US targeting Chinese tech giant Huawei and the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC).

Beijing also adopted the “dual circulation” policy in late June. This is aimed at preparing the economy for self-sufficiency if the US decouples economically from China completely.

Similarly, at the 75th United Nations General Assembly in September, Chinese President Xi Jinping surprised observers by pledging that his country’s economy would be made carbon-neutral by 2060 or earlier.

At first glance, it seems that Beijing has retaliated against the US tariffs on Chinese exports and sanctions against its tech companies. However, its latest legal initiative, if it comes into force, will profoundly affect global geopolitics and geo-economics in the future.

History tells that the world order changes at a time of crisis. The World War II crisis brought a wave of de-colonialism in the world. National liberation movements against European colonialism swept across many Asian, African and Latin American countries.

Similarly, the ongoing Covid-19 crisis has set the stage for a new China-influenced world order. China will play a crucial role as a starting point for the end of another phenomenon,  imperialism, something the US has been practicing as part of the post-World War II world order.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US believed it enjoyed unchallenged global supremacy. But in the post-pandemic world, the geopolitical map will change drastically. And China will be central to that change.

China wants to send a message to the US that it cannot set international trade rules unilaterally on the strength of its military capability and strategic and military alliances.

It is difficult to predict the exact date of the complete culmination of US imperialism’s decay. Still, that process has now begun. It is similar to the wane of British colonial dominance after World War II. It is widely believed that the complete end of British dominance coincided with the 1956 Suez crisis.

Although imperialism is an old concept in social science, the British political economist A J Hobson systematically discussed it in 1902 for the first time. Later on, in 1916, Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin wrote a book titled Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism.

Asia Times for more

What I learned about male desire in a sex doll factory

October 26th, 2020


ILLUSTRATION/Lehel Kovacks/The Guardian

If we look at it closely and with compassion, male desire is more complicated than most people assume it to be

As I took in the rows of heads mounted on the wall, my first impression was that I’d stepped into a hunting lodge – only these trophies bore a high-sheen of lip gloss and teased hair. Their static eyes trained on a middle distance, save for one pair, set in an Angelina Jolie-lookalike face, that seemed to be staring right at me. I smiled awkwardly, as if to say “hello”, then quickly stepped away from its lifeless gaze.

I was in the lobby of the sex doll manufacturer RealDoll, beside a pair of busty life-size models propped up by metal stands. This was about what I expected from my visit to the company’s San Diego headquarters: improbable physiques incapable of standing on their own.

As a teenager in the late 1990s, I’d snuck nighttime episodes of HBO’s edgy documentary series Real Sex and caught one featuring RealDoll’s founder, Matt McMullen, and his factory of fantasy. RealDoll offered sculpted silicone perfection, Barbie-like proportions, and lips parted as if in a perpetual moan. Fourteen-year-old me watched McMullen confidently state: “We can build your dream girl for you.” This is what straight men desire, I thought.

Nearly two decades later, my visit as a reporter to the RealDoll headquarters felt like a personal pilgrimage. It was January of 2017 and Donald Trump had just been sworn into office after bragging about his ability to “grab” women by the “pussy”. It seemed to me that the market for these inanimate bodies was a reflection of a similar kind of sexual entitlement and blithe objectification of women. RealDoll primarily sells quote-unquote “female” dolls to men, with its “male” models accounting for only 10% of its sales. Annually, the company sells roughly 350 to 400 dolls starting at around $6,000 a piece.

But then my tour guide, a woman with warm eyes and a kind smile, caught me off guard. Sometimes, she said, customers request bespoke faces based on the countenance of a deceased spouse. She promptly waved me on, but I paused in place, gazing at the heads. Grieving widowers was not something I expected to find here. Maybe I should have known better.

The Guardian for more

Weekend Edition

October 23rd, 2020

Emergency preparedness for post-election turmoil and pandemic

October 23rd, 2020


IMAGE/The Daily Beast/Duck Duck Go

COVID-19 should be called the Trump Virus because of his negligence and careless attitude, it has claimed over 228,000 lives in the US and is still here. And no one has an answer as to how long it will stay. Who knows, the future may bring some other kind of virus. This requires that people have a large quantity of basic non-perishable foods and essential items at home to survive long periods of social distancing/curfews/lock-downs, etc.

Then, there is also fear of post election trouble if Our Beloved Leader refuses to agree with the final tally that is not in his favor. This could result in trouble, tension, turmoil extending over a longer period.


Meat-eaters can only store a limited amount of meat that space in their freezers permit. Likewise, the storage capacity for vegetables, fruits, breads, and dairy products is limited too. These stocked items can help people subsist for some time. But if future pandemics are similar to COVID-19, people have to endure lock-downs for a longer period.

Same is true of post election troubles. Until now, the ruthless capitalists have managed transition of power in a way that didn’t disturb their superficial economy – constantly producing and selling things much more than needed. But this time a capitalist is a leader who is not only ruthless but also crazy; so the transition might look like a United States sponsored coup in a developing country.

Coming back to food, easiest to stock are foods in tin cans and boxes of cereals, etc. of course. However long lasting foods, lasting for months, that we can freshly prepare to consume are: beans, lentils (Canada is the world’s largest producer of pulses; it produces over 30% of it), chickpeas, soybean, rice, wheat, corn, millet, and other grains. The grain flour, including that of maize, also called corn, can have a month to two of usability in the US climate. Many of these grains, legumes have several varieties.

Several of the above legumes and grains can be eaten either boiled or cooked. People preferring culinary spices and herbs can mix it during the boiling/cooking process or can add it once boiled/cooked. Recipes/methods of how to cook can be found in articles and videos on internet.

Then there are nuts such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts, acorns which have a long life and can be used in political/pandemic emergencies.

Anal hygiene

During the beginning of COVID-19, there was a rush on toilet papers and many stores ran out of it due to the newness of the disease and uncertainty of its length. Australians witnessed a frenzy of toilet paper buying. In the US, anticipating trouble in wake of the upcoming November 3 elections, people have started buying up things.

Interesting fact: first recorded use of toilet paper occurred in China in the 6th century CE.

In 589 CE, Yan Zhitui (531–591) said the following:

“Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from the Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes.”

An Arab traveler in 851 CE noted:

“…they [the Chinese] do not wash themselves with water when they have done their necessities; but they only wipe themselves with paper.

Wool, lace or hemp were the preferred means of anal cleaning for rich people elsewhere.

For about two millennia, recorded history and archaeological findings have informed us that people have used a variety of anal hygiene and cleaning materials including water, fruit skins, stones, snow, rags, leaves, among other things to wipe their anus after defecation. The Japanese used chugi or “shit sticks,” the ancient Romans used tersorium or “sponge on a stick,” which historian/archaeologist Stephen Nash calls a “toilet brush for your butt.”

It was in 1857 that toilet paper, which falsely claimed that it prevented hemorrhoids, was on sale in the US. More than half of the toilet paper is derived from old and virgin forests. To hell with the environment.

The use of toilet paper is not only detrimental to the environment but is also harmful to all those people who use it because

  1. toilet paper can never totally clean the anal area as thorough as water,
  2. the fecal material not cleaned by the toilet paper is carried by the carriers till their next proper bath

The people who have doubts about number 1 should first use the toilet paper to wipe the nether area as they do it regularly and then they should clean it with water using right/left hand and will feel the fecal material in their hand. Which means the toilet paper cannot clean it the way water does it. Afterward, the hands should be scrubbed completely for at least 20 seconds.

One shouldn’t be hesitant to use hand and water because, after all, a person is cleaning her/his own body part and not that of Bezos, Gates, Zuckerberg, or Cook.

Water is used in many places around the world. Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, people in Southern Europe, Southeast Asia, many Catholic countries, many Japanese and South American countries use water; though the means may differ such as bidet, lota, and so on.

Use of water in cleansing after relieving have four great advantages:

  • saves money,
  • cleanses thoroughly,
  • repairs environment, and
  • delivers one from despair as when out of toilet paper.

The rear area is used to rough and tough things and doesn’t require spring water; plain tap water will do.

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

FIR 59/20 and the dark contours of India’s emerging, new republic

October 23rd, 2020


Bharatiya Janata Party activists in New Delhi celebrate before the groundbreaking ceremony of the Ram Temple in Ayodhaya on August 5. PHOTO/Money Sharma/AFP

The announcement slipped quietly into the Lok Sabha on September 15, a notable day in the recreation of the republic.

Alongside the fisheries minister’s relief package for fisheries and the health minister’s study on the efficacy of yoga in the recovery of Covid-19 patients, the culture minister declared an expert committee would start a “holistic study of original and evolution of Indian culture to since (sic) 12000 years”. The members included archeologists, a former Supreme Court judge, a Canadian-Indian immunologist and veterinary surgeon and the chairman of the “World Brahmin Federation”.

Do not be surprised if a report emerges some day of Hinduism and the caste system predating the Indus Valley civilisation and finds evidence of ancient flying chariots and nuclear physics. The cue to blurring the boundaries of religious myth and science came six years ago, when, soon after taking office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the elephant-headed god Ganesha as proof of ancient India’s prowess in plastic-surgery.

The transformation of irrational belief, farce, and falsehood – manufactured in the Hindutva thought factory – into WhatsApp forward and elevated to party and government policy is largely established. This process wil be increasingly deployed in drawing the contours of the new republic, which is here in form, if not in constitutional decree. You can call it the Hindu-Rashtra strategy of political guidance and administrative procedure.

The Hindu-Rashtra strategy is leery of reason and fact, hostile to minorities, benevolent towards fake news and hate speech, manipulative of law and derisive of scientific inquiry. It is increasingly apparent that a diversity of Hindutva thought, once fragmented and scattered, is cohering into a strategy that is being put to action. It is currently being road-tested nationwide in varying degree and by varied method, its inherent contradictions and obvious illegalities managed by a largely captive mass media and powerful social-media engine.

A critical test of the Hindu-rashtra strategy is unfolding in the nation’s capital, where several of its strands have been woven into a 17,000-page chargesheet that the police have submitted to court. This chargesheet is based on what is called FIR 59/20, a first information report that alleges the Delhi riots, which claimed 58 lives in February, sprung from a great conspiracy hatched by protestors, liberals, students poets, writers, professors and others who do not heed the Hindutva narrative.

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The court of God: How a Catholic secret society took over SCOTUS

October 23rd, 2020


President Donald Trump ( left) and Judge Amy Coney Barrett (in blue dress) after his announcement of Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. Alex Brandon

With his latest SCOTUS nomination, Trump advances the designs of a clique of ultra-conservatives with ties to a Catholic secret society and Cold War stalwarts leading the US to the brink of overt fascism.

The Trump White House wasted no time in nominating Amy Coney Barrett, a devout Catholic,  to the Supreme Court after RBG’s passing gave this administration an unprecedented third bite at the SCOTUS apple. Barring an improbable successful challenge by Democrats, Barrett is on her way to becoming a Supreme Court justice and tipping the scales of the highest court in the land in favor of Conservatives by a margin of seven to two.

As the American media lurches forward onto the predictable spectacle that such a lopsided court will, no doubt, elicit from the irredeemably partisan media, it is worth shining a spotlight on the links Barrett has to an organization described by a defector as a “totalitarian” group “imbued with fascist ideas turned to religious purposes” with direct involvement in the darkest activities of what some call the permanent or “deep” state.

The man who is said to vet the president’s list of SCOTUS candidates, Leonard Leo, is the executive vice president of the arch-conservative Federalist Society, which has figured in the appointment of all but one of the conservative justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court, including Trump’s two now-installed nominees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

While the Federalist Society itself has plenty of dubious relationships with individuals like Charles Koch and his network of billionaire oligarchs hell-bent on reshaping American politics to serve their ends, it is Leo’s association to another organization that reveals links to far older and more powerful networks that harken back to the most recondite history of Cold War politics and the CIA in their ostensible fight against communism through an “unholy alliance” between the intelligence agency, the Vatican and the Mob.

Sordid connections

Leonard Leo is a board member of the Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center (CIC), where sitting U.S. Attorney General, Bill Barr, and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, also once served. The Catholic lay group has been described as one of the world’s “most powerful and politically committed” secret societies, with direct ties to the Vatican as a “personal prelature,” an official status awarded by John Paul II that made sure the group only answers to the Pope himself.

Founded in 1928 by a Spanish priest and lawyer, Opus Dei, wouldn’t become the agent of global fascism until later in the twentieth century when the CIA began funneling money to an Opus Dei think tank in Chile called the Chilean Institute for General Studies (IGS) after it drew support for the overthrow of democratically elected president Salvador Allende from Chilean bishops, and was a pivotal cog in the implementation of Operation Condor – a transnational intelligence operation running through Southcom to aid South American right-wing dictatorships in the 1970s. Many of the members of IGS went on to become cabinet officials in Pinochet’s military junta.

Mint Press News for more