Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Reality Check For Charlie Rangel: America Has Never Been Your Country

A New Yorker's Letter to Charles Rangel

sent by Bill Koehnlein - Sep 24, 2006

Following Hugo Chavez's great UN speech--which endeared him to the entire world--and his remarks later that week to a receptive and very appreciative Harlem audience, Charles Rangel, the uptown Congressional rep, had this to say:

"You do not come into my country, my congressional district, and you do not condemn my president. If there is any criticism of President Bush, it should be restricted to Americans, whether they voted for him or not. I just want to make it abundantly clear to Hugo Chavez or any other president, do not come to the United States and think because we have problems with our president that any foreigner can come to our country and not think that Americans do not feel offended when you offend our Chief of State."

Here is a copy of a letter I faxed to Rangel at both his New York and
Washington offices. You can send your own to him at the addresses below, or fax to (212) 663-4277 and (202) 225-0816.

Beat the Devil!
-Bill Koehnlein

September 24, 2006

Representative Charles B. Rangel
United States House of Representatives

2354 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC 20515

163 West 125 Street
Suite #737
New York NY 10027

Hey Charlie!

Lighten up, man!

You said, "If there is any criticism of [the Devil], it should be
restricted to Americans...." Since when is the Devil, or any other high
government leader, immune to criticism from a non-American? Look at all the criticisms made by Cheney, Rumsfeld and the Devil himself against Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, not to mention numerous other heads of state and high-level officials of various governments.

Etiquette and social nicety has not hindered the Devil from constantly
whining and droning on about "evil doers" or "evil ones"-appellations
applied liberally by him to various world leaders and political

In fact, the actions of the Devil have gone beyond mere criticism. The
Devil has threatened both Chavez (and even helped launch a coup d'etat against the legally-elected government of Venezuela), and Castro (and the Devil continually does his utmost to strangle, weaken and create social instability in Cuba). The Devil has invaded sovereign states or taken other actions to undermine or overthrow them; he has been involved in political assassinations; he tortures innocent people at will; he capriciously deprives others of their freedom; he has plunged the world into a ghastly war that threatens not only the Middle East but the entire planet itself.

I live on the Lower East Side, downwind from the United Nations. All day Tuesday there was a horrible sulphurous stink in my apartment, and I had to spend the entire next day airing out the place and scrubbing the floors and walls with a strong Lysol solution.

I'm indebted to President Chavez for telling me what the source of the
stench was. I thought it was the sewers backing up. All Americans as
well should demonstrate their gratitude to him for telling it like it
is. In fact, most do. It's only the corporate media and hysterical
politicians who seem to be chagrined.

Bill Koehnlein
bill at toplab dot org

"My fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."
--George W. Bush, May 1, 2003

"...I told the American people that the road ahead would be difficult, and that we would prevail. Well, it has been difficult--and we are
--George W. Bush, June 28, 2005

U.S. military fatalities through May 1, 2003: 140
U.S. military fatalities through June 28, 2005: 1743
U.S. military fatalities as of September 24, 2006: 2700

Iraqi civilian fatalities through May 1, 2003: 1982
Iraqi civilian fatalities through June 28, 2005: 22,563 - 25,560
Iraqi civilian fatalities as of September 24, 2006: 43,387 - 48,174

*These figures are based on the number of fatalities cited in various news reports and have been criticized, with much justification, for not giving an accurate assessment of the real civilian death count. A much more rigorous and statistically-reliable study, conducted by teams from Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and Al-Mustansiriya University, and published in The Lancet (the British medical journal) in the Fall of 2004, put the figure at around 100,000 civilians dead. However, that data had been based on "conservative assumptions", according to research team leader Les Roberts, and the actual count could be significantly higher. Note also that the Lancet study's data greatly underestimated fatalities in Fallujah due to the surveying problems encountered there at that time.

If the full and true data from this town is included, the compiled studies would point to about 250,000 excess civilian deaths since the outbreak of the aggression and genocide committed by the United States against the people of Iraq.

Sources: http://www.iraqbodycount.net/


Pan-African News Wire said...

In Defense of Hugo Chavez: Behind the Washington-Media Hate Campaign

By Ike Nahem

"With skillful manipulation of the press [the US government] turns the victim into the criminal and the criminal into the victim."
-- Malcolm X

The big-business media in the United States has seized upon remarks directed against President Bush by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in his warmly applauded speech at the United Nations, and before an enthusiastic packed house at the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Harlem, New York, as a pretext to launch a highly orchestrated hysterical campaign against Chavez and the Venezuelan government. Screaming headlines in the two right-wing New York City tabloids, the Daily News and the New York Post, have called President Chavez “crazed,” “el loco,” “crackpot,” and “jerk.”

(The last time these flag-waving, war-cheering, gossip-mongering, celebrity drunk, anti-labor paragons of the “free press” went so ballistic was during the December 2005 strike of New York’s subway workers where Transit Workers Union President Roger Toussaint was the foil that Chavez is cast as today.)

Liberal New York Times columnist Frank Rich called Chavez a
“menace” on an ABC News Sunday morning pundit panel. Ultra-right Wall Street Journal columnist, Mary Anastasio O’Grady, in her weekly Friday rant, wrote of the “kook from Caracas.”

For several days in Cable TV-land Chavez was pummeled by conservative and liberal talking heads. (What Chavez did at the UN, in a short reference intended to be humorous, at the onset of a major address full of substance and challenging ideas, was to refer to President George Bush as “the devil.” “Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the President of the United States the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly as the owner of the world.”)

As is usually the case, the big-business media gaggle is following the lead of and promoting the views of the Republican and Democratic politicians who serve the interests of the US ruling class internationally. To these forces Hugo Chavez and the ideas he promotes indeed represent a threat to their interests.

But the interests of the US super-wealthy minority of business executives and bankers are not the same as the interests of working people in the United States. The anti-Chavez media blitzkrieg aims to fabricate a caricature which will prejudice and manipulate public opinion and create conditions for more direct aggression against Venezuela. On Saturday, September 24, as the media hysteria mounted, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro was forcibly detained for 90 minutes at JFK International Airport, causing him to miss his flight for which he had a ticket.

Maduro was physically manhandled, threatened with frisking, handcuffing, and a strip search, after he had announced his diplomatic position and shown his diplomatic credentials, by Department of Homeland Security authorities in an egregious provocation—for which the US State Department was forced to publicly apologize and which UN authorities have pledged to investigate. Prior to President Chavez’s trip to New York to address the UN, Washington refused to issue visas to his personal physician and chief security, forcing them to remain on the aircraft upon his arrival.

Democratic and Republican elected officials across the liberal to conservative political spectrum put aside their election-year theater of attacking each other over whether Republicans or Democrats can best promote the interests of the US Empire, to unite in a patriotic fever against Hugo Chavez and the temerity of his remarks at the United Nations.

Liberal Congressman Charles Rangel, who has in the past presented himself as a strong opponent of the US invasion of Iraq and embargo against Cuba, and who represents Harlem in the US Congress, became overnight the darling of the tabloids and right-wing commentators when he said to reporters, “You don’t come into my country, you don’t come into my congressional district and you don’t condemn my president.” In a further statement to the Daily News, Rangel huffed and puffed,
“George Bush is the President of the United States and represents the entire country. Any demeaning attack against him is—and should be viewed by Republican and Democrats and all Americans—as an attack on all of us.” The Daily News ran a lead editorial entitled
“”Attaboy, Charlie!” praising Rangel after his statement. (It would be interesting to poll Rangel’s Harlem constituents as to whether George Bush “represents the entire country,” and whether Chavez’s speech at the Harlem Church, where he announced an expansion of his government’s program of supplying heavily discounted heating oil to Harlem and other working-class communities in the US, was an “attack on all of us.”)

Not to be outdone, liberal Congresswoman and Democratic Party minority leader in the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, who represents the city of San Francisco, was also praised across the bourgeois political board when she said, “Hugo Chavez fancies himself as a modern-day Simon Bolivar, but all he is is an everyday thug.” (We can all look forward to hearing more of Nancy Pelosi’s no doubt deep and profound understanding of the history and ideas of Simon Bolivar!)

US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton shamefacedly lied about the existence of free speech in Venezuela when he said,
“You know it's a phenomenon of the United States that not only can he say those things in the General Assembly, he could walk over to Central Park and exercise freedom of speech in Central Park too and say pretty much whatever he wanted.
Too bad President Chavez doesn't extend the same freedom of speech to the people of Venezuela.” New York Republican Governor George Pataki echoed the same deceitful theme when he said, “The best thing he can do is go back to Venezuela and try to provide freedom for his people instead of what he’s done here in New York.” New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer called Chavez
“despicable and disgusting.”

The purpose of this bipartisan, arrogant venom directed against Hugo Chavez is, of course, to divert attention from the content of what he actually said at the United Nations, to bury the truth about US policy, under the Bush administration, toward Venezuela, and to bury the reality of the political transformations taking place in Venezuela and throughout the Americas today which is becoming a major crisis for US foreign policy as Washington’s historic economic and social domination continues to erode.

Hugo Chavez, to the great consternation of both conservative and liberal US policymakers and officeholders, has become a popular and prominent voice for the oppressed and exploited masses throughout the Americas who are fighting for their rights and interests. Those interests of working people are in direct conflict with the so-called
“Washington Consensus” policies, promoted by Bush and both US big-business parties, of austerity, permanent debt slavery, privatization, unequal trade (which they call “free”), low wages, mass unemployment, and servility to US foreign policy dictates.

That, not any infelicity of Chavez’s use of religious idioms and gestures—not exactly alien to Bush and US political discourse—in words directed against President Bush, symbolically casting him as “the devil,” is what is really behind the anti-Chavez eruption in the US big-business media. The purpose is to prevent and cut off a discussion and debate over the ideas articulated by Chavez in 99% of the content of his speeches given in New York City. Because it is the unspinnable fact that behind the ideas articulated by Chavez stands mounting waves of struggles and demands by Latin America’s workers, peasants, indigenous peoples. women, and youth for governments, and an economic and social order, which represents their class interests and an end to Latin America’s historic relationship of servility to and domination by US imperialism.

It is obvious that the unleashed anti-Chavez furor also aims to prejudice working people in the US against—and bury knowledge and awareness about—the progressive political and social transformations now taking place in Venezuela. These include massive expansions of free medical care and education, aided by over 20,000 Cuban doctors, nurses, teachers, and athletic trainers.

Already illiteracy is being wiped out in Venezuela, as it was done in Cuba after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Already 10 million Venezuelan working people have received free medical care. It also includes the beginnings of a planned massive redistribution of land to landless farmers in a country where the large majority of potentially productive land is in the hands of a tiny minority of semi-feudal landlords.

The government of Hugo Chavez has given workers and peasants—the overwhelming majority who have been impoverished by the traditional social order defended by the Venezuelan oligarchy backed by Washington—the space to fight for their rights and class interests.

That is why the Chavez government has overwhelming popular support as registered in six democratic electoral processes since Chavez’s initial election as president in 1998. And that is why Washington not only hates Chavez and his government, but has actively worked for its overturn.

This is the framework in which Chavez’s UN remarks of a seemingly ad hominum nature against George Bush should be seen. The US government, under the Bush Administration, promoted and supported an aborted military coup against the democratically elected Chavez government in April 2002.

The coup leaders, immediately recognized by the Bush Administration (and the editors of the New York Times), kidnapped and was preparing to put in place a military unit that would murder Chavez, who was guarded by sympathetic soldiers. Only a dramatic, massive mobilization of working people, who poured into the streets demanding the return of the president they elected, led to the collapse of the coup “government,” which had suspended constitutional rights and democratic freedoms, tried to set up a military dictatorship, and had begun organizing death squads to hunt down Chavez government leaders.

The defeat and rout of the coupsters forced the Bush Administration to retreat and deny they supported what the entire world heard them support (for their part the New York Times editors to issued a pathetic mea culpa).

(The US-backed coup attempt in Venezuela was fully consistent with Washington’s historic record of promoting blood-soaked military dictatorships in the Americas throughout the 20th Century—from Nicaragua to Guatemala to Cuba to Chile to Argentina to Haiti to Brazil to Uruguay to the Dominican Republic…against democratically elected, progressive, nationalist, or revolutionary governments promoting popular policies that ran counter to US business and financial interests. These overt and covert military interventions were always accompanied rhetoric about “freedom,” “civilization,” and “democracy,” and media vilification propaganda campaigns against the leaders and governments in Washington’s crosshairs.)

The following year Washington, under the Bush Administration, supported a failed employer’s lockout of workers, shutdown of much of retail distribution, and massive sabotage of the oil industry in Venezuela, which only the heroic actions of oil production and other industrial workers defeated, at a great cost to the economy. In 2004 Washington pressured the Organization of American States and many Latin American governments to force a recall referendum, provided for in Venezuela’s Constitution, in yet another attempt to depose Chavez.

Washington was confident that this time Chavez would be “peacefully” dispatched, because of the intensity of post-lockout economic difficulties. Despite fraudulent means used to gather signatures by the US-backed and funded anti-Chavez opposition, the recall vote was allowed to take place, and Chavez won handily with 60% of the vote. Chavez is heavily favored to win a large majority in presidential elections scheduled for December 3 of this year.

Bush Administration officials have for years slandered and lied about the Chavez government, including personal attacks. Last year Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared Chavez to Adolph Hitler!

What most bothers the big-business politicians and their media is the enthusiastic reception President Chavez received in New York City among ordinary people in Harlem and in the historic Cooper Union in Lower Manhattan. That reception would be repeated in any major city in the United States. Despite the incessant drumming in the corporate media that Chavez is “anti-American,” it is clear to those who are not consciously promoting a false reality and agenda that Chavez never attacks the abstraction “America” or the American people, but the policies of the US government and the Bush Administration, in the world, and against Venezuelan and Latin American sovereignty in particular.

It should be underlined that the alliance of Venezuela with revolutionary Cuba is particularly unacceptable to Bush and all of official Washington. The vital economic, financial, and political interests of the US Empire are at stake in the developing popular struggles in Latin America today.

And it is in the Americas, primarily due to the existence and example of Cuba, joined by Bolivarian Venezuela and the new anti-imperialist government of Evo Morales in Bolivia, that Washington faces it’s most serious political opposition with the emergence of leaderships that do not bow down and know how to answer and respond to Washington’s propaganda campaigns and, most importantly, present an attractive and resonant example and know how to appeal to and win allies among the US people. Washington is especially concerned that Venezuela will be successful in its bid to gain a seat for a two-year term, in the UN Security Council, a forum where it can promote policies in opposition to Washington’s war drives and economic threats.

The vote for that will take place in October 2006 in the UN General Assembly, a further cause to bash Hugo Chavez and paint him as a lunatic and a kook. The truth is that Washington is afraid to engage the ideas and political program on which Chavez stands, which is an articulation of the anti-imperialist consciousness and mounting struggles of millions, tens of millions, and hundreds of millions of working people throughout the Americas, and even inside the United States, who believe that “A Better World is Possible.”
Ike Nahem is the coordinator of Cuba solidarity New York, a member of the National Network on Cuba and the Venezuelan solidarity Network. Nahem is an Amtrak locomotive engineer in New York City and member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, division of the Teamsters Union. These are his personal opinions.

Pan-African News Wire said...

Clarifying Misinformation on the Citgo Corporation

HOUSTON --- In the last few days, the general public has been inundated with inaccurate and misleading information about CITGO Petroleum Corporation.

The most recent example was how CITGO's decision to allow its supply agreement with 7-Eleven to expire at the end of September was
misrepresented as a reaction by 7-Eleven to the remarks recently made by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. In reality, a final decision about the contract was made about three months ago, upon mutual agreement after many months of deliberation.

The 7-Eleven contract did not fit within CITGO's strategy to balance its sales volumes with its own refinery production. Moreover, both 7-Eleven and CITGO had informed the media of the decision long before the U.N. speech.

There have also been calls for a boycott of CITGO products, ignoring the implications that such an action would have on American businesses and the general public. These calls -- which run counter to the principles of a free-market economy, so cherished by all Americans -- are being pushed in search of political or economic gain.

The following facts clearly demonstrate CITGO’s commitment to U.S. consumers and the energy market:

CITGO is incorporated in the United States and is, therefore, a U.S. company, extremely proud of a heritage that goes back nearly a century.

CITGO was purchased by PetrĂ³leos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) in 1990, giving the company access to the largest crude oil reserves in the Western Hemisphere.

Venezuela has been a reliable supplier of crude oil and refined products to the U.S. market throughout the years.

CITGO’s policy includes maintaining and strengthening our relationship with our customers, in order to ensure that we continue to provide quality energy products that benefit the U.S. consumer. This is in alignment with the global energy policy of our parent company.

While CITGO is a major Venezuelan investment in the United States,
several American oil and gas companies either have significant
investments in Venezuela or purchase Venezuelan crude oil to satisfy the needs of their customers. This list includes ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips, Valero and others.

CITGO has approximately 4,000 employees in the United States and, through a network of more than 13,000 independently owned retail locations, CITGO indirectly employs roughly another 100,000 people who work hard every day to help their neighbors get where they want to go.

Many of these dealers selected CITGO because of the fact that our crude oil supply comes from our own hemisphere and that is precisely one of our key strengths.
Most of our competitors,
on the other hand, buy their oil from countries where ongoing conflicts pose a tangible threat to security of supply.

CITGO is committed to safe and environmentally responsible operations and the company will be investing $1.2 billion in this key area in the coming years.

CITGO is proud to sponsor many important activities in the communities where we do business:

After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, our employees in many locations spent countless hours volunteering to help and our company donated in excess of two million dollars. At the time, we also were instrumental in ensuring extra cargoes of gasoline from our parent company -- roughly
totaling one million barrels -- to alleviate fuel shortages in the
United States. CITGO’s efforts in this area have been recognized by
several U.S. government officials.

CITGO relaunched its heating oil program this past Sept. 21st. and plans to distribute 100 million gallons of heating oil at a 40 percent discount in 18 states. This will potentially benefit 1.2 million people, including members of more than 200 Native American tribes.

CITGO recently donated five million dollars to expand the Southwest Louisiana Center for Health Services (SWLA) in Lake Charles, which serves the uninsured and other people in need.

CITGO is the largest corporate sponsor of the Muscular Dystrophy
Association and we are proud of our 21-year relationship with this
organization, to which we have contributed more than $83 million.

When taking all these facts into account, it is clear that CITGO remains committed to its employees, customers, marketing and retail partners and the general public throughout the United States.

For more information on CITGO, click here

http://www.citgo.com/WebOther/AboutCITGO/CITGOStoryBrochure10-2.pdf_ .

CITGO, based in Houston, is a refiner, transporter and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals, refined waxes, asphalt and other industrial products. The company is owned by PDV America, Inc., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of PetrĂ³leos de Venezuela, S.A., the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.