Bob's Links and Rants
Saturday, April 17, 2004

From Walt Handelsman.

From Steve Sack.

From Ted Rall.
Bush es idiot
People are sacrificing their lives in Iraq from different countries. We ought to welcome that. -- aWol

Q: (Egyptian President) Hosni Mubarak is saying the new U.S. policy on the West Bank could escalate violence. How do you respond to his concerns?

BUSH: Yes, I think this is a fantastic opportunity.

And some people down here complain about Chavez.
If youīre not depressed about the Bush-Sharon agreement, you should be
Read Billmon for the very depressing details.
Going for it
Not a big chance, as chances, go, but still a little scary. The Global Exchange itinerary here in Venezuela ended last night, and most of the participants have left. I just booked a flight to Merida on Avensa, a small Venezuelan airline, using their Spanish-language web site. Entered my credit card numbers and everything. Iīll take a taxi to the airport tomorrow and hope Iīll be able to figure out how to get on the right plane.

Merida is in southwest Venezuela, at the foot of the Andes. Thereīs supposed to be a beautiful gondola ride up to the top of a 15,000 foot mountain. Should be great. I hope!

This was definitely a great trip. Venezuelans are wonderful people living in a time of crisis. The divisions in the country are deep, and not many people on either side of the divide are making serious efforts to bridge it. The armed forces and a variety of police forces are involved, along with politicians at all levels. US interference is significant both as reality and threat. As Iīve said before, Iīll have lots to post when I get home. I donīt quite feel up to it sitting here at an Internet cafe in Caracas, and I really should be out gathering more to write about!

ĄHasta la vista!
Thursday, April 15, 2004
Super Barrio
We spent most of today in the largest barrio in Caracas, which is called 23 Enero (January 23). They say 1.5 million people live there. From the valley below (which is the main part of Caracas) the barrio looks very crowded and decrepit. But when youīre in it it is quite interesting and even pretty. Being on the hills, it is a bit cooler and windier than down in the city, and when itīs high 80īs in the city, that feels good. It has real roads going through it which you canīt imagine are there when you see it from below. The people are nice. Iīm very short on time right now, but Iīll give much fuller reports (and pictures) on everything Iīve seen and heard here in Venezuela. Very interesting stuff, so please tune in next week!
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Hugo Chavez!
I just got back from hearing Chavez speak outside the Casa Miraflores in downtown Caracas. It was quite an event. The Chavistas (Chavez supporters) showed up an hour before the speech. Lots of flags, signs, street vendors, singing, chanting, and more. Since our group has already been on TV and to a couple of Chavista events already, many people recognized us. Theyīre all glad to have norteamericanos come to Venezuela and hear Chavez.

Several speeches and lots of music led up to Chavezīs appearance. When he arrived, there was all sorts of cheering and flag waving. He started his speech leading the crowd in singing some national hymn or anthem which lasted about ten minutes; Chavez has a nice singing voice. As you can probably imagine, he is very dramatic and powerful as a speaker. The crowd adored him. We were pretty close to the stage, and it was pretty crowded. People kept coming up and shaking our hands and talking to us, telling us how great Chavez is. It seems like maybe a bit too much of a cult of personality. Heīs absolutely adored by the Chavistas and detested by the opposition.

Four people in our group were given press passes and allowed onto a high platform where they could take pictures. Basically they just said they were Americans, and the security people gave them passes. They really want us to take the Chavez message back to the U.S.

All in all, an amazing experience. It was great to be there!

Earlier in the day, we toured Caracas by van, and then were given a very nice tour of the national assembly building (it has a nicer name that I canīt recall right now). They gave us a nice tour of the chambers, and gave us nice bound copies of the Bolivarian Constitution of 1999, of which the Chavistas are very proud, and apparently with good reason. When we were in the balcony of the main assembly chamber, several leading Chavista politicians came and talked to us--very engaging and funny. We later saw them being interviewed on TV before the Chavez speech and on the stage with him.

Sanjay tells me that Bush is giving a press conference. Iīm guessing that he isnīt coming off as well as Chavez did!
Sunday, April 11, 2004
The Gropenator backs allowing hybrids in carpool lanes
Will wonders never cease? Via Polizeros.
Who could have envisioned planes crashing into buildings?
The Pentagon, for one. In October of 2000, a simulated attack on the Pentagon was staged to help prepare an emergency response.
The Times, they are a changinī!
In a single 17-sentence document, the intelligence briefing delivered to President Bush in August 2001 spells out the who, hints at the what and points toward the where of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that followed 36 days later. -- NY Times

Can you say "impeachment?" I knew that you could.

Iīve looked at Venezuela from both sides now
Besides being Easter, today is the second anniversary of the shooting at the Llaguno Bridge here in Caracas. We went first to an opposition rally--those opposing Chavez. We then went to a Chavista rally by the Llaguno Bridge itself. The feelings are strong on both sides, but fortunately we didnīt see any violence today. It may not be until after I get back that I write any long posts about the situation here in Venezuela; suffice it to say that there are a lot of parallels to the US, and a lot of stark differences as well.

We were on the pro-Chavez TV station last night. Three people in our group were interviewed live for about 40 minutes.

Update: There was some violence at the Chavista rally today. Michelleīs account:

We didnīt get arrested at the rally, but we have another one coming up. We did get pepper sprayed. Well, it was not intentional, but the police were brutally arresting a street vendor and got carried away with the spray. Our guide got a pretty good face full, my roommate got a blast and I got away with only a few molecules up my nose.
Bush: Memo had no 'actionable intelligence'
Heīs an expert on that topic, having no actionable intelligence himself.

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