Spinning Chavez

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez easily survived yesterday's recall vote. The opposition is claiming fraud.

An early reaction from a pro-Chavez site:

Although there has been no negative comment about the conduct of the election from either the US-based Carter Centre or Organization of American States election monitors, the country's elites "categorically reject the results." Hundreds of thousands of people are partying in the streets while waiting to see what the anti-popular forces will do next.

An early reaction from an anti-Chavez site:

Exit polls show Chavez losing badly. The big question is whether we can trust the official count, and whether Chavez will go even if he loses.

People almost invariably leap to the data they happen to prefer. Me, I'll wait for those monitors to weigh in.

NEXT: Jailed for Smoking

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  1. Ramsey Clark is a communist.

    He was Carter’s Attny General.

    Now what are the odds Carter is going to find fault with Chavez winning the election?

  2. The diabolical Yankees are doing their best to destroy Venezuela by favoring Chavez’s opposition. Which objectively would be better for the people.

  3. I’m glad to see the anti-Chavez people have their conspiracy theories planned in advance. The pro-Chavez people took the same precautions.

    Small problem: Ramsey Clark was LBJ’s attorney general, not Carter’s. So even if Simon’s bizarro guilt-by-association argument made sense, which it clearly does not, it wouldn’t hold any water.

    And hey, don’t forget that the OAS sent monitors too.

  4. Jesse Walker,

    You beat me to the punch on the Clark statement.

    Short bio of Clark: http://www.bartleby.com/65/cl/Clark-Ra.html

    Jason Ligon,

    I don’t see a difference between Democrats or Republicans when it comes to handing out goodies.

    M. Simon,

    Are the opposition “objectively” better for the people? Shit, they could equally to or worse than Chavez, yet sporting a different ideological veneer (right-wing thugocracies are after all as or more common than the left-wing variety in Latin America).

  5. Coup attempt? Please, does anyone still believe the so-called coup attempt was real? In hindsight it was a pretty transparent piece of theater designed to give Chavez an excuse to purge the military (a military that had been showing signs of being unwilling to fire on peacefull demonstrators).

  6. “The diabolical Yankees are doing their best to destroy Venezuela by favoring Chavez’s opposition. Which objectively would be better for the people.”

    I suppose that depends on which opposition they’re favoring, and how they’re doing so. The opposition seems to run the gamut from U.S.-style Republicans to emulators of Hondoran death squads.

    Regardless of the personalities and ideologies involved, what’s objectively best for the people is the continuation and consolidation of elected, accountable government, with changes in power coming about through free elections. Once you lose that, it’s just a question of how many months it takes before the most sociopathic elements in the ruling party take the reigns.

  7. Coup attempt? Please, does anyone still believe the so-called coup attempt was real?

    Well, it fooled the Bush administration at the time, since they were quick to recognize it for the two days the putsch leaders could keep it together. Otto Reich hasn’t met a right-wing government installed by force he hasn’t liked yet, after all.

    what’s objectively best for the people is the continuation and consolidation of elected, accountable government, with changes in power coming about through free elections. Agreed.

  8. I don’t have a comment on Venezuela, but on the general left-wing dictator vs. right-wing dictator argument brewing here:

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but being a good capitalist I insist that the thugs arresting and torturing me belong to right-wing paramilitaries. The thought of being arrested and tortured by a bunch of left-wing thugs sends shivers down my spine. At least if I’m arrested and tortured by right-wing thugs I’ll know it’s for a good cause. That makes it a lot easier to endure the electric shocks.

  9. thoreau,

    I think the success of the former Warsaw Pact states in Eastern Europe has put to rest the notion that somehow right-wing dictatorships have some clear advantage over the long-run regarding a transistion to a liberal society.

  10. thoreau,

    It is also easier to buy your way out of the right-wing thugs tender mercies. Personally, I am going to cheer Joe here.

    what’s objectively best for the people is the continuation and consolidation of elected, accountable government, with changes in power coming about through free elections.

    Thuggery, right or left, is just thuggery.

  11. Regardless of the personalities and ideologies involved, what’s objectively best for the people is the continuation and consolidation of elected, accountable government, with changes in power coming about through free elections.

    The problem is that Chavez is well on his way toward sewing up a dictator-for-life arrangement. It’s pretty obvious that this win will give him the “mandate”, letting him get away with cracking down even harder on dissidents.

  12. Once the coup was crushed, Chavez could have made himself dictator for life with ease – it was already an emergency situation. But he didn’t, Aaron. He made his continued rule subject to victory in a contested election.

    Personally, I think he’s a thug-lite, and should be voted out of office as soon as a sufficiently democratic, liberal alternative presents itself. And if he does ignore a free election that he loses, I’m down with stringing him up from the nearest pole. joe’s got no use for left-wing dictators.

  13. thoreau,

    ” … insist that the thugs arresting and torturing me belong to right-wing paramilitaries…”

    I second you for two different reasons:

    1. if I were to be tortured by a right-wing dictator, I might get some Media play/sympathy (unlike the victims of Castro, et. al)

    2. while in captivity, I can find the ‘Lord’, and hopefully might get released:-)

  14. Saw Jimmy Carter fumbling his way around Venezuela, he appeared a bit confused (could have been just my perception or bad reception on my TV) The fact is that our policy in Latin America
    sucks, has sucked for a very long time, and will continue to suck if we don’t correct it drastically. You hear alot of political commentary about how we still are operating with a cold war mind set in many areas of foreign affairs. Well, duh, our policy toward Latin America has many elements that have been in place pre-Castro, and we treat Castro as if he were the same threat to us as he was in 1962/63.
    OK Chavez is a leftist who feels a need to cuddle up to Castro (at least psychologically). If I remember correctly, the US reaction to his election was so knee jerk (as it was to Lula’s in Brazil as well). A number of the Venezuelan elites have been going to Miami….where they set up shop with the elites of the rest of Latin America, we freak out about the oil situation, and have a mild stroke think that this guy is going to be another mini-Castro with oil.
    Unfortunately we have supported thugocracies in Latin America for scores of years Rafael Trujillo, Bautista, Somoza, Duvalier, Pinochet, and whole shitload of others. The only comforting thought was tht they weren’t Commies….not really caring about spreading democracy or anything that remotely resembles it. OK Latin America has been a relatively cheap source of raw material for the American economic machine, but it’s time for a fundamental change in policy where we can have our own economic interests relatively intact, democracy would at least be fostered and Latin American hardcore left would be castrated (or at least minus one testicle) and their knee jerk penchant for revolution and “Yanqui go home” would be neutralized to a large degree.

  15. As you liken Chavez to a thug, dictator, torturer, etc., please remember that this is about the 4th straight election he’s won. The opposition hasn’t liked the results so for the last few years they have been bent on a recall – California style – but have failed at that, too.

    And yes, Chavez has used his influence and and the fear factor of el yanqui diablo to pack the courts and the legislature, taking a page from the Bush playbook and proving again that irony rules.

  16. God forbid that the blonde, designer-gear-wearing Venezuelans have their lock on power shaken by ‘Indians’.

  17. Does anyone else here feel sorry for old-moldie poster child, Che Guevarro?
    There he was bustin’ his hump for years trying to spread communism “the old fashioned way.”

    Or is democracy just another word for freedom? What say you, Jimmy?

    Was Jimmy’s Peace Corps momma over in Germany certifying Adolph Schickelgrubber’s electoral victories?
    Wouldn’t surprise me.

  18. Gadfly wrote:

    And yes, Chavez has used his influence and and the fear factor of el yanqui diablo to pack the courts and the legislature, taking a page from the Bush playbook and proving again that irony rules.

    Ahem. There has one been one U.S. President guilty of threatenting/attempting to pack the court with his cronies. Can you guess who that is? Hint: not George W. Bush.

  19. Ahem-
    Venezuela really is the only country I can think of where the front pages of the newspapers refer to their president as “the nigger.”

  20. Heather,
    Sensitve Dude that I am, I’m hoping you elaborate.
    I’m thinking something is either lost or gained in the translation.

    My hunch is Spanish is a language where a spade is still a spade.

  21. There has one been one U.S. President guilty of threatenting/attempting to pack the court with his cronies.

    FDR, right?

  22. When the Spaniards came to the Americas, they brought along some African slaves too. They also didn’t feel the need to kill off all the natives as did the Brittish settlers. Ended up with a real “melting pot.”
    They may all seem “hispanic” to us, but they have their own words for “nigger” for more African featured folks, and “spick” for more Native American featured folks.
    There is a lot of blatent racism in the Venuzuelian upper classes and it is common for the president to be referred to with their equiviant of “nigger.”

  23. As you liken Chavez to a thug, dictator, torturer, etc., please remember that this is about the 4th straight election he’s won.

    So is it ok refer to a person who tortures and brutalizes political opponents as “a thug”, “a dictator”, or “a torturer” if they’ve only won, say, three elections in a row? Do they have to win that 4th election before they can be issued their “Get Out of Basic English Definitions Free” card?

    And yes, Chavez has used his influence and and the fear factor of el yanqui diablo to pack the courts and the legislature, taking a page from the Bush playbook

    Damn, that Chavez is one clever fellow — taking pages from Bush’s playbook years before Bush ever became President. What a pity — if only his time-travel powers could be used for Good!

  24. Sorry, Heather, but your answer was not satisfying.
    I can call a spade a spade. I can distinguish each and every subtle hue. I can be pasty white and be stimulized as all get out for someone so dark I can’t see them at high noon.
    So what are you telling me?
    I’m Irish, by the way.

  25. Nothing helps an elected leader’s reputation, no matter how poorly he governs, as much as surviving a coup attempt.

    So when Colonel Hugo Chavez staged a failed coup against President Carlos Andres Perez in 1992, killing eighteen people in the process, did that help Perez’s popularity? It didn’t seem to hurt Chavez’s; he was elected President himself two years after being pardoned for his crimes.

    He made his continued rule subject to victory in a contested election

    He held elections. We won’t know if he has actually made his continued rule *subject* to those elections until he actually loses one and relinquishes power. Until then, it isn’t possible to know for certain if he is a man who respects democracy, or merely a tyrant with 58% popular support. His past history strongly points to the latter.

    Thus far, what we know about Chavez is this: when he has lacked popular support, he has tried to use the military to seize power. When he has possessed popular support, he has tried to use democracy to obtain power. You claim that if he once again loses popular support, he will relinquish power. I think you need to offer some proof of that.

  26. Dan,

    It hurts when the majority of Venezuelans give you and the Bushies the finger.

    It is their country, their oil. They can choose how to run it the way they please. Stay out of it and they will be fine.

  27. OK — the OAS, the US State Dept. and Carter have all certified the election — he won by a landslide — lets clear up a couple things:

    Carter doesn’t like Chavez, he’s done everything he can to help the opposition — most American pro-Chavev commentators are anti-Carter becuase he likes to fix elections in places like Georgia wit a US installed/molded candidate

    I’ve seen no evidence Chavez has locked up political prisoners, stifled the press, fixed the results etc. — he looks like he’s truly playing by the rules to a far greater extent than the cronies fighting to have him removed and that he replaced —

    The sad thing is that Cahvez is by far and away a better candidatge than the opposition. The opposition took the oil money and put in in their own pockets — Chavez has put more into social programs, many of which are self-improvement programs such as micro-lending for small business. he has also taken up deSoto style land reform (minue the free-market rhetoric or deSoto himself as far as I can see) and made moves to end the war on drugs in Venezuela, enter into a (semi)free-trade block with Mercosur, etc.

    Personally I’m against the state running the oil company and taking the money and putting it in already rich people’s pockets or spending it on social programs but I’d prefer it spent on social programs than some dude’s swiss bank account.

    I’d like to see reason do an article on this — its an interesting dilema for libertarians — it took me a long time to taking Chavez’s side because on the face of it he appears as the bad guy — but he could be a lot worse, his opposition is worse and he’s actually doing some good which a federal government in Venezuela hasn’t done in some time.

  28. And the monitor is headed by the esteemed James Earl Carter Jr. Oh, boy, I just cannot wait for him to embrace Chavez.

  29. A legit Chavez victory would not surprise me so much as depress me. He will have won by being a Democrat. Throwing tons of dollars at social programs, he is Santa dipped in oil.

  30. Nothing helps an elected leader’s reputation, no matter how poorly he governs, as much as surviving a coup attempt. Unless it’s support for the coup attempt by the Yanquis.

    Chavez had this sewn up when John Negroponte endorsed the coup regime.

  31. The OAS and Carter Centre aren’t really in position to challenge the results. Seeing that the gap is as large as reported then they be hard pressed not to validate the results as the obvious result would be riots and violence from the Chavistas.

    Additionally, I thought the Chavistas were supposed to be good at celebrating. They appear to be silent, on in liberty speak – muzzled.

  32. Indeed, elected and dictator are not mutually exclusive. I believe that is why the American Founders were wise.

    The Western Democracies have elements of dictatorship, or royalty, but that’s not the same thing. Its a very delicate mix of different powers to produce a true republic.

    Chavez may have support of the majority, but as you seem aware, sometimes the majority is not wise. Just like any other form of power, you need checks on it.

    As to neocons planting democracies, most neocons are aware that just holding elections is not enough to cause a liberal democracy to spring into flower. America could have had an election in Iraq six weeks after the liberation, and with full panoply of democracy installed a guy who would turn into a President-for-life. So neocons are more subtle than you are giving them credit for.

    The question is what should America’s relationship to foreign powers be, especially the more loathesome ones?

    1)Isolationist-let them develop on their own. 2)Promote stability–thats the US State Dept.’s plan, and the United Nations as well. 3)Plant liberal democracies in the most dangerous countries like Iran (striving to become a nuclear power); North Korea (already a nuclear power)

    Perhaps you can tell me another possible goal. And then you can tell me how such a goal prevents the Norks from selling a nuke to a rich nut who then deniably nukes Los Angeles.

    The neocon project has its flaws, but it seems to be the best solution to the problem of rogue states, WMD, and terrorists. Iraq is unarguably doing better under the new gov’t than it did under Saddam. Germany and Japan are doing better. South Korea is doing better than the North Koreans who are possibly engaged in cannibalism. So, while American proxy gov’ts have had flaws and failures, there also have been a number of notable successes. And perhaps some of these failures were because America did not go into the situation “big” enough.

    Now as to Chavez, I really don’t want to see him do something terrible enough to move him into the target sights. I want him to run a peaceful country that becomes more prosperous. If he does this a bit lefty, fine. I’ll even cheer a small cheer for that, if it happens. I’m a righty, but first and foremost, I’m a human being. But I’m worried because such people have a strong tendency to not succeed at running their country, and then to do terrible things.

    Tadeusz

  33. Indeed, elected and dictator are not mutually exclusive. I believe that is why the American Founders were wise.

    The Western Democracies have elements of dictatorship, or royalty, but that’s not the same thing. Its a very delicate mix of different powers to produce a true republic.

    Chavez may have support of the majority, but as you seem aware, sometimes the majority is not wise. Just like any other form of power, you need checks on it.

    As to neocons planting democracies, most neocons are aware that just holding elections is not enough to cause a liberal democracy to spring into flower. America could have had an election in Iraq six weeks after the liberation, and with full panoply of democracy installed a guy who would turn into a President-for-life. So neocons are more subtle than you are giving them credit for.

    The question is what should America’s relationship to foreign powers be, especially the more loathesome ones?

    1)Isolationist-let them develop on their own. 2)Promote stability–thats the US State Dept.’s plan, and the United Nations as well. 3)Plant liberal democracies in the most dangerous countries like Iran (striving to become a nuclear power); North Korea (already a nuclear power)

    Perhaps you can tell me another possible goal. And then you can tell me how such a goal prevents the Norks from selling a nuke to a rich nut who then deniably nukes Los Angeles.

    The neocon project has its flaws, but it seems to be the best solution to the problem of rogue states, WMD, and terrorists. Iraq is unarguably doing better under the new gov’t than it did under Saddam. Germany and Japan are doing better. South Korea is doing better than the North Koreans who are possibly engaged in cannibalism. So, while American proxy gov’ts have had flaws and failures, there also have been a number of notable successes. And perhaps some of these failures were because America did not go into the situation “big” enough.

    Now as to Chavez, I really don’t want to see him do something terrible enough to move him into the target sights. I want him to run a peaceful country that becomes more prosperous. If he does this a bit lefty, fine. I’ll even cheer a small cheer for that, if it happens. I’m a righty, but first and foremost, I’m a human being. But I’m worried because such people have a strong tendency to not succeed at running their country, and then to do terrible things.

    Tadeusz

  34. dan, with all due respect, i think the point is that — regardless of what he was — he IS the elected leader of venezuela.

    Yeah, he’s the elected leader of Venezuela. So what? He’s still a murderous thug. He’s still a man who has shown a willingness to “abide by the will of the electorate” only on those occasions when the electorate happens to agree with what he already wants.

    You seem to think that his being elected somehow sanctifies him. I do not share that belief.

    was shamir or begin any less a valid democratic leader because they were once terrorists?

    Begin and Shamir were willing to use violent force to establish a democratic state in place of authoritarian rule. Chavez was willing to use violent force to overthrow a democratic state and replace it with authoritarian rule. That’s an important distinction, don’t you think?

  35. Tadeusz:
    “Someone said that if we leave them alone they will do fine. Ahem, that’s presuming that American influence is naturally evil whatever it is. I assume the person who said that would not feel so if we supported Chavez. Then we would be enlightened.”

    Your assumption is wrong. I’ll feel as bad if the US supported Chavez when a majority of Venezuelans oppose him. I’m against any foreign interference in the democractic process of a sovereign country.

  36. “He staged a coup in 1992, you silly fuck. Would you mind explaining how that qualifies as something other than “making unilateral power grabs with the help of the armed forces”?”

    He staged a coup against an unelected dictatorship. He did not try to overthrow a democratic government. Are you really dumb enough not to understand the difference?

  37. So, Dan, would you advocate a military coupe to overthrow this obviously corrupt, murderous, elected thug?

  38. Never mind. This from the group the US favors:

    “Violence Needed Against Chavez, Venezuela Opposition Leader Says. Dictatorship Must Follow”

    http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1320

  39. Name: you are correct. FDR was the court-packer, and Tenth Amendment jurisprudence continues to suffer to this day. Contrary to Gadfly’s revisionism, GWB has packed the Supreme Court with exactly zero of the current nine, and has not so much as floated the idea of asking the Senate to confirm a tenth.

    Gadfly: what is a military coupe? A Humvee? I’m sure it will take more than one of them to remove a bastard like Chavez.

  40. Its a very delicate mix of different powers to produce a true republic.

    sad that we no longer live in one.

    And then you can tell me how such a goal prevents the Norks from selling a nuke to a rich nut who then deniably nukes Los Angeles.

    tadeuz, i would submit that no plan we can implement can stop this if decided upon. there are many limits to what we can and can’t do — one of the things we can’t do is stop this. (though too many americans these days would begin by saying there’s nothing we can’t do, belief in omnipotence is plain stupidity, i’m sure we can agree.)

    so it becomes a matter of bettering our odds. i would submit to you that the best way to improve our odds is to generally remove the cassus belli for the global antiamerican insurgency: give up our empire. it’s extremely expensive, bloody work, makes enemies out of friends and yields us too little to make up for that. such was the observation of cicero regarding the roman empire — one better founded than ours.

    of course, the question is this: can american nationalist ego be sacrificed for our own good? the answer so far seems to be “no”.

    i would note that mine is not a call for isolationism, although it is a call for an end to warfare (proxy and open) and economic extortion/”stabilization”. it is possible to engage other nations on neutral terms — without interfering in their internal affairs. doing so would relieve about 80% of the world’s complaints against us and all of al-qaeda’s.

    the North Koreans who are possibly engaged in cannibalism

    lol — and the kaiser is a right awful man-eating ape. i wouldn’t subscribe to such blatant dehumanizing propaganda.

  41. Begin and Shamir were willing to use violent force to establish a democratic state in place of authoritarian rule

    ask the palestinians how they feel about that, dan. they’ll tell you arafat and hamas are doing the same.

    He’s still a man who has shown a willingness to “abide by the will of the electorate” only on those occasions when the electorate happens to agree with what he already wants.

    You seem to think that his being elected somehow sanctifies him. I do not share that belief.

    i see nothing that sanctifies him. but what you’re advocating is the open interference in a democratic political result because, well, you suspect he’s up to no good.

    i ask you then, if mere suspicion of possible future events is cause: is there *any* line the united states should not cross to put into power its own hand-picked candidates?

    and, if not, let’s come out and plainly admit that the united states is empire building around the world, and that is has NO real interest in self-determination for anyone but itself. *that*, it seems to me, would at least be an honest insight into the “neocon experiment”.

  42. Begin and Shamir were willing to use violent force to establish a democratic state in place of authoritarian rule

    to belabor the point — this could use more clarity.

    imho, al-qaeda and chavez and chirac all have a common thread that makes them a threat to american nationalists of the global-manifest-destiny type. that is, they all oppose american rule by coercion.

    it is no exaggeration to say that al-qaeda — and its massive and deep support throughout the world, not just in the middle east — is based on philosophical resistance to american empire, cultural, economic and military. i think that to see al-qaeda at all, one must see them not as an external enemy but as an internal insurgency within the american empire. it is, in virtually every way, a movement for the right to self-determination.

    similarly, chavez derives significant support from his antiamericanism — tweaking the lion’s nose. schroeder in germany did the same to amazing effect during the last election. chirac, a rightist, became the hero of the parisian left by appealing to same. americans should begin to wake up to the fact that we are a global imperial oppressor (for lack of a better word) and antiamericanism is the backlash against our constant meddling, coup plotting, shah installing, stability supporting, bilateral trade agreement extorting, etc etc etc (and the list is very long) — all of which we do to manage our empire.

    and the comments here — the unspoken assumption that we have the right to pick venezuela’s leader — is entirely characteristic. even MORE characteristic is the rationalization that we’re doing for the their benefit and/or for our defense (rationales that any roman citizen would instantly recognize).

    it is that empire management — of the type you’re now advocating regarding venezuela — that has sparked the al-qaeda insurgency and engaged us in several extremely costly (indeed, now potentially bankrupting) wars around the globe since 1945.

    is it worth it? i certainly think not — in fact, i think stands a good chance of being our ultimate national demise. so why do we continue to pursue it?

  43. Well said. As it stands, though, any nation sitting on an oil patch will be a target of our benevolence.

  44. How, exactly, did we meddle in Venezuela?

    Oh, that’s right. We recognized a government that took power in the country, like we do almost every time there’s an apparently-successful coup somewhere. How horribly meddling of the U.S. to try to accomodate facts on the ground, instead of withholding recognition in order to try to influence the outcome.

    Outside of that, we’ve . . . er . . . um. We’ve objected to his foreign policy involving a country much closer to the U.S. than to Venezuela. Which is certainly beyond the pale, for what legitimate interests can the U.S. have in other country’s relations with its direct neighbors that give it the right to, er, express its opinion?

    Oh, and we would really rather Chavez stop supporting Maoist terrorists trying to overthrow the government of Colombia, and have actually dared say so.

    Wow, what evil, evil meddling imperialists Americans are. We refuse to take sides on coups, and we express opinions on foreign policy in the region. We’ll just go hang our heads in shame.

    All hail Chavez, and the murdering brownshirts of his Bolivarian Circles!

  45. So, Dan, would you advocate a military coupe to overthrow this obviously corrupt, murderous, elected thug?

    Like I said already, I don’t give a rat’s ass who rules Venezuela. Whoever it is will keep the oil flowing. So, no, I see no reason to advocate a “coupe”.

  46. What is Reason’s take on individuals selling their vote? Shouldn’t it be legal that people sell their votes as it is their own property?

  47. ask the palestinians how they feel about that, dan. they’ll tell you arafat and hamas are doing the same

    The delusions of the Palestinians are of no interest to me. Only a complete idiot could seriously believe that Arafat or Hamas have any plans to democracy in Palestine.

    what you’re advocating is the open interference in a democratic political result because, well, you suspect he’s up to no good

    So criticizism of the President of Venezuela by a U.S. citizen constitutes “open interference in a democratic political result”? Were you born with brain damage, or did you just fall and hit your head?

    and antiamericanism is the backlash against our constant meddling, coup plotting, shah installing, stability supporting, bilateral trade agreement extorting, etc etc etc (and the list is very long) — all of which we do to manage our empire

    Oh, grow up and live in the real world, why don’t you.

  48. he’s bad for venezuelans? how? he’s made sure that more of the profits from oil stay in venezuela. he’s using that money to lift the poor out of poverty and into the middle class (where theoretically they’ll lead to a more stable and prosperous venezuela).

    how is that bad exactly? heck, it might even be good for us in the long run because they’ll be a big market for american companies to sell to.

  49. So is it ok refer to a person who tortures and brutalizes political opponents as “a thug”, “a dictator”, or “a torturer” if they’ve only won, say, three elections in a row?

    Yes, but it would be wrong to refer to Chavez in this manner because he doesn’t. He has put a couple of (left wing) opposition leaders in jail on what some people regard as trumped-up firearms charges, but not so trumped-up that Amnesty have taken them on as prisoners of conscience. But he hasn’t tortured anybody, he maintains that the firearms possession charges were genuine and your assertion is wrong.

  50. “We won’t know if he has actually made his continued rule *subject* to those elections until he actually loses one and relinquishes power.” I suppose we won’t know, for certain. His willingness to pursue his desired changes through existing democratic institutions (calling for a Constitutional assembly to vote on amendments, for example) rather than making unilateral power grabs with the help of armed forces, would appear to be a good sign.

    “You claim that if he once again loses popular support, he will relinquish power. I think you need to offer some proof of that.” No, Dan, I do not. It is the person seeking to abrogate the system of democratic elections who needs to offer proof, not the person seeking to continue it.

  51. Chavez had this sewn up when John Negroponte endorsed the coup regime.

    here here, joe. it seems most americans simply can’t understand this. and worse, they seem to buy the propaganda wholesale:

    “a thug”, “a dictator”, or “a torturer”

    dan, i think you and i should go live there for a bit before spouting off about what chavez is instead of simply reciting the propaganda of the white house. didn’t this sort of false assumption of constant death and chaos get us into quite a lot of killing and a significant worsening of the situation in another foreign country just recently? (and please, don’t anyone recite more war-party fantasy by telling me that saddam was just 45 minutes from killing all his citizens with nuclear weapons.)

    i think the truth is something closer to this: venezuela has never been particularly peaceful for long durations, and chavez’s term has been no different. and it’s true that his economics are not wholly capitalist, which is why the upper classes are inciting recall and revolt against him — but it’s also true that the majority of his people decidedly don’t want them to be and don’t want to be exploited under a washington consensus that (for all our free trade talk) still doesn’t and will never allow them to sell their agricultural products in the united states on an even basis.

    chavez is a demagogue, a plebiscitarian. he is in fact making priorities of social programs and education to pander to the poor voter; his very election is a victory for the underclasses, from which he came. heather is right — with chavez, it is very similar to the united states having elected a black man — except that in venezuela 60%+ of the population is “black”.

    now, i personally don’t think that is necessarily a great thing. plebiscitarian leaders pandering to the underclasses for votes frequently do become majoritarian dictators.

    but what the ideologized idiots of the american political classes had better start to see is that THIS IS THE FUNCTION OF DEMOCRACY — this is *How It Works*. if you want social programs and handouts to be on the back burner and capital access and deregulated labor on the front, you’d better put the elites in charge and insulate them from the masses with things like appointed senators and electoral colleges and land ownership requirements for voting priviledges — or refuse to hold elections at all.

    to walk around extolling the holy writ of rousseau and jefferson on the one hand, and then crying about how the people vote themselves largesse out of the public trust (both here and in venezuela) is the sort of unintentional irony that wholly characterizes the intellectual laziness, even the stupidity of mainstream “neocon” politics today. how i wish for an intelligent conservative who would defend the elites!

  52. His willingness to pursue his desired changes through existing democratic institutions (calling for a Constitutional assembly to vote on amendments, for example) rather than making unilateral power grabs with the help of armed forces, would appear to be a good sign

    He staged a coup in 1992, you silly fuck. Would you mind explaining how that qualifies as something other than “making unilateral power grabs with the help of the armed forces”?

    No, Dan, I do not. It is the person seeking to abrogate the system of democratic elections who needs to offer proof, not the person seeking to continue it.

    Since I’m not seeking to “abrogate the system of democratic elections” I suggest you get off your fat ass and offer some proof to back up your claims. Chavez was perfectly willing to murder his way to power twelve years ago. Prove he’s changed.

  53. Chavez was perfectly willing to murder his way to power twelve years ago. Prove he’s changed.

    dan, with all due respect, i think the point is that — regardless of what he was — he IS the elected leader of venezuela. was shamir or begin any less a valid democratic leader because they were once terrorists?

  54. Gaius,
    The American Founders deliberately chose elements of aristocracy, I think royalty, and democracy to try to cure the defects of each. The chief defects of democracy back in the days of Ancient Greece was that it wobbled between Rule by the Aristos and Rule by a Tyrant. No stability, no nice middle course.

    Another limit on such things as voting largesse is the notion of enumerated powers.

    As to Chavez, I have a relative in country, and so I’m a bit worried. But mostly calm.

    He did have snipers from his palace shoot at crowds killing seventeen or eighteen people. This seriously prejudgiced my observer.

    He is a left-wing dictator, and while the right-wing dictators are not nice people, frankly the lefties tend to out-produce them when it comes to horror and tragedy. Perhaps its because the righties have more limited goals–keep order, keep control, get rich while the lefties want to save the world plus all the righties goals which tends to result in tanker loads of blood.

    Sarcasm/ Too bad those lefties who want to save the world don’t try to use Christ’s method, but instead believe in getting other people to die for the world’s sins. Sarcasm off/

    Someone said that if we leave them alone they will do fine. Ahem, that’s presuming that American influence is naturally evil whatever it is. I assume the person who said that would not feel so if we supported Chavez. Then we would be enlightened.

    We do need to update our policy. Now that the Cold War is over, we have no reason to support tin pot dictators. Bush pointed this out with regard to the Middle East; of course the State Department and its Arabists fight against this (some are little doubt influenced by the prospect of a Saudi meal ticket after they retire), and claim stability as some great goal.

    Tadeusz

  55. He is a left-wing dictator

    perhaps so. unlike some, i don’t see as mutually exclusive the notions of “elected” and “dictator” — in many respects, that’s essentially what western democracies have. but does he have the support of the majority? it would seem so to me — regardless of whether that is good or bad.

    this is why i’m not eager to have the neocons running around the planet planting democracies. it’s as though no one has applied any thought at all to their ideology.

    Someone said that if we leave them alone they will do fine.

    indeed, they may not. but will they do better under an american proxy government? that’s often (though not always) what american “assistance” means, especially in the western hemisphere.

  56. It hurts when the majority of Venezuelans give you and the Bushies the finger

    Uh, no, actually it doesn’t; neither did it hurt when he was “giving the Clinonites the finger” prior to 2001. Whether or not Venezuela is a free and democratic third-world shithole or a tyrannical third-world shithole has no effect on my life whatsoever. Chavez is bad for the people of Venezuela, not for Americans. To Americans, he’s a glorified gas station attendant. Nobody cares whether or not gas station attendants like them; the gas is going to get pumped regardless, because pumping gas is what keeps the place in business.

  57. This position while not entirely isolationist is reasonably close to that so the label fits. You contend that if we withdraw our meddling that the world will cease to hate us. And that this will satisfy AQ.

    i would resist the label — i try to be my own man, as it were. my views are decidedly NOT isolationist and i think it a great reduction to say that quitting constant intervention in other nation’ internal affairs consitutes isolation. refusing to maintain what is, de facto, an empire does not make a nation isolationist — indeed, virtually all the world’s other nations reside in the middle ground between where we are and where, say, north korea (as an isolationist example) is.

    multi-polar world is not some happy utopia

    i wholly concur — but it is no worse nor better than a unipolar world, as far as i can tell, to the extent that the world can be unipolar. what i object to is being the “uni-” — it’s a terribly expensive and unprofitable endeavor.

    Europe dislikes us because we are too religious; the Islamofascists because we are not religious enough.

    i think this too may be too simple an abstraction to capture truth (though it is often forwarded and even true in some respects). if you listen to the venom of both sides, it isn’t religion — that’s rather more a philosophical issue, imo — but extranational affairs that raise the anger. indeed, nowhere in AQ’s manifesto does it say “the united states must become more religious”; it says, “get the hell out of our lands.”

    Much of what we consider our virtues, they see as vices.

    Stop sending magazines to us…

    lol — indeed. they see the west generally as a society in decadence and bent on self-destruction. (and they might well be right.) who wants to be a part of that?

    these are failed societies which attack us out of shame at their own weakness and utter failure at any human endeavor. Worse, we succeed by doing what they see as evil things.

    no, i think that this line of thought is a bit too self-congratulatory to be true. there’s nothing “failed” about islamist societies — i mean, surely they don’t conform to what has become the western orthodoxy: maximum individuality even if antisocial, maximum freedom even if irresponsible, maximum ideas even if ahistorical. but that doesn’t constitute failure. they do in fact represent something rather like what the christian west did some hundreds of years ago (when *they* were the godless protectors of toleration) — and will someday in the future again, imo. i think, if anything, the majority of islamic societies today are probably closer to the historical ethical norm for human societies than we are. and societies do have a way of regressing to the mean in this regard — the romans became the byzantines, after all.

    of course, you can hardly say that in the west without being stoned to death (largely by people who’ve never read a history book) because you transgress the ideology of the day — and the west is nothing if not increasingly ideological since rousseau. but it is a point of view that deserves much wider rational examination in the west, even if it necessitates a bit of soul-searching.

  58. Oh, that’s right. We recognized a government that took power in the country, like we do almost every time there’s an apparently-successful coup somewhere.

    that’s willfully naive, wl, and i suspect you know it.

    Only a complete idiot could seriously believe that Arafat or Hamas have any plans to democracy in Palestine.

    western-style democracy is not the salient point — self-determination was/is the common thread of popular appeal between the stern gang, hamas and chavez. these are plainly not the same thing. palestinians and venezuelans alike want first to be ruled by a government that they believe to have their interests at heart.

    Oh, grow up and live in the real world, why don’t you

    lol — i’m always wryly pleased when someone i disagree with digresses into ad hominem or grammar parsing attacks. a surer sign of intellectual weakness and emotional insecurity does not exist. it generally reveals typically extreme discomfort with meaningful disagreement — that is, when the inflexibly insecure understand they may have something to be insecure about, sparking uncontrolled reaction.

    so good luck with that, dan — we all fight it. but underneath it, you obviously know (whether consciously or not) that i have a point.

    i pose again my question — if mere suspicion of possible future events is cause: is there *any* line the united states should not cross to put into power its own hand-picked candidates?

  59. and antiamericanism is the backlash against our constant meddling, coup plotting, shah installing, stability supporting, bilateral trade agreement extorting, etc etc etc (and the list is very long) — all of which we do to manage our empire

    Oh, grow up and live in the real world, why don’t you.

    as an aside, i’d be interested, dan, in knowing why you believe most of everyone outside our fishbowl finds us political america so appalling. have you convinced yourself that “they’re just jealous” or some similar self-gratifying scheme? or do you simply not admit to the existence of constant american interference in other nations’ internal affairs?

  60. Gaius,

    Would you characterize yourself as being of the Lew Rockwell, Jerry Pournelle paleoconservative school? It sounds like you are to me.

    This position while not entirely isolationist is reasonably close to that so the label fits.

    You contend that if we withdraw our meddling that the world will cease to hate us. And that this will satisfy AQ.

    A few problems:
    1. The world needs a dominant power. Contrary to leftist thought, which I suspect we both find somewhat derisory, a multi-polar world is not some happy utopia. Its a dog-eat-dog chaos with many sections of the world falling into horror. The world needs a referee.

    2. Europe dislikes us because we are too religious; the Islamofascists because we are not religious enough. Who do we satisfy?

    3. AQ stated they wanted more than just our withdrawal from Saudi Arabia; they wanted us to stop influencing them. They wanted us to erect a big wall between us so that their kids would stop being corrupted by our coolness. Stop sending magazines to us…

    4. Much of what we consider our virtues, they see as vices. Respect for woman, tolerance of homosexuals, not killing our Jews, and so forth are hateful to AQ.

    I don’t think withdrawal would satisfy them. I think they would see it as a sign of weakness, and advance more outrageous claims until we were forced to choose between dhimmitude or war.

    I suspect Stephen Den Beste of USS Clueless is correct when he states that these are failed societies which attack us out of shame at their own weakness and utter failure at any human endeavor. Worse, we succeed by doing what they see as evil things.

    You are correct that we cannot guarantee any outcome. You hope that our “pulling our stick out of their eye” so to speak will result in them turning to other endeavors. Unfortunately, the Norks have a habit of using over the top threats to blackmail economic aid out of America. They need us because we have money, and they are broke and starving. Disengagement is not going to work with the Norks.

    Perhaps they do not cannibalize, but I wonder if the Kaiser had not just death camps, but varieties of them.

    Warmongering Lunatic: I wonder if you could expand on the “Bolivian circles”.

    Tadeusz

  61. Being a SF reader and writer, I can easily imagine an alternate America. The borders are seriously secured, both sea and land, with a defense in depth. Transgressions and injuries to American citizens abroad are dealt with harshly if believed to be unjust.

    All American forces are taken home. Half teh armed forces are dismantled.

    Immigration is basically ended except for really talented individuals.

    Taxes are lowered. And for the second miracle, social spending is lowered as well.

    America booms. 10% growth rates year after year. A flat tax rate of 15% becomes 10, and then 8, and then levels off at five.

    Since we’ve agreed to jam ourselves, the people of the rest of the world can no longer watch Baywatch, or other American TV. We disconnect from the worldwide INternet so that Saudi Arabian men cannot access American porn, and have to be content with Norwegian porn. We give AQ the Caliphate they desire, and consign a billion souls to slavery of the soul, and we do our humble best to stop corrupting their young with visions of fun and freedom. The Caliphate becomes the next Hermetic Kingdom, like the Norks.

    We get our oil from ANWR and off-shore drilling and Venezuela, and Norway.

    We stop protecting the right of free passage on teh seas. Piracy springs back up from its shallow grave.

    Several countries hold the rest of the world to ransom because these countries hold things like the Straits of Malacca through which most of Europe and Japan’s oil flows.

    Pakistan and India stage a small nuclear war.

    Japan and Taiwan buy nuclear weapons to defend themselves from the NOrks. S. Korea does so too.

    China and Taiwan go to war. Nukes are exchanged. China wins.

    The Balkans fall apart again, and the Europeans are helpless to stop it. They are helpless both mentally, and physically. They are accustomed to thinking peace is the natural state of man, and they’ve been starving their militaries for decades while Uncle Sam protected them.

    And somewhere in Southern Russia, a man with a needle looks at the chaos of the world, and decides–“Its America’s fault; they must pay.”

    He pushes the needle down into his arm, and then takes a trip to visit America. He’s one of those brilliant people we accept, at least as visitors.

    And so he shakes hands with a lot of Americans, including some who know some of the astronauts for the upcoming Moon Base mission by a private company.

    Within two months, ten million Americans are dead as a Russian supersmallpox that our vaccines have little effect on slices through the American population. And America is practically collapsed in th eprocess. Soon the virus will escape from America, and go on to destroy modern civilization.

    1. It is far worse to have a multipolar world for the world obviously, and eventually for us.
    2. To meet AQ’s demands we would have to become the Hermetic Kingdom in reverse; stop influencing them.
    3. This fantasy I just outlined is just that, a fantasy. America will not disengage, so why don’t we deal with that as a ground level reality, and move on.
    4. My view of the ME is not so much self-congratulatory of us, as condemnatory of them. What was the last good thing produced by the ME? Take back the oil, and the whole place has less GNP than Denmark. Science research. Hah. New industrial techniques. Hah.
    5. The West is very good at soul-searching. Granted, the PC crowd tried to close this off, but it hasn’t succeeded. Its the ME that more desperately needs to sit down, and ask themselves “What am I doing wrong?” But they are very poor at that. Honesty about faults is not a great thing over there.
    6. I rather prefer the notion that America is a new equillibrium.
    7. Granted America has many faults. But it also has the freedom to be truly moral, rather than be forced to be “moral” which is probably more the appearance than the actuality.

    Very long and all that,
    Tadeusz

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