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February 07, 2006

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CB, your first link doesn't work. And why is the expulsion clearly paranoid, if that's what you mean? (Yes, have just read the first para. so far.)

We wait with bated breath for the usual congo line of Leftists to queue up to make excuses for Chavez.

The single sole reason for their doing this is his anti-American rhetoric. Take that away and he's just another Latin Amercian fascist.

But even that can be forgiven (or pretended away) if you're sufficiently anti-American.

And with that, HoCB christens another ship of the line.

"..., its president has more influence than he otherwise [...] should have."

What's the metric for this, exactly? I'm really curious. Is there a list somewhere of authorized power that he's exceeding, or what?

It's a serious question. What, exactly, do you mean by this, Charles?

I'm not a fan of Chavez, although I do think he has some canny political sense. The giving cut-rate fuel to Bronx tenements and such shows that.

On the other hand, please don't ask me, or even tie me down, and ask me to listen to his multi-hour-long speeches, at which he rivals Castro for length (somebody should lock them in a room together and see which one talks the other to death).

But this: "...since he apparently likes to parade American nutters through Caracas such as Harry Belafonte and Cindy Sheehan...."

Say what you want, but you have to admit that Belafonte sings sings a better version of "Day-0" than Cindy S. ever will.

am, it's conga line, not congo line.

I don't think it's cingar. The Mexicans, at least, pronounce it chingar.

Jeez louise, Charles, what are you thinking putting a link in like the one you did to vete a cingar? Did you notice the pictures on the side? I'm not a prude, but doing something like that makes me think that you really don't think what you are linking to.

Ooh, "using fears of a US invasion to boost his defences" is he? No doubt we'll soon be hearing from the Bushies about his balsa wood anthrax-filled drones aimed at Manhattan. And those speculations about links to terrorism will soon become "confirmed facts" in the neocon's hands. And he's got our oil. Where have I heard all this before?

Look, this leftie is no fan of Chavez and I agree his reign is likely to end in tears for the Venezualans, with or without US "help". That said, the social and economic grievances that got him elected are very real, the Supreme court he has subverted was incredibly partisan, the generals he replaced were reasonably suspected of sympathy with the aborted coup against him, he faces opponents who have not scrupled themselves to use extra-constitutional means and he is undoubtedly still popular - he doesn't need to rig elections, at least yet. He's bad enough without lumping him in with the true monsters.

Just stay sensible on this, Charles, when your ideological buddies start whipping up the war fever again.

American nutters such as Harry Belafonte and Cindy Sheehan

Nice, CB. Very classy. Yeah, suck it up, Cindy. Jeez, so you lost a son in a dubious war. It's no biggie.

And the Human Rights Watch piece is rich in subtle wit.

Since winning a national referendum on his presidency in 2004, Hugo Chávez and his majority coalition in Congress have taken steps to undermine the independence of the country’s judiciary by packing the Supreme Court with their allies.

No! The scoundrels!

They have also enacted legislation that seriously threatens press freedoms and freedom of expression.

Good God!

Several high profile members of civil society

or "nutters" as we call them

have faced prosecution on highly dubious charges, and human rights defenders have been repeatedly accused by government officials of conspiring against the nation.

Or being 'objectively pro-terrorist'.

Police violence, torture, and abusive prison conditions are also among the country’s most serious human rights problems.

How different, how very different from the home life etc.

ajay, you said exactly what I thought - Bush is Chavez but in a prettier dress.

With the republican party in its current manifestation, we too have a unicameral legislature, and Bush doesn't even have to negotiate.

Jake

ajay and Jake: I'm with you guys. Chavez is the S. American flip side to W.

It is amazing to look into a future South American, Cuba lead coalition to reduse the US involvement in South America. The inability of the US to secure its boarders will have Thousands of South American Support should problems persist and escalate. The "REAL" concern of South American Communism style governments is growing the will undermine 100 years of efforts to push the South American nations to become more American, stay weak and supply cheap labor and goods to America. The US must chage its internal policy's so that leaderhship not control is used in improving policy's in South America as well as the rest of the world. The US is moving into a new Century with increasing threats from around the world and it is a fact even with Democracy we are seeing Evil, Dictators and Organisations can still take power through Democracy. It takes more time but I believe it also creates a deeper, stronger government which is not what America intended when we started promoting Free Democracy.

America needs some improvements and quick or we will see South America as a real US threat very soon.

I appreciate your reporting and information.

Excellent, excellent post, Charles. Well done.

Friday, Donald Rumsfeld unhelpfully triggered Godwin's Law, mentioning that both Chavez and Hitler were "elected legally".

Hey, it's *very* helpful!

Anything to remind those silly Bush-haters of differences between Hitler and Bush!

LJ, clearly Charles included the link as an intentional provocation to any theocrats who might be reading. Maybe he means to publish it fifty times a day for the next thirty years.

What's embarassing is that it shows that von doesn't actually click on the links.

PS, You're still using "Godwin's Law" wrong. It doesn't "trigger" anything, nor does it get triggered. It's a statement of probability.

A couple of quibbles, Charles: One minor:

A usage like: "(Venezuela is our fourth largest oil importer, behind Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia)" is ungrammatical: it should read "Venezuela is our fourth-largest source of oil imports..." or something.

One not-so-minor:

If Hugo Chavez is this awful Dire Evil Dictator; how do you explain the fact that the people of Venezuela have voted him into power by such obvious margins, twice, in elections which are at least as fair as any in Latin America (I know, low bar to hurdle)?
This isn't, pace am, a "defense" of Chavez and his "Bolivarian" folderol, btw: just a reminder that sociopolitical analyses, especially of foreign countries, aren't always as simple as CB might think.

Hitler never was elected with a majority. The "election" that brought his party 44% of the vote was held after he was appointed chancellor, and in an environment of violence and intimidation.

Of course, I wouldn't expect the Defense Secretary of the USA to know such a thing. No one in this administration appears to know much history.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler#Reichstag_Fire_and_the_March_election

There was a good article about Chavez in the New York Review of Books last October, at this site

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18302

I think there was one in a recent issue of the Smithsonian as well.

The problem I have with CB's post is the lack of context. The class war in Venezuela was, as is usually the case, launched by the ruling elites that oppose Chavez and despise the poor. Chavez is authoritarian and a danger to Venezuelan democracy, but the US has no credibility in Latin America or the Caribbean for obvious reasons, most recently the role of the Bush Administration in encouraging the thugs that overthrew Aristide. (The NYT had a front page story on this a week ago Sunday. It hasn't gotten much attention. Bush did another evil thing. Ho, hum, so hard to keep up with them all.) And when there was a military coup that briefly toppled Chavez a few years back and "even the liberal NYT" initially cheered it, which probably shows how some of the ruling elite in our country really think when they aren't careful to veil their thoughts.

Let the majority of the poor people organize against Chavez if his revolution starts to fall apart. I don't notice much US concern for the poor in Latin America, except when a leftist is responsible, so if Chavez's policies cause economic collapse there will be plenty of time then for us to pretend we care. Then the morally repugnant elites can take over again and we can go back to ignoring the plight of the poor--that's how it went after the Sandinistas lost power in Nicaragua.

Haven't read all of this yet, but wasn't the expulsion for spying, and isn't this the routine action in these cases? Was the individual expelled involved in espionage? I don't know, and neither does Charles, but I would be quite surprised (and suspect Charles would be also) if we didn't have some espionage activities in Venezuela.

The real offense is that Chavez isn't our son-of-a-bitch. The US has no policy of opposing evil guys just because they are evil, and , when it suited our purposes, we have opposed and even destroyed good governments. Chavez's offense is that he isn't in our pocket.
His other offense is that he is competing with us for influence in Central and South America. He does this by appealing to the genuine need for reform. Perhaps he is a genuine reformer, prehaps not. The one thing we can know for sure is that we are not promoters of reform in those countries. Maybe if we were we would win the competition with guys like Chavez.

rilke,
The first link worked fine for me. I used the term hugonoia because of his frequent fearmongerish statements about U.S. invasions and plots to unseat him. Seems like he comes out with this about every week or so.

What's the metric for this, exactly? I'm really curious. Is there a list somewhere of authorized power that he's exceeding, or what?

Who said anything about "authorized power", Gary? If I recall, I thought I used the word influence. Without oil revenues, Chavez has that much less mad money to play with, and that much fewer resources for spreading his ideology, for meddling in the affairs of this Latin American neighbors, and for propping up Castro and his regime, etc. That said, his "authorized power" is significantly greater today than it was back in 1999, especially now that there are fewer checks on that power. Today, he has plenty of hard-to-exceed "authorized power".

No! The scoundrels!

There's court-packing, and then there's court-packing, ajay. Imagine the reaction if Bush somehow found a way to increase the U.S. Supreme Court to 14, then appoint Harriet Miers and four other cronies to the five new positions, then force Ginsburg and Breyer to step down so he could appoint two more cronies. If that were to happen, you'd have two sides to the same coin. Perspective is a good thing.

It's kind of sweet to hear CB sternly point out that Castro is a Commie, and Chavez is becoming a Commie, and Sheehan/Belafonte/
Chomsky are Commie-symps.

In our IronMan Age of GSAVE/WOT-ever, when we're reliably informed that islamofascism is ever so much more a grave and growing threat than the Axis and the Commies combined (which is why we have to toss what's left of our checks and balances, not to mention our civil liberties, in order to fight it), - it's rather nostalgic to see CB play the Commie Card.

First - Stop referencing to Godwin's Law if you don't know what it is (hint: wikipedia).

Second - The conditions that brought Chavez to power were completely forseeable. US economic interests sided with wealthy elites who screwed the poor, and the poor elected somebody to screw the wealthy elites. It's bad, but it's not surprising. The solution is to avoid creating the problem in the first place. Now it's here all we can do is try to minimize the damage until this phase is played out, and try to ensure that the pendulum doesn't swing too far back the other way.

This is what leftists mean when they talk about root causes: Allow economic interests to screw people over and eventually the resentment builds up to the point where it leads to violence. Too often the people who lead the revolutions are lousy managers (and egomaniacs, but that's a different problem). Lousy management leads to economic and social problems, and the leader responds by grabbing more power instead of changing policies. This pattern is repeated over and over again, yet somehow we just don't learn from it.

Finally - there is a delusion within the right that material success is somehow related to merit. I disagree with this analysis even in the ideal case of a truly free and fair market, but that's an argument for another day. Applied to a grossly unfree and unfair market in which aristocrats who have inherited wealth taken by force and fraud (i.e. pretty much all of South and Central America) are able to use their access to political power to game the system so as to keep the poor from improving their lot (must have cheap labor) you have a straightforward alliance of the strong against the weak. Neither the peasants nor the aristocrats are idiots: both know how the system works, and who is backing the status quo. The US will never have easy relations with these countries unless it either commits to crushing the peasants or to building a truly free and fair socioeconomic system. I know what my preference is.

And the link indeed works for me now.

It might have been "hugonoia", but it might have been the guy in question was in fact acting beyond diplomatic bounds, true? I assume from your perspective it's a good thing for the admin to have agents there looking into the options - maybe even from my perspective that's so (assuming competent agents).

CB: "I used the term hugonoia because of his frequent fearmongerish statements about U.S. invasions and plots to unseat him. Seems like he comes out with this about every week or so."

Not that we in the US aren't accustomed to fearmongering on an almost weekly basis.

Re the court packing, you are of course correct. Not that I imagine there would be any effective opposition from the Republican controlled Congress if Bush did attempt that. But there is a distinction to be made.

What is interesting is your, once again, subtle (well maybe not that subtle), reintroduction of the nuke theme. Since you previously decided that Iran would be the willing supplier, even though this time you admit that their relationship as far as known only extends to OPEC, I am curious as to why you actually think that is that much of a threat.

You asked what we (meaning I presume the US) can do about all this, you say "not much". The real question is why should we do anything?

To me, it seems this adminsitration makes arbitrary decisions on who we like and don't like, and once a country or leader is on the "DO NOT LIKE" list, we do everything in our power to not only antagonize and alienate him, but everybody else. Not the best foreign policy IMHO.

You're right, Jay. The oil import phraseology felt clunky when I wrote it. Fixed.

That Chavez was popularly elected does immunize him from criticism. Bush won by three million last time around. Hamas did OK, too.

Donald, criticism of Chavez does not mean support of the opposition. They lost for a reason back in 1999 and they've been losing ever since, partly because they do represent the old oligarchy and partly because they seem unable to coalesce around a person or platform that would resonate. Being "anti" just isn't good enough (where have I heard that before?).

Venezuela is a geological lottery winner and, because of this, its president has more influence than he otherwise would or should have. A secure oil supply is in the United States' national interest

As if the US wasn't a geological lotter winner, pot meet kettle. And O-I-L is only important because the US won't get off their collective asses and explore all the other options instead of just the easiest.

And speaking of "national interests" how about honoring "world interests" where 5% of the world's population produces 35% of it's greenhouse gasses while refusing to even sign the Kyoto agreement. That term 'national interests' is a loaded ugly one and usually suggests someone with a different passport is about to die or be invaded because we won't use or brains to think up better solutions.

sorry for the deletion.

john miller: To me, it seems this adminsitration makes arbitrary decisions on who we like and don't like, and once a country or leader is on the "DO NOT LIKE" list, we do everything in our power to not only antagonize and alienate him, but everybody else.

I don't think it's in the least arbitrary, John. I think you can spell it O-I-L.

What if Venezuela goes off the petrodollar standard and decides to sell oil for euros? Suddenly, the US has to buy euros with dollars in order to buy oil from Venezuela.

(Or, more likely, suddenly Hugo Chavez is assassinated and there is a military CIA-backed coup, with a general in charge who is very, very anxious to do just what the US tells him to do.)

What if Iran decides to do the same? What if all major oil-producing countries decided to do this?

These are serious issues, on which the US economy really depends. But that's not on the Bush administration's talking points bulletin, is it?

italics off?

Uhhh, BD: I have to assume here that the deletion of the word "not" in your formulation:

"That Chavez was popularly elected does immunize him from criticism."

was mere typo, and not some sort of weird Freudian slip - especially as you follow it up with a mention of Bush (criticism of whom I will be only too pleased to supply)

Inherit the Wind.

we are reaping what we have sowed. and conservatives like cb, whose policy analysis frequently appears to be no more profound than to try to stand astride the tracks of other countries' road to the future and yell "stop", worries about the consolidation of power in the executive of a foreign country.

umm, how 'bout the consolidation of power in the executive of THIS country?

still worried about Castro? then lift the embargo. he has defined himself by his successful opposition to the US. you flood his country with Wal-Marts, allow the import of Cuban cigars and a middle class opposition will spring up overnight.

worried about Venezuela? Invite Chavez to the White House. Publicly ask him if Venezuela will provide low-cost fuel to support a broad winter fuel assistance program, and offer him something he wants in return. Set up spanish-language NPR and BBC radio broadcasts in country.

He is no worse and certainly much better than most leaders in Central and Southern America over the last, say, 100 years. If he wants to define himself by opposition to the US, the best way to pull his teeth is to not oppose him.

this sentence from CB -- "its president has more influence than he ... should have" -- is a little disconcerting. who, precisely, decides how much influence any individual should have. Frex, i'll bet that any number of Brits thought the same thing of Ghandi (oops, Gandhi) more than once.

Barry: Hitler never was elected with a majority. The "election" that brought his party 44% of the vote was held after he was appointed chancellor, and in an environment of violence and intimidation.

Okay, okay, I take it back--Bush and Hitler *are* similar.

Jes, you are right, it is not necessarily arbitrary. The rest still follows.

And they are also making some of our friends nervous.

My son told me an anecdote about when he was at advanced officer training. They bring in guest lecturers from other miltaries around the world. The was a general (I believe) from an African country with whom we have good relations who was quite blunt with our military officers.

Basically he said that when Bush used his famous "If you are not with us, you are against us" phrase, he scared a lot fo countries that may generally agree with us in many things, but may disagree in particulars.

CB may talk about Chavez being blustery, but in a contest, our fearless leader would be a close match.

Jes,

I really think the whole "price oil in euros" business is overdone. First, it's unlikely. A commodity like oil, sold in big international markets, pretty much has to be priced in a single currency. With the US (and Canada and Mexico) major producers there is strong pressure for that to be dollars. Similarly, the fact that the US is a huge consumer makes dollar pricing likely to stay in place.

Second, I'm not sure where the supposed massive damage to the US economy would come from. Perhaps I'm overlooking some of the consequences.

I really think the whole "price oil in euros" business is overdone... Perhaps I'm overlooking some of the consequences.

Bernard, such self-doubt is admirable, but I'd say you've pretty much got it right.

Bernard,

The claim for massive damage comes from thinking that other consumer nations will hold less of their reserves in dollars and more in Euros. If that occurs (especially by Japan or China), the market for T-bills is reduced, the Federal deficit will increase markedly and US interest rates will rise.

I am not convinced that a change in which currency oil is sold at, by itself, will do this, as the cost of converting T-bills to Euros is not much different than converting T-bills to dollars. On the other hand, it may provide an impetus for economies thinking of doing this already (e.g., to diversify their portfolios against fluctuations in the currency markets) to do it sooner rather than later.

But looking at it another way, the United States is in Venezuela's national interest.

yeah because it would be SO hard to find someone else to buy oil. they definitely need us more than we need them.... right. keep dreaming.

I tried to turn off the italics in that last post... believe me, I really tried.

The claim for massive damage comes from thinking that other consumer nations will hold less of their reserves in dollars and more in Euros. If that occurs (especially by Japan or China), the market for T-bills is reduced, the Federal deficit will increase markedly and US interest rates will rise.

There's a bit more to it than that. The money owed to those that finance the US deficit is repaid in US dollars. That means when the US dollar significantly devalues, those who hold US debt take a bath. If the dollar starts to drop, they will attempt to sell their debt at a reduced cost, further reducing the value of the dollar. Add to that the incentive for various national banks to dump their dollars before others and you have the equivalent of an interesting international game of Prisoner's Dilemna.

Of course, a tanking US economy will also tank the global economy, so there would probably be a significant effort to keep the dollar up.

How will it turn out? Dunno. But there's more than just oil at stake.

yeah because it would be SO hard to find someone else to buy oil. they definitely need us more than we need them...

It's a little complicated than that, Bill. Venezuela's oil is sour crude (lots of sulfur in it), and it takes major changes and boatloads of cash for a refinery to switch gears and convert it to petrol. Also, CITGO is a major profit center for Chavez. In a lot of ways, we're stuck with Venezuela and they're stuck with us.

"The money owed to those that finance the US deficit is repaid in US dollars. That means when the US dollar significantly devalues, those who hold US debt take a bath."

True, but this does not apply to US citizens, who still own the bulk of T-bills.

"If the dollar starts to drop, they will attempt to sell their debt at a reduced cost, further reducing the value of the dollar. Add to that the incentive for various national banks to dump their dollars before others and you have the equivalent of an interesting international game of Prisoner's Dilemna."

Agreed, but I don't see this happening solely due to the change in the currency in which oil contracts are denominated. As I said before, I can see it leading a party thinking of dumping dollars already to do it faster, knowing there will be less of a market for buying dollars, but I don't think it is enough by itself to start an avalanche of selloffs (or using CB's predilection for coining new and scary words, a sellvalance).

inspired in part by the anti-American writings of Noam Chomsky.

I don't much care for Chavez and I'm fairly indifferent to Chomsky, but really, Charlie, could you write a wingnuttier sentence? 20 bucks says you can't prove Chomsky or his writings are "anti-American." Partly, I think, because the phrase is nearly meaningless, partly because it sounds like something you just pulled out of your nether regions.

From where I sit Chavez looks just like a left-wing version of George W. Bush. (Except Chavez hasn't attacked another country yet.)

Similarly, the fact that the US is a huge consumer makes dollar pricing likely to stay in place.

Not if the countries who decide on the pricing want to make the US take a bath.

...I don't think it is enough by itself to start an avalanche of selloffs

I think you mean "a tsunami of selloffs."

True, but this does not apply to US citizens, who still own the bulk of T-bills.

But US debt is at $8 trillion. About $44 of that is foreign-owned.

Agreed, but I don't see this happening solely due to the change in the currency in which oil contracts are denominated.

I wouldn't underestimate the effect of changing the world's oil float. And as Iran plans to open an oil exchange in March that deals entirely in Euros, we may see the fallout this year.

Chomsky is anti-American in the sense that I am--if you loathe much of what American foreign policy has been like, then you are "anti-American" in some limited sense. The usefulness of the epithet is that the harsh critic of American foreign policy can be lumped in with people who hate everything about the US and even with people who fly planes into buildings. And it's the kiss of death in politics. I'm not running for anything and never will, but it'd be pretty hard to win any election outside some lefty enclave once the "anti-American" label has been slapped on, and a casual self-labeling of the sort I've just done to myself would be the end of my hypothetical political career. It might even be the end of someone's career as a mainstream pundit. You'd be exiled to Chomskyland.

But those pragmatic political considerations aside, I think any decent person who examines US behavior in Latin America over the past several decades ought to be "anti-American" in the limited sense of the term.

...inspired in part by the anti-American writings of Noam Chomsky.

I'm interested in this one as well, particualrily since Charles has gone to some lengths to show that Chavez is authoritarian, and Chomsky is an anarchist. You don't get much more anti-authoritarian than anarchist, so I'm not sure how Chavez is influenced by his writings.

Charles, could you provide the source for this?

Me: About $44 of that is foreign-owned.

Oops. make that 44%. If foreign debt was about $44, I'd pay it off myself just as a favour to my US friends.

Jes,

Not really, as the currency that would be converted to Euros in order to buy oil is not great, and should not, by itself affect the exchange rates much. On the other hand, I think the most likely reason for a sellvalanche (spelling corrected) is as a way for China to get leverage over us in a more direct dispute (perhaps over Taiwan, or even Iran, who sells China much of its oil).

++ungood,

44% sounds high to me (I recall it more like 30%, although my figures may be a couple of years old). In any event, the bulk (as in the majority) is still owned by US citizens.

"Not if the countries who decide on the pricing want to make the US take a bath."

What does this mean? Which countries? China? That would hurt their economy even more. Who?

Which price? Oil? This is very cryptic. All this worrying about what type of bills people pay for oil with has pretty much no basis in real economics. If Iran or Venezuela chooses to only accept the Zimbabwe dollar ($Z), it would provide a minor boost to Zimbabwe because it has almost no economy. People would convert to $Z for buying oil and then they would convert it right back to whatever else they needed to buy other useful things. Currency reserves aren't what you typically use to buy oil.

So what to do with the Chavez regime? There's not much to do. Keep a close watch, strengthen ties with other Latin American nations, continue to pursue freedom and democracy wherever possible,...

Though if the people in Venezuela keep stubbornly voting for the wrong guy, then I suppose "freedom and democracy" aren't so very "possible."

I used the term hugonoia because of his frequent fearmongerish statements about U.S. invasions and plots to unseat him. Seems like he comes out with this about every week or so.

Yeah, what a feverish imagination that Chavez has. It's not like we've been mucking about south of the Rio Grande since Teddy Roosevelt's day, or anything. Or that we helped sponsor one coup against Chavez already. Sometimes even the paranoid have enemies, you know.

It's a little complicated than that, Bill. Venezuela's oil is sour crude (lots of sulfur in it), and it takes major changes and boatloads of cash for a refinery to switch gears and convert it to petrol. Also, CITGO is a major profit center for Chavez. In a lot of ways, we're stuck with Venezuela and they're stuck with us.

Huh... learn something new everyday.

But if we're stuck with them and he's stuck with us, why the bitching? The people there like him. Isn't that's what's more important than anything? They have to live with him in a more real way than we do. And his country isn't exporting terrorists like another well known oil producer for the US (hint: rhymes with Baudi Bababia) who also happens to MORE of a dictator than Chavez is, at least Chavez was elected. At least with Venezuela we aren't bankrolling the same people who slammed a couple of planes into us. Maybe I'm over looking something or being to simplistic but I fail to see this as a crisis. If a country wants to move towards socialism isn't that their decision to make as country? How is it ours to make for them? Why do we care so much when we turn a blind eye to the middle east?

I'd rather see my money go to venezuela than the middle east.

Why do we care so much when we turn a blind eye to middle east dictators we are friendly with?

is what i meant to say

Who said anything about 'authorized power', Gary? If I recall, I thought I used the word influence.
"Influence" is power. If it weren't, you wouldn't care, would you? You're not speaking of, say, his "influence" over choice of baby names in Venuezela, but of his political "influence" elsewhere in South America and the world.

Be that as it may, I'll happily refer strictly to "influence," to be clear.

So:

"..., its president has more influence than he otherwise [...] should have."

Where does the "should" come from? According to what or whom or why? What's the metric? Where is the baseline and what gives it authority?

"Without oil revenues, Chavez has that much less mad money to play with, and that much fewer resources for spreading his ideology, for meddling in the affairs of this Latin American neighbors, and for propping up Castro and his regime, etc."

So? Where does the "should" come from? How is what you say relevant to my question? Is there some baseline of proper influence that "should[n't]" be influenced by natural resources of a country? I'm completely not understanding what logic or measure is at work here.

Please explain?

"First - Stop referencing to Godwin's Law if you don't know what it is (hint: wikipedia)."

Much better source: Jargon File:

Godwin's Law: prov.

[Usenet] “As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. Godwin's Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on thread length in those groups. However there is also a widely- recognized codicil that any intentional triggering of Godwin's Law in order to invoke its thread-ending effects will be unsuccessful. Godwin himself has discussed the subject. See also Formosa's Law.

JayC: "If Hugo Chavez is this awful Dire Evil Dictator; how do you explain the fact that the people of Venezuela have voted him into power by such obvious margins, twice, in elections which are at least as fair as any in Latin America (I know, low bar to hurdle)?"

Familiarity with history points out innumerable popular dictators. What is your understanding of the source of the word "dictator," exactly?

Here, I'll make it easy. There's no conflict whatever between being a dictator, and being popular with the masses, or with being elected.

Charles: "You're right, Jay. The oil import phraseology felt clunky when I wrote it. Fixed."

I don't see any mention of an update or change in your post.

Perhaps I'm missing it.

You're not saying that you simply feel free to rewrite your posts and make no acknowledgement of having done so in the post, surely? I mean, I'm pretty sure you don't approve of Stalinistic approaches like that.

I'm confused. (Fixing typos or errors in the first ten, maybe twenty, minutes or so, maybe even half an hour or so, after posting would be one thing; the next day, another thing, although obviously you might feel differently, and it's up to you as to how you want to be publically honest about changing your text the next day or not, of course; it's your blog, after all.)

Francis: "still worried about Castro? then lift the embargo. he has defined himself by his successful opposition to the US. you flood his country with Wal-Marts...."

I'm for lifting, or at least drastically modifying, the embargo on Cuba, but I think it's doubtful in the extreme that this would lead to being able to "flood his country with Wal-Marts" while Fidel is still alive or Raul still has power. It's not as if they don't have some import controls and laws of their own, in Cuba, you know. Some of them aren't even very nice laws.

Bill: "yeah because it would be SO hard to find someone else to buy oil. they definitely need us more than we need them.... right. keep dreaming."

It's helpful to know something about the technical details of the cost of shipping to different places, and what refineries are located where, and which types of crude they can handle, before commenting on "dreams" and other people's understanding of the technical aspects of the oil business, it turns out.

d-p-u: "But US debt is at $8 trillion. About $44 of that is foreign-owned."

Cheap picking-on-typos warning! Humor-only intended!

Pshew! We're okay, then!

/end cheap-shot picking-on-typos-humor.

"I think any decent person who examines US behavior in Latin America over the past several decades ought to be 'anti-American' in the limited sense of the term."

Last several decades? U.S. behavior towards Latin America has gotten vastly better in the last three decades (and, yes, I'm including everything from invading Panama to, hell, through in Grenada in the Carribean, just to be generous about our geography and inclusiveness, plus Cuba, Veneuzela, etc.).

It's the last 150 years that you want to look at, and everything from how Panama came to be, to the career of General Smedley Butler, to all the multitude of invasions and occupations, and so on. Anyone want to give a count of how many times we've invaded Mexico, and when we started, and how much square mileage we took? Look at how far Wilsonian idealism, as put into effect by Woodrow Wilson hisself, extended southwards? Look at the first half of the 20th century? Etc.

We've been pussycats in the last few decades, in context of the past couple of hundred years.

"It's not like we've been mucking about south of the Rio Grande since Teddy Roosevelt's day, or anything."

Does no one know anything about 1846-1848?

Okay, now I'm caught up on the thread.

"You're not saying that you simply feel free to rewrite your posts and make no acknowledgement of having done so in the post, surely? I mean, I'm pretty sure you don't approve of Stalinistic approaches like that."

In my world "Stalinistic approaches" to rewriting involves substantive changes instead of grammatical rewordings to make things clearer. My preference for non-spelling corrections might be to note an update if someone in the comments had relied on the old wording for something, but calling a non-substantive phrase-change "Stalinisitc" seems a bit much.

Heh, and of course I had to mispell something there....

Chávez is the king of bombast and by constantly taking the bait, the Bush administration keeps him on the throne.

Of course that's the problem when the Secretary of Defense is responsible for foreign policy and not the Secretary of State.

Here's one the best comments I've read regarding Chávez and it largely matches my own feelings:

(A note on CIP’s position regarding Hugo Chávez)

The Center for International Policy is encouraged to see that a representative of the left can win at the polls in Latin America despite the opposition of traditional elites and broad sectors of the armed forces. We are pleased by many of the policies Hugo Chávez has adopted, especially his effort to direct oil revenues toward social services for Venezuela’s poor majority. It is a sign of enormous progress for Latin America if a leftist leader can be elected, institute deep reforms, and not suffer the fate of Salvador Allende or Jacobo Arbenz.

That said, our position is not “Chávez, right or wrong.” We reserve the right to criticize what we disagree with. Along with journalists’ rights groups, we are concerned by the recent law allowing the government to shut down media outlets it perceives as threatening “public order.” We are concerned by efforts to pack the Supreme Court with Chávez loyalists. As a possible extension of political control, the Bolivarian circles worry us the same way that Álvaro Uribe’s network of informants worries us. We voice disapproval when the U.S. Southern Command encourages Latin American armies to take on internal roles that have nothing to do with defense, and we note that Chávez has similarly given the military a host of internal roles.

The Bush administration is free to express concern about perceived lapses from democracy and the rule of law, preferably in coordination with regional partners and the OAS. We absolutely oppose any illegal effort at regime change, however, whether violent or nonviolent. Though we have concerns, Chávez remains the elected (and re-confirmed) leader of Venezuela, and we must work with him. It is important that the U.S. government maintain cordial relations, even if his policies run counter to free-market orthodoxy.

I don't much care for Chavez and I'm fairly indifferent to Chomsky, but really, Charlie, could you write a wingnuttier sentence?

The direct quote from the wikipedia link, Paul:

Chávez has in his speeches listed a number of ideological streams that he sees as having contributed significantly to Bolivarianism. Most notable of these are the ideas of Noam Chomsky and his libertarian socialist and anarcho-syndicalist sympathies. Bolivarianism's vehement opposition to corporate state globalism and endorsement of populism also derive from Chomsky's writings.
I made the dangerous assumption that Wikipedia was accurate in this instance. If there is dissonance between anarcho-whatever-he-is Chomsky and self-proclaimed-socialist Chavez, I'd rather leave Chavez or one of his Bolivarissimos to explain it.

Well, Chavez can't be both an anarchist and an authoritarian, the political philosophies are opposites.

Maybe you're wrong about Chavez, and possibly lack knowledge about the various leftist political philosphies involved?

And this is odd. I checked Chomsky's page on Wikipedia, and I can't find anything about his anti-American writings.

What was your source for that bit of data?

just a quick note to thank Charles for adding a note about the site that shall not be named. A much longer post of musing about this and other things will appear at HoCB anon.

While Chavez refers to himself as a Bolivarian, his movement is morphing from democratic socialism to a South American flavor of communism, inspired in part by the anti-American writings of Noam Chomsky. Call it Bolivarmunism.

Speaking on behalf of those who love the English language, could you please please please never try to neologize again?

Charles: the following is intended as a tease, nothing worse, okay? And incidentally, regardless of the single point I've harassed you about, and setting aside other points of agreement and disagreement (and while I have various points of disagreement with some of what you said, or at least your phrasing, none of it, you'll note, otherwise rose to the level I felt it important to comment on; there was much you wrote in this post that I also do agree with, though not necessarily the phrasing), you clearly put a lot of work and effort into this post, and for that you have my respect.

Teasing remark, following up on Anarch's:

Speaking on behalf of those who love the English language, could you please please please never try to neologize again?
What, you object to the neolgesunammi? :-)

Or that we helped sponsor one coup against Chavez already. Sometimes even the paranoid have enemies, you know.

Or sometimes the paranoid use things like failed coups as political hobby horses. It's a long post, but the guy was there when it happened. Both Chavez and the opposition made serious mistakes which led to the conflagration. There is no evidence that the U.S. sponsored or was in any other way involved in the coup. There was also no formal investigation as to the events of April 11-13.

"There is no evidence that the U.S. sponsored or was in any other way involved in the coup."

Stipulating that arguendo -- it's unclear to me we have adequate information, but I'm not making any charges, either -- would you agree that the U.S. government and State Department were not exactly quick to speak up to demand the restoration of the democratically elected government? If so, would you agree that this was not a shining example of our support for "democracy" even when we don't like the results?

If there is dissonance between anarcho-whatever-he-is Chomsky and self-proclaimed-socialist Chavez, I'd rather leave Chavez or one of his Bolivarissimos to explain it.

Er...if you don't understand "the dissonance" - if such indeed exists - then you really can't present yourself as a knowledgeable, no?

To do so would be a bit reckless, wouldn't you say?

As signatories to the Inter-American Democratic Charter, Charles, we were obliged to speak out against any "an unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order or an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime." Ari Fleischer instead said (incorrectly) that Chávez had resigned and the "events in Venezuela resulted in a change in the government and the assumption of a transitional authority until new elections can be held."

Whether one likes Chávez or not (and I'm not a fan by any means), what Fleischer said lends credence (although it's certainly not evidence) that the US lent tacit support to the coup.

Moreover, Charles, their response put the Bush administration at odds with every other government in Latin America, all but one of which were democracies at the time of the attempted coup.

Gary,
"Should" is my personal opinion.

As for Godwin's Law, my flimsy excuse is that, on a macro scale, Godwin's Law was invoked (or happened) in a "thread" (consisting of ongoing public statements made by officials of the U.S. and Venezuelan governments) and public officials on both sides used Hitler comparisons. I accept that my use of the phrase is pretty far (to put it charitably) from the cited definition. It's 8:02pm PST, so I'll sleep on it.

I don't see any mention of an update or change in your post.

Generally, I don't turn on the bijou lights for typographical errors or clunky phrases, Gary, since those errors don't pertain to substance. Those types of edits are efforts at cleaning up my English and trying to make the post a better read, and I don't think a statute of limitations is necessary. I don't see how public honesty or dishonesty or Stalinism should even be an issue in that regard.

If there are factual or contentious matters at issue, I don't delete. Period. In those cases, I make updates, add explanatories, cross out the bad facts, use asterisks, etc., but I never delete or change the original verbiage I know it's a judgment call, but that seems the reasonable way to to do these things.

still worried about Castro? then lift the embargo.

I'm not terribly worried about Castro, Francis. If it were up to me, I'd lift the travel ban and allow cash transfers, but otherwise restrict trade with Cuba.

Speaking on behalf of those who love the English language, could you please please please never try to neologize again?

No offense, Anarch, but that was funny. FTR, I prefer the term portmanteau. Can't help it, really. My mind just sort of works that way.

It sure is hard to know what to think of these not-so-little screeds.

What is your central point here Charles? Is this a cautionary tale about US dependence on O-I-L? An object lesson in the structural and economic inefficiencies which inevitably accompany authoritarian governance? A reminder of the importance of due process and separation of powers in democracy? A gussied-up reprise of the domino theory? A subtle invocation of the Great Man theory of history? Why this extended rumination (with hyperlinks!™) on the awe-inspiring badness of Hugo Chavez? (other than as an excuse to throw around neologisms of course)

Which is really to say, why Venezuela? Why not Saudi Arabia? Why not Russia? Heck, why not Haiti just for a change? You've heard of Haiti, right? It's hardly any farther than Cuba.

It seems that this is really just a strange attractor having to do with Hugo Chavez. What we have is a lot of hating on Hugo Chavez for a wide range of very loosely related and sometimes self-contradictory reasons, which have in common that they converge on political or economic justification for getting rid of him. Nice to see some mention of humanitarian concerns, but when I see somebody linking to a report like that one I can't help but wonder whether they realize that by HRW's rather exactinig standards it's really pretty tame.

It's sort of interesting in a cui bono kind of way, but I already know cui bono so it's hard to stay focused. Maybe the problem is that I haven't mastered the art of doublethink.

As I understand it, the recent Parliamentary elections in Venezuela had about 25% turnout because nearly half of the population, and all of the "right-wing" voters (more than 25%, but let's say less than 50%) refused to participate. Interestingly, the Carter Center has no commentary or opinion about why this happened. Perhaps Randy could clue us in on this. I think that there is a failure of democracy there in this case because the elections are controlled nationally rather than locally. If you lose your job depending on whether or not you voted for Chavez, perhaps it is better on a personal level to say "the weather was too bad for me to go out and vote".

Also note that the Carter Center insisted on no exit-polling in the 2004 Presidential referendum.

(A source of my animus for President Carter revealed - I think that those referendum results merited far more scrutiny than they ultimately received, not that the outcome would have been different, but perhaps much more closely contested.)

Gary Farber rightly needles:

"It's not like we've been mucking about south of the Rio Grande since Teddy Roosevelt's day, or anything."

Does no one know anything about 1846-1848?

I was aware that there was a slight set-to back then, but hey, the Mexicans started it.

Oh, wait. They didn't. Okay, I sort of stand corrected. Though the issues at hand at first did involve the territory north of the Rio Grande. Even if the Halls of Montezuma are somewhere south of there.

In any case, we were talking about Venezuela and so far as I know the United States didn't involve itself much in South America until Teddy Roosevelt whipped out his Big Stick and proclaimed the Roosevelt Corollary. And then, Woodrow Wilson said something about "teaching them to elect good men..."

There's an interesting story on Venezuela here, on TPMCafe.

Also, an exxtremely good two-part series in the New York Review, here and here.

Interestingly, the Carter Center has no commentary or opinion about why this happened.

Were they invited to participate as official observers to this election (as they were for the referendum)? If yes perhaps, given the elections were December, they are forthcoming? I note on pg. 8:

After the recall referendum in August, permanent field representative Francisco Diez departed from Venezuela; however, The Carter Center peacebuilding activities remained under the coordination of Ana Cabria Mellace and other local consultants.40 Many of the initiatives promoted or supported by The Carter Center have continued to develop on their own and are now in the hands of local players. The fundamental purpose of the program has indeed been one of sustainability and future development beyond the participation of The Carter Center.

Also note that the Carter Center insisted on no exit-polling in the 2004 Presidential referendum.

Er...I think you might have misspoken, exit polls were conducted by both sides. For the Carter Center's account, see here. Of note:

The second oddity was the opposition's exit poll. In countries as polarised as Venezuela, exit polls are risky. They require those conducting them to avoid bias in choosing whom to query, to avoid socio-economic bias in their dress and speech, and to work in a wide variety of neighbourhoods. They also require voters to tell the truth—despite intimidation and strong peer pressure on both sides. Any of these elements could have been lacking.

Were they invited to participate as official observers to this election (as they were for the referendum)?

Well if they were not invited, why were they not invited? The Carter Center now has news blurbs on the recent Palestinian elections, for instance.

"'Should' is my personal opinion."

Ah. Well, just possibly you "should" make that kind of thing clear.

I'd never actually write the above sentence without the quote marks, myself, mind. I don't think I should write imperatives based upon my personal authority, under most circumstances, but rather I should ground them in some actual authority.

You should write according to your own standards, and as you wish, I will opine, though. That's an example of what I'd consider to be a legitimate exercise of personal opinion. YMM, and does, V.

"Those types of edits are efforts at cleaning up my English and trying to make the post a better read, and I don't think a statute of limitations is necessary."

Reasonable people can disagree on this, I'll allow. I'm moderately strict, although I do allow myself approximately twenty minutes or so to make minor corrections, and will fix a literal typo of a single letter or two for sometime thereafter. More than that, I try to keep to a rule of fixing as an addendum, but I acknowledge that this is purely a personal standard, and not one of any larger authority, and certainly not some sort of objective "rule."

I was over-strong in my previous comment on this to you, and probably a bit over-the-top in using the phrase "Stalinistic," given the possible connotations, although I was, of course, strictly referring only to said practices as regards rewriting and cropping/air-brushing/fixing photographs, and not, of course, to any other practices of the regime. But since that might not have been as obvious as I intended, I withdraw the adjective and apologize for using it.

DaveC: "Perhaps Randy could clue us in on this."

I suspect he can. I suspect that, in general, Randy Paul knows more than either me or thee about Caribbean/Latin American issues, as a rule (which is why he's been on my quite limited blogroll for many months), and that it might not be wise to push him to prove it.

I do look forward to the possibility, which I hope will come to be, that he will respond and answer your suggestion.

stickler: "Though the issues at hand at first did involve the territory north of the Rio Grande. Even if the Halls of Montezuma are somewhere south of there."

Yep. Mexico City: not so north of the Rio Grande.

"In any case, we were talking about Venezuela and so far as I know the United States didn't involve itself much in South America until Teddy Roosevelt whipped out his Big Stick and proclaimed the Roosevelt Corollary."

Well, there was that whole "Monroe Doctrine" thing.

Serious intervention from the U.S. in South America was essentially a follow-on from the general enthusiasm for American imperialism (not a term that originated in leftist rhetoric, I mention for the benefit of anyone not familiar, unless you consider, say, William Jennings Bryan, or Mark Twain, "leftists," which while certainly arguable, would be a somewhat unusual and anachronistic usage -- "imperialism" was a big topic of debate in America in the late 19th century) from the time of the Mexican-American War (hey, "Manifest Destiny," anyone?) and most particularly as a product of the Spanish-American War, and its conquest of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and most of all, the Phillipines (although subduing them was a long and horrible story, and one with a considerable amount of relevance remaining today), thus leading to the need for a canal on the isthmus of Panama, and the continued expansion across the Pacific.

In any case, I'm of the impression that relatively few South Americans are going to be fussy in distinguishing between U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean, the Pacific, or South America, although I could, of course, be wrong.

"And then, Woodrow Wilson said something about 'teaching them to elect good men...'"

Indeed. Wilson was an important President, and did a few good things -- though even most of those were arguably more negative in total effect, in the end, than positive, although that's a debate I can wax on about and listen to for literally hours (I once literally put a sweetie to sleep -- unintentionally -- nattering on about Wilsonian foreign policy; oops), so I'll shut up now.

(Fourteen points: overall, more good than bad?; discuss; would things be better if Wilson hadn't stroked, and we'd joined the League of Nations, or would it have made no significant difference in the long run, anyway?; discuss.)

Okay, this: Wilson was a horrible racist of a man, one of the more racist Presidents ever, and one of the worst for civil liberties ever, with the Palmer Raids and ever so much more. As I quote on the sidebar of my blog:

"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
Wilson did some good, but he's most certainly not a hero of mine.

"Also note that the Carter Center insisted on no exit-polling in the 2004 Presidential referendum."

They audited the vote.

"Well if they were not invited, why were they not invited?"

How would any answer reflect in any way on the Carter Center?

Dave, do you ever check facts and documents before commenting on issues? That's a rude question, I absolutely acknowledge, but if you don't mind answering, I'm quite curious as to the answer. Your previous citation of Rush Limbaugh as a credible source kind of directly leads me to it.

Also, hoping you'll find time in the next day or two or three, when you can make time, to address that whole "Democrats in general [don't] feel any responsibility for protecting Americans from terrorist attacks" and "many Democrats [...] will work to harm the US's security in order to score political points" thing.

They seem charges worth supporting. Or withdrawing. Just my opinion, of course.

No offense, Anarch, but that was funny.

It was intended to be (:

If there is dissonance between anarcho-whatever-he-is Chomsky and self-proclaimed-socialist Chavez, I'd rather leave Chavez or one of his Bolivarissimos to explain it.

Shorter Charlie: "I don't know the difference between Chavez and Chomsky! Ask them!"

Nice work up there demonstrating just how "anti-American" Chomsky is, too. Not even for 20 bucks. No use offering more, I guess. Ah, Charles. You wind up like a toy.

Gary I'll answer your questions about Venezuela first:

Concerning the 2004 referendum, the audit was done, but limited. As noted here

Although the Organization of American States and the Carter Center certified the referendum, disillusioned protests continued (it should be noted that the Carter Center opposes exit polling in elections it monitors and did not address or rebut any other specific allegations about the election made by Penn Schoen).

Now, I was asking why the Carter Center did not take much interest in the December 2005 parliamentary elections.

Why didn't it show up on their radar, I don't know. But it didn't, and the 2005 election, or lack of partictpation in it by vast majority (75%)of Venezuelans should be a cause of concern.

I did suggest that Randy should clue us in about Dec 2005, and I did so because he is considered an expert a source on a reputable blog ;^) , as is Gary Farber.

(Actually, I think I'll campaign to make "doesn't know the difference between Chavez and Chomsky" the new "s**t and shinola" for post-September 11th America.)

I can't see how the the discussion of whether or not Venezuela is a democracy matters. Of course it matters to the Venezuelans, but there is no reason to think it matters to the Bush administration. The idea that American foreign policy is centered on the promotion of democracy is mostly a myth. The idea that American politicians and foreign policy professionals base their attitudes toward other countries on the form of government htat country has is also mostly a myth. If Venezuela was a completely fascist but pro-Bush goverment it wouldn't matter a bit to this administration how many citizens died or how they died just as Saddam's evilness was only important as an excuse for the invasion and the lack of democratic processes in the South Viet Namese government never prevented any war supporters from claiming that we were fighting for democracy.
If it is deemed important by the administration to hate a certain country than that country will be characterized as undemocratic. If it is deemed important by the administration to have a good relationship with a certian country, then its government will not be discussed.
Historically Democratic Presidents have been nearly as cynical in their misuse of democracy promotion as Republicans. The exception, the time our government actally cared about promoting democracy, was the Marshall Plan period in post-WW2 Europe.
Otherwise "democracy" is just a propaganda term.

Why didn't it show up on their radar, I don't know. But it didn't, and the 2005 election, or lack of partictpation in it by vast majority (75%)of Venezuelans should be a cause of concern.

DaveC, I cited you above that the Carter Center no longer has a direct presence in Venezuela. Perhaps, you know, this is why. You asked why the Carter Center was commenting on the Palestinian elections. Perhaps, as per your cite, it's because they are sending "an international delegation to monitor the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections". Again, the question is posed: Was the Carter Center monitoring, auditing, or observing the December 2005 Venezuela election.

As for exit polling, the cite I gave you above gives the reason why the Carter Center does not consider it reliable or democratic.

Without clarification, it's a little bit hard not to conclude that you are insinuating that not only were the Venezuelan referendum and election tainted, but that the Carter Center was party to it.

"Otherwise "democracy" is just a propaganda term."

You're rather wildly over-generalizing, when it would be far more useful to approach the topic in a finer-grained way, discussing the differing policies of different administrations, over the decades, and where they had continuity and why, and where they did not, and why, and most particularly looking at the last 20 years, and what specific policies have been in each year, and why, and how they have or have not changed, and where the different people in various offices have made differences, or not, and why, I suggest.

However, I'm not awake, and not going to start that project just now. But I'd point out a couple of basics, such as that US policy under Albright and Clinton was not the same as under Bush and Powell, which is not the same as under Bush and SecState Rice. Just for starters.

Then we might talk about Otto Reich.

Meanwhile, generalities such as above: not so useful, I'm afraid I think.

Er...if you don't understand "the dissonance" - if such indeed exists - then you really can't present yourself as a knowledgeable, no?

You should address that question to Chavez and his crew, stickler, since self-proclaimed socialists really can't present themselves as knowledgeable if they abide by the political tenets of Chomsky. Perhaps what binds Chomsky and the Bolivarmunists is that they share the same anti-American views of the US.

And this is odd. I checked Chomsky's page on Wikipedia, and I can't find anything about his anti-American writings.

What was your source for that bit of data?

Perhaps you weren't reading close enough, d+u. On the Chomsky wiki page there is a link to the Criticisms of Noam Chomsky. Oliver Kamm has taken the time to unravel many of Chomsky's distortions. Then there are Chomsky's own words:

"We have to ask ourselves whether what is needed in the United States is dissent or denazification. The question is a debatable one. Reasonable people may differ. The fact that the question is even debatable is a terrifying thing. To me it seems that what is needed is a kind of denazification."
If Chomsky believes that we must be denazified, then he must also believe that the US is a nazified state. Like I said, anti-American.

Whether one likes Chávez or not (and I'm not a fan by any means), what Fleischer said lends credence (although it's certainly not evidence) that the US lent tacit support to the coup.

[...]

Moreover, Charles, their response put the Bush administration at odds with every other government in Latin America, all but one of which were democracies at the time of the attempted coup.

As to the latter, you are factually incorrect, Randy. The US joined the OAS in condemning the coup. As to the former (and latter for that matter), I looked at the press briefings. The press in the room stated as fact the Chavez resignation and installation of the new interim government. Fleisher expressed neutrality on Friday (pre-coup) and on Saturday (hours post-coup). Later on Saturday, the situated was evaluated and the U.S. joined the OAS in opposing the coup. I'm going to burn some thread space, but I think it's worth it. On April 11th:

Q I'd like to follow-up on the Venezuela thing that you mentioned. The situation with PDVSA, which is the state petrol company in Venezuela, they're having a face off with President Chavez, and this may create all kinds of problems. But also President Chavez is being accused of violating freedom of the press and trying to use the media -- control the media on that particular strike, saying that the strike is actually an attempt to overthrow the government. Does the White House share that view?

MR. FLEISCHER: I have not heard any updates, Jacobo, from the events in Venezuela, other than there's a strike in Venezuela. This appears to be an internal Venezuelan issue. The United States will monitor it. But I don't have anything for you beyond that.

On April 12th, approximately fourteen hours after Chavez was coerced from power:

Q I would like to just call a pause to the Middle East for a second. A very important event has happened in Venezuela. We have had the renunciation or forced -- of President Chavez. Now, a new government has taken place. Venezuela is a very important country to the stability of the hemisphere; a democracy, and also the third largest oil supplier to the United States. What does the White House think of the change of government in Venezuela?

MR. FLEISCHER: Let me share with you the administration's thoughts about what's taking place in Venezuela. It remains a somewhat fluid situation. But yesterday's events in Venezuela resulted in a change in the government and the assumption of a transitional authority until new elections can be held.

The details still are unclear. We know that the action encouraged by the Chavez government provoked this crisis. According to the best information available, the Chavez government suppressed peaceful demonstrations. Government supporters, on orders from the Chavez government, fired on unarmed, peaceful protestors, resulting in 10 killed and 100 wounded. The Venezuelan military and the police refused to fire on the peaceful demonstrators and refused to support the government's role in such human rights violations. The government also tried to prevent independent news media from reporting on these events.

The results of these events are now that President Chavez has resigned the presidency. Before resigning, he dismissed the vice president and the cabinet, and a transitional civilian government has been installed. This government has promised early elections.

The United States will continue to monitor events. That is what took place, and the Venezuelan people expressed their right to peaceful protest. It was a very large protest that turned out. And the protest was met with violence.

Q The situation in Venezuela is very dire. During the Chavez years, the economy -- situation. Will the United States government back a civilian government, although it's an interim one, to help Venezuela get back on its feet?

MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated, the events remain fluid. Events are under way still, as we speak. We are consulting with our OAS allies and reviewing the events on the ground. I think you'll have more developments and we'll share with you as they warrant. So it's an ongoing story.

[...]

Q Ari, I understand there was a concern of the U.S. in regards to the policy of Mr. Hugo Chavez towards Iraq and Cuba. Is there any relief maybe because finally he's out of power and the Venezuelan people is electing a new democratic president?

MR. FLEISCHER: At all times, these are issues that are the rights of the people of Venezuela to decide who will represent them. As I mentioned, this was a peaceful protest and the peaceful protestors were attacked and many of them were killed or injured as a result of the actions of the Chavez government, which also sought to repress coverage of the issue. The United States is, at all times, committed to democracy around the world and particularly, of course, in our hemisphere. That's why the President traveled to El Salvador and Peru just last month to highlight to the importance of democracy.

It's, all times, the position of the government to promote democracy and tranquility, and as I indicated, events are fluid in the region and this is an issue for the Venezuelan people to determine.

Q -- mentioned before the concerns of the administration in regards to the policy of Mr. Chavez towards Cuba and Iraq?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think events took place on the ground there as they did. I think that played out for all to see, and it happened in a very quick fashion as a result of the message of the Venezuelan people.

[...]

Q Does the change in government in Venezuela mean we will be getting more Venezuelan oil and that gasoline prices will go down?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the price of gasoline, of course, is determined by the market. And I can refer you, of course, to what's taken place on the ground in the wake of the actions there. You can see that for yourself. Having said that, Venezuela has been a reliable and steady energy partner of the United States, and we will continue to monitor events carefully.

[...]

Q I want to get back to Mr. Chavez one last time. You said today from the podium that basically the actions that occurred yesterday were provoked by the Chavez people or people working for Chavez. Do you believe that the armed forces of Venezuela played a constructive role at the end? Because during the whole crisis, they were pretty much aloof and did not get involved. There was some criticism of certain members. But the armed forces seemed to have acted only at the last moment, after the bloodshed. Do you believe that they played a constructive role?

MR. FLEISCHER: Here are the facts that we do know from yesterday's events. And that is that the Venezuelan military and police refused to fire on peaceful demonstrators and they refused to support the government's role in such human rights violations. That's the role that the military played. They refused to fire.

If Fleisher was in error on the facts, then the press at hand were co-conspirators. So far, no endorsement and no evidence of sponsorship for the interim government, but neither was there condemnation of the coup. That came later on the same day. On April 16th, three days after Chavez was returned to power:
Q Ari, did administration officials or their representatives say or communicate anything to Venezuelan opposition leaders that a reasonable person could conclude as even tacit approval of removing Chavez?

MR. FLEISCHER: United States officials explicitly made clear repeatedly to opposition leaders that the United States would not support a coup. The tradition, the history in the last 20 years in Central America and South America has been a tradition of democracy, thanks in great part to the United States' efforts. And that's a message the United States proudly repeats with all our allies in the region, that the answer to all these problems remains problems that have to be solved through democratic solutions. Ron.

Q Let me follow-up, though. Did you do research this morning to determine whether or not anything was said that could even be construed as tacit approval for --

MR. FLEISCHER: That's why again I reiterate that the United States policy is to support democracy and democratic solutions to any type of problems in nations around the world, particularly, though, in our own hemisphere we take great pride in the advancements and the changes that have taken place in that region.

We explicitly told opposition leaders that the United States would not support a coup. Many of these conversations took place in repeated numbers of levels throughout the State Department and the NSC, as well in conversations that newly appointed Ambassador Charles Shapiro and former Ambassador Hrinak had with officials in Venezuela.

Q Is it possible, though, that the explicit statement was accompanied by a wink and a nod that we wouldn't mind it happening?

MR. FLEISCHER: Ron, I think at this point it's incumbent on you now, if you have any evidence, if you have anything that you think you're aware of, bring it forward and I will evaluate it. But there is nothing that I can find to substantiate any of those charges. I think it's just the opposite. But, again, if you have anything, present it. I don't think you'll find a thing.

Q Can I ask a specific question? Did anyone in the administration, in particular National Security Council staff or Jim Maistow, or Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich, meet with Pedro Carmona, the man who dissolved the Venezuelan Congress, dissolved the Venezuelan Supreme Court and the constitution last Friday, did he meet with any administration officials?

MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, U.S. officials met with a broad spectrum of Venezuelan officials, including business association representatives, including Mr. Carmona, as well as pro-Chavez legislators, including labor officials, officials from the Catholic Church, throughout the routine course of discussions with officials in Venezuela, yes.

Q They met with Mr. Carmona, but he never gave any indication that he was willing and ready and able to take this step of seizing power illegitimately?

MR. FLEISCHER: Rewind your tapes, and I think you'll see what took place very clearly. That on -- throughout last week, popular protests began and accelerated and grew in number. It's no secret that President Chavez has had a rule that has been controversial and has not met with widespread popular support within Venezuela or among his neighbors, and certainly in the United States with President Bush.

So it should be no surprise that there were widespread protests that grew, increased in number to the point where, on Thursday, heading into Friday, some 500,000 people peacefully protested his rule. And that is what set in motion the whole series of events after forces who were loyal to him fired on the protesters.

Q One more. Last Friday, you said that it -- the seizure of power illegitimately in Venezuela -- happened in a very quick fashion as a result of the message of the Venezuelan people; that the seizure of power, extraconstitutionally, that is, dissolution of the congress and the supreme court, happened as a result of the message of the Venezuelan people. On that same day, the President --

MR. FLEISCHER: No, that's not what I said.

Q -- the President of Mexico, the President of Costa Rica, the President of Argentina, and the President of Paraguay all stood up with moral clarity and condemned the seizure of power. This President, and you as his spokesman, did not. What does that do to American credibility when it comes to promoting democracy around the world?

MR. FLEISCHER: Rewind your tape and check the precise time and sequence of events. The briefing that I gave took place first in the morning at approximately 10:00 a.m., and the second briefing was approximately at 12:30 p.m. The dissolution that you just referred to did not take place until later Friday afternoon. It could not possibly be addressed in my briefing because it hadn't taken place yet.

It was those events that led to, more than 24 hours later, to the region, through the Organization of American States putting out a statement late into Saturday evening that was voted by the United States, with the support of the United States, condemning the events that took place and urging the restoration of democracy, condemning the deplorable acts of violence and the loss of human life. That took place as a result of subsequent events.

And the timing and the sequence is crucial here, because what you need to realize is that as you ask me questions, all I can do is give you answers based on the facts as they're known at that time.

Q But the facts that were known at that time enabled President Fox to speak with moral clarity --

MR. FLEISCHER: Not until later Friday afternoon, Terry.

Q Can't the American people and the world expect this President to speak with the same moral clarity?

MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, you have to get the sequence of your facts established. Those statements made by Brazil and by President Fox did not take place until later on Friday afternoon, as events unfolded. And repeatedly throughout our conversation Friday, I reminded all of you that events were combustible, events were fluid. But you cannot hold any spokesman responsible for events that take place following a statement.

Those events were not anticipated, and once those events took place, the United States did move to condemn it, to criticize it. And, again, you have to be precise on your timing on this issue, because the news was breaking Friday, as I spoke. I shared with you information as it was developed.

Q Ari, was the United States prepared in any way to offer President Chavez safe passage to a third country?

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know. The best information I have on that, John, this all developed through the Venezuelan military.

Q Can you speak to the idea? Was an American aircraft on standby, should it be needed?

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know. I have no information about that. I think his transportation was arranged after his resignation through the Venezuelan military, which flew him to a Caribbean island. You'd have to try to find anything out about that.

Q Did you consider issuing a separate statement in addition to the OAS action?

MR. FLEISCHER: You mean, in between --

Q Condemning the coups. Right.

MR. FLEISCHER: In between Friday at noon and Saturday night?

Q Yes.

MR. FLEISCHER: I think that the statement Saturday by the OAS, with the United States' vote, speaks very powerfully for itself.

Q But not as powerfully as a statement by the President or by the White House.

MR. FLEISCHER: That statement came on Sunday, if you recall. So you had a statement Friday on the basis of events, as they were known at 10:00 a.m. when I spoke with you the first time, and then at noon following that. And then the events that Terry cited took place, developing into Friday afternoon and into the evening. And then Saturday the OAS met, with the United States' support, to issue the condemnation. And then that was expressed by Dr. Rice on the Sunday shows on Sunday, as well as in the statement by me on Sunday afternoon.

Q Just more generally, does the President think the people of Venezuela would be better off if Chavez weren't in power?

MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated Friday, that these are issues for the Venezuelan people to resolve. And this is a matter of listening to the people of Venezuela.

Q But just a moment ago you indicated that, you know, the President was not entirely happy, thrilled, with some of the decisions Chavez made, and --

MR. FLEISCHER: That's an accurate statement, but the question you asked about, would the Venezuelan people be better off, is the question left only to the Venezuelan people.

Q Ari, a couple of clarifications. Does the U.S. believe there was a coup?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's the purpose of the OAS fact finding mission, that the United States voted in favor of. That is underway now, and that will establish all the facts. And I think what you can imagine -- again, rewind your own tapes. You showed the large spread protests in the street of Venezuela gathering steam into last week, culminating in Friday with some 500,000 people in the streets. And as I indicated Friday, President Chavez resigned under pressure. And the purpose of the OAS mission is to ascertain all the facts.

Q I just want to follow, too. We asked you this earlier, but I want to ask again. You said that U.S. officials made it explicitly clear the U.S. would not support a coup. How do you account then for this top Defense Department official telling the New York Times, "We were not discouraging people. We were sending informal, subtle signals that we don't like this guy. We didn't say, 'No, don't you dare.'"

MR. FLEISCHER: And what's the name of that official?

Q The official is unnamed. But it is --

MR. FLEISCHER: Then how do you know he's "top"? (Laughter.)

Q It says, according to the New York Times. So is this official mistaken?

MR. FLEISCHER: You don't know the person's name.

Q No, I don't know the --

MR. FLEISCHER: The person obviously doesn't have enough confidence in what he said to say it on the record. And that same story you're citing also has other officials saying that is not the case. And you have me saying on the record that it's not the case.

Q But you know officials talk on background --

MR. FLEISCHER: So I think if you can establish the name of this person who now without a name you're calling "top," we can further that. But I think you're -- you need to dig into that.

Q Was there discussion about working on a referendum? Any discussion about working with the opposition leaders on pushing any kind of referendum to seek the removal of Chavez?

MR. FLEISCHER: I have no information on that. It's the first I've heard anything on that topic.

[...]

Q One last thing, if I may. You said that American officials explicitly told Venezuelan opposition leaders that the U.S. would not support a coup. That suggests that someone asked the U.S. to support a coup.

MR. FLEISCHER: No, what it suggests, as any good diplomat will know by keeping their ear to the ground in the nation that they represent or that they are representing the United States in that nation, that it's no surprise to anybody, including your corespondents in the region, that in Venezuela for the last several months there has been talk of violence and a coup. So that's what a diplomat is supposed to do, is keep his ear to the ground in the region, and deliver a straight message from the United States government that that is not our policy, and we do not expect that to be the case.

Q So are you saying that no one asked the U.S. to support a coup?

MR. FLEISCHER: Not that anybody has brought to my attention, no.

Q But you are saying you had some advance knowledge that there was a coup brewing? That's what you just said.

MR. FLEISCHER: I just said the diplomats had their ears to the ground and there was talk, as your correspondents in Venezuela will report, as well. And in the conversations they had they explicitly told opposition leaders that the United States would not support a coup.

Q -- had advance knowledge that something was in the works?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think you have to be careful about advance knowledge of a specific act and general talk of unease in a nation like Venezuela, that has been marked by the very difficult internal democratic system.

Q You had advance knowledge that there was a possibility that something --

MR. FLEISCHER: General awareness for the last several months of unease in the population. It's not --

Q -- peaking, was there a sense that --

MR. FLEISCHER: Not specific to anything that took place over the weekend.

Q Was there a sense that this was peaking at the end of last week?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, certainly, you could turn on your TV and see it peak.

Q No, before it happened. Before it happened.

MR. FLEISCHER: No, this was, as I indicated, ongoing for months.

Q Why were these conversations taking place?

MR. FLEISCHER: Why?

Q Yes.

MR. FLEISCHER: Because it's a normal part of what diplomats do. And I assure** you it was the --

Q Were they looking for something from the United States?

MR. FLEISCHER: Were they looking for something?

Q Were they asking for something?

MR. FLEISCHER: The United States continued to say to everybody -- to the opposition party, to various groups, to interim President Carmona, as well as to people who were loyal to President Chavez -- that we expect all problems to be resolved in a democratic way. And that as we have made clear repeatedly for 20 years into this hemisphere, coups are not the answer.

And it should surprise no one that there were rumors in Latin America, Central America, South America for 20 years in various nations that come and go. And the United States continues to say in each of these cases the solution is not through the military, that is not the role of the military, and that the answer is through democracy. That's not --

Q You wouldn't call this a coup. You wouldn't call this a coup last week, when the rest of the world did. Was the United States looking for --

MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, again -- you need to again go back to the sequence of events. At 10:00 a.m. on Friday morning and at 12:00 p.m. on Friday when I briefed, I did not call it a coup, I did not not call it a coup. The OAS is investigating to determine exactly what took place in the wake of 500,000 people peacefully protesting.

Q It was an illegitimate seizure of power from a democratically elected government. And isn't it incumbent on the United States and this administration to stand up and face that down with clarity when it happens? And the question is, doesn't it damage the President's and the United States' credibility in promoting democracy around the world when we wouldn't even stand up to what was clearly an illegitimate seizure of power?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not sure how you can say the United States did not stand up. And let me read this to you. "The United States voted on Saturday, along with other nations in the Organization of American States, to condemn the alteration of constitutional order in Venezuela, to condemn the deplorable acts of violence that have led to the loss of human life." And I could go on.

This is all what was voted on by the United States Saturday night, along with OAS.

Q That was after several leaders -- the jig was up by that point.

It was after several leaders made clear that they were not going to accept the legitimacy of the new Venezuelan regime, that's when the Bush administration decided it wouldn't accept the legitimacy of that regime.

MR. FLEISCHER: This all developed Friday afternoon into the evening and into Saturday, in terms of the OAS's actions, Terry.

Q So the President's credibility is intact?

Q Ari, you said a couple of times it's for the people of Venezuela to decide. Is there -- I guess my question is, is there any sort of legitimizing factor that comes from the turnout that was in the streets? I mean, if the majority of people in a country like Venezuela or somewhere else support a military coup, does that have any legitimizing factor for the President, or is this a set in stone, we are against military coups of any kind --

MR. FLEISCHER: United States, set in stone is against military coups of any kind. And one of the great issues that the United States, the United States military, the militaries of Central and South America can, should and do, take great pride in the last 20 years, is that where previously difficulties were resolved through the use of military force, they no longer are. And that was the case in Venezuela on Friday, when the military refused the orders to fire. And that is to the credit of the Venezuelan military, it's also to the credit of the American military as we have worked with militaries in the hemisphere for the last 20 years to help them to see that democracy is the best way to govern, not through military power. It has been a marvelous and powerful Western Hemisphere success story for 20 years, and the United States is still and will always be a proud part of that success story.

[...]

Q Venezuela. Would the President like to see a change in administrations in Venezuela?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President has always, and anywhere around the world believes that the answers to questions like that need to be decided by the public of those countries, in a democratic process. That is what happens in Venezuela.

Q Ari, to follow-up on that a little bit. The U.S. obviously participated in the OAS proceeding, voted for the investigation. Other countries that did as well, particularly Mexico, their leaders have spoken out clearly and declaratively, saying that the coup was a bad thing. Why hasn't the United States government done the same?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, that was Terry's question earlier, and again I can just walk through the chronology of what took place.

Q Subsequent to the events of Friday night, there has not been a formal statement from the U.S. saying that this was --

MR. FLEISCHER: I just read to you the vote by the Organization of American States, and the language that the United States supported in that vote.

Q And others who voted with us, their leaders stepped out, and said separate from that, that the coup was a bad thing, and they condemned it. Why has there not been a similar condemnation from the White House?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I would refer you to the statements that were issued, Dr. Rice's comments on the Sunday shows, the United States' statements about the importance of a restoration of democracy, the concern about the loss of human life. The United States spoke out and spoke out unequivocally.

The worst that can be said is that the administration did not have its sh*t together at the time of Fleisher's April 12th press briefing, and we displayed a lack of enthusiasm towards Chavez. The bottom line is that the Chavez government has refused to conduct a formal investigation into the events leading up to April 11th and the days afterward. It's much more to Chavez's political advantage to revise and distort history by making unfounded accusations regarding U.S. involvement in his weekend removal from power.

What is your central point here Charles?

Why is it that so many liberals ask me what my point is, radish? I thought you were supposed to be smart and enlightened. Reading comprehension helps with understanding points.

Is this a cautionary tale about US dependence on O-I-L?

Nope, just explaining what is.

An object lesson in the structural and economic inefficiencies which inevitably accompany authoritarian governance?

Nope, that's a given.

A reminder of the importance of due process and separation of powers in democracy?

In part, yes.

A gussied-up reprise of the domino theory?

Nope.

A subtle invocation of the Great Man theory of history?

That wasn't my intent.

Why this extended rumination (with hyperlinks!™) on the awe-inspiring badness of Hugo Chavez? (other than as an excuse to throw around neologisms of course)

I don't need an excuse for neologism.

Which is really to say, why Venezuela? Why not Saudi Arabia? Why not Russia? Heck, why not Haiti just for a change? You've heard of Haiti, right?

Which is really to say, "look over there". I've addressed each of those countries in multiple other posts. This time, it was Venezuela's turn.

Giving you the benefit of the doubt that your questions are not disengenuous, radish, here's the shorter Bird Dog as to why I wrote this: Like it or not, a secure oil supply is in our national interests and Venezuela plays a major role. Venezuela has a leader who is destabilizing his country, thus potentially imperiling an import that has fundamental effects on our economy. Chavez is doing it by using formulas that have failed historically, every single time. Chavez is destabilizing our relationships with Latin American countries, which also works against our interests. Chavez has allied--and is allying himself--with nations who are hostile to the United States and hostile to the notions of freedom. These are all major concerns for our citizens. Then I outlined a course of action.

I hope that helps your understanding.

Wow. If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bulls**t, eh, Charles?

If Chomsky believes that we must be denazified, then he must also believe that the US is a nazified state. Like I said, anti-American.

Even assuming, argendo, that this is an accurate rendering of Chomsky's words, there's nothing "anti-American" there. Chomsky could be wrong, he could be hysterical, he could be mad as a hatter, but if Chomsky's "anti-American" for believing the US needs to be "de-nazified"--and I'll note, since you failed to, that he poses that as a question not an assertion--then Christian fundamentalists are also "anti-American" for believing that the US is a sinful nation that desperately needs to be "saved." Both believe that America is deeply, deeply damaged, and both believe that the damage must be repaired. (In fact, I'd argue that Chomsky's radicalism partakes of the secular "religious" fervor that has motivated many on the left over the last century or two.) That you equate that fervor with "anti-Americanism" says more about you, than them.

I'm not too terribly invested in Chomsky, myself. I've agreed with some of his remarks, disagreed with others. His worst sin may be the sin of being dull. But accusations of "anti-Americanism" just reveal how little you know what you're talking about.

In Charles's defense, he had brought up Chavez in some other recent thread, and someone asked him to put together a post explaining his case at greater length. That's my recollection, at least; I'm too lazy to do a site-search for the right link.

"Why is it that so many liberals ask me what my point is, radish? I thought you were supposed to be smart and enlightened. Reading comprehension helps with understanding points."

It helps to state your thesis at the beginning, and again at your conclusion. If you did that, feel free to quote it.

If you did not do that, feel free to add a new and fresh paragraph summarizing your thesis, I suggest.

Trying to be helpful, the closest I can find to one in your post is this, from the middle:

The disintegrating freedoms of the Venezuelan people are a matter of general concern for the United States, just as are the scant freedoms in Iran and Saudi Arabia and other unfree countries. But the more direct concern is Chavez's deliberate spreading of anti-Americanism and his brand of communism to the region, and his using oil wealth to do it.
Any high school guide to writing an essay will tell you that a central thesis statement belongs at the beginning and the end. Not stuck in the middle.

HTHs. It's not a problem of "reading comprehension" on the part of your readers; it's a problem of your having ignored the elementary rule of structuring an essay. Sorry.

There's an interesting story on Venezuela here, on TPMCafe.

Weisbot made some fair points, Hil, but he lost me here: "There is little evidence that Venezuela today is less democratic than it has ever been, and in fact by most standard political science measures it is more democratic." A patently absurd statement.

Well, just possibly you "should" make that kind of thing clear.

Fair enough, Gary. Updated.

Shorter Charlie: "I don't know the difference between Chavez and Chomsky! Ask them!":

My stock answer. The Shorter Paul:

"What is your central point here Charles?

Why is it that so many liberals ask me what my point is, radish?"

Not being radish, but this liberal's primary reason is that you get remarkably huffy and hand out silly awards when people reach their own conclusions about what your point is.

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