Early Morning Open Thread

gun girl

I just dropped my kiddo off at the airport for her class trip. She’ll be all the way across the continent and gone for five days, the longest and farthest she’s ever been away from the parental units, which is exhilarating for her and panic-inducing for us.

On the way to and from the airport, I was listening to NPR, and the news was all about the death of Hugo Chavez, whom the liberal commie broadcaster kept referring to as “Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez.” If language could be devalued like currency, “dictator” would be on par with the bolívar.

[Photo via Buzzfeed]

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158 replies
  1. 1
    Linda Featheringill says:

    Who’s the child and is that gun real?

    The low-income folks in the NE that Chavez was furnishing with low cost heating oil: Will that program continue?

    ETA: I notice that her flag has 48 stars.

  2. 2
    dr. bloor says:

    Meh. With a little luck, Chavez’s croaking will keep the usual Beltway suspects distracted for a few days.

  3. 3
    Baud says:

    the liberal commie broadcaster kept referring to as “Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez.”

    I consider it a win that they didn’t refer to him as “Obama’s Mentor Hugo Chavez.”…

    I’ve developed low expectations of our media.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Linda Featheringill: I’m not sure. It might be my mom.

  6. 6
    Donut says:

    While we’re on the subject of devaluing language, can we start a drive to stop attaching the suffix “-gate” to describe every two-bit mini-scandal that occurs in DC? It bothers me because. … It just does.

  7. 7
    aimai says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    Yes, I was fascinated that that little fact never came up in the coverage. There were also a lot of coded references to his “mesmerizing” power and his use of deceptive (nearly magical) tricks to “Get the poor” on his side–like populism wasn’t enough. Also, though you’d have to be a “dictator speak” afficionado, a lot of hidden comparisons between him and someone like the Kim Jong (s), Mussolini, possibly Castro as people who occasionally sang and appeared in Public in an artistic capacity as though that were the last word in crazy. In keeping with their coverage of this stuff in the US actually DOING THINGS FOR THE VOTERS was always referred to as a shameful, almost dirty, activity that was done to trick the poor into supporting him when the right thing to do (obviously) was to ignore the needs of the majority of venezuelans and just keep toe-ing the corporate line.

  8. 8
    Ash Can says:

    I’m confused (and half asleep) — are you saying you don’t think Chavez was a dictator?

  9. 9
    Baud says:

    @raven:

    Oh my…

  10. 10
    Ultraviolet Thunder says:

    I just realized it’s my 14th wedding anniversary and I’m 500 miles from home. The local florist better come through for me. A painfully large bundle of red roses ought to take the edge off. And a phone call. And a post on her Facebook page. On second thought, no, I’m screwed.

  11. 11
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Ash Can: Right. I don’t think the common understanding of the word applies to Chavez, who was elected and had popular support. I would reserve the term “dictator” for those who truly deserve it.

  12. 12
    Betty Cracker says:

    @raven: Thank you. I was trying to find that link for the photo credit.

  13. 13
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Ultraviolet Thunder: Whoa. You are SO screwed.

  14. 14
    lojasmo says:

    When my son went on his first trip away (NYC and DC) we went to DC to say.

    IN fact, last summer, when he went to ski camp in Oregon, we stayed in portland.

    Not letting go parent.

  15. 15
    raven says:

    @Betty Cracker: I’m sort of a busy body like that.

  16. 16
    Robert Sneddon says:

    Same with the word “regime” — Iran which has been holding elections for thirty years since they tossed out the Shah is a “regime” whereas the repressive hereditary kleptocracy of Saudi Arabia is not a “regime”.

  17. 17
    Punchy says:

    Holder just admitted that drone strikes in the US were possible under severe circumstances. Cue the (righteous) outrage. This will set the SovCits and hardcore Liberterians off on a tangent thats never been seen before….

  18. 18
    Ash Can says:

    @Betty Cracker: He was elected and did have the support of sectors of Venezuelan society, but once in office he made power grabs left and right. A Cuban friend of mine whose family fled Cuba when Castro took over (and who’s now actually quite liberal and an Obama supporter) and all her South American friends were horrified at the similarities between Chavez and Castro that they started seeing in Chavez’s actions almost immediately after his election. Given their first-hand experience with actual dictatorships, I give them the benefit of the doubt on their assessment, regardless of Chavez’s popularity with the poor.

  19. 19
    raven says:

    @Ash Can: And fuck Iran while we are at it.

  20. 20
    sharl says:

    “Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez”

    I always liked “Radical Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr” myself. Those first two appellations seemed to always be included with the rest of the name in stories about the guy, so I just assumed his parents named him that. [Maybe ‘Radical Cleric’ is an old family name?]

  21. 21
    Ronzoni Rigatoni says:

    Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless…Hmm…where’ve I heard this stuff before? Chavez seemed to be following the 2-millenia-old precepts of some other dead guy who also seems to be irrelevant in this modern world (Cf., GOP). Yup, that’ll get the poor to vote for ya (Thanx for the insight, Mitt).

  22. 22
    JPL says:

    Chavez was a mixed leader at best, imo. According to the internets (which never lie) crime was rampant but he also improved the life of the poor by providing health care and other services.

  23. 23
    Baud says:

    @Ronzoni Rigatoni:

    Are you talking about Nazerethian Dictator Jesus Christ?

  24. 24
    JPL says:

    For those in the DC area, be safe. The north Georgia counties closed schools today and I woke to some of the white stuff in the wooded area in my back yard.

  25. 25
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Ash Can: I guess it comes down to how you define “dictator.” I don’t think Chavez fit the bill, though he was certainly no angel.

  26. 26
    mai naem says:

    I had a Venezuelan acquaintance whose husband and son worked in the oil industry before Chavez took over, who thought Chavez was crazy in the head. I don’t speak enough spanish to hold a political conversation with her but I believe she was part of the upper class in Venezuela so Chavez had affected her lifestyle negatively. Chavez may not have been great but compared to most resource rich wealthy countries he did way more for the poor. Look at Nigeria, Mexico and Equatorial Guinea – the’ve done crap for their poor populations.

  27. 27
    raven says:

    @mai naem: My Venezuelan friends are quite progressive and they also thought he was muy loco.

  28. 28
    Linda Featheringill says:

    @Betty Cracker: #25

    I don’t think Chavez fit the bill [as a dictator], though he was certainly no angel.

    I wonder if he was any less angelic than Dick Cheyney.

  29. 29
    jibeaux says:

    It’s simultaneously true that Chavez was an autocratic and undemocratic leader, and that he did some good things to improve the standard of living for the poor of his country. Similar story in Cuba, good literacy, good health care, autocratic government. Definitely better than the many autocratic regimes which are also brutal to their poor, but it’s just objectively true that following his initial election he became much more autocratic and dictatorial.

  30. 30
    Feudalism Now! says:

    I guess Chavez was similar to Bush II with all the power grabs and such. Whatever the international opinion and 1% view of Chavez, he was elected and re-elected in monitored elections and followed through on campaign promises. The bastard. Bush propping him up as the hemisphere’s biggest threat to Democracy was the best thing to happen to Chavez. It gave him instant prestige and a voice at many tables. Without the build up he would be another Evo Morales, suspect , but rarely mentioned.

  31. 31
  32. 32
    KCinDC says:

    @sharl, the first of those “media first names” I remember is Fugitive Financier Robert Vesco in the ’70s.

  33. 33
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Robert Sneddon:
    “Régime” is French for system or organisation. Indeed, the French refer to their pre-1789 government as l’Ancien Régime. You could quite properly, and without any disparagement whatsoever, speak of the “American régime” in political discussions with the right-wingers of your acquaintance. From a safe distance, of course.

  34. 34
    Ash Can says:

    @Betty Cracker: The dictionary definition of “dictator” is “ruler with absolute power.” In light of the fact that Chavez suspended laws to suit him, tried to make himself president for life, and appropriated private property to suit his policies, he most certainly did fit the definition of “dictator.” It has nothing to do with whether he actually did good things for at least some of his country’s people, which both he and Castro definitely did. What it refers to is his manner of rule.

  35. 35
    Ash Can says:

    @Feudalism Now!: Chavez went far beyond what W did with his power grabs.

  36. 36
    danielx says:

    @raven:

    Yes. Mondo bizarro, indeed – fascination with skeletons and creatures who appear to be kin to that critter in The Shining….

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that, you understand.

  37. 37
    aimai says:

    @Ash Can:

    I’m not prepared to get into an argument over whether Chavez was or was not a “dictionary definition of a dictator.” Those of us who are old enough to remember the US press’s treatment of Allende, the existence of the School of the Americas, and Iran-Contra are just a little bit reluctant to sign on uncritically to the way the US press handles the naming and blaming of the elected governments of other places. As someone pointed out upthread Saudi Arabia is NEVER referred to as a dictatorship, which it is: a theocracy, an autarchy, and a dictatorship. Chavez did some terrible things, froma democratic point of view and some great things for his people. But regardless of what he did by virtue of being a non compliant political leader who didn’t bow to the will of foregin corporations, who nationalized some private property (which, btw, lots of other places have done its not the farthest fringe of reasonable.Here we call it eminent domain and Bush, famously, availed himself of the privilige) the rpess would take exactly the same contemptous tone. Its really that which I find troubling. The guy was a leader in his country. Love him or hate him he was not an Opera Buffe character. He stacks up pretty well against Boehner et al and you never see the Press make fun of those guys.

  38. 38
    Schlemizel says:

    The Mrs. is a regular at Whorefington Post and is quiet upset by the wingnut trolls there who keep suggesting the Obama is somehow upset over the guys death or going to announce a special mourning period.

    I have explained to her sevreal times that this insanity stems from their belief that both Chavez and Obama are commie pinko so-shalist dictators. Oddly enough, this makes no sense to her!

  39. 39
    Todd says:

    @Ultraviolet Thunder:

    I just realized it’s my 14th wedding anniversary and I’m 500 miles from home. The local florist better come through for me. A painfully large bundle of red roses ought to take the edge off. And a phone call. And a post on her Facebook page. On second thought, no, I’m screwed.

    Jewelry, man.

  40. 40
    mainmati says:

    @Ash Canwith the exception of his early coup he was democratically elected each time. Populist and authoritarian like tea party aspirants (but on the left) but not dictator.

  41. 41
    MikeJ says:

    @danielx:

    fascination with skeletons

    Well the one on the bike is self explanatory. One of our state legislators explained to everybody last week that bikes were bad because they caused the riders to breathe harder, thus releasing more carbon dioxide.

    Big Cycling obviously got to him though, as he walked it back yesterday.

  42. 42
    geg6 says:

    @aimai:

    THIS. THIS. THIS.

  43. 43
    Randy P says:

    @Ultraviolet Thunder: On one memorable V Day my wife was in DC at a conference. When I checked with them at 5 pm after she said that no, she hadn’t gotten anything, the florist cheerfully informed me that their deliveries were really backed up, but my flowers and a bunch of other people’s were on the truck and would surely be delivered tomorrow.

    Fortunately she’s a good-natured soul and over many years we’ve had to move a lot of special occasions around on the calendar. Actually this year V Day was on the 15th by prior agreement.

  44. 44
    Raven says:

    @danielx: I was only interested in my big redfish and then people send me more information about skulls. It’s a big EWEEEE here but not everywhere. Just check out the dias de muerto.

  45. 45
    NonyNony says:

    @Ash Can:

    He was elected and did have the support of sectors of Venezuelan American society, but once in office he made power grabs left and right.

    Yes but we’re talking about Hugo Chavez here, not George W Bush.

    The dictionary definition of “dictator” is “ruler with absolute power.” In light of the fact that Chavez suspended laws to suit him, tried to make himself president for life, and appropriated private property to suit his policies, he most certainly did fit the definition of “dictator.”

    * Bush also ignored laws when it suited him.
    * The operative word with Chavez on trying to become a president for life is “tried”. Dictators do not “try” to become president for life – they succeed. That alone is a damning point against Chavez being a dictator.
    * The “appropriation of private property” is something that every government does in some way.

    I’m not defending Chavez, but words actually should have meaning. Chavez was an autocrat, but I don’t see him being any more autocratic than George W. Bush was while in office, and I wouldn’t be agree with people saying that Bush was a dictator either. So I’m not seeing it.

  46. 46
    Cassidy says:

    Yay! Political hipsterism!

  47. 47
    chopper says:

    @NonyNony:

    so he was an ‘attempted dictator’.

  48. 48
    chopper says:

    @Ronzoni Rigatoni:

    man, if chavez was a good example of ‘following jesus’ i’m gonna need to see what new-fangled translation you’re working with.

  49. 49
    Ash Can says:

    @aimai: So if the press has been in error/remiss in the past, this particular bit of reporting is in error/remiss now? What I’m arguing against, among other things, is letting our basic prejudice against the press in general blind us to the possibility that it, again in general, is — based on the actual definition of “dictator” — making the right call here.

    And after reading Cristopher Hitchens’ account of Chavez, I’d say the term “opera buffa” fits him perfectly.

  50. 50
    Woodrowfan says:

    why should it matter whether a foreign leader liked the US or if the US liked him or not? Iran and Saudi Arabia are both theocracies. Chavez was an autocrat and so were his pro-American predecessors. Why not judge them on whether or not they strengthen or weaken democratic institutions in their own country. Judging them on whether or not they “stood up” to the US is STILL making the US the center of the universe.

    Chavez did some good, hopefully his programs to help the poor not only in his own country but elsewhere in South America will remain. But he still was awfully damn close to being a dictator. Venezuela will be better off if they can keep his poverty programs, but move away from his caudillo style rule.

    Yes, he was popular. That’s not always a measure of how good a person or a leader he was. FDR and Reagan were both very popular. Were they both equally good Presidents? Carter and Bush II were both very unpopular? Were they both equally bad?

    Finally, it’s possible to have two poor choices. The Shah was a dictator and the Mullahs are not any better. Pinochet was a dictator but Allende was no great lover of Democracy either. The regime in Saigon were thugs and thieves, but Hanoi’s leaders were not exactly Jeffersonians. Americans are too prone to making international events into good guys vs. bad guys. We do it on the left as much as they do it on the right. Usually it’s shades of gray.

  51. 51
    raven says:

    @Woodrowfan: I’ve got my eye on you.

  52. 52
    gene108 says:

    Watched Bloomberg Surveillance this morning for a bit. They were criticizing Krugman for the way he took a dig at some European central banker and their adherence to austerity.

    They weren’t critical of the content, they were critical of Krigman’s tone and how he criticized the ECB’er.

    It was an interesting example of group think / middle-school level clique=ishness, where no one ever thinks about getting challenging the conventional wisdom and/or being the odd one out, i.e. pointing out that Krugman’s content – austerity isn’t and hasn’t been working – is correct.

    There really is a set belief that we must sacrifice to make the rich richer or they will rise up, like Godzilla from the ocean, and destroy us all.

  53. 53
    some guy says:

    funny how all the emigres and children of Venezualan emigres hated Chavez with a passion. nothing like losing your privileged position (both upper class and upper-middle class) in society to start railing against “dictators” who had the audacity to redirect the public money going into your pockets into the pockets of the poor.

    the horror, the horror.

  54. 54
    MattF says:

    I know there’s negative thoughts about Mo Dowd around here, but when someone gets on her enemies list, it’s a sight to behold. Here’s today’s Dowd on Cheney:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03.....ef=opinion

  55. 55
    Mino says:

    Didn’t Chavez do some FU loans to help SA countries being raped by the IMF/WB?

  56. 56
    some guy says:

    The poor of New England who got low cost heating fuel from Chavez will always like him, I hope. and hats off to Joe Kennedy for always explaining in his TV ads how Citizens went to all the oil companies but the only ones to help out were Hugo Chavez and the people of Venezuala.

    don’t forget, fuel up at Citgo if you can. solidarity with the people of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuala,

  57. 57
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Woodrowfan: Fuck nuance, man. I bet you are one of the people who ask for empirical evidence and develop expertise. Hell, you probably even think things through. You’ll come to a bad end that way. Just sayin’.

  58. 58
    Ash Can says:

    @NonyNony: Again, Chavez’s power grabs went far beyond anything Bush ever did. Bush didn’t nationalize entire industries or rewrite the entire Constitution. Bush is a piker in comparison.

  59. 59
    aimai says:

    @Woodrowfan:

    I agree with this.

    My perspective on Chavez is that he was no worse, and somewhat better (for some people not usually served by government) and that this made him an enemy in the eyes of the US and the US press. In addition, press coverage tends to create three basic categories of foreign leaders 1) respected/feared, 2) hated/loathed, 3) hated/contempt. Since Chavez (and the US) never asked my opinion about anything I don’t think it incumbent upon me to join in the two minutes hate for a guy who ran a country most of my countrymen couldn’t locate on the globe if you spotted them the hemipshere. Piling on, insisting on “accurately” describing him as a dictator seems just more grandstanding on the part of the press who never covered Venezuela in any depth or precision because aside from getting cheap oil from them the US people were not interested in the quality or meaning of their democracy in the first place.

    As for the “think he’s a buffoon” thing–well–the upper class and the corporate class always considers revolutionaries, outsiders, and people who try (however unsuccessfully) to re-orient society so that the lowest are served while the highest take a back seat to be funny, sick, crazy, a joke, fat, stupid, lazy, effeminate, too masculine, etc…etc…etc… Whatever the truth of any given charge leveled at Chavez they were all said about Clinton for christ’s sake.

    To repeat: the main mourners of Chavez are the right wing. They didn’t object to his anti democratic efforts, or his singing in public, or his weight or anything else. They objected to him primarily because he did not put the oligarchy first and he used Venezuela’s vast primary resources to attempt to improve the quality of life of its poorest. This is the only reason we are treated to mass Press contempt for him. Becuase its inherently shocking and even disgusting for a political leader in a Latin American Country to try to pretend to care about his citizens instead of US corporate interests.

  60. 60
    gogol's wife says:

    @raven:

    That is so fantastic! I wish I had time to look at all of them.

  61. 61
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Woodrowfan: You make a good point about the tendency to view events through the good vs. evil lens. My point is that NPR’s use of the word “dictator” is an example of this phenomenon.

  62. 62
    Ash Can says:

    Also too, what Woodrowfan said.

  63. 63
    PeakVT says:

    @gene108: Krugman has already returned volley on that issue.

  64. 64
    some guy says:

    @aimai:

    amen to that.

  65. 65
    some guy says:

    Finally, it’s possible to have two poor choices. The Shah was a dictator and the Mullahs are not any better. Pinochet was a dictator but Allende was no great lover of Democracy either. The regime in Saigon were thugs and thieves, but Hanoi’s leaders were not exactly Jeffersonians.

    Radical Centrism in a nutshell.

  66. 66
    Amir Khalid says:

    My impression of Hugo Chavez is that he wasn’t a great respecter of democratic norms, but he did a lot for ordinary Venezuelans. We’ve had leaders rather like him in Malaysia, like Dr. Mahathir. We’ve learned to welcome the good they do while pushing back against the liberties they take with our civil rights, against the l’état, c’est moi attitude they develop after too many years as PM (or in Chavez’s case as president).

    The Venezuelans who got a better education and more economic opportunities because of Chavez are part of a growing middle class. They’ll be more and more open to questioning how things are run, and harder for a president to bamboozle with his benign, paternalistic image. Flawed though they are as democrats, I reckon national leaders like Chavez do rather more good than harm for their countries.

  67. 67
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    @Ash Can:

    The dictionary definition of “dictator” is “ruler with absolute power.”

    So how did a ruler with absolute power lose a referendum in 2007? Why does a dictator even bother with democratic elections?

    Chavez did not “try to make himself President for life”. The changes to the law only made it possible for him to run for future elections. The only way he could have become President for life is if the people kept voting him in.

    He did not “appropriate private property to suit his policies”. He renationalised the oil industry which had been corruptly denationalised some years before.

    I don’t know what problems you have with Chavez, but whatever they are, they aren’t grounded in reality.

    How many free and fair elections do you have to participate in before you prove your democratic credentials?

    Chavez was no more a dictator than any modern US President. Democrats included.

  68. 68
    Ash Can says:

    @Betty Cracker: OK, I can see your point about value judgments on the part of the press being inherent in the use of the term. But I still don’t think that the term in this case is so far off the mark that it “devalues” the language.

  69. 69
    Cacti says:

    Let’s be real about this. The US could give a great flying fuck about dictatorial tendencies in foreign leaders, so long as their interests align with Uncle Sam’s.

    Chavez’s real sin in Washington’s eyes was the same as Castro’s. He foiled our attempts to overthrow him.

  70. 70
    catclub says:

    On NPR the reproter said ‘Chavez accused the US of being involved in the short lived coup against him’.

    As far as I could tell. THE US WAS HEAVILY INVOLVED IN THE COUP AGAINST HIM. I seem to remember the Bush Admin acknowledged the coup plotters as the rightful government in about 30 seconds. I also seem to remember that the coup was planned in the US Embassy.

  71. 71
    Bitter and Deluded Lurker says:

    @Ash Can: I think the issue is that aimai and your other detractors don’t actually see it that way.

    Did Chavez take power in a coup? No. Although he did lead the 1992 coup, which failed, he eventually ran for office and was elected.

    Did Chavez suspend elections? No. In fact, his margin of victory actually dropped in the most recent election, and the election itself was certified by the OAS.

    Did he make power grabs? Yes, I don’t think anyone is arguing otherwise. This question is whether or not he grabbed enough power to be declared a dictator, and I would argue the answer is no.

    Did he try to surpress the opposition? Yes, but by the standards of Latin American dictators he was pretty mild and just attempted to censor the press, corrupt the judiciary, fire his opponents in the oil industry, etc. There were no organized death squads and massive torture of opposition figures like we’ve seen in Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, Uruguay and so on.

    Does this make him a good man or a good president? No.

    Does this make him a dictator? I don’t think so.

    Could he have become a dictator had he lived? I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d refused to honor election results if he’d lost an election, but it doesn’t look like he actually needed to.

  72. 72
    aimai says:

    Oh,and BTW: poor people and their land get expropriated and appropriated all the time. Its so common we don’t even have a word for it. Their property rights are often obscure, not well recorded, recorded only by their enemies, defensible only with money and access to power. The whole history of the Amazon is a history of expropriation. Peasants lose their land all the time. Seizing land belonging to an upper class haciendado group, absentee landlords, foreign agribusiness or extractive groups like mines and oil is really rather uncommon because these groups generally have time, money, arms, and foreign powers backing them up. It is, in any event, quite a legitimate decision for a state to make.

  73. 73
    tybee says:

    @Raven:

    how’s the skull coming along? pics?

  74. 74
    tybee says:

    @Donut:

    language-gate

  75. 75
    some guy says:

    funny how the King of Saudi Arabia is never described as a dictator, not the Emir of Bahrain, nor the King of Jordan, nor any of the other “dictators” we bestow money, weapons, and security upon.

    funny that. note too how all of the binary opposites woodrowfan uses as negative counterforces are political movements dedicated to representing the masses against Western corporate power. funny that.

  76. 76
    Shortstop says:

    @Ash Can: Again, Chavez was reelected in monitored elections. No one’s saying he didn’t strong-arm people or significantly abuse power. But he didn’t fit the definition of a dictator.

  77. 77
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @some guy:

    Radical Centrism in a nutshell.

    No, insisting that the right answer is always the midpoint between two extremes is radical centrism. Noting that politicians have flaws and that the elimination of a dictator (generic) does not necessarily result in the flowering of democracy is realistic observation.

  78. 78
    Linda Featheringill says:

    I got busy and really can’t join the discussion, but this is a lovely thread!

  79. 79
    MomSense says:

    @aimai:

    …like populism and .06 per gallon gasoline weren’t enough!

    Low income folks here in Maine are certainly grateful for his assistance with the heating oil program.

  80. 80
    Ash Can says:

    @Viva BrisVegas: Once he was in office, Chavez amassed as much power as he could, and din’t try to hide it, either. To deny that is to deny reality.

    Look, I’m actually ambivalent about the guy, and always have been. He did good things for the poor and traditionally outcast of his country. And, like Woodrowfan, I hope those policies continue. But he wasn’t exactly collaborative in his governing style. His approach to governing was closer to Castro’s than to Bush’s.

  81. 81
    some guy says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    No, insisting that popular political rejection of Western imperial and corporate power is always dictatorial is a great example of the Radical Centrism that seems to dominate the ConservaDem thinking.

  82. 82
    aretino says:

    At least they didn’t call him “clownish dictator Hugo Chavez,” which is what I’ve come to expect from our socialist vanguard media elite. The clown theme was just as misplaced as the dictator one. I wonder how many of the obituaries in the American press will give Chavez props for forcing an end to the production and sale of leaded gasoline in Venezuela, an act with enormously beneficial long-term consequences for Venezuela.

    I also get annoyed by casual media references to Chavez having nationalized the Venezuelan oil industry. Chavez pushed well-connected insiders out of management of the Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA, but it had always been state-owned.

  83. 83
    PeakVT says:

    @MomSense: $0.06/gal gas is a terrible idea. Popular, but terrible, especially for a poor country that relies on oil exports for most of its foreign currency.

  84. 84
    MomSense says:

    @sharl:

    Imagine a world where the press would just report on the actions of those involved and leave the determinations to us.

  85. 85
    MomSense says:

    @PeakVT:

    That is what gas costs per gallon there not what they charge us here.
    I bet it is pretty popular in Venezuela.

    Here we got a 25% discount on the price of heating oil as part of the low income fuel assistance program.

  86. 86
    Cacti says:

    @some guy:

    funny how the King of Saudi Arabia is never described as a dictator, not the Emir of Bahrain, nor the King of Jordan, nor any of the other “dictators” we bestow money, weapons, and security upon.

    In the ME/North Africa region, we supported Saddam in Iraq before we didn’t, Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali in Tunisia, multiple dictators in Yemen, and continue to support the absolute monarchs of Saudi Arabia, the Sultan of Oman, the Emir of Kuwait, and the Kings of Bahrain and Jordan.

    The United States post WWII has been no friend of the oppressed peoples of the world.

  87. 87
    MomSense says:

    @Baud:

    Awesome!!!

    Hahahahaha!

  88. 88
    Ronzoni Rigatoni says:

    @chopper: Mat. 7:16. Unlike der Castro, there were no firing squads, no wholesale jailing of dissidents. Chavez’ only “sin” that I can see is his nationalization of some industries, and a bit of land reform, which pissed off the exploiters, both in Venezuela and, of course, here in imperialist nation. Nothing wrong there, and a long time coming. Now he did use the media to his benefit, but what’s different from us? LOL Hell, Berlisconi in Italy did the same thing. However, the raison d’etre of the Bolivarian mov’t was to improve the conditions of the lower classes, conditions brought on by the plutocrats who ran the country before he came along. Very Xtian of him, wot? And, as a democracy is supposed to work, IIRC, he had the support of a majority of his people. Dictator? I think not.

  89. 89
    Ash Can says:

    @Shortstop: OK, I’m willing to be persuaded on this point. But I still maintain that Chavez came close enough to the definition of “dictator” — was in fact a “dictator” in enough of his activities of governance — that using the term to describe him isn’t that much a stretch, and certainly not to the extent of “devaluing” the language.

  90. 90
    Valdivia says:

    @jibeaux:

    you said what I wanted to say and much better than I could without having had my coffee.

    I would add that those affected by the rampant crime and the completely crumbling infrastructure are the poor. This is an oil rich country with daily black outs and an oil industry that is currently being run by the Chinese(the huge deposits in the Orinoco are being explored by them). Also–while the rich may have complained they have made out like bandits because of the State’s internal borrowing. Chavez’s record in the end will be more complicated than the hero some make him out to be and the evil dictator others imagined. Lots of megalomania, not much competence, with some policies that were geared to those who needed it.

  91. 91
    Bruce S says:

    @Ash Can:

    Actually, according to the “dictionary definition”, your attempt to paint Chavez as a dictator is total bullshit. He may have “tried to make himself President for life” but he couldn’t and had to stand in elections that Jimmy Carter, for one, observed and considered to be real elections, with opposition candidates, open electioneering, etc. Chavez was an unsavory characters and he may well have wanted to be a dictator, but it devalues language and any honest analytic framework to characterize him in his role as head of state in Venezuela as a “dictator.” It doesn’t pass the test, despite whatever list of bad things Chavez did. I could come up with a list of absolutely terrible things that Dick Cheney did – a man who has had much more negative impact on our world, is responsible for bigger lies, more terror and more consequential abuses of democracy than Chavez could dream of. But only an idiot would call Cheney, for all of his anti-democratic, hubristic, militaristic and international-law-violating transgressions, a “dictator.” It’s just not true and violates the language as well as the most basic “poli sci” categories of various “regimes.”

    And if you’re using Christopher Hitchens as the bellweather of any political analysis, you might want to rethink your sources. Nor does it matter what random “friends” think, even if they are refugees from Cuba. Why this matters is because if you fall into the “Chavez was a dictator” analytical swamp, you are objectively assisting the propaganda and demonization efforts of such as Hitchens and Cheney who think it’s the job of the US military to topple anyone, anywhere with which they find fault, based on their own agendas. This is dangerous stuff. “Chavez is a dictator” has specific meaning in the real world – and it’s meaning isn’t that he has crushed all political opposition in Venezuela, because he hasn’t. It means you’re coming to the aid of some of the worst actors in the US foreign policy networks, most of whom thankfully don’t have their hands on the levers of power in our current, sane administration.

    Chavez may well have been a crazy man – but it’s just as crazy, both for reasons of integrity of one’s language as well as not assisting right-wing bad actors in our own political space, to glibly characterize him as a “dictator.”

  92. 92
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    @Ash Can:

    Once he was in office, Chavez amassed as much power as he could, and din’t try to hide it, either.

    But the thing is that he did what he did via democratic processes, and was also sometimes frustrated in his aims by those same democratic processes.

    That does not met any definition of “dictator” that I’ve ever heard of.

  93. 93
    handsmile says:

    @aimai:

    Reading your comments on this thread and with your previously-disclosed identification as an anthropologist, I have to think you are familiar with/inspired by the work of James C. Scott.

    Your #71 above in particular could be a paragraph from a review of his Seeing Like a State. That work and his Domination and the Arts of Resistance have greatly contributed to my own (layman’s) thinking on these matters and on political activism in this country.

    I’d be interested in your opinion of Scott and/or his writings.

  94. 94
    Cacti says:

    @Ash Can:

    But he wasn’t exactly collaborative in his governing style. His approach to governing was closer to Castro’s than to Bush’s.

    And yet, his last set of proposed constitutional reforms were voted down in a national referendum in 2007.

    Sounds like democracy there was working just fine.

  95. 95
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @some guy: Would you be more comfortable if WF had said that Ancien Regime France was a thoroughly corrupt and authoritarian system, but the the Jacobins begat the Terror? Also was WF incorrect in saying, for example, “The Shah was a dictator and the Mullahs are not any better?”

  96. 96
    Roger Moore says:

    @MattF:

    That’s not just badmouthing Cheney, though; it’s trying to rehabilitate Bush by pushing off all the bad decisions his administration made onto the VP. Sure, I’m happy somebody is slagging Cheney so nicely, but letting an evil egomaniac like that anywhere near the reins of power is proof of how awful Bush was, not an excuse for why it’s not his fault.

  97. 97
    PeakVT says:

    @MomSense: I know that $0.06 is the price in Venezuela. And it’s still stupid despite being popular.

  98. 98
    MomSense says:

    @gene108:

    “It was an interesting example of group think / middle-school level clique=ishness, where no one ever thinks about getting challenging the conventional wisdom and/or being the odd one out, i.e. pointing out that Krugman’s content – austerity isn’t and hasn’t been working – is correct.”

    This to the billionth power!

    One of my jobs was working at the front desk of the hotel that served as the press HQ for the HW Bush summer vacation in K’Port, ME. It was exactly like watching a bunch of middle schoolers–I learned so much about the abysmal state of our media from that experience.

  99. 99
    Bruce S says:

    @jibeaux:

    “following his initial election he became much more autocratic and dictatorial”

    Of course, but the same could be said of the Bush-Cheney “regime” which wasn’t even elected by a majority the first time around. But only an idiot would say they were dictators. A head of state can exhibit these tendencies, as Chavez did probably to the extent he could get away with it – we see it all the time – without it meaning that they are in fact an autocrat or a dictator. Was Mexico a “dictatorship” during the decades of “autocratic” PRI dominance? Words have meaning. And being able to use a word as a modifier to a noun, doesn’t necessarily mean you can use the equivalent word as the noun itself. It debases language and political discourse.

  100. 100
    Maude says:

    @Ash Can:
    Isn’t it called benevolent dictator? Would that be it?

  101. 101
    Valdivia says:

    Having read through the thread I think that a lot of people here assume that just because Chavez had the ‘right’ enemies he is one of the good guys. I think it’s important to look not just at the programs that he did to benefit the poor but also how the overall economy fared in these 14 years. Everything in the country was falling apart: hospitals had little medicine, there where cholera epidemics, roads collapsing. So yes, the poor were targeted for special and needed programs but the environment in which they lived presented very little opportunity for them once they got that education.

    Also: Chavez used the money of PDVSA (oil company) as his own bank to finance (illegally) political campaigns in Argentina, Mexico, Colombia.

    He did a lot of good but you know what–he could have done more had he not altered the institutional framework to make the country his fiefdom and created an actual political party that could last beyond him. Watch the military and the political factions go to the mat now to hold on to all the power amazed in the Presidency.

    Oh and last but not least: if any right wing president in Latin America had given the military the kind of free reign Chavez gave them we would have all been screaming. What were soldiers doing in schools and universities?

    Again, debating if he was a dictator totally misses the mark on what his real legacy will be.

    But yeah I guess people loved that he insulted Bush so that’s enough.

  102. 102
    Ronzoni Rigatoni says:

    @Ash Can: “But he wasn’t exactly collaborative in his governing style.” Hahahahahahahahohohohoho. Like our beloved Republican Party? Show me some collaboration from THAT source.

  103. 103
    Bruce S says:

    Incidentally, this issue of whether Chavez was or was not a “dictator” has absolutely nothing to do with whether he helped the poor or not. It’s about whether he had to continually stand for elections with real opposition and democratic voting processes and whether there were any checks and balances against his autocratic actions. Since he wasn’t successful at becoming “President for life” – which he apparently tried – it’s obvious that Venezuela, fraught as their political system may be (as is ours, IMHO, given that a minority of voters are represented by a large Congressional majority that can block any sane policy) it is NOT a “dictatorship.” True facts, etc. etc.

  104. 104
    Valdivia says:

    @Cacti:

    Actually he went around the referendum and passed a lot of these in the national assembly anyway.

    Again I think the fact was that Venezuela never lost the electoral part of its democracy but the control of its institutions is not something we would recognize as completely democratic. Reading that constitution makes you think twice about the amount of power vested in one office.

  105. 105
    dww44 says:

    @jibeaux:

    but it’s just objectively true that following his initial election he became much more autocratic and dictatorial.

    Those sorts of elected officials are not confined to Latin America. We’ve got one ourselves and he’s a classic authoritarian “R”. State legislator trying to dictate how the local school board runs things, down to first making moves to strip them of their taxing authority and now making noises about putting the taxing authority/approval directly in the hands of the voters.

    All becuz he doesn’t approve of how the minority controlled Board runs things (and nevermind that the minority is actually the majority)he’s gonna dictate to us voters and get his way no matter what. The local paper wrote its lead editorial about his governing style today.

    Come to think of it, that’s the way our whole state government is run these days. One party, comprised almost entirely of authoritarians.

  106. 106
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Ash Can:

    at the similarities between Chavez and Castro that they started seeing in Chavez’s actions

    Cuban “exiles” have Castro Derangement Syndrome. Doesn’t matter about their politics now; doesn’t matter if they left for a legitimate grievance or were just about the money: they have a bit of their brains that short-circuits when Fidel in the frame.

    @Bruce S:

    Was Mexico a “dictatorship” during the decades of “autocratic” PRI dominance? Words have meaning.

    I’ve always felt that the US establishment — which includes Nice Polite Republicans on the radio — treats South America as a kind of pool in which they get to see a rippled reflection of everything that a strong-presidential system makes possible. That’s to say, “changing the constitution” is inherently bad (because ‘Murka doesn’t do that) but extrajudicial detention and killing on the fly is just peachy, as long as there’s a legal memo.

  107. 107
    dww44 says:

    @Woodrowfan: Great comment!!

  108. 108
    Valdivia says:

    @Woodrowfan:

    Amen. Just wanted to say that.

  109. 109
    Bruce S says:

    @Valdivia:

    “Again, debating if he was a dictator totally misses the mark on what his real legacy will be. But yeah I guess people loved that he insulted Bush so that’s enough.”

    But the whole thread is premised on a post about the use of the term “dictator” to describe Chavez. Which is a bogus characterization that debases political language.

    I detest Bush as much as anyone could and consider Dick Cheney one of the most vile actors in world politics in recent decades, but I also cringe when they get attacked by clowns like Chavez and Ahmadinajad using rhetorical overkill because they actually give those assholes some perception of legitimacy, mostly via rhetorical overkill and being such unsavory figures themselves. (But crappy as they may be as humans and political actors, both of them together haven’t inflicted anything close to the damage on the world or engaged in as spectacular Big Lie offensives as Bush-Cheney have.)

    One can recognize that Chavez actually did try to upend some of the long-standing class divisions and evils of Venezuelan society without loving the guy or making excuses for his transgressions in office. But whatever else his “legacy” there is zero evidence that he was successful in transforming Venezuela into a dictatorship, even if that was his goal.

  110. 110
    quannlace says:

    Surprised your daughter still had her flight. Seems like half the planes have been canceled nationwide due to the storm.

  111. 111
    Keith says:

    To anyone following my escapades attempting to give a short review of SimCity (summary: it updated then crashed every time I ran it), I now have SimCity running (if you have it and cant run it, enable NetBIOS over TCP/IP)!!!

  112. 112
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Valdivia: Really? I thought virtually everyone acknowledged that Chavez had his flaws. I don’t think debating whether or not he was a dictator misses the point at all — as Bruce S noted, words have meaning, and as others observed, it matters how global events are portrayed to the masses. That’s not to say Chavez’s legacy and actual results aren’t a fascinating topic in their own right.

  113. 113
    bemused says:

    Wow, oh wow. From Business Insider, Niall Ferguson declares that Paul Krugman’s debate style suggests he may have been traumatized as a child.

    Niall Ferguson is even more around the bend than I thought.

  114. 114
    Valdivia says:

    @Bruce S:

    I actually think we need to wait a bit to see if there are elections after his death. I am not saying there won’t be but there is enough uncertainty and competition between maduro (his VP) and Cabello (from the military wing) to be sure that things won’t degrade to that point.

    I must say that one thing that speaks of a very non democratic ethos is the fact that after his election (for which he ran saying he had been cured) he went back to Cuba and never really appeared in public except in careful photo ops. His inauguration date came and went. The country has been in limbo without really knowing the state of his health. No one ever got a real assessment from a doctor everything was shrouded in secrecy. More like the way they treated the health of the Popes of yore and not how you treat an elected official who is running to be president for another 6 years.

  115. 115
    aimai says:

    @handsmile:

    I’m familiar with Scott’s work and I admire it. I haven’t read the more recent work–I haven’t read anything in my field really for years. I’d say that what I said stems from general Anthropological and ethnographic histories of all these places, including the specific history of US Native American populations where expropriation and legal rejiggering of the very concept of the individual, community, clan and property itself were used in order to drive individuals from communal forms of organization to individual property rights and eventual pauperization. Taxes, demanding taxes in the form of currency not available to subsistence farmers or nomads, were also typical ways of breaking down local communities.

  116. 116
    MattF says:

    @Roger Moore: True, Bush’s modus operandi was to let Dick or Karl or whoever do the bad stuff while he enforced the Oval Office dress code. It’s fair to complain that Dowd is nailing Cheney for what were, fundamentally, Bush’s failings. And, similarly, one shouldn’t let Bush off the hook for the various evil things that Karl Rove did. But that’s a long way from rehabilitating Bush, IMO.

  117. 117
    shortstop says:

    @Valdivia:

    But yeah I guess people loved that he insulted Bush so that’s enough.

    Unworthy of you.

  118. 118
    Slugger says:

    I do not know enough about Venezuela to form an opinion about Chavez. The same newspapers that call him a dictator spend more ink covering that country’s baseball prospects than its politics. How many people in the US who have an opinion about Chavez know anything about that country? Can they name its capitol?
    When Egypt had its recent regime change, I realized that the majority of the people in the media talking about it had never been to Egypt, could not speak Arabic, or know any history.
    Before telling me your opinion about Chavez, tell me if you have ever been to Venezuela, do you speak Spanish, and can you name another Venezuelan other than Luis Aparicio?

  119. 119
    Bruce S says:

    @Woodrowfan:

    “Pinochet was a dictator but Allende was no great lover of Democracy either”

    Frankly I find that a bizarre statement, in context of the fact that Allende was elected head of state in a long-standing democracy and Pinochet came to power by a military coup in which Allende either was murdered or committed suicide as Pinochet’s troops closed in on him after attacking the Presidential headquarters with tanks. Also given that Allende was a politician with a long-time record of participation in democratic politics and that he acted democratically as President – whether you agree with his agenda or every policy or not – that’s a pretty disgusting attempt at analogy. I remember the Chilean coup, knew folks who fled Chile and who had friends and relatives murdered by Pinochet’s regime. I’ll refrain from stronger language, but I can’t let that crappy “observation” stand.

  120. 120
    Valdivia says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    I think debating if he is a dictator is using a word that doesn’t fit modern autocrats very well. Look at Russia: they have elections but the concentration of power, intimidation of the opposition, manipulation of institutions to create certain outcomes, it all creates a new way of ruling that is between what we think of democracy and what we called dictators in the 20th century. Dictators still exist: see N Korea, but there are other types of governing arragements that color outside these lines and trying to say Chavez is not a dictator is not really saying anything that really matters about how he ruled, the system he created, and the effect it had in day to day Venezuelans. Sincerely to me, answering that particular question, seems to be like trying to fight the Che Guevara/Castro cold war fights in the 21st century. Which is why the crazy right wingers love engaging in it. It’s not very useful. The new rulers play a different game, it’s not about not having elections, it’s about accumulation of untrammeled yet institutional power.

    I have been seeing a lot of Chavez hero worship on the internet today. So my comment about ignoring his faults is from that.

  121. 121
    Maude says:

    @bemused:
    From Nial, whom we know was dropped on his head.

  122. 122
    Deb T says:

    @raven:
    Good suggestion. I love that site.

  123. 123
    Deb T says:

    @raven:
    Good suggestion. I love that you can search with Google for images.

  124. 124
    Bruce S says:

    @Valdivia:

    You’re pretty much pulling stuff out of your butt. Words have meaning – Chavez wasn’t running a dictatorship, he was a guy with autocratic impulses and bad taste in friends who was governing a political system which is a variant on what, in the real world, are called “democracies” – even though all of them have flaws and can be manipulated by bad actors, including our own. If you can’t determine whether Chavez was a dictator until after he’s dead, there’s not much left to discuss.

  125. 125
    sherparick says:

    @Punchy: I think this is all about their Confederate fantasies and the fact that “the Kenyan Usurper (also known as that “Black guy”) has the current fingers on the trigger. The Wingnuts are okay with the murder of American citizens, as long as it is the right kind of “real Murikans” doing the killing of the those they think are the wrong kind, you know, the kind who feel they have an “entitlement” to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness despite being born “dark.” You see there is a long tradition of killing those kind of citizens who don’t understand their proper place. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Hampton

  126. 126
    Bruce S says:

    @Valdivia:

    “it’s not about not having elections, it’s about accumulation of untrammeled yet institutional power”

    But, frankly, with a straight face one could say exactly that about the current version of the GOP. But only an idiot would call them “fascists” or claim that they are “dictators.” Calling Chavez – or Putin – “dictators” obscures real problems in complicated political systems. Not helpful. And that’s what this post was referring to – on NPR of all places.

  127. 127
    StringOnAStick says:

    @Bruce S: Well said, Bruce. Allende does NOT = Pinochet.

  128. 128
    Valdivia says:

    @shortstop:

    You know it just burns me that a lot of what I have seen written in lefty quarters today is exactly that. A lot of people who know nothing about Venezuela, have never been there, have no idea what life is like there for even the poor Venezuelans that Chavez is the vaunted hero of, think fondly of him because he stuck it to Bush. Or because the US in the past treated real progressive democrats like awful dictators (see Guatemala in the 50s) so if we did that, then every single person who rules in Latin America and shows the finger to the US must be a good guy.

    I would just like a bit of nuance. And sincerely on this topic I haven’t really seen it. It gets under my skin because I spent a decade trying to disabuse my students of these stupid stereotypes (left and right) and encountering them first thing in the morning brings out my feisty side.

  129. 129
    bemused says:

    @Maude:

    Heh.

  130. 130
    Valdivia says:

    @Bruce S:

    So we agree–getting into the dictator debate is actually falling into the right wing frame of how we talk about these guys.

    Now–I would venture to say that when you successfully run for President without ever really coming clean about being on the verge of dying and ignoring the inauguration so your VP can rule in your stead without having to call elections, we have gone a tad beyond what the republicans do with their power grabs here no?

  131. 131
    Bruce S says:

    @Valdivia:

    I am someone who tends to defend Chavez against the “dictator” characterization because I recognize what lies behind it – “let’s topple this guy, like we’ve always done to regimes that threaten some perceived ‘US interest'” because that’s very real in the history of the US, but denigrate him to lefty friends who defend his “socialism” (which wasn’t an economic reform strategy that could be applied effectively in a country that didn’t have oil money, just as Cuba’s economic strategy for decades was financed by the USSR.)

    The “dictator” thing is far more dangerous than what goes on in the terrain of Lefty Blogs or KPFK. The folks who consistently paint Chavez as a “dictator” have done some terrible things over the years. Lefty blogs, not so much…

  132. 132
    Maude says:

    @Valdivia:
    With all the health reports from Cuba, I wondered if Chavez was already dead. The Soviets used to do that.

  133. 133
    Valdivia says:

    I would add Bruce:

    I never once called him a dictator or that he was running one. I very clearly state that he was up to something totally different. Which is why I never expressed frustration at Betty talking about it, but about the debate in itself which has been predetermined by the stupidity of how we think about Latin America.

  134. 134
    shortstop says:

    @Valdivia: Okay, but could you ignore what else you’re reading today and focus on what’s actually being said in this thread, absolutely none of which constitutes “hero worship”? I get that you’d like to be having a different conversation — which is an interesting one and one worth having — but this thread has been about the misuse of language in describing political regimes we don’t like.

    As aimai points out, and as you as a Central American no doubt are even more aware, the U.S. has a shameful history of ignoring, maligning and actively trying to overthrow democratically elected administrations we don’t care for. Repetitively abusing the term “dictator” is a key part of that effort, and it’s had wide-ranging success even with the center left. At the same time, true and inarguable dictatorships with whom we have alliances never get this label. That’s not accidental. The strategic application of inappropriate descriptions in order to sway public opinion and discourage deeper examination is not some piddling side issue.

  135. 135
    Valdivia says:

    @Bruce S:

    I agree but I find it frustrating that you defend him only because of the past and not because of what is happening on the here and now. Again, having the ‘right’ enemies is not enough to defend him, at least to me.

    Also: these people can’t even pull a normal coup anymore, as was obvious in 2003. For all the fear mongering that all these new left wing leaders would be killed or brought down by the US or corporations it never happened. And in truth, the local moneyed people have made a lot lending money to the govt as I said above. It really does not fit the cold war model of left vs right anymore (see Ollanta Humala for example).

  136. 136
    Bruce S says:

    @Valdivia:

    I’m not defending Chavez so much as I’m defending the English language and non-hysterical political discourse.

  137. 137
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Valdivia:

    Now–I would venture to say that when you successfully run for President without ever really coming clean about being on the verge of dying and ignoring the inauguration so your VP can rule in your stead without having to call elections, we have gone a tad beyond what the republicans do with their power grabs here no?

    Ironically, that was pretty much what FDR did after he was re-elected for the last time in 1944. They had the inauguration on the White House lawn because his health was so bad.

    As other people have said, I think we can all have an interesting conversation about Chavez if you’ll stop accusing the commenters here of hero-worshipping him and have an actual discussion.

  138. 138
    Valdivia says:

    @shortstop:

    My problem is, as I said to Bruce, that it seems to me that Chavez gets a pass *solely* because of the past and this just very frustrating. I find the reflexive use by the right wing of the term dictator to abuse those whose policies they don’t like totally despicable and yes dangerous. But I find the Chavez should be defended because of what the US did in the past very disturbing. Speaking as a person who knows all the awful stuff that happened in the region. I don’t want either side to get a free pass, we, Latin Americans, deserve better. Not just jovial Machiavellian power hungry caudillos who are ok because they are not Pinochet.

  139. 139
    Valdivia says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I didn’t accuse anyone here of that. I have been steeped in chavez articles all morning and, as it often happens in this blog, one conversation merged with another for me.

    Just to nitpick–FDR did show up to his inauguration though. Chavez was in a bed in Cuba not to be seen for his.

  140. 140
    shortstop says:

    @Valdivia:

    it seems to me that Chavez gets a pass *solely* because of the past

    But I find the Chavez should be defended

    who are ok because they are not Pinochet

    No one here is giving him a pass, defending his entire body of actions, saying he’s “okay” or claiming that anything short of Pinocheting is acceptable governance! You are absolutely wallowing in the lack of nuance you claim to deplore.

    Can you really not understand that we can challenge the right’s and the media’s strategic misapplication of the word “dictator” without praising Chavez’s abuses of power? Do you not twig that this purposeful distortion of language has significant repercussions for how we relate to the entire world, not just Venezuela?

  141. 141
    Valdivia says:

    @Maude:

    I can’t tell you how many people I heard say this same thing. As I said above I do find it amazing how he ran for office and never once really answered questions about his health.

  142. 142
    shortstop says:

    @Valdivia:

    I have been steeped in chavez articles all morning and, as it often happens in this blog, one conversation merged with another for me.

    Well, I’d respectfully submit that if you’re not willing or able to separate those conversational threads, you’re not going to be able to add much to this one.

  143. 143
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Valdivia:

    I didn’t accuse anyone here of that. I have been steeped in chavez articles all morning and, as it often happens in this blog, one conversation merged with another for me.

    Yes, but the problem for us is that you’re only giving us one side of that conversation. It’s like trying to talk to someone who has their iPhone up to their ear and is having a different conversation with someone else at the same time but insisting that we respond to what the person on the other end of the phone is saying even though we can’t hear them.

  144. 144
    Valdivia says:

    @shortstop:

    Look I think we are totally talking past each other here. My whole point somewhere along the thread the discussion moved from how terrible it was that NPR was doing this to can we really call Chavez a dictator or not. My reply was to that point only not to Betty. I think the first conversation is crucial and the second conversation totally counterproductive.

    I madde this very simple point, trying to explain that Chavez doesn’t fit that model, and that it really is more useful to think in other terms. I am not talking about how the media uses the term, how it’s power tool and how every single leftist leader in Latin America is always seen as being cut from the same cloth (Allende=Chavez=Peron=Castro) which is not just deplorable it’s stupefying.

    For some reason my point about the second discussion (please do see that I was directly addressing that point not your language, power point) was read as being an indictment of the conversation about NPR. It wasn’t.

    In the conextt of the NPR discussion and the use of the word dictatorship I could not agree more with you. No caveats.

    In the context of *my* discussion about defining dictators and Chavez— I get extremely frustrated when people say things like ‘he is not as bad as those other guys so it’s ok’. And you can see that this point was made a few times on this thread. It diminishes the political capabilities and aspirations of Latin Americans to be told it’s ok to be ruled by these kind of guys because in comparison to Pinochet they are ok.

    I hope you see how you and I were having two separate conversations. And both those conversations overlapped on this thread.

  145. 145
    aimai says:

    @Valdivia:

    Look, the conversation moved to “can we call him a dictator” because one not particularly well informed poster was insisting that we ALL MUST CALL HIM A DICTATOR immiediatly or we were giving him a pass. People here have repeatedly expressed our desire not to have terms like “dictator” or “fool” or “operatic” or any other crap term forced on us a priori since we have seen this movie over and over and over again. No one is debating the reality of Venezuela or whether Chavez was more sinned against than sinning, or more sinning than sinned against. This was straight up a discussion of the ways in which actual US history with the entire South American subcontinent is subverted by cheap and easy tropes used by “respected” news organizations like NPR. I heard the same fucking capsule description of Chavez about fifteen times this morning while driving my child to work. The extreme contempt embedded in these terms “dictator” “pleases the poor” “appropriated property” had nothign to do with the real Venezuela (whatever that is) and everything to do with the sweeping of an entire country into a neat box “Is it good for US corporate interests and free market capitalism or not?”

    You are having a different conversation and you are getting frustrated but you might try blogging your thoughts on your own blog and having the conversation oyou want over there.

  146. 146
    I am not a kook says:

    @Valdivia: Thank you. There is a persistent American delusion that elections equal democracy. Remember the purple fingers? Even the fucking Soviet Union had elections.

  147. 147
    burnspbesq says:

    @Ultraviolet Thunder:

    I just realized it’s my 14th wedding anniversary and I’m 500 miles from home. The local florist better come through for me. A painfully large bundle of red roses ought to take the edge off. And a phone call. And a post on her Facebook page. On second thought, no, I’m screwed.

    I once got snowed in in New York and couldn’t get home for my anniversary. I learned that there is only one solution to your problem.

    Diamonds. Lots of diamonds.

  148. 148
    burnspbesq says:

    @aimai:

    Regardless of what you or anyone else thinks about the legitimacy of the processes by which Chavez gained and retained power, the reality is pretty clear: after a promising start at reforming the economy, he ended up driving it into the ditch.

    What matters is whether the average Venezuelan is better off now than they were before Chavez came to power (I submit that they aren’t; YMMV). Everything else is noise.

  149. 149
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Valdivia:

    In the context of *my* discussion about defining dictators and Chavez— I get extremely frustrated when people say things like ‘he is not as bad as those other guys so it’s ok’. And you can see that this point was made a few times on this thread. It diminishes the political capabilities and aspirations of Latin Americans to be told it’s ok to be ruled by these kind of guys because in comparison to Pinochet they are ok.

    But people on this thread were saying that in response to a commenter who said his friends in Venezuela claimed that Chavez was just as bad as Castro, which to me seems to be the exact same claim that you say you’re arguing against (Allende=Chavez=Peron=Castro).

    But maybe I’m just ignorant of what’s going on in Venezula. Was Chavez actually as bad as Castro has been in Cuba, or do you see things going that direction now that Chavez is dead? Or is the Chavez=Castro comparison another example of the hyperbole you’re saying you’re trying to get past?

    As far as Chavez’s actual actions, it was always my impression that he got off to a decent start when he first became president, but the US-backed coup sent him down a road of increasing paranoia and increasing autocracy.

  150. 150
    dance around in your bones says:

    I will always admire Chavez for his “And it smells of sulphur still today” remark at the UN, in regards to Dubya (as I am sure you all remember. I LOL’d).

    linky

  151. 151
    dance around in your bones says:

    And I said “admire him for his remark” not his whatever else.

    I am enjoying this thread and learning a lot (as usual) from youse guys.

  152. 152
    handsmile says:

    Returning to this thread, and WTF happened here?

    As she has demonstrated repeatedly since I first began reading her commentary about two years ago, Valdivia is one of this blog’s most knowledgeable and best informed commenters on Latin American recent history and current affairs. In recent weeks/months, her political acumen in general has been too often absent here.

    While I would agree with the opinion that her remarks on Chavez on this thread may not have been directly relevant to its principal discussion (use and misuse of the political keyword “dictator”), I am frankly dismayed by the uncivil exasperation and scornful rhetoric employed to express it. This is one “Internet tradition” that I find deplorable and counterproductive when deployed against a participant of Valdivia’s quality and geniality.

    This is something that I just don’t understand, yeah, even on just a blog.

  153. 153
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Cacti: Chavez’s real sin in Washington’s eyes was the same as Castro’s. He foiled our attempts to overthrow him.

    Ding ding ding. At least 95% of what is said about Chavez on the internet in English is pure bullshit. Most Americans’ opinions fall under whether they agreed or vehemently opposed his stance on GWBush.

    And spare me the rantings of ex-pats. For no other reason than they have psychological reasons to exaggerate how intolerable things are in the motherland, no matter why they left. (Like, um, Glenn Greenwald.)

  154. 154
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @aimai: upfisted, hearted, updinged, agree’d so freaking hard right now

  155. 155
    Mart says:

    Thing surprised me when I worked down there was the rich folks almost all have significant Euro heritage, and the browns are the poors and have extreme barriers to crawl out of. And I thought we were the kings of racial prejudice. But then along comes some browns promising a few bones for the other browns (Lulu and Chavez) and of course they have the numbers to get elected. Lulu tells the WTO and bankers to fuck off, Chavez tells the oil companies to fuck off; and they both become monsters in the US press. Think Lulu was the more responsible of the two, with Brazilian economy really moving forward after they stopped doing what the big finance boys said would be good for them (surprise!). He also spearheaded energy independence largely through sugar cane ethanol. I believe Chavez really changed after the coup. And who could blame him. Bush is el Diablo, and it smells of sulfur. I will always admire him for that.

  156. 156
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Valdivia: Um, I’m going to struggle to come up with an estadounidense analogy here. Hm, hum, erm, oh: Ronald Reagan?

    Edward M. Kennedy?

    Mark Kirk?

    Shall I go on?

    So Chavez & pals are authoritarian fuckwits afraid of a free and fair election on his successor. Such a shocker, nothing like that has ever happened in Beacon of Freedom, los EEUU.

  157. 157
    Paula says:

    @Mart:

    You mean Lula da Silva?

    Actually, its interesting that da Silva isn’t some kind of hero to the left, especially since he did many of the same things and didn’t become the big boss for lyfe that Chavez aspired to be. Surprisingly, we maintain good relations with the Brazilian govt.

    Valdivia, if it helps, it seems like most people of a certain age around the political webs oriented their thinking around GWB and who he liked and disliked. The special prominence of Chavez among folks here (as opposed to, say, someone like Evo Morales or Lula) seem to be based entirely around his showboating vis a vis the US.

    So honestly, very little of this about Venezuela.

  158. 158
    Snarla says:

    Caught a few minutes of a Ronald Reagan movie this morning. Angels Wash Their Faces, maybe?
    He was not even any great shakes as an actor. Cute, though.

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