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September 24, 2006

El Diablo o El Idioto?

Americans from Bill Maher and Jon Stewart to the autonoms on Fox “News” to our Federal government have condemned Venezuelan honcho Hugo Chavez for calling George Bush “El Diablo.” Nothing new here: in the past, Chavez has compared our national religion, capitalism, to Count Dracula, Frankenstein, Jack the Ripper and the Boston Strangler… but he then added that Capitalists are much worse than those monsters. He’s sure got a gift for metaphor, I’ll say that.

Some have gone so far as to call Chavez a dictator. That’s amusing, as the man was democratically elected to his position in a ballot that was a lot less suspicious than the one under which Bush seized power.

When it comes to name calling, “El Diablo” is pretty tame. It sure beats what religious right leader Pat Robertson said about Chavez one year ago. Pat Robertson demanded the assassination of Hugo Chavez by the United States government. A lot of Americans are concerned about the influence the religious right has over the Bush administration; can we blame foreigners who form their opinions of us through our actions and our threats for taking this seriously? It’s not as though Bush and his minions have gone to overwhelming distances to suck up to Robertson’s legions.

What’s more offensive: calling American’s Idiot-In-Chief “el Diablo” or calling for the assassination of the democratically elected head of Venezuela? Which one constitutes the greater threat?

Ever overly polite, the liberals said Chavez was out of order for doing so on American soil. Of course, they are wrong: the United Nations is not American soil. It is like the Latverian Embassy, except Doctor Doom is on the outside. I believe both Maher and Stewart have called Bush an idiot, as in the gagline “it takes a village idiot.”

Chavez had launched a program to provide cheap heating fuel to disadvantaged Americans, particularly those in the troubled New York area. He offered massive relief to New Orleans when George Bush and the United States of America were sitting on their asses in panicked denial, an offer rejected by Bush.

Venezuela is our fourth largest supplier of oil. They operate in the United States under the name “Citgo,” one of the least expensive of the major gasoline retailers. As such, they provide massive competition to the interests of Exxon and Haliburton.


Posted by Mike Gold at September 24, 2006 12:28 PM

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It's my policy to buy Citgo fuel whenever possible -- not because I think Chavez is a great guy, but because I'm reasonably sure that Citgo's profits don't fund Islamic fundamentalism of one sort or another, and because Venezuela is one of the few OPEC nations that is at least nominally a democracy.

I'm on the fence as to whether Bush is evil or just stupid. The neocons who came up with the great plan to take over Iraq certainly proved that they knew nothing about the oil industry. If the Iraqi oil industry ever gets going again, don't expect millions of barrels of cheap oil provided through the miracle of free enterprise. The neocon plans to privatize the Iraqi oil industry have been abandoned because it turns out the international oil companies prefer to do business with state-owned oil providers. They want stability, not democracy, and they have lucrative profit sharing agreements with the state-owned oil providers. Also, OPEC has been paying Iraq not to pump oil for decades.

So if the Iraq invasion was really all about oil (and I believe that's at least partially true), I guess I would have to classify that as both evil and stupid.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at September 24, 2006 01:08 PM

I had rather liked Chavez until recently, when he started to buddy up with the Iranians. That doesn't seem like something a principled Socialist would do.

Posted by: Martha Thomases at September 24, 2006 06:05 PM

Oh, those wacky Iranians. I can't tell what the hell is going on there. As Americans we'd all love to believe the Bush Administration because of that hostage thing (not to mention Orson Welles' last movie, which is still being held hostage), but, of course, our source is the Bush Administration. And they can't be believed at all.

Posted by: Mike Gold at September 25, 2006 05:27 PM

All Moslems are, by definition, whacky -- and there is, of course, no such thing as a principled socialist. Socialists, by definition, are also whacky. Both socialists and Moslems are, of course, evil. Like gay marriage, they threaten the moral fabric of our white, Christian society. We only tolerate the Jews because they are a necessary prerequisite for the second coming and the rapture.

Sorry you're all going to hell, but if everybody got to go to heaven, what kind of country club would that be?

Posted by: Rick Oliver at September 25, 2006 09:39 PM

I'm changing my name to Chavez. They have all the fun!

I watched Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke," and it's very clear to me that Bush is the devil and evil. Kanye West had it right.

Posted by: Marilyn Ferdinand at September 26, 2006 12:19 PM

Not that I have any love for Bush, but Chavez is at the very least a demagogue. There's a big difference between what some local tv personalities say and what an important and influential leader in the world has to say. Besides, anyone who's all buddy-buddy with ruthless authoritarian dictators like Ahmadenijad and Castro is suspect to the extreme.

Concerning Chavez himself being a dictator - that remains to be seen. He's definately a reformer, and he has promised that, if elected again this year, he will personally convoke a midterm recall referendum in the year 2010 to "consult" the electorate about modifying the Constitution to allow for the indefinite reelection of a President.
Apropos, the Venezeualan 2004 Referendum was suspected of massive fraud on Chavez' behalf.

I, for one, will be glad to see him out of office. The world has enough troublemakers as it is (GW Bush included).

Posted by: Shay at September 26, 2006 09:43 PM

If being a demagogue disqualified one from political office, then we wouldn't have any politicians left. Hmm...now there's an idea.

Chavez ain't no saint, but IMHO he's better than the other OPEC alternatives. So for now I'll keep buying Citgo fuel.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at September 27, 2006 07:59 AM

So, Shay, what makes Chavez's comment any different from Dubya's State of the Union message in which he determined that Iran, Iraq and North Korea formed an "Axis of Evil"?
This country spent DECADES being "buddy-buddy" with ruthless authoritarian dictators (Pinochet, Mobutu, the Shah, Franco, Marcos, Chiang Kai-shek) and we STILL are "buddy-buddy" with folks like Pakistan's Musharraf (who was installed as the result of a coup, followed by a widely-believed fraudulent election; a later pro-Musharraf parliament *retroactively* legalized the coup) and the Saudi Royal family. We mustn't forget that Dubya declared Vladimir Putin a "good man", despite Putin's recent tilt towards restoring an authoritarian regime.

Posted by: JosephW at September 27, 2006 02:14 PM

If George Bush actually believes his own rhetoric about Iraq being a shining beacon of democracy in the mideast, then he truly is an idiot.

None of the parties most concerned with the continued mostly uninterrupted flow of oil from the mideast have the slightest interest in replacing the unelected powers that control the countries where that oil resides with unpredictable democracies, particularly when that means democracies controlled by apparently volatile Shi'ite majorities, with no love for America.

Iran is at least nominally a democracy, and we'll probably launch a pre-emptive invasion of that democracy before November. Meanwhile, back in decidely undemocratic Saudi Arabia, we've actually given Osama bin Laden what he purportedly wanted in the first place: removal of our armed forces from their soil.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at September 27, 2006 08:16 PM

I never relinquished my criticism of US foreign policy in regards to tacitly (and not-so-tacitly) supporting authoritarian governments around the globe.
This does not appear to be the current governments mindset though, and if we are to be completely honest with ourselves, the left has supported authoritarian regimes throughout history as well. During the 70's, Noam Chomsky was an apologist for Pol Pot, while Pot was building pyramids of skulls in Cambodian cities. To this day, there are communists who deny Stalin's atrocities, or people (nominally, non-Cubans) who think Castro is a brave and glorious leader of the people. Which just doesn't fit in well with the large amount of people every year willing to take a raft and try their luck in shark-infested waters to escape the glorious and wonderful land which is Cuba. How many Americans have sought safe haven in other countries? Timothy Leary comes to mind, and we all know how that ended.

I do not adhere to the Bush "You're either with us or against us" doctrine.
I despise the 21st-century reductio ad bumperstickerandum of all political debate. Reality is complex. The fact that I consider Chavez a persona non grata does not make me a neocon, though I guess painting reality in black and white makes it easier for you not to listen.

Iran is at least nominally a democracy
I'd stick an ad hominem here, but maybe you're not an idiot, just ignorant. Iran is quite far from being a democracy, I'm afraid.
Educate yourself.

Posted by: Shay at September 30, 2006 12:53 PM

Ah yes. Without defending W and the Chickenhawk Guild, every world power in the last century has, at some point, climbed in bed with less than desirable partners (keeping Paris Hilton out of this) in the name of expediency.

Nobody, however, seems to be willing to stand up and accept responsibility.

Don't worry about W's "Axis of Evil", rather, worry about his "Axis of Denial".

Posted by: Manny at September 30, 2006 09:56 PM


Look up a definition of "nominally" before you go ranting about those you conveniently reduce to members of the "left" and labeling those who don't agree with you 100% as either ignorant or idiots.

The CIA World Factbook defines Iran's form of government as a "theocratic republic" and it defines republic as "a representative democracy in which the people's elected deputies (representatives), not the people themselves, vote on legislation."

Personally, I wouldn't want to live under any governmental system that contains a "theocratic" component, particularly an Islamic one -- but we cheerfully support far less "democratic" governments than Iran, including several that have nuclear weapons.

My point was that the spread of democracy has almost nothing to do with our foreign policy in the mideast (or Venezuela).

As for your analysis of the Cuban situation, it is either deliberately disingenuous or you are ignorant of the effects of the 44-year embargo.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at October 1, 2006 12:31 PM

Chavez *is* a dictator. And it's not an American saying this, I am a Brazilian, Chaves's neighbour. It's true that he was democratically elected this time, and it's true he answered a legimate need in his country, but Colonel Chavez was involved in a military coup in the early-1990s. Having failed in his attempt to take power by force, he bid his time and waited for the opportunity, grabbing it when people in Latin America were particularly sick and tired of right-wing 'free market' policies failing to elevate their standards of living.

Don't be deceived, Chavez is no bleeding heart idealist, he doesn't cares a fig for poor Americans. His cheap heating fuel is simply a very intelligent ploy to enhance his popularity, and his attacks against Bush seem to be motivated far more by the political gain of targeting a US President that is incredibly unpopular in most of the world, and less by any legimate concerns. Chavez bark is far worse than his bite and he isn't a true opponent of Bush.

Locally, he is doing everything in his power to manipulate Venezuelan institutions to perpetuate himself in power, to shut down the opposition, to control the press, to arm militias loyal to him, to get judges that are sympathetic to him, to reform Venezuelan constitution to give him ever more power, to institute local citizen's councils loyal to his 'revolution' and willing to spy on neighbours and friends that are less than loyal, etc.

All that, ironically, by manipulating and working inside democratic institutions, instead of simply abolishing them. Chavez is a remarkably canny man.

Of course, I'm not saying that he is wrong about Bush. :) Only that he is as bad as, or likely worse than Bush. Fortunately Chavez hasn't the kind of power Bush has.

Posted by: Rene at October 1, 2006 02:28 PM

Well, if Chavez was democratically elected, then he's one up on Bush.

And he's got to work pretty hard to get anywhere near Bush's death count.

Posted by: Mike Gold at October 1, 2006 02:34 PM

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