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Saturday, March 05, 2011

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I have complicated feelings about Chavez. He is undoubtedly popular and he has done great things for Venezuela while his administration has had to fend off direct attacks from the US. Yet he has created a cult of personality that lacks a solid basis for the continuation of his plans without him. There is a lot of danger there. Of course we have created a system here of presidentobots: Reagan begets Bush who begets Clinton, etc, while at the same time, the alternatives, McCain, Kerrey, Gore, etc, would fulfill the same function. Chavez' place in the world confuses me.

Having said that, at least he is trying to help, as opposed to dithering about no-fly zones like Obama and Cameron, calling for "aid" to the rebels like the impotent neo-cons, or stupidly mumbling that the people of Libya must decide their future, like all of them. And the Saudis, well, keeping them happy while maintaining Israel as a launching pad to evict them when the time comes is a complicated endeavor.

Agreed on basically all points, though in the case of Libya I'd say Chavez is just on the wrong side. That's a natural result of his enemy-of-my-enemy approach to foreign policy--he was quoted as saying it would be hypocritical for him to stop praising Qaddafi now, and it's hard to argue with that, but it just shows the danger of that approach. Still, Chavez's "support" for Libya is exclusively rhetorical and basically harmless (except to him), whereas U.S. support for Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern dictatorships over the years has been concrete and critical to their continuation.

American Leftist has a good take on this.

And, yes, Chavez has, unfortunately, screwed up. But, also, yes, he did so for understandable reasons, and the Venezuelans are far better off with Chavez in place than with whatever dictator and accompanying Special Forces-trained death squads the US would be propping up in his place.

Thanks for the link NUK. It is hard for these smallish states to survive with any sort of social program, and while not excusing the craziness of some of these folks, the American Leftist at least describes how these alliances come to be. It's one of those sites I never seem to get to. As to one who I know a great deal about, Daniel Ortega, I have no confusion. He got elected because his predecessors were fuck ups and they were elected because Daniel was a fuck up. Daniel was originally elected because he was the best of the Sandinistas who survived the horrible Somoza, the horrible Contras and the horrible US war on the 2d poorest country in the hemisphere. Though he has done some good things, he is still a fuck up.

If Chavez is on the wrong side (and it certainly seems so) we will do well to remember that we have no idea what the other side is. None. And you can bet your last dollar that the US is working as hard as it can to make sure that the next government will be led by someone not very different from Gadafi. If Chavez can stop the slaughter or get someone other than a US/EU-certified goon in there he will be a success.

Chavez is obsessed with the U.S. That's fucking retarded. And completely understandable. The U.S. literally tried to kill him in a coup. I'd be pissed, too.

The problem with Chavez is the problem one always has when you have a leader that isn't thoroughly corrupt -- he keeps being so distressingly human. I've stopped being disappointed in Chavez because I've realized that the standard I was holding him to was inane. He's a decent guy in a position of way too much power, facing off against the worst people in the world. Not a genius, not a savant, just a halfway decent guy. So he fucks up. A lot. Like, a tiresome amount.

It's actually boring now.

I'd actually be fine if Chavez was less democratic in certain areas. He has a literal fifth column of traitors in his country, a group that differs from the majority based on race, class, economics, and political affiliation. They tried a military coup. We're well within "kill those fuckers" territory here. I mean, I'm pretty sure we could pull up plenty of liberal Enlightenment thinkers who would have already dropped the blade. The existence of these enemies creates some pretty insane double-standards when talking about Chavez. John Stewart became a complete asshole in my book when, after years of playing footsie with war criminals responsible for the rape and murder of hundreds of thousands of people, he asks his first and only hard questions of a political leader of Chavez. Seriously, the only person Stewart has ever leaned on besides Chavez was Jim-fucking-Cramer. And no, pointing out the random hypocrisies of occasional rightwing guests doesn't count. So Chavez was the devil for shutting down seditious broadcasters who were in league with the people who helped overthrow his country -- while our media practices self-censorship that is worse than Pravda, up to and including proudly and openly refusing to use the "terrorist" moniker on any white person on earth. Way to stick it to the man, Stewart.

But back to Chavez: his obsession with the U.S. makes him crazy. If the article I just read wasn't lying, he's now backing Qaddafi mostly because doing so defies the U.S. (Note that that article implies that Chavez was disingenious in some of his relations with other neighbors in the region. That's bullshit; iirc Palast wrote about how Chavez was set up to look like he was providing succor to FARC by Columbia.) Is the U.S. gov. a piece of shit looking to control Libya now that their favorite asshole-in-charge is toast? Yes. Does that mean one should back the asshole? Seriously.

Chavez' obsession with the U.S. is a distraction. Sure, the U.S. is his enemy, but that doesn't mean everything the U.S. does must be thwarted. Plenty of U.S. policies are short-sided and stupid and, as such, should (from his perspective) be encouraged. More importantly, building up his people and thwarting the U.S. are two different priorities. Cozying up to Iran and Libya does a piss-poor job of the latter and a shit job of the former. But Chavez may not be bright enough to catch on to that. He also may not be as moral as one would like: concern for Iranians should make giving Ahmadinejad the time of day out of the question. But he displays moral concern for his own citizens, putting him well ahead of 95% of world leaders out there. At least he's feeding people.

If only he wasn't a twit.

Btw, drip is right -- there is no "good guys" side in the world. There's a bunch of asshole leaders. . . and everyone else trying to just survive. Anyone who's not trying to bilk his or her own citizens while in power has an obligation to create an anti-imperial coalition. . . but doing so takes serious political savvy and skill, as well as resources. Chavez may lack some of those prerequisites, as do most others. If he can help Libya, bless him, but I can't see how that's even remotely possible.

Btw, concerning that (great) article NomadUK linked to: it's not realpolitik to hitch your wagon to an asshole who's being driven out of his own fucking country. Someone needs to inform Chavez that a national leader doesn't have the privilege of making friends with another national leader. He could have made the same political claims he's making now if he had been cool towards Qaddafi, made it clear in the past that he was for "the people of Libya" (why the FUCK wouldn't you do that as a matter of course?), and then made the same claim now. If that "friend" thing isn't bullshit, Chavez has just committed a moral wrong -- above and beyond any other obvious ones -- by putting a personal friendship anywhere near the interests of the people of Venezuela. I understand how an ex-military leader could think that way -- soldiers fight for each other more than anything else -- but it's still a moral and political failure.

Caruso is right in that this failure amounts to nothing but words, but remember, the, er, anti-imperialists need to stick together. All coalitions begin by being built on -- wait for it -- words. Chavez isn't fucking up Libiyans, he's fucking up Venezuelans. Though we're nowhere near the moral corruption of what the U.S. will do if it sends troops. God, I hope the Libyians hunt down and kill Qaddafi fast or they will pay for it in atrocity.

By the way, am I the only one who thinks Qaddafi looks remarkably like John Hurt playing Caligula in I, Claudius? Coincidence?

And, as far as all the other gay porn suggestions that appear to accompany that link, well, no need to thank me.

1998 movie The Zero Effect

Steve Arlo (character played by Ben Stiller): There aren't evil guys and innocent guys. It's just... It's just... It's just a bunch of guys.

I was thinking he looks like some shape-shifting alien right at the point where his molecular control becomes unstable and the entire skin structure degenerates into an oozing mass of pustules and corruption. So, yeah, John Hurt.

charley -- I think of that line a lot.

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