The Popping Sound You Hear Comes From Conservative Heads Exploding Like Eggs in a Microwave

Hugo Chavez. Holding a book by Noam Chomsky. While he speaks at the United Nations. And calls George Bush the devil.

Man, I’m glad I’m not a conservative. Because I wouldn’t even know where to begin with this picture. It’s like Christmas, Hanukkah and Skull and Crossbones initiation night all in one picture. It’s the gift that won’t ever stop giving. Frankly, I’m afraid to wander over to conservative political Web sites at the moment. I can’t even imagine what they’re saying about this picture. I’m not sure I want to know.

123 thoughts on “The Popping Sound You Hear Comes From Conservative Heads Exploding Like Eggs in a Microwave

  1. Yikes!

    I’m not a conservative by anyone’s definition, but I have to say I think this guy is a fruitcake.

    The trouble with such rhetoric is that any valid point he makes is clouded by his grand-standing. It’s hard to take him seriously when he’s claiming to smell the Devil’s sulfer on the U.N. podium…

  2. Oh yeah. If you had Hillary Clinton shaking his hand while Michael Moore was filming it I bet you could hear the Republican’s teeth grinding from outer space!

    On the other side of the coin we’ve got a German Pope dissing Mohammed so there is some pretty strong imagery floating around lately.

    Intersting times indeed.

  3. I spent a morning trying to convince a friend why Bush was less of a fiend than Chavez. I felt morally superior for a while and then went back to her and said, “I guess the only reason Bush is better than Chavez is because he didn’t go to prison.”

    Not that I like Chavez or anything…

  4. I’d take Tripp’s additions, and make sure all of them were driving in a used veggie oil-powered car while listening to NPR and playing soccer. Oh, and desecrating an apple pie. ‘Cause flag burning is just passe.

  5. Sheesh. What is the UN coming to these days? You just don’t get any good shoe-pounding threats to BURY people anymore.

    By comparison, these ‘antics’ by Chavez are positively refined…

  6. You left out the part where he began yelling “Yankee, go home!”

    As for the conservatives, Glenn Reynolds is saying this:

    HUGO CHAVEZ FLIPS OUT AT THE U.N.: I can’t help but feel that the Chavez and Ahmadinejad speeches are likely to benefit the Republicans this election cycle, by reminding people of what’s out there.

    Maybe, but generally I agree with Janiece – the guy’s a fruitcake. I don’t think what he says matters much one way or the other.

    Also, the picture you included is cropped. Check out the full one here. Note the woman sitting behind him, trying as hard as she can not to laugh out loud at him while he’s speaking.

    Those who say the UN is good for nothing are certainly not counting good theater…

  7. True story about the shoe-pounding: it wasn’t even his shoe. He made one of his subordinates take theirs off so he’d have one to pound.

    This and other fun facts brought to you by POLS 207: Issues Before The United Nations.

  8. Chavez is a wing nut without a doubt, and Bush is both stupid and I am seriously considering the evil part. But can anyone clue me in (short form please (I know, ironic coming from a succinct guy like me)) as to the source of Chavez’s angst. Did bush screw his sister or something, or snap him with a wet towel in the nuts?

  9. He also said the U.N. shouldn’t be in the U.S. and offered it a new home in Venezuala.

    I say we take him up on it. I meen JEEEZ! Have you ever tried driving in NYC when the General Assembly’s in session?

    I say we export gridlock to Caracas.

  10. Hilary,

    I think I heard something about Bush trying to get Chavez assasinated but who knows if such things are true.

  11. Hm, moving the U.N. to Caracas. Along with all the “diplomatic immunity” that goes with it. I’m in!

    Brian, thanks for the link. That pic made me laugh out loud!

  12. janiece,

    It took me a minute to find the info, but as of May, this year, UN diplomats have $18 million in unpaid parking fines.

    I think a big park on the East River is a great idea.

  13. Chavez needs Bush the way that Rove needed the specter of ‘gay marriage’ in the 2004 election strategy. In general, the US has been the bogeyman for the remaining tin god dictators since the Soviet Union imploded, but Bush has been a boon to the regimes of Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea and Iran. It didn’t hurt Chavez that the Bush administration did help fund his ouster, and was a bit premature and giddy when it looked like he was going to get thrown out in a special election.

    This all reminds me of the perpetual war described in “1984.” Are we league with Eurasia, East Asia or Oceania these days?

    Sadly, Chavez stands poised to ruin Venezuela in the same way that Castro did Cuba. Had I been a Cuban in the late ’50s, I probably would have sided with Castro, too. However, he let his ego get the better of him, to the detriment of two generations of Cubans. I can easily see Venezuela going down the road to food rationing and political block captains.

    Now Chavez is making noise about ‘only’ wanting to be president until 2030, just to make sure things run along smoothly. One more reason for us to quit sucking on the fossil fuel teat…

  14. Buck,

    Being president until “only” 2030? If only I had that kind of job security!

    Your point regarding Bush being a boon to the insane clown posse that runs N. Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela is well taken, however. He’s their Boogieman, and they use him appropriately to keep their “kids” in line.

  15. I hardly think Cuba is ruined. There are problems there, but it’s gone from a place where the majority of the locals were close to starving and heavily exploited to a place where the people are poor but not starving and have excellent medical care. Cuba doesn’t export so much sugar or tobacco anymore, but now they export doctors.

    And I don’t think Chavez is a bad leader as leaders go. He’s got a solid domestic program and he’s busy making friends throughout the Third World.

    Both of these suffer from a shortage of democracy, but democracy is in kind of short supply worldwide right now.

    I’m not much in the mood to argue about it, but I feel compelled to register my (apparently, here) minority opinions.

  16. I found your link on another blog {NancyNall) and thought…is this my John S.??? And by God it is! It’s like meeting someone out side the work place and they look so strange!! I have yo marked in bloglines and I will return.

  17. Hilary, you may remember when there was an attempted coup in Venezuala a few years ago, and the Bush Administration recognized and applauded the coup leaders as the new govenrment in Caracas, all before the coup leaders could sit back in the leather chairs. The coup didn’t last more than 36 hours (from what memory serves). So yeah, we screwed him, not his sister.

    That doesn’t mean he isn’t a nut job, but he’s a nut job that’s aligned the “Non-aligned States” against the US, cut deals with China to sell oil there (most of their output now comes right to the US), and gave free home heating oil to the NE last year when prices skyrocketed. Or in other words, he’s a dangerous, calculating nut job who is echoing world opinion in his own way.

  18. Hilary, you may remember when there was an attempted coup in Venezuala a few years ago, and the Bush Administration recognized and applauded the coup leaders as the new govenrment in Caracas, all before the coup leaders could sit back in the leather chairs. The coup didn’t last more than 36 hours (from what memory serves). So yeah, we screwed him, not his sister.

    That doesn’t mean he isn’t a nut job, but he’s a nut job that’s aligned the “Non-aligned States” against the US, cut deals with China to sell oil there (most of their output now comes right to the US), and gave free home heating oil to the NE last year when prices skyrocketed. Or in other words, he’s a dangerous, calculating nut job who is echoing world opinion in his own way.

  19. Hilary, you may remember when there was an attempted coup in Venezuala a few years ago, and the Bush Administration recognized and applauded the coup leaders as the new govenrment in Caracas, all before the coup leaders could sit back in the leather chairs. The coup didn’t last more than 36 hours (from what memory serves). So yeah, we screwed him, not his sister.

    That doesn’t mean he isn’t a nut job, but he’s a nut job that’s aligned the “Non-aligned States” against the US, cut deals with China to sell oil there (most of their output now comes right to the US), and gave free home heating oil to the NE last year when prices skyrocketed. Or in other words, he’s a dangerous, calculating nut job who is echoing world opinion in his own way.

  20. Hilary, you may remember when there was an attempted coup in Venezuala a few years ago, and the Bush Administration recognized and applauded the coup leaders as the new govenrment in Caracas, all before the coup leaders could sit back in the leather chairs. The coup didn’t last more than 36 hours (from what memory serves). So yeah, we screwed him, not his sister.

    That doesn’t mean he isn’t a nut job, but he’s a nut job that’s aligned the “Non-aligned States” against the US, cut deals with China to sell oil there (most of their output now comes right to the US), and gave free home heating oil to the NE last year when prices skyrocketed. Or in other words, he’s a dangerous, calculating nut job who is echoing world opinion in his own way.

  21. Hilary, you may remember when there was an attempted coup in Venezuala a few years ago, and the Bush Administration recognized and applauded the coup leaders as the new govenrment in Caracas, all before the coup leaders could sit back in the leather chairs. The coup didn’t last more than 36 hours (from what memory serves). So yeah, we screwed him, not his sister.

    That doesn’t mean he isn’t a nut job, but he’s a nut job that’s aligned the “Non-aligned States” against the US, cut deals with China to sell oil there (most of their output now comes right to the US), and gave free home heating oil to the NE last year when prices skyrocketed. Or in other words, he’s a dangerous, calculating nut job who is echoing world opinion in his own way.

  22. Hilary, you may remember when there was an attempted coup in Venezuala a few years ago, and the Bush Administration recognized and applauded the coup leaders as the new govenrment in Caracas, all before the coup leaders could sit back in the leather chairs. The coup didn’t last more than 36 hours (from what memory serves). So yeah, we screwed him, not his sister.

    That doesn’t mean he isn’t a nut job, but he’s a nut job that’s aligned the “Non-aligned States” against the US, cut deals with China to sell oil there (most of their output now comes right to the US), and gave free home heating oil to the NE last year when prices skyrocketed. Or in other words, he’s a dangerous, calculating nut job who is echoing world opinion in his own way.

  23. Hilary, you may remember when there was an attempted coup in Venezuala a few years ago, and the Bush Administration recognized and applauded the coup leaders as the new govenrment in Caracas, all before the coup leaders could sit back in the leather chairs. The coup didn’t last more than 36 hours (from what memory serves). So yeah, we screwed him, not his sister.

    That doesn’t mean he isn’t a nut job, but he’s a nut job that’s aligned the “Non-aligned States” against the US, cut deals with China to sell oil there (most of their output now comes right to the US), and gave free home heating oil to the NE last year when prices skyrocketed. Or in other words, he’s a dangerous, calculating nut job who is echoing world opinion in his own way.

  24. Hey! These are slow days, I guess. I even saw a “discussion” on Fox “News” the other day saying that the probability of North Korea and China sending nukes to Cuba was very high.

    So, in light of that, I’m sure Fox is quite happy to have a new Teat o’ Terror to milk with Chavez getting all wonky.

  25. Anonymous,

    For myself, I don’t think Chavez is a bad leader per se, I just think he’s a fruitcake in terms of his rhetoric and the way he chooses to express his opinion. I personally can’t take him seriously, because from a logical perspective, he does not appear to take himself seriously.

  26. I think Buck’s got it right with his comment about the fossil fuel tit. We have to stand by and take a cheek fluffing from the likes of Hugo A Go Go Chavez and the other little fellow with the Napoleanic complex from Iran because Bush is a hundred times a bigger A – Hole than both these guys put together.

  27. Anonymous –

    Ever been to Cuba? If you think that running the gamut of hookers and hawkers on every major street and outside every hotel is the mark of a country being seriously improved, then I’d hate to live in your utopia.

    Free health care doesn’t mean much when doctors can make more money driving tourist cabs or running restaurants in their kitchens, or when their daughter can make much, much more sleeping with German and Spanish tourists. Let’s not even talk about the lack of medical supplies – partially a result of the U.S. embargo, to be sure, but Cuba is uniquely unable to start or sustain a pharmaceutical industry, despite all the doctors produced by its theoretically universal access to education. Hey, it’s hard to raise capital when capitalism is an evil word, and everything gets skimmed off to support the government, in any case. Try looking into how much of foreign investment goes to Castro and his bureaucracy – most of the pay of every worker hired by a foreign company, for instance.

    Of course, if you squint past the hookers, you might notice the police harassing black Cubans for identity papers – something they never do with white Cubans who, by the way, comprise the vast majority of the party elite. Then there’s freedom of the press. Well, there is none. But hey – it’s a lot better than it was under Batista, right? Sure – but it’s a lot worse than it could be, considering its proximity to the U.S., its potential for industry, agriculture and tourism, etc.

    But by all means – keep cherishing your dreamlike vision of Cuba. Just don’t ever go there.

  28. I believe the Spanish term for Mr. Chavez is, “Dee dee dee!”

    Which I also believe is the Spanish term for our president.

    OTOH, I predict in ten years, you will see an HBO Comedy Special entitled “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Mad and Lovin’ It.”

    Come on. Doesn’t Ahmadinejad look like he’s enjoying his role as whacked out leader? He spews all that hate speech, but you can see that look in his eye that says, “Dr. Evil my ass. Mike Meyers is my bitch!”

  29. “… now [Cuba] exports doctors” — is that who all those people in the makeshift rafts that keep washing up on South Beach are? I couldn’t imagine why they would leave such a tropical paradiso, but now it makes sense – they’re here to get rich by opening Botox clinics.
    “And I don’t think Chavez is a bad leader as leaders go. He’s got a solid domestic program and he’s busy making friends throughout the Third World.” (Not even sure where to begin on this one.)
    Regardless of your feelings on the current US administration (I’m a disappointed libertarian, that voted Republican if you’re wondering,) scenes of applause from the “Third World cheap seats” at the UN should have anyone in the free world utterly appalled right now. The modern UN serves no purpose other than to provide a public forum in which despots can posture and pretend their pathetic “nations” have a reason to exist, while the free world foots the bill.
    Real justice would be reviewing the videotape from the UN General Circussembly, and immediately ending all foreign aid and interest-free loans to any country whose delegates cheered Mr. Chavez’ performance, then dissolving the UN and sending them home in their Armani suits to deliver the good news to their then-even-more-starving constituents living in the mud huts.
    /rant

  30. Being surprised at the message and methods of Hugo Chavez seems a lot like being surprised at the grit at the bottom of a glass of well water. He’s a sixth grade drop-out raised by his grammy in a grasshut. He got his training in the market economy from selling candy out of a pushcart. If he seems a little rough around the edges…well, hello. I have no excuses for our esteemed President. He went to the best school and got the best grades that money could buy. He has trouble putting together ten sentences during brief press-meetings. While Hugo Chavez might be a fruit-cake, I’m more bent to believe GWB is the devil based on the his blitherings then believe GWB when he says that we have to stay involved in fighting in Iraq because there is no connection between Iraq and the terrorists. At least you get the feeling Hugo actually believes the things he says.

    My question is: Why are we letting the dunces of the world decide the fate of millions? I say it’s all the squeamish liberals…no one wants the cat so its up to the heartless idiots of the world to drown it.

  31. Hasn’t Chavez jailed members of the opposition party (when such a thing existed in Venezuela) simply for being the opposition? If he’s not a bad leader it’s only because he’s a fabulous dictator.

  32. As Keith Olbermann said tonight(more or less):

    “Hugo, babe, all you’re doing is making Pat Robertson look like a genius.”

  33. It’s always so weird when you see people really behaving like the stereotypes about them. What’s next, a brilliant scientist appearing on TV in a lab coat with a wide-eyed grinning look on his face and a test tube filled with a boiling and smoking green liquid in his hand, screaming “I’m mad, and with this invention, I’ll take over the WORLD!!!!!”?

    It seems that Chavez is basically a Third World version of GWB- his relation to the folks in Venezuela who vote for him seems to be more or less the same as that of Bush to red state America.

  34. The majority of the comments here seem more about Hugo Chavez than about the content of his speech.

    You do yourselves a great disfavour to dismiss the content because you dislike the man.

    Having worked in politics for more than 15 years i have yet to meet a politician who is shy of a stage or averse to employing theatrics. His metaphors of bush as the devil and the sulphurous fumes are theatrical, yet there is truth there in the way the majority of people in the developing world feel about the bush administration and its policies.

    “They say they want to impose a democratic model. But that’s their democratic model. It’s the false democracy of elites, and, I would say, a very original democracy that’s imposed by weapons and bombs and firing weapons.
    What a strange democracy. Aristotle might not recognize it or others who are at the root of democracy.

    What type of democracy do you impose with marines and bombs?

    The president of the United States, yesterday, said to us, right here, in this room, and I’m quoting, “Anywhere you look, you hear extremists telling you can escape from poverty and recover your dignity through violence, terror and martyrdom.”

    Wherever he looks, he sees extremists. And you, my brother — he looks at your color, and he says, oh, there’s an extremist. Evo Morales, the worthy president of Bolivia, looks like an extremist to him.

    The imperialists see extremists everywhere. It’s not that we are extremists. It’s that the world is waking up. It’s waking up all over. And people are standing up.

    I have the feeling, dear world dictator, that you are going to live the rest of your days as a nightmare because the rest of us are standing up, all those who are rising up against American imperialism, who are shouting for equality, for respect, for the sovereignty of nations.”

    check out the full speech: http://www.drudgereport.com/flash2.htm

  35. Nathan, one of the reasons that Chavez suggested relocating the UN HQ is because his entourage (specifically his doctor and security chief) were denied entry into the US and refused permission to attend the proceedings on the UN. They were grounded at the presidential plane.

    Perhaps the doctor and the security chief represent terrorist threats? LOL. (American paranoia would be hilarious if it didn’t have such brutal consequences for the rest of the us)

    Are the ambassadors, dignitaries and officials of USA favoured countries subjected to the same treatment? The UN is not an American institution, it is a global one.

    Chavez raises a valid concern: Perhaps we need to relocate the HQ to a more hospitable country.

  36. Ever been to Cuba? If you think that running the gamut of hookers and hawkers on every major street and outside every hotel is the mark of a country being seriously improved, then I’d hate to live in your utopia.

    Add in some extra neon and you’ve just described Las Vegas and virtually every major western city too, but Vegas especially so.

  37. rhiannon_s

    “…virtually every major western city”? Really? I’d think twice before making statements like that.

    I’ve been in many of the major western cities, and I don’t recall running a gamut of throngs of young girls working as prostitutes outside the entrance of the Essex House in New York, or Claridges in London. You can be assured of that experience in Havana. Meanwhile, their brothers are to be found lining the streets aggressively hawking bootleg cigars and rum and whatever else you want – including their girlfriends and sisters. This is a spectacle I seem to have overlooked walking around downtown Chicago, or along the Rambla in Barcelona.

    Every major western city? What a prurient, morally outraged view of the world you seem to have. You’d almost think you were a caricature of a Christian conservative. Oh right – I’M the Christian conservative. But for some reason I’ve missed all of this.

  38. If you visit Chinatown in NYC, you’ll meet second generation Americans who don’t speak a word of English…..only Mandarin, Cantonese, or some other Chinese Dialect.

    Then hop on the #1 train, travel up to 95th Street and Broadway. You’ll find one of a number of New York’s Cuban-Chinese restaurants. (F-ing great food). Talk to the waiter. He’ll be fluent in his original chinese dialect. He’ll be fluent in Spanish. His english?….not so good. He’s part of a group who left mainland china in 1949 (fleeing communism) who went to Cuba, then fled Cuba in 1959/60 and came to U.S.

    I have no idea what this means and I make no judgement on it. Its just an observation I’ve always found highly interesting.

    Do with it what you will…..or not.

  39. Steve, just what exactly is the “it’s different there” card, precisely? Are you implying that I think it’s somehow “OK” for this to go on in Cuba? If you are, you might be committing one of the logical fallacies John warned about in an earlier entry.

    I stopped going to Cuba about 8 years ago, when I realized that any pleasure I was getting listening to music and hanging around with musicians was being severely depleted by what I was seeing in downtown Havana every night. From what I’ve been told by friends, it’s gotten only a little bit better, after crackdowns on possessing U.S. currency by the authorities.

  40. Um… perhaps the operative word here is downtown? You may not encounter the seedier part of New York and London in the parts you frequent, but I’m fairly sure that, as with every major Western city, there are indeed prostitutes and bootleggers, just as there are in Havana, Johannesburg and other Third World Cities.

    Prostitution was not invented by Hugo Chavez, and more to the point, neither the existence of prostitutes in Havana nor your personal travel experiences are a reason to ignore his point of view on the UN or George Bush.

  41. Rick, I didn’t imply any of those things. I was refering to these; see “Someone who has actually been there.”

    The picture you painted was more bleak than many Cuban-Americans describe the place. I have never been there myself and can only go by what I’ve heard from others and from what I see on the news and documentaries. Your description seemed a bit over the top on the face of it.

    Also, I don’t think Anonymous was estolling the virtues of Cuba as saying it isn’t as third-world as many in the US believe. Also, you’re correct in many western cities you won’t have to run past a gauntlet of street-walkers and hawkers (unless you’re in “certain” parts of those cities), but they’re listed in the phone books. I never used such services when I travelled, but I developed a habit of relaxing and unwinding after flying into a city by perusing whatever reading material was available in room (when I didn’t have any other books with me), the phone book being an interesting way to know a city.

  42. Hippolyta:

    “Your personal travel experiences are a reason to ignore his point of view on the UN or George Bush.”

    However, the fact that Hugo Chavez made an ass of himself by calling the President of the United States the devil during a formal address of the UN does make it rather easier to dismiss the whole of his speech right out of hand, for entire classes of people. His rhetorical flourishes are meant to play well in certain quarters, but they guarantee that his more serious words will fall on deaf ears. If Chavez wanted to be taken seriously, he should have presented himself seriously.

    (It also doesn’t help that he is also something of an authoritarian prick, but that’s an aside to the point above.)

  43. Yes, Hippolyta, there are indeed prostitutes and bootleggers in probably every city in the world (barring most Arab capitals, I’m assured.) But isn’t it a bit jarring that it’s so flagrant – more than in any other place I’ve been – in a country that professes to implement a political system that’s about universality and equality enforced on every level, a classless place – in theory? I’m not talking about just a few streets around the hotels, but on nearly every street in the old city and Central Havana, right up to the steps of the old capital building.

    I never said that prostitution was invented by Hugo Chavez – you’re using another one of those logical fallacies, I’m afraid – but I can certainly laugh at Chavez and what he’s saying when he seems intent on reducing his country – a potentially rich one, if oil revenues are any measure – by imitating Castro’s disastrous rule in Cuba.

    What’s appalling about Cuba is that prostitution and bootlegging – which are criminal acts, by any definition of the law – are seen as the only means of making real money by so many young people. There’s even a word for it – they call the young women and men jineteras and jineteros. (The word means “jockey” – a colourful derivation, don’t you think?) In Cuba, it’s like watching a whole generation get ground up by one man’s pride, incompetence and despotism.

    Why can’t you be even more outraged that Cuba, which is supposed to be about egalitarian ideals enacted politically and socially, if you give communism the benefit of the doubt (I don’t, but assume you do), is awash in this sort of flesh-trading? And why are you apologising for it by painting it as somehow inevitable in “third world” countries, and in downtowns in general. Isn’t that the worst example of what I assume Steve means with by the “it’s different there” card?

  44. Steve – if you don’t want to believe my lying eyes, that’s your decision. I was frankly amazed by what I saw on my visits to Havana – as much as by what three-quarters of Washington D.C. looks like, once you get away from the administrative downtown area, to be frank. But still, the throngs of young prostitutes outside the hotels, whole streets given over to tourists cruising for girls, punctuated by young men doing black market work – it was there, on a scale I’d never seen anywhere else. The amazing was how quickly it rose up – within a year or two of the Soviet pullout.

    You’ve never been there – I have. Belive whoever you want.

  45. I’ve been in many of the major western cities, and I don’t recall running a gamut of throngs of young girls working as prostitutes outside the entrance of the Essex House in New York, or Claridges in London

    Rick, step into a phone box outside Claridges, or anywhere else in the West End, and check out the advertisements. Different advertising methods – same business.

    Chavez may have a rather unusual rhetorical style, but that doesn’t make him a nutjob:
    1) different countries have different rhetorics – in Western Europe and the US the style is quite downplayed and vernacular, while audiences elsewhere prefer something a little more elevated.
    2) He still enjoys the broad support of his population.
    3) He came to power in an election generally accepted as free and fair.
    4) He’s certainly got reasonable grounds for believing in US involvement in the coup in 2002 – and thus in a US bid to have him killed or at best imprisoned.

    I can’t find anything about his having imprisoned opponents – according to Amnesty, the biggest issues are police shooting suspects and harassment of human-rights workers. The State Department knows of exactly one political prisoner, and also criticises arbitrary arrest and illegal wiretaps. (giggle)

  46. ajay –

    There’s a big difference between flyers and business cards in phone boxes and actual throngs of young women. Perhaps if they had more access to cheap printing and photocopiers, as well as cell phones and pimps, this would be more acceptable? Whatever – you’re rather missing my point.

  47. Rick, wow, you keep making everybody else’s argument for them and then rail against it. And for the record, I was accusing you of a logical fallacy (see my earlier response to you). You made the statement without clarifying that you had been there, I asked the question.

    “What’s appalling about Cuba is that prostitution and bootlegging – which are criminal acts, by any definition of the law – are seen as the only means of making real money by so many young people.”

    We have the same problem here in the US and there in Canada, all you have to do is read your local paper to see the evidence. We also have a word for it, “Gangster Rap.” In rural Ohio (I live on the other side of the state from our host) we have a major problem with drug manufacturing (thank you President Bush for the crappy economy and stopping funding for local law enforcement regional coordination, which included many drug task forces). Screw Cuba, I can’t believe you’re not outraged it’s in our own backyard.

  48. John:

    You are right, Chavez should have tempered his rhetoric and name calling never adds credibility to a political argument. But he did express feelings many of us in the third world have…

    And, although I’m sure not on purpose, he ensured far more media coverage than his speech would otherwise have garnered. Hope Mugabe doesn’t take a leaf out of his book.

    Rick:

    Why, because I queried your argument around prostitution in Havana, would that lead you to assume things about my political beliefs?

    And why are we discussing Havana, in any case, when Chavez is the president of Venezuela?

  49. janiece:

    I suspect strongly that claiming to smell the devil’s sulfur on the un podium is a rhetorical device.

    john:

    dismissing speeches on the grounds of unwieldy rhetorical devices would require that all george bush’s public utterances since 2001 would have to be laughed off the planet as inane. and they have been, in every country other than yours.

    rick:

    ‘castro’s disastrous rule’ in cuba isn’t responsible for the economic status of cuba – the longest running total embargo of all external economic activity in the history of the world is. blaming castro, fault-ridden as his rule is, for the failure is the cuban economy is the equivalent of openly providing guns, support and shelter to a vicious, oppressive military occupation, one that kidnaps the elected goverment, and then claiming the occupied country is failing to meet adequate standards of governance…oh, but you do that too, don’t you?

    oh, and rick? hookers in more sophisticated markets ply their trade in more sophisticated manners. heidi fleiss can help you with this. or any commercial directory listing.

  50. rick:

    “There’s a big difference between flyers and business cards in phone boxes and actual throngs of young women.”

    so your concern is with chavez’s effect on marketing methodology?

  51. jonothanmoeller:

    “A raving lunatic makes a jackass of himself at the UN? My God! It’s completely unprecedented!”

    you shouldn’t be so hard on john bolton. he’s a moron. he can’t help it.

  52. Hippolyta,

    We’re arguing about Havana because of an anonymous poster’s description as not being such a bad place, just as Chavez isn’t such a bad leader. Frankly, I found both assertions ridiculous, but decided to argue with the first, based on personal experience. It’s a tangential argument, to be sure, but since Chavez seems inspired by Castro’s methods of rule, it’s not so far from the point.

    And dael – I’m not arguing the fine points of the business of prostitution as much as I’m trying to underline the fact that its very presence – not to mention preponderance – in a country like Cuba is something of an indictment of that country’s government – and a bit of a blow to the idea that it’s not such a bad place, as asserted anonymously above.

    And while I’m no fan of the U.S. embargo or the Helms-Burton Act, you have to understand that if Castro cared about ordinary Cubans, he’d have turned his revenue streams from Europe and South America – and Canada – to more efficient economic use, instead of turning so much over the supporting himself, the ruling elite and the army. If it’s so trenchant to criticize the U.S. for its huge military budget, and wishing that the money spent on one jet fighter could fund inner city school programs for a decade, or something like that, then why can’t Castro act as an example, and spend some of his military budget on rural welfare (Cuba’s countryside is in worse shape than the cities), or on creating jobs for the jineteras and jineteros?

    Hell, just reopening all the shops and cafes along the Prado or the Malecon, most of which have been shuttered since the revolution, would at least create some jobs and economic activity.

    But enough of Cuba. I’ve taken this side issue as far as it can go. So, Chavez – he reads books, I see?

  53. nice move, rick…the us can destroy the cuban economy, but the proximate cause must always be understood to be castro.

    (…weeeee all liiiiiive in a context-free society, a context-free society, a context-free society…)

    and yes, apparently, chavez reads books. and not hungry, hungry caterpillar either.

  54. Ah, dammit.

    OK, Steve –

    Why wouldn’t I be outraged by the perception, bolstered by “gangster rap”, that young blacks have no choice but to deal drugs, pimp and prostitute themselves? Of course I’m outraged, but as dire as the lives of these young men and women might be, they have more choices than their counterparts in Cuba, who can go to school, get a degree, and still make less money than a tourist cab driver – or a prostitute. One tragedy is about the diminishment of choice, based on widespread and negative effects of cultural mythology and peer pressure – and bad choices. The other is the simple lack of choices, in a society that’s planned itself into a corner, and can’t offer them.

  55. dael,

    I’m aware that Chavez was using a rhetorical device. This was noted in the same sentence you reference.

    In a subsequent entry, I noted that my inability to take his commentary seriously is a direct result of his inability to present himself seriously. I have no doubt he is sincere in his beliefs, nor do I doubt that his rhetoric is effective with the working poor of Venezuela (and elsewhere). I simply note that his rhetoric will not garner him support with the so-called “power brokers” of the world, nor with members of cultures who prefer a more serious demeanor. Since I don’t think his intent was to appeal to those demographics in any case, the point is moot.

    Ajay,

    Having visited or lived in ten countries besides the U.S., I agree with you that the sex trade is prevalent in each one. The manner of “marketing” differs depending on the country and culture, but it’s there, even in the Middle East.

  56. 1)

    rick:

    “…i honestly don’t know where you got that from…”

    rick:

    “There’s a big difference between flyers and business cards in phone boxes and actual throngs of young women.”

    work it out.

    2)

    rick:

    “I’m not arguing the fine points of the business of prostitution as much as I’m trying to underline the fact that its very presence – not to mention preponderance – in a country like Cuba is something of an indictment of that country’s government – and a bit of a blow to the idea that it’s not such a bad place”

    so…the actual presence of prostitution…is an indictment of that country’s government? really? ok.

    so indict your government then.

    go on.

    the.whole.world.is.waiting.

    and another thing, rick…arguments that sound realistic, but which fail on examination, like yours just did, are cargo-cult arguments. they resemble communicative dialogue in form alone. shool-yard taunts, on the other hand require a consistent and accurate match between form and intention to be effective. in terms of effort, this require more. if effort and outcome are measures of quality, then schoolyard taunts win hands down.

    ‘ad hominem’ is a formulation in terms of which the messenger is attacked, rather than the message, and this is wrongly taken to undermine the message. accusing someone else of resorting to ad hominem attack, rather than addressing their contentions, for example, is an ad hominem attack.

    better this, you say, than actually arguing about something. pehaps so.

    now have a good day. seriously. have a wonderful, lovely day.

  57. John: “However, the fact that Hugo Chavez made an ass of himself by calling the President of the United States the devil during a formal address of the UN does make it rather easier to dismiss the whole of his speech right out of hand, for entire classes of people”.

    This is an interesting perspective which differs from mine.

    From where I’m standing, Chavez came off looking like a strong, fearless leader willing to take a stand against american imperialism.

    Can you move beyond the theatrics and contemplate the possibility that his words are an accurate expression of the discontent of the developing world?

    If so, then perhaps you may begin to grasp the depth of the anger and hatred that many developing nations hold towards america. Perhaps then we will be able to have a meaningful dialogue between our “worlds” and achieve true safety and security for EVERYONE.

  58. Rick, most people involved with drugs and prostitution in the US aren’t “young blacks.” Sure, they also have the choice of getting a job flipping burgers for $6 an hour, or a low-end factory job for $8 an hour, or they could also make $300+ a day making/selling drugs or their bodies. Same choice as the Cubans, except maybe the Cubans don’t have the plentiful paper-hat jobs down there.

  59. Halo:

    “Can you move beyond the theatrics and contemplate the possibility that his words are an accurate expression of the discontent of the developing world?”

    I’m not arguing whether or not that is the case, Halo. I do think, however, that it’s unfortunate for the third world that at the moment its most public face is someone who (again, leaving out his own less-than-cheering authoritarian streak) makes rhetorical choices that make him (and thus, the third world) easy to dismiss.

  60. John, I agree his theatrics were over the top, but I think we dismiss him and his message at our own peril. This isn’t to say his comments are right or wrong, but that he is giving voice to a growing opposition to “American Interests.” As I pointed out earlier, he is also positioning his country’s policies to be detremental to the US. Where we go from here is way to complex to put in a blog post, but writing off Venezuala and his coalition is inviting disaster. Besides, I don’t think Canada can squeeze enough sand, or Mexico (there’s another country’s economic picture we could discuss, Rick) pump enough oil to make up for the loss. Besides, we have a whole industry tooled to use their flavor of oil.

  61. Halo,

    “If so, then perhaps you may begin to grasp the depth of the anger and hatred that many developing nations hold towards america.”

    This is apparently true, so I won’t belabor the point, but I am genuinely curious about something.

    If the developing world hates the U.S. so bitterly, why do they so readily accept our aid? Not just the foreign aid provided by our government, but the aid of individuals, such as donations to relief organizations, as well as the relief provided by the U.S. Armed Forces during times of natural disaster such as the Tsunami? Please understand I am not trying to be adversarial, but am genuinely interested in a non-U.S. point of view on this issue. I tend to think most people would understand the difference between American policies and American people, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.

  62. whoops, that Anonymous was me. I don’t know why the fields didn’t show up properly — they were there on my computer, I thought. Anyway, they’re there now.

    I still don’t feel like arguing: I said what I had to say.

    Lucy Kemnitzer (in case the auto sign in doesn’t work again)

  63. If the developing world hates the U.S. so bitterly, why do they so readily accept our aid?

    Oh, Lord.
    Are you suggesting that, if Indonesians really hated the US, they would have stood proudly on their wreckage-strewn beaches and shouted “To hell with your rice and field hospitals! We’d rather starve!”

    The rest of the world, among which I count myself, doesn’t hate the US per se, in the way that, for example, Arabs hate Israel. We don’t mind the US existing. A lot of us know Americans, and quite like some of them. We just dislike a lot of the stuff that your government does, and, to the extent that individual Americans support and enable their government to do this stuff, we dislike them too.

    Incidentally, as for Chavez, our host says he “makes rhetorical choices that make him (and thus, the third world) easy to dismiss” – easy for who to dismiss, exactly? His rhetorical choices may sound odd to Americans, but he’s not speaking exclusively to Americans – he’s speaking to the world, much of which may well be thinking “Hmm. Good point.”

  64. Ajay:

    “easy for who to dismiss, exactly?”

    Clearly, given the entry, I’m speaking of American conservatives in particular, and Americans generally. I’m quite aware people in places other than where I live will perceive it differently.

  65. I think Chavez’ theatrics may have been a totally accurate expression of the discontent of the developing world. I doubt, very much his speech was aimed at the Western ear (except with the knowledge he’d piss people off). The Global Village is a myth due to cultural biases (and I don’t mean that in a perjorative sense). At the risk of sounding simple, we think and act differently in different parts of the world.

    Watch Telemundo for 1/2 hour and see if you understand what the hell they’re doing (even if you speak the language).

    Or maybe a better example would be Yasir Arafat’s funeral. The Western world can’t fathom a people who considers it proper to storm the casket and fire machine guns into the air at a State Funeral.
    And Palestinians probably have no clue why we’d think a solemn march bestows any honor on the deceased.

    I’m just guessing with that last statement, but that’s my point. As and American, I’m just not capable of understanding some people’s cultural motivations and I’d imagine that they’re just as incapable of understanding mine.

  66. I don’t know how we got on Cuba, but the argument about whether or not Cuba is a decent place to live blows my mind.

    Cuba has been able to freely trade with everybody except the US since the 1960s. Despite this, the economic and political situation there is so dire that people are willing to brave 90 miles of open ocean to escape.

    They have to use a raft to escape because their country won’t let them leave. Isn’t not being allowed to leave part of the definition of prison?

    Although I don’t know if Chavez is imprisioning dissidents, Castro sure as hell is.

    Maybe I’m missing something, or just an uninformed American, but Cuba certainly seems like a nasty place to live.

  67. Ajay,

    “Are you suggesting that, if Indonesians really hated the US, they would have stood proudly on their wreckage-strewn beaches and shouted “To hell with your rice and field hospitals! We’d rather starve!” ”

    Certainly not – please do not read into my comments based on what you assume my motivation was for asking the question.

    My question surrounding the acceptance of aid by societies who (apparently) despise the giver was just that – a request for information. I wanted the non-U.S. perspective on the dichotomy between accepting U.S. Aid while simultaneously hating the U.S. If you don’t wish to provide the answer, then don’t.

  68. John, both Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu spoke out against the bush administration’s foreign policies toward developing nations, specifically those concerning the middle east and the war in Iraq. It is accepted that Mandela is an exceptional leader (probably the greatest human being of our lifetime) and a voice of the developing world.

    Yet his concerns regarding those foreign policies were dismissed and hardly received any media coverage at all.

    What do we have to do to engage you?

    Just as background: I am a South African. I am certain that you’re familiar with our atrocious history of apartheid and the subsequent healing of our nation through the now celebrated truth and reconciliation process. One of the lessons that we learnt during that process is that dialogue is key to achieving true lasting peace. Without dialogue, our country could have ended up as another Zimbabwe *shiver*.

    Today, South Africa is held up as an example as conflict resolution.

    Similar to the ease with which you may be tempted to dismiss Chavez’s speech, it would be too “easy” for me to dismiss any utterances stemming from the bush administration, by simply relying on:
    (a) The parade of lies and deception at the UN that became the ‘motivation for the invasion of Iraq’
    (b) Abu ghraib and other torture scandals,
    (c) The illegal imprisonment without trial and “rendering” of civilians of Islamic decent;
    (d) All the flouted legal principles of the Geneva convention and the declaration of human rights,
    but what would such dismissal achieve?

    Does it make you /me feel safer by NOT knowing that there is that anger and hatred? If we don’t acknowledge it, does it cease to exist?

    Or are you as curious as I am to understand the origin of that anger, because perhaps in understanding the origin we will understand the anger itself and it will similarly infuriate ALL OF US.

    We are not that different from you. We all bleed and mourn and celebrate and love and contemplate the meaning of divinity in this sometimes-godless existence.

  69. We don’t mind the US existing. A lot of us know Americans, and quite like some of them. We just dislike a lot of the stuff that your government does, and, to the extent that individual Americans support and enable their government to do this stuff, we dislike them too.

    Well, y’know Ajay, a lot of us Americans dislike a lot of stuff our government does. Bush received 50.7% of the popular vote in 2004. In 2000 Bush received 47.9% of the popular vote–fewer votes than his opponent, actually, but a quirk in our Constitution gave Bush more electoral votes, which is what matters. Bush’s approval ratings as I write this are (according to this article: http://tinyurl.com/f6fwj) less than 50% and that’s after a “rebound.”

    Notice something in those numbers? Right now, the United States of America is a fractious and divided country on a number of issues and specifically on matters concerning Mr. Bush, his agendas, policies and actions. We’re almost evenly divided, in fact.

    This is where we get into one of the problems with Mr. Chavez’s comments. See, there are a lot of us who tend to be sympathetic with the concerns expressed by Mr. Chavez, or with the ideals he has claimed to represent (even if he proves a poor example of those ideals in action). And we realize that Mr. Chavez’s comments weren’t really directed at an American audience. But when Mr. Chavez goes and makes an ass of himself–which he kinda did–it makes it easy for those in the other 49.9% to discredit the 49.9% of us who aren’t happy with Mr. Bush’s agends. Because when we say something similar to what Mr. Chavez says, our opponents can say, “Oh, next they’ll be saying they smell brimstone and Bush is the devil; they’re just quoting that nutter, Chavez.” And that makes it difficult for us to convince the fence-sitting .2% that we need to get a 50.1% majority to try to fix Mr. Bush’s messes. Now do you see the problem? Look at Jim’s quote from Keith Olberman, above: “Hugo, babe, all you’re doing is making Pat Robertson look like a genius.” When Pat Robertson starts sounding reasonable, the left has lost its way somewhere.

    In the end, Mr. Chavez might have made some of the same points and sounded like a statesman. Instead, he took a low road and probably made it harder for the American left than it already was.

  70. Halo,

    Make no mistake – many Americans have no difficulty understanding the anger you refer to in regards to the war in Iraq and the subsequent scandels. Read the previous strings on this blog, and you will see that there is indeed a big difference between American policies and American people.

  71. Interesting. If arguments were consistently discounted due to theatrics, much of what I read here would be consistently discounted. And yet, I find this page to be filled with cogent discussions of issues of impact. Do you agree?

    To John’s original point (assuming I understand him), if “conservatives” find it so difficult to look past theatrics and rhetorical ploys, then perhaps those of us who are not “conservative” need to suggest in the strongest terms that “conservatives” move past the emotions around the issues to the substance of the arguments.

    Some other questions – can we elevate this discussion to eliminate, or greatly reduce, labels such as conservative? Or, if we do label, can we clearly define what we mean with each label?

    Also, can we devise some strategies to engage people with Chavez’s ideas, especially those who dismiss Chavez due to his rhetorical ploys? Chomsky makes an interesting read, I have found. Can we get more Americans to read him, so as to understand a non-American viewpoint of American policies, and if so, how?

  72. Janiece, to a great extent, they DON’T hate “Americans”; they hate the current administration, and some policies that have persisted over several administrations. They appreciate the often considerable generosity of individual Americans and American NGOs.

    They don’t think that hating George Bush requires them to hate the Peace Corps worker teaching their kids how to read, or providing medical care, just to be “consistent.” Or the disaster relief workers pulling them out of the ruins of a collapsed building after an earthquake, or bringing in food after a flood has destroyed all the local crops, for that matter.

    You know that Turkey and Greece, not to mention the Turks and the Greeks, really, really hate each other, right? There’s centuries of bad blood, there. But when there was a major earthquake in Turkey, and the Greeks were able to get relief workers and equipment to the scene faster than the Turkish government, could, the Greeks sent the aide, the Turks accepted it, and nobody felt any urge to refuse the hands pulling them out of the rubble, just because the person attached to it spoke Greek.

    For that matter, after Katrina hit New Orleans, people who were apparently genuinely astonished to discover that New Englanders don’t have horns and tails, didn’t refuse help from New Englanders, and didn’t feel compelled to express continued hatred of the New Englanders helping them–no matter how they may have continued to feel about the New Englanders they hadn’t met yet.

    It might be that you’re not getting an answer you think is responsive because your question is, forgive me, just plain weird. Why do people in dire need of help accept aide coming from a source they ordinarily despise? Beause they’re in dire need of help, and they’re not insane.

  73. Today is a first for me. I actually agree with Congressman Rangel: foreigners should not come here and personally attack our President, whether popular or not. Here’s Rangel’s statement:

    CONG. RANGEL CONDEMNS CHAVEZ’S ATTACK ON BUSH
    WASHINGTON – I want to express my extreme displeasure with statements by the President of Venezuela attacking U.S. President George Bush in such a personal and disparaging way during his remarks at the United Nations General Assembly.

    It should be clear to all heads of government that criticism of Bush Administration policies, either domestic or foreign, does not entitle them to attack the President personally.

    George Bush is the President of the United States and represents the entire country. Any demeaning public attack against him is viewed by Republicans and Democrats, and all Americans, as an attack on all of us.

    I feel that I must speak out now since the Venezuelan government has been instrumental in providing oil at discounted prices to people in low income communities who have suffered increases in rent as heating oil prices have risen sharply. By offering this benefit to people in need, Venezuela has won many friends in poor communities of New York and other states. I am surprised that American oil companies have not stepped up to provide that kind of assistance to the poor.

    Venezuela’s generosity to the poor, however, should not be interpreted as license to attack President Bush. Those who take issue with Bush Administration policies have no right to attack him personally. It was not helpful when President Bush referred to certain nations as an “axis of evil.” Neither is it helpful for a head of state to use the sacred halls of the United Nations to insult President Bush.

  74. Lis,

    I’m definitely weird, and I’ll also have to admit the way I attempted to articulate my intent was misleading at best.

    I understand the reasons for accepting aid – clearly, when one is starving, homeless, or destitute, one does not screen the politics of the person who reaches out a helping hand. One accepts the help, and appreciates that the generosity of the human spirit allows people to see beyond borders and help those who need it. I have no issue with this, and in fact, am not qualified to have an opinion one way or another, never having found myself in that position.

    I think what I would really like to know is this: How does accepting American help (in whatever form), change their opinion of Americans in general, and our administration specifically? It’s not like the U.S. Armed Forces can go wherever they feel like – they have to be ordered. I’m no fan GWB and company, but the aid provided to Indonesia during the tsunami via the U.S. Armed Forces was a result of decisions made by our administration.

    While I agree that many non-Americans don’t hate us, I would say that a significant minority DO. I have been exposed to this personally, and am interested to know why…not as a study in the analysis of a “mob,” but from specific individuals, who can share their thoughts and experiences.

    Does that make my intent more clear?

  75. TB84, Unlike Rangel, I think most Americans understand the difference between a rhetorical personal attack against the President and a slight against all of the US. Mr. Bush, after all, is Mr. President, not “Our Glorious Leader.” Or did I miss a memo?

  76. Steve: yes, you missed the memo–it’s on Alberto Gonzales’ desk next to the stack of wiretap warrants.

    TB84: but seriously, the whole point of freedom of expression is that people can express diverse viewpoints so that all citizens can nod their heads or puppy-pile the speaker (metaphorically, of course). That freedom of speech extends to visitors, and not just visitors with something nice to say.

    One of the problems that I have with the current political climate is that there are people who will say that critical speech–personal or not–about our leaders is supposed to be construed as an assault on all of us. I may think that personal attacks upon a President are inappropriate or miss the point–for instance, I thought personal attacks against President Clinton’s sexual mores were irrelevant compared to criticisms of his retreat from policy issues like gay rights or national healthcare–but I don’t take those attacks personally or as an attack against me as an American.

    Honestly, I take Congressman Rangel’s comments as more of an attack on my American values than Mr. Chavez’s speech. Mr. Chavez said some things I snickered at, waved aside, or rolled my eyes over; Congressman Rangel’s comments suggest that foreign visitors ought to be silenced lest Americans be seduced from doublegoodthoughts about Our Leader.

  77. I don’t understand this post. Why would conservatives care about this one way or the other? If anything, it puts one of their favorite whipping boys in the company of a raving lunatic who just finished spouting off about the smell of sulfur. If any heads were going to explode, I’d think it would be Chomsky’s and his acolytes’.

  78. TB84, when we offered to host the UN, we offered to have people insult us on our soil. And that’s even if we didn’t have freedom of speech within our country, which we do, as pointed out above.

  79. I suspect Rep. Rangel understands Chavez has the right and ability to personally attack President Bush in a verbal way; I suspect he wishes that Chavez had had the tact not to do it.

  80. I think Rep. Rangel is tapping into his constituency’s rage about the UN traffic, parking tickets, and other misdeeds within NYC. Chavez is starting to look like a good target to focus that anger. I don’t think NYC benefited from the oil deal last year, although upstate did.

  81. Chavez was in the Bronx yesterday afternoon touting this year’s oil deal. NY shared in it a little last year, but I understand he’s providing discounted oil to something like 7000 homes in NY this year.

  82. To understand the relative merits of various countries all you have to do is look at how people vote – with their feet. I keep seeing articles about how much the rest of the world hates the U.S. juxtaposed with articles about how people are willing to do anything to get here. I think way people do is more significant than what they say.

  83. rick mcginnis:

    If it’s so trenchant to criticize the U.S. for its huge military budget, and wishing that the money spent on one jet fighter could fund inner city school programs for a decade, or something like that, then why can’t Castro act as an example, and spend some of his military budget on rural welfare (Cuba’s countryside is in worse shape than the cities), or on creating jobs for the jineteras and jineteros?

    Perhaps it’s because Cuba can’t; I don’t know, but I’d guess that they have far less wiggle room in their economy. However, it’s as clear as day that the U.S. can do those things by rerouting some of its military budget, and won’t. Most likely can’t (Castro) vs. definitely won’t (Bush)–I know which situation irks me more.

    As far as Rangel’s rebuke of Chavez for saying nasty words about Bush, I find it kind of piteous that a Democrat congressman will leap to the defense of a Republican president when the latter knows damned well that the reverse (R. cong. defending a D. pres.) will never happen.

  84. I think, Locomotive Breath, that the apparent contradiction you cited has already been resolved upthread. See above comment regarding rice and field hospitals.

    If someone risks life and limb to come to the US, it does speak to the issue of relative quality of life here versus there. But it doesn’t invalidate their criticisms of US policy, one of which may well be that US policy is what made their previous residence unlivable.

    Accepting aid does not oblige you to silence on the misdeeds of the country offering aid, nor does giving aid somehow wipe the giver’s slate clean. We live in a 3D world, after all.

  85. Kudos to Janiece and Locomotive Breath — in fact, the focus of their posts was going to be the next chapter in my above rant, but I felt I’d already rambled enough.
    You folks from elsewhere can act obtuse and pretend you don’t understand the point Janiece is (politely) trying to make all you like. I won’t be polite, so as to clear up the lack of understanding:
    The mud-hutters of the world love to hate America and Americans, but not enough to stop spending free American cash, and eating free American grain. You hypocrites can’t have it both ways. Until you prove that you can produce something other than strife — NO, you aren’t entitled to an opinion about my country, its leaders, or much else for that matter.
    Does that make me an arrogant American pig? Outstanding. I’ll gladly accept that title, as I go off to work 50+ hours a week, so I can make my own life better. You take the day off and go protest something… the foreign aid check is in the mail.
    Frankly, I can’t stand the third worlders spending so much time hating us and plotting our downfall, when they should be putting that energy toward making their own cholera-ridden dumps into actual, productive nations in the global community. When I see angry mobs gathered in the muddy unpaved streets somewhere abroad, demonstrating their hatred of the US — all I can think is, “Why aren’t those people at WORK??”

  86. Thanks for the back story all of you; Scalzi had you intended to run an oracle here?

    I think I would be a little out of sorts if GW supported a coup that tried to oust me. On the other hand usually you have to be a bit of an asshole for the US to support that; though maybe GW decided to get rid of him because Chavez’s didn’t vote Republican. The act at the UN was theater for his home audience, they need passion those Latin’s hey have such hot blood…oops channeling the governator there, sorry.

    Relative to Cuba, Fidel certain has reasons not to like the US, but time is supposed to heal all wounds. I had expected some sort of reconciliation after Germany gave up, though south Florida might have erupted. The only definitive thing I can add is that an old girlfriend of my brother’s spent a couple of years in prison in Cuba for being a lesbian (she was bi, focus people stop thinking of Cuban lesbian prison movies). She has the scars to prove it, both physical and mental.

    That my bit.

  87. Does that make me an arrogant American pig? Outstanding. I’ll gladly accept that title, as I go off to work 50+ hours a week, so I can make my own life better.

    Really? The last I recall, the average length of the workweek according to the BLS was around 33 hours. So much for hyperbole, a la Chavez!

    You take the day off and go protest something… the foreign aid check is in the mail.

    What foreign aid? you must be speaking of all those F-16s and cluster bombs to Israel? or are you referring to all those Harvard free marketeer carpetbaggers that plundered state assets in Russia?

    and, by the way, how about prying all that subsidized heating oil back from the poor new-englanders and sending it back to Venezuela, if you have any shame ….

  88. Actually Clearmoon, I think I need to respond to you seriously.

    Moses Maimonodes, (12th century Jewish philosoper) envisioned a ladder of charity with 8 rungs denoting which type of charity was more worthy. In Hebrew, the word for charity is Tzedaka (a more literal translation is justice).

    At any rate, the lowest level of charity is to give grudgingly and less than you are able to give. The highest is to give in a way that makes the recipient self-sufficient. (That whole “teach a man to fish, thing.)

    In the middle there are levels where you give anonymously, so that the recipient isn’t forced to feel beholden to you, levels where you give blindly, not knowing where your largess will be recieved, etc.

    So, anyway, the U.S. pitches in all over the world. We do so in a variety of ways, some less cynical than others. Some truly saintly. But, those big bags of rice still have USA printed all over them. Fine. Maybe we WILL win some hearts and minds. But you don’t save a fucking village for the SOLE PURPOSE of hearts and minds. You do it because the people are starving and you have the ability and wherewithal to do something about it.

    So yeah, they hate us and they eat our rice and sleep in our tents and sleeping bags and everything else we send.

    And that’s fine by me BECAUSE WE CAN.

    None of that excuses us from finding out WHY they hate us. If its because we’ve genuinely done something to deserve their hate, maybe we should look into, like, yaknow, maybe working on it.

    And if they hate us because “the hate freedom” (I’m sick of that phrase), or maybe they really are pure evil, well in that case, by all means, FUCK’EM.

    –I feel better now–

  89. The mud-hutters of the world love to hate America and Americans, but not enough to stop spending free American cash, and eating free American grain.

    Americans love to talk about spreading ‘American’ values such as free speech, but not enough to stop getting pissy when people take them up on it.

    It’s fascinating how ‘I disagree with what you say, but defend to the death your right to say it’ stops at the border. And perhaps Rangel is just talking to his constituents, but I also think it’s indicative of something deeper — the ‘how dare those filthy foreigners…’ chauvinism that’s a bedrock exceptionalist belief.

  90. …. then dissolving the UN and sending them home in their Armani suits to deliver the good news to their then-even-more-starving constituents living in the mud huts.

    Right on, brother, right on …. good luck with the wrecking ball; I hear that Mr. Trump has his eyes on the site, so maybe he can build a casino …. or something in its place.

    But you know what, your government will never really stand for the dissolution of the UN; not in a hundred years! Because the UN is really nothing but a tool of cynical self-dealing for the US and the other four permanent members of the security council.

    As for us, we don’t need no stinkin’ UN and we don’t need no Doha; we will do fine without it as long as you all just stop lining the pockets of your fat cotton growers with taxpayer subsidies.

    But wait a minute …. where will you dump all your disgraced neocon war criminals if you banish the UN and the World bank?

  91. Doesn’t everyone know the best way to ruin a friendship is to give your friend money? Do people really not understand why the poor can be envious and critical of the rich while accepting aid from the rich?

    I’m getting real tired of the argument that goes something like “how can the world hate the US while people still want to immigrate?”

    The fact that some people want to come to the US shows that the US is doing something right and there are some hellholes in the rest of the world. It doesn;t mean that the US is perfect. Sheesh.

  92. “Frankly, I can’t stand the third worlders spending so much time hating us and plotting our downfall, when they should be putting that energy toward making their own cholera-ridden dumps into actual, productive nations in the global community. When I see angry mobs gathered in the muddy unpaved streets somewhere abroad, demonstrating their hatred of the US — all I can think is, “Why aren’t those people at WORK??””

    Janiece – might this answer your question as to why it is that other countries might have difficulties with America?

    Frankly, I find this insulting, offensive and ignorant. Historically, Africa has been exploited by the West to the point where it is close to impossible to pull ourselves out by an old fashioned dose of work ethics, and the exploitation continues to this day, with trade protections in America making it impossible for us to compete on an equal footing. Economics are not my speciality, but I do know that much – I doubt that the majority of the American people are aware of how their foreign policies are designed to perpetuate the economic dependency of poorer nations.

    For instance, did you know that while the right to abortion is a given within America since Roe vs Wade, American funding is denied to any HIV organisations that support abortion as part of a woman’s right to have dominion over her own body?

  93. What’s a mud-hutter? Is it an insult or a description? Would one call New Yorkers the penthousers of the world?

  94. I do believe the operative question here is “why they hate us.” I believe Fareed Zacharia wrote a very good essay on this subject for Newsweek as it relates to the Muslim world, however, I can’t find an on-line copy.

    I also have to say that charity for charity’s sake is a worthwhile endeavor. Helping people because they need it is a GOOD THING. I agree with Nathan – giving for its own sake makes you a better person (or a better country), not to mention all that shiny good karma.

    My interest lies in how those two things are reconciled by non-Americans. I do NOT believe that accepting American aid obligates the recipient to change their opinion about American policies, I simply wish to know the effect such aid has on their opinions (if any).

  95. Hippolyta,

    I cannot speak for the “majority” of Americans, only myself. And I did know about the things you mention in your post – the exploitation of African natural resources (oil, anyone? diamonds?) as well as the refusal of our government to fund health organizations that offer abortion services. I don’t approve of this gag rule in the foreign aid appropriations bill, but then, there’s a lot of crap my government does that I don’t approve of. I suspect that makes me just like every other human being in the world.

  96. John League | September 20, 2006 10:22 PM

    Hasn’t Chavez jailed members of the opposition party (when such a thing existed in Venezuela) simply for being the opposition? If he’s not a bad leader it’s only because he’s a fabulous dictator.

    The government of Venezuela (not Chavez personally) did arrest some candidates from an opposition party (there aren’t just two parties) because they had accepted campaign money from the United States. Campaigning with money from a foreign government is illegal in Venezuela, as it is in the United States.

  97. Have to pitch in here. First, every nation, body, or being in power looks after its own interests; such is the natural state of things. Please, I beg of someone to name ONE country that would *behave* better than the US if put in the same position of power.

    Second, Cuba is a mess. Forget about the lack of food, prostitutes, etc. Cuban citizens are not given the same rights as tourists. They cannot buy cell phones (unless expressly authorized by whatever command deems them worthy). They cannot buy many of the products, including food products, available to tourists and made/grown in Cuba. Also, they are paid in Cuban coin, which is pretty much worthless, since everything *good* is sold for dollars.

    That Castro has to lock up his citizens pretty much says it all. What sort of paradise can it be when he must prevent his own people from leaving? I say he should throw down the walls and, then, when only his *favorites* remain, tell us all how *happy* Cuban citizens are.

    Finally, there is Venezuela. Yes, there was poverty before Chavez. But has it decreased? Venezuela is much worse off than before. MUCH worse. Venezuelans knew this, which is why they would have voted Chavez off in the last elections. If Chavez had not changed the Venezuelan constitution AND rigged the elections, that is. The man is an idiot. Hurting the wealthy does not equate betterment of the the poor; it simply creates more misery (aside from other things). A typical case of communist logic: I am poor and you are not, so it is right that you be as miserable as me. The man should read up on his utilitarianism…

    That’s not all, but I’ll stop there…

  98. Ana- “First, every nation, body, or being in power looks after its own interests; such is the natural state of things.”

    ARE WE REALLY ACTING IN “OUR OWN INTERESTS”?

    For sake of discussion, I assume that the word ‘interests’ refers to the best interests.

    When you consider the way we interact with each other (and the planet!), can you say that we (individually and collectively) are protecting our own/best interests?

    On an animal/ instinct level: “our own interests” are essentially concerned with SURVIVAL. If we step back and observe our interaction with the planet, we would be insane or incredibly short-sighted to conclude that that interaction is in furtherance of our best interests.

    The fact that the “developed” world displays an apparent unquenchable thirst for oil and energy is not “your problem” because it affects everyone. Therein rests our COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY for catastrophes such as the Indo tsunami and Katrina. That human suffering affects all of us.

    Similarly, the way we deal with each other as human beings is destructive to our best/own interests.

    To illustrate:The New york times recently reported that 17,107 Indian farmers- fuelled by debt and shame- committed suicide in 2003 (the most recent year for which gov figures are available). Washington gives $18 billion annual subsidies (to American farmers) which have helped drive down the price of cotton for Indian farmers. At the same time american multinational corps market expensive GM seeds in rural India- which the nytimes described as ‘a vast and alluring market, bringing new opportunities but also new risks as Indian farmers pile up debt’.

    My first thought when reading that report: “how the hell did we create an environment that offered the indian farmer (and his family) no other option but suicide?”.

    ON A HUMAN LEVEL- as you read that, does it matter whether you are the American farmer, the Indian farmer or even whether you are a farmer at all?

    Surely, as an evolved civilization espousing values of human rights, dignity and democracy- we must empathise with all human beings finding themselves in those circumstances. Surely, our empathy exists irrespective of external concerns of nationality race gender etc.

    Do we dare consider our collective responsibility for these policy driven “tsunamis”?

  99. Ana T. Zablah:

    “Finally, there is Venezuela. Yes, there was poverty before Chavez. But has it decreased? Venezuela is much worse off than before. MUCH worse. Venezuelans knew this, which is why they would have voted Chavez off in the last elections. If Chavez had not changed the Venezuelan constitution AND rigged the elections, that is. The man is an idiot. Hurting the wealthy does not equate betterment of the the poor; it simply creates more misery (aside from other things).

    You’re an outright liar.

    This from the Guardian (December 2005)…

    “The people of Venezuela have gone to the polls 11 times in seven years. Almost a superfluity of democracy, some might think, and signs of electoral fatigue could be detected in Sunday’s elections for the National Assembly when only 30% of the electorate bothered to vote. The rest perceived the result as a foregone conclusion since in earlier elections President Hugo Chávez, or the candidates he backed, had stacked up substantial majorities. Sunday’s poll followed the trend, and the Chávez list wiped the board.

    This time, however, the once vocal opposition was strangely absent. Four of the small opposition parties decided to withdraw at the last minute, in a cynical manoeuvre designed to upset the hard-won stability achieved since the recall referendum in August 2004 (engineered by the opposition to try to secure the president’s resignation). Handsomely won by Chávez with a margin of 59 to 41, the referendum was certified as free and fair by observers from the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Carter Centre, but some of the opposition parties refused to accept the result. Their rejection did little to enhance their authority or popularity and when they withdrew from Sunday’s poll they knew that they faced defeat and humiliation.

    Their action irritated the mission sent by the OAS which believed it had negotiated a settlement over opposition complaints about the new automated voting system. The opposition then turned turtle and announced its withdrawal. It was not acting alone. In the background, at private meetings on the island of Aruba in the Dutch Antilles and in public declarations by Thomas Shannon, the US secretary of state for Latin American affairs, the opposition had been elaborating a strategy to overthrow Chávez. Its plan was to make people believe that “democracy in Venezuela is in grave peril”, as Shannon put it to a Washington subcommittee two weeks ago.

    It is indeed in peril, threatened by a tiny ragbag of opposition groups given disproportionate international influence through the support of the US. By their irresponsible electoral abstention, they hoped to undermine the credibility of the parliamentary system.

    The US-backed strategy is to use apparently neutral non-governmental organisations to tell the world that the elections are not free and fair, that press freedom is under threat, and that human rights are not respected. These allegations are then exaggerated and amplified in Washington.

    The complaints are nonsense. The opposition still owns most of the newspapers and television stations. The judiciary has been comprehensively reformed after the scandals of the previous decade when half the judges were found to be corrupt or incompetent. Elections have been endlessly vetted and human rights have been extended to the great mass of the people.”

    There’s more. Read it here. That covers electoral malfeasance. You can review human rights and press freedom here.

    Let’s go over to ‘people being worse off’, shall we? This (below) is from the Center for Econmic Policy Research (http://cepr.net/)…

    “Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is perhaps the most controversial “populist,” but he will almost certainly sweep to yet another electoral victory this fall. The reason? He kept his promise to share the nation’s oil wealth with the poor, who now have free health care, subsidized food, and increased access to education. After surviving a 2002 military coup supported by the United States, and a devastating oil strike by the opposition, the economy has boomed since political stability returned to the country – growing 28 percent in the last two years.”

    This next excerpt is from that bastion of communist insurgence, the Boston Globe (June 22nd, 2005)…

    “By the time Lennar Acosta was introduced to classical music at age 15, he had been arrested nine times for armed robbery and drug offenses. A year into the youth’s sentence at a state home, a music teacher came to offer the delinquent, abused, and abandoned children there free instruments, instruction, and an opening to a new life.

    ”Before, nobody trusted me, everyone was afraid of me. I was a discarded kid. The teacher was the first person who understood me and had confidence in me,” said Acosta, now 23. Bearing scars on his face from knife attacks during a childhood on the streets, he now knows Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Mahler pieces by heart, and long ago cut ties with the criminal gang that raised him.

    One of nearly 400,000 children who have passed through Venezuela’s state-funded classical music program since it was founded 30 years ago, Acosta says he owes his life to its caring, dedicated teachers — most of whom are graduates of the program. Today, he plays in the Caracas Youth Orchestra, studies at the national Simón Bolívar Conservatory, and is paid to teach younger clarinetists. He’s even mentoring two young men released from his former state home, who are living with him until they get on their feet.”

    The state-run music programme significantly predates Chavez, by the way – he just poured money into it and has extended it across the country.

    You’re welcome to go here, here and here for detailed poverty statistics, compiled from actual sources, a recent innovation in statistical data analysis.

  100. [i]Also, they are paid in Cuban coin, which is pretty much worthless, since everything *good* is sold for dollars.
    [/i]

    This, too, is incorrect. I was just in Cuba in January of this year. Dollars (American, I am assuming you meant) are illegal and strictly controlled. You can’t even exchange American money, or use an American credit card. They use the Cuban converted peso, which was at the time worth more than an American dollar. Canadian dollars were welcome, however, and easily exchanged.

    I spent most of my week there chatting with a Cuban named Tico, who had spent 4 years working in Italy. He is a self-described “Socialist”, not a communist, and no great fan of Castro. He admits that Cuba has huge problems, but that they are also a proud people who work hard and love their country. He also freely stated that the embargo is a big problem for them, but certainly not the catch-all complaint that some Cubans call it.

    He is not under threat or in jail, and actually is quite wealthy by Cuban standards, despite his outspoken-ness against Castro and the regime.

    It is a beautiful country, with wonderful people, and I will be returning, frequently.

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