Good electricity news from Iraq

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Surely Baghdad’s electricity supply couldn’t get worse than shown in the graph on the right?

Alas, it seems it can:

Iraq’s power grid is on the brink of collapse because of insurgent sabotage, rising demand, fuel shortages and provinces that are unplugging local power stations from the national grid, officials said Saturday.

Electricity Ministry spokesman Aziz al-Shimari said power generation nationally is only meeting half the demand, and there had been four nationwide blackouts over the past two days. The shortages across the country are the worst since the summer of 2003, shortly after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, he said.

Power supplies in Baghdad have been sporadic all summer and now are down to just a few hours a day, if that. The water supply in the capital has also been severely curtailed by power blackouts and cuts that have affected pumping and filtration stations. …


“Many southern provinces such as Basra, Diwaniyah, Nassiriyah, Babil have disconnected their power plants from the national grid. Northern provinces, including Kurdistan, are doing the same,” al-Shimari said. “We have absolutely no control over some areas in the south,” he added.

“The national grid will collapse if the provinces do not abide by rules regarding their share of electricity. Everybody will lose and there will be no electricity winner,” al-Shimari said. …

Compounding the problem, al-Shimari said there are 17 high-tension lines running into Baghdad but only two were operational. The rest had been sabotaged.

Now this might seem like bad news, but if you are a warblogger, it’s good news. Rob Port:

Rising demand. That’s important. People in Iraq are demanding more power. And what’s that indicative of?

A growing economy. Which goes hand in hand with what we’re hearing about the surge. More areas of Iraq are secure. Businesses are re-opening. People are going about their business, and what does business need? Power.

Actually the increase in demand is mainly because people can buy air conditioners now, but they couldn’t before the war because of the economic sanctions.

Comments

  1. #1 Ron F
    August 5, 2007

    The water supply in the capital has also been severely curtailed

    You betcha –

    Water Taps Run Dry in Baghdad AP

    “Much of the Iraqi capital was without running water Thursday and had been for at least 24 hours, … Residents and city officials said large sections in the west of the capital had been virtually dry for six days”.

    It’s a story – actually a king-hell catastrophe – that the BBC and other UK broadcasters seem reluctant to report. I’m guessing it’s the same in Oz.

  2. #2 ben
    August 5, 2007

    Nice job those insurgents are doing, eh? Way to make everyone as miserable as possible.

  3. #3 dhogaza
    August 5, 2007

    Nice job those insurgents are doing, eh? Way to make everyone as miserable as possible.

    For once you’ve said something true.

    I’m a bit blown away.

    Of course, I’m sure you’re still unwilling to admit that the correlation between our inept post-invasion planning and the rise of insurgency doesn’t imply causation.

  4. #4 Rob
    August 6, 2007

    Actually the increase in demand is mainly because people can buy air conditioners now, but they couldn’t before the war because of the economic sanctions.

    Cripes, you say that like it’s a bad thing. But your rather shallow analysis does nothing to suggest that increased demand for power in Iraq isn’t because of a growing economy.

    Rather telling. I thought “science” was supposed to be objective, not a bunch out pouty partisans making jabs at people.

  5. #5 Jacques Chester
    August 6, 2007

    Tim;

    I wonder if you’re familiar with this mob, who are a Pentagon study group researching space-based solar power. The study leader appeared in an interview saying that every gallon of fuel at the end of the logistics process is costing US$500-800, most of which is due to security costs.

    His group are looking at SSP, amongst other things, to allow power to be quickly restored in situations like Iraq or New Orleans post-Katrina.

  6. #6 Tim Lambert
    August 6, 2007

    No Rob, I don’t say that more air conditioners is a bad thing. Air conditioning in Iraq in summer is a very good thing. But air conditioners don’t work without electricity. See the graph at the top of this post.

    You argued that the news was good because increase demand was because of a growing economy, but increased demand does not show that the economy is growing. I don’t have to prove that the economy isn’t growing — you made the claim, it is up to you to provide real evidence for it.

  7. #8 Ron F
    August 6, 2007

    Robert – we can add the 190,000 missing AK-47′s to the “thousands, possibly millions” of tons of ordnance looted from Saddam Hussein’s weapons dumps because no-one bothered to secure them after Baghdad fell. (I’m talking to you Mr Rumsfeld).

    That’s from a U.S. GAO report (pdf) which has been studiously ignored in the media and which, inconveniently, raises the question as to why anyone would need to get weapons from Iran when the U.S. handed the insurgents several decades worth of supplies.

    Or perhaps the press are all communists who don’t want to report the stunning success of the insurgents free-market economy in things that go “bang”.

  8. #9 Jeff Harvey
    August 6, 2007

    Ben,

    I like how you use this information to suggest that the insurgents arer responsible for the complete and utter disaster that is occurring in Iraq. According to international law, the occupiers have the responsibility to provide security, but themselves have no rights. But since security does not seem to be a priority (heck, given that the Iraq population will want the occupiers to leave the country completely sooner if things become stable, a scenario which US planners have no intention of supporting), it appears that the Bush regime doesn’t seem to be too disturbed as things stand. Cheney even suggested that the US would be happy to invoke the ‘Salvador option’ for Iraq, meaning that the US should promote the kind of political system now found in El Salvador for Iraq. That would entail the murder of political opponents, a race to the bottom as far as regulations are concerned, with attendant poverty and deprivation for most of the population. Look at the current levels of poverty in El Salvador, the enormous disparity in wealth between the haves and have-nots, illiteracy rates etc., and one can only wonder how the US vice-president can believe that this would be a model system for Iraq. But its really quite simple: as former Reagan planner Thomas Carrothers has stated, the US has historically shown a ‘strong line of continuity’ in its foreign policy, only supporting democracy when it is line ‘with US economic and political interests’. When it isn’t, it has been ‘downplayed and ignored’.

    You appear to be one of those who will blame anyone and everyone – except the real culprits, your own government – for creating the stinking hell hole that represents contemporary Iraq.

  9. #10 Boris
    August 6, 2007

    I like how Rob latched on the “rising demand” part. Let’s see what he missed:

    “brink of collapse” — Not good.

    “insurgent sabotage” — Not good.

    “provinces that are unplugging local power stations from the national grid” — Not good for Baghdad.

    “The water supply in the capital has also been severely curtailed” –Not good.

    “there are 17 high-tension lines running into Baghdad but only two were operational.” — Not good.

    “there had been four nationwide blackouts over the past two days.” — Not good.

    But I’m glad that Rob seized on (and bolded!!!) the two words that can be spun into some kind of positive. Yay!

    I’m not sure how he thinks the ecomony can grow without electricity or water. I’m sure he’s thought it all out quite thoroughly, however.

  10. #11 ben
    August 6, 2007

    Yes, the US government is partly to blame for what is happening in Iraq, since they did invade, after all. However, it is not particularly helpful. I see that most of the folks finding blame in the “Bush Administration” are not finding any with Saddam, nor with the Insurgents, as if the latter were similar to a herd of moose in a valley, who are simple automatons and not responsible for their state of being.

    Jeff, I’m sure you would prefer the Hugo Chavez form of government, where the leader refuses to stand for re-election, and suppresses dissenting points of view.

    Whatever the case, you offer no solutions, only blame. How about you tell us what you think should be done to make the lives of Iraqi’s better?

  11. #12 Ian Gould
    August 6, 2007

    “Nice job those insurgents are doing, eh?”

    Yeah, what’s really impressive though is how they managed to force the UN to impose 10 years of sanctions; forced the US to target power stations during the invasion and then to screw the repairs and then got the Iraqi government to embezzle most of the repair and maintenance budget.

  12. #13 Ian Gould
    August 6, 2007

    “Jeff, I’m sure you would prefer the Hugo Chavez form of government, where the leader refuses to stand for re-election, and suppresses dissenting points of view.”

    Chavez has not refused to stand for re-election.

    “I see that most of the folks finding blame in the “Bush Administration” are not finding any with Saddam, nor with the Insurgents, as if the latter were similar to a herd of moose in a valley, who are simple automatons and not responsible for their state of being.”

    It’s the midde of smmer Ben. The insurgents generally lie low for a few month when the temperature gets up into the 110′s and 120′s.

    It happens every year and every year it prompts claims of “victory” or at least progress.

    This year has been no exception without insurgent attack down for the past coupe of months.

    If the electricity situation gets worse while insurgent activity declines it’s kind of hard to see a direct causal relationship.

    You also seem to still believe there’s such a thing as “the insurgency”, a single structured military organisation. There isn’t. What you have are dozens of different groups with their on agendas, most of them based on clans or tribes.

    Many of those tribes have little or no loyalty to the idea of an Iraqi state so their actions in attacking the power grid in order to extort protection money from the central governent are quite predictable.

  13. #14 Ian Gould
    August 6, 2007

    “without insurgent attack down for the past coupe of months.”

    Should have read:

    “WITH insurgent attacks down for the past couple of months”

  14. #15 sod
    August 6, 2007

    Cripes, you say that like it’s a bad thing. But your rather shallow analysis does nothing to suggest that increased demand for power in Iraq isn’t because of a growing economy.

    Rob, you re trying to tell us, that there is a “growing economy” in Iraq, running WITHOUT electricity?

  15. #16 ben
    August 6, 2007

    “Chavez has not refused to stand for re-election.”

    Only in the same sense that Castro stands for re-election. Lame.

    “If the electricity situation gets worse while insurgent activity declines it’s kind of hard to see a direct causal relationship.”

    Um, like, maybe it’s ’cause everyone knows the “insurgents” will be back to destroy everything that’s been done. What’s the point? The place needs long-term stability before anything will improve.

  16. #17 Ian Gould
    August 6, 2007

    “Only in the same sense that Castro stands for re-election. Lame.”

    So you know something that the international monitors who found his re-election wins (both of them) were the result of fair and open elections don’t?

  17. #18 SG
    August 7, 2007

    Ben, it is the height of arrogance to demand people who have opposed every step of the process in the destruction of iraq give “constructive solutions”. Here`s a constructive solution: the people who fucked iraq up from the day they discovered it on the map can come up with a solution and implement it, and if they don`t they get tried and executed as war criminals. I predicted everything that has happened in Iraq before the invasion started. If our supposed leaders couldn`t, well that just means they have to work harder to fix it now. The same goes for any stupid blog commenters who think their complete failure to understand the situation then or now is ample qualification to tell me that I should come up with a solution to a problem I advised against.

  18. #19 ben
    August 7, 2007

    “So you know something that the international monitors who found his re-election wins (both of them) were the result of fair and open elections don’t?”

    Like, are you talking about Jimmy Carter and his ilk, among others. Real trustworthy folks in that group.

    “I predicted everything that has happened in Iraq before the invasion started…. is ample qualification to tell me that I should come up with a solution to a problem I advised against.”

    Your 100% track record seems to indicate you know something the rest of us don’t. I did not tell you to come up with a solution, but I would ask that if you have any ideas, please spill the beans.

  19. #20 SG
    August 7, 2007

    Yeah Ben, the thing I know that “the rest of us” (that is, the piss-poor minority of idiots who supported the invasion) don`t, is how to tell when a politician is lying. 80% of my countrymen agreed with me on that. Also a little tip Ben: you don`t have to be a genius to work out that bombing people to make them free doesn`t actually make them love you. “The rest of us” might believe that this is a point of ideology for us anti-war types but it may surprise you to know it`s a common trait of people the world over, easily explained and shown in repeated historical examples.

    I suppose it is this inability to learn from history, and the obvious facts staring in the face, which makes you a libertarian, right Ben? And further, your inability to tell when a politician you like is lying is what makes you (in the words of someone on another thread) a “useful idiot”.

  20. #21 Jeff Harvey
    August 7, 2007

    So much for Ben’s statement about democracy suppression in Venezuela: http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=2179

    Moreover, where is your evidence for democracy suppression? Where’s your condemnation of the Reagan administration for supporting mass killers – like Rios Montt – who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of civilians across central America during the 1980′s, a decade Chlamers Johnson referred to as the ‘worst for Latin America since the Spanish Inquisition’? The CIA advised the militias battling independent nationalism to ‘go primitive’ in their methods, and that is exactly what they did. It was pretty horrific stuff, if you bother to read about it. Chavez’s problem in the eyes of the US political and corporate establishment is that he is not fulfilling his service function to US investors – hence his constant demonization in the US media.

    Finally, the ‘coalition of the bullied, bribed and co-erced’, led by the Bush regime, did not invade Iraq via shock and awe using Daisy Cutter BLU 82′s, Cluster Bomb BLU 26′s, and Depleted Uranium out of any altruistic intent, in spite of what the corporate media over there tells you. When the US State Department said some 60 years ago that the mid-east region was ‘one of the greatest material prizes in history’, and a source of ‘stupendous strategic power’, they were more than hinting at the truth. When senior planners like Kennan and Brezinski said that any country controlling the region had ‘veto power’ and ‘critical leverage’ over the global economy, they were emphasizing the state department’s view. So, Ben, let’s dispense with this pedantic idea that the invaders were motivated by anything other than control over the world’s most important energy producing region.

  21. #22 Dano
    August 7, 2007

    I did not tell you to come up with a solution, but I would ask that if you have any ideas, please spill the beans.

    We came up with a solution before the problem even started: no blood for war.

    That’s right: Don’t sh-t the bed, because we don’t want to lie in sh-t.

    Now the losers, dead-enders and those who are feeling guilty for the wargasm they wanted treat the solution-givers like idiots because we don’t know how to unsh-t the bed nor do we trust this clown show administration to get anything right. Well, f— you for neither cleaning the sheets nor letting us find a maid for your stateside, non-serving, scared of your shadow *sses.

    Best,

    D

  22. #23 Ian Gould
    August 7, 2007

    “Like, are you talking about Jimmy Carter and his ilk, among others. Real trustworthy folks in that group.”

    Like, sure they monitor elections all over the world and risk their lives by denouncing vote-rigging but FoxNews tells me Chavez is a dictator and that’s all the proof I need.

    Like I WANT the US to be mired in a re-run of Iraq in Venezuela ten years down the track so I’ll happy by any crap I’m fed.

    My distaste for Chavez is probably as intense as yours. But it doesn’t lead me to ignore the unpleasant fact he has the support of the majority of the Venezuelan population.

  23. #24 Ian Gould
    August 7, 2007

    “But your rather shallow analysis does nothing to suggest that increased demand for power in Iraq isn’t because of a growing economy.”

    Well let’s see:

    http://www3.brookings.edu/fp/saban/iraq/index.pdf

    Oil production is down around 10% on this time last year in volume terms. Supplies of oil, diesel and kerosene are down around 10-15% over the same period.

    Electricity output is also down around 4% from last year.

    Unemployment hasn’t decreased in the past year.

    There’s no new aid money for reconstruction and 90% of the money committed has already been spent.

    Yep, sounds like an economic boom to me.

  24. #25 Jeff Harvey
    August 7, 2007

    Ian, why have you such a distaste for what Chavez has done and is doing in Venezuela? What about the US-supported militas and right wing regimes in the region – including Alvaro Uribe’s in Colombia – with some of the worst human rights records on Earth?

    Have you read Niklos Kozloff’s book on Chavez, or Forrest Hylton’s book on Colombia’s troubled history? They are highly informed accounts of the differences between a leader embracing Bolivarian values (democracy from the ‘bottom-up’) and another who has institutionalized the paramilitaries, leading to return of ‘La Violenzia’. My view is that Latin America needs more leaders like Chavez, Morales, Correa, Kirschner and Vasquez – giving the continent the opportunity (at last) to free itself from the confines of the ‘Monroe Doctrine’. Greg Grandin’s outstanding book, “Empire’s Workshop” details how Washington has traditionally used Latin America as a training ground for global imperialism.

  25. #26 Ian Gould
    August 7, 2007

    As for press freedom in Venezuela, lets see what Reporters without Borders has to say:

    Venezuela: 90th
    Mexico: 96th
    Peru: 124th
    Iraq: 148th
    Cuba: 166th out 167 beating only North Korea.

    http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=11715

    But hey they disagree with Ben so they’re obviously not to be trusted.

    Those are 2004 figures so they don’t reflect the recent withdrawal of the license of a major local television network.

  26. #27 Jeff Harvey
    August 7, 2007

    Sorry Ian, but I have as much faith in “Reporters Without Borders” as I do in the corporate-state media apparatus. The idea that the media in the United States and Europe is ‘fair and balanced’ is a farce. Period. The Netherlands is fourth from top? Give me a break. I live here and I cringe at the pro-establishment bias (and usual hostility to progressive movements) in the media here. For the most part, the media is made up of profit making businesses and their portrait of the world is nothing more than that elucidated by Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model in “Manufacturing Consent”: that the primary aim of the mainstream media is to “Inculcate and defend the social, economic and political agendas of the privileged groups that dominate society and the state”.

    Pundits like David Edwards and David Cromwell (at MediaLens), Robert McChesney, Norman Solomon (at FAIR) Edward Herman and others would clearly be no more convinced by the ‘Reporters without Borders’ list than I am. Let us also be clear about refusal of Chavez to grant a new license to RCTV: as Eva Gollinger and others have shown through declassified documents, the station (owned by Marcel Granier) was up to its neck in the failed 2002 coup. How would the Federal Communications Commission in the US react is CBS or NBC was found to have supported a coup mto overthrow the allegedly elected Bush government? Not only would their license be revoked, but the station owners would almost certainly end up in jail with long sentences. All Chavez did was forbid to renew the license – the station is still available on cable TV in Venezuela.

    Moreover, 90% or more of the media is privately owned in Venezuela, mostly by members of the corporate establishment. These people are exceedingly hostile to Chavez and accuse him of all kinds of ridiculous misdemeanors on TV, something that would be unthinkable in the west. Can you imagine a news item declaring Tony Blair to be a war criminal on the BBC? Not in your life. Western media is characterised by continual deference to our political figures and outright hostility to those who don’t fulfil their service functions to western elites. The BBC recently had an article about Chavez is which it stated that “Chavez alleged that RCTV was involved in a coup to unseat him in 2002″. As McChesney points out, this is a classic ploy of the mainstream media to deligitimize someone. What the mainstream do is to turn the truth into an allegation and then attribute the allegation to a source that it is attempting to vilify. Because no one is supposed to trust Chavez, then how can his allegation be trusted? As it turns out, there was plenty of evidence (not from Chavez) that RCTV was involved in supporting the coup. There are many similar examples.

    A recent article in the ‘Economist’ rated democracies around the world and similalry placed Venezuela at around # 100. The US came it at number 17, which is pretty absurd considering that there isn’t a chance in hell that anybody from the general population in the US will become president. If you are not from the privileged classes, then forget it. Noam Chomsky summed it up when he said that a good start for the US would be to become as democratic as Brazil or Haiti. Haiti! This is because at least in Haiti the poor could mobilize their efforts to get their president popularly elected. Where else in the west is that going to happen?

  27. #28 ben
    August 7, 2007

    “…how to tell when a politician is lying.”

    Is this a reference to the bogus “bush lied, people died” meme?

    “Also a little tip Ben: you dont have to be a genius to work out that bombing people to make them free doesnt actually make them love you. “The rest of us” might believe that this is a point of ideology for us anti-war types but it may surprise you to know its a common trait of people the world over, easily explained and shown in repeated historical examples.”

    Odd, your argument doesn’t work particularly well for post WWII Germany and Japan. Maybe by that example it can be shown that we’re not bombing Iraq enough.

    “Like, sure they monitor elections all over the world and risk their lives by denouncing vote-rigging but FoxNews tells me Chavez is a dictator and that’s all the proof I need.”

    Here with the “Ben must read FoxNews” bunk again. I don’t go anywhere near FoxNews. I don’t go anywhere near ANY mainstream media for political news or analysis, because it’s all crap.

    I don’t need FoxNews to tell me that Chavez is a power hungry thug who is modeling his leadership after his best-buddy Castro.

    Jeff, you really want me to believe this? A blatant Latin American lefty chearleading website… I may as well post a rebuttal from Rush Limbaugh.

  28. #29 SG
    August 7, 2007

    No Ben, I was referring to colin powell, but I’m happy to include Bush if it will expand the “meme” enough for you to get angry. But now you’re going to engage your semantic little libertarian morality aren’t you, and say that because Bush didn’t directly say exactly the sentence you want, he never lied. Like I said, a useful idiot.

    And no, my argument doesn`t apply to Germany and Japan – we bombed them in order to defeat them, not free them. Subtle difference, but then subtle differences are never the favoured conversational material of idiots who want to turn off their much-vaunted libertarian skepticism so they can watch arabs being slaughtered. Or am I too charitable in my guess as to your particular reasons for supporting this grubby little episode? Is it just stupidity all the way through?

  29. #30 Jeff Harvey
    August 7, 2007

    Ben,

    Are you serious? Is this the only way that you can feebly rebut the article? By saying it comes from “A blatant Latin American lefty chearleading website”? What you have actuially done is that you’ve revealed how distorted your worldview really is. The website did not conduct the poll; Latinbarometro did, and it is the leading polling agency in South America, funded by, amongst others, the Inter American Development Bank, hardly an ultra left wing source. Your rebuttal was actually straight from the pages of Rush Limbaugh. But I am used to this kind of vacuous dismissal by those claiming to be ‘enlightened’.

  30. #31 Jeff Harvey
    August 7, 2007

    Ben writes, “I don’t go anywhere near ANY mainstream media for political news or analysis, because it’s all crap”. Then he goes on to say: “I don’t need FoxNews to tell me that Chavez is a power hungry thug who is modeling his leadership after his best-buddy Castro”. Ben may not need FoxNews but he is getting his view from somewhere. Please inform me as to where, Ben, you learned that Chavez is a “Power hungry thug who is modeling his leadership after his best-buddy Castro”. Given the fact that there are few alternatives, it must be from – you guessed it – the mainstream media. And what is the dominant view in the corporate mainstream US media of Chavez? It is, almost without exception, that he is a “Power hungry thug who is modeling his leadership after his best-buddy Castro”.

    Case closed.

  31. #32 ben
    August 7, 2007

    “And no, my argument doesn`t apply to Germany and Japan – we bombed them in order to defeat them, not free them.”

    Good point. Sort of. We did defeat the Iraqi army. So what’s the difference now?

    “Or am I too charitable in my guess as to your particular reasons for supporting this grubby little episode?”

    Who said I supported it? We’re in it, for good or bad, and now we have to make the best of it. I don’t agree that leaving the Iraqi’s now is necessarily the best move. I don’t know what we should do, but I doubt leaving will make things any better.

    Jeff, let’s see… he obviously thinks highly of commie thugs che and castro, so why wouldn’t he be similarly politically inclined?

    From wiki

    The freedom of the press is seriously threatened in Venezuela according to various journalism organizations and NGOs. According to the International Press Institute, the Inter-American Press Association and Human Rights Watch, the administration of President Hugo Ch├ívez tightened its grip on the press in 2005, while groups close to the government, including the Bolivarian Circles, hampered journalists’ ability to report.

    Nope, no suppression of free speech here.

  32. #33 Nabakov
    August 7, 2007

    “”And no, my argument doesn`t apply to Germany and Japan – we bombed them in order to defeat them, not free them.”

    “Good point. Sort of. We did defeat the Iraqi army. So what’s the difference now?””

    The Allies had a coherent, thought out and workable strategy for rebuilding Germany and Japan as civilised members of the global community?

  33. #34 Sortition
    August 7, 2007

    Ben,

    Ok, if it is not Fox News or “ANY mainstream media”, where do you get your information about Chavez and Venezuela?

  34. #35 ben
    August 7, 2007

    “Ok, if it is not Fox News or “ANY mainstream media”, where do you get your information about Chavez and Venezuela?”

    Mostly from inside a hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar I found underneath Funk & Wagnalls’ porch last Tuesday at noon.

    “The Allies had a coherent, thought out and workable strategy for rebuilding Germany and Japan as civilised members of the global community?”

    Ah, so that’s the difference, the Germans and Japanese were somewhat civilized to begin with.

  35. #36 Sortition
    August 7, 2007

    >> Ok, if it is not Fox News or “ANY mainstream media”, where do you get your information about Chavez and Venezuela?

    > Mostly from inside a hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar I found underneath Funk & Wagnalls’ porch last Tuesday at noon.

    Is this your substitute for an admission that you are just mindlessly repeating the official line on Chavez?

  36. #37 ben
    August 7, 2007

    Want to tell me which sources you find acceptable, short of personal field research, for information on Chavez?

    And get a sense of humor, sheesh.

  37. #38 SG
    August 7, 2007

    Ben, now you`re just being a pig. The Nazis murdered 6 million jews, and you imply they were more civilised to begin with?

    You don`t have to scratch a libertarian very hard to find an unrepentant racist, do you?

  38. #39 Sortition
    August 7, 2007

    > Want to tell me which sources you find acceptable, short of personal field research, for information on Chavez?

    You tell me. You seemed very certain of your position, and your non-mainstream sources of information.

    > And get a sense of humor, sheesh.

    I was all laughed out, having just finished reading the New York Times.

  39. #40 ben
    August 8, 2007

    “Ben, now you`re just being a pig. The Nazis murdered 6 million jews, and you imply they were more civilised to begin with?”

    Right, the Nazi’s did it. I was referring to the Germans. Were all Germans Nazi’s? Did you just kill this thread, or does that happen when someone mentions der fuhrer?

    Racist? And what race exactly am I being racist toward? Doesn’t pulling the wiener race card mean you’re loosing?

  40. #41 Ian Gould
    August 8, 2007

    “Ian, why have you such a distaste for what Chavez has done and is doing in Venezuela? What about the US-supported militas and right wing regimes in the region – including Alvaro Uribe’s in Colombia – with some of the worst human rights records on Earth?”

    Jeff, there’s no question that Colombia is worse than Venezuela.

    While the soc-called left-wing MSM in the US was breathlessly reporting the shutdown of Globovision, the scandal right next door in Colombia where dozens of leading government politicians including serving ministers were caught paying bribes to death squads to murder journalists was effectively ignored.

    But just as I don;t give Israel a pass because of the human rights abuses of the Palestinian Authority, I refuse to absolve Chavez of responsibility for his actions.

    Shutting down TV stations is hardly the sign of a model democrat. Neither is widespread intimidation and violence directed at your political opponents or using bribery and intimidation to stop media criticism.

    So far, the oil price has shielded Venezuelans from much of the downside of Chavez’s economic polices. If that changes, there are really serious risks of a deb crisis and a blow-out in inflation. That’s leave the people he claims to want to help worse off than before.

    I have no problem with a redistributive economic policy in a country like Venezuela where there are drastic inequalities in wealth and the state has the oil industry ot prop it up. But he’s spending too much and while much of that spending is unquestionably doing good a lot of it is disappearing down the all too familiar rat-holes of corruption and nepotism.

  41. #42 Davis
    August 8, 2007

    This is because at least in Haiti the poor could mobilize their efforts to get their president popularly elected.

    I’m sorry, but anyone who says this is clearly ignorant about Haiti, or democracy (I’m hoping it’s the former).

  42. #43 Ian Gould
    August 8, 2007

    “Pundits like David Edwards and David Cromwell (at MediaLens), Robert McChesney, Norman Solomon (at FAIR) Edward Herman and others would clearly be no more convinced by the ‘Reporters without Borders’ list than I am. Let us also be clear about refusal of Chavez to grant a new license to RCTV: as Eva Gollinger and others have shown through declassified documents, the station (owned by Marcel Granier) was up to its neck in the failed 2002 coup. How would the Federal Communications Commission in the US react is CBS or NBC was found to have supported a coup mto overthrow the allegedly elected Bush government? Not only would their license be revoked, but the station owners would almost certainly end up in jail with long sentences. All Chavez did was forbid to renew the license – the station is still available on cable TV in Venezuela”

    RCTV and its owners successfully defended themselves in court over the charges arising from the coup.

    They then defended their application for a license renewal successfully before a tribunal appointed by Chavez.

    AFTER they’d been awarded a renewal he used executive privilege to reverse the decision.

    That’s precisely the sort of behaviour which leads me to dislike and distrust Chavez.

    Sure he’s better than any number of US-backed caudillos we could both name, but Venezuela deserves better.

    Lula Da Silva has done as much to promote social justice in Brazil as Chavez has in Venezuela but has done while generally adhering to accepted democratic norms.

  43. #44 Ian Gould
    August 8, 2007

    “Nope, no suppression of free speech here.”

    And no suppression on par with, say, Putin’s Russia where journalists are murdered on a daily basis.

  44. #45 Ian Gould
    August 8, 2007

    Ben: “Ah, so that’s the difference, the Germans and Japanese were somewhat civilized to begin with.”

    You either know nothing about pre-war Japan (start by googling “Rape of Nanjing”) or are simply speaking nonsense in order to be gratuitously offensive.

  45. #46 Ian Gould
    August 8, 2007

    “Right, the Nazi’s did it. I was referring to the Germans. ”

    So you draw a line between the Nazi Party (which was immensely popular won close to 50% of the vote in free elections and had a formal membership of around 10% of the total German population) and “the Germans” but beleive that all Iraqis (or is all Arabs or all Muslims?) are somehow responsible fro the crimes of the 30-000 odd insurgents in Iraq?

  46. #47 Ian Gould
    August 8, 2007

    “Want to tell me which sources you find acceptable, short of personal field research, for information on Chavez?”

    Ben, I read and listen to coverage on Venezuela from the international media (typically Reuters, the BBC,The Economist; Christian Science Monitor; NPR etc). I also watch the Fox News coverage and read various right-wing new sources.

    I also follow reports from the various human rights NGOs such as Amnesty and HRW.

    I don’t accept any of them at face value.

    Nothing I’ve read, seen or watched from any source supports your claim that Chavez rigged his re-election.

  47. #48 Jeff Harvey
    August 8, 2007

    Davis,

    A number of people have made the statement re: Haiti. Have you read any of the books on the hisotry of the country by Mark Farmer? The US has continually meddled in Haiti’s affairs, and in 1990 they effectively backed Marc Bezin, the World Bank candidate, against Aristide, who had come from the ranks of the poor. In spite of massive US support for Bezin, he received a paltry 14% of the popular vote, as opposed to Artide who received 62%. The legacy was that the US has always seen Haiti as a ‘plantation economy’ for US coprporate interests, and thus everything was done to destabilize and undermine Artistide. The US backed FRAPH and its death squads, led by militia leaders like Raul Cedras and Emmanual Constant, and certainly paved the way for the coup. I don’t have the time to labor on here about the post 1990 history, but its all pretty sordid stuff, underlining how much the political-corporate establishment in the US loathes democracy (see comments by Thomas Carrothers for a verification).

    As for Ben, well his view is that any opposing views, irrespective of empirical support, are some sort of lefty conspiracy. Discussing this with him is a waste of time. Moreover, he chides the election process in Venezuela while ignoring the fact that his government (as Gore Vidal says) is something of a junta: Bush certainly didn’t win in 2000 and probably not in 2004 either, given the voting irregularities in Florida, Tennessee and Ohio. It took a supreme court coup to install the neocon ‘crazies’ (aka chicken hawks) in 2000.

  48. #49 ben
    August 8, 2007

    “Bush certainly didn’t win in 2000 and probably not in 2004 either”

    Oh brother.

  49. #50 SG
    August 8, 2007

    Ben: why don`t you defend your claim about germany. It`s a charming piece of work, so here`s your task. take Iraq before the US invasion, compare it to nazi germany during the war, and find it lacking. Go on, I dare you.

  50. #51 Sortition
    August 8, 2007

    Ian wrote:

    > RCTV and its owners successfully defended themselves in court over the charges arising from the coup.

    > They then defended their application for a license renewal successfully before a tribunal appointed by Chavez.

    > AFTER they’d been awarded a renewal he used executive privilege to reverse the decision.

    Where is this information coming from?

    Also, even if all this is true, to argue that the move was detrimnetal to the public you would have to show that the information provided by the station before the change was more valuable than the information provided after the change – do you have any evidence that this is so?

    As for

    > But he’s spending too much and while much of that spending is unquestionably doing good a lot of it is disappearing down the all too familiar rat-holes of corruption and nepotism,

    this is just boilerplate smear formula. Do you have any information about how much he is spending on what, about what the results are, and about what is the level of “corruption and nepotism”?

  51. #52 Sortition
    August 8, 2007

    Ben,

    Do you see why I was not amused by your little mayonnaise joke? It immediately seemed like an attempt to avoid giving a substantive response. It now appears that that was exactly what it was – you have not been able to back up your statements, and you are not willing to retract. Not intellectually honest.

  52. #53 ben
    August 8, 2007

    “It immediately seemed like an attempt to avoid giving a substantive response.”

    That is exactly what it was, you are correct. I’d need more time, of which I have little.

    “take Iraq before the US invasion, compare it to nazi germany during the war, and find it lacking.”

    Right, I’d have to write a book, and since I’m not an expert, it would suck. How about we go back instead to Germany before WWI and Iraq before the first gulf war instead? Or maybe we could go forward 50 years and compare Germany of 2007 to Iraq of 2057. That would be the most interesting comparison.

  53. #54 z
    August 8, 2007

    “I don’t agree that leaving the Iraqi’s now is necessarily the best move. I don’t know what we should do, but I doubt leaving will make things any better. ”

    Yes, if we leave now, it’s quite possible that Iraq will erupt in a civil war with 50 deaths every day, including 20 civilians killed at random due to pure sectarian hatred. Or we could stay, and ensure that that situation continues. How does it escape the dead-enders that things keep getting worse; that things are worse mid-surge than previous; etc.?

    Just think; if we pull out now, if we wish to pacify Iraq in the future we may have to invade with sufficient troop strength, sufficiently armed, to stabilize the situation; and international cooperation, including not just our European and Asian buddies, but that of the regional powers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia who have a stake in the stability. Boy, isn’t that a terrible prospect.

  54. #55 Ian Gould
    August 8, 2007

    “Yes, if we leave now, it’s quite possible that Iraq will erupt in a civil war with 50 deaths every day, including 20 civilians killed at random due to pure sectarian hatred.”

    No, if we leave it’s quite possible that the violence will escalate to the point here there are 500 or more deaths per day and the other countries in the region are so destabilised that another regime on par with Taliban-era Afghanistan will emerge.

    The panglossian idea that everything will be fine if the US and its allies withdraw immediately strikes me as the exact mirror image of “we will be greeted as liberators”.

    Withdrawal should be objective but only once things have been properly thought through and there’s a realistic chance that we won’t just be fucking the Iraqis all over again.

  55. #56 Ian Gould
    August 8, 2007

    Sortition,

    I’ll have to get back to you as I’m abotu to head off for work.

    The first source I checked , Wikipedia, doesn’t mention any criminal charges arising from the coup so I may be wrong on that point.

    An interesting general note: since moving to cable and satellite broadcasting, RCTV remains the most-watched TV channel in Venezuela and Observador, its main news and current affairs program, is now being broadcast by Globovision, the largest remaining priate broadcaster in Venezuela.

    ” Also, even if all this is true, to argue that the move was detrimnetal to the public you would have to show that the information provided by the station before the change was more valuable than the information provided after the change – do you have any evidence that this is so? ”

    I fundamentally disagree. Human rights, including the right to a free press, are innate and positive rights. RCTV doesn’t have to prove their actions were in the public interest, Chavez has to prove they weren’t.

    Certainly, the success of the post-decree RCTV on cable suggests that many Venezuelans prefer it to EsTV, its replacement. So do the polls shwing 70% of te population, including many Chavez supporters opposed the closure and the mass demonstrations against the closure.

    Chavez isn’t he demon the right want him to be – if he were you wouldn’t see hundreds of thousands of people allowed to protest the closure in the capital and you wouldn’t see RCTV back on cable and satellite.

    But he isn’t the angel the left want him to be either – RCTV’s broadcast facilities and equipment have been confiscated by the state and other private channels have been given new licenses for as short a period as two years. Combined with the treatment of RCTV that’s clearly intended to intimidate them.

    Are Chavez’s actions as bad as those of the Colombian government to name one of many possible examples from the developing world? Of course not.

    Would Chavez’ liberal supporters n the developed world tolerate for a second similar behaviour by their own governments? Of course not.

  56. #57 Sortition
    August 8, 2007

    > “It immediately seemed like an attempt to avoid giving a substantive response.”

    > That is exactly what it was, you are correct. I’d need more time, of which I have little.

    So, while you will need some time to gather the facts, the conclusion drawn from those facts is going to be that “Chavez is a power hungry thug”. This I do find amusing.

  57. #58 Sortition
    August 8, 2007

    > Human rights, including the right to a free press, are innate and positive rights. RCTV doesn’t have to prove their actions were in the public interest, Chavez has to prove they weren’t.

    Owning a TV channel is a human right?! If so, most of us regular stiffs are being deprived of this right. Food, shelter, education and healthcare are human rights – to the extent that Chavez’s policies make those necessities more widely available (for example, [by getting Cuban doctors to treat the poor](http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4688117.stm)), he is promoting human rights – somehow I don’t see Chavez being celebrated in the press (or by you) as a champion of those more lowly human rights.

    RCTV or any other channel doesn’t have a natural right to its frequency. The airwaves are a public resource, whose distribution should be in the hand of the representatives of the public, and done in accordance to the public interest. Chavez may or may not be doing this, but this is for the Venezuelan people to decide.

    Which brings me to the issue of public support for the non-renewal of the license. It appears that your figure of 70% opposition to the non-renewal comes from a poll by [Luis Vicente Leon and his firm 'Datanalisis'](http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601086&sid=aIRwJMbvjsS0&refer=latin_america).
    Leon and Datanalisis seem to be associated with the opposition (as many members of the professional class are). His polls should be taken with [a grain of salt](http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000086&sid=aKNvYA3oDmVM&refer=latin_america).

  58. #59 ben
    August 8, 2007

    “So, while you will need some time to gather the facts, the conclusion drawn from those facts is going to be that “Chavez is a power hungry thug”. This I do find amusing.”

    This was simply the appearance. Maybe “thug” was the wrong term. Maybe “weirdo” would have been more appropriate, what with smelling sulfur at the UN and all.

  59. #60 Sortition
    August 8, 2007

    > “weirdo” … what with smelling sulfur at the UN and all.

    I would say, given to theatrics. I’ll grant that.

  60. #61 Davis
    August 8, 2007

    A number of people have made the statement re: Haiti. Have you read any of the books on the hisotry of the country by Mark Farmer?

    I have had some experience in the country, and friends and family members have extensive experience there; I’m also somewhat familiar with the history of the country. Aristide was a thug and a demagogue, and certainly not a democrat by any stretch of the imagination; he effectively marshaled a publicity machine in the US post-coup to obtain support here, and he then engaged in some serious nastiness when he was put back into power. Conditions do not exist in Haiti to allow democracy to function in any meaningful way: the population is largely uneducated, there are no reliable sources of information, and there are no effective ways to prevent voter intimidation.

    Most US political interest in the country seems aimed at preventing Haitians from being able to claim political asylum here (i.e., make the country *seem* stable enough that such claims can be rejected — replacing Aristide was one example). I’m not really sure why corporate interests should be expected to give a damn about what’s going on in Haiti; the country has essentially no functioning industries, or economy of any kind.

  61. #62 Ian Gould
    August 9, 2007

    Ian Gould (43): I have no problem with a redistributive economic policy in a country like Venezuela where there are drastic inequalities in wealth and the state has the oil industry to prop it up. But he’s spending too much and while much of that spending is unquestionably doing good a lot of it is disappearing down the all too familiar rat-holes of corruption and nepotism.

    Sortition: “…somehow I don’t see Chavez being celebrated in the press (or by you) as a champion of those more lowly human rights. …”

    Yes and Lee Kwan You made Singaporeans amongst the richest, best-educated and healthiest people on the planet – none of which justifies his suppression of freedom of speech or his rigging of the electoral system.

    To repeat myself: Ben seems to want to believe a simplistic story about how Chavez is The Bad Guy. You and Jeff seem to want to believe an equally simplistic story about how Chavez is The Good Guy.

  62. #63 Ian Gould
    August 9, 2007

    “Owning a TV channel is a human right?”

    No, being able to access multiple independent sources of news an commentary is a right.

    Chavez didn’t just abridge the rights of the RCTV owners, he abridged the rights of every Venezuelan.

  63. #64 Jeff Harvey
    August 9, 2007

    Ian, although I really admire most of your comments and arguments, I just think you are way off base with respect to the Chavez government refusing to renew the license of RCTV. Steve Lendman wrote a good piece on the affair for ZNet in May:

    http://www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=12933&sectionID=1

    I think there’s loads of evidence to show that Marcel Granier and his station were very much involved in supporting the 2002 coup, as well as in hewlping to foment the strikes that crippled the country later in the year. The actions of RCTV and other private networks actually violated Venezuelan law; I am amazed it took Chavez this long to deal with them. I’ve seen newscasts from Venezuelan TV referring to Chavez as a paedophile, a drunk, and much worse; when was the last time your PM (who in my opinion is horrible person) was ever described in such terms? Would it be allowed on TV?

    Moreover, given the oligarchies and vile regimes that preceded Chavez in Venezuela, how can you explain the Latinbarometro polls? How can you explain the man’s popularity in winning 9 elections, mostly with increased majorities? Its clear why Chavez is unpopular in the US, which has always seen Latin America as part of its own ‘backyard’ and treated it as a plantation economy for it’s own corporate interests. Greg Grandin elucidates this clearly in his great book, “Empire’s Workshop”. Clearly, Venezuela is not fulfilling its service function for its own and the US corporate establishment, and it is also in defiance of the grand master of the hemisphere, therefore it has to be punished.

    Finally, Ian, I find it quite remarkable that the likes of Ben refer to Chavez as a ‘thug’ when his own leader (and previous incumbents) are routinely responsible for mass murder. How many foreigners has Chavez killed in support of empire? Our leaders – criminals like Blair, Bush, Aznar, Berlisconi, Howard and their cronies are not treated with the same kind of hostility that Chavez receives in the media. In the European corporate-state media he’s often referred to as ‘bombastic’, a ‘firebrand’, ‘far-left’ etc. etc. How many of our leaders – complicit in a great crime (Iraq) as well as in promoting policies that are causing misery in the developing world – are described as ‘supporting mass murder’, ‘far-right’, etc., terms that are equally or more appropriate than any of the terms used to describe Chavez?

    I wholly agree with Lendman – good riddance to RCTV. Moreover, where was the outrage when US networks canceled popular liberal-leaning TV shows – such as Phil Donahue – leading up to the Iraq war? Networks defended their decisions on the basis that they had to ‘rally around the flag’ during a time of conflict, which meant supporting the government in crushing another defenseless nation. Dissent was not allowed. Censorship in the US is miles worse than in Venezuela, where Chavez is slated daily on the private networks. Methinks that you are being a bit biased here.

  64. #65 Jeff Harvey
    August 9, 2007

    Davis, You didn’t answer my question. Mark Farmer is one of the leading experts on the country, and his accounts of US involvement in Haiti appear to differ a lot from yours. Maybe you could also explain why the US refuses extradition requests from Haiti for Emmanuel Constant, who happily resides in New York City. Constant is a mass-killer and former member of FRAPH who was heavily involved in the 1990 coup that was supported by the Pentagon when the elections that year didn’t go the way that Washington wanted (they wanted the pro-business candidate, Marc Bezin, who as I said yesterday scored a whopping 14% of the vote). You also fail to explain that Aristide won two elections in spite of US support for his opponents. As I said yesterday, Thomas Carrothers summed it up when he said that there is strong line of continuity in US foreign policy with respect to democracy; he said that the US reluctantly supports pro-democracy movements but only those that do not risk upsetting traditional, top-down sources of power with which the US has long been allied. When democracy fails to achieve this objective, elections are downplayed or even ignored. Carrothers was a planner in the Reagan administration whose job was in ‘democracy enhancement’. His brutal honesty should put to rest any notions that the political establishment in the US promotes democracy. They loathe it. Aristide was a populist who refused to accept US efforts to accept unbridled free market reforms, hence why he had to go.

  65. #66 ben
    August 9, 2007

    “Moreover, where was the outrage when US networks canceled popular liberal-leaning TV shows – such as Phil Donahue – leading up to the Iraq war?”

    There’s the rub, the Networks voluntarily canceled their own show. The government did not force them to cancel it. That’s what Freedom of Speech is about, at least in this country. “Congress shall pass no law…” and all that.

  66. #67 Jeff Harvey
    August 9, 2007

    Ben, So you really, really, truly believe you have freedom of speech in the US? Oh brother (as you said yersterday).

    Had any of the US networks been found to be involved in a coup, as Lendman says, then, as I said yesterday they’d end up rotting in US jails. The US government has no reason to cancel any programs as all of the networks there are supine and deferent. How many US networks and media outlets have suggested that their president and the civilian planners in his regime are guilty of war crimes and violation of international law? Um – uh – er – zilch. When Bush discovered that the real reason the US invaded Iraq was to bring democracy to the suffering Iraqi people (after all of the other pretexts were shown to be based on serial lies) the US media responded in kind: the right wing media hailed their chief as being enlightened; the ‘liberal’ media believed him too, right across the board, but claimed that the Iraqi people were perhaps too backward to accept the great gift from the decider. The same week, a poll was conducted in Iraq by (I think) the Pew Center, and asked, “Why do you think Americans ‘entered’ Iraq” (note the words ‘invaded’ and ‘occupied’ were absent). Some Iraqis agreed with the president – 1%. More than 60% said that the US had invaded to ‘control the country’s resources’. Yet not a single US media outlet contrasted the link. Not one.

    I don’t know why I even respond to your posts, anyway. You fail to answer any salient points that are made challenging your worldview. I expected you to accuse Latinbarometro of being commie stooges yesterday, but you just ignored that post and all of the other inconvenient ones.

  67. #68 Chris O'Neill
    August 9, 2007

    “That’s what Freedom of Speech is about, at least in this country.”

    Freedom of speech, as in, cancelling it. Oh the irony.

  68. #69 ben
    August 9, 2007

    “Ben, So you really, really, truly believe you have freedom of speech in the US? Oh brother (as you said yersterday).”

    Yes, we do, if we ignore McCain-Feingold for the moment. Any citizen can, and many do, stand up and say anything they like without fear of retribution from the federal government. Kos, Moveon.org, Democratic Underground and the Answer Coalition are prime examples.

    Once again, the First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Who’s fault is it that YOU are not happy with the content of the output of the mainstream media? There are plenty of other sources that output all sorts of information, including this blog. None of them are even remotely censored by the government. Sorry Jeff, but your argument is crap.

  69. #70 Sortition
    August 9, 2007

    >>Owning a TV channel is a human right?

    > No, being able to access multiple independent sources of news an[d] commentary is a right.

    Agreed.

    > Chavez didn’t just abridge the rights of the RCTV owners, he abridged the rights of every Venezuelan.

    That follows from your previous statement only if you are able to establish that taking RCTV off the air (and into cable and satellite) diminishes the range of news and opinions in the public arena. This is exactly what I asked you to do in my first response to you:

    > [T]o argue that the move was detrim[en]tal to the public you would have to show that the information provided by the station before the change was more valuable than the information provided after the change – do you have any evidence that this is so?

    I suspect (but admittedly have no empirical evidence) that it is exactly the opposite – taking RCTV off the air made room for news and opinions that were not available before. If you prove me wrong on this point I am willing to reconsider my position on this issue.

    As for

    > You and Jeff seem to want to believe an equally simplistic story about how Chavez is The Good Guy,

    it is not a matter of wanting or believing. I am personally not aware of any damning evidence against Chavez. There have been some minor questionable issues, but on the whole he does seem like a good guy (lower case, non-definite).

    As far as I am concerned, the proof is in the pudding: is the Chavez government improving the quality of life of the average Venezuelan. [The trend seems to be promising so far](http://cepr.net/documents/publications/venezuela_2007_07.pdf). Time will tell if this keeps up. I do not deny that I am hoping for the best, but I believe I am not prejudiced.

  70. #71 Sortition
    August 9, 2007

    > There’s the rub, the Networks voluntarily canceled their own show. The government did not force them to cancel it. That’s what Freedom of Speech is about, at least in this country. “Congress shall pass no law…” and all that.

    You dogma is showing. If we accept that having a variety of voices in the public space is a pillar of democracy then it does not matter who squelches speech – whether it is the government, capitalists (who do it, by the way, to carry favor with the government), or anybody else.

    > Any citizen can, and many do, stand up and say anything they like without fear of retribution from the federal government.

    If this is your standard, then clearly taking RCTV off the air is not a violation of freedom of speech – RCTV owners, editors, reporters and pundits can keep on voicing their opinion to their friends and relations without any fear of retribution. It is only their access to the airwaves (access that you or I have none of to begin with) that has been limited.

    It is funny how weak is the free speech standard when applied domestically, and how stringent it is when applied to official foes.

  71. #72 Ian Gould
    August 10, 2007

    Sortition: “That follows from your previous statement only if you are able to establish that taking RCTV off the air (and into cable and satellite) diminishes the range of news and opinions in the public arena.”

    I think te extension of other commercial TV licenses for two years (as opposed to the previous 25) was intended to do exactly that.

    This whole discussion started with me saying to Ben that there’s no smoking gun you can point to where Chavez has broken the law.

    What he had done repeatedly is go right to the edge of what’s premissible – and maybe just a bit further. In this he reminds me a great deal of Berlusconi.

    As for his popularity in Venezuela – all the economic benefits described in the report you link to, although the authors don’t want to admit it, derive ultimately from the oil price boom.

    They also gloss over the downside – high inflation; an overvalued exchange rate which is making it increasingly difficult for local producers; high unemployment (masked by reclassifying as students unemployed workers who study for even a single hour a week in one of the Bolivarian Missions) and declining private sector investment and employment.

    Another generation of Chavezism and Venezuela will resemble Saudi Arabia – a massive unemployed overqualified locals who reject the few menial jobs on offer which end up going to guest workers.

  72. #73 Jeff Harvey
    August 10, 2007

    Ben,

    You are clearly duped. The mainstream corporate-state media in the US is supine. To be fair, it ain’t much different over here. You know it, I know it, we all know it. Or we should. The reason is, as Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky say so elegantly in ‘Maunfacturing Consent’, that journalists in the mainstream media go through a selective kind of filtering process that has benefits for conforming to the dominant ideology of the state and has costs for failing to conform. This explains why virtually 100% of the US media were in raptures when Bush had his messianic conversion to democracy in 2004, as opposed to the 1% of Iraqis who believed it. This accidental but massive constrast should have been headline news everywhere, but of course these links are seldom, if ever, drawn in western media circles. As always, it goes down the memory hole, just like a spate of western atrocities.

    I really believe that most, if not all journalists believe the pro-establishment crap they espouse. They really believe all of the nonsense that the US-UK governments promote democracy, freedom and human rights in their foreign policy, and that these same governments are working towards eradicating poverty in the third world. The myth of the ‘basic benevolence’ of our governments is the foundation of everything we are taught from the cradle. Of course this is all utter garbage if one tends to look just a bit deeper at the empirical evidence. What I’m saying is that most journalists wouldn’t be sitting where they are if they thought or wrote another story, which, in fact would be the truth.

    You are correct in that we have alternative sources of information (e.g. book,s the internet) at hand, but so do Venezuelans, at least the monied elites that the plutocrats in Washington and London support. But when Press Secretary Scott McClellan said in the wake of 9-11 that the media should watch what they say, he was sending aveiled warning to any who might even think of condemining the Bush regime. Civil liberties are being eroded in the US (and the UK) at rates exceeding any other time in hisotry. Chlamers Johnson explains why and how in hisa new book ‘Nemesis’, and instead of carping on about commie thugs and the other tripe you often espouse, why not read a bit of the ‘dissident’ literature. When Norman Mailer claimed a few years ago that the US was entering a period of ‘pre-fascism’, and veteran retired CIA employee Ray McGovern responded “I hope he’s right, because I think we’ve gone further than that”, I think that people should take note.

    As for Ian saying that another generation of Chavezism and Venezuela will resemble Saudi Arabia – I totally and utterly disagree. If this were the case the US would be backing Chavez to the hilt, as they do with the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the ultimate plutocracy – Venezuela under Chavez is the polar opposite. Chavez is scaring the pants off of US investors because he’s dared use his oil windfall to force through economic reforms that benefit the less well off. The fact that the distribution of the country’s wealth since 1998 has meant 60% more for the poorest 50% says a lot in my view. Apparently, 200 billion dollars of profit from Venezuelan oil left the country in the ten years preceding Chavez coming to power. Where did it go? Mostly to pay off foreign investors or to pay for the Venezuelan elite to go to priviliged schools and colleges in America and Europe. It was a disgrace, and Chavez has said he will put an end to it. Free market absolutism has been characterized by capital flows from the poor countries to the rich. This was bad enough in 1970, when for every dollar that went south, three went north; by 1997 the ratio had increased to 7:1. It is hoped that the new wave of populism and indigenous nationalism sweeping Latin America will enable these economies to stop this form of rapacious looting by the west.

  73. #74 ben
    August 10, 2007

    “It is funny how weak is the free speech standard when applied domestically, and how stringent it is when applied to official foes.”

    Not even remotely true. Once again, the RCTV thing was done BY THE GOVERNMENT. The Phil Donahue thing WAS NOT. Nothing at all to do with foreign or domestic.

    “that journalists in the mainstream media go through a selective kind of filtering process that has benefits for conforming to the dominant ideology of the state and has costs for failing to conform.”

    I agree that they go through a filtering process, but not one that “has benefits for conforming to the dominant ideology of the state,” but for conforming to the dominant ideology of their own circle, which is the college educated liberal elite. That’s what I see, and it’s pretty plain. The average liberal, of which the media is about 90% composed, despise Bush and don’t pull their punches too often. The only thing that constrains them at all is that they are in the minority in America, and they can’t sell newspapers and TV advertising if they get too bent out of shape about it.

    And them’s the breaks when you live in a capitalist society where people can make choices with their money. Tough bananas for the NY Times and their dwindling readership.

    I think the USA should totally ignore Chavez, in fact that seems to be what we’re doing. Chavez is funny when he goes on about how we’re going to invade, because it will never happen.

    On the other hand, I’m in partial agreement with you write

    The myth of the ‘basic benevolence’ of our governments is the foundation of everything we are taught from the cradle. Of course this is all utter garbage if one tends to look just a bit deeper at the empirical evidence.

    It’s just that I don’t think of it in terms of wealth re-distribution and “social justice,” but instead of liberty. I look at the ATF, the DEA and the “atrocities” they commit in the name of nothing much more than their own power and authority, and it scares me.

  74. #75 Sortition
    August 10, 2007

    You always tell us you only have little time, but a conversation in which you don’t bother to read what the other guy says is of very little value. I’ll repeat what I wrote above, in the hope that this time you will bother trying to understand what I write.

    > Once again, the RCTV thing was done BY THE GOVERNMENT. The Phil Donahue thing WAS NOT.

    Why is censorship BY THE GOVERNMENT worse than censorship BY CAPITALISTS? This is just dogma.

    > Nothing at all to do with foreign or domestic.

    According to you, in Venezuela, “freedom of speech” means that you have to give opposition groups unrestricted access to the airwaves. In the US, however, all you think it means is that you should be able “stand up” (on a soapbox in the city square, I guess) and say whatever you want. How convenient.

  75. #76 ben
    August 10, 2007

    “Why is censorship BY THE GOVERNMENT worse than censorship BY CAPITALISTS?”

    BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT IS THE ONE WHO CAN MARCH YOU OFF TO JAIL AT GUNPOINT IF YOU DO NOT COMPLY.

    Why is this such a difficult concept?

  76. #77 Sortition
    August 10, 2007

    > BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT IS THE ONE WHO CAN MARCH YOU OFF TO JAIL AT GUNPOINT IF YOU DO NOT COMPLY.

    If Phil Donahue tried to keep on broadcasting his show even though the capitalists told him to go home, he would have found himself in jail just as quickly as the RCTV people would have.

    Again – RCTV people are not being put in jail, they are simply taken off the air, this is exactly what MSNBC did to Donahue.

  77. #78 ben
    August 10, 2007

    Yes, because Phil Donahue does not OWN the means of broadcast. It’s called “private property,” maybe you’ve heard of that? At the worst, then good ol’ Phil would be guilty of trespassing. You know, the law ‘n stuff.

    I’m not scared of any booga booga capitalists because they can’t come to my house at night and arrest me for arbitrary reasons. The government can.

  78. #79 Sortition
    August 10, 2007

    > You know, the law ‘n stuff.

    Why don’t you make your mind up what we are talking about here? If it is about the law, then why are you criticizing Chavez – he was acting within the Venezuelan law. If it is about democracy, then why should the fact that the US law is anti-democratic make any difference. Again – try keeping to a single standard rather than applying one standard to yourself and a different one to your foes.

    > I’m not scared of any booga booga capitalists because they can’t come to my house at night and arrest me for arbitrary reasons. The government can.

    You may be a bit complacent.

  79. #80 ben
    August 10, 2007

    “Why don’t you make your mind up what we are talking about here? If it is about the law, then why are you criticizing Chavez – he was acting within the Venezuelan law.”

    Fair enough. I’m glad I don’t live there.

    “Again – try keeping to a single standard rather than applying one standard to yourself and a different one to your foes.”

    Good point.

    The Vioxx thing does not make your point. Nobody forced anyone to take Vioxx. I’m wary of my doctors and I won’t take their stupid medications that are essentially used to combat effects of an unhealthy lifestyle.

    “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that Vioxx may have contributed to 27,785 heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths between 1999 and 2003. The estimate is based on the number of prescriptions issued for Vioxx between 1999 and 2003.”

    Nice, the GOVERNMENT approved the stuff in the first place. Did anyone ever claim that strong medications could be used without any risk of adverse effects to the patient anyway?

  80. #81 Sortition
    August 10, 2007

    > I’m wary of my doctors…

    So, you are wary of your doctors, it’s only “booga booga capitalists” you are not worried about.

    > …and I won’t take their stupid medications…

    So what will you do if you are in pain? Just take it like a man, I guess. (BTW, it’s not the doctors’ medications, it’s the capitalists’ medications.)

    > Nice, the GOVERNMENT approved the stuff in the first place.

    So what is your point? Are you saying there should be no approval process at all, or that government regulation should be made better?

    > Did anyone ever claim that strong medications could be used without any risk of adverse effects to the patient anyway?

    The issue is not whether there are adverse effects, but whether they are hidden from the patient. Merck knew for years that Vioxx was doing more harm than good, but kept pushing what was essentially poison to the unknowing patients.

    Finally, what about industrial pollution – you are not “scared” of that either?

  81. #82 ben
    August 10, 2007

    “So what will you do if you are in pain? Just take it like a man, I guess. (BTW, it’s not the doctors’ medications, it’s the capitalists’ medications.)”

    True, but so what? Where else is medicine supposed to come from, or are you into faith healing? I just am of the opinion that folks in this area suffer from a major misunderstanding of the nature of biological systems.

    Yep, I am concerned about industrial pollution. As far as I can tell, it is much better than in the past, but still a concern. If Merck deliberately mislead patients, then they should be punished.

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