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Palast piece on Chavez
August 17, 2004 9:35 AM   Subscribe


 
Posted yesterday in the Venezuela thread. And in my opinion, a heavily slanted and unfair op/ed not well suited for an FPP.
posted by loquax at 9:56 AM on August 17, 2004


Sez you. Thanks, skallas.
posted by hackly_fracture at 10:00 AM on August 17, 2004


Are you fucking kidding me?
posted by trharlan at 10:10 AM on August 17, 2004


For a more nuanced and less maniacal look at Chavez's Venezuela, minus the talk about Cheney's underpants, take a look at Slate's dispatches from last week. Here's Thursday and Friday.
posted by loquax at 10:15 AM on August 17, 2004


Good read, thanks skallas.
posted by vito90 at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2004


So began the Bush-Cheney campaign to "Floridate" the will of the Venezuela electorate.

Floridate...

Heh.
posted by y2karl at 10:23 AM on August 17, 2004


This Palast guy, is he a journalist or something? He can really write! ;-)

I never see such honesty coming from the media today so its rather disconcerting. I suppose that's how Russians feel after years of Pravda and then getting to read a real newspaper.

Great summation of the Venezuela situation. Thanks for the link. I would have been crucified had I posted a Palast story on the blue!
posted by nofundy at 11:01 AM on August 17, 2004


Good link. But as Loquax said, it was posted yesterday...
posted by Happydaz at 12:34 PM on August 17, 2004


loquax and Harlan - Wouldn't it advance your case more to take issue with the factual case Palast advances ? He's a talented, fun writer who also packs in a good amount of information - which of this do you take issue with ? (Presumeably not Palast's citation from the CIA World factbook.)

Personally, I'll read and consider the thoughts of any journalist - associated with the left, right, or with the world tinfoil hat association - who is careful to research and keep the basic facts straight.

As with most good writers, there's a subtext to a lot of the one liners Palast tosses out - yes, they violate the affectation and the pretense, by most in mainstream US media, of an ostensibly "neutral" stance. Palast has sharp opinions. But, those tend to be well undergirded and butressed by background facts.

Palast has stated repeatedly that none of the major US media will support the kind of journalism he does (real, rather than faux investigative journalism) as the reason for his move to the UK - which he describes as a sort of journalistic and political exile. Is this grandstanding on his part, or exaggeration? I don't know except to say that 1) he's broken a number of significant, closely researched stories in his time with the BBC's "NewsNight" - so he's clearly a talented investigative journalist, and 2) all journalists claim to provide the unvarnished "truth", but Palast's claim - to be a persona non grata with much of the US media establishment for his refusal to toe the line - dovetails well with a lot of supporting evidence - for example - in the complicity of much of the US media in parroting official White House statements, made during the last major coup attempt against Chavez, that described the coup as a fait accompli when - in fact - it was falling apart.
posted by troutfishing at 1:06 PM on August 17, 2004



For a more nuanced and less maniacal look at Chavez's Venezuela


Meaning that it still follows the Washington party line by ignoring the anti-democratic actions that Washington is taking, ignores the sources of the inequality and crime that Chavez inherited and instead focuses on the supposed crimes of people in the Chavez government.

Are people surprised that there are people in Venezuela that don't want to work with people that are actively trying to stop social programmes that are trying to educate people and raise their standard of living? People that supported a coup attempt and are still trying to get the results of the referendum (that they forced on Chavez) invalidated?

Sorry but the Slate articles are the same bullshit that most other media outlets are spewing.
posted by pixelgeek at 1:08 PM on August 17, 2004


JesuChristo, folks, make the ganglia twitch. If you think the post is slanted, provide another slant here or on the front page. But please quit bitching about someone merely posting a thought-provoking point of view.

Hugo Chavez, the south-of-the-border president the Bush White House most despises these days, didn't just survive Latin America's first-ever recall referendum - he steamrolled his way to a stunning landslide victory.

His victory even led to an immediate drop in the sky-high price of world oil.

In an election that saw a record number of Venezuelans flock to the polls, Chavez racked up nearly 5 million votes - more than 58% of the total, according to a preliminary tally by Venezuela's national election commission.

It was a resounding defeat for the Venezuelan upper-class elite. That elite, which includes the owners of virtually all the country's major media companies, campaigned almost nonstop for more than two years to topple Chavez from power.

His triumph was an equally embarrassing defeat for the Bush administration. Two years ago, White House Bush officials backed a failed opposition military coup against Chavez....

posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:39 PM on August 17, 2004


Chavez racked up nearly 5 million votes

Which, IIANM, is more votes than he got in the last election.
posted by pixelgeek at 1:48 PM on August 17, 2004


troutfishing:

First, I take issue with commondreams op-eds on the front page-- especially when the post excludes any sort of counterpoint or rebuttal.

And the piece leaves me with many more questions than answers. To wit:

That week, Chavez himself handed me a copy of the "socialist" manifesto that so rattled the man in the Jag.

Scare quotes. Also, since the guy has a Jaguar, are his complaints about socialism invalid?

It was a new law passed by Venezuela's Congress which gave land to the landless.


Notice that the land was not "taken". Who owned the land before it was "given"?

The Chavez law transferred only fields from the giant haciendas which had been left unused and abandoned.

Nice use of passive voice, here. Who had left the land unused? Its owners? Is "use-it-or-lose-it" a typical policy for land takings in this country or region? How did the previous owner of the land acquire it?

But Dick Cheney does not like Clinton nor Chavez nor their band. To him, the oil industry's (and Saudi Arabia's) freedom to set oil prices is as sacred as freedom of speech is to the ACLU. I got this info, by the way, from three top oil industry lobbyists.

Wait a minute-- I thought that Venezuela wasn't pumping enough oil. That makes prices go up. That's good for Cheney. No, it costs votes. That's bad for Cheney. I'm confused. Why does Cheney want the Saudis to set prices? No wait, do the Saudis and Exxon team up to set oil prices? And how will a relatively minor player like Venezuela set prices? And if Venezuela is so poor, wouldn't they want to open every spigot? What's Venezuela's production capacity?

Nice little bit about the three top oil industry lobbyists, too. If Cheney is a puppet of the oil industry, why are the lobbyists selling him out to Greg fucking Palast?

Why should Chavez worry about what Dick thinks? Because, said one of the oil men, the Veep in his bunker, not the pretzel-chewer in the White House, "runs energy policy in the United States."


Well, why is US energy policy important? Does the "bunker" remark accomplish anything more than showing off Palast's liberal cred?

Chavez had his Congress pass another oil law, the "Law of Hydrocarbons," which changes the split. Right now, the oil majors - like PhillipsConoco - keep 84% of the proceeds of the sale of Venezuela oil; the nation gets only 16%.

Chavez wanted to double his Treasury's take to 30%. And for good reason.


Whoa. Hold on. Did the oil majors have a contract with Venezuela? Did they have an agreement? Or did the government offer them a such a large take to encourage capital expenditures, only to pull the rug out from under them? Does Greg Palast have any fucking clue how capital intensive E&P is? How many projects will have be scrapped because the new take makes them unprofitable? Will this reduce Venezuela's exports? Won't the policy be self-defeating, then? Why not?

I could go on. But the article reads (to me) not like investigative journalism but rather the contradictory and unsourced (and anonymously-sourced) ramblings of a third-rate socialist class warrior who fancies himself an intellectual and crusader for the poor.

It doesn't make for good MeFi.
posted by trharlan at 1:54 PM on August 17, 2004


Notice that the land was not "taken". Who owned the land before it was "given"?

I suspect you'll get a different answer to that question depending on how far back you look.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:20 PM on August 17, 2004


Apologies for the length and for repeating some of what trharlan stated, but here's my go.

There's so much BS and baloney thrown around about Venezuela that I may be violating some rule of US journalism by providing some facts. Let's begin with this: 77% of Venezuela's farmland is owned by 3% of the population, the 'hacendados.'

Is this figure unusual? What is significant about this statistic? How does it compare to French or American or Canadian farmland ownership statistics? Where does this number come from? I have seen the figure reported by pro-Chavez sources as being 70% owned by 6%.

I met one of these farmlords...

How inflammatory.

...in Caracas at an anti-Chavez protest march. Oddest demonstration I've ever seen: frosted blondes in high heels clutching designer bags, screeching, "Chavez - dic-ta-dor!" The plantation owner griped about the "socialismo" of Chavez, then jumped into his Jaguar convertible.

What the hell do these two people have to do with anything? Were they the only two demonstrating? Do their opinions not count? So far, the "facts" he references seems to be more along the lines of "selective and irrelevant observation".

That week, Chavez himself handed me a copy of the "socialist" manifesto that so rattled the man in the Jag. It was a new law passed by Venezuela's Congress which gave land to the landless. The Chavez law transferred only fields from the giant haciendas which had been left unused and abandoned.

This land reform, by the way, was promoted to Venezuela in the 1960s by that Lefty radical, John F. Kennedy. Venezuela's dictator of the time agreed to hand out land, but forgot to give peasants title to their property.


This type of law sounds great! Transfer land to the landless. The reality is far more complicated for many many reasons. First of all, the law clearly stated the conditions under which *idle* land could be claimed. These conditions were routinely violated, with claimants having the support of the government in conflicts over land. Also, market value compensation was clearly required when land was transferred or claimed, but rarely given. Also, the government acknowledged that there was plenty of idle government owned land that could be transferred before personal property was required to be seized, however nothing was done to prevent just that from occurring. In essence, the government has behaved extremely irresponsibly in passing theoretically positive laws, then looking the other way when they are violated. This does not encourage confidence in a society, government or economy. Why would anyone local or foreign invest in land or a business when they know that the enforcement of laws are subject to Chavez's whim? What has also happened is that landowners have taken matters into their own hands, threatening and killing those that would make claims. Of course, claimants are becoming more and more assertive in turn. What Chavez has essentially done is taken an existing divide in Venezuelan society, amplified it, and turned it into a powder keg. How much longer until the situation becomes as irretrievable as Zimbabwe's?


But Chavez won't forget, because the mirror reminds him. What the affable president sees in his reflection, beyond the ribbons of office, is a "negro e indio" -- a "Black and Indian" man, dark as a cola nut, same as the landless and, until now, the hopeless. For the first time in Venezuela's history, the 80% Black-Indian population elected a man with skin darker than the man in the Jaguar.

So why, with a huge majority of the electorate behind him, twice in elections and today in a referendum, is Hugo Chavez in hot water with our democracy-promoting White House?

Maybe it's the oil. Lots of it. Chavez sits atop a reserve of crude that rivals Iraq's. And it's not his presidency of Venezuela that drives the White House bananas, it was his presidency of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC. While in control of the OPEC secretariat, Chavez cut a deal with our maximum leader of the time, Bill Clinton, on the price of oil. It was a 'Goldilocks' plan. The price would not be too low, not too high; just right, kept between $20 and $30 a barrel.

But Dick Cheney does not like Clinton nor Chavez nor their band. To him, the oil industry's (and Saudi Arabia's) freedom to set oil prices is as sacred as freedom of speech is to the ACLU. I got this info, by the way, from three top oil industry lobbyists.


OK. Sure. Whatever. I have no idea if any of this is true, or not. I'll take his "three top oil industry lobbyists" at face value. Although the three seem to have only provided him with the "fact" that Cheney wants the oil industry (OPEC?) and Saudi Arabia (I guess) to set oil prices.


Why should Chavez worry about what Dick thinks? Because, said one of the oil men, the Veep in his bunker, not the pretzel-chewer in the White House, "runs energy policy in the United States."

Seriously? Anonymous sources tell him that? Brilliant journalism. And the ad hominems add so much!

And what seems to have gotten our Veep's knickers in a twist is not the price of oil, but who keeps the loot from the current band-busting spurt in prices. Chavez had his Congress pass another oil law, the "Law of Hydrocarbons," which changes the split. Right now, the oil majors - like PhillipsConoco - keep 84% of the proceeds of the sale of Venezuela oil; the nation gets only 16%.

Chavez wanted to double his Treasury's take to 30%. And for good reason. Landless, hungry peasants have, over decades, drifted into Caracas and other cities, building million-person ghettos of cardboard shacks and open sewers. Chavez promised to do something about that.


This is all fine and good, and I cannot really comment as to the machinations behind the scenes at the White House or Chavez's motivations with respect to increasing the national cut, but it seems to me that Venezuela and the Oil Companies had a deal - 16%-84%. What grounds does Venezuela have to change the deal? Don't get me wrong, perhaps they have perfectly legal grounds, but one has to remember, that split does not include the oil company cost of extraction, risk, permanent infrastructure investment, etc etc etc. Sure, it looks unfair split like that, but I'm fairly certain that that split is not unusual and not unfair for the country that assumes no risk and no costs, just collects from big oil. Of course, poverty must be address, but unilaterally changing the deal and alienating the ones bringing the dollars in without due cause in not necessarily the best way to go about it. I don't claim to know the whole story behind this, I just know it's not as simple as "oil companies (and Dick Cheney) bad, Chavez good".

And he did. "Chavez gives them bread and bricks," one Venezuelan TV reporter told me. The blonde TV newscaster, in the middle of a publicity shoot, said the words "pan y ladrillos" with disdain, making it clear that she never touched bricks and certainly never waited in a bread line.

He sure has a problem with Blondes. And confusing his opinion with fact. His pomposity is grating.

But to feed and house the darker folk in those bread and brick lines, Chavez would need funds, and the 16% slice of the oil pie wouldn't do it. So the President of Venezuela demanded 30%, leaving Big Oil only 70%. Suddenly, Bill Clinton's ally in Caracas became Mr. Cheney's -- and therefore, Mr. Bush's -- enemy.

Not fact. Speculation and interpretation.

So began the Bush-Cheney campaign to "Floridate" the will of the Venezuela electorate. It didn't matter that Chavez had twice won election. Winning most of the votes, said a White House spokesman, did not make Chavez' government "legitimate." Hmmm. Secret contracts were awarded by our Homeland Security spooks to steal official Venezuela voter lists. Cash passed discreetly from the US taxpayer, via the so-called 'Endowment for Democracy,' to the Chavez-haters running today's "recall" election.

This may be the case. But where is the proof of these secret contracts? Where are these facts he was going on about! If there are so many secret cash payments, how does he know about them? His three oil lobbyists again?

A brilliant campaign of placing stories about Chavez' supposed unpopularity and "dictatorial" manner seized US news and op-ed pages, ranging from the San Francisco Chronicle to the New York Times.

Who ran this campaign of placing stories? Cheney? Bush? Did they ring up the editors of these uniformly pro-administration papers? This is not fact, it is conspiracy theory pandering. Please give me a break.

But some facts just can't be smothered in propaganda ink. While George Bush can appoint the government of Iraq and call it "sovereign," the government of Venezuela is appointed by its people. And the fact is that most people in this slum-choked land don't drive Jaguars or have their hair tinted in Miami. Most look in the mirror and see someone "negro e indio," as dark as their President Hugo.

Whatever. I have no idea what he's even talking about anymore. racism? Oil? Bush? Clinton? Iraq? Miami? Frosted blondes? Is this man really who you want to point to a as a bastion of journalistic integrity and quality?

The official CIA handbook on Venezuela says that half the nation's farmers own only 1% of the land. They are the lucky ones, as more peasants owned nothing. That is, until their man Chavez took office. Even under Chavez, land redistribution remains more a promise than an accomplishment. But today, the landless and homeless voted their hopes, knowing that their man may not, against the armed axis of local oligarchs and Dick Cheney, succeed for them. But they are convinced he will never forget them.

And now back to the land. So to sum up, Chavez wanted more of the cut of Venezuelan oil in order to give it somehow to Venezuela's poor. No discussion of how, or the dollar figures, or the impact of such a move. No context for the discussion of land transfer. Bizarre allusions to race and media conspiracies, and of course, Cheney and his obsession for oil.

And that's a fact.

No. actually there was one sourced fact, right at the end there. The rest was opinion, conjecture and fluff. This garbage is not reporting, not investigative and certainly no insightful. It's a man writing to his audience, knowing what they want to hear and spewing it forth for them. He mentions propaganda and Chavez's corrupt opposition. He is certainly right. The alternatives in Venezuela may not be much, but he's not helping by spewing propaganda of his own and glorifying a man who very much threatens democratic institutions, if not yet, in the future. Should the CIA be plotting his overthrow? No. Should the world keep a watchful eye on developments in Venezuela? Most certainly yes.


The problem I have with this issue is not, as I said in the other thread, reasonable informed debate about Venezuela and Chavez's policies. It's with inept hacks like this guy putting Chavez on a pedestal and taking shots at Bush and the US while he does it. Again: It is possible to be anti-Bush AND anti-Chavez. Also, it is possible not to take this guy or Chavez at face value when they talk about all of this help for the poor. The amount of critical thinking and skepticism that goes into every post about Bush here amazes me. It also amazes me when people cheer (or jeer) Chavez without the slightest bit of real knowledge. Maybe the "Washington line" on him is crap, and all Western reporting is flawed. That doesn't give this drivel the slightest bit more credibility.
posted by loquax at 2:43 PM on August 17, 2004


Scare quotes. Also, since the guy has a Jaguar, are his complaints about socialism invalid?

The quotes were used because he was quoting the Jaguar guy, and you're blaming Palast for using normal typographic conventions? You're stretching. Something isn't socialist by default, and the different definitions that different people use when saying 'socialism' makes it a rather useless term anyway.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:44 PM on August 17, 2004


The plantation owner griped about the "socialismo" of Chavez, then jumped into his Jaguar convertible.

That week, Chavez himself handed me a copy of the "socialist" manifesto that so rattled the man in the Jag.


Your contention (that the use of quotes falls under "normal typographic conventions) can be true only if the plantation owner specifically referred to the written manifesto as socialist.

Otherwise, it's editorializing.
posted by trharlan at 3:05 PM on August 17, 2004


Otherwise, it's editorializing.

And since no-one aside from Palast and the person in question really know the specifics that you refer to your objections border on editorialising.

I'd be more willing to trust Palast's writing since he was there, talked to the man and is trying to condense what may have been (or may not) a longer conversation.

You're nitpicking.

And to answer your other question...

Also, since the guy has a Jaguar, are his complaints about socialism invalid?

If they are a rich member of the country's elite trying to red-bait the current government based on his desire to maintain his position over the other 80% of the population then I would say that they are indeed invalid.
posted by pixelgeek at 5:22 PM on August 17, 2004


I'd be more willing to trust Palast's writing since he was there, talked to the man and is trying to condense what may have been (or may not) a longer conversation.

Well, I'm not. The guy's a raving nutbag with an axe to grind. If his conversation was substantive, his prose belies the fact.

If they are a rich member of the country's elite trying to red-bait the current government based on his desire to maintain his position over the other 80% of the population then I would say that they are indeed invalid.

Oooh. "Redbait." Like the guy in the Jag is Joe McCarthy reincarnate.

If it walks like a duck...
posted by trharlan at 6:23 PM on August 17, 2004


Cheney wants the oil industry (OPEC?) and Saudi Arabia (I guess)

Minor point here - OPEC != Oil Industry.
OPEC is made up of countries. The oil industry is made up of companies.
OPEC: Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Qatar, Libya, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Nigeria, Gabon
oil industry: Mobil, Exxon, Chevron, Halliburton, Texaco, Shell, British Petroleum, Unocal, Phillips Petroleum

So Cheney would rather have the companies set the prices, because the countries might want to consider things like the welfare of their people. And that would be "socialist"

Of course Cheney is willing to make special arrangements for the most-favored nation of Saudia Arabia, because of their special relationship to the US and the fact that we already know that they don't really think too much of the welfare of their people.
posted by bashos_frog at 6:32 PM on August 17, 2004


d'oh - Saudi, not Saudia.
posted by bashos_frog at 6:34 PM on August 17, 2004


bashos_frog:

Where do you think Cheney would like prices to be set? If the prices are where he wants them, do you think he really cares how they got there?

What special arrangements has Cheney made with the Saudis?
posted by trharlan at 6:43 PM on August 17, 2004


trharlan, if you think Palast is a "raving nutbag", perhaps this view from an American living in Venezuela will tell you something about the nature of the opposition, and whether they really have the interests of the country at heart. It's more than a year old, but this situation has been going on for a very long time.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:00 PM on August 17, 2004


So Cheney would rather have the companies set the prices, because the countries might want to consider things like the welfare of their people. And that would be "socialist"

I just didn't gather that from the piece. I know that OPEC sets prices, but was he suggesting that Cheney wants oil companies to set them instead? Where did that come from? Where's the source? What does that have to do with Chavez? In Venezuela, the discussion is not the price of oil, but the government's cut of oil production.
posted by loquax at 7:11 PM on August 17, 2004


If it walks like a duckoligarch...
posted by Space Coyote at 7:14 PM on August 17, 2004


George_Spiggot: I read the article you linked, and I am in your debt for bringing it to my attention (I am not being sarcastic).

I think that neither Chavez nor the opposition have the interests of the country at heart. I'm not defending the opposition!

What I'm bothered by is Palast's flaming piece of dung, so cleverly masquerading as journalism.
posted by trharlan at 7:19 PM on August 17, 2004


I think that neither Chavez nor the opposition have the interests of the country at heart. I'm not defending the opposition!

What I'm bothered by is Palast's flaming piece of dung, so cleverly masquerading as journalism.


Agreed, 100%.
posted by loquax at 7:32 PM on August 17, 2004


Palast is a BBC reporter. He's just too legit for most Americans to handle.
posted by inksyndicate at 8:03 PM on August 17, 2004


loquax, in your post you raise some interesting what if's, but you provide no facts. If you want to prove something you're going to have to show us that Palast is wrong. He does have the credibility edge here.

I myself was curious about who owns the land here in America. I've always heard the megacorps are bringing down the little guy so I googled, "farmland ownership". I found a couple interesting things. First is this U.S. statistical brief from 1993 showing land entitled "Who Owns America's Farmland?" It's mostly comparing owner operators vs. landlords, but it shows it's pretty well split down the middle. 2002 census data also shows that even in the largest category, farms 2000 acres or more, corporations and families own about equal number of farms and fairly evenly split amount of land. (Page 73 of this report) Now granted this is just arm chair statistical analysis, but I'd say that there's no proof that the U.S. has anywhere near the same distribution of land ownership. In Iowa even though individual and family ownership is decreasing a report from Iowa state university has this to say:

Ownership structure is shifting from sole, corporate and co-ownership to partnerships, trusts and limited liability companies. Sole owners and husband/wife (joint) owners continue to own the majority of the farmland in the state at a combined 70.3 percent. In 1992, that amount was 75.4 percent.

So I think it's fair to say that yes it's different than the U.S. at least, and it's also fair interpretation of the facts to say that this might be symptom of larger wealth distribution issues in Venezuela.

Also, I don't know how to bring this up tactfully, but I think you might be confused on the whole fact/not fact thing.

But to feed and house the darker folk in those bread and brick lines, Chavez would need funds

Social programs require funds. Fact.

and the 16% slice of the oil pie wouldn't do it.

Now I don't know if this is true, but it's provable statement.

So the President of Venezuela demanded 30%, leaving Big Oil only 70%.

Three facts here. 1) He did demand more. 2) 100 - 30 = 70. 3) The remainder went to the Big Oil companies

Suddenly, Bill Clinton's ally in Caracas became Mr. Cheney's -- and therefore, Mr. Bush's -- enemy.

This one is harder to parse. It is certainly Palast's characterization of events. I've written couple paragraphs trying to lay out the complex argument stated briefly here, but to save some space I'll just say it can be disproven. That's where you should be starting your response instead of just making vague semi-accusations.
posted by betaray at 9:06 PM on August 17, 2004


Betaray - he began his article "There's so much BS and baloney thrown around about Venezuela that I may be violating some rule of US journalism by providing some facts." He then proceeded to provide his interpretation of claims that he provides no attribution or context for. I do not and did not claim to know more than him, or know the "truth" whatever that may be. But I know innuendo and rumour mongering when I see it. For all his claim of providing facts, his article wouldn't pass muster in a first year journalism class.

As for my "what ifs" - that's exactly what they were. I have no idea about land ownership ratios in the rest of the world, or about the particulars of Chavez's deals with big oil. That's why I came across as vague, I don't purport to be a rule-smashing anti-establishment journalist. I read to learn about this sort of thing. Naturally, however, I question what is presented as fact without sources (except for those anonymous oilmen and the CIA factbook) and wrapped around snark and very serious conspiracy theories surrounding the Bush administration.

Seriously, change this article's focus to a pro-Bush and anti-Chavez one and post it on Free Republic and don't tell me that you wouldn't rightly be all over this shoddy bit of "journalism".
posted by loquax at 9:31 PM on August 17, 2004


loquax, you're making yourself look obtuse.

but to save some space I'll just say it can be disproven. That's where you should be starting your response instead of just making vague semi-accusations.

.. bore repeating. repeating an accusation is a waste of typing. Now, his not prodiding a list of references is an inconvenience. He certainly doesn't tell you to not go look up waht he's mentioning, if you can find counter-claims do let us know, but you haven't shown anything yet.

I'm going to ignore your MeFi< ->Free Republic claim on its face, don't think you're convincing anyone who doesn't find Freepers to be lovely upstanding folks.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:12 PM on August 17, 2004


loquax - I wish I had time to address each of your objections, but I'd say this ; many of Palast's comments beyond his cited facts (though not all, for sure) have a factual basis, I'd assert. But, his writing would be all but unreadable as a string of factual citations. All the juice would be wrung out. I trust US mainstream media far less for it's claims to neutrality, which I've seen - time and again - revealed as brazen deception.

betaray - thanks for that analysis. I had assumed, foolishly, that most here would be aware of background Latin American issues - such as extreme inequalities of wealth and land distribution - which have far predated the advent of European socialist thought and go back at least as far as the Spanish Conquest of the New World (and likely farther still) :

Perhaps Miguel Cardoso's accusation of American cultural parochialism on Metafilter has more weight than I thought ? (though not for the reasons or in the areas he suggested) - rather extreme (by most current World standards and certainly North American ones) standards of wealth and land distribution as well as longstanding tensions between Spanish colonial elites and indigenous and Mestizo populations have characterized most Central and Latin American nations since the Conquest.

This is simple - widely accepted - historical fact.

So to address trharlan's question : "How did the previous owner of the land acquire it?" (land seized and redistributed under Chavez' reforms) or loquax's "Is this figure unusual? What is significant about this statistic? How does it compare to French or American or Canadian farmland ownership statistics? Where does this number come from? I have seen the figure reported by pro-Chavez sources as being 70% owned by 6%." - well, that land was given to the friends, servants, relatives and agents of the Spanish Crown as - essentially - the spoils of war. The overall history of the disenfranchisement of the indigenous (pre-Columbian) Latin Americans is not that different from the mirror disenfranchisement which occurred in North America except that many of the native populations of Latin America were never reduced to marginalized vestiges living on "reservations" . Instead, they were reduced - mostly - to the level of landless peasantry.

The Incas, Aztecs, and other PreColumbian empires were certainly not benevolent, it is worth noting - and, as Jared Diamond observes (quite correctly I'd add) the Aztecs would have assuredly turned the tables on the Spanish and invaded the Iberian peninsula but for (hold your breathe) the Spanish competitive edge of "Guns Germs and Steel" (horses were invaluable as well) .

In the long run, the imperative of addressing extreme societal inequality can be seen - outside of the now Paleolithic Cold-War era ideological strife - as a simple imperative of sociopolitical hygiene - the CIA World factbook cited by Palast also recognizes the statistical correlation, on a World and historic level, between high national GINI index measures (wealth inequality) and political instability which, in it's turn, feeds economic underdevelopment that then drives further instability and more underdevelopment. And so on.

Further, extreme inequality - in Latin America and elsewhere - has historically been maintained most typically through extreme measures - politically motivated violence (death squads and torture) and police state methods involving surveillance and intimidation : in short, Orwellian methods which share much in common with the tactics of state repression that Orwell saw emerging in Communist nations.
posted by troutfishing at 10:18 PM on August 17, 2004


loquax: ...but was he suggesting that Cheney wants oil companies to set them instead?

Palast: "But Dick Cheney does not like Clinton nor Chavez nor their band. To him, the oil industry's (and Saudi Arabia's) freedom to set oil prices is as sacred as freedom of speech is to the ACLU. I got this info, by the way, from three top oil industry lobbyists."
posted by bashos_frog at 10:51 PM on August 17, 2004


Where do you think Cheney would like prices to be set?
Don't know. Wherever his oil company donors desire, I would presume.

If the prices are where he wants them, do you think he really cares how they got there?
Yes. Because it is about control of the apparatus, not about the price of the moment.

What special arrangements has Cheney made with the Saudis?

"In October 2001, the Treasury Department identified the Muwafaq Foundation, largely endowed by Khalid bin Mahfouz, as an al Qaeda front that had funneled millions of dollars to bin Laden. Some families of the 9/11 victims have named Mahfouz and dozens of prominent Saudis, including members of the royal family, in a lawsuit that accuses the Saudis of funding the 9/11 terrorists. Bush administration officials stated that they would seek to have the suit dismissed or delayed."
- Jeff Gerth and Judith Miller, "Saudis Called Slow to Help Stem Terror Finances," New York Times, November 28, 2002

In May 1999, two months after OPEC members agreed “to cut crude oil production by 2.1 million barrels a day and maintain lower levels of output for a full year”
Dick Cheney praised the decision while speaking at an oil-drillers’ conference. “I’ve been struck by the
extent OPEC seems to have gotten its act together,” said Cheney. ... Recent events have given us hope.”
- Slate, 7/28/00

In 1987, Cheney introduced the Energy Security Policy Act and fought on behalf of oil companies to “raise [oil] prices now.”
"To restore stability to oil pricing, I introduce today the Energy Security Policy Act. It would impose a variable fee on imported oil and petroleum products, which would be triggered whenever the price of oil drops below $24 a barrel.”
- Dick Cheney (Congressional Record, 2/10/87, 3273-74)
posted by bashos_frog at 11:13 PM on August 17, 2004


I applaud the powers of close reading and spirit of independant thought displayed by some of the administration-friendly skeptics in this thread, but I do wish they'd find it in themselves to also exercise some of their skills on the propaganda releases of their own government. That'd be way cool.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:36 PM on August 17, 2004


If there's a nutjob here, it isn't Greg Palast. It's loquax and tharlan for going ludicrously, frothing-at-the-mouth, mental at Palast's piece.

Why was the American government so quick to legitimize the coup of 2002? Why were the American government interfering in the referendum?

Socialism is not a dirty word. Wealth redistribution is going to be necessary in South America if that continent is ever going to be an economic force.
posted by salmacis at 12:48 AM on August 18, 2004


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