"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Mar 9, 2013

Anatomy and Dissection

So, a couple of conservative acquaintences are gloating and bleating to me, already, about how Hugo Chavez was a liar and thief and how socialism is all about stealing money from the poor and hard working so that jumped up peasants can live like kings. Yeah, I know. There's bunches of cross pollinated bullshit and bad logic in that.

In questioning one of them, I was trying to understand where this notion of Chavez stealing money from Venezuela was coming from.

I didn't take long to find out:
The  Criminal Justice International Associates (CJIA), which defines itself as a risk assessment and global analysis firm in Miami, claims that Chavez left about $2 billion dollars to his family. They allege he gave $5 billion to the Castro brothers each year in oil profits, from companies he stole. They also concluded that since 1999, he and his friends in the Bolivian gangs have stolen $100 million in oil profits.
The conservative echo chamber is a twitter with the news. Problem is, as with most conservative "facts," it appears to be the fabrication of a single man, one Jerry Brewer (he who is CJIA, pretty much all by himself), who didn't even say that Chavez stole the money. He said he believes that Chavez probably stole as much money as he believes the Castro brothers have "stolen" from Cuba, which guesses would be around $2 billion dollars.

I suppose it's just fairly predictable that conservatives can't conceive of socialism except as theft from the "real people" who really deserve all the world's wealth because they have the right morality, phenotypes and gods. I suppose there's also no use wagering against the likelihood that conservatives will reduce world figures into Bad and Good. Manicheans just think that way.

But, you know what I find really insidious about the treatment given to Chavez's legacy?


As a politician, Hugo Chavez was a force of nature, as strangely masterful as he was polarizing. But as an economic steward, the socialist firebrand was something sadder and far more ordinary: "an awful manager," as author Rory Carroll succinctly put it in the New York Times today, who squandered a world of opportunity after he took over Venezuela's presidency in 1999.
Which sets up this conclusion:
But judging Chavez's record on poverty in isolation would be a mistake. Brazil, Peru, and Colombia also made significant progress on measures such as poverty and child death under more traditionally capitalist economies. Latin America, on the whole, was growing. It would have been hard for it not too: It's a resource rich continent that's reached relative political stability at a time when the world is desperate for oil, food, timber, and minerals. It was a bit like being dealt a pair of queens in Texas Hold 'em -- a very good hand, which  Chavez didn't play particularly well..

... Chavez isn't leaving Venezuela's as a full on economic basket case (we're not talking about Zimbabwe circa 2001, here). But rather than helping the poor by setting his country on a path towards long-term prosperity, he attempted to resurrect a long-discredited version of state driven economics that's led to the deterioration of the country's most important industry and wreaked havoc with its consumer market. It's hard to imagine who in the long run will benefit from that legacy. 
Conservatives may conjure up stupid phantasmagorias, sure. They do it all the time. That's what you get when you trap people in god-driven moralities and bourgeois sentiment, spending a quarter of their lives immersed in bootstrapper mythology and the seemingly concrete belief that one's victories are a reward for one's own, individual effort.

But, what explains the market technocrat, eh? What explains the merit liberal, who cannot conceive of the use of a resource for anything but growth?

Something far, far worse, I imagine. A triumphalism which makes the conservative variety look like an evening with Mr. Rogers.


Tao Dao Man said...

The goose steppers will eventually fall to the way side.
Now we have to see who will pick up the Socialist torch and run with it.
The banana republics are no more, and will not return no matter how much the West wishes it so. America is now a hamburger helper republic thanks to its crony corporatista capitalist system.
Latin countries are doing just fine with worker run and owned companies.

Jim H. said...

I think you are spot on to hone in on the definition of "steal" in the piece under examination. There is only a difference in degree (not in kind) in Venezuela from what Alaska does with its oil resource money.

If a for-profit oil company removes the resource from the ground, pays a subsidized rate/barrel and substandard wages, does not pay and has no liability for its degradation of the environment, distributes its profits to international shareholders & speculators and crony bondholders & creditors and top mgmt. most of whom aren't 'in country': how is that not also "stealing"?

Jack Crow said...


The US has a vested interest in securing a "favorable regime committed to democracy" atop the world's largest proven light crude reserves.

If the factions of our state were willing to come together in order to devastate Iraq (turning it into an artificial reserve and forcing oil per barrel into the stratosphere), I imagine they relish the thought of the much easier project of "restoring" the Castillo elite in Caracas.

Jack Crow said...


I have a maxim for explaining this to my sons. Theft is the taking or consumption which violates the sanctity of property.

And since property always functions to exclude (sort of like the ideational property known as the nation), theft is the violation of the implied or explicit order to suffer because of that exclusion

I point you to this, in order to illustrate:

A Bridgeport woman, who was arrested last year on a charge of stealing her 6-year-old son's education in Norwalk, pleaded guilty Wednesday to larceny and subsequent drug charges and sentenced to five years in prison.

Tanya McDowell, 34, pleaded guilty to first-degree larceny by defrauding a public community under the Alford doctrine, indicating she disagrees with the state's facts in the case, but understands she would probably be convicted if the case went to trial.


Her crime? Living out of her car and enrolling her son in the (white) school district where he had a better chance of receiving a quality education.