Friday, January 19, 2007

The Scales on Those Righties' Eyes Are Krazy-Glued On

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First, the news from Venezuela:

Venezuela's National Assembly has given initial approval to a bill granting the president the power to bypass congress and rule by decree for 18 months.

President Hugo Chavez says he wants "revolutionary laws" to enact sweeping political, economic and social changes.

He has said he wants to nationalise key sectors of the economy and scrap limits on the terms a president can serve.

Mr Chavez began his third term in office last week after a landslide election victory in December.

The bill allowing him to enact laws by decree is expected to win final approval easily in the assembly on its second reading on Tuesday.

Now, the reaction from right-wing bloggers in the U.S.:

Blue Crab Boulevard:

T)Hugo Chavez has had his rubber stamp legislature grant their seal of approval to his demand that he be allowed to dictate law by executive fiat. Venezuela has begun the descent into dictatorship and rule by personality cult.
[...]
To the misguided who keep spouting about how Bush is seizing power, forming an imperial presidency, blah, blah, blah. This is what a real power grab to form a dictatorship looks like. This is a coup and Venezuela is about to enter a very, very dark night. This is dressing up a dictatorship with the faux trappings of democracy. The Venezuelan Congress is effectively dead as a real legislative body as of today. Now they exist only at the pleasure of (T)Hugo. And he won't be pleased if anyone opposes him.

QandO:

Well, he's very close to "legally" having himself declared dictator ...
[...]
Now anyone believing the 18 month sunset provision will actually be obeyed, please line up on the left over there for some great land deals west of California. My guess is a convenient emergency will find away to emerge at just the perfect time.
[...]
And, of course, over the years he's really made it impossible for himself to lose an election, not get any law he wants passed by the legislature or supported by the courts. That's because they all belong to him now.
[...]
... I truly feel sorry for the people of Venezuela. They're being led by a fool who will only ensure their eventual destruction if they don't figure it out quickly and, hopefully, replace him with all due speed.


Tigerhawk:

Castro's ideological heir and actual protege, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, is arrogating to himself the power to issue laws by decree, and declaring that he, too, will nationalize big oil's assets. ExxonMobil has responded with a strongly worded statement about the "sanctity" of contracts.

"I don't want to get pejorative about it, but contract sanctity is very, very important to Exxon Mobil... We don't enter into our obligations lightly and we expect that others don't enter into their obligations lightly either," he said.

That's all well and good, but Chavez is a Commie. He doesn't do sanctity of contracts. He will decree that ExxonMobil's assets are now the property of the "people" of Venezuela, by which he means the people who will specifically support Hugo Chavez. The difference between Cuba of 1960 and Venezuela of 2007 is essential, though. Oil is the lifeblood of Chavez's post-Commie communism, and it keeps him in power. ExxonMobil really should blow it the frack up. It would be doing us all a favor.*
__________________________________________
* For all of you out there who believe that one should not advocate a policy that one is unwilling to pay for, note that I own enough ExxonMobil stock that a few points off its stock price would be enough to pay my mortgage for several months. For what that's worth. And, yes, I know that it would be virtually impossible to pull off without putting innocent people in jeopardy of life or limb, so I appreciate that ExxonMobil should not actually do this. But apart from those messy details, it would be the best result for everybody, including the people of Venezuela.

I promise you, you cannot make this stuff up.

But just so you know reason still exists, here is one voice of sanity (liberal, natch):

You know what they say about absolute power. Or what Aristotle said about tyranny -- it is truly the worst of all possible regimes. And now there may not even be the facade of democracy in Venezuela. Chavez talks up his Bolivarean revolution -- his efforts to transform his country and Latin America, in alliance with like-minded rogue states like Iran, into a grand anti-American bloc -- but what forms the core of his rule is not liberation but absolutism. In this case, the rule of "revolutionary" law -- in effect, the arbitrary rule of a single unchecked man -- is nothing but tyranny, authoritarianism, the oppression of the people. Arbitrary rule always is. Which is why the rule of law, as opposed to the rule of man, is so central to democracy. And which is why, in our advanced democracies, we must safeguard the rule of law vigilantly and diligently, protecting it from the trespasses of those who would weaken it, scrap it, in the name of executive authority.

Bringing this back to an American context, let's hope Bush and the executive power fanatics who prop him up -- Cheney, Addington, etc. -- don't get wind of this. With Congress no longer rubber stamping the president's arbitrary rule, those fanatics may seek other and more radical ways to undo the rule of law and, with it, the very foundations of American democracy, if not democratic rule itself.

14 comments:

Michael J.W. Stickings said...

Thank you, Kathy.

Dale said...

Do you seriously believe that, come 20 Jan 09, Mr. Bush will have created some machination that allows him to remain in office?

If not, then your post is frivolously dishonest. If so, then you are, not to put too fine a point on it, a crank.

Steven Taylor said...

Save for the position on how Chavez compares to Bush and the usage of the term "commie" I am not sure how different the first several descriptions of the situation are as compared to what Michael wrote. The QandO post, for example, seems to track with Michael's basic views on the nature of the Chavez regime.

Kathy said...

You're welcome, Michael.

Dale, Chavez is being condemned on the right, not just for wanting to eliminate term limits (which, if I understand correctly, he has not yet done), but for urging the Venezuelan legislature to allow him to bypass them for the next 18 months while he passes any law he wants to. Note also that this is NOT a coup: Chavez ASKED his Congress to do this, and his Congress enthusiastically AGREED to give Chavez this power.

What Chavez AND the Venezuelan legislature have done is absolutely appalling. It's terrible. It's also appalling how blind and hypocritical Chavez's critics on the right are, because bypassing Congress, OR bullying Congress into rubber-stamping his policies, is exactly what Pres. Bush has been doing since the day after 9/11. And Congress has willingly, and often enthusiastically, gone along with it. It's unseemly in the extreme, to say the very least -- and, if I may so add, *frivolously dishonest*, to criticize Chavez's power grab when our own president has been formulating and acting on a theory of unlimited presidential power for the past five years.

Last, Steven: Michael criticized what Chavez has done *and then brought it back to the U.S. and what Bush has done, which is strikingly similar to what Chavez has done.*

The point, Steven, is not that what Chavez has done is in any way good or excusable -- it's appalling, as I said above. The point is that the U.S. government has done pretty much exactly the same thing -- certainly close enough that it's rank hypocrisy to condemn Chavez for it without noting that he is doing what we have done for these past five years.

The fact that Michael DOES this makes all the difference in the world.

I might further add that we are not even in a position to criticize Chavez, given what our own government has done and continues to do. That is precisely one of the worst effects of Bush's legacy. He has removed the U.S. from the high ground and put us in a lower moral standing from which we cannot serve as an example of national rectitude, or chastise other countries that do not so serve, without appearing to be utterly insincere.

Steve White said...

My goodness, Kathy, I guess you can't see where Mr. Chavez is going: one of the first things he'll do, once the Congress votes all the power to him, is to remove the 18 month limit on his dictatorial power.

And second, the notion that he 'asked' the Congress to do this, and they just 'agreed' to do it, is silly and disingenuous: Mr. Chavez has commanded it, and his cronies in the Congress (there is no opposition party anymore) are completely in league with him. Do you really believe this is just a simple matter of asking and agreeing?

Finally, the notion that 'the U.S. government has done pretty much exactly the same thing' is ludicrous. At no point has George Bush 'asked', or has the US Congress 'agreed', to a wholesale transfer of power to the Presidency. Indeed the Congress has been questioning and, in many cases, resisting the transfer of any new power to the President.

It's a progressive fantasy to see Mr. Chavez as a democrat and Mr. Bush as a dictator. It simply doesn't conform to reality.

Kathy said...

"I guess you can't see where Mr. Chavez is going: one of the first things he'll do, once the Congress votes all the power to him, is to remove the 18 month limit on his dictatorial power."

I never said I can't see Chavez going in that direction -- but where do Bush supporters get off criticizing him for doing what the POTUS has been doing for five years? Many of the dictatorial powers Bush has given himself and the federal government will remain after he leaves. They are enshrined in law. Bush has essentially removed limits on presidential power, period -- whether or not he is still president.

"And second, the notion that he 'asked' the Congress to do this, and they just 'agreed' to do it, is silly and disingenuous: Mr. Chavez has commanded it, and his cronies in the Congress (there is no opposition party anymore) are completely in league with him. Do you really believe this is just a simple matter of asking and agreeing?"

And how is that different, in any meaningful sense, from the way the U.S. Congress has rubber-stamped every policy and piece of legislation that Pres. Bush has demanded? Do you think that is just a simple matter of asking and agreeing? Bush and his cronies have told Congress that they are irrelevant, that the President is not legally bound to get their approval for anything, as long as he says it's related to national security. Do you think that Congress has just naturally and willingly gone along with this? Do you disagree that Congress has been bullied and intimidated into complying?

"Finally, the notion that 'the U.S. government has done pretty much exactly the same thing' is ludicrous. At no point has George Bush 'asked', or has the US Congress 'agreed', to a wholesale transfer of power to the Presidency. Indeed the Congress has been questioning and, in many cases, resisting the transfer of any new power to the President."

Congress can question all it likes; it hasn't actually done anything to stop the president. Grumbling is not resisting or refusing. And what it's taken to get Congress to even do this minimum level of oversight is the most draconian power grab any president has ever engaged in, in U.S. history.

You are incredibly literal-minded in your understanding of how people lose their freedom, Steve. Bush does not have to explicitly "ask" the Congress to agree to a wholesale transfer of power to the executive branch. Bush has been acting in the belief that he already has that right, and Congress has allowed him to do so. It will not be a simple thing to undo the dictatorial powers Bush has given the presidency even after he is gone.

The Unabrewer said...

"And how is that different, in any meaningful sense, from the way the U.S. Congress has rubber-stamped every policy and piece of legislation that Pres. Bush has demanded?"

You mean like Social Security reform? Or Harriet Miers? Or Janice Rogers Brown? Or John Bolton?

Kathy said...

"You mean like Social Security reform? Or Harriet Miers? Or Janice Rogers Brown? Or John Bolton?"

You certainly got me there, but I don't know if John Bolton belongs on that list. When Bush couldn't strong-arm the Senate Judiciary Committee into releasing his confirmation, he put him in the UN position on a recess appointment -- which was a total misuse of the constitutional provision for recess appointments. The founders did not intend that provision to serve as a vehicle for a power-mad president to bypass the Senate confirmation process.

That said, do you really believe Social Security, Harriet Miers, and Janice Rogers Brown cancel out ordering librarians to hand over lists of their patrons' book borrowings and Internet searches, cherry-picked and stovepiped intelligence, warrantless eavesdropping, detaining people (including U.S. citizens) indefinitely without charges or trial, the de facto abolishment of the First and Fourth Amendments, the denial of habeus corpus to prisoners and indeed the denial that the Constitution contains any habeus corpus right at all, the announcement that the judiciary branch of government must defer to the president's interpretation of law, blowing off domestic and international concerns about human rights violations at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, secret CIA prisons, kidnapping people and turning them over to countries notorious for torture (including countries that officially are enemies of the U.S., like Syria, and that we continue to threaten with war), allowing people to be tortured for months and then released because they had done nothing wrong and then treating the trauma and devastation caused to their physical and psychological well-being and that of their families as so much water under the bridge?

In one simple question: Are these the actions of a government that has the moral standing to lecture another government for anti-democratic power grabs?

Steve White said...

... ordering librarians to hand over lists of their patrons' book borrowings and Internet searches ...

Vastly overblown, and in fact hasn't happened. And if a person suspected of being an al-Qaeda terrorist was at the library, I'd like to know what he was reading.

... the de facto abolishment of the First and Fourth Amendments ...

Another progressive fantasy, the 'de facto' is there to allow you to walk away from defending that statement when challenged. I'll challenge you anyway: there is no abolishment of the 1st amendement; please note that you and I are free to speak. Indeed, progressives all over are speaking, and loudly (and mostly insanely, but I digress). Not a single person has been jailed or punished for speaking, publishing or videoing. Poor Michael Moore: he released a movie that made only $150 million dollars.

Likewise, the 4th amendment remains intact. 'Warrantless surveilliance' falls into a legitimate gray zone; the Founders didn't ever consider it necessary to get a warrant to keep track of an enemy agent.

... the denial of habeus corpus to prisoners ...

The Founders also never considered that enemy combatants would have the right of habeus corpus in the first place. In no war we've ever fought have enemy combatants ever had access to our legal system. The Geneva Convention protocols (1 through 4, the ones we've signed) doesn't mandate that level of protection; combatants are entitled to a 'hearing' (usually a military, field level affair) to ascertain their status.

Indeed, the Bush administration has provided more legal protection for enemy combatants than any previous administration in our history. Chew on that one for a while.

... blowing off domestic and international concerns about human rights violations at Guantanamo ...

The Bush administration has certainly blown off progressive yelping about this. But the International Committee of the Red Cross has said, with but a few exceptions, that our handling of prisoners at Gitmo has been exempleary.

As for Abu Ghraib, you might wish to recall two things: first, we punished our wrong-doers, including the commanding general, and second, since the facility has been returned to Iraqi control, conditions there have deteriorated markedly. The Iraqi government is, as it turns out, considerably less squeamish than you or me.

... secret CIA prisons ...

If I were president and asked the CIA to run a prison, I certainly wouldn't want them talking about it. They're the CIA, after all.

As to rendition, that's one of the more unfortunate parts of the WoT. It follows along with the old adage about sausage making: if you're squeamish you might not want to look too closely. I have little sympathy for people who are engaged in global terrorism, and I'm willing to bend my principles modestly to ensure the office tower I work in remains safe from a hijacked airliner.

Kathy said...

Steve,

The defenses you make of the abuses of power are mostly flat-out wrong, or leave out so much essential information that they are deeply misleading. Although I am tempted, I will not refute them, because I won't change your mind and there's no point in getting into a "You're wrong; no, you're wrong" cycle when it doesn't advance the discussion.

What I will do instead is simply point out that, in defending policies that violate legal and human rights on the grounds that they are necessary to catch terrorists, and that the men who wrote the Constitution lived in very different times and didn't anticipate events like 9/11, etc., etc., all you are doing is what every dictatorial state power has done throughout human history (or at least since humans started feeling that it was necessary to find ways to justify persecution). It's always possible to justify torture, secret prisons, arbitrary arrest and detention without charges or trial, government spying, clamping down on free speech, etc., by pointing to a national security necessity. Stalin did it. Hitler did it. Pinochet did it. Every two-bit tinhorn dictator in the 20th century did it. If you want to do it, too -- and believe that you're not doing it -- fine. I can't stop you, nor do I have the right to try, beyond a certain point.

There is no doubt in my mind that Chavez and his supporters in Venezuela do it, too. Shutting down the legislature for 18 months so the president can pass any law he likes without opposition is certainly a massive abuse of power, but I am sure as I'm sure of my name that it can be justified. (Note, so there's no misunderstanding: I'm not saying that *I* believe it's justifiable, or that there's any justification: I'm saying that everything Chavez has done and will do CAN and WILL be justified by those who support him, using arguments very similar to yours.

Chew on that one for a while.

Steve White said...

The difference between me and Mr. Chavez should be obvious: I'm a democratic American, and he is a communist thug.

And he is indeed a communist.

But I'm glad to hear that you think that Mr. Chavez is engaging in an abuse of power (very similar to how Hitler got the Riechstag to 'vote' him all the power he wanted after Kristallnacht). That wasn't clear in your first post -- perhaps you should write an update.

Now all we have to do is to get you to see the difference between Mr. Chavez and President Bush.

Kathy said...

Steve, democratic Americans don't make excuses for torture, illegal government spying, and sham trials in kangaroo courts. So you might want to rethink either your support for the latter or your self-definition.

And my position on Mr. Chavez's abuse of power was crystal clear in my first post. Perhaps you should go back and re-read it.

Steve White said...

Kathy, there is no 'excuse-making' for acts of torture. We punished the individuals responsible for Abu Ghraib. While behavior at Gitmo isn't perfect, the ICRC agrees that it hasn't been torture (and there again, when our soldiers crossed the line they were punished).

Please compare and contrast that to the approach of the jihadis who sawed off Daniel Pearl's head. And let's remember why they did so.

The notion of 'illegal government spying' is in the eye of the beholder. I don't see the warrantless surveillance of calls originating from abroad from suspected terrorists or terrorist supporters to be illegal -- it certainly is spying, that spying is one of the proper tools a government has when fighting an enemy.

As to the 'sham trials in kangaroo courts', I'm presuming that's a reference to the tribunals to be held at Gitmo. Leaving aside for a moment that the captured combatants aren't entitled to anything other than a status hearing (per the Geneva Conventions), one careful look at the 2005 law will demonstrate that there are procedures and lawyers. It's hard to call that a 'kangaroo' court.

Now going back to the first, original point: in re-reading it, all you really did was to quote several other bloggers without expressing your own opinion. And the last blogger quoted was one with whom you obviously agreed, (the-reaction), who clearly thinks Bush is worse. So I'm hard-pressed to see where you condemned Mr. Chavez. Perhaps you could make this more clear in a new post (it is, after all, your blog).

It's difficult to get the 'reality-based community' to look past its Bush Derangement Syndrome, unfortunately. If you could get past that you'd see that while Mr. Chavez may not threaten world peace, he's going to make millions of innocent people miserable.

Kathy said...

"We punished the individuals responsible for Abu Ghraib."

No, we did not. Only the low-level grunts were punished; none of the people who were responsible for authorizing the torture and creating the atmosphere in which it could happen were punished. And that list goes all the way up to Donald Rumsfeld.

"While behavior at Gitmo isn't perfect, the ICRC agrees that it hasn't been torture"

Again, not true. Here is an ICRC report from February, 2004: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/2004/icrc_report_iraq_feb2004.htm

No one at Guantanamo has been punished for the abuse and torture of detainees. And the torture continues. Detainees at Guantanamo, for example, continue to be subjected to force-feeding, as described here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4770390.stm.

"I don't see the warrantless surveillance of calls originating from abroad from suspected terrorists or terrorist supporters to be illegal... "

You leave out that electronic surveillance is also conducted on calls originating in the United States, including instances where both ends of the conversation are in the United States. It is illegal to eavesdrop on the phone calls of U.S. citizens without first obtaining a warrant from a FISA court judge.

"Leaving aside for a moment that the captured combatants aren't entitled to anything other than a status hearing (per the Geneva Conventions), one careful look at the 2005 law will demonstrate that there are procedures and lawyers. It's hard to call that a 'kangaroo' court."

No, not per the Geneva Conventions. Per the Geneva Conventions as unilaterally and arbitrarily interpreted *by the Bush administration.* In reality, there is no class of human being who is not entitled to basic legal rights, which includes habeus corpus rights.

"The 2005 law will demonstrate that there are procedures and lawyers..." This is absurd. It's been all over the news that the Bush administration intends to try the Gitmo detainees using hearsay evidence and coerced testimony (i.e., gained through torture). Detainees do not have the right to see the evidence against them, and it's unclear whether even their attorneys will have that right. Cully Stimson has said publicly that detainees at Guantanamo should not even have attorneys. No democratic legal system in the world considers such practices consistent with a fair trial. There is absolutely no difference between the sort of trials Bush is proposing to give the Gitmo detainees and the kind that political prisoners got in the Soviet Union. None.

"And the last blogger quoted was one with whom you obviously agreed, (the-reaction), who clearly thinks Bush is worse."

The last blogger I quoted did NOT "clearly think Bush was worse." That is utter nonsense. The blogger to whom you refer said absolutely nothing to indicate that Bush was "worse." What he did was suggest that Bush has committing offenses against democracy that are comparable to Chavez's. That is fair, and completely truthful.

"If you could get past that you'd see that while Mr. Chavez may not threaten world peace, he's going to make millions of innocent people miserable."

That may or may not turn out to be true. What is undeniably true, however, is that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld are already responsible for making millions of innocent people miserable. Indeed, all 3 of them are responsible for making hundreds of thousands of innocent people dead.

It's disgustingly, repulsively hypocritical and dishonest to condemn Chavez for turning his back on democracy while praising and excusing the Bush administration for doing the same.