FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trashing Chavez

by CLIFTON ROSS

I don’t know why I was so shocked listening to Keith Olbermann’s insulting, degrading and uninformed remarks about President Hugo Chavez yesterday. Perhaps because Olbermann is the only man on commercial television who has so far had the guts to make a frontal attack on Bush and his coterie of war criminals. I suppose I thought his articulate and courageous stand against the Republicans, his criticism of their comrades, the spineless Democrats and other collaborators with the Bush regime, indicated a superior knowledge, analysis and understanding of politics in general. I hoped that his bold commentary indicated a suspicion of a system glued together by massive lies. Sadly, it appears that I was wrong.

On his November 20th program Keith Olbermann referred to a “news” story in which Chavez, trying to make his way to the bathroom past a reporter, reportedly said, “I have to go. Do you want me to pee on you?”

First of all, it’s a tragic commentary on the state of “news” and journalism that bodily functions become major news stories, be they sexual or excretory, especially when people like Chávez have so many more interesting features worthy of discussion, most notably, ideas. That Olbermann would stoop to the news cycle at its most base level is, itself, a disappointment. But his comment after the reference to “peeing on” someone was more so: “Maybe you should have asked that before you started doing that to your own country’s laws and citizens.”

To what is Mr. Olbermann referring when he states that Chávez is “peeing on” the laws and citizens of Venezuela? Is he referring to Chávez’s dozen or so electoral victories, all declared clean and fair by international observers (including ex-President Carter)? Is it Chávez’s stand for the dignity and independence of Latin America? Is it Chávez’s internationalism which has not only taken him to Cuba and Iran but also caused him to discount heating oil for the poor in the U.S.? Could it be the clinics Chávez has set up around the country, Barrio Adentro, guaranteeing Venezuelans free health care? Or the Bolivarian Universities he’s funding to enable three million people, without means, resources, hope or future, to study and win degrees and new possibilities? Was Chávez “pissing on the laws” when he allowed a referendum on his presidency to go through and which he won handily in 2004?

Mr. Olbermann needs to get his facts straight and he could start off by reading Mark Weisbrot and Luis Sandoval’s study published in July of this year by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, entitled, “The Venezuelan Economy in the Chávez Years” (http://www.cepr.net/content/view/1248/8/ ) wherein they show that “Real (inflation-adjusted) GDP has grown by 76 percent since the bottom of the recession in 2003.” Indeed, once the pressures of a U.S. inspired coup, U.S.-backed oil strike and Referendum (all funded by Olbermann’s and our local nemesis, Bush) were soundly defeated by Chávez and his supporters, Weisbrot and Sandoval agree that “it appears that the Venezuelan economy was hit hard by political instability prior to 2003, but has grown steadily and quite rapidly since political stability began improving in that year.”

The economy has grown, but that new wealth has not merely trickled, or gushed, upwards into the pockets of the rich, as it always seems to do in the U.S. In Venezuela the poverty rate has dropped 31% under Chávez, (extreme poverty from 53% to 9.1 percent) but the authors acknowledge that this current poverty rate “does not take into account the increased access to health care or education that poor people have experienced. The situation of the poor has therefore improved significantly beyond even the substantial poverty reduction that is visible in the official poverty rate, which measures only cash income.” This is not to mention, as the authors also point out, the “increased health care benefits to the poor, since in the absence of these benefits, most poor people would simply have gone without health care, and therefore suffer from worse health, lower income, and lower life expectancy.” And those health benefits are substantial: “In 1998 there were 1,628 primary care physicians for a population of 23.4 million. Today, there are 19,571 for a population of 27 million.

Given these facts, and your absence of them, Mr. Olbermann, could you explain exactly on whom Chávez has been pissing? If not, perhaps in the future you could drop the subject or deal with something a bit more substantial when talking about Chávez than urine.

In other words, put up or piss off.

CLIFTON ROSS represented the U.S. in Venezuela’s World Poetry Festival in 2005. From 2005-2006 he reported from Mérida, Venezuela. His movie, “Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out” is now available from www.freedomvoices.org and www.progressivefilms.org. He is the co-editor of Voice of Fire: Communiques and Interviews of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (1994, New Earth Publications) and his book, Fables for an Open Field (1994, Trombone Press, New Earth Publications), has just been released in Spanish by La Casa Tomada of Venezuela. His forthcoming book of poems in translation, Traducir el Silencio, will be published later this year by Venezuela´s Ministry of Culture editorial, Perro y Rana. Ross teaches English at Berkeley City College, Berkeley, California. He can be reached at clifross1@yahoo.com

 

 

 

More articles by:
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail