Trashing Chavez


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

Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Lara Santoro
Terror as Method: a Journalist’s Search for Truth in Rwanda
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming
B. R. Gowani
Was Gandhi Averse to Climax? A Psycho-Sexual Assessment of the Mahatma
Tom H. Hastings
Another Mass Murder
Anne Petermann
Activists Arrested at ArborGen GE Trees World Headquarters
Ben Debney
Zombies on a Runaway Train
Franklin Lamb
Confronting ‘Looting to Order’ and ‘Cultural Racketeering’ in Syria
Carl Finamore
Coming to San Francisco? Cra$h at My Pad
Ron Jacobs
Standing Naked: Bob Dylan and Jesus
Missy Comley Beattie
What Might Does To Right
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi’s Dream
Raouf Halaby
A Week of Juxtapositions
Louis Proyect
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Iran
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon
Charles R. Larson
Indonesia: Robbed, Raped, Abused
David Yearsley
Death Songs