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Dictator love

March 9, 2013

[J.P.'s Moment of Common Sense on Broad View, KJFK 1230 AM Reno. Listen live Saturdays at 3:00 PM Pacific Time.]

Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez died Tuesday, or so they say. Rumors of his demise started circulating two weeks ago and since Venezuela doesn't have a free press and neither does Cuba, where Chávez died, God only knows whether Tuesday was actually the day it happened. The thing about dictatorships is that succession is uncertain and problematic—the despots in waiting like to get their takeover plans shipshape before they announce the previous thug's death.

Venezuela's constitution requires an election within 30 days but Vice President Nicolás Maduro has already taken control and nobody really expects an election that soon. He needs time to consolidate, you see: enough time to get the drug lords who will finance his campaign and the militant street thugs who will do the dirty work on election day and the crooked cops who will arrest political opponents and the corrupt military which enforces martial law... on his side.

Then he'll hold an election. At that point you can be sure his opponent will lose, be arrested, or die mysteriously during the campaign.

What, you thought Venezuela was a democracy? You must be listening to Jimmy Carter. He flew down there in 2004 when they tried to get rid of Chávez with a recall election. Our former president held a press conference announcing the election was fair and accurate, and he was endorsing it. That tells you all you need to know about Jimmy Carter. Peer-reviewed studies since then suggest voters rejected Chávez 56% to 44%, but the official results from the government were the opposite. Carter should have known better—the Venezuelan government rejected his own Carter Centre's suggestions, used software they wrote themselves to tabulate results, and refused to let international observers anywhere near the computers.

I don't know why some people love dictators. Chávez isn't the first despot Carter fell in puppy-love with: he assured Americans in 1978 that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians wanted peace with Israel, and assured us in 2011 that North Korea's Kim Jong-il would abandon his nuclear weapons program. We know how those two predictions worked out.

Maybe dictator love is an ersatz intelligence test. If so, there were a lot of people flunking their IQ tests this week. In addition to Carter extolling his "vision," Michael Moore bragged about the way Chávez confiscated the nation's oil fields. To Michael Moore that's a sign that he cared about the poor, but actually he was stealing most of the money. President since 1999, Chávez accumulated a personal fortune of $2 billion before he died, and they estimate he's been sending his buddies in Cuba about $5 billion per year in money and oil.

Meanwhile, because he kicked out the oil production experts, Venezuela's oil fields are starting to fail.

Sean Penn had something to say, of course: "...the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion." Mr. Penn apparently doesn't know about that $2 billion personal fortune. Even so, you'd think the high inflation, food shortages, power outages, riots in the streets, and mounting national debt would at least make him reconsider that "champion of poor people" crap.

Venezuela's index of economic freedom dropped 32% while Chávez was president. The only countries on the entire planet measured with less freedom are Eritrea, pre-revolution Libya, Cuba, Zimbabwe, and North Korea. That's ugly. Chávez turned Venezuela into a totalitarian cesspool, such that most of the middle class simply packed up their stuff and left.

Oliver Stone said, “I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people and those who struggle throughout the world for a place.” Trouble with that statement is we know it isn't true, don't we? Thanks to those peer-reviewed studies I mentioned, we know that a "majority of his people" voted to throw him out of office.

Dictator love is always strong in Hollywood. Celebrities are always travelling to Cuba to pay their respects to Fidel Castro. On a per capita basis, Castro is a worse thug than Joseph Stalin was, and he took a country with one of the highest standards of living on Earth and forced it into a half-century of abject poverty, but Hollywood stars like Sean Penn love this guy. Like I said, dictator love is sort of an IQ test.

Speaking of IQ, maybe the worst hellhole-of-a-country is North Korea, the place Dennis Rodman recently visited. He was all over the talk shows this week bragging about a new children's book he wrote (seriously!) and expressing his love for Kim Jong-un. Turns out he likes "dear leader" so much he's moving there to be North Korea's basketball coach. When George Stephanopoulos challenged him on the wisdom of calling a mass murdering tyrant his friend, Rodman said this:
"Well, you know what, seriously, you know what, guess what, guess what, what I did, what I did was history, was history and guess what, it's just like we do over here in America, right?"
So that's the answer to that.

Maybe the most over-the-top sentiment expressed this week came from fellow dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who had this to say after Chávez died:
"Although Hugo Chávez is no longer among us today, I am sure his innocent spirit has ascended to the heavens and will one day return to us with Jesus Christ and will once again help humankind establish peace, justice, and kindness."
Mahmoud was called on the Persian carpet for that one by Muslim religious leaders, who were not amused by the promotion of a Venezuelan dictator to the rank of prophet.

That's... today’s dose of common sense (or the lack thereof).

"The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish." —Charlie Chaplin

"Ignorance is an evil weed, which dictators may cultivate among their dupes, but which no democracy can afford among its citizens." —William Beveridge

From Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA       

March 9, 2013 - Are you sure you aren't talking about the US? Cuz I gotta say some of the same scenarios sound very much like what the US is doing now. I'm not sure our last elections in some areas were all that accurate. Plus look at all the countries we send aid to that aren't all that friendly towards us nor do the fit what we consider as our definition of democracy. Just sayin! – Pam T., VIrginia
J.P. replies: Some people go to sleep in Venezuela harboring the misguided belief they live in a democracy. Same here.

March 9, 2013 - As one of [those] Venezuelan citizens who left I am disgusted at the people praising this dead thug. Good riddance. Most painful of all, the congressman of my district here in NY, Gregory Meeks, similarly corrupt as Chavez, is down there at the funeral. – H.J., New York

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