Saturday, September 23, 2006

Presidential Reading

I'm not an apologist for Hugo Chavez. I think he's a populist demagogue. He does seem to be providing for the poor of his country, which is how he stays in power, but he's blowing Venezuela's oil revenues at a cracking pace, and the minute the oil price drops far enough, either his free-spending ways will stop, or (more likely) he'll keep spending on borrowed money and then default on the debt as hyperinflation flattens the country.

Whatever you may think of his politics, at least he's literate. His well advertised recommendation of Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival does imply that he's read the thing; and having read some of Chomsky's linguistic work back when I was trying to convince myself that linguistics was interesting, I can confidently state that Chomsky is no Danielle Steele. Hell, he's no Jared Diamond; Diamond writes pretty accessibly about complex stuff. Chomsky is dense. Chomsky is obscure. If Chavez reads Chomsky, he has pretty advanced tastes and a good command of language. I wonder if he read him in English or in translation. Of course, Chavez also said it was a shame he never met Chomsky before he died; according to Wikipedia, as of today (Sept. 23, 2006), Chomsky isn't dead, so maybe Chavez can have his wish.

I would also compliment him on his remark that "the place smells of sulfur still" - that's a very poetic, effective and memorable line - except that I'm not sure whether he was speaking English or Spanish. If he was speaking Spanish, the poetic, effective and memorable line is his translator's.

The President of the United States is publicly linked with a book too. Unfortunately in his case the book is My Pet Goat...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:42 AM

    I wish Chavez were more politically astute, less of an incensed bull in a china shop, but I'm not sure such a personality would stand up to Team Bush and the history of poverty indifferent hegemonic US policies toward the rest of the "New World," Canada excepted, policies which have only occasionally shifted for brief periods, most recently under Clinton and before that under Carter.

    I'm not sure there's any reason, however, to object to what Chavez said about Bush, particularly in light of Bush's failed attempt at a military overthrow of Chavez's democratically elected government, which I guess was, as much as anything, just a reflex American reaction to a Latin American government that challenged business interest exploitation of the resources of a country without any regard for the misery of the poor in said country or for the notion that said country had any right to determine the allocation of the wealth generated by said natural resource.

    America's biggest problem is that
    Chomsky's books are entirely too honest and accurate for our traditional "national interests." Sad, because our larger national interests lie not in the bottom line quarterly interests of exploitive business practices, but rather in the common weal of the inhabitants of the planet and the ecological wellbeing of the planet which they inhabit.

    Short version: Team Bush represents the worst of what is bad about US foreign policy, and has, in fact, taken misguided, destructive foreign policies to dizzying new heights.

    Anonymous David