Victory for Democracy!

Venezuela has rejected Chavez’ proposed constitutional reforms that would have made the country a socialist state, and Chavez a dictator for life.

El Universal is a Caracas newspaper with an English-language mirror, and they have good photo coverage of yesterday’s events.  I tried valiantly to read as many different sources as I could yesterday, including many that are written only in Spanish, but I’m not as fluent as I once was and my translation was slow and uncertain.

Venezuela faces more struggles, but buoyed by this victory, they can continue working toward what they want to be.  I fully realize that most of my readers here in the US think in terms of oil and global politics, but remember if you can that I’m thinking of it in terms of Anneliese Diaz and her family, with whom I lived for a summer.  No, they were not among the poor and disenfranchised, by any means, but neither did they survive by living off the backs of the poor.  Mr. Diaz was an engineer (not in the petroleum industry); the family lived a similar existence to my own family here in Oak Ridge.

I’ve lost touch with them over the years, but I worry about them.  Pollyanna-ish, perhaps… but yes, I’ve watched the goings on in Venezuela in terms of real people, not pawns in a global power play.  How might the world be different if we all viewed it that way?

22 Responses to “Victory for Democracy!”

  1. on 03 Dec 2007 at 9:16 am Joel

    ” made . . . Chavez a dictator for life.”

    Uh, not exactly. It removed term limits, something that some American politicians are also trying to do, now that they’re bumping up against them. Term limits, it seems, are for other people’s elected officials.

    “I’ve watched the goings on in Venezuela in terms of real people, not pawns in a global power play.”

    I had to laugh at this one.

    The plural of anecdote is not data, Netmom.

  2. on 03 Dec 2007 at 9:23 am Netmom

    Last time I checked, we still have a two-term limit on the presidency… and I don’t think there have been any credible attempts to change that in my lifetime.

    You can laugh at how I look at things if you wish, but if we all considered the world through a single viewpoint (yours, or anyone else’s), there would be little hope for improvement.

  3. on 03 Dec 2007 at 10:25 am Joel

    “Last time I checked, we still have a two-term limit on the presidency… and I don’t think there have been any credible attempts to change that in my lifetime.”

    Last time I checked, there are more elective offices in the US than just the presidency that are subject to term limits.

    ” . . . if we all considered the world through a single viewpoint (yours, or anyone else’s), there would be little hope for improvement.”

    Indeed. The source of my amusement was not the fact that diversity of viewpoints is good. It is that a viewpoint based on having known a few people personally many years ago, and harboring some sentimental concerns for their well-being, represents any useful insights into Hugo Chavez, his popularity in Venezuela today (his referendum lost by one percentage point), or the significance of the Chavez phenomenon to Venezuela and the US.

    But then, I’m a scientist, so I tend to draw my conclusions from facts that have predictive value rather than my feelings about people. Only because experience teaches me it is a more useful guide to action. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

  4. on 03 Dec 2007 at 10:27 am shane

    I find it ironic that the delayed announcement from the Chavez administration (about eight hours after the polls closed) was partly due to their withdrawal of a planned celebratory ad from the newspapers. Maybe there is indeed hope for Venezuela.

    For Joel: I’d like to know the depth of your empirical data with respect to Venezuela. If you haven’t spent as much time in-country as Netmom, then I’d be more inclined to accept her “anecdotes” than your interpretation of news reports written by others.

  5. on 03 Dec 2007 at 10:37 am Joel

    “I don’t think there have been any credible attempts to change that in my lifetime.”

    Ending presidential term limits has certainly enjoyed some popularity (albeit not “credible”) among conservatives:

    http://www.bartleby.com/73/1489.html

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DE4D9103CF93AA15752C1A961948260

    Indeed, some (again, not “credible”) conservatives have argued for an end to legislative term limits:

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D07E5D61138F931A25757C0A96F958260&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/F/Fowler,%20Tillie%20K.

  6. on 03 Dec 2007 at 10:43 am Joel

    Shane: My “empircal” data is what I read. Reporting of recent events by actual reporters. Netmom, on the other hand, bases her authority on having visited the country decades ago, when Chavez was unheard of.

    In science, Shane, we rely primarily on the literature (the contemporarly reports of others) as a guide to action. None of us can to all the experiments with our own hands, and anyone who advocates personal experience as the sole basis for drawing conclusions is, well, let’s just say ‘naive.’ In science, this mechanism of building understanding from the reporting of others has been the engine driving new knowledge and understanding. Among educated people in other fields, including politics, this has also served as the most successful approach, if the goal is knowledge and understanding.

    Your mileage, like Netmom’s, may vary.

  7. on 03 Dec 2007 at 10:44 am Joel

    “None of us can *do* all the experiments with our own hands . . . “

  8. on 03 Dec 2007 at 11:10 am shane

    O.K., Joel, how many native-Spanish reports have you read in the past 72 hours to substantiate your claims? By your own logic, Netmom’s research still trumps yours. Your assertion that Netmom “bases her authority on having visited the country decades ago” is specious logic that fails to take into account her own reading of “[r]eporting of recent events by actual reporters.”

    (BTW, I’m a scientist too — and I know that it helps to “do” as many of the experiments with our own hands as possible, or at least to derive the equations ourselves.)

  9. on 03 Dec 2007 at 2:01 pm Joel

    “O.K., Joel, how many native-Spanish reports have you read in the past 72 hours to substantiate your claims? By your own logic, Netmom’s research still trumps yours.”

    WTF? You can only get information about a country if you can read newpapers in the language of that country? That’s a pretty narrow definition of research. I read research done in Germany, Russia, China, Japan, The Netherlands and Spain. It is published in English. Does that mean I’m uninformed about the research? You obviously don’t know anything about how scholarship works.

    “Your assertion that Netmom “bases her authority on having visited the country decades ago” is specious logic that fails to take into account her own reading of “[r]eporting of recent events by actual reporters.””

    Netmom’s previous posts emphasized her experience as a kid in Venezuela and her understanding of this nation and its people based on that experience. Her reading of spanish language press is certainly more current and is obviously not what I was referring to. I’m sorry this is so hard for you.

    “(BTW, I’m a scientist too — and I know that it helps to “do” as many of the experiments with our own hands as possible, or at least to derive the equations ourselves.)”

    Obviously we work in different fields. In biomedical research you cannot get funding, nor can you publish, work that simply verifies what others have done. Nobody in my field (biochemistry/genetics/cell biology/molecular) spends any more time than absolutely necessary replicating published experiments. The same is true of the pharmacologists, physiologists and microbiologists I work with and know. There isn’t enough time or money, and most people possess neither the equipment nor the expertise to replicate all the studies that impact their field. I doubt seriously that this is the case in your field, too. I think you’re bluffing.

  10. on 03 Dec 2007 at 2:03 pm Joel

    “Nobody in my field (biochemistry/genetics/cell biology/molecular *biology*) . . . “

  11. on 03 Dec 2007 at 2:44 pm Netmom

    Joel, if you followed any of the links in my posts over the past couple of days, you’ll find several sources *IN* Venezuela. I only linked to English-language sites, but if you follow the links on those sites, you’ll find others — some in English, some in Spanish.

    I think the distinction is that I was gathering information very close to the action (Daniel’s home is very near his polling place, so his comment about the road being blocked off by military vehicles was significant); that is, I think, much closer to “empirical” research than scarfing up whatever Yahoo News offers (quoting, of course, the Chavista sources).

    The Venezuelan sources were quoting returns from individual precincts, which proved in the end to be closer to the truth than either Yahoo’s or Reuters’ early announcements.

    Yes, I have emotional ties to that country. No, it didn’t affect my thought process. Perhaps the distinction is that I wasn’t looking for a reason to bash my own country in the process.

  12. on 03 Dec 2007 at 4:04 pm shane

    Joel,

    A hallmark of a critical mind is the ability to self-verify. If your research is so lax as to simply accept at face value what others have written (or to depend upon the verification and validation done by others), then I’d personally be leery of sponsoring your work.

    As for our current political discourse, your retreat from the battlespace of current events (q.v., “Her reading of spanish language press is certainly more current and is obviously not what I was referring to.”) is noted.

    So what is it to which you are referring? If it’s Netmom’s views on political developments in a nation to which she (a) has a personal affection and empirical experience, (b) maintains personal contact with citizens living there now, (c) has some fluency in the native tongue, and (d) uses all three of the above to maintain currency in ongoing events, then you are WAY out of your league. Which would explain your continuous redirects without ever reaching a conclusion.

    Or perhaps you have something to offer in terms of a constructivist epistemology to advance our collective understanding of unfolding current events? But since such a framework would depend upon both perception and social experience (cf. A. Wendt’s writings on constructivism in international relations), your sole contribution of invective would again fall short….

  13. on 03 Dec 2007 at 7:50 pm Joel

    “Perhaps the distinction is that I wasn’t looking for a reason to bash my own country in the process.”

    That makes two of us.

    “A hallmark of a critical mind is the ability to self-verify. If your research is so lax as to simply accept at face value what others have written (or to depend upon the verification and validation done by others), then I’d personally be leery of sponsoring your work.”

    You are badly confused, Shane. Nobody said anything about “accepting at face value.” But you work in a very tiny field if you are personally able to verify all of the relevant findings in your field. Nobody in biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology or genetics could attempt such a thing, and anyone who claimed to do so is a fool.

    “As for our current political discourse, your retreat . . . ”

    *yawn*

    “Which would explain your continuous redirects without ever reaching a conclusion.”

    Heh. I love it! Positively Rovian in your attempts to reframe your own weakness as the actions of others!

    “Or perhaps you have something to offer in terms of . .[blah, blah, blah] . ”

    Spare me the tedious academobabble, Shane. After 34 years in academia, I’m not impressed. Dressing up your trivial points in faux philosophical bafflegab doesn’t impress me. But it may get you promoted to dean some day!

  14. on 03 Dec 2007 at 8:26 pm shane

    Oh, this is fun! 🙂 I love battles of wits with unarmed opponents.

    Your reference to Karl Rove further demonstrates your desperate attempt to make this thread about the Bush administration, and not about the triumph of democracy in a nation teetering on the brink of despotism.

    My “reframing” was simply getting back to the point of this entire thread, which has subborned far more of Netmom’s bandwidth than it deserves. I have been very clear: as stated numerous times above, I find Netmom’s assessment of the recent voting in Venezuela relevant, timely and interesting.

    However, I have no idea what your opinion is on the subject matter. Other than using it as a vehicle for your diatribe against President Bush and the United States, you have failed to articulate a cogent argument as to the state of affairs in Venezuela, or to the recent voting that denied President Chavez his desired constitutional reforms.

    BTW: thanks for the “academobabble” compliment. I have found accusations of “academia-speak” invariably mean the accuser is out of their league intellectually and has no intelligible response. The fact that you’ve spent almost as much time in academia as I’ve been alive makes the rejoinder doubly sweet.

    “Dean Shane”. Hmmmm… I kinda like the sound of that…

    🙂

  15. on 03 Dec 2007 at 9:57 pm Joel

    “My “reframing” was simply getting back to the point of this entire thread, which has subborned far more of Netmom’s bandwidth than it deserves.”

    Heh. No thanks to you.

    “I have been very clear: as stated numerous times above, I find Netmom’s assessment of the recent voting in Venezuela relevant, timely and interesting.”

    You? Who are you?

    “However, I have no idea what your opinion is on the subject matter. Other than using it as a vehicle for your diatribe against President Bush and the United States, you have failed to articulate a cogent argument as to the state of affairs in Venezuela, or to the recent voting that denied President Chavez his desired constitutional reforms.”

    This thread isn’t about me, Shane. That’s your problem. You insist on attacking me instead of posting about Venezuela, or Chavez, or something, you know, relevant. That’s why I know you’re not really a scientist.

    “BTW: thanks for the “academobabble” compliment.”

    Shoe, fits, wear, etc.

    “The fact that you’ve spent almost as much time in academia as I’ve been alive . . . ”

    I spotted that early on, based on the obvious immaturity in your posts. You have absolutely no understanding of how science is done, how to frame a logical argument, or how to express yourself without recourse to obfuscatory prose. I’ve had high school students in my lab who expressed themselves more clearly than you have.

    ““Dean Shane”. Hmmmm… I kinda like the sound of that…”

    I knew you would. When you get a little bit older, you’ll understand why.

  16. on 05 Dec 2007 at 1:18 am Innocent Bystander

    Well, I worked with a Venezuelan, whose father was the Director of one of the refineries. He had to bring it back on-line after the coup. His father held his nose and defended the democracy, although the president being defended was bad for the country.

    Your viewpoint is difficult to understand if one is at all informed about the situation. Venezuela suffers from deteriorating infrastructure, food shortages, tightening freedom of speech/press, steady decline (31% so far) in oil production, etc. Chavez actions against the upper/middle class are causing a "brain drain".

    Do a google on "collective property Venezuela".
    …"represents any useful insights into Hugo Chavez, his popularity in Venezuela today (his referendum lost by one percentage point), or the significance of the Chavez phenomenon to Venezuela and the US.

    But then, I’m a scientist"

    What was your useful insight?

    "Nobody in my field (biochemistry/genetics/cell biology/molecular) spends any more time than absolutely necessary replicating published experiments. The same is true of the pharmacologists, physiologists and microbiologists I work with and know. There isn’t enough time or money"

    Russia ran this experiment. Their farmers grew 50% of the food on the 2% of the land that was allocated as "private plots". The 98% of the land that was collectivized produced 1/2 of their food. There is no need to rerun a failed experiment. Zimbabwe tried redistribution of land and went from being an exporter of food to an importer.

    "Netmom’s previous posts emphasized her experience as a kid in Venezuela and her understanding of this nation and its people…"

    When exactly was the last time you were in Venezuela?

    "This thread isn’t about me, Shane. That’s your problem. You insist on attacking me instead of posting about Venezuela, or Chavez, or something, you know, relevant. That’s why I know you’re not really a scientist…I spotted that early on, based on the obvious immaturity in your posts. You have absolutely no understanding of how science is done, how to frame a logical argument, or how to express yourself without recourse to obfuscatory prose. I’ve had high school students in my lab who expressed themselves more clearly than you have."

    I’m not going to criticize your writing style or do ad hominem attacks. You’ve tilled that ground fairly well.

    I was going to comment on your defense of totalitarian dictatorship (which is what Chavez respresents). But on rereading your posts, it appears that you are just exercising freedom of speech for the sake of freedom of speech, not to make any point about the situation in Venezuela.

  17. on 05 Dec 2007 at 8:01 am Joel

    “Your viewpoint is difficult to understand if one is at all informed about the situation.”

    If your viewpoint is informed by the same literacy evidenced in your post, it is worthless. I have not here, or anywhere else, defended Hugo Chavez, the Chavez administration, dictatorships, totalitarianism or socialism. Do try to read more carefully before you post.

    “When exactly was the last time you were in Venezuela?”

    LOL! I’ll type this really slow so maybe you’ll get it this time around.

    I’ve never been in Venezuela. I’ve been to Russia, Austria, Germany, France, Greece, Switzerland and Panama. Visiting a country doesn’t necessarily confer any special expertise. Nor does being informed about the politics of a country require that you have visited it.

    “I was going to comment on your defense of totalitarian dictatorship (which is what Chavez respresents). But on rereading your posts . . . ”

    . . . you realized I *didn’t* defend totalitarian dictatorships. Why do you feel you have to invent phony positions for me in order to make a point?

    And if you think Chavez is a dictator in a totalitarian country, you don’t understand the meaning of “dictator” and “totalitarian.” Indeed, this thread is supposed to be about amendments to a Consitution and a popular vote in which Chavez was defeated. I think the reason you and Shane feel you must attack me rather than discuss the actual issue is because you don’t actually understand what is happening in Venezuela today.

    ” . . . it appears that you are just exercising freedom of speech for the sake of freedom of speech, not to make any point about the situation in Venezuela.”

    Heh. Pot, kettle, black, etc.

  18. on 05 Dec 2007 at 8:41 pm Innocent Bystander

    I prefer to have people respond to my post instead of a straw man.

    1.  Thank you for stating your experience in Venezuela, question asked and answered.

    ‘And if you think Chavez is a dictator in a totalitarian country, you don’t understand the meaning of “dictator” and “totalitarian.”’

    2. Chavez is a democratic president in a democratic country. His policies indicate that he would like to be a dictator in a totalitarian country. His proposed amendments would give him unquestioned authority to implement state control of everything (such as his threat to nationalize Spanish assets in his country). By definition that would make Venezuela a totalitarian dictatorship so saying that he represents totalitarian dictatorship is accurate by definition.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totalitarianism

    “. . . you realized I *didn’t* defend totalitarian dictatorships…”
    3. From the number of adverse posts I had assumed that you had said something outrageous about Chavez. Normally people respond to the substance of a host’s blog entry and do not dedicate themselves to style points. But from rereading the posts I saw much chaff and little wheat. So I made a clarification at the end and didn’t revise my initial statements due to time constraints. My apologies…

    “I think the reason you and Shane feel you must attack me rather than discuss the actual issue …Heh. Pot, kettle, black, etc.”
    4. You don’t appear to have read my post. I will repeat the salient portions below:

    I worked with a Venezuelan, whose father was the Director of one of the refineries. He had to bring it back on-line after the coup. His father held his nose and defended the democracy, although the president being defended was bad for the country.

    Venezuela suffers from deteriorating infrastructure, food shortages, tightening freedom of speech/press, steady decline (31% so far) in oil production, etc. Chavez actions against the upper/middle class are causing a "brain drain".

    Do a google on "collective property Venezuela". Russia ran this experiment. Their farmers grew 50% of the food on the 2% of the land that was allocated as "private plots". The 98% of the land that was collectivized produced 1/2 of their food. There is no need to rerun a failed experiment. Zimbabwe tried redistribution of land and went from being an exporter of food to an importer.

    5. These statements would seem to be probative with regards to CitizenNetmom’s initial statement. That by definition, "sigh", would appear "to make any point about the situation in Venezuela.”

  19. on 05 Dec 2007 at 11:30 pm Joel

    “Chavez is a democratic president in a democratic country.”

    Then you retract your lie about my “defense of totalitarian dictatorship”?

    “His policies indicate that he would like to be a dictator in a totalitarian country.”

    He is a demagogue, as I posted previously.

    “His proposed amendments would give him unquestioned authority to implement state control of everything (such as his threat to nationalize Spanish assets in his country).”

    Uh, no. His proposed amendments would still make him stand for re-election.

    “By definition that would make Venezuela a totalitarian dictatorship so saying that he represents totalitarian dictatorship is accurate by definition.”

    Nope. Wrong again.

    “From the number of adverse posts I had assumed that you had said something outrageous about Chavez.”

    You assumed wrong.

    “My apologies…”

    Apologies accepted, with the caveat that you commit to avoid making the same mistake again. If it happens again, I’ll suspect that your apology was disingenuous.

    “I worked with a Venezuelan, whose father was the Director of one of the refineries. He had to bring it back on-line after the coup. His father held his nose and defended the democracy, although the president being defended was bad for the country.”

    Repeating things doesn’t change them. Basing your understanding of the politics of a nation on some personal anecdotes is not data. My point stands.

    “Venezuela suffers from deteriorating infrastructure, food shortages, tightening freedom of speech/press, steady decline (31% so far) in oil production, etc. Chavez actions against the upper/middle class are causing a “brain drain”.”

    I’m at a loss to understand your point. I don’t defend Chavez. Why do you think that copying and pasting the same thing over and over means anything?

    “Do a google on “collective property Venezuela”. Russia ran this experiment. Their farmers grew 50% of the food on the 2% of the land that was allocated as “private plots”. The 98% of the land that was collectivized produced 1/2 of their food. There is no need to rerun a failed experiment.”

    Apparently this is some kind of insight to you. I’ve read several books on Russian history and know a dozen Russians personally. Why are you repeating this silly prattling?

    “These statements would seem to be probative with regards to CitizenNetmom’s initial statement.”

    These statements have nothing whatsoever to do with Netmom’s post. Simply saying that they do doesn’t impress me.

    “That by definition, “sigh”, would appear “to make any point about the situation in Venezuela.”

    Reciting trivial points about Russian and African history makes points about Venezuela . . . how? Have you even graduated high school?

  20. on 06 Dec 2007 at 5:03 pm shane

    LOL! Joel, as someone who has done so much for the community (like your great work on ORHSAlumni.com), I am amazed at your crass mode of communicating on this ‘blog.

    Granted, if I ever have any questions about “molecular genetics of Drosophila” or “Transcriptional repression of euchromatic genes by Drosophila heterochromatin protein 1 and histone modifiers”, you’d be the first person I call.

    But when it comes to international relations, you’ve failed to add anything substantive to this dialog — other than your numerous assertions that “personal anecdotes is [sic] not data.”

  21. on 07 Dec 2007 at 12:46 pm Miguel

    Is her name Anneliese Claret Diaz Guerrero?

    Lives in Maracaibo, Barrio Altamira

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