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28 February 2006

Connecticut to Accept Venezuelan Charity

One of the (if not the) richest states in the world, Connecticut (per capita income $42,104), will now be accepting subsidized oil shipments from Venezuela (per capita income $6,400). Venezuela is offering a 40% subsidy for poor Americans and free oil for homeless shelters. The program is an obvious attempt by Hugo Chavez to embarrass America - but Connecticut is clearly not too proud to be embarrassed (nor are a number of other Northeast states). Connecticut's Attorney General, who gave the plan his legal imprimatur, claimed neutrality on the policy implications:
"As a matter of policy or political perspective, there may be sound reason to have reservations about the source of this assistance -- a company effectively owned by a foreign government that may have questionable policies or motives," he said. "There is also sound reason to be critical of Congress whose ill-advised neglect makes the assistance necessary."
Explain to me, please (anybody), how it is "necessary" for the richest state in the union to get assistance from people in Arkansas (p/c income $23,858) and Mississippi ($22,861) to help it take care of its less fortunate citizens, never mind Venezuelans?

18 Comments:

Blogger Harry said...

Ziel,

As a neoliberal, you should know the answer to your question.

Read more about the Bolivarian Revolution for Social Justice in the following link. Nobody in Venezuela is left to freeze to death as is the case in the U.S.:

BolivarianRevolution

February 28, 2006 11:28 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

I am most certainly NOT a neo-liberal. I'll accept that "freeze to death" is a metaphor as I assume that can't happen in an equatorial climate, but my point was that the richest state in the world (Connecticut) ought to be able to keep its citizens from freezing to death without charity from Arkansas, Missouri (or any of the other 47 states) or Venezuela.

March 01, 2006 8:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheap heating oil is more important in Connecticut than in other states because Connecticut has just about the highest percentage in the country of houses which heat with oil. Only a relatively few parts of the state have gas service.

Peter
Iron Rails & Iron Weights

March 01, 2006 9:35 AM  
Anonymous jth said...

What is Hugo's motive? It can't just be to embarrass us, Bush has allready taken care of that.

March 01, 2006 10:47 AM  
Blogger ziel said...

Hugo's motive was, specifically, to embarrass Bush. But I would think the Nutmeg State ought to feel at least a little shame over this.

March 01, 2006 6:13 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

Is gas much cheaper than oil right now? Regardless, at $43k per man, woman and child, they can afford heat their own state.

March 01, 2006 6:24 PM  
Blogger Dennis Dale said...

Harry; Venezuala remains mostly mired in poverty unimaginable here. Chavez's programs of course seek to address that and that's fine. I for one don't think it's wise for us to attempt to drag Latin American countries into modern open market capitalism (that's what's meant by neo-liberalism in economic policy, actually a rightist point of view, your confusion is understandable); but I suspect I arrive at this position for very different reasons than you.

Keep in mind Venezuala's only real source of non-agricultural income is oil. Oil, without the remarkable technology and industry created by open market capitalism (primarily driven by the U.S., where you imagine people are regularly freezing to death) would be worthless; indeed, to the likes of Chavez, it would be unknown.
Venezuala'a weatlh is entirely a byproduct of pure capitalist energy, the very thing Chavez et al. bemaon. There's really no denying that.
I think Latin America's recent leftward tilt is probably what needs to happen, and is certainly to be expected after years of ill advised attempts to fast forward nations and peoples into free market capitalism for which they have not the requisite virtue, intelligence, or inclination.
So, for the very reason it is foolhardy to remake Latin America in North America's image, it would be disastrous to hamper the U.S., Europe, and Asia with the socialist model that seems the natural state of affairs in simpler, less intellectually robust nations of the world such as Bolivia and Venezuala.
As for the governor, his duty is to find ways within his state, made wealthy by, yes, capitalism, to take care of these less fortunate. His abetting a petty dictator (Chavez, legally elected, has moved to squash political opposition and close down the political process, pulling the ladder up behind him) in his attempts to solidify his position by anti-American demagogery is very nearly treasonous.
If it were true that people were freezing to death it would certainly be understandable. But it isn't. So the governor and legislators of Connecticut have an obligation to do this the right way.
What the leadership of Conn. has decided to do is accept a quick and easy solution that they expect to garner votes and keep them in office, while degrading the country as a whole. Legal perhaps, but no less shameful.

March 01, 2006 7:50 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

Thank you, Dennis - well said, great points all.
Venezuela can probably handle some socialism since it's not (right now) relying on an elite class for all its wealth - any idiot can make money selling oil - so redistributing the wealth makes sense. When the oil runs out or the oil market crashes, the party's over.

March 01, 2006 8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dennis -
Well put, but references to Connecticut's governor should be "she" (Jodi Rell) rather than "he" :)

Peter
Iron Rails & Iron Weights

March 01, 2006 11:04 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Dennis,

Quote: "...modern open market capitalism (that's what's meant by neo-liberalism in economic policy, actually a rightist point of view, your confusion is understandable..."

Neoliberalism as in neoconservatism is what I actually meant. In Europe (where I live) and in Latin America (e.g Venezuela) neoliberalism amounts to for the most part and overlaps with what is considered to be neoconservatism in the U.S.

Quote:"...the U.S., where you imagine people are regularly freezing to death..."

Unfortunately that's the case. Last month I watched a German TV broadcast titled "Freezing Americans — Venezuela Helping" on "Weltspiegel" which is Germany's most watched program on foreign affairs.

Here are translated excerpts:

"Help came, of all things, from someone whom the American government actually hates:
From Venezuela's socialist President Chavez. He donated cheap heating oil without which many citizens in the Northeast of the U.S. would have to choose between eating or heating, because the one-time financial support of their own government has long been used up.
The employees at the Boston welfare office know that this year many people will freeze to death in their houses. The Bush government has promised additional help but hasn't made the necessary monies available. John Drew from Boston's welfare office:
"It's our natural disaster in this country. Now the cold winds are coming from Canada and the poor people are practically cut off from energy supply. How are they supposed to survive?"

Even if you don't understand German, it's still worthwile viewing this broadcast:

Freezing Americans

Quote:"...it would be disastrous to hamper the U.S., Europe, and Asia with the socialist model..."

Those socialist models already existed both in the U.S. (FDR's New Deal) and in Western Europe (e.g. social market economy in Germany) and raised the living standards of ALL these countries' citizens.
Prior to the introduction of neoliberalism in 1999 in Germany, the people of that country enjoyed one of the highest living standards in the world.
Ever since, unemployment and the number of impoverished have been reaching record levels.
Germany is rapidly approaching Second World status. I know what I'm writing, because I live there.
Neoliberalism/neoconservatism isn't a solution, it is the cause of all problems.

You claim:
Quote:"...Chavez, legally elected, has moved to squash political opposition and close down the political process..."

You're correct in that Hugo Chávez has been legally elected as President. In fact, he's won NINE elections both LEGITIMATELY and DEMOCRATICALLY in the past six years.

However you're wrong to state he's a petty dictator who's moved to squash political opposition, as the "opposition" in Venezueala consists of narco-thugs, terrorists and other criminals.
One of these organized crime groups (Sumate) even managed to overthrow the legitimately elected President of Venezuela in a violent coup attempt. For a period of three days a dictator named Carmona was in power but luckily the coup failed and loyal troops enabled Hugo Chávez to return to government as President.

Quote: "As for the governor [of Connecticut], his duty is to find ways within his state, made wealthy by, yes, capitalism, to take care of these less fortunate. His abetting a petty dictator[...]in his attempts to solidify his position by anti-American demagogery is very nearly treasonous. [...]What the leadership of Conn. has decided to do is accept a quick and easy solution that they expect to garner votes and keep them in office, while degrading the country as a whole. Legal perhaps, but no less shameful."

I disagree, Dennis. While it is understandable that you feel ashamed of the U.S. receiving foreign aid, thus joining the ranks of a Third World country, the situation for the poverty-stricken population is a grim reality. Many simply cannot afford to buy enough oil for heating. President Chávez has been helping the poor of the U.S. and I think we all should be thankful for his gratuity.
It is a an outright disgrace that our own "elites" — comprised of corporate officials and Republican/Democratic politicians — are not able to help the poor and needy of our country's population. (I say "our" because I am both a U.S. and German citizen.)

Please also have a look at the other news covering the Venezuelan President's commitment to helping the most vulnerable in our society:

Vermont: 2.5 million gallons of heating oil for low-income community
Vermont

A humanitarian gesture of extraordinary magnitude,
Venezuelan oil flows to Philly
Philadelphia

State, tribes, Citgo sign fuel deals; Heating oil delivered to needy Mainers
NativeAmericansMaine

Oil For Bronx Poor is a Foreign Gift
Santa Claus, make way for Santa Chavez
NewYork

March 02, 2006 1:09 AM  
Anonymous Harlem said...

I am horribly lacking in the intellectual capabilities of many of the contributors here but I'm not seeing the issue.
The rich get richer based on taking advantage of good deals when offered, often at the expense of others or on the "gray" side of legal. Bush/Cheney know all about that.
CT is no supporter of Bush so I doubt they care about embarassing him. It might be seen as a bonus.
How is this so different than the massive China imports we greedily accept? Do we need bargain basement goods from them to fill the shelves of WalMart & Target just so the needy can afford them? I realize we are talking about a state vs. a private company but is there that much difference?
The state of CT was offered a good deal on a needed commodity and took advantage of it. Treasonous seems a strong description of the act. Was it treasonous for Tennessee to invite Honda to build a factory? Again, I realize the difference between Japan and Venezuala (I'm not that under educated) but don't fully understand the "big picture" difference. We seem to, as a country, have little problem accepting oil from Saudi Arabi, not exactly the poster child for democracy and free speech.
Educate me. What am I missing?
Harlem

March 03, 2006 6:47 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

Harlem, there's a couple things. What really got my goat was the CT Attorney General claiming the state was forced to do it because Congress didn't act - like CT needs money from the rest of the country to keep its citizens warm - its obscene.
The other is that CT was not offerred a "good deal" - it was charity they were offerred. When Toyota builds a factory in Tennessee, that's a deal - both sides entering into a business arrangement. Chavez is instead giving away oil to CT's needy - not doing it to be nice, but to contrast the goodness of his socialist philosophy over the abhorrence of the capitalist philosophy that has made the state of CT so freaking rich. If Connecticut were hit by a hurricane would the government be accepting and distributing charity from third world countries? I don't think so - that would be obscene - and so is accepting this oil subsidy.

March 03, 2006 8:46 PM  
Anonymous Harlem said...

Ziel:
I'm not as familiar with the terms under which the oil was offered to CT so I'll have to defer to you on that. Of course, what is characterized as charity on the part of the donor may not necessarily be characterized similarly by the reciever. I believe that much welfare, food stamps & medicaid are seen more as an entitlement than as charity...by the receiver. May not apply here.
I think I can say with some degree of certainty that offers of building material, food and other basic needs would be very much welcomed by the states of LA & MS with little regard to the nation of origin, or that nation's politics. One thing we don't need is heating oil.
How many countries meet our "requirements" for those that we should take a deal from? If Cuba wanted to (and was able to) donate tons of food, shelter and clothing to the thousands of folks in LA & MS who are still struggling to survive, I'd be all for it. Are we trying to directly change the government of Indonsia with all of our donations from the jsunami?
Off the subject some, I admit, but why are we dumping on the great state of CT, home of the original "Midnight Rambler" for taking a good deal when offered?

March 03, 2006 9:44 PM  
Blogger ziel said...

I do believe the "Midnight Rambler", were say his roof damaged in a storm, would politely decline an offer of financial assistance - from anyone - but certainly not from someone of modest means.
Perhaps a better analogy would be someone who's a cheapskate but quite wealthy. He refuses to pay for his kid's education, feeling the kid should get financial aid, for which he does not qualify. The wealthy cheapskate then accepts an offer from an aunt to pay for the kid's education from her savings. Wouldn't you think that a pretty low act?
Even better, suppose the wealthy man wanted the kid go ask his grandfather for the money. The grandfather is wealthy, but nowhere near as wealthy as his son, so he refuses, feeling it's the father's responsibility, not his. Meanwhile the grandfather's lifelong rival gets wind of this, and offers to pay for the kid's education, hoping to publicly humiliate the grandfather. The father accepts the handout (knowing all this and despite having more than enough money to pay for his own kid's education), thus humiliating the grandfather. How would you view the father - not very kindly, I suspect.

March 03, 2006 10:04 PM  
Blogger Dennis Dale said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

March 04, 2006 12:59 AM  
Blogger Dennis Dale said...

Harry,
The curious logic of asserting that Chavez’s actions render the U.S. a “third world country” (and therefore I presume most of the world) can’t be taken seriously, so I’ll assume you’re needling me for teasing you about the neoliberal mischaracterization. I’m sorry. Do we feel shame? No, there would have to be something truly shameful for that. Affronted? Yes, I’ll admit to that, and a little disturbed that you seem to enjoy our embarrassment so much. As a German, you should know that schadenfruede is unbecoming. But if we feel compelled to allow Chavez the political advantage of his gesture because it would be unfair to the poor people who will benefit (there are poor people in America? Oh, shit, Marx was right!), then we should also point out where that money comes from ultimately, and it has nothing to do with state socialism, which is, still, a system of parasitism. It is a clever ruse though.
You make the mistake of confusing the social democratic model with socialism. It isn’t. It relies on a free market system to survive, and too much tapping of that private sector leads to stasis. That has been our experience, as is yours now. The welfare state has its own problems, as you no doubt are witnessing first hand in Germany. It takes a certain amount of productivity to tap into, and an aging population is disaster. I won’t pretend to know the answers. What I won’t do is lob insults over the water regarding whatever imperfections there are in the European model. I feel more kinship with my fellow Westerners than with any Latin American demagogue, right or left, and I’m sure you have enough intelligence that some day you’ll come around to the same point of view.
I for one hope that Chavez’s program gets its chance, same for Evo Morales (and he’s right about coca) but I think they have a way to go before they get to beat their chests and pronounce themselves superior to the despised Norteamericanos. I join you in opposition to any interference from the U.S. Enough meddling in the affairs of others. Yet I also will admit to taking some satisfaction in knowing that the absence of U.S. pressure in the region will reveal as false the notion that the Third World’s ills all stem from First World interference. Curious, how Asia manages to thrive in spite of the same experience with globalism (and I’m no proponent of it); yet when we get to Latin America, Arabia, and Africa all are powerless before the World Bank, the WTO, and Pepsi Cola.

You didn’t address my point, that Venezuela remains mired in poverty, and gets most of its export income by way of the industriousness of capitalist America, Europe, and China (rapidly abandoning state socialism). As Ziel pointed out, when the oil runs out, the party’s over. Think of Venezuela’s oil reserves as the keg at a frat party.

If you want to know which system works better, just look to see where the people are going, tens of thousands risk their lives fleeing Latin America for the U.S. every year. When Chavez et al. succeed in reversing that migration, then I’ll be willing to view statements such as “we don’t let our people freeze to death” as something other than the bleating of embittered ideologues. No, their people tend to die en route to the U.S., in full flight. I hope the Bolivarian revolution succeeds soon; we’re up to our ears in its refugees at the moment. But what do we know, we only live here.

March 04, 2006 1:01 AM  
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