free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ... taking an imposing analytic toolkit out of the box, over the wall and into the street ... with callous disregard for accepted wisdom and standard English

reading tea leaves from original angles, we've led with uncannily prescient takes on the federal surplus, the dotcom crash, the "Energy Crisis", the Afghan campaign, the federal deficit.

More where those came from ... stay tuned.

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All "major" articles of older material have now been imported, some with updates worth perusing. We'll keep it all on the main page for a while, will add a few loose pieces of history, will trim the main page and index the archives for convenience later.


free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ...
... gateway to the next Progressive Era?
Some say it's nothing but a train wreck ... roll in the big cranes, clear the track, see what the crew was smoking. If I thought so, I'd not be writing this ... and if they thought so, they'd not be drumming so hard.

Many thanks to Tony Adragna and Will Vehrs, still shouting 'cross the Potomac at QuasiPundit. Early Camp Enron material can be found in QP's Dispatches department.
Monday, April 15, 2002

--- Condi on Venezuela: "No Witch Hunt" ... Fat Chance! ---

For a few hours this week, Venezuela was a country club Republican wet dream: no-nonsense generals toss out a left-leaning doofus (Hugo Chavez) and install the Chamber of Commerce chairman (Pedro Carmona) as head of state. Castro loses a friendly neighbor, the border confining FARC to Colombia is tightened up, the flow of oil is guaranteed.

Few Americans were even aware of this drama, and most of those applauded. Democracy and Rule of Law are honored principles, but the Having Our Guy Win Principle apparently trumps them both.

Official Washington affected a not-very-convincing pose of smug nonchalance ... even as a military clique dismissed the legislature, cabinet and courts in Latin America's deepest-rooted democracy. Uncle Sam was first to recognize the new government ... doesn't look like there was much of a crowd!

A funny thing happened on the way to the inauguration. Middle managers in government, commerce and the military itself refused to get with the Carmona program, while pro-Chavez and pro-democracy demonstrators massed and defied military authority; blood ran in the streets (again). In a still-fluid situation, Chavez (associated with a failed military coup in 1992, BTW) is back in office.

Hey, kids, what time is it? National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice says it's time for Chavez to reflect on his own shortcomings ... and most emphatically, "no time for a witch hunt". Interesting she should bring that up. Who is Condi to tell Venezuela when it is or isn't time for a witch hunt? Is she afraid some particular witch will get burned? "Don't look over here".

Carmona's cover story is already shot full of plot holes. The coup was explained as an emergency response to Chavez loyalists opening fire on peaceful protesters ... but the timeline shows coordinated elements of the putsch rolling into position before the shooting starts ... the "spontaneous" protests smell of astroturf ... and it seems there was gunfire from the "peaceful" crowd. Is it conceivable that shooters in the crowd -- or shooters on both sides -- were agents provocateur?

Expect a witch hunt with real witches. Expect a growing trail of documents, e-mails, confessions, disclosing a year-long game plan with the "hit and run" sign given in Washington and received in Caracas. Expect heads to roll in more than one capitol. Expect adverse consequences for "Plan Colombia".

Expect Otto Reich, US point man on Latin America, to get intense scrutiny in belated "confirmation" hearings. (Denied Senate confirmation, Reich -- who qualifies as a terrorist of global reach by my read of the Bush Doctrine -- obtained a recess appointment in January. For background, google on "otto reich" and "appointment" ... take your choice of sources.)

Don't be surprised if Venezuela's trail of bread crumbs leads to an old-school US destabilization scheme ... provoking the fall of a regime by artfully vandalizing the underlying economy and other basic institutions. In theory, this witchcraft enables us to flip regimes until we get one we like. "Oops! Hit the clicker again, Otto." In practice there are downsides ... one being that most of the world learns to despise us ... another being the trail of residual failed states.

Don't be surprised at anything. Don't be surprised if some NSC staffer smuggled "smoking gun" documents out of the office in her underwear. Don't be surprised if NSC witches and their flying monkeys return to Caracas to finish the job. And don't be surprised if all this culminates in a large-scale reversal of US fortunes in Latin America.

What's ahead? There's no break in the pattern of narrow, self-serving elites played against the occasional counterpoint of bungling left-wing screw-ups. Democracy fails in Venezuela either way. In Argentina, the economy and polity pancaked in parallel. Brazil progresses uncertainly, with death squads patrolling the internal border between development and destitution. In the past two years, governments fell in Peru and Ecuador. Paraguay parried a military coup. Chile is still suffering flashbacks from the current market democracy's terrorist roots. Colombia is going to failed-state hell in a handbasket. Only Uruguay and Bolivia are stable (save for the occasional provincial uprising or tribunal over CIA "Dirty War" crimes). Are we going to reach in and "fix" things every time the wrong team scores?

Why do so many turns of history catch us with our chips stacked on the retro-colonial side of the table? Wouldn't the Cold War have gone better if we played the progressive side in more local mindshare markets? Why do we give in to the urge to short-cut Democracy's messy correction cycles? Isn't our mojo strong enough to abide by the "pot luck" results of self-determination elsewhere?

On the other hand, maybe it is our duty (as global hegemon) to appoint heads of state around the world. If so, shouldn't we choose 'em democratically? Assign four-year terms on a rotating schedule, and hold a US election for the president of a different country every Tuesday. It'll create ready filler for slow news days, and gradually prepare US voters to carry the full weight of their solemn responsibilities as imperial sovereigns.