Day Three: Democracy Held Hostage in Honduras

By Al Giordano

Andrew Sullivan has asked aloud for English-writing bloggers from Honduras to send him their reports. Sadly, what he’ll likely get is a mountain of the upper-class “oligarch diaspora” propaganda from those that are the overwhelming majority of that small minority of folks that speak English in or around Honduras. With the state of siege underway in Honduras, they’re making up every falsehood possible to defend an indefensible coup d’etat. We've beat these types when they've tried it before: reason and fact will prevail again. An all-out information war has exploded on the Internet. So if you’re able to translate important reports from Spanish and send them to Andrew, the very widely read blogger who does have good in him, maybe you can help unspin the propaganda. CC me on your missives if you like.

A lot of it will be from Honduran equivalents of disgraced professional simulator Francisco Toro, the Venezuelan 2002 coup supporter who wrote a decrepitly dishonest essay published by The New Republic today about Honduras. The cockroaches are coming out of the woodwork. Sunlight, now as ever, will be our disinfectant! In 2003, when Narco News was exposing Toro’s undisclosed conflicts-of-interest as a member of the Venezuelan opposition while writing for the New York Times, he abruptly resigned after just one month as a Timesman. Now that there’s a coup to support in Honduras, he’s baaaaaack. Memo to The New Republic: Did Toro disclose his history of undisclosed conflicts of interest when submitting that embarrassingly pro-coup screed?

Today in Honduras, various important things happened. The illegitimate “president,” Roberto Micheletti, convened a rally (see photo above) where he stood side by side with the military general that led the violent coup. So much for the spin that the generals handed over the reins to civilian authorities: the coup has expanded their power vastly. The pro-coup event generated a decent sized – but not all that impressive considering all the power at its command - crowd. Employees of pro-coup businesses were forced to attend, and bussed in. Anyone who saw it on TV could tell it was not grassroots, but Astroturf: they had clean little Honduran flags and very few homemade signs. And compare the lily white gang on that stage with any other photo of the Honduran population! It was the "escualidos" all over again, Honduras chapter.

Meanwhile, watch this video of what his troops were doing to the media while he launched his campaign to deny that he had committed a coup:

You don’t need to speak Spanish to “get” the gist of it. (And if you understand just some Spanish, these are radio guys and gals: they speak very clearly and coherently.) Just watch the body language of the reporters describing the beatings they got and the positions the soldiers forced them into while they destroyed Honduras’ biggest radio chain Globo’s transmitter and took them off the air.

Members of the media: When you defend or make apologies or excuses for this coup, you are enabling that level of violence and repression against media workers just like you.

Later, Dictator-for-Three-Days Micheletti called a “cadena nacional,” decreeing that all TV stations in the country would broadcast his second speech of the day live. There, he announced that the military curfew – initially said to be just for two nights – will now be extended for five more nights, that no Honduran may leave his or her home from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. this week.

He sent his attorney general on a TV tour to announce that the coup government had compiled 18 charges against President Zelaya – including treason, for, get this, wanting to reform the Constitution – and that if Zelaya makes good on his pledge to return to Honduras on Thursday he will be arrested “the moment he steps on Honduran soil.”

That was followed by another “cadena nacional,” this time with the president of the Supreme Court offering legal imprimatur for the illegal coup d’etat.

Meanwhile, here are some translations of Twitter messages from Honduras by others who watched Day Three of this travesty unfold:

Looking at the coup’s charges against Zelaya, tomorrow they’ll blame him for climate change, AIDS and hunger in the world.

Commerce is blocked in #Honduras. Will the businessmen unite to pressure for the return of Zelaya to avoid more losses?

The Facebook page of Manuel Zelaya can be read; Roberto Micheletti just wants your “estado” (in Spanish, “estado” is the same word for “status” as for “state”)

Honduras - How to bypass Internet blocking ... - http://www.r.ieves.com/a1.aspx

Look at this video with images that COWARDLY JOURNALISTS would never dare show you http://bit.ly/4oOXaU

Excellent photo gallery showing the repression by the military coup http://tinyurl.com/mx3mdz

In these moments #Honduras has reinstituted the signal of CNN in exchange that it read letters of support for the coup. TeleSur, to the contrary, remains censored.

CNN interviews the attorney general of #Honduras. Really, in seriousness, I ask: How did these guys that are such imbeciles succeed in a coup. Gorillas!

“From what I know there has not been one death, not one arrest,” says the attorney general of #Honduras. Clearly he’s lying in the face of the evidence.

The attorney general of #Honduras doesn’t know how to expl ain why Zelaya now faces criminal charges after they first exiled him to another country. A pathetic cabinet…

#Honduras must question what is the benefit of having an Army in a poor country. It seems that it only serves for coups d’etat.

Micheletti: "Cuban doctors will recieve hospitality and are welcome to stay."

Micheletti: “Thank you for your support. I will lower the minimum wage, maintain the curfew and I won’t let the impoverished hoardes bother your luxury automobiles.”

What was the point of that last “cadena”?

President of the Supreme Court is now on “cadena nacional”

Honduras - How to send an anonymous email ... - http://www.r.ieves.com/b1.aspx

The World Bank and the Interamerican Development Bank have suspended their loans and credits to #Honduras

We already have the UN, the OAS, SICA, ALBA, World Bank, Interamerican Bank, and PetroCaribe, among many… who is still missing from those that refuse and repudate the coup?

More news is still coming in tonight. Our team is working around the clock. Stay alert and keep refreshing our front page and also here for the next updates being written up right now...

Comments

Where's Obama?

Ok Mr Giordano....

 

Do you still think it's possible the United States in not involved in the overthrow?

Obama and Clinton are not doing anything....All they have to do is make it clear they want him back.

 

The Honduran Military is deeply connected on the surface and below the surface to the U.S.

 

This is a joke. 

 

Obviously it's a U.S coup intended to send a message to Chavez and all other socialists who the U.S imagines "threaten" our way of life with thier crazy ideas about health care and regulation of business.

Where's Stu Piddy?

Stu Piddy - Haven't you followed any of it? Multiple statements from Obama, Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Llorens, the US Ambassadors to the OAS and the United Nations, ALL calling for the reinstatement of Zelaya and declaring that the US doesn't recognize the coup government.

I only approved your dishonest comment because it is so woefully ignorant that you make a fool of yourself.

Chavez himself said last night, "God willing they don't kill President Obama. May God protect President Obama."

Zelaya said today, in response to a question about whether the US government was behind the coup, that it definitively was not, and that he appreciates the vast support he's getting from Obama.

But they're stupid and you're so smart? Shut up and read the facts before you go around spreading falsehoods. I have zero respect for faux-leftists like you who run around making up fictions, calling them fact, while folks like my team and I are doing all the heavy lifting to defeat this coup. You're a fraud. Your blog is an incoherent joke. And whatever is wrong with you, it's not my problem. Sayonara, fool!

Obama and a single word

The Honduran people are getting the Obama-treatment.  Some pretty words in a speech, and that its.  And, amongst all the pretty words that sound good, what's most noticeable is the one single word that is missing.

"Coup"

If Obama calls this a coup, US law requires the cut-off of aid to the rogue military government.  Therefore, amongst all the pretty words, the one word that would make a difference is missing.

@ Samson

Samson - You seem more coherent and possibly sincere than our last contestant, but you're not seriously saying you didn't see or read the words of President Obama yesterday from the White House when he said "this coup is not legal."

It's all the rage in Latin America, as you can see from this video:

If you don't understand the Spanish, the headline on the video is "CNN takes Obama off the air when he calls it a 'coup d'etat'!"

Now, as you can see from my last response, I am as tired of phony leftists that claim the opposite of what is fact as I am of the escualido coup defenders.

There. He used the word. What you said would happen if he used the word hasn't happened yet... but that don't mean it ain't gonna happen.

The ALBA statement - you can read that from our front page, too - called for a "staggered" and "escalating" series of economic sanctions. In any war, you save your biggest guns for last. If you can't see what's happening, there's a space at the children's table with Stu Piddy above, I'm sure.

Rhetorical opposition is does not rule out actual support

When a group of generals in the (US-founded and -funded) Haitian army, led by Raoul Cédras, overthrew the democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, US President Bill Clinton made all sorts of public gestures of condemnation towards the coup, while at the same time going so far as to violate an OAS embargo to ensure that the army would be supplied with fuel.

Meanwhile, Aristide remained an involuntary guest in the United States, where he remained until he finally agreed to implement the neoliberal economic program of the candidate Washington had supported in the election.

Obama & Co. have accurately described the coup as what it is, and have - albeit haltingly - condemned it. However, Obama has made no move to stop the military aid on which the Honduran army is dependent for its very existence. If military aid were cut off, the coup would grind to a halt. Given how complete the integration of the Honduran army into the US command structure is (indeed, the general that Zelaya fired was a graduate of the notorious School of the Americas), it is hard to believe that they would act without at least the expectation of US support, and even harder to believe that they would continue a coup in the face of US condemnation unless they were aware that it was not meant seriously. There are many such examples in the annals of US foreign policy (Haiti and Indonesia, to name just two prominent ones).

Zelaya is in a delicate position. Although the coup has been condemned almost universally, even by the US, he knows full well that he is dealing with an army that does not take his orders, and cannot be sure that his safety will be guaranteed when he returns to Honduras (particularly considering that Micheletti has ordered his arrest). In these circumstances, any denial by Zelaya that the US was involved in the coup (beyond having armed and trained the Honduran army, which is well documented) is just as likely to be an attempt to avoid angering the US. Plus, even assuming that it is sincere, there is no reason that he would even be aware that the US was behind it (the standard US coup strategy is to give the whole affair the best local facade possible).

@ Elise

Elise - Duck! Here comes some "tough love." Nobody apparently has told you, so I will...

While I agree that nothing "rules it out," I get the sense that you and others have a great psychological investment in "ruling it in," even though you offer zero evidence (other than the circumstantial, "well, it happened in the past so therefore that must be the case now" leap of faith.)

Excuse me. I was at the forefront of exposing the US involvement in the Venezuelan coup of 2002 and subsequent attempts. I'm not a "coup denier."

But I find it unimpressive that after three days of stupid dinosaur faux-leftists screeching at the top of their lungs to blame Obama for this coup that not one of you has come up with a single shred of evidence.

And now you say that Zelaya won't or can't say what you insist (without any fact to back you up) is the case?

Are you going to say that Chavez, too, is afraid of Washington? Because after some hours of initially being on the track you're on, he broke from that conspiracy theory, and now worries aloud that "May God protect Obama."

But you're SO INVESTED in NEEDING to believe it's true, that you believe it with no evidence. That's delusional.

And it doesn't help the people of Honduras fighting against this coup. Your opinion, if believed there, would give solace and embolden the coup plotters while demoralizing the civil resistance. But you don't think about that, do you? You just want to believe that Latin Americans aren't capable of doing anything - good or bad - unless big Uncle Sam holds their hand and does it for them!

Sor ry, you win no points from me with that kind of delusional and self-serving mode of thought. It's just about reinforcing your world view, isn't it? Facts be damned! You want to believe it, and therefore it is true!

I feel sorry for you. Really.

Meanwhile, we're out here 24 hours a day exposing the coup and getting the facts out there to reverse it. While you're still trying to make claims about who started it. I'll point out that all of Latin America is doing what we're doing, not what you're doing... if "doing" is a word that fits your verbose excuses for non-action on your part.

 

I might add...

That I posted a series of important updates about the coup today in Honduras. The post was not about what happened outside of Honduras. It was about what happened inside Honduras, breaking the media blockade, to boot.

And what do our three first commenters want to talk about?

Each one of them wanted to instruct me in one form or another that "Obama is the coup plotter."

None of them are listening to the people on the ground in Honduras. So, okay, maybe they don't speak Spanish. But I do, and I'm here translating it for them.

But they're not really interested in what is going on in Honduras unless it can show US involvement in a coup!

I talked about Chavez Derangement Syndrome in the previous post to this one.

Maybe my next should be on Obama Derangement Syndrome.

Two sides of the same coin!

I don't see any particular

I don't see any particular need to resort to ad hominem. My point was merely that the US has provided decisive support to coups and atrocities that the US government has publicly condemned. The idea that a public condemnation of a coup by the US makes it impossible (or even improbable) that the US might be supporting a coup that happens to be very much in its interests is simply not tenable.

It's also worth keeping in mind the timing of the Obama Administration's condemnation. Initially, the only statements forthcoming from Washington were equivocal calls to respect the "democratic process" without any explicit condemnation of Zelaya's ouster. In the meantime, not only the ALBA countries, but the entire hemisphere - including the few remaining countries that don't regularly enrage the US government - unanimously condemned the coup in no uncertain terms.

Only once it was clear that the US was virtually alone in failing to issue an unequivocal condemnation did we start to hear these clear words coming from the Administration.

Does that mean that the US is definitely behind it? No, of course not. There are plenty of other possible explanations for the initial fencesitting (though I have yet to hear anyone propose one). But the suggestion that the Obama Administration, which has explicitly stated that it will continue providing military aid to the Honduran army, might be less than 100% candid, is certainly so absurd as to warrant personal attacks against anyone who raises the question.

Thus far, your only response to the suggestion of US involvement is that US officials (eventually) made public statements condemning the coup. I do not seem to be the only one who thinks that the analysis should not end there.

Perhaps I should add that I am a native speaker of Spanish and have contact with people throughout Central America, including in Honduras, none of whom seems to consider the issue as clear cut as you seem to.

 

There are unanswered questions

First off, my hat is off to Narco News for the great job you have all been doing.  I've been recommending you as a source since all this started going down.

I firmly believe that what matters at the moment is defeating the coup and supporting the people on the street in Honduras risking their safety to fight injustice.  That's what I've been doing in my tweets, blog, facebook and even in real life.

However, I do think there are some unanswered questions about U.S. involvement. I only raise it here cause that's where this thread is at.

Given the close relationship between the U.S. and Honduran militaries, how could the U.S. not know?  The U.S. base in Soto Cano is also home to Honduras' air force.  They perform 55 joint operations a year. They receive $2 million in aid a year.  Llorens, since he met with them last week, was aware there were rumblings inside the military.  And of course, all this pulled off by an SOA grad.

None of this points to Obama. And unlike those above, I don't believe Obama ordered the coup. I do believe the U.S. needs to publicly define its relationship with the Honduran military and what actions it took or did not take to prevent the coup.  It seems to me they could have been much more forceful in warning the military against a coup.  It also seems to me that the U.S. reaction, while verbally strong, has not been met with tangible deeds. (Which I know you say may be coming.)

But of course attention right now needs to be on defeating the coup and pressuring whatever gov't one finds itself under to respond forcefully to these events.

Finally, you seem to berate those for not doing enough in comparison with what you're doing. I have no idea what the other commenters are doing. But since this is kind of your "job" I don't find such insinuations appropriate. Obviously no one at Narcos News is making bank and there are a lot of volunteers, but comparing what a professional activist does to what someone such as myself who works all day and is up at 2:30 am doing translations does seems to be unfair and inappropriate.

I am amused that some would

I am amused that some would place Obama in the fray. It is a ridiculous accusation that has no merit at all. This is an internal problem: a group of thugs in Tegucigalpa (golpistas) are upset with a man (Zelaya) who actually decided to do something to help the common man and turned his back on the oligarchy. Micheletti is actually from Zelaya's own party!

That is not to say that the CIA and Washington weren't part of PAST golpes de estado in many Latin American nations. We've seen what happened in Venezuela, Chile, Argentina (lived that one first hand).

Those of us who speak Spanish and have ties to the country (my mother-in-law is from Tegucigalpa) understand these nuances. What seems to bother me is the media elite even  here in Mexico (TeleRisa & Grupo Imagen), continue to interview Honduran oligarchs who froth at the mouth and justify the coup as a result of Zelaya's "disobedience to the law." (Unfounded under my research.) Such an allegation tows the mark of reasonability. Since when does that justify kidnapping a constituitionally charged officer, beating the hell out of him and sending him to a neighboring nation? TOTAL B-S. If there was such a "problem," why not PEACEFULLY take the case to a hearing? There is no justification for this type of misinformation.

Mr. Giordano, I can

Mr. Giordano, I can understand your frustration here to some extent, but I can also sympathize with those who claim that the US is talking out of both sides of its mouth. Obama is saying one thing, but Sec of Stae Clinton is saying something else. Clinton has specifically stated: "We haven't laid out any demands that we're insisting on, because we're working with others on behalf of our ultimate objectives" and "...we are withholding any formal legal determination." Now, why is this? Why does the US avoid FORMALLY declaring this a coup? Isn't the US position here most accurately described as "ambiguous"? Isn't the US here long on rhetoric but short on action? Also, are you familiar with the NYT's article detailing the Obama administration's knowledge that this coup was coming? Do you characterize the US as having no knowledge of what was going to happen?

Use Your Heads

Elise - In fact, a careful reading of our comments sections - on what is it? 24 original reports on Honduras in three days? - one can find a lot more from me on this straw dog than "the administration spoke against the coup so therefore it didn't start it". One of the constant themes I've stressed for years is that governments no longer have all the power of "the state," that the private sector is now more powerful than ever.

I've made the point that if you study how Obama does things - always two steps behind rather than two steps in front, as one observer recently put it - that he creates room for other countries to share the lead on global events (whether Iran earlier in the month, or Honduras now), that's straight out of the community organizer playbook. I'm an old community organizer, so I recognize it.

24 or 48 hours is a very short period of time. When you organize, you want to "roll out" your tactics in steps, escalating them a little bit with each successive move. You don't reveal the entire deck of cards on the first round. When the ALBA countries called for "staggered" and "escalating" steps in an economic blockade of the coup regime - those guys are, many of them, old organizers, too -  they were acknowledging the same.

After so many years of "cowboy diplomacy" from the US, the worst thing the Obama administration could do would be to get out in front of OAS, ALBA, SICA and the other regional alliances and dictate the terms of how the coup should be opposed. First of all, the US doesn't have the credibility in the hemisphere to dictate those terms. I would think that minds studied in its abhorrent past behavior (in Haiti, as you mention, in Venezuela and elsewhere) would understand that. Second of all, the coup is going to be dismantled more effectively and quickly if room is first created for many diverse countries and forces to share in the leadership - not having Uncle Sam be the uninvited spear on it.

Obama was out of the gate early on Sunday - within three hours of the news coming out - with a statement that was not at all ambiguous. You can scroll down that many posts ago to read the text. And then with each statement, administration officials escalated the pressure.

48 hours is nothing! When the Venezuela coup happened, at this point the OAS had not even made its statement yet! You act like Washington was slow to condemn the coup and call for Zelaya's ouster. The other OAS countries say that the US was part of its earliest discussions leading to just that statement, and in favor of it every step of the way, but wanted to do it multilaterally rather than play its past bombastic role as neighborhood bully.

There are "neighborhood bully" issues here if the US were to go too far (say, send troops in to Honduras) even if it were to be against a coup. It would still be that old US imperialism rearing its ugly head again, even if in service of good. This is what the new administration has sought to avoid all over the world - in its steps to get out of Iraq, in Afghanistan and Pakistan - its priority has been to build authentic coalitions among peers rather than phony Bush-style ones in which the US still calls all the shots and the others are there for window dressing.

The damage that could be done to the civil resistance in Honduras against the coup by a single statement by Washington that goes over a certain line would be immense and maybe even permanent. Situations like this are time bombs. The wires have to be cut in proper order so as not to set off the bomb.

Finally, if it is true that you understand Spanish, and that you have contact with people in Honduras, what are you doing wasting your time arguing a matter like this today that history will clear up anyway? Start a blog (if you don't already have one) and start translating your interviews into English about what is happening NOW. People with the education level and contacts to have access to such information but who do not share that information in ways that help the cause are no different than mass media outlets that sit on or censor information.

Yes, it is so much easier to sit back and look for dainty liberal society arguments over whether Washington is behind the coup or not than to actually use your education and privilege to make a bad situation better in the present.

I know how much "leisure time" a lot of folks like you have because of the amount of time you spend composing comments here on such side issues. History will sort out who caused the coup. And it will be based on facts, not presumptions. But only people acting today will decide whether the coup succeeds or fails.

(And that last paragraph can also serve as a reply to Scott's friendly admonishment to me, above.)

@ Richard

Richard - Those are reasonable questions. Quickly (because there is reporting to be done and this openness with which I approve comments even on matters that I consider distractions requires me to offer response - something, by the way, that most bloggers and reporters do not do, but it's weighing too heavily on my time and distracting from what I consider the real work of reporting):

You ask: "Clinton has specifically stated: 'We haven't laid out any demands that we're insisting on, because we're working with others on behalf of our ultimate objectives' and '...we are withholding any formal legal determination.' Now, why is this?"

I'm obviously not inside the head of Secretary Clinton, and spent much of 2007 and 2008 reporting about her presidential campaign in a very critical tone. When her words diverge with that of her boss, Obama, I know that it's only a matter of time before the call from upstairs gets her back on track. And we've seen that happen a few times over these few days already.

That said, I don't have any particular problem with either of those quotations you cite from her. I've just explained, above, why it is the better move to "work with others" on the ultimate objectives (by "others" she means other OAS countries, mainly).

As for the matter of legally defining what happens in Honduras as a coup: It's a bureaucratic process that requires certain steps. It opens the door to the US Congress - not necessarily a friend of democracy in Honduras - being able to meddle in it. And once done, it would take even more time to undo it.

Thus, if you think, as Ecuador President Rafael Correa thinks, that "this coup will not last the week," and Zelaya were to be met at the airport on Thursday by a people and a critical mass of the military ready to reinstate his rule, than having cut off all US aid will give the US Congress the power to delay turning it back on again. Do you see my point? Many of us think this will more likely be solved quickly than slowly.

Also, it's not as if the US aid is an ATM machine from which Honduras can withdraw daily. It comes in spurts. Large amounts come only a few times a year (and often late, given the US bureaucracy). It's highly likely, for example, that there is no money payment coming for the next month anyway. So why trigger some big bureaucratic monster involving the US Congress hastily if there's no money to block until X date?

Finally, on that point, each time Clinton hems and haws, I see theater: It's both a threat and warning to the coup regime ("hey, bozos, remember that we can cut you off") while also a very artful "good cop, bad cop" routine to talk the coup plotters down off the ledge. Chavez and the ALBA countries are the "bad cop." The perp knows they want to beat him up! The Obama administration is the "good cop." The perp isn't sure and so it is directing public lobbying efforts to Washington. And they're dancing in tandem right now. In a strategy like this, you need a "good cop" to be able to lower the boom and explain to the criminal just what penalty he's facing if he doesn't do exactly as instructed.

As for the NY Times report, while I take everything the NY Times says with a big grain of salt - it is more often wrong than it is right - I do find it plausible that the US knew something was up but, as with Iran earlier in the month, I think intelligence agencies are vastly overrated. Today, a 12 year old with a modem has access to the same information. Narco News published a story three days before the coup happened titled "Coup Fears in Honduras." Of course Washington knew it was possible.

But I don't think anybody counted on the oligarchs of Honduras being so fucking stupid as to do it this fast and in this way! I sure didn't, and I edit the publication that said it could happen 72 hours before it did. So I cut governments some slack if they two found themselves mystified at the irrational behavior of the coup plotters. This is the dumbest coup in history. One can never really predict how stupid some people will be.

"Esqualido"

I've had trouble finding background on the term, "esqualido," Al.  There's nothing in wikipedia in English, wish there were.  I'd like it if you gave the term a few sentences of explanation sometime.  -- unless I missed it?

I did find one passing reference in this article about the Chavez election victory, that seems to match your use of it:

...Much more later from the victory parties, and from the esqualido (weak/squalid) neighborhoods of the defeated elite...

But something else from some tourist's travelogue said that it was an expression of contempt from Chavez, which is probably wrong.

Thanks for this article!  I hope journalists who foll

Coup against Mel *was* constitutional - & that's the problem!

Reading over that Toro piece - and the text of the Honduran constitution he links to - I'm now convinced that the coup was entirely constitutional. These two clauses in particular:

ARTICULO 239.- El ciudadano que haya desempeñado la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo no podrá ser Presidente o Designado.

 

El que quebrante esta disposición o proponga su reforma, así como aquellos que lo apoyen directa o indirectamente, cesarán de inmediato en el desempeño de sus respectivos cargos, y quedarán inhabilitados por diez años para el ejercicio de toda función pública.

Not only can the current president not be re-elected, BUT anyone who even proposes reforming it must cease immediately in the conduct of his office AND be disqualified from office for 10 years.

ARTICULO 279.- El Jefe de las Fuerzas Armadas...sólo podrá ser removido de su cargo por el Congreso Nacional, cuando hubiere sido declarado con lugar a formación de causa por dos tercios de votos de sus miembros

My Spanish is pretty bad, but looks like it takes a 2/3 majority of Congress to remove the head of the armed forces.

So...according to the letter of the constitution, Mel would have ceased in the legitimate exercise of the presidency the moment he even talked about maybe thinking about re-election - and, again according to the letter of the constitution - he had no authority to remove the military dude without a congressional supermajority.

Of course, that's exactly the problem. The Honduran constitution - just like the Iranian one - is not democratic.

And really, it's a pretty standard boilerplate Latin American constitution. Bicameral legislature, no presidential reelection, major role for the army.

All the news organizations are representing the no reelection clause as a reform measure to prevent coups. But that's BS. Your standard average Latin American constitution has blocked reelection since the early 19th century. In no way has it prevented coups - in fact, it's encouraged them, by weakening civilian leadership at the expense of the military.

It's notable that the US states with a similar provision for governors are all former slave states. Really, who's more of a model for democracy: Alabama, with a no-succession rule, or Vermont, without one?

And if you can remove a president for casting a sidelong glance in the wrong direction, while it takes basically an act of God to remove the head of the military, then it's pretty clear who's sovereign and who just gets paid to wear the sash and look dignified.

And bicamerality is maybe the worst sin of all. It's a relic of oppression. In the US it was meant to defend slave interests - and it still basically does. In Latin America, it was meant to defend feudal interests, and it still does wherever wise leaders like Chavez and Fujimori have not abolished it.

It's noteworth that the only provision in our slaveholder constitution that is inviolable is the equal representation of states in the Senate.

So yeah, the coup was perfectly constitutional, and that's exactly the problem. The Honduran constitution basically provides for a long-term slow burning coup underneath the surface of democratic appearances. Mel just made it come out into the open.

I think US progs need to get serious about constitutional reform in our own right. Long term a unicameral legislature is the only way to break the hold of reactionary moneyed interests on our politics and finally get about solving problems.

I think a Senate of 200, with 100 elected statewide and the other 100 by proportional representation on a national level would fulfill the letter of the constitution and be a good move forward.

Sorry this was long, Al!

It's the whole Iran protest thing all over again, Al

The same people who are invested in seeing Obama as Claus von Metternich with a suntan (and who, for the most part, have always thought this) also think that he's somehow behind the protests in Iran even though he's not -- and in fact has been keeping his distance from the protesters, per their express wishes, in order to keep Khamenei and Co. from using him as "proof" that the protesters are controlled by the Great Satan. 

Question:  If Obama really was orchestrating the Iranian protests, why then did he make a point of mentioning the US' role in toppling Mossadegh and replacing him with the Pahlavis?  If you're trying to orchestrate a régime change in a particular country, the LAST thing you want to do is to draw everyone's attention to the most famous historical instance of your nation's having done so in that particular country.

Please, folks, try to use Occam's Razor without cutting yourselves on it.

Elise, if Obama is behind the Honduran coup and Iran protests

Elise, if Obama is behind the Honduran coup and Iran protests, don't you think that the LAST thing he would be doing is drawing attention to -- and apologizing for -- the very historical coup efforts you mention?

http://www.rantrave.com/Rant/Obama-on-Mossadegh.aspx

This would be like the son of a burglar planning two high-profile heists even as he apologizes for the ones his father made.  Can people not see why this would be a monumentally stupid move?   The people who believe (or claim to believe) this want Obama to be at once possessed of superhuman cunning and yet be a tactical idiot at the same time.


Al, I'm beginning to think that you are being targeted by the very English-speaking Honduran oligarchic coup backers you're referencing in this post.  They know that you're one of the few trustworthy English-speaking voices on this subject, and so they're going to try and shut you down.  If so, congratulations!  You're a threat!

Dinosaur faux-leftists

A quote came to mind while reading their reasoning:

If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence."

—Bertrand Russel

Keep it up!

Al, thanks for your efforts.  Wading through postings of the oligarch diaspora (or just the oligarchs w/Internet access in Honduras), the mainstream media and the equally kool-aid-quenched loony left just gets one depressed, so your clear-headed reporting of facts is greatly appreciated. 

One thing it seems no one has really tried to delve into is exactly what did Mel do that was illegal in the days up to the 4 urna?  How was the process supposed to run and what did he do to derial that?  Was there a ballot-switcheroo as some golpistas suggested?  The whole thing seems so stupid as they could have let the encuesta go forward and just rigged it (the military that threw Mel out of the country was supposed to be overseeing the vote). As it is, now it seems they are having to trump up new drug charges or graft (in Honduras? shocking!) in order to have something to put against Mel.  More investigative reporting to be done.

The end-game for this as I see it, and many deeply depressed friends in Honduras agree, is that maybe Mel gets back and finishes off his remaining 4 months or so, or "Pinocheletti" does the same.  Come November, whoever the Liberal candidate is will lose against the Nationalist candidate Pepe Lobo -- the guy whose central plank in his platform last election was bringing back the death penalty.  It's freaking depressing.

Please keep up your reporting and give me something to keep me from joining MJ, Farrah and Ed McMahon in the great beyond.

Thanks again,

~John

Mr. Giordano I appreciate

Mr. Giordano I appreciate your response and all of your efforts. It is very good of you to spend even a little bit of your time responding to your readers. Bravo, great sir.

@ Slaney

Slaney - I'm aware of those clauses - and think the point about who can fire the military commander is probably right - but I don't share your interpretation that the first clause you cite means the coup was constitutional. The reason: there's no evidence that President Zelaya violated that clause.

In my interpretation, that clause prohibits the president from issuing a decree or some such order. He did nothing like that. He simply asked for a referendum for the people to decide. The court struck that down. He obeyed the court order and amended his proposal to a nonbinding referendum. Since a nonbinding vote creates no policy whatsoever, proposing or implementing one does not trigger that clause. That's how I interpret it.

@ Ann

Ann - When I use the term "escualido" I certainly mean it in a derogatory way. It means "the squalid ones": those members of society that laze around and want others to do the work for them.

A good example of an "escualido" statement I heard recently: A Cuban emigre in Miami who said, "before Castro's revolution, everybody had a maid."

Everybody? Did the maids have maids? It's demonstrative of how a certain class (what I also call the oligarchy) thinks that citizenry belongs only to those who own enough materially, and that the rest of the population are not real citizens, but in a way slaves, born to do their work for them.

I can't speak for Chavez, but I would guess that he uses the term in the same pejorative sense that I do.

Coup against Mel *was* constitutional - & that's the problem!

In my interpretation, that clause prohibits the president from issuing a decree or some such order. He did nothing like that. He simply asked for a referendum for the people to decide. The court struck that down. He obeyed the court order and amended his proposal to a nonbinding referendum. Since a nonbinding vote creates no policy whatsoever, proposing or implementing one does not trigger that clause. That's how I interpret it.

I think that's a fair interpretation. And if the present Honduran constitution provided a fair way to adjudicate it - say by making the Congress go on record impeaching him - it might very well win the day.

Thing with oligarchic constitutions is they tend toward extreme overreactions. Like in the Roman republic - the Gracchi get convicted of attempted tyrrany for proposing some modest social welfare programs. Or Catiline leads some veterans to ask for redress of grievances (Bonus Army?) and all of a sudden it's the end of the world.

But I'm probably operating at too high a level of abstraction here. Zelaya needs to be restored to office. The the Toroses of the world may or may not be correct that this would undermine the present constitution. But if they are, I say all for the better.

Some thoughts: * Why would

Some thoughts: * Why would Obama mention the US involvement of the Iran coup in 53 in his Cairo speech? Because the US establishment is watching their empire crumble and desperately needs the rest of the world to buy their new product, after the Bush-brand disaster. This is the same reason Obama declared that the US is not a "Christian nation" on his visit to Turkey, and so won't you please agree to cooperate with our pipeline project. The US is required by law to act here, on Honduras. The President of the US does not have the authority to pick and choose which laws he cares to follow. My own interpretation would characterize the US as hoping for a best-case-scenario wherein Zelaya will be returned, but weakened. Watch how the US will demand that Zelaya abandon his effort to let the people of Honduras themselves decide whether or not a single-term limit should be done away with. Watch how the US media will continue to misrepresent the facts.

This has been mentioned

This has been mentioned before, but for Slaney and others' sakes, it should be reposted:

http://rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=87786

Zelaya had no intention of re-electing himself. His proposal was a non-binding plebecite (up or down) on potential re-election. Voting is obligatory in Honduras and this vote would have been optional.

Again, I refer back to my prior post as well: Even if this were the case, would that justify beating the hell of your chief executive, kidnapping him and telling him he is not welcome back in the country? Since when did the power of a few TRUMP the power of a democratically elected officer?

Also Slaney mentioned that most Latin American Constitution's prohibitted re-election beginning in the 19th Century. Try 100 years later. It was under Francisco I. Madero in Mexico, after the 1910 revolution that they idea of "Sufragio efectivo no reelección" began to take hold.

 

Important Legal Analysis of Honduran Law

Slaney - Salvadoran attorney Alberto Valiente Thorensen has published a must-read legal analysis on the Honduran situation:

http://counterpunch.com/thorensen07012009.html

He points out that at no point was Zelaya proposing a "reform" of the existing constitution (which is what the coup-meisters are basing their claims of illegality upon), but, rather, a rewriting of the constitution through a constitutional convention (constituent assembly), which is provided for under Honduran law.

I think it's an important point.

Richard - In my interpretation, Zelaya's actions were never centered around an end to presidential term limits. The referendum he proposed didn't even mention that. While certainly term limits would be one of hundreds of items to be considered by a constitutional convention, and it's the one that the coup plotters talk about most, rewriting a constitution involves so many matters more important than that one: the powers of each branch of government, how its members are selected, a Bill of Rights, etcetera.

I really don't think Washington gives a crap about whether Honduras allows reelection of its presidents or not. When Venezuela and Colombia have moved toward expanding terms for their presidents, the Obama administration expressly stated, both times, that those are "internal matters" for the peoples of those countries and it respects either option as being within the framework of democracies.

Interests - and a foreign government like the US is indeed an interest - don't really have a long term horse in the race over presidential term limits in other countries. They can extend the presidencies of one on the left (Chavez) or one on the right (Uribe). It's a roll of the dice, and not outcome determinative of policy.

And has been pointed out by others: most Latin American countries have had term limits on presidents for a hundred years. That did nothing to stop the wave of coup d'etats, dictatorships, and other disruptions to democracy while those term limits were in place.

esqualido, ctd

Al, you have more important things you're doing, don't feel you have to answer me further- and thanks for the above answer!

I think there may be a slight discrepancy between the use of the word "squalid" in English and "esqualido" in Spanish.  Looking at the TheFreeDictionary definition, 2 meanings are given: "1. dirty, untidy, and in bad condition 2. unpleasant, selfish, and often dishonest."

But all the examples, even for the 2nd definition, have qualities of the first definition, which is the only one I knew myself til now.  A strong idea of something "run-down" and "poverty stricken" and "unkempt."  Yet the idea here is that these guys live in undeserved splendor, and are only run-down or poverty stricken in a moral sense.

I'm looking to see if maybe I can get an entry for this into en.wikipedia.org myself.

Edit:  Here is a good definition- I missed it before.  It's from the Urban Dictionary- esqualido

A vast majority of the venezuelan opposition, guilty of being so blind and self-centered that they don't realize the reality of things.

Edit 2. The Urban Dictionary has a 2nd definition that says this: "Their leaders are meaningless, cowards and gay."  Sigh.  Over the top.

 

The subtle power of Consistency

 

The President knew much about the probability of a coup d'état in Honduras; as he knew about the high probability of the Supreme Court weak and yet defiant legislating from the bench on an ideological modus operandi; as he knows much about the widespread institutional mistrust and enmity he does and will encounter every step of the way to Reform, from Congress to Main Stream Media and to not so main stream, to the Military, to special interests of the ever reigning sorts.
Throughout all of this, We, the people, know more and more of what he fundamentally stands for. He trades off, gives in, pulls out, sneaks back in, asserts the obvious, points out the spurious, acknowledges relativism, ascertains universalism. Internationally, and domestically.
Lets Harmonies and Contradictions play themselves out in the Open, for all to negate, to mitigate, or to litigate as one sees fit.
Lets us debate in the open as we've never done before...
And ultimately reaps the Harvest of echoing Consistency.

 

The single-term limit is

The single-term limit is properly understood as an Elitist mechanism, designed to prevent any populist president from inflicting too much damage upon the status quo. Take note of Zelaya's increasing the minimum wage by 60%. This is why the single-term limit is the issue around which the coup plotters have centered their propaganda. See how the truth always surfaces?

Extremists

This has been quite comical, reading the extremist "leftist" comments accusing the US of orchestrating the coup. A good friend of mine is a right-winger and every day I read a new talking point that he's regurgitated without thought. The faux-lefties and the right-wingers are saying the same thing (but just with opposite arguements): they despise Obama and nothing he can do is good enough. Also: their tin-foil hats are firmly planted atop their collective heads.

 

Whiteness

Thank you, Al, per usual for an excellent and informative post. The Field has been rocking this story.

By the way, I shouldn't be shocked by the lily whiteness of that crowd picture at the top of this post -- I mean, I'm aware of the history of Latin America on that issue -- but I was nonetheless taken aback when I first saw it.

It's like a GOP Convention, but in Honduras...and outdoors.

I am so heartened by the support of other Latin American leaders, Obama, and the OAS and UN, etc. for the elected leader of Honduras. Talk about a revolutionary development!

Actually,

I do have a blog, where I have examined the unwillingness to consider even the possibility of US involvement (going beyond continuing military aid to the Honduran army and funding to pro-coup groups such as Paz y Democracia,which is uncontroversial) as a function of the need of many people in the States and elsewhere to believe - despite everything - that the Obama Administration represents a fundamental break with over a century of US policy.

http://lifeaftergonzales.blogspot.com/2009/07/haiti-honduras-and-obama-d...

The importance of the private sector in US foreign policy is not new. The coup against Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala was arranged largely at the urging of United Fruit (now called Chiquita and a major landowner in Honduras). The commercial interests of ITT, Kennecott, and Anaconda were central to the decision to destabilise and overthrow the Allende government, according to the substantial declassified record now available. Against this background, the overthrow of a Central American president who was threatening the privileges of domestic élites and US business interests, and had the potential to end Honduras' role as a base for US terror and subversion in the region, looks less like a new kind of coup and more like the kind of coup the region is accustomed to.

The idea that the US would sit on the fence to avoid looking like the regional bully is an alternative explanation, but it's a rather odd one. If the idea is to avoid suspicion of the role the US wishes to take in the matter, then quick, unequivocal condemnation and termination of military aid would be the obvious choice. This would not only weaken the coup forces substantially, but would make it clear that the US is not on the side of the coup, even though the coup happens to serve US commercial and geopolitical interests.

Indeed, fencesitting and feigned (initial) neutrality in the face of a Latin American coup would simply be "more of the same". The same posture was the official policy in the United States during the initial phase of the Chilean coup, for the obvious purpose of avoiding being too heavily associated with the coup regime.

No one, to my knowledge, has suggested that the US send troops. For one thing, there's no need - there already are US troops in Honduras. For another thing, the most effective thing the US could do is withhold military aid, which it is continuing to provide in violation of US and international law.

 

Iran Protests

Also, I never claimed that Obama was behind the Iran protests, because I don't think he is. Those protests appear by all accounts to be quite spontaneous, and directed at asserting the rights of the Iranian people provided by their existing constitution rather than by overthrowing the regime as a whole.

@ Elise - You've just proved my point

Elise - The People of Honduras need our help right now breaking the information blockade, and you spend your time trying to have an argument over matters that A. you have zero facts about what is happening to back up your theory (all you do is point to the bad works of past administrations - we don't consider that "proof" of anything!), and, B. your claims will be proved or disproved by how this plays out.

You're projecting when you claim that our disbelief in your unsubstantiated and undocumented claims is "a function of the need of many people in the States and elsewhere to believe - despite everything - that the Obama Administration represents a fundamental break with over a century of US policy."

What you only reveal is that it is *your* obsession: If this *is* a fundamental break with over a century of US policy, it's you that will have to reassess your underlying assumptions. And that makes your head hurt.

Meanwhile, the people of Honduras need our help. Continue with your ideological masturbation. The rest of us have real work to do.

@Amanda

You so totally read my mind, as I was about to comment on that. Where are they in that picture, Spain?! On Univision?! Compare that to the color of the other people in the video above. It's not a coincidence.

It's easy to say there are no facts when one ignores them

Elise - The People of Honduras need our help right now breaking the information blockade, and you spend your time trying to have an argument over matters that A. you have zero facts about what is happening to back up your theory (all you do is point to the bad works of past administrations - we don't consider that "proof" of anything!), and, B. your claims will be proved or disproved by how this plays out.

 

I have pointed out a number of facts that raise the question of US involvement, from the fact that the US dragged its heels on condemning the coup (48 hours is a long time in a coup situation) to the fact that the US government intends to continue providing military aid to the Honduran army, to the fact that one of the major pro-coup political organisations, Paz y Democracia, receives USAID funds, as well as the fact that the Honduran army is armed and trained by the US and that General Vásquez is a graduate of the School of the Americas and the role of Honduras as a base of terror and subversion in Central America. If you care to dispute any of these uncontroversial facts, feel free, but it will only demonstrate that the "information blockade" here is the one surrounding your head.

It seems that nothing short of a "smoking gun" memo of the sort that we're not likely to see for another twenty years will convince you that the question is worth considering.

If you are right, and the idea of US involvement in the coup is so absurd that only "dishonest" "dinosaur pseudo-leftists" (including, presumably, several journalists at VTV, Venezuela's leading public television network) would even consider it, then there's no reason to do much of anything. It is unlikely that the Honduran army and the local élite will respond to foreign condemnations, particularly those by people who aren't even on top of a government with the power to act.

If, on the other hand, those who suggest that the US continues to arm the Honduran army because it wants the coup to succeed are correct, then there certainly is something for people in the US to do: namely, to pressure the US government to stop providing aid to the coup regime in Honduras (aid on which the regime is dependent).

If the US is behind the coup, the international sanctions against the coup regime in Honduras will prove as ineffectual as those against the Cédras coup in Haiti (amongst other examples).

Rather than lashing out with incoherent insults at anyone who considers the question worth asking, perhaps you should direct your considerable energy toward a campaign to stop US military aid to the coup regime, the one thing we in the States can do that is likely to have a practical effect. If the US does not support the coup, and in fact wants it to fail, this should not be terribly difficult to achieve.

Elise - Your Disinformation is as Bad as the Mass Media's

Elise - Your claims of "fact" are pure fiction.

To wit:

1. You claim: "the US dragged its heels on condemning the coup"

I've already explained why that's an errant interpretation, but even if it weren't, it offers zero evidence that the US was behind the coup.

2. You claim: "the US government intends to continue providing military aid to the Honduran army"

That's a bold-faced lie, Elise, and it makes you a dishonest blogger. Issue a correction if you want any credibility left. See today's Miami Herald: SouthCom Chills Ties with Honduran Military. See also the multiple reports that State Department counsel "is still reviewing" whether to impose the legal classification of "coup," which would trigger not only the shut off of military aid, but of all other aid, too.

When they do that, will you admit that your judgment has been clouded by what you want to believe? Or will you just move the goal posts to claim some other definition of what constitutes support for the coup.

As with your claim #1, even if your claims in #2 were accurate (they're not, but I'll play along), it still would not prove US involvement in the coup itself.

3. You claim: "one of the major pro-coup political organisations, Paz y Democracia, receives USAID funds, as well as the fact that the Honduran army is armed and trained by the US and that General Vásquez is a graduate of the School of the Americas."

"Receives" (that's a present-tense verb, Elise) USAID funds? Have you any proof of that? Or are did you really mean "received" (past tense). Have you any proof at all that the group received those funds since January 20, 2009? Cough it up, or admit that you're exaggerating and making shit up.

Regarding Vasquez, do your homework. He is not a "graduate" of SOA (SOA Watch will verify that for you), but, rather, he attended the school long ago when it was based in Panama, but he did not graduate it.

Your sloppiness when it comes to these facts only indicates that you haven't done any independent investigation at all. You take claims by others and if you agree with them you presume them to be "fact" when I've just demonstrated that they are not.

And, again, even if your claims were accurate - they're not, I repeat, but playing along with your silly game, I'll say it - neither of those "facts," even if they were true, proves US involvement with the coup. Generals can be trained at SOA and then do things on their own. It happens a lot. Some of Chavez's military that are loyal to him and overturned the 2002 were also trained at SOA. Doesn't that make your head explode?

Likewise, a sleazy NGO (and I agree that one is bad news) can have received funds from USAID for one thing and then gone out there and supported a coup even if the US wasn't behind it.

Finally, you say I am "lashing out at anyone who thinks the question is worth asking." That's revisionist history of your posts here. You came in, guns blazing, insisting that it was "THE TRUTH," and the ONLY POSSIBLE TRUTH. Now you're backpedaling because your four "proofs" offered above are less firm than oatmeal.

Thank you again for proving my point! Let's see if you've got the stuff to post this response onto your blog, too!

Poll to all commenters

Should I continue distracting myself and you with Elise's comments, which, as demonstrated, are so filled with falsehoods that each time she posts here I have to spend time correcting them?

Or should I just leave her future claims unopened in the in-box?

I could go either way, frankly.

US pressure is mounting

You know, it's interesting.  All one has to do is take a look at the front page of Yahoo this very minute to see the pressure that is mounting against this coup.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090701/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_us_honduras

In the article, it mentions that the Pentagon has suspended all joint operations with the military in Honduras in protest of the coup.  It also introduces the idea that the US might suspend aid and govermental contracts should Zelaya not be returned to power.  This being important because not only do you want to threaten someone before bringing out the Big Stick, you also have to get the American Public ready, psychologically speaking, for further steps to be taken in their name.  It prepares both sides for an escalation.

Don't think for a moment, after all, that Honduras (and the rest of the Latin American community) is the sole audience for the statements coming out of the White House.  They also want to convince the American Public of the rightness of their stand.  And that takes ground work.

Or, as Al might say, community organizing.

Of course, the main meat of the article that I linked is the mounting pressure that the OAS itself is putting in this situation.  The language is very stirking, actually. 

If the OAS follows up with its threats in this situation, and I see no reason why it won't, then I suspect that life will become fairly difficult for the plotters in Honduras.

@ Al

If it were me, I would leave them unopened in the inbox. If it was just her opinion, the comments should be published, but you are under no obligation to post things that are demonstrably false just to refute them.

It is kind of amusing watching various people come in here playing the fool and you swat them down, but you have a lot better things to do with your time.

My $0.02.

@ Al

Yeah, well I don't have an answer for you as to whether you should continue to refute these people's comments.

On one hand, it's been enlightening to me (as well as frightening) to see just how extreme some on the left have become. (Or how little they are willing to engage in factual or rational discussions) It is blowing my mind how the extremes on the left claim the Admin is Bush Redux, and the right is saying Obama is a commie/socialist/fasicst. Which is it people??

On the other hand, it's at the point of inanity when commenters recycle tired and belabored points.

Either way, your time and effort is greatly, immensely appreciated. You don't even know how much of a becon of light you are for us, thirsty for truth and authentic journalism.

Nah, more spinach!

Al, for my money, your smackdowns are the best entertainment on the web, period.  But the fact-free mierda is getting pretty repetitive.  If they can't even keep their ignorance current, let them put somebody else to sleep on some other blog.

Nay

I think you've pretty much given these people enough rope to hang themselves here.

Elise:

"The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it." - Flannery O'Connor

Work first, smack down later

I say leave them unopened in the inbox.  It's beginning to look like her comments are *meant* to distract you from doing your valuable work.  I love your smackdowns, but love your enlightenment and education more.  You are the most valuable player on the internet as far as I'm concerned.  Your perspective on what is happening on the ground is way too important.

Al's poll

Al, I found your refutations extremely informative. It is actually much better for understanding the issues to read the back and forth. Having said that, the bs started to become repetitive, so I would think enough is enough:-)

@ Erin

I was gonna say Orange County, California actually, especially w/out the two guys in the camouflage. :-)

Fantastic news from the Gibbs presser -- thanks for the update!

Get rid of the personal attacks

I've been running political online forums since 1993, handling as many as 5,000 comments a day for months at a time. If there's one lesson that I learned within the very first month back in 1993, it's that the "owner" of a forum almost never wins by responding to any kind of provocation with rhetoric which other people may take as personal attacks.

The temptation to reply in ways that are, or sound like they are, personal, is vast. Why don't  readers READ what you've already written, for god's sake, before they write yet another un-informed screed? Especially since you've made exactly the same point 15 times in the last 24 hours? And you haven't been sleeping and you're tired and have lost your cushion of patience?

I have taught writing and editing for more than 30 years, and I have always warned my students to be very, very careful when they make categorical statements. But I'm going out on a limb here: I cannot think of a single instance, of the hundreds of thousands I've read over the years, where attacking someone online in a way that seemed personal ever put an end to an on-line debate. More often than not, replies with personal darts in them usually produced an escalation from the person who felt he/she was being attacked.

So my recommendation is to engage with the facts and assertions that you think are wrong, and stay as far away as possible from anything that smacks of being a personal attack. If there's a bogus argument that different readers keep bringing up, there's nothing wrong with having a standing reply, "As I have said before, my reading of this clause in the Honduran constitution....." You can talk about how anguishing it is to keep encountering bad ideas, but keep the comments at the political level, not the personal. (There are those psychotic commentators out there; once they've made it clear that they have no interest in discussion, stop wasting your time and move on to people who show some signs of being willing to consider new information and ideas.)

Also remember that while dismissing the person may be satisfying to some set of neurons in the reptile level of the brain stem, a satisfying dismisal does not cleanse the rest of the body politic. For example, I subscribe to a regular email from the Information Clearning House. In the most recent ICH email, this comment of Al's is the 6th item in the list, followed by a story entitled "The Significance of Washington's Coup Attempt in Honduras," a story which flies in the face of the arguments Al makes.

One other major plus for staying on the high road: you have more energy to do better work elsewhere. Keep the anger focused on the real bad guys, who are very unlikely to ever leave a comment on The Field!

 

 

Thanks, Al

It was also informative to read your interchanges with some of the Kossaks. Tedious but helpful.  I would perhaps recommend even moving said comments from the "inbox" to the "trash" (or "recycle bin", seeing as these are heavily recycled arguments).

Re: Poll to all commenters

I'm all for open commenting policies and enjoy seeing reactionary thinking  deconstructed but only up to a point.  I've seen too many threads on too many blogs become unwieldly due to the kind of commentary that Elise is offering.   So when it becomes obvious that someone like her is arguing in bad faith I vote for cutting it off.  I hate when I load up a thread on my Blackberry before I get on the subway looking forward to resurfacing with a better understanding of something like the situation in Honduras and end up scrolling through simplistic historical analysis and paranoid ego trips.  I could go to a lot of other places for that. 

@ Richard

Richard - You know I love you, man. But this coliseum will continue to have lions and gladiators and regular blood spilt. That's how it's been since April 18, 2000, and it has grown large and healthy with it. I think you underestimate, first, how many people derive a guilty pleasure from the smackdowns I regularly offer that some cast as "personal attacks." Second, I'm not capable of such niceties in the face of such nonsense. And third, I don't consider those I am using as props to be "the good guys" (as opposed to "the real bad guys"). In my experience with social movements, they do far more damage and impede victory far more than the bad guys ever could. I'm not trying to "put an end to an online debate," but, rather, to use that debate to pull the curtain on a multi-tiered, three-dimensional chess board of dynamics.

Among those dynamics have been to put name to "chicken littles" and "Chavez Derangement Syndrome" sufferers and "the Oligarch Diaspora" and so many other nicknames that from this little keypad I've made stick like gum to those to whom the description fits. I find it entertaining in many parts of the brain and heart, beyond those reptilian, because in a way it is a use of words to perform justice. If you can't educate an asshole, you can always use an asshole as a prop to educate others.

Sure, there are people that don't like my rough-and-tumble style. They're not generally going to hang out here anyway, because there are so many thousands of polite information sources out there that stammer to fight the King but using the King's English and manners!

I've never shown false respect for those that inspire only contempt. And I frankly think folks trust me more because of that "bad" habit of mine.

your pal,

Al

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About Al Giordano

Biography

Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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