Laughing at Chavez Through Tapped Phone Lines

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This morning the front page of the Washington Post treats us to yet another article on the evils of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian Revolution, this time offering up a semi tongue-in-cheek look at Chavez’s apparent disdain for the sport of golf. Still, the Post gets this in: “In the name of the socialism he’s fast implanting in Venezuela, Chávez has nationalized scores of businesses over nearly 11 years in power, including oil multinationals and cattle farms.” US Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley chimes in, again with a half-grin, “Once again, Mr. Chávez, one of the hemisphere’s most divisive figures, finds himself out of bounds.” The Post offers up the specter of a Chavez takeover of a public golf course in Caracas as humorous reminder of how kooky (but still dangerous) is the Venezuelan leader. Clearly not a rational actor.

Meanwhile, what I did not read in the Post this morning was the news that the United States government considers the nation’s telecommunications companies to be “an arm of the government—at least when it comes to secret spying,” according to an article in Wired. At issue is the communications between the telecoms and the US government while both were colluding—er, discussing—how to guarantee that Congress grants the former immunity for allowing the latter to illegally spy on the former’s customers. Heroic privacy outfit the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued to see the communications and was told by the Justice Department that the documents were protected as “intra-agency” records. Fortunately the judge disagreed, but the Obama administration has requested a 30-day stay so that it can file an appeal. Plus ça change

But we can sit back smugly and laugh at the “buffoon Chavez” while our telephone conversations continue to be tapped by the Patriotic US State Telecommunications Ministry. “At least we’re not a bunch of dirty socialists!”

9:15 am on October 10, 2009