The right eloquence needs no bell to call the people together and no constable to keep them. ~ Emerson

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Washington Grownup Christmas List

You Know . . . Besides “Peace on Earth” and Crap Like That

I have always enjoyed the David Foster song My Grownup Christmas List as a schmaltzy piece of holiday fare. Yet it also agitates me at the same time. It is not the optimistic – some might say naïve – sentiments it professes that embarrass me. It is hard to disparage wishes such as . . .

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal the heart
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end

Rather, it is the song’s premise that bothers me. Namely, that any “grownup” has, by definition, put aside the selfish, materialistic desires of childhood for nobler, more altruistic aspirations. In nearly half a century of observing human behavior, including my own as much as anyone else, I see no reason to believe this is true.

Consider the grownups who inhabit positions of power and influence in Washington D.C. as well as other celebrity figures throughout our nation. Sure, any of them would give lip service of their desire for Peace on Earth and bipartisan goodwill in public. Yet what other, more egocentric wishes hide in the darkest corners of their hearts?

In that spirit of the season, here is a list of newsmakers from this year and the wishes I suspect would reside at the tops of their lists to Santa.

President Obama – It is December 2008 again, instead of December 2009, and the toughest task facing him is what breed of dog to pick for his daughters’ pet.

Healthcare Reform Bills – For someone/anyone/everyone to realize, “I never thought it was such a bad little tree[s]. It's not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi – She remains in charge after 2010.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – He remains employed after 2010.

Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut – R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Take care . . . TCB!

Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean – Relevance.

Current RNC Chairman Michael Steele – Relevance.

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee – A “do over.”

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee – A “do over.”

Representative Henry Waxman of California – A “comb over.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – Directions.

Former President Bill Clinton – Erections.

Radio Personality Rush Limbaugh – Even more people to listen to him.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts – Anybody that will listen to him.

House Minority Leader John Boehner – A name that does not sound like a sexual innuendo.

Tea Baggers – See Boehner, John.

Golfer Tiger Woods – A preference for dark-haired women of color over Nordic blondes.

Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina – A preference for Nordic blondes over dark-haired women of color. Also, hiking boots.

University of East Anglia – Securer e-mail servers.

Global Warming Advocates – Better/more definitive data supporting their position.

Global Warming Deniers – Any data supporting their position.

The Mayans (posthumous) – To have been smart enough for their civilization to survive to the end of the world they predicted in 2012. Also, that their civilization was smart enough not survive to watch John Cusack in that crappy movie.

Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receiver Chris Henry (posthumous) – More gloves/rosin and a less volatile temper/fiancé.

Taylor Swift – For Kanye West to take a sleigh/pickup truck ride with his good friend, Chris Henry. Also, talent.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin – Actually, she is pretty pleased with who she is, where she is, and what she has at the moment. A fresh tube of lipstick and she is good to go for the New Year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tail Wagging Blue Dogs

Public Dissatisfaction with Healthcare Reform Bills May Be Democrats’ Own Making

As the Senate continues working long hours to reach a compromise bill, healthcare reform appears to be hanging on by the thinnest and most precipitous of threads. Joe Lieberman did his best to snip at the filaments by announcing his opposition to a plan backed by Majority Leader Harry Reid that would expand Medicare coverage to uninsured aged fifty-five and older. Lieberman insisted such an expansion would be too expensive, despite having personally endorsed this approach to the Connecticut Post in 2006.

A cross-ideological panel of Senators, specially convened by Reid, put forth the Medicare plan as an alternative to a “public option,” a notion wildly unpopular with conservatives yet championed by liberals. Alas, the more Reid struggles to make his bill more palatable, the more unpopular it becomes.

The latest Rasmussen poll shows Americans opposed to the bills currently pending in Congress by a whopping fifty-six percent to forty percent. Gallup calculates the split more modestly, at only forty-nine percent opposed to forty-four percent in favor. However, both polling organizations agree the clear trend is disapproval growing rather than shrinking.

Why such hostility to the plan?

Rasmussen notes that forty-seven percent of their respondents trust the private sector more than government to keep quality of care up, while nearly two-thirds say an increase in free market competition will do more than government regulation to reduce health care costs. “Differences like these help explain the sizable opposition to the health care plan,” Rasmussen concludes.

The conventional wisdom among Republican pundits and legislators is that President Obama has overreached, both with healthcare specifically and his agenda in general. Charles Krauthammer recently wrote in the Washington Post that Obama’s election was no national rejection of conservatism for progressive liberalism but rather an anomaly brought about by a public weary of war and frightened by a severe economic downturn. Krauthammer argues that Democratic woes result from Obama attempting to ram through policies that mainstream Americans do not support.

Polling data suggests this may be true where legislation like the stimulus package or bailouts for large financial and auto firms are concerns. Unlike them, however, healthcare reform remains popular in the abstract with most Americans.

Despite disdain for the House and Senate Bills, Rasmussen finds fifty-three percent of respondents believe the current U.S. healthcare system requires major changes and forty-two percent look to the federal government as the prime mover in this effort. Though fearful to many Blue Dog and moderate Democrats in Congress, a majority of American view even a public option in some form as an important component in any solution ultimately adopted.

For its part, Gallup notes a significant number of undecided respondents remain and they lean far more heavily toward Democrats and Independents than Republicans. If these undecided Americans broke toward the Congressional legislation, they would move its support into the majority.

Jonathan Chait, a Senior Editor at the New Republic, has been analyzing poll numbers and emerged with an even more hopeful observation. He posits that disapproval of healthcare legislation incorrectly implies universal hostility to reform because it combines the objections of both the right and far left, which stem from very different places. He found that those who think government involvement is appropriate or does not go far enough in proposed legislation outnumbers those who think it goes too far by about ten points.

Chait concludes the biggest obstacle for Democrats on healthcare reform is not a fundamental lack of public agreement with the bills’ aims but rather “public weariness with the endless legislative grind.”

Sheri and Allan Rivlin, co-editors at, offer yet another reason for widespread dissatisfaction over Congressional legislation. “The only message the public is receiving is that healthcare reform is bad. Turn on Fox News any given night and the message is this or that healthcare reform bill is bad. Turn on MSNBC any given night and the message is this or that healthcare reform bill is bad. Fox News blames all Democrats and MSNBC blames some Democrats.”

The answer, argues the Rivlins, is “more message discipline. We need more voices of support for the underlying effort at health care reform.” This solution might be laughed off as wishful thinking except that it is often offered, albeit in the form of blame for lack of leadership, by conservatives as well. In today’s Wall Street Journal, James Taranto writes, “Whose job was it to make ObamaCare popular? The politicians who backed ObamaCare, of course. If [a majority] of Americans oppose the Senate bill, it is because the Senators who support it have failed to make their case.”

Taranto goes on to laugh at liberal blogger Nate Silver who recently contended that Democrats would be “courageous” to vote for healthcare reform despite its apparent unpopularity. What is so courageous about defying the will of your constituents, Taranto rhetorically asks?

Yet, as the seeming polling paradox between healthcare reform in the abstract versus concrete suggests, this may be a case of the tail wagging the Blue Dogs. Moderate Democrats are timorous about supporting healthcare reform because it is unpopular with voters but it may well be so unpopular with voters because moderate Democrats are being so timorous about it.

Chait notes a point that I made some time ago. “Vulnerable Congressional Democrats may have individual interests in establishing their moderate bona fides by challenging their Party leadership. But they have a far stronger collective interest in passing a bill . . . 2009 [need not be a debacle] unless Democrats get bluffed into making it one.” The only way this will happen is if Blue Dogs start wagging their tails vigorously, to signal their approval of reform, instead of letting their tails wag them.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Peace or Appeasement?

A Surprising Speech by a U.S. President

The White House has released a text copy of the remarks made by President Obama in Oslo today upon receiving his Nobel Peace Prize. I fear those who criticize him as a foreign policy apologist will find this speech equally unacceptable.

Obama begins with a few general principles that sound decidedly hands off in America’s approach to hostile nations.

“I believe the United States is at its best when adhering to a few clear precepts, governing its conduct in world affairs.

First – No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice. Second – No nation's security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow-nations. Third – Every nation's right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable. Fourth – Any nation's attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible. Fifth – A nation's hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.”

Obama next characteristically places blame for the current situation on the Bush Administration and all those with differing views from his own.

“Others held a vastly different vision of the future. In the world of their design, security was to be found, not in mutual trust and mutual aid but in force – huge armies, subversion, rule of neighbor nations. The goal was power superiority at all cost. Security was to be sought by denying it to all others.

The results when this alternative path was chosen have been tragic for the world.”

Obama paints a dire albeit clichéd situation, followed by holding out a chance for the world.

“This has been the way of life forged by years of fear and force. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and lasting peace. It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty. It calls upon them to answer the question that stirs the hearts of all sane men – is there no other way the world may live?

None of the issues facing us, great or small, is insoluble – given only the will to respect the rights of all nations. The United States is ready to assume its just part. We have already done all within our power to speed conclusion of the war in Iraq, which will free that country from economic exploitation and from occupation by foreign troops. We are ready not only to press forward with the present plans for closer unity with our many allies but also, upon that foundation, to strive to foster a broader global community, conducive to the free movement of persons, of trade, and of ideas.”

To this end, Obama outlines five initiatives around the theme of nuclear disarmament, most of which surrender U.S. hegemony to international agreements and agencies.

“First – The limitation, by absolute numbers or by an agreed international ratio, of the sizes of the military and security forces of all nations. Second – A commitment by all nations to set an agreed limit upon that proportion of total production of certain strategic materials to be devoted to military purposes. Third – International control of nuclear energy to promote its use for peaceful purposes only and to insure the prohibition of all nuclear weapons. Fourth – A limitation or prohibition of other categories of weapons of mass destruction. Fifth – The enforcement of all these agreed limitations and prohibitions by adequate safeguards, including a practical system of inspection under the United Nations and other international agencies.”

In typical fashion, Obama is a little vague on the specifics of how to accomplish all this but concludes with an eloquent benediction of hope and change.

“The details of such disarmament programs are manifestly critical and complex. Neither the United States nor any other nation can properly claim to possess a perfect, immutable formula. But the formula matters less than the faith – the good faith without which no formula can work justly and effectively.

The peace we seek is founded upon decent trust and cooperative effort among nations. We are prepared to reaffirm, with the most concrete evidence, our readiness to help build a world in which all peoples can be productive and prosperous. The monuments to this peace would be roads and schools, hospitals and homes, food and health.

We are ready, in short, to dedicate our strength to serving the needs, rather than the fears, of the world. I know of nothing I can add to make plainer the sincere purposes of the United States. They conform to our firm faith that God intended humanity to enjoy, not destroy, the fruits of the Earth and of their own toil. They aspire to this – the lifting, from the backs and from the hearts of all people, of their burden of arms and of fears, so that they may find before them a golden age of freedom and of peace.”

Does Obama hit the ball out of the park with this speech or does he cross a forbidden line? Is this the logical global extension of modern U.S. liberalism, expressed by its foremost exponent, or the selling out of America by a brilliant but callow man unqualified to lead? How could any President of the United States stand before a public audience, with the entire world listening, and say such things?

As some history students among you already know, the excerpts above do not come from Obama’s Oslo acceptance speech. They are the words of a U.S. President but a Republican one – Dwight D. Eisenhower. I changed “Korea” to “Iraq” in what I presented above to maintain the illusion that the words were those of Obama. However, I quote the vast majority of the text, including the five precepts and five initiatives, almost verbatim.

Eisenhower’s speech was entitled “The Chance for Peace” and given on April 16, 1953 – a mere twelve weeks into his new Presidency. Eisenhower delivered it before the American Society of Newspaper Editors. However, the true intended audience for Eisenhower’s remarks was the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin had recently died and Eisenhower hoped the Kremlin’s new leadership would welcome an opportunity for a less hostile relationship with the United States.

In the speech, Eisenhower painted the Cold War and its accompanying arms race not merely as a moral outrage but an unsustainable economic burden to both countries. I first discovered this speech several years ago and was struck by its eloquence and persuasiveness. I tended to rank Eisenhower as a competent but somewhat stolid writer and speaker.

I also could not help but wonder if he had given it today, whether his fellow Republicans would have labeled Eisenhower a RINO?

To be sure, Eisenhower was not promoting dialogue merely for its own sake. At one point in the speech, he admonishes, “We care nothing for mere rhetoric. We care only for sincerity of peaceful purpose attested by deeds.”

Yet the fact remains that he proactively reached out, with no preconditions, to America’s fiercest enemy at that time – an enemy easily just as dangerous to our national security as the current threat of terrorism. He offered to respect their form of government and way of life in exchange for a cessation of hostility. He proposed mutual disarmament and placed great emphasis on multilateral international cooperation.

We know in hindsight that the Soviets rebuffed Eisenhower’s gallant offer. If they had not, the Cold War would have been a far less dangerous and stressful time for a generation of Americans. On the other hand, the Soviet Union might still be in existence today had the U.S. chosen Eisenhower’s vision of peaceful coexistence instead of competitive pressure.

Did Eisenhower later regret that the goals he outlined never saw fruition or did he regret he had ever made such an offer in the first place? Was his speech the product of a new President’s energy and optimism or an example of his naivety and inexperience in office? Was it a chance for peace or merely a chance for appeasement?

Whatever your evaluation, it seems Barack Obama is not the first U.S. President to have advocated such policies or found himself judged by them.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hot Solutions, Cool Reasoning

Exposing the Questionable Evidence Behind Global Warming Doesn’t Disprove Its Premise

Fans of Sherlock Holmes know that when matters of discovery, deduction, and exposure did not preoccupy his formidable mind, the famous detective was prone to injecting himself with morphine or a “seven-percent solution” of cocaine. When admonished by his companion, Doctor Watson, for this practice, Holmes conceded that while it was probably physically detrimental, “I find it, however, so transcendently stimulating and clarifying to the mind that its secondary action is a matter of small moment.”

Thus, for all his brilliance as a criminologist, Holmes was no neural biologist with any understanding of the true impact of narcotics on his brain and nervous system. He does have sufficient insight to admit to Watson that his mind “abhors the dull routine of existence.” So perhaps, at some level, Holmes understood his drug habit was actually a means to escape reality rather than a tool to see it more clearly.

In today’s New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman passes over “seven percent solutions” in favor of the “one percent doctrine.” First coined by former Vice-President Dick Cheney and expanded upon in a book by Ron Suskind, the doctrine holds the United States must respond aggressively to “low-probability, high-impact events.”

For example, if there is even a one percent chance that terrorists may have acquired nuclear weapon(s), the U.S. government needs to “treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.”

Friedman then notes that Cheney and many other conservatives deny the concept of global warming or, at least, human contributed global warming. Yet University of Chicago legal scholar Cass Sunstein points out that the “one percent doctrine” endorses the same “precautionary principle” that motivates many radical environmentalists.

Per Sunstein, “According to the precautionary principle, it is appropriate to respond aggressively to low-probability, high-impact events such as climate change. Indeed, another Vice-President, Al Gore, can be understood to be arguing for a precautionary principle for climate change (though he believes that the chance of disaster is well over one percent).”

Conservatives believe they have lately found a fatal flaw in that comparison – Climategate.

On November 17, an unknown computer hacker obtained access to emails and data files belonging to the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, one of the leading climate science centers in the world, and posted them on the Internet. The leaked information showed a disturbing pattern in which climate scientists destroyed or manipulated data in order to support their hypothesis of global warming and conspired to silence any lack of consensus among themselves.

Suddenly, conservatives want to apply the “one percent doctrine” in reverse. If there is even a one percent chance that global warming is false or at least not due to human contributed carbon emissions, the U.S. should regard all science on the matter as politicized and untrustworthy. Such risk is now acceptable because the impact is nonexistent.

Sarah Palin uses an op/ed piece in today’s Washington Post to make exactly this argument.

“While we recognize the occurrence of natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes. We can say, however, that any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs.”

This sounds reasonable enough at first glance but, unfortunately, scientific empiricism holds us to greater rigor. Rather than supporting each other, Palin’s first sentence is at odds with her second. Palin correctly identifies the costs of climate change as uncertain. How then, in light of this uncertainty, can she state with sureness that increased energy costs outweigh environmental precaution? Simply put, she cannot.

Climategate should outrage anyone with a commitment to finding the Truth through empirical mean. However, much as conservatives might like to consider the matter settled and forgotten, its abuses only throw question on the certain impact of human contributed global warming; it does nothing to disprove the basic validity of its premise.

Cheaters caught in the act flunk their tests but not because they necessarily must have the wrong answers. The sin of cheating lies in using cheap and lazy means to find the correct answers and this is exactly what the climate scientists involved in Climategate are guilty. It is what Palin does as well, albeit ingenuously, by jumping to conclusions in her cost/benefit analysis.

In fairness, the defense offered to date by global warming proponents in light of Climategate’s shocking revelations have been no more rigorous. Interviewed today in Slate magazine by John Dickerson, former Vice-President Al Gore seems to believe that indignation is an equivalent substitution for evidence. “The basic facts are incontrovertible,” he sputters. “When we see all these things happening on the Earth itself, what in the hell do they think is causing it?”

The presumption is human beings but the certainty of this is exactly what Climategate has called into question. Further research is sadly now required in an area where time may already have run out to make any substantial difference.

This brings us back around to the conservative “one percent doctrine.” What scientists once presented as incontrovertible evidence has become highly circumstantial. Yet that circumstantial evidence strongly points to a lit and hissing fuse. The question is whether humans lit the fuse with a match or some natural means, such as lightning was the catalyst. Perhaps more germane, does this fuse lead to a thermonuclear warhead or a loud but innocuous firecracker?

Another fact we know is that the cost of energy supplied by fossil-based fuels is bound to increase over time due to finite supplies. Ignoring future costs in order to save money in the present is quite consistent with conservatism as practiced in recent years. But this only bring us back to Holmes and his “seven percent solution,” in which keen insight and clear thinking are mistaken as the byproducts of induced deliriums to escape the dull routine of existence.

The science of climate change has been held up to scrutiny and found wanting. Yet no matter how much its premise may bore us, we leave the path of wisdom if we think humans can forever ignore the evidence, both supportive and contrary, without peril. Hot solutions tend to be volatile, whatever their exact percentage of active ingredient. Cool reasoning is still our best hope.

Friday, December 4, 2009

¡Muerta Honduras!

Think of It as the Chiquita Corporation with an Army

Now that the Honduran Congress has overwhelmingly voted against reinstating former President Manuel Zelaya, even for a token two months prior to the inauguration of President-elect Porfirio Lobo, I think everyone in this country can now heave a collective sigh of national relief. Isn’t it nice not to have to pretend anymore that tiny, scrappy Honduras is a democracy?

In this country, right-wing hawks cried, “¡Viva Honduras! ” under the presumption they were courageously part of “a win for all people who yearn for liberty” by supporting the legal position of an usurping Honduran interim government and opposing the legal position of nearly every other government on the planet. Now we may change that cry to a more appropriate “¡Muerta Honduras! ” Yes, democracy is dead in Honduras – which means everything there is back to normal.

Honduras can return to being controlled by the elite affluent who own and run its few agriculture and textile industries. Foreign powers once controlled these plantations and factories. A few smart Hondurans saw the benefits of living like their former colonial oppressors and seized control after the country gained its independence.

The elite were also smart enough to realize that, living in the Western Hemisphere, the United States represented the big tub of Oleo from which to butter their bread. Hence, the image they tired to present the world was that of a constitutional democracy.

It was not always an easy row to hoe – the army overthrew Presidents in 1956, 1963 and 1972, prior to this year’s court ordered coup. The one thing that remained constant in Honduras, however, was control by a few rich and powerful families over the military, Supreme Court, Congress and the President.

Unfortunately, Manuel Zelaya, himself a product of the land-owning class, got idealistic after the elite placed him in office. Then he made the fatal and admittedly stupid mistake of allying himself with left-wing Venezuelan despot Hugo Chávez.

His subsequent demonization and removal from power represented “a last ditch effort by Honduras’ entrenched economic and political interests to stave off the advance of the new left governments that have taken hold in Latin America over the past decade,” according to Roger Burbach, Director of the Center for the Study of the Americas. Burbach goes on to describe those interests as “a mafia-like, drug-ridden, corrupt political elite.”

It did not help his case that Zelaya, whatever his intentions, is such an obvious political absurdity. With his white cowboy hat, boots, big moustache, and frequent histrionic pronouncements, he comes across like the abandoned love child of Emiliano Zapata and Eva Perón.

Indeed, Zelaya is such a joke that I refuse to believe the Honduran elite ever considered him a threat personally. Even if they had, we now know the army was only too happy to deport him or possibly even put a bullet in his brain, if ordered to do so. Instead, what the elite probably feared was the constitutional convention Zelaya was promoting – the one thing that could have swept away the established status quo in a fit of populist fervor.

Conventional wisdom maintains Zelaya wanted to re-write the constitution so that he could serve more than one term as President. I suspect this is probably true but the method he chose to do so was a public referendum to convene a convention. Those opposed to this idea chose to shoot at his home and deport him. Which side sounds most inconsistent with a free democratic society and the rule of law?

Yet some U.S. pundits stubbornly continue to insist the truth is just the opposite, with Zelaya the powerful, dangerous tyrant and the Honduran elite simple but courageous freedom fighters attempting to defend their constitution. Leading the pack in this effort is Mary O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal. After months of pouting and huffing over how mean the Obama Administration was being toward Honduras, O’Grady’s column following Lobo’s election was a rhetorical orgasm spewed upon the page.

Some point to Obama’s decision to recognize Honduran elections – a decision not joined by many other governments – as realization he was wrong to oppose Zelaya’s ouster. I would argue he is following the same consistent policy that led him to recognize elections in Iran and Afghanistan earlier this year. It is one thing to oppose election fraud in which illegal activity has caused a different outcome than the people’s will. It is another matter when the election itself is a sham and the outcome predetermined.

Despite the pretense of elections, everyone knows a small group of Islamic theocrats holds the real power in Iran. In Afghanistan, power flows through a series of warlords. In Honduras, hereditary business owners are in control. Honduras is capitalistic but their markets are not free nor their government democratic. Think of it as something like the Chiquita Corporation with an army.

The election of Lobo was a sure thing. No more trusting Liberal Party candidates – even if, despite its name, that organization is right-center moderate with few policy differences from the Conservative Party. The elites decreed one of their most trusted own would be holding the reins close for some time to come.

The exact turnout figures are disputed but Honduran election workers reported that voting was lightest in the poorer neighborhoods Zelaya once championed and heaviest in affluent neighborhoods. The prevailing mood in the country leading up to Election Day was not jubilation but resignation and a desire by everyone – from the affluent, to small business owners, to common factory and field workers – to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. They went to the polls and voted the way they knew their bosses wanted them to vote.

While desire by the elites to maintain control forced the Honduran government to thumb its nose at international pressure, their resistance was not without cost. Withholding of non-humanitarian aid and other funds by the OAS and various foreign powers eroded an already stagnant Honduran economy almost to the breaking point.

For those worried that the United States has abandoned the freedom-loving people of Honduras, the gravy train will undoubtedly start rolling again. Honduras sends more than sixty percent of its exports to America, the U.S. may re-start more than $40 million a year in direct aid, and over one million Hondurans living and working in the United States send money to their families back home. Okay, maybe think of Honduras as more like AIG with an army.

In many ways, we are better off acknowledging Honduras as a sham. Although the second most populous Central American country after Guatemala, Honduras is one of Latin America’s poorest, thanks to its entrenched social and economic partitions. Seventy percent of its 7.7 million inhabitants live at or below the poverty level. One and half million subsist on $1 per day. Honduras suffers high levels of violence from youth street gangs and drug traffickers.

Let’s face it; they would have been one big embarrassment in the democracy column.

Of course, they will still be an ally. To paraphrase David Broder in today’s Washington Post, “Corrupt and inefficient as they may be, they are less of a threat than [a proxy Chávez government] would be. And so we must prop them up.” Broder was actually talking about Hamid Karzai versus the Taliban in Afghanistan but the principle remains constant for Honduras.

And – admit it – isn’t it kind of a relief to finally admit that even though they represent strategic interests for us in their respective regions, the governments in charge of these two countries are not especially like us and don’t especially like us? So goodbye, pretense of Honduran democracy – you were . . . cute . . . while you lasted.