Here’s a question for all us peasants to ponder…

If you were King for a day, who would you tell to shut up?

This morning as we sat around the conference table staring gormlessly at each other, the editorial board for the Peoples Weekly Brief decided to vote on our favorite stories of the year. It seemed easier than choosing a column topic for the day, and gave us time to polish off the remaining donuts before heading back to our offices.

The most excellent result of the vote was that King Juan Carlos’ “Why don’t you shut up” line, delivered to our favorite despotic man-child, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was hands down the top vote getter. Again, the vote was for “favorite” story, not “most important”.

The King, and how sublime would it be to have that title, displayed big King-size brass ones during an Ibero-American summit in Chile back on Nov. 10. Chavez, increasingly tipsy on oil approaching $100/barrel, was speaking at the conference and took the opportunity to hurl insults at Spain’s former Premier, Jose Maria Aznar.

Clearly hoping for YouTube coverage, Chavez repeatedly called Aznar a fascist, even after Spain’s current Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, politely and diplomatically asked Chavez to refrain from name calling. To make the situation more entertaining, Zapatero is a socialist, so you would think Chavez might consider him somewhat of a kindred spirit.

Chavez, possessing the diplomacy, vision and people skills of a spoiled three-year-old snot- nosed whiny toddler, but with none of the charm, paid no attention to the requests and continued his vitriol. King Juan Carlos then did what many others have dreamed about as we’ve watched Chavez slowly point the good ship Venezuela towards the deep end of the toilet.

The King sat up, leaned in for effect and said “Why don’t you shut up?” While there’s a question mark at the end of the sentence, it clearly was more a wish than a question. The King, too diplomatic to use a direct statement such as “Shut your piehole”, opted for the far more elegant approach in phrasing his statement in the form of a question. In the parlance of diplomacy, this is called the “Jeopardy Construct”. In French, the language of diplomacy, it is called “Diplomatie du Trebek sans fermez le piehole”. That’s some good party trivia folks.

Chavez of course could care less, as long as oil prices continue their march upwards. He’s walking the time-honored path of so many other failed socialists before him…pander to the poorest voters and convince them that a socialist revolution is the only way to the end of the rainbow.

The difference with Chavez is, for now, he’s got the oil and gas revenues to prop up his socialist daydream. Which is why he garners the votes from the poorest segment of the country’s population.

Hell, if I handed out infrastructure money wily-nily and promised free stuff to all those who are stuff-less, I could probably get myself elected. Repeatedly. Especially if I had franking privileges. Dammit, if I had enough oil cash, I might even try to buy an end to term limits.

Alright, Chavez had that idea first. He’s actually indicated that he’d like to stay in power until sometime in the 2030s. That should give him time to properly flush the Venezuelan future into the Atlantic, even if the pipes get plugged up occasionally between now and then.

I may not have all my facts right, but I’m pretty sure the old socialist experiment has failed in the past. Undoubtedly the oil and gas money that Venezuela currently enjoys will allow this attempt to totter shakily along for a bit longer than other grand socialist societies. But eventually, and here I’m willing to bet the funds residing in the 401K plan held for the PWB staffers, things will head south.

And guess what? The last people in Venezuela to understand that things are heading in the crapper, and those who will consequently suffer most, will be the same poor segment of society that Chavez currently counts on for votes. It’s the circle of life. Huzzah for socialism. Maybe he’ll get his own t-shirt, just like Che.

In a way, we should thank Chavez for getting the U.S. refocused on Latin America. For many years we were disengaged from our neighbors to the south. American foreign policy for Latin America was nowhere to be found. Then one day we woke up and, oh my God, viva la revolution. Sure our old nemesis Fidel was still around, he’ll outlive us all. But suddenly Chavez, Evo Morales and wait, who’s that returning from the dead…it’s Daniel Ortega.

It was like walking into a bad socialist zombie movie. Don’t fall asleep, the zombies will come and redistribute the wealth and then everyone will be reeducated and we’ll all strive for an equal level of mediocrity. One thing about socialism, excellence ain’t encouraged and it sure as hell isn’t rewarded. As the old socialist saying goes, “Don’t get too big for your britches. And how come you’re eating so much that you’re getting so big? And where’d you get them fancy britches from? Seems to me you oughta’ give those to the collective so everyone can take turns wearing britches. Take off those britches comrade.”

So back to our original question. In the spirit of the holiday season, the PWB invites you to let us know, if you were King, who would you tell to shut up and why. Anyone responding that they’d tell me to shut up will be automatically struck from the Christmas list.

Yeah, I’m making a Christmas list. Uh-oh, I feel a rant comin’ on. I’m gonna’ have a Christmas tree, Christmas lights, an advent calendar and maybe even one of those blow up holiday Santas sitting on my front yard. And I’m putting a Christmas tree up in the office. Not because I’m making a religious statement… not because I’m insensitive to other cultures…but simply because it’s freakin’ Christmas and I happen to like decorating a damn tree. Sue me.

Good God, not to get frothy at the mouth, but I’m just about at my limit. The Seattle school system spits out a memorandum claiming that Thanksgiving is really a time of mourning because of our treatment of the Native American Indians. Christmas trees can’t be displayed in government buildings because they could cause offense. Some folks argue that high schools shouldn’t appoint class valedictorians because it makes the slackers feel less special.

We start the 2008 presidential campaign 10,000 days ahead of election day, piss away a bazillion dollars, fixate on stupid crap that doesn’t help us select a viable candidate and then only 30 to 40 percent of us manage to find the voting booths on the big day.

Where was I? Oh yeah, sit yourself down with a good stiff drink and send us your responses. Who do you think deserves the “Why don’t you shut up?” King Carlos treatment and why? It’s festive and therapeutic all at the same time. Winners will be selected and cool PWB crap will be handed out. Maybe it’ll help me get elected.

Till next week, stay safe.

Respond to the Writer

Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures. In addition, Baker is a writer for a BBC drama to begin production in July 2007.