Archive for the 'Hugo Chavez' Category

Going John Galt… quietly.

The idea of “Going John Galt” makes me a little bit uncomfortable, to tell the truth.    John Galt essentially said screw them all, and shut down knowing that a whole lot of people would be hurt.    It was about the only way he could make his point and make it stick.

Maybe we could do this without shutting down the economy?

But, as I think about it, a protest citing John Galt and out and out telling people what is going on might be a good idea, because people are going to go John Galt… quietly.

And I have no faith at all that anyone who now thinks that it’s a good thing to make the rich pay are going to understand what happened any more than Chavez or Mugabe understand what happened (or is happening) to their economies.

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Chavez Threatens Colombia Because He Finances Terrorism

McQ alerts us to this developing story in South America.

Colombia, apparently, struck at a narco-terrorist camp inside Ecuador after tracking FARC spokesman Paul Reyes and other leaders there. Reyes and 16 other terrorists were killed.

Chavez reacted by sending troops to the Venezuela/Colombia border:

Now you might ask why Chavez would involve himself in this conflict that essentially had nothing to do with him. Of course he could just be trying to take advantage of a situation to let him attack the rightist and US allied Colombian govt, or he could be trying to protect himself from what the raid would possibly find.

Evidence found in computers seized in a raid over the weekend suggests that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recently gave the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia $300 million, Colombia’s national police chief said Monday.

Let’s also note Chavez’s past ties with Iran when this part shows up:

Naranjo said other evidence in the computers suggests FARC purchased 50 kilograms of uranium this month.

This could be an interesting story to watch unfold.

UPDATE: More on the story on the Ecuadorians. It seems they were in negotiations with FARC to post friendlier security forces on their border. Also, want to throw a link out there to the US Presidential Election? The files also stated

Americans have reached out to Correa’s government, saying Barack Obama is likely to be the next U.S. president. ”We responded we’re not interested in relationship with governments … and in the case of the United States, we require a public announcement expressing interest in talking with the FARC, given their eternal war against us,” the memo said.

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Blood For Oil

Joseph Kennedy II supports blood for oil.

In recent months, my TV has been bombarded with ads from Joe Kennedy promoting his Citizens Energy program, such as the following:

The heating oil distributed by Citizens Energy comes from Venezuela on a subsidized basis (which its been doing since 1979). Since Hugo Chavez took the reins of power in 1998, those donations, and the support of Kennedy’s charity, have had decidedly more political overtones. (more…)

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Anti-FARC March in D.C.

John Lilyea has the goods:

So I decided to add my voice to the millions worldwide from here in DC.

I was really surprised that an ad hoc organization put together such a large demonstration in such a short period of time.

anti-Farc rally

More at Gateway Pundit.

UPDATE: Commenter logtar supplies a link to pictures of anti-FARC rallies from around the world. Protest babes abound (albeit some not exactly, um, real.)

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Hugo Chavez, the key to political popularity

If Hugo inspires such love from the masses of South America, how do you explain this?

Colombia’s Uribe Approval Rating at Record 80%, Tiempo Reports

By Helen Murphy

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) — Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s approval rating rose to a record 80 percent in January from 74 percent in November, El Tiempo newspaper reported, citing a Gallup Colombia poll.

Uribe’s approval rating may have increased as Colombians rallied behind him amid verbal attacks from Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and over his management of the release of two hostages by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, El Tiempo reported Gallup director Jorge Londoño as saying.

Gallup Colombia interviewed 1,000 citizens in Colombia’s four main cities between Jan. 17 and Jan. 19. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points in Bogota, the daily newspaper said.

Feathers is certainly cheered. Meanwhile, Chavez’s ratings are heading toward George Bush’s.

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The food crisis accelerates

Following through on what was reported yesterday, Hugo Chavez continues to step up the pressure on food producers:

Venezuela’s top food company has accused troops of illegally seizing more than 500 tonnes of food from its trucks as part of President Hugo Chavez’s campaign to stem shortages.

The leftist Chavez this week created a state food distributor and loosened some price controls, seeking to end months of shortages for staples like milk and eggs that have caused long lines and upset his supporters in the OPEC nation.

McQ chimes in.

More News from Venezuela pasted from Fausta’s Carnival Of Latin America and the Carribean (I suggest reading each week) follows:

The Dangerously High Price of Crossing Hugo Chavez

Judge Monica Fernandez, a Venezuelan human rights advocate, was shot on January 4 in what police ruled a botched car robbery. The night before the attack, she was branded an enemy of the state, a coup-plotter, and a fascist on a state television show which condemns those who dare to oppose the government’s actions. Coincidence? Thor Halvorssen doesn’t think so.

Via Siggy,
Venezuela’s Jews Find Their Voice as Chavez Ramps Up Harassment

Chavez to farmers: Sell within Venezuela or it’s ‘treason’; Chavez threatens to send in the army to seize farms at gunpoint unless farmers sell all their milk to the government. Udder stupidity. As Ed says,

Chavez has chosen the Mugabe way of state confiscation of farms, and will eventually get the Mugabe result — taking his nation into poverty and starvation on land that should produce enough for export.

Via Irish Spy
Exit Venezuela?

Chavez and the FARC-The Unveiling

Is Chavez seeking war with Colombia?

U.S. media treats Chavez better than he accords his opponents and Lucianne discussion thread

Chavez and the FARC

A Hollywood Yarn Unravels

Venezuelan government continues attack on independent media; Alberto Federico Ravell is “Caracas Nine” dissident #3

An article from last month I didn’t link to Election deception

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The Path to Mass Murder III

Haven’t we said this is the way things were heading once Hugo Chavez instituted price controls? Why yes we did.

From CNN via Pejman

President Hugo Chavez threatened on Sunday to take over farms or milk plants if owners refuse to sell their milk for domestic consumption and instead seek higher profits abroad or from cheese-makers.

With the country recently facing milk shortages, Chavez said “it’s treason” if farmers deny milk to Venezuelans while selling it across the border in Colombia or for gourmet cheeses.

“In that case the farm must be expropriated,” Chavez said, adding that the government could also take over milk plants and properties of beef producers.

“I’m putting you on alert,” Chavez said. “If there’s a producer that refuses to sell the product … and sells it at a higher price abroad … ministers, find me the proof so it can be expropriated.”

Addressing his Cabinet, he said: “If the army must be brought in, you bring in the army.”

Mugabe has a disciple.

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Venezuela’s coming Kristallnacht

McQ points us to a new, if all too familiar, turn the ugly situation in Venezuela is taking:

Venezuelan Jews, long uneasy with the Chávez government’s alliances with Iran and other Middle Eastern countries that espouse anti-Israel views, are concerned that the government is sponsoring anti-Semitism in this hemisphere, a prominent journalist said Tuesday.

”The situation we have now in Venezuela is that for the first time in modern history we have government-sponsored anti-Semitism in a Western country,” said Sammy Eppel. “That is why this is very dangerous, not just for the Jewish community in Venezuela but for the Jewish community as a whole.”

Among the examples offered by Eppel:

Venezuelan government intelligence services twice have raided the country’s most important Jewish center in a vague, ultimately unsuccessful search for weapons. Publications of the government’s cultural ministry run articles entitled ”the Jewish Question,” along with a Jewish star superimposed over a swastika.

McQ has more:

Think carefully about how totalitarians work. They have to have both an internal and external enemy in order to justify measures taken to expand powers. Jews have provided that internal enemy to so many dictators that this is like a bad rerun. But then, no one would claim that a dictator who is convinced he can make socialism work when no one else could, is worried about being particularly original.

Left or right, whether you call it fascism or socialism (and how does one really tell the difference?) the pattern has been the same, and as we have argued, so will eventually the results.

Other reactions: Fausta has much, much more.

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Hugo Chavez: Gravedigger

Apparently Hugo Chavez takes the resurrection of historical idols quite seriously. And much too literally [HT: Dave In Texas]:

President Hugo Chavez said Monday that Venezuela should open the coffin of independence hero Simon Bolivar to examine the bones, saying there are sufficient doubts about his death in 1830 to warrant a full investigation.

Although history books maintain Bolivar died of tuberculosis, Chavez said doubts exist because some writings suggest it is possible the South American “Liberator” might have been murdered.

Chavez has raised this theory before, but went further during a speech on the anniversary of Bolivar’s death.

“Who knows if they even made Bolivar’s bones disappear? We have to determine it now,” Chavez said. “We have the moral obligation to dispel this mystery, to open … this sacred coffin and check the remains.”

I’m not exactly sure what Chavez’s goal is here other than to create a controversy that will eventually be laid at the feet, somehow, of President Bush and “imperialism.” Or perhaps he means to overshadow his referendum defeat, and to redirect attention away from his attempts to change the constitution by other means.

One thing you can bank on, however, is that the Chavez’s gravedigging escapade will be little more than a show trial of his perceived enemies, and will be used to foster popular support of the erstwhile dictator. IOW, it’s simply propaganda.

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The Bolivian Secession (Update)

It seems that Hugo Chavez is not the only one having trouble instituting his Bolivarian dream state. Evo Morales is facing troubles in Bolivia as well:

Since the election of avowed socialist Evo Morales to the presidency of Bolivia, some have not been particularly happy with the direction he is trying to take the country. Yesterday, four of Bolivia’s states have announced they are autonomous and separated from the central government. As can be imagined, this has not been well received by the Morales government

From the Financial Times (HT: Fausta):

Four Bolivian departments are on collision course with the leftwing government of President Evo Morales after declaring radical autonomy statutes at the weekend.

The legislation, declared illegal by Mr Morales, would insulate the wealthier and mainly mixed-race eastern part of the country from parts of a controversial new constitution that grants greater powers to the country’s majority indigenous groups.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people took part in rallies in Santa Cruz and departmental capitals to celebrate the autonomy measures, while similarly large numbers of pro-government supporters demonstrated in favour of the new constitution in La Paz.

All the legislation – as well as a separate and especially contentious constitutional provision limiting the size of landholdings – has to be submitted to referendums that are expected to take place early next year….

Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando departments, which all announced autonomy on Saturday, form a half-moon shape around the solidly pro-government capital and heavily indigenous departments of La Paz, Potosi and Oruro. Two other departments – Cochabamba and Chuquisaca – are unhappy with the new constitution, railroaded through by an emergency session of a constituent assembly eight days ago by pro-government supporters. “The country has taken two different directions,” said an editorial in El Deber, a daily newspaper published in Santa Cruz

Each side in the matter is talking tough. Here’s Evo talking trash:

“They must give back the money they took from us,” he told a cheering crowd, which included members of the Quechua and Aymara tribes. “We will retroactively investigate all the big fortunes, and the corrupt are now trembling with fear.”

Morales also cautioned those who he said want a “a division, a coup d’etat,” the AP reported.

“We won’t permit Bolivia to be divided,” he warned.

And this from one of the seceding governors:

“I am convinced that we will not retreat a millimetre nor move one step to the side,” Ruben Costas, the governor of Santa Cruz, told tens of thousands of jubilant supporters waving the department’s green and white flags. Mr Costas warned the central government not to send in troops or police. “This is a warning. Do not dare to invade us or militarise us.”

IIRC, these provinces have been threatening to secede for some time now. It’s hard to tell how this will all play out.

Fausta has much more on this and other happenings in her Carnival of Latin America and the Carribean, which also includes a link to our post about Hugo Chavez losing the Venezuelan referendum (thanks for the link, Fausta!).

UPDATE: It’s not a secession, but a declaration of autonomy. Apparently the media screwed up … yet again:

Contrary to what the MSM is publishing the autonomic statute in first article states:

“Santa Cruz se convierte en Departamento Autónomo, como expresión de la identidad histórica, la vocación democrática y autonómica del pueblo cruceño, y en ejercicio de su derecho a la autonomía departamental, reforzando la unidad de la República de Bolivia, y los lazos de hermandad entre todos los bolivianos”.

That is to say they are not proposing secession, what they are proposing is self rule in economic, education, tax and resource management issues.

Some of you may think that such a thing amounts to independence from Bolivia, however the prefectos have been very clear in that respect, their proposal is similar to the current system of autonomic regions in Spain.

Third, the issue of autonomic rule was presented to popular vote through referendum. In 4 out of the 9 departments (Santa cruz, Beni Pando and Tarija) the SI option, that is the one supporting autonomy, won. Ergo, said proposal is as democratic as Morales’-driven national constituent assembly from a strictly legal point of view, for if what Morales needed to rewrite the constitution was the approval of “the people” said approval was granted by “the people” to provincial statutes of self rule in those regions.

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Chavez vs. The Venezuelan Electorate

Chavez Down In the wake of the Venezuelan electorate issuing Hugo Chavez a defeat (his first) at the ballot box last week, there was much speculation from blogospheric skeptics about the actual tally of the votes, and about whether or not Chavez manipulated the results. In a report by Jorge Castañeda for Newsweek comes allegations confirming those suspicions (HT: ChrisB):

Most of Latin America’s leaders breathed a sigh of relief earlier this week, after Venezuelan voters rejected President Hugo Chávez’s constitutional amendment referendum. In private they were undoubtedly relieved that Chávez lost, and in public they expressed delight that he accepted defeat and did not steal the election. But by midweek enough information had emerged to conclude that Chávez did, in fact, try to overturn the results. As reported in El Nacional, and confirmed to me by an intelligence source, the Venezuelan military high command virtually threatened him with a coup d’état if he insisted on doing so. Finally, after a late-night phone call from Raúl Isaías Baduel, a budding opposition leader and former Chávez comrade in arms, the president conceded—but with one condition: he demanded his margin of defeat be reduced to a bare minimum in official tallies, so he could save face and appear as a magnanimous democrat in the eyes of the world.

(Emphasis added.) If the reports are true, this shouldn’t surprise anyone whose being paying attention. The emergence of former Chavez ally Raúl Isaías Baduel (profiled here by Fausta) as a check on Chavez’s lust for supreme power has been most welcome. However, while it’s tempting to view the machinations behind the referendum defeat as signaling the end of his strongman status, Chavez is clearly still a powerful leader. The possibility that he was able to manipulate the ultimate voting tally speaks to that power, as does his continued popularity amongst supporters inclined to use violence as a means of furthering the Chavista agenda. Accordingly, I wouldn’t write off Chavez’ ability to get what he wants just yet.

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Hugo Chavez: Genius!

From E. Frank Stephenson:

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez thinks it’s curtains for America as a world power. “By the crash of the dollar,” he says, “America’s empire will crash.”Tyler Cowen’s suggestion that currencies are not markers of economic success notwithstanding, I hope Chavez’s theory that declining currencies signal the end of regimes is correct. If so, this piece from the IHT suggests we may soon be rid of Senor Chavez:

The bolivar has tumbled 30 percent this year to 4,850 per dollar on the black market, the only place it trades freely because of government controls on foreign exchange. That compares with the official rate of 2,150 per dollar set in 2005.Hugo must be proud of himself–he’s managed to depreciate his currency some 30% against a currency that has itself fallen by 20%. Sheer genius!

Heh. I suggest the bolivar has a long way to go.

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Chavez Will Win His Referendum

I’d say this is good news except that I have zero confidence that the referendum will result in anything other than what Chavez wants (i.e. dictatorial control):

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has lost his lead eight days before a referendum on ending his term limit, an independent pollster said on Saturday, in a swing in voter sentiment against the Cuba ally.

Forty-nine percent of likely voters oppose Chavez’s proposed raft of constitutional changes to expand his powers, compared with 39 percent in favor, a survey by respected pollster Datanalisis showed.

Just weeks ago, Chavez had a 10-point lead for his proposed changes in the OPEC nation that must be approved in a referendum, the polling company said.

(See a round up of the various polls here). That was five days ago, however. Today, Reuters reports that Chavez is experiencing a surge of support:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has at least a seven-point lead for a referendum on Sunday on reforms that would allow him to run for re-election indefinitely, according to a poll distributed on Wednesday.


The survey of 1,600 voters taken November 21-27 said 56 percent of likely voters appeared set to vote for Chavez’s constitutional overhaul and 40 percent set to vote against.

But when the survey measured how undecided voters would cast their ballots and also took into account that others, who do not yet plan to vote, could decide to participate, the difference narrowed to as little as seven points.

Ah, but let’s see who conducted this latest poll:

The poll by Consultores 30.11, which has worked for the government and accurately predicted a vote result last year, showed Chavez moving ahead compared to most surveys in recent days that put him at best in a statistical tie.

Yeah, I’ll bet they did. Reuters is being coy here. Consultores 30.11 apparently works solely for the Venezuelan government and puts out polls (sometimes through the U.S. polling firm Evans/McDonough, Inc.) that have a decidedly pro-Chavista flair. It’s no wonder they accurately predict elections when the numbers are handed to them by Chavez himself. The firm does not seem to be anything more than a PR machine for Chavez.

Of course, considering how Chavez is dealing with opposition to his referendum, it’s no wonder he needs the PR help (HT: Jim Hoft):

Several media outlets in Caracas have reported today that the new protests where thousands of students from all over the country participated against Chavez’s Constitutional “reforms,” left many students wounded. There were violent confrontations with the police in many Universities and there are reports of protesters having bullet and pellet wounds. Allegedly, one is in critical condition. Some newspapers have published news that many students have been detained by the authorities.

Demonstrations also occurred in other cities: Maracay, Valencia, Yaracuy and Puerto La Cruz and there is information that many professors joined their students. For this Sunday, all the student leaders will join their forces and will march in a huge demonstration to reject Chavez’s plans to turn Venezuela into an oppressive and tyrannical country.

Daniel at Venezuela News and Views has much more. Also, see this Luis Fleischman piece posted by Fausta:

What we are facing now is probably the largest civil protests in Venezuela since February 2003 when groups in civil society were struggling to hold a re-call referendum on Chavez….

This new anti-Chavez movement has been brought about by one man. He is the former Chavez Defense Secretary; General Rafael Baduel. Baduel has publicly opposed the constitutional reforms in Venezuela calling them an attempt at a “coup d’etat. As a result he has become the new de-facto leader millions of Venezuelans were waiting for. Until recently, Baduel could be blamed for allowing Chavez to co-opt the military in Venezuela and use it to strengthen his regime and for loyalty to a man who spoke about installing a socialist, revolutionary regime backed by the military. Yet, it is the same Baduel that now begins to rebel.


And while I have serious doubts that Chavez will lose, a prominent opposition group seems to be emboldened by the numerous protests around the country:

Comando Nacional de la Resistencia, a Venezuelan opposition group that President Hugo Chavez accuses of plotting his ouster, reversed its call to abstain from a referendum on a new constitution.

The CNR, in a statement posted to its Web site, said a massive voter turnout would defeat the Dec. 2 initiative to approve 69 changes to the constitution enlarging Chavez’s power. Abstention will increase chances of its passage, local pollster Datanalisis said this month.

“We invite voters to go to the polls with their eyes wide open,” Antonio Ledezma, one of the CNR leaders, from Caracas, said in the statement. “The victory of the `No’ to the reform proposal is our main goal. We must back it.”

Strangely, despite the fact Chavez’s totalitarian tendencies and Messianic-Bolivarian fatalism is costing him friends both at home, and in his neighborhood, and regardless of the thuggish tactics being used to shove his socialist utopia down the throats of his serfs citizen, the little dictator is still quite popular amongst the Left:

Why so much hatred (for Chavez)? Because at the same time social-democracy is undergoing an identity crisis in Europe, historic circumstances seem to have confided the responsibility of taking the lead at an international level in the reinvention of the Left to Mr. Chávez. While on the Old Continent, European reconstruction has had the effect of making any alternative to neo-liberalism practically impossible, in Brazil, in Argentina, in Bolivia and in Ecuador, inspired by the Venezuelan example, experiments that keep the hope of realizing the emancipation of the humblest alive continue to succeed one another.

In this respect, Mr. Chávez’s record is spectacular. We can understand how he has become the required benchmark in dozens of poor countries. In his scrupulous respect for democracy and all its freedoms [!], has he not re-founded the Venezuelan nation on a brand new basis, legitimated by a new Constitution [!] that guarantees popular involvement in social change? Has he not rendered their dignity as citizens to some five million marginalized people (including the indigenous people) deprived of identity papers? Has he not taken back in hand the public company Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA)? Has he not de-privatized the country’s principal telecommunications company as well as the Caracas electricity company and returned them to serving the public? Has he not nationalized the Orinoco oil fields? Finally, has he not devoted a share of oil rents to acquiring effective autonomy vis-à-vis international financial institutions as well as autonomy for the financing of social programs?

The quote above, and the emphasis in it, comes courtesy of Bird Dog who retorts:

Ah, government trying to run businesses! How quaintly 19th Century! How idealistic! How caring! It’s “for the people”! Kinda like Hillary Clinton on the US oil companies: “I am going to take those profits…” Indeed, there is no greed in the business world that can compare with government greed for money and power.

Chavez’ “progress, ” however, includes no food on the supermarket shelves. While I do not have the same trust in Venezuela’s voting as Jimmy Carter does, it remains a fact that dictatorship by popular vote, and tyranny by popular vote, has a long history.

Venezuela will become a totalitarian state in short order, to the extent it is not already one. Make no mistake that this referendum, whatever the outcome, will do anything to slow that march down. By hook or by crook, Chavez will create his socialist utopia, and he will likely murder hundreds of thousands in the process if history is any guide. All of this is a given, and we should drop the pretense of there being any hope that Venezuela will right itself before plunging into a totalitarian hellhole.

The only real question is whether the usual suspects will continue to cheer Chavez’s descent into Bolivarian madness as they have done for Castro. Or whether they will blatantly ignore the devastating results Chavez’s socialist policies for the Venezuelan people as they did for Stalin. Or, once it becomes clear that Chavez is a megalomaniac who can’t be trusted and intends to use his subjects for his own glorification, whether they will promptly forget about him like that crazy uncle you pretend you don’t have, just as they have done with Kim il Jong.

In the end, there will still be a socialist dictator destroying the lives of millions of people, and the Left will cry “that’s not socialism; if only the right people had been in charge.”

Spare me. Spare Venezuela. And spare the victims of the next leftist hero with a five year plan “for the people.”

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Hugo Chavez and the path to mass murder II

Part I is here, but in The Ruin of Venezuela I wrote:

As we have seen with Mugabe and many others, once you go down this road it is very difficult to turn things around. As the situation gets worse, in order to keep socialism in place, more force is needed. A Revolutionary ideology cannot allow that the Revolution is wrong, that it cannot work. Scapegoats are found and as their oppression doesn’t solve things the net gets cast wider and wider. Chavez will either abandon his program (his personality seems to make that unlikely) or there will eventually be a bloodbath. My guess is the bodies will start piling up even faster within the next three years.

As McQ says, Now the killing begins:

Gunmen opened fire on students, killing at least one, as they were returning from a march Wednesday at which 80,000 people denounced President Hugo Chavez’s attempts to expand his power.

At least one person was killed and six were wounded, officials said.

Photographers for The Associated Press saw at least two gunmen — one wearing a ski mask and another covering his face with a T-shirt — firing handguns at the anti-Chavez crowd.

Terrified students ran through the campus as ambulances arrived.

National Guard troops gathered outside the Central University of Venezuela, the nation’s largest and a center for opposition to Chavez’s government. Venezuelan law bars state security forces from entering the campus, but Luis Acuna, the minister of higher education, said they could be called in if the university requests them.

The violence broke out after anti-Chavez demonstrators — led by university students — marched peacefully to the Supreme Court to protest constitutional changes that Venezuelans will consider in a December referendum.

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News Brief, Psychocandy Edition

Cross-posted to The Conjecturer

Defense & The War

  • In the midst of petulantly crossing his arms and throwing a tantrum about the Future of Iraq Project, an anonymous FSO makes a really good point: “Sending officers into this failed, hideously violent exercise with no language training, no military liaison training, no arms or means of self-defense, no area training or expertise, no continuity of personnel, no internal support, and no post-deployment assistance of any substance is, in fact, as stupid as it appears to be. I would prefer that we have some senior officers speak out now, rather than begin our own collection of Ricardo Sanchezes who will say years from now, after many more dead and maimed, ‘I told you so.’”
  • Ouch.
  • It is not just the Air Force, Army, and Navy that has head shakingly ineffective contracting systems: the US Coast Guard does as well. Axe also discusses the same consequence of our misguided airpower campaign in Afghanistan that I do: massive civilian casualties, the mention of which to many pro-war types and soldiers tends only to elicit shrugs. Yet we persist in being surprised when they are decidedly apathetic about Bush’s freedom agenda.
  • Despite the much-welcomed recent downturn in American casualties, 2007 is the deadliest year in Iraq so far. To relate this back to the above items, here is this (so far, unconfirmed) jaw-dropping report from Iraq, alleging that the SOF teams are using excessive force and killing innocent people in Iraq, just like NATO in Afghanistan.

Around the World

  • Over at, I get really angry with how the Instapundit is characterizing the latest revolution in Pakistan. Surprise, surprise. I also talk a bit about the latest wave of Taliban terror in what were once peaceful regions in the north and west of the country (don’t miss the far more nuanced event coverage by Péter Marton). I also took a peek at the latest fun times surrounding Russia’s new World Bank for Enriched Uranium, the role Kazkhstan’s purchase of Westinghouse might play, and what it might all mean for Iran.
  • On the off chance you still listen to those jokers in the pundit-sphere who point to Kosovo as a successful model to be emulated, it is worth considering the very real dangers of upholding its bid for independence from Serbia… namely, a renewal of the war we bombed Serbia to stop.
  • Casting a wary eye toward the box on the Euphrates.

Back at Home

  • I’m brimming with confidence in the system: the FBI was going to snoop out falafel sales to catch Iranian terrorists? There are Iranian terrorists? In San Francisco?
  • Hrm. Maybe Yahoo will stop selling out democrats to the clutches of abusive fascist regimes? Maybe.
  • Woah. “How can the dishonorable convey honors?”
  • I want her. I want her now. “Damn girl, you sound like you are way too nice. I think it’s definitely time for you to become a member of the smack-a ho tribe. Foreal.”
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Weiss on Chavez


What’s a fair indication that a fascist masquerading as a socialist has lost his “base”? When a student named Stalin says enough is enough:

“The message to the Congress and to the government is that there is … a part of this country that rejects these reforms and we want to be heard,” student leader Stalin Gonzalez told a local television station.

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The Subtle Oil Shock

It hasn’t been all that shocking. Why not? Greg Mankiw supplies a few possibilities. My favorites? Well let us start here:

In contrast to much rhetoric to the contrary, capitalism is the most powerful weapon to achieve energy efficiency we have.

He provides us with some things I am fond of, conjectures. So I will call this my Second Hand Conjecture of the day:

The macroeconomic effect of high energy prices may depend on whether the high prices are the result of reduced supply or increased demand. Perhaps in the 1970s high oil prices were largely the result of supply restrictions, whereas in recent years high oil prices are driven more by increased demand from a booming world economy.

I think this has been one of the most powerful factors throwing people’s economic predictions off. Coupled with energy being far less significant an input than it used to be we have allowed inapt comparisons to the past to color our view of the future.

The real issue I have with high oil prices is they function like a tax. They channel revenue through energy taxes and, in most of the world where oil companies are government owned, directly to the state. Thus government grows at the expense of the private economy with all the inefficiency, corruption and statist social engineering that implies. See almost any nation where oil is a significant part of government revenues, but specifically see Venezuela and Putin’s strengthening hand in Russia. This baleful dynamic in the Middle East has implications which hardly need be elaborated.

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Crushing of Dissent: Venezuela (Updated)

Venezuela clash

The slow march towards full-fledged totalitarianism in Venezuela is picking up the pace. Citizens opposed to Chavez’s plans to change the constitution were forcibly deterred from meeting with the National Assembly by Venezuelan authorities:

Venezuelan riot police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters in downtown Caracas as they marched to oppose President Hugo Chavez’s plans to change the country’s constitution.

Scuffles broke out after demonstrators, led by student groups, pushed through a police line, according to images shown on television station Globovision. After a group of about a dozen student leaders met with lawmakers at the National Assembly, the protesters left the downtown area without further incident.

Hundreds of National Guard troops reinforced riot police to keep the march from reaching the National Assembly. Police also kept hundreds of Chavez supporters from clashing with the demonstrators, according to Globovision.

Via the link to Citizen Feathers above, here are pictures of the clashes with the police.

Reuters has more, and note the make-up of Venezuela’s legislature (bolded):

Thousands of marchers pushed through police lines in central Caracas, exchanging a volley of rocks and bottles with small groups of pro-Chavez demonstrators as police fired tear gas to disperse them.

Several people were slightly injured by rocks during the clashes, witnesses said.

“The message to the Congress and to the government is that there is … a part of this country that rejects these reforms and we want to be heard,” student leader Stalin Gonzalez told a local television station.

Chavez, a Cuba ally who has clashed with Washington over U.S. free market policies, says the changes are key to implementing a socialist revolution to help the poor majority with reforms such as extending social security benefits.


Lawmakers in Venezuela’s National Assembly, where Chavez supporters hold all the seats, are rushing through a debate of the proposed constitutional rewrite to try to finished before the scheduled December referendum.

But even one pro-Chavez party, Podemos, has criticized the reforms, especially a proposal to lift limits on presidential terms that opponents fear will allow Chavez to stand indefinitely for re-election.

Breitbart TV also has some video of the protests (HT: Insty).

These constitutional changes will put the final touches on Chavez’s solidification of power. Afterwards, the only thing that will remove him from office will be death. This is the real-deal totalitarianism and not the kind complained of here in the US. As Feathers McGraw put it:

There you go. I wonder why (sic) the people who call Bush a fascist, who teared (sic) their clothes because the police repressed their right to protest at the WTO Conference think about this. Hhmmm….

Indeed. To be fair, I’m not so sure there is any thought involved on their part.

UPDATE: Gateway Pundit links (thanks, Jim!), and adds this link to Venezuela News and Views: “Those pesky dissident students troubling chavismo”

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Che Tyrant
It is a sad commentary upon the state of the world that anniversary of a bloodthirsty tyrant’s death is celebrated around the world, and here in the United States, not with glee that his anti-freedom rampage was cut short, but with mourn for the loss.

“I halt in my daily combat to bow my head, with respect and gratitude, to the exceptional combatant who fell on the 8th of October 40 years ago….I give him thanks for what he tried to do, and for what he could not do in his country of birth because he was like a flower yanked prematurely from its stem.”

The New York Times celebrates by profiling Che’s daughter, Aleida Guevara March, who laments how her father’s message has been distorted (HT: Citizen Feathers):

But amid all the ceremony, what really gets to Ms. Guevara is the use of the man she calls Papi in ways that she says are completely removed from his revolutionary ideals, like when a designer recently put Che on a bikini….

Ms. Guevara and her family, too, have tried to stop the marketing of Che’s image in ways that they find abhorrent. She says they have reached out to lawyers in New York, whom she would not identify, to pursue companies the family thinks are misusing the image, not to sue them for damages, but to ask them to stop.

“We’re not after money,” she said. “We just don’t want him misused. He can be a universal person, but respect the image.”

Yeah. It truly is a travesty that Che gets no respect.

Ms. Guevara travels the world speaking at conferences dealing with Che. At one in Italy, she learned after signing T-shirts for some young people that they were fascists. “They knew nothing about him,” she said with a sigh.

Seriously, why would fascists be interested in Che?

And, according to the NYT, the problem of Che-chic is not just found on American and European college campuses:

Even in Cuba, one of the world’s last Communist bastions, Che is used both to make a buck and to make a point. “He sells,” acknowledged a Cuban shop clerk, who had Che after Che staring down from a wall full of T-shirts.

But at least here he is also used to inspire the next generation of Cubans. Schoolchildren invoke his name every morning, declaring with a salute, “We want to be like Che.” His quotations are recited almost as often as those of Fidel Castro.

Well, that’s good. Heaven forfend that the children go without their daily dose of indoctrination. The really sick thing is that they probably have no idea that being “like Che” means being like this:

In January 1957, as his diary from the Sierra Maestra indicates, Guevara shot Eutimio Guerra because he suspected him of passing on information: “I ended the problem with a .32 caliber pistol, in the right side of his brain…. His belongings were now mine.” Later he shot Aristidio, a peasant who expressed the desire to leave whenever the rebels moved on. While he wondered whether this particular victim “was really guilty enough to deserve death,” he had no qualms about ordering the death of Echevarría, a brother of one of his comrades, because of unspecified crimes: “He had to pay the price.” At other times he would simulate executions without carrying them out, as a method of psychological torture.

Luis Guardia and Pedro Corzo, two researchers in Florida who are working on a documentary about Guevara, have obtained the testimony of Jaime Costa Vázquez, a former commander in the revolutionary army known as “El Catalán,” who maintains that many of the executions attributed to Ramiro Valdés, a future interior minister of Cuba, were Guevara’s direct responsibility, because Valdés was under his orders in the mountains. “If in doubt, kill him” were Che’s instructions. On the eve of victory, according to Costa, Che ordered the execution of a couple dozen people in Santa Clara, in central Cuba, where his column had gone as part of a final assault on the island. Some of them were shot in a hotel, as Marcelo Fernándes-Zayas, another former revolutionary who later became a journalist, has written—adding that among those executed, known as casquitos, were peasants who had joined the army simply to escape unemployment.

As I stated at the outset, it really is sad that this murdering tyrant is not shunned around the world. Every time I see some fool wearing a Che t-shirt I want to scream “Do you even know who that is? Are you sure that you want to parade around with a mass killer’s face imprinted on your chest?”

Of course, a good deal of that ignorance is because of ridiculous fluff pieces like this NYT article. Throughout the entire expose, the only mention of Che’s misdeeds is couched in weasel-words (my emphasis):

“There’s no doubt that when Fidel dies someday, his image will be just like Che’s,” said Enrique Oltuski, the vice minister of fishing and a contemporary of both men. But Che’s mythic status as a homegrown revolutionary does not extend everywhere, even if his image does. When Target stores in the United States put his image on a CD carrying case last year, critics who consider him a murderer and symbol of totalitarianism pressed the retailer to pull the item.

“What next? Hitler backpacks? Pol Pot cookware? Pinochet pantyhose?” Investor’s Business Daily said in an editorial, calling the use of the image an example of “tyrant-chic.”

“Consider him a murderer”? There’s not even a question of doubt on this score, as Che unapologetically admitted to many of his nefarious deeds in his diaries. But don’t let that stop you from appearing to be above the fray. Just go on with your fawning report about how poor Che’s image is being disrespected, and how passionate and wonderful his daughter is for wandering the world to promote violent revolution. Wonderful.

The San Francisco Gate’s take on the memorial to Che including this interesting paragraph entitled “History lesson”:

Medical-student Che was 23 years old when he set out on his first journey, with a friend, around Latin America. On the road, he “discovered a new world far removed from the reality he had known in [his hometown of] Rosario and in Buenos Aires, with his life focused on his studies and on playing…rugby.” During a second trip around the continent, Che spent time in Mexico City, where he met Fidel Castro, a young Cuban lawyer who was talking up his dream of returning to his homeland to lead a socialist revolution against Bautista. Che fell in with Castro and took part in a 1956 rebel invasion of Cuba that sparked a three-year, guerrilla struggle that led to the ousting of the dictator. Che became the first minister of industry in Castro’s new government. In 1966, he set out for Bolivia to export the socialist-revolutionary message. The following year, in the southeastern Bolivian town of La Higuera, Che was killed by representatives of Bolivia’s military and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Notice anything missing? If not, would you mind checking your closet for me? There are few items there I’d like to burn.

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The steady march to totalitarianism

Chavez begins bending another set of private institutions to his will.

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Socialism’s Last Supper

Lee over at Postpolitical has some thoughts on the mural below found in Caracas Venezuela:

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Chavez the Bizarre

From Fausta I get this:

Venezuela: A Decree for the Clocks

Moved by claims that it will help the metabolism

Wh?? Help what metabolism?

and productivity of his fellow citizens, President Hugo Chavez said clocks would be moved forward by half an hour at the start of 2008.

Effectively this means Venezuela will be in its own time zone. No other country in the Americas has a 1/2 hr difference with its neighbors.

He announced the change on his Sunday television program, accompanied by his highest-ranking science adviser, Hector Navarro, the minister of science and technology. “This is about the metabolic effect, where the human brain is conditioned by sunlight,”

How many communist cliche’s can Chavez stuff into one country? Now we get kooky science. Is he going to exhume Lysenko?

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The Venezuelan Tuna Caper

Sometimes folks truth is way weirder than fiction. In the case of Hugo Chavez clownish doesn’t come close to describing him.

In the wake of the devastating earthquake that shook Peru, aid has flowed in, including from the government of Venezuela. Alan Garcia, the President of Peru was grateful, even to his bitter political enemy, Hugo Chavez:

Venezuela and other Latin American nations have shipped tons of food, medical supplies and other relief to Peru, where Wednesday’s quake left more than 500 dead and tens of thousands homeless. Garcia publicly thanked Chavez despite their well-known mutual antipathy.

What class from Garcia. Of course, that was before he found the tuna:

The appearance of donated cans of tuna with labels containing the image of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and a condemnation of the Peruvian government as “heartless” caused a political storm here Monday in the midst of an already controversial earthquake relief effort.

“One has to ask who is behind this,” President Alan Garcia said after a Lima newspaper reported that the polemical tins were being distributed in the quake-ravaged region south of the capital. “This is not the moment to take advantage of the circumstances to make electoral propaganda.”


The labels’ text acclaimed the “solidarity” of Chavez and Humala with quake victims, while bemoaning the “looting, road blockages, desperation and chaos” in Peru, according to Expreso, which published a photo of a can and the text of a label.

“The Peruvian government acts in an inefficient, slow and heartless manner, notwithstanding the pain of the victims, leaving them to the mercy of hunger, thirst and delinquency,” the label said, according to the newspaper.

Of course Chavez and his cronies deny they have been handing out the Tuna. No, it is the Peruvian government in some bizarre black op trying to discredit Chavez:

The Venezuelan ambassador to Peru denied his government was to blame and said the whole affair was probably part of a dirty-tricks campaign to discredit the fiery socialist leader. “This is a damaging manipulation, a vile manipulation because Venezuela has brought humanitarian aid, not party politics,” Ambassador Jose Armando Laguna told CPN Radio in Lima.

Pejman finds that dubious:

Are we really supposed to believe that immediately after a devastating earthquake, the Peruvian government got it in their heads to make the Chavez regime look bad by handing out aid purportedly from the Chavez regime that attacks the Peruvian government?

Yes we are Pejman, and Hugo Chavez is a true democrat to boot. His defenders will swallow anything.

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News Brief, ASHC Hates My Cyrillic Edition

Cross-posted at The Conjecturer


  • Doug Bandow has a pair of great pieces up, on how the GWoT and Iraq are actually opposed to a free society, and more precisely just how badly the Iraq War has distorted us as a society—like, perhaps, the newly self-granted power to seize the property of anyone who “interferes” with the war (Bush then granted himself +10 Dexterity and equipped a new amulet to get +1 Attack). Because who needs a Fifth Amendment when there’s a war to be fought? I hope Doug doesn’t come home to find his house sacrificed to Iraq. The ever-cogent Ms. Boyd has more.
  • Related questions—the argument that questioning the government is tantamount to treason (i.e. “aiding and abetting an enemy of the United States”) has a worrisome corollary: no one can or should ever question the President. That seems deeply unamerican somehow.
  • Unfortunately, moving goalposts has been a defining characteristic of the way the administration has pathetically fought the war. But blaming Petraeus or his staff isn’t directing the blame properly—blaming Bush, for treating Petraeus as a messiah who has until September to work an unworkable miracle, on the other hand, is.
  • Why, of course a brand new way of looking at warfare would require fundamentally new doctrine. This shouldn’t be a surprise. But notice, too, how “network-centric warfare” has been softened: no longer “eliminating the fog of war,” which was how it was conceived under Art Cebrowski’s pie-in-the-sky ideal, and not even “every unit the node of a network.” Now it is merely empowering units on the micro level to become more autonomous and self-directing—very 4GW, if you will, with network capabilities. It makes a lot more sense, and I’m glad this is how it’s wound up evolving.

Around the World

  • I’m curious as to why we don’t get coverage like in the U.S. Of course, they’re a bit too “up” on Malalai Joya, which isn’t necessarily bad, but she’s also not exactly the paragon of virtue they’ve made her out to be. Still, there is a lot happening in Afghanistan you don’t hear about in the western press: new mass graves from who-knows-when, the rising tide of opium addicts, or the regionally persistent problem electricity.
  • The courts in Pakistan are in full-blown rebellion against Musharraf. I wouldn’t write him off just yet; he still has a few tricks up his sleeve to cling to power.
  • Is it a global labor shortage, or an unwillingness to pay higher wages? It’s usually both, in fact.
  • Venezuela is facing a brain drain. Well if you were smart, with in-demand skills, would you want to stay there either? I didn’t think so. I just wish these things were successful ways of influencing the behavior of autocrats.

Back at Home

  • The Plame suit against Dick Cheney has been dismissed, not because what he did was ethical and caused no damage, but because the laws are structured to protect him from civilian reprisal. Of course they are. He’s the f*cking Vice President, unaccountable to no one, outside the separation of powers, beyond the branches of government.
  • My state’s drive to punish drivers (ha!) has spurred massive protests, as it should: today at lunch, one of my friends was wondering if it was going to cause a lot of Northern Virginians to move just across the river to Maryland. Why? Out-of-staters don’t pay the extended fines, which means all the people from Maryland and West Virginia and the DC who work in this state would be exempt from the $2500 add-on. In other words, these fees are really just punishing people for daring to live in Virginia. More importantly, from a libertarian perspective, there is the problem of turning the police into armed fee collectors (though some of the crazies already think of them that way).
  • The Bush administration hates your broadband.
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News Brief, Supermassive Black Hole Edition

Cross-posted at The Conjecturer.


  • I suppose it goes without saying that the Nintendo DS is already basically an “advanced sensor platform,” since it is natively wireless, adaptive, touch-sensitive (and easily modded for tilt), and has a microphone. But don’t tell that to DARPA, which seems more intent on the 1989 Gameboy, which was low-rez and black and white, rather than the DS, which is basically a portable SGI workstation (though from the mid-90s).
  • Yesterday I wrote on some of the challenges and contradictions facing special forces in Afghanistan. I think it’s worth a read.
  • Did Mitsubishi build a mock stealth fighter to ease U.S. concerns over export controls on stealth technology? Could be—after all, we don’t trust those wily nips with our advanced fighters, decades of close friendship be damned. ITAR is awesome for crippling our friends and limiting our high-margin exports, though, isn’t it?
  • Meanwhile, the Navy isn’t quite as super awesome at anti-piracy as it would like to be.
  • Modeling pareto outcomes in war analysis. This kind of thinking is very… ascendant within some military circles. But Robb gets it wrong: he (as well as Taleb) is not discussing Paretian-stable events, at least not as Taleb conceptualizes them. In fact, Taleb is explicit that these kinds of Pareto events are only a minor subset of extremistan events. Yes, I’m reading Taleb’s book right now (I took a break from Mulberry Empire and need to update the sidebar, I know).

Around the World

  • London’s 2012 Olympics SS logo causes seizures. Just think: that tangled, epileptic mess took 12 months and cost $800,000 to design. Go Britain!
  • The more I read of the closure of RCTV, and especially the hypocrite western journalists and intellectuals who support the suppression of free speech so long as it’s for a good cause, the angrier I become.
  • Pretty soon we might get around to arresting Ratko Mladic. Maybe, if he can be found on his vast estate.
  • The female head of an Afghan radio station was murdered in her sleep, for the crime (perhaps) of being an unsubmissive woman. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, hundreds of people were thrown in jail for the crime of not supporting our BFF in the GWOT, Pervez Musharraf.
  • Bonnie Boyd does the intense leg work I’ve been unable to do on the Aliyev case, digging into the Austrian connections behind the arrests and noting the surreal conspiracy thriller aspects to the whole story. Really, go read the entire post.
  • I hate putting it like this, but one of the reasons I really want to go to Dushanbe is its lack of a Hyatt, or rather its lack of standardized western tourist agencies. Call it culturally imperialist, but I like places that remain off the beaten path. Of course, the Hyatt is part of a grand scheme to turn Dushanbe into a tourist capital… destroying property rights in the process and making everyone generally worse off.
  • An excellent interview with Barry Rubin on the real Syria.
  • The Tamil Tigers, long known as a sort of think tank for insurgents, has expanded into hijacking TV satellites. Straight outta… well, any lame Sci-Fi movie ever, but for some reason I was thinking either Johnny Mnemonic or Hackers. And kinda cool.
  • More surreality today? American prosecutors broke up a conspiracy aimed at overthrowing the communist dictatorship controlling Laos.
  • And the Turks have invaded Northern Iraq, to quash possible Kurdish incursions. Let’s see how long they stay, and if they accomplish anything other than angering more Kurds to murderous Turk-hatred.

Back at Home

  • An interesting live blog of the GOP debate, courtesy of David “The Snipe” Wiegel. Awesomeness? “8:35: Rudy points out that ‘we’re friends’ with Vietnam because we stuck it out and won.” One of the many reasons I will actively campaign against him if he squeaks out a primary victory.
  • Drezner does an interesting comparison of Obama and Romney, showing how they’re really tough to tell apart. Romney, though, comes off as frightening in his calls for a “Civilian Proconsul” to handle each region of foreign policy—because truely, the one thing missing from our foreign relations is another layer of bureaucracy modeled after Imperial Rome.
  • New York City’s Stalinist approach to public health is making it harder to make healthy choices about food. Meanwhile, we remain unable to deal with obvious public health concerns, even when all our warning systems behave properly.
  • Oh look, June is Pride month. As everybody’s token gay, let me say I’m not too thrilled; most of my fellow gays have given me little reason to celebrate that one part of who I am (there are, of course exceptions). Though many years old, I find the Onion’s take both hilarious, and quite spot on.
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News Brief, Eany Meany Edition

Cross-posted at The Conjecturer.


  • Is al-Hurra, the Arabic-language Voice of America satellite channel, nothing more than an al-Jazeera clone? Hardly. One of the reasons Voice of America is as respected as it is was its willingness to broadcast news damaging to the U.S. (same with the “Radio Free” stations). It was this self-criticism that generated sympathy in the Soviet Union: surely it was telling the truth if it would criticize its own government! This adherence to the truth, even unpleasant or embarrassing truth, is what will gain us friends and sympathy. More than anything else, people everywhere appreciate honesty.
  • I found this defense of the FCS system limp. The problem isn’t with “modernizing” the Army, the problem is how that is being done: many FCS unit requirements are already hopelessly outdated, or unworkable, or unnecessary, or wholly reliant on undesigned and basically impossible vehicles. This is a program worth saving?
  • On the other hand, here’s something that kind of blows my mind a bit: about three minutes into this video, you can see what looks like a U.S. special forces guy wearing what looks like adaptive camouflage scurry across the field of view and jump onto the tank. Meaning, he has armor that changes color according to his surroundings, making it damned hard to spot him. If that is the case and the video is not doctored, that’s way cool.
  • The Estonian cyberwar was not a coordinated attack, but a globally distributed attempt to deny access, and not destroy data. Still, this has big time implications for the future of information infrastructure, calling into doubt statements about resilience and protection. Placed into the context of the ongoing war between hackers and the MPAA over HD-DVD encryption, it bodes poorly for government to survive a bout of mass unpopularity among computer-savvy opponents.
  • Google Maps shows how our National Guard has been depleted by the Iraq War.

Around the World

  • Who’d'a thunkit that I’d be getting all into the complexities of counternarcotics? Also, I caught another blogger blatantly ripping off my stuff at, which I guess is flattering but also annoying. Oh well. Meanwhile, SecDef Gates shows again why we should not be ignoring Afghanistan, as there remains a very real chance of success (though his optimism is a bit off kilter, given the recent wave of anger over civilian deaths and the collapse of a few development projects).
  • US troops barely have control of less than half of Baghdad.
  • The Birthmark criticizes American Empire (I suppose he’s no fan of neo-colonialism and forgot to mention Russia’s own neo-imperialism in its Near Abroad). In light of Putin threatening to turn his missiles back to Europe, I don’t think we can be singled out for criticism, though we deserve plenty.
  • A US warship shelled Puntland for several hours this weekend, indicating that it wasn’t a fast-move high-priority target, but rather support for an already ongoing operation. Puntland has traditionally been seen as a relatively stable (if still unbelievably poor) area; whether the artillery support was for US or Ethiopian troops isn’t at all clear yet (I doubt we’d shell like that in support of the regional government, which isn’t even recognized internationally as it has claimed independence from Somalia). I also see some disturbing shades of Beirut in 1983—our involvement in the civil war then was limited to mostly shelling from the sea, yet still resulted in the catastrophic attack on the Marine barracks in retaliation. I hope we don’t see (or rather, that we can actually manage) the blowback from this op. For further context, here is a fascinating comparison of Puntland to Northern Iraq.
  • Know what was missing from the Israeli Palesine conflict? A flood of Palestinians into Jerusalem before the wall goes up. That’s just rad.
  • The Taliban’s first best friend, power-monger Benazir Bhutto, thinks she can wrest some of Musharraf’s power away from him to form her own circle of government in Islamabad. She has good bad company in Nawaz Sharif, as they both proved to be feckless leaders. What Pakistan needs is an open and free election, not backroom power sharing deals.
  • More drinking the Chavez kool-aid by an AP reporter. Wonder why their coverage is so biased?
  • But I don’t get why all the neocons are hating on The Economist and accusing it of Bush Derangement Syndrome (as if opposition to a politician were evidence of psychosis). So they didn’t cover local elections with enough depth. And they’re not sufficiently enthusiastic about Bush, after endorsing him in 2004. And? I don’t get it. There’s no “case” against them, in the same way there can be a case against the professionalism of the BBC or Fox News.

Back at Home

  • Good news to take from the “Muslim Americans” Pew survey, from Irshad Manji. She brings it down to a fundamental American comfort with assimilating other cultures… Something I worry may be changed for the next generation by the horrid immigration debates.
  • The Washingtonienne, my favorite semen-fueled media whore, giver of brilliant one-liners (”A man who tries to !* you in the a$$ when you are sober does not love you”), has declared bankruptcy. How she burned through a $300k advance and Playboy “handling fee” in under three years, I don’t know, but she did live in Manhattan for a time.
  • Dave Kopel rightly defends Boulder High school and notes something I have wondered about for a long time—the almost or actual criminal invasions of privacy and property Bill O’Reilly’s producers subject their victims to.
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News Brief, Я ненавижу ваше лицо Edition

Cross-posted on The Conjecturer.


  • The IDF is generally thought of as one of the world’s top armies—though it lacks expeditionary capability (which is usually a function of solid logistics), its warfighting is top notch. Not so, according to the Winograd Commission, which examined IDF policies in the wake of the Hezbollah war last year. Why bring this up here? Well, the Commission’s conclusions—which include warnings of the dangers of military overreach, a refusal to accept the limitations of precision weaponry, and the distinction between praising troops and honestly assessing their abilities—are applicable to the U.S. military as well. I’ve run across these on several occasions, from getting into bicker-fights over the need for hyper-expensive individually guided artillery shells during urban combat, to shouting matches over the difference between criticizing a badly run war and the troops themselves. In other words, Israel provides us a lesson we don’t have to painfully learn ourselves, should we choose to.
  • I think we should add to that a general overreliance on high tech solutions to broader strategic problems. Those supposedly “bomb-proof” MRAP vehicles are not fully deployed for several reasons: they’re incredibly expensive, they’re incredibly slow, and they’re still just one generation of EFP away from being no better than before (i.e. undercarriage plating doesn’t help stop a shaped charge fired at the cabin).
  • We could also try speaking the truth about the reality of our warzones.
  • OMG what, the CIA hires contractors? Like, no way.
  • DCI Hayden says 15% of the CIA’s workforce is less than two months old, and is emphasizing field operations over analysis. Hrm. Related is this bit about the possibility of harmonizing the DoD’s rather ham-fisted intel activities with all the other intel agencies’ activities. I wonder if the two are related?
  • So, if we do indeed give two-generation old night vision equipment to the ANA commando units, what happens should they get snatched by the Taliban?
  • The treatment of OIF Veteran Adam Kokesh is indeed shameful, but Wonkette gets the terms of his punishment-for-speaking-out wrong: he is not being reinstated to be dishonorably discharged, he is being reinstated to be other-than-honorably discharged. It might sound like a semantic distinction, but a dishonorable discharge results from a general courts-martial (equivalent to a felony). An OTH discharge just means they think he behaved in a deeply dishonorable fashion—usually this level of discharge is used if a soldier gets convicted in a civilian court or in some other way seriously violates the UMCJ (though it still denies the recipient any veteran’s benefits, including VA care). Kokesh was inactive reserve, so he can be reinstated if need be. But the USMC is reinstating him for the sole purpose of downgrading his discharge—an action surely less honorable than speaking out against an unpopular war.

Around the World

  • Another neat finding from the DoD report on China? China has developed an information first-strike capability, most likely to gain an edge over Taiwan should the Strait go tense. It’s worth noting that China has this capability primarily because of the willing and eager complicity of U.S. security companies like Cisco, the same ones that helped China build the Great Firewall to censor and imprison online dissidents.
  • Speaking of dissidents, do you remember RCTV, the television station in Venezuela Hugo Chavez shut down? They’ve reinvented themselves on , so if any of you speak Spanish (I don’t) you can still get your daily dose of anti-Chavez activism—online. Awesome!
  • At a fashion show in Japan, key chains depicting Kim Jong-il tied up in Japanese-style bondage ropes sold out at once. Apparently the world’s most brutal dictator has become a hipster icon on the home islands.
  • Meanwhile, in retaliation for the new sanctions, the Sudanese ambassador to the U.S. threatened to cut off the world’s supply of gum arabic, a crucial component in soft drinks, 80% of which is supplied by Sudan. As Dana Milbank points out quite correctly, it is a bizarre, if creative, response: “Try to stop the killings in Darfur, and we’ll take away your Coca-Cola.” I can go without Coca-Cola should it come to that.
  • Remembering the Falklands, a war the British fought for strategic sheep purposes, and it’s almost hilariously mismatched engagements. I’ve often heard people say Thatcher’s decision to counter attack Argentina was what revived Britain’s national character. And, not coincidentally, what makes the Argentina-England games at the World Cup so much fun.
  • I suppose M.D.s are the new leaders of choice: Latvia joins Syria and Turkmenistan in the “ruled by doctors” club.
  • Irony of ironies, South Africa wants to boycott Israel for its “occupation of Arab lands.” Interestingly, there is no mention of which “Arab lands” they mean (and if, like HAMAS, it means the very existence of Israel is an “occupation of Arab lands”), nor was it coupled to an injustice-based boycott of Zimbabwe, Sudan, North Korea, China, Thailand, Burma, Uzbekistan, Angola, DRC, Venezuela, the U.S., or any of the dozens of other countries actively engaged in acts of injustice. Which makes me think there’s just something about Jews in that union.
  • Vasili Rukhadze has an excellent piece on the Russian geopolitical offensive across its near abroad. It’s long, but very much worth reading.

Back at Home

  • Luvs it: “[B]eyond surface differences like party and ideology, there is ample evidence that Bush is to Carter what Mary-Kate is to Ashley.” Of course, the rest of that piece does a terrible job of actually comparing the two. But that sentence… man, that made me tittle.
  • Lou Dobbs, vicious liar. But that’s no surprise. Just last night, while in a discussion of whether or not the immigration debate was being driven by xenophobia and racism, I flipped on The O’Reilly Factor to watch Bill complain that “the liberals” want to use immigrants to tear down the “white Christian male culture” our society was founded on. I suppose noting that Mexicans, which are the overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants, are just non-white Christian males, is beside the point.
  • Is Fred Thompson the next Barrack Obama? Sort of, with the exception that he’s actually run against an opponent for national office, has defined stances on issues, doesn’t believe hope to be audacious (whatever the hell that means), and doesn’t smoke. In other words, he is an actual contender, and not Sanjaya.
  • ArsTechnica raises what I see as a false alarm over some metadata attached to the new unlocking iTunes Plus tracks: if ITMS users can just torrent what they want without purchasing it, why would they bother paying for an unlocked copy? Moreover, the information is vague and easily spoofed, which limits its use in catching determined file sharers. To me, it seems more like a way for Apple to soothe the Luddites at the record companies than anything else, and maybe to catch idiots.
  • Oh, so we’re not replicating World War II, we’re replicating ? President Bush can’t be that big a daft git, can he? Also note we never won the Korean War—we just fought the commies to a nearly six decade (so far) standstill/gridlock. Is that how Mr. Gung Ho Win Iraq At All Costs President Bush has degraded our chances of “winning,” however that was supposed to look?
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The Death Spiral in Venzuela Continues

Unable to “command” the economy to do what he wishes, in a pattern predicted here months ago, Hugo Chavez reacts as all dictators do, keeps moving to seize even more power to try and make his plans work. Wage and price controls don;t control inflation as desired, nationalize more industries, seize land, insist on greater propaganda efforts and apply the threats more comprehensively. Recent moves include threatening to withdraw from the IMF, which has predictably led to a a fall in Venezuelan bonds for fear of default:

Chavez said on April 30 he planned to withdraw Venezuela’s membership in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank because they hampered his nation’s “economic sovereignty.” The prospectus for the country’s 9.375 percent bond maturing in 2034 states: “Venezuela ceasing to be a member of the IMF is an event of default.”

“If they actually pull out, the prospectuses are very clear that it would constitute a default even if they are paying the debt,” said David Spegel, head of emerging-markets strategy at ING Bank NV in New York. “It’s highly unlikely he’s going to pull out of the IMF. It’s more likely he’ll pull out of the World Bank and save face.”

Of course the workers need “protection” so in an effort to increase employment Chavez has borrowed an idea from the French that failed: (more…)

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Venezuela Seizes Oil Operations

Get ready for higher gas prices, as inexperienced bureaucrats take over the operations of 4 major refineries.

Venezuela stripped the world’s biggest oil companies of operational control over massive Orinoco Belt crude projects on Tuesday, a vital move in President Hugo Chavez’s nationalization drive.

The May Day takeover came exactly a year after Bolivian President Evo Morales, a leftist ally of Chavez, startled investors by ordering troops to seize his country’s gas fields, accelerating Latin America’s struggle to reclaim resources.

“The importance of this is that we are taking back control of the Orinoco Belt which the president rightly calls the world’s biggest crude reserve,” said Marco Ojeda, an oil union leader before a planned rally to mark the transfer.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, NIMBY’s still refuse to discuss increasing drilling and production in America, and on our shores. While not a long term solution, it is a short-mid range bridge until the next cheap energy technology is discovered, refined, infrastructure developed and mass produced. Ethanol, and bio-diesel are two other bridge solutions. Enough to keep us going for 10-30 years, but not a long term solution.

I’ve always thought of bio-diesel as a short term bridge to whatever the better solution is. You can retro-fit existing cars with turbo-diesels, and the tech is straight forward. The change-over would be good for the country as well. Pump up the engine and electronics manufacturers, plus the service men to retro-fit existing vehicles. We’ve already got the infrastructure to deliver the fuel, just need more production. Take the farmers off subsidies, and they’ll start growing optimal crops for fuel. WIN/WIN/WIN.

I just picked up the latest issue of Popular Science, which has a couple good articles discussing the future of transportation. Smaller cars and motorcycles should be a goal. Separate travel paths for light and heavy vehicles could ease safety concerns. There are already solutions which could ease traffic, and provide cheap transportation around cities, which could be invested in. Most of the public investment should be restricted to providing the right-of-way, with private investment taking up the cost of building and operations.

As an aside, I wonder when the Democrats will get around to investigating the “truth” behind those secret meetings regarding energy policy that the White House had in 2001. I mean, it’s not important that we pass an energy bill or have a plan, it’s more important that we know exactly who was there and what was said. Seems to me the Democrats worry more about style then substance in many cases.

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Thanks Manny

Manny Lopez has written a nice editorial at The Detroit News about his experience entering the world of blogging and my and Lee Garnett’s interview of him discussing Hugo Chavez and developments in Venezuela. Our first time to get mentioned in the dead tree edition of a major paper. The online editorial can be found here. While you are at it check out Lee and his thoughts on the interview and the impact of Azeri sex appeal (example above.) The photo is intended as a “teaser.”

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News Brief, I Want to Be Your Sledgehammer Edition

Cross-posted at The Conjecturer. I’m going go try to shorten these and better group them thematically at some point, but I just find too much during the day to really limit things. Should I give up the pretense of exhaustiveness? I might.

The Pentagon

  • More on the brave testimony of Jessica Lynch and Kevin Tillman, brother of Pat Tillman. Talk about speaking truth to power: both were to puncture the Pentagon’s meta-narrative of the War on Terr-uh, and to convince me that nothing (instead of simply “most”) coming out of the Pentagon can be considered factual. They lie quite deliberately to manipulate opinion and perception… And I am embarrassed to have considered the leadership honorable.
  • Case in point is Lt. General Ray Odierno’s limp defense of the new Baghdad strategy of walling off ethnic enclaves. When you have to create separate prison areas to keep people from butchering each other, it means the goal of sustainable security has fundamentally failed. Calling a collection stockades a city is a little more than an unfunny joke. Meanwhile, despite hapless bloggers proclaiming the various surges a “success,” millions of Iraqis have fled for their lives, and no one seems to care.
  • Par for the course is this Pentagon propaganda announcement that claims extended tours (announced, let’s not forget, just after President Bush proclaimed his desire to bring the troops home) will actually reduce stress on the Army and give family members a more predictable time table. It is this precise inversion of reality that has sharply driven down my confidence in the military. I just don’t trust them to tell the truth anymore, about anything.
  • Speaking of which: the Air Force says it won’t make payroll if $800 million diverted to the Army isn’t recovered in the next few months. Because clearly the problem is diverting money to support the ground troops, and not building mismanaged multi-billion dollar paperweights. It’s almost like their pig-headed insistence on ultra-high tech, minimal personnel air wars strained the DoD so much it needs their airmen to fill gaps in the decidedly lower tech, but far more critical, Army. Go figure.
  • Meanwhile, the CBO warns that future budgeting is shorting weapons research by about $20 billion in 2007 dollars. Part of this is the DoD’s acquisition strategy, which involves funding the research and development even of failed weapons concepts. It removes the cost of making bad or impractical weapons, leading to waste, fraud, and budget bloat.

Around the World

  • So, what’s up with Iran’s military collaboration with India, you say? How about this: Iran needs friends, and India needs friends on the other side of Pakistan. And India’s own illegal nuclear program was just blessed by the Bush administration.
  • About 400 North Koreans, 80% of them women, are on hunger strike in Thailand to avoid being forced back to North Korea. Returned escapees are often tortured to death in the prison camps. The South doesn’t know what the prudent move is, but the right move is to save these people from certain murder. Meanwhile, North Korea continues to sponsor terrorism.
  • Turkey has long struggled with the tension between secular and religious society. Indeed, it is a test between realism and idealism. It’s main ruling party, the AK, sprang from Islamist roots, and, as I’ve repeatedly noted elsewhere, immediately moderated its policies. That is because democracy is bad for extremism, and extremists (almost by definition) never fare well in free elections. Turkey, however, still has a long way to go—perhaps starting with its treatment of ethnic and religious minorities: Armenians, Kurds, and even Christians.
  • Meet Isaias Afewerki, dictator of Eritrea.
  • Hey, who knew anarchic libertarianism would be so… anarchic? That is because people find ways to profit from misery all the time. That it is economically feasible should not make it moral, no matter one’s opinion of The Fountainhead. Background here and here.
  • A fascinating look at what kinds of skills and passions translate into BoP, or Bottom of the Pyramid, entrepreneurship.
  • Georgia has a flaky plan to tempt South Ossetia away from its Russian patrons. It is a loser for separatists, for they will give up separatism (which is really a preference for domination by Moscow rather than Tblisi). But it is a winner for the South Ossetians themselves, as they do not want Russian troops turning their province into Ingushetia or Chechnya. President Saakashvili knows who butters his bread, too, which would explain his recent commitment of more troops to Iraq.
  • Afghanistanica posts on the myth of pre-Taliban anarchy. I haven’t bothered to check his many sources, but assuming he is right, then my suspicions about Khaled Hosseini—namely, that The Kite Runner was a beautifully written but also overly dramatic and exaggerated “portrait” of Afghanistan, are even more true.
  • Meanwhile, the UN’s main guy on drugs wonders why there is so much opium, and where it might be hidden. He could be right that it’s being stockpiled as a cushion against price shocks… But his solution, which is a nimbler version of the same old failed policy (addressing distribution instead of production), is destined to fail. What about licensing the opium crop, following India and Turkey’s examples? It has worked elsewhere, unlike the Colombia plan of drawn out insurgency wars.
  • Bill Roggio has written on the fighting in Waziristan. Let’s see if I can discuss his analysis (at, natch, where we’re also running a support drive), hopefully this time without inciting his holy outrage at my daring to misunderstand how we agree. Then again, Lance thinks I’m inciteful. So, umm… yes.
  • I’m glad to see Uncle Berdi didn’t meekly grovel before the all mighty Putin. Very glad, in fact.
  • And what does Russia get for trying to forbid Moldovan wine? A massive dumpster dive, that’s what.
  • Lastly, Hugo Chavez, the Goron of Venezuela, has, in a cruelly ironic demonstration of Marx’s infamous axiom, begun indoctrination sessions to train the workers into socialist elites. Because that has a long pattern of wild success the world over.

Back at Home

  • So, what’s with Wal-Mart and Disney hiring intelligence analysts? I can understand the need for an advanced global security force to protect a global supply chain, but intelligence? Really? I’m so in the wrong industry. The best/worst sentence: “Harrison told a meeting of security professionals last year that Wal-Mart was learning to defend itself by using the vast information it routinely collects about its employees, shoppers and suppliers.”
  • I was given a slight chill today when I realized the casually cynical Lobbyist on Wonkette is probably the most reasonable person in my decrepit town.
  • Earth-like extra-solar planets are the new red white & blue.
  • What? John McCain is an angry angry man? I mean, I want to vote for a guy who jokes about IEDs and kicking dogs. That being said, it was nice to see someone asking questions.
  • Funnier still is Samantha Bee hating Gaia.

Update: Lance probably wasn’t joking when he said I was inciteful.  I’ve managed to incite the holy outrage of Robert Templer (and not, at least yet, Bill Roggio), the Director of Asia Programs for the International Crisis Group, for daring to say the UN is anti-Semitic and ineffective. Seriously, read those comments he left, and then compare my reaction to other comments, both in that thread and, if you have a lot of free time, elsewhere.  I don’t mind (and most often enjoy) friendly disagreement.  Lance, in fact, excels at the sport.  But I have zero patience with needless condescension and patronism.

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Hugo Chavez decides to form “socialist formation” classes

Given our little debate in the comments section of our interview with Manny Lopez about the direction Hugo Chavez is heading with his little dictatorship, here is one more tidbit to digest:

Venezuela’s government will require workers to spend four hours a week in “socialist formation” classes, and is mandating employers form “Bolivarian Work Councils” to run courses on the job, El Universal reported, citing Labor and Social Security Minister Jose Ramon Rivero.

The classes will first be held only in public sector jobs, beginning with a pilot program at the nation’s Labor Ministry, and will later spread to private businesses, after President Hugo Chavez decrees a law outlining re-education guidelines and rules, the newspaper said.

Topics to be addressed in the four-hour classes include Venezuelan history and “basic tools for analyzing reality, the environment, the role of the state and socialist scheme,” to speed the transition from capitalism to socialism, Rivero said, according to the newspaper.

Chavez has asked that socialist education, the so-called “Third Motor” of his Bolivarian revolution, be carried out beyond schools, in factories, workshops, offices and fields, the newspaper reported.

Sounds familiar to me. Neighborhood committees, seizure of land, price controls, nationalizing of key industries, intimidation of the media and reeducation courses.

For more on Hugo Chavez go here.

Hat Tip: Van Helsing

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Venezuela Under Socialism: An Interview with Manny Lopez

Manny Lopez, editorial columnist for The Detroit News, recently returned to Venezuela after a nine year absence. He filed a striking piece from Caracas which caught my and a lot of people’s attention. It illustrated better than most reporting I’ve read on the subject, just how substantially the country had changed under president Hugo Chavez’s rule. He graciously granted our friend Lee Garnett at Postpolitical and I an opportunity to interview him about his thoughts and experiences:


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The fight against Inflation

Via Lawrence White I discover today a Sri Lankan columnist who goes by the wonderful and apt nomme de plume Fuss-Budget. He wags his tongue at governments need to control inflation, or at least our ability to know about it. He sets his sights on Argentina here:

Argentina is a typical badly managed Latin American country with high inflation …

One brainwave of the current Kirshner government was to restrict meat exports to prevent beef prices from going up and put price controls. Farmers then switched from beef to soybean production and now beef prices are even higher and there are less export earnings as well. …

The government in Argentina has been complaining just like ours and any other money printing state in monetary history, that their index overstates inflation.
In February 2007 inflation in Argentina was uncomfortably high. President Kirshner’s answer? Replace Graciela Bevacqua, the lady who was in charge of price indices at Indec, Argentina’s national statistics office!


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Alexandra Storr on Venezuela Part Three: History’s lessons

Chavez seems to have learned little from history. My last excerpt is one he should read, but will not. You can of course read the this and more here.


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Alexandra Storr on Venezuela Part Two: The Curse of Oil

The discouraging course of nations dependent upon mineral extraction for their wealth has been oft remarked upon. Unfortunately we see the same trends playing out in Venezuela:


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Alexandra Storr on Venezuela Part One: Living Large

Alexandra Storr has an interesting essay in the American Scholar on Venezuela entitled Living Large on Oil. (Hat tip: Megan McCardle.) Here is part one and it is a different perspective than what I will be discussing in the coming week, but sobering nonetheless:


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Another shoe may soon drop in Venezuela

One of the steps in turning countries into a totalitarian state is the placing of power in local committees selected for “Revolutionary commitment.” Cuba has used the local committees as the states eyes and ears, enforcers and purveyors of terror. The local gangs have been a key part of Mugabe’s assault on his opponents.

Chavez is now about to eliminate the legislature and set up his own committees:

Venezuela may eliminate the National Assembly and transfer the powers of congress to community councils, congressman Dario Vivas said.

The councils, which the government began organizing this year, will replace some state institutions and shutting congress is “part of that debate,” said Vivas, who is president of the assembly’s committee on citizen participation, decentralization and regional development.

Vivas didn’t say when or how congress would be eliminated.

“We’re going toward a communal government, a communal parliament,” Vivas in an interview with Caracas-based Globovision television station today. “Those institutions that we consider to have completed their cycle will have to make way for decisions made by the communities.”

Boosting the power of community councils is part of President Hugo Chavez’s plan to transform Venezuela into a socialist society. The assembly’s 167 members, all of whom support Chavez, gave the former Army lieutenant colonel last month the power to make laws by decree for the next 18 months.

I’ll have more on Chavez soon.

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Hugo Chavez and the path to mass murder

Lee over at postpolitical takes my theme from the other day and fleshes it out with regard to events in Venezuela. Well worth reading in gaining an understanding of the dynamic that inevitably occurs.

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The Ruin of Venezuela

Lee Garnett makes a point that often eludes most Americans, whose view of South America is of vast poverty and squalor as the norm. Most people who would travel to much of the developing world would be surprised at how far from their preconceptions these societies lie:

Venezuela before Chavez would have been recognizable to any of us. It had shopping malls, paved streets, good dining, electricity and water, a mature middle class, a libertine urban nightlife and a stable, somewhat boring democracy…

After Chavez?

…and then it began the process of turning into a paranoid, prison camp, lorded over by a megalomaniacal dictator. Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela is a warning to every citizen of a free society who says “it can’t happen here.”[...]

Venezuela is a modern country that is slowly reverting to a premodern existence, as it plunders and rapes itself into abject destitution. Its electrical and water systems are failing, its store shelves are empty and gangs control the streets. To any citizen of a similarly civilized democracy, it’s a frightening idea to consider. For in Venezuela, there was no war, no famine, no revolution. Nothing sudden and shocking came about. It just slowly started happening for no concrete reason at all.

He refers us to a piece from Manny Lopez who returned after nine years to Caracas:

Chávez is interested only in personal power, which is rooted in giving the poor two grains of rice instead of one and telling them a shipment of chickens is coming. Only there are no longer any chickens.Or at least none that most Venezuelans can justify paying a high price for in the few stores and markets where they’re sold. Price controls have all but eliminated poultry from the market. The same goes for beef and most other meats.

At Exito, a Wal-Mart type store in Barcelona (population 350,000), pig feet and snout were readily available, and a few packs of rotting ground beef were for sale. That was it. Entire shelves of pasta and other staples also sat empty.

Chávistas allegedly are everywhere, but really they are only in the poorest neighborhoods. “You are entering Chávez territory, 100 percent,” say spray-painted signs (warnings?) on the walls of some enclaves.

Taxi drivers and others who have to pass by these neighborhoods keep red hats in their windows or glove boxes to don when necessary. That doesn’t protect them from being stopped and robbed, a regular occurrence especially in early mornings or late at night.

Chávez is leading this charge. He has created a culture that teaches that citizens can take what they want from anyone who is better off than them — in the name of social justice.

As we have seen with Mugabe and many others, once you go down this road it is very difficult to turn things around. As the situation gets worse, in order to keep socialism in place, more force is needed. A Revolutionary ideology cannot allow that the Revolution is wrong, that it cannot work. Scapegoats are found and as their oppression doesn’t solve things the net gets cast wider and wider. Chavez will either abandon his program (his personality seems to make that unlikely) or there will eventually be a bloodbath. My guess is the bodies will start piling up even faster within the next three years.

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Shelia Jackson Lee Seeks To Arm Our Enemy

I wonder what “pas d’ennemi a gauche” sounds like with a Texas drawal? Here’s what it looks like in congressional speak:

A U.S. congresswoman called on the Bush administration Wednesday to reconsider its ban on selling parts for U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to Venezuela, urging improved ties between the two nations.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat, told reporters that she was making the first U.S. congressional visit to Venezuela since President Hugo Chavez’s December re-election with the message: “I want an immediate repairing of the relations between the United States and Venezuela.”

Yes, that’s right. The esteemed congresswoman wants to send arms to our good buddy Hugo Chavez. You know the one. He’s uttered such touching oaths of friendship as this:

“The devil came here [to the UN] yesterday,” Chavez said, referring to Bush, who addressed the world body during its annual meeting Tuesday. “And it smells of sulfur still today.”


“As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world. An Alfred Hitchcock movie could use it as a scenario. I would even propose a title: ‘The Devil’s Recipe.’ ”

Chavez held up a book by Noam Chomsky on imperialism and said it encapsulated his arguments: “The American empire is doing all it can to consolidate its hegemonistic system of domination, and we cannot allow him to do that. We cannot allow world dictatorship to be consolidated.”

There’s no doubt, Madam Congresswoman. Hugo LOOOVVVEEEEES him some America!

More from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee:

Jackson Lee described Venezuela as a friendly nation that the U.S. should cooperate with and said that the F-16 jets, which are built in Texas, was an issue of concern to her constituents in Houston.

Well what’s good for the tax-paying citizens of Texas’ 18th Congressional District (at least the ones who fund her campaign), must be good for the rest of the country.

His name is Hugo Chavez. He is the president of oil-rich Venezuela. Mr. Chavez has decided that America is his enemy, so he is building up his army. He has forged an alliance with Fidel Castro, and many think he is going to make trouble for the United States.

Chavez believes he is in a fight with the devil. But the devil that Chavez fights does not reside in Hell. Chavez believes that the devil resides in Washington.

But he’s really, really friendly, y’all!

Is there no gutter in which you will not crawl for votes, Madam Representative?

Disgusting. Truly disgusting.

(HT: Bryan at Hot Air)

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Down The Road to Dicatatorship (Updated)

Hugo Chavez travels a bit further down the road to his ultimate destination – Supreme Dictator of Venezuela – with the help of his wholly-owned subsidiary,the “National Assembly”:

Venezuela’s Congress on Wednesday granted President Hugo Chavez powers to rule by decree for 18 months as he tries to force through nationalizations key to his self-styled leftist revolution.

The vote allows anti-U.S. leader Chavez, who has been in power since 1999, to deepen state control of the economy.

The lawmakers, all loyal to Chavez after opposition parties boycotted the 2005 congressional elections, flaunted their populist credentials by taking the unusual step of holding their vote in public in a square in Caracas.

“We in the National Assembly will not waver in granting President Chavez an enabling law so he can quickly and urgently set up the framework for resolving the grave problems we have,” said congressional Vice-President Roberto Hernandez.

An “enabling law”? Hmmm, where have I heard of such a thing before? Oh yeah:

The Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz in German) was passed by Germany’s parliament (the Reichstag) on March 23, 1933. It was the second major step after the Reichstag Fire Decree through which the Nazis obtained dictatorial powers using largely legal means. The Act enabled Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his cabinet to enact laws without the participation of the Reichstag.

What a grand idea! Give Chavez even more power, so that he remain in charge indefinitely, change the laws at will, and solve all of those nasty problems that plague Venezuela. It’s sure to work.

The economic reforms are set to work in tandem with increased political centralization. Chavez is forging a single party to lead his radical reforms, stripping the central bank of autonomy and seeking indefinite re-election.

Yeah, a single party should do the trick. No messy dissents that way. I mean just look at the trouble Chavez has had getting anything done since he came to power:

Since Chavez took office in 1999, his government has seized company assets, farmlands and private buildings for cooperative ventures and imposed state control through joint ventures in the oil sector, raising the taxes and royalties foreign partners pay. His wealth redistribution efforts have made him widely popular among Venezuela’s poor and working classes.

But critics say Chavez, who now effectively controls all branches of government in Venezuela, is worsening persistent economic problems by ill-considered fiscal and monetary policies, and by creating too much uncertainty about the future.

With government spending at near-record highs, the economy isn’t generating enough goods and services to soak up the excess liquidity. Currency controls trap this cash in the economy, fueling inflation that officially is still below the 30 percent level in 1998 when Chavez was first elected, but above maximum interest rates regulated by the central bank.

But don’t forget, Venezuela is the fastest growing economy in South America! Chavez must be doing something right.

High oil prices made Venezuela’s economy the fastest-growing in South America last year, but near-record public spending by a government awash in petrodollars also led to the region’s highest inflation rate. And with so much uncertainty about where the country is heading, there are few solid investment options.

The irony in the Chavez march to totalitarianism is that it is fueled almost entirely upon the propaganda of class warfare. Chavez routinely tosses populist bits of rhetoric to the poor masses to bolster his image as one who is looking out for the working people:

“Oh, you have a yacht? Perfect, give it to me, buddy,” Chavez said. “You go around Caracas in a tremendous car. You have a house where you live and another one by sea… You have some marvelous art collections — come here, buddy.”

But what happens when there are no more “rich” people around for Chavez to bully. The state controls on the economy are quickly depleting any means of creating and/or protecting wealth, so who is going to do all that oppressing that needs to be done in order for Chavez to maintain his image? I expect that Chavez will rely on the old Castro stand-by in that case:

The Cuban government of Fidel Castro has condemned the United States for the high level of poverty in Latin America, stating that the “neo-liberal” economic policies supported by the U.S. “generate discontent” which demand change, according to official Cuban sources.

It should go without saying here that the road to dictatorship, down which Venezuela now hastily careens, is the same as The Road to Serfdom.

MORE: Doug Mataconis at The Liberty Papers highlights one of the effects of Hugo’s power grab — mass exodus:

As Hugo Chavez continues his apparent quest to become the heir apparent to Fidel Castro, Venezuelans who desire freedom and prosperity are starting to vote with their feet:

CARACAS, Venezuela — The line forms every day after dawn at the Spanish Consulate, hundreds of people seeking papers permitting them to abandon Venezuela for new lives in Spain. They say they are filled with despair at President Hugo Chávez’s growing power, and they appear not to be alone. At other consulates in this capital, long lines form daily.

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A Distinction Without Difference

Putative Ãœbermensch, Hugo Chavez, waxed poetic at his inaugaration Wednesday:

His right hand raised Wednesday, Chavez declared in words reminiscent of Fidel Castro’s famous call-to-arms: “Fatherland, socialism or death — I swear it.”

Do you think he realizes that there’s no difference? Yeah, me neither.

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Hugo’s (Invisible) Handiwork

Is Hugo Chavez a gift to mankind?

Man’s greatest accomplishment is his ability to adapt. Whether through technological development, increased efficiency, innovation of skill, or just good old fashioned hard work, mankind always finds a way to meet its needs and to advance civilization. There may be stumbles and outright failures along the way, but the way is still ever forward. Obstacles are not barriers, but instead, guideposts to new and exciting worlds in which our lives are better than before, even as greater and more difficult challenges rise to meet us. It is our naked self-interest that propels us towards such discoveries and accomplishments, which in turn create a better place for all.

Every individual…generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.

The Wealth of Nations, Book IV Chapter II

To be clear, man as pure homo economicus is a myth; a construction for ease of argument and extrapolation. But it is a useful myth in that it isolates a primal motivation to progress. Adam Smith’s key insight, of course, was that in pursuing our naked self-interest, we also promote the self-interest of others. This is the backbone of libertarian philosophy, that each person being allowed to pursue their own hopes and dreams without undue interference (and without unduly influencing others) will accomplish the greatest amount of wealth and happiness for all.

Of course, wrenches are invariably thrown into the works, such as the (unsurprising to some) encroachment of government.

CARACAS, Venezuela, Jan. 8 — President Hugo Chávez signaled a vigorous new effort to assert greater control over Venezuela’s economy on Monday by announcing plans to nationalize companies in the telecommunications and electricity industries.


The announcement was the latest in a series of bold steps Mr. Chávez has taken since his re-election in December to consolidate his power and move Venezuela toward what he calls a socialist revolution. Mr. Chávez said he would also seek a “revolutionary enabling law” from Congress that would allow him to approve bills by decree, as well as a measure stripping the central bank of its autonomy.


On Monday, in addition to the telecommunications and electricity nationalizations, Mr. Chávez also appeared to signal that he wanted control over four multibillion-dollar oil projects in the Orinoco River basin, which he said should become “state property.”

Nationalization of these major industries will inevitably come to no good. Adam Smith foretold this as well:

Princes, however, have frequently engaged in many other mercantile projects, and have been willing, like private persons, to mend their fortunes by becoming adventurers in the common branches of trade. They have scarce ever succeeded. The profusion with which the affairs of princes are always managed, renders it almost impossible that they should. The agents of a prince regard the wealth of their master as inexhaustible; are careless at what price they buy; are careless at what price they sell; are careless at what expense they transport his goods from one place to another… No two characters seem more inconsistent than those of trader and sovereign.

The Wealth of Nations, Book V, Chapter II, Part I

I hear Glasnost you ask: But isn’t Hugo simply acting in his own interests? How can that be so bad given the libertarian mantra?

It is true that Hugo is acting in his own self-interest, and that his own self-interests do not bode well for others. Or do they? (more…)

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