Monday, October 29, 2007

The Morphing of a Nation (Updated)

Venezuelans waiting in line to buy milk were issued numbers representing their position in the line. The first step to a Ration Book.

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ spent many years of his life cruising aboard a small sail boat visiting countries and places where the ordinary tourist does not venture. Two of the most interesting and contrasting cruising experiences were Venezuela and Cuba.

The Venezuela of the mid to late 1980s was a prosperous and cosmopolitan nation populated for the most part by a happy and relatively easy going citizenry with a large foreign expatriate community. The government, although left-leaning as evidenced by having nationalized the petroleum industry during the 1960s and implementing features of the welfare state, was on the whole, mostly democratic.

Venezuela has been exporting crude oil to the U.S. and other countries at the world market price (currently approaching US $90 per barrel) for at least 3 generations as well as trading freely with all nations. Evidence of this vigorous trade could be seen by visiting any supermarket such as Mercal or the other Venezuelan retail outlets where all consumer goods were available at prices the general population could afford.

The contrast with Cuba was as night and day. All Cubans must have a ration book to obtain any food items (with a daily calorie allowance of under 2000) even as the suitability of soil and climate makes Cuba one of the most fertile nations of the earth. Cubans are forced to endure the most primitive and abysmal health care in the western hemisphere, Michael Moore's socialist propaganda notwithstanding. In public, Cubans dare not speak a word of criticism of the regime but in private they related stories of terror and oppression that would curl one's hair. By forcing Cubans to use a Ration Book the regime has another way of forcing the population to obey its orders. If you do not march when the dictator wants you to march, or if you demand respect for your human rights, the regime can take your Ration Book away and make life even more difficult for you and your family.

In 1965 the currency exchange rate was 1 Ven Bolívar= 1 US dollar and many Venezuelans traveled to Miami on shopping excursions. By 1986 the rate was 1 Ven B= US $0.19. Since the so called "Bolivarian Revolution" implemented by Hugo Chávez since 1999 with his price controls and out of control spending on such items as 100,000 Russian automatic rifles, dozens of attack helicopters and two Kilo class Russian submarines, the official exchange rate is 2,144.5 VenB= US $1.00 with the "parallel" (black market) rate approaching 6,000 VenB= $1.00.

Hugo Chávez insists that Fidel Castro should be the model emulated by all "just and freedom loving societies". As in Cuba, expect the colas (consumer lines) to be blamed on the nonexistent "yanqui blockade". Heaven help the unfortunate Venezuelans.

cross posted at: Eternity Road

Update 10/30/07 @1730

Venezuelan newspapers are reporting that people who were waiting in line this weekend to buy milk, bread and other food staples at government run markets, instead of receiving a number, like it has been happening up to now, had to allow soldiers to write the number on the palm of their hands!

And after they were able to buy the products, they had one of their fingers marked with indelible ink, to prevent them from going to another market to buy more.

Several consumers complained that when they tried to go to other markets to buy more milk, they were refused service when the manager saw that their fingers were marked.

This is happening in Venezuela, when oil is selling for $92 a barrel and without the excuse of an US embargo.

Welcome to the Socialism of the XXI Century.
hat tip: The Real Cuba

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Zimbabwe Sleight of Hand

If you think you have heard everything regarding the despots of the third world, prepare to be shocked. Mr. Mugabe of Zimbabwe fame has recently ordered the arrest of a resourceful scam artist in that unfortunate nation who had him and his cronies fooled for a while.

When Nomatter Tagarira, a spirit medium, claimed that she could conjure refined diesel out of a rock by striking it with her staff, ministers in Robert Mugabe’s Government believed that they might have found the solution to Zimbabwe’s perennial fuel shortage.

After witnessing her apparently miraculous gift they gave her five billion Zimbabwean dollars in cash (worth £1.7 million at the start of the year but now worth one seven-hundredth of that) in return for the fuel. Ms Tagarira was also given a farm, said to have been seized from its white owner during Mr Mugabe’s lawless land grab, as well as food and services that included a round-the-clock armed guard on the rock in the district of Chinhoyi 60 miles (100km) from Harare, the capital.

More than a year later officials realised they had been duped.
“It’s an outlandish story but the people [African bushmen] in government who believed this are the same ones who believe that Mugabe’s official policy of printing money will end inflation,” said an economist, who requested anonymity[...] According to the police docket at the court, Ms Tagarira, 35, discovered a large bowser [storage tank] of diesel last year, suspected to have been abandoned in the hills of Chinhoyi during the country’s civil war in the 1970s.

She laid pipes from the bowser to a point at the bottom of the hill. Whenever she assembled an audience, she would strike a rock and an assistant at the top of the hill would open the tap and lo, fuel would pour out. The bowser eventually ran dry but that didn’t stop Ms Tagarira. “They would buy diesel from lorry drivers and keep it in the pipe on the pretext it was coming from a rock,” the docket said.

By June the Government had decided the claims were plausible enough to warrant an official investigation. However, where a single geologist would have sufficed, they dispatched a large “task force” of politicians [more African bushmen] and members of the security forces, led by the deputy commissioner of police.

The task force duly reported to Mr Mugabe’s politburo, the most powerful body in the country, that the liquid appearing at the rock had been siphoned into lorries and that they had driven off without problem.

However, it was when a second “task force” of ministers was sent by the politburo a month later that Ms Tagarira’s ruse ended. She “failed to prove the existence of the fuel”, it said. She disappeared and was arrested this month. “It is not the woman who ought to be arrested, it is the idiots who authorised this criminal waste of public money,” said a lawyer, asking not to be named.

This is probably the scenario of what will occur as soon as Hugo Chávez reaps the consequences of his expulsion of the foreign expertise in the Venezuelan oil fields (unless of course he is able to recruit help from Mr. Putin whose Russian "experts" can succeed in equaling their achievements in the Cuban oil fields).

Hat tip: Daniel and Sheik yer Bouti

Friday, October 26, 2007

Progressive "Logic"

Finally some good advice from the Brady Center:

Last April a man who seemed to have been mentally ill went on a rampage at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Cho Seung-hui used firearms to murder 32 people before killing himself--and somehow he managed to do it even though Virginia Tech is a "gun-free school."

Or was that because it's a gun-free school? As we noted at the time, a shooting five years earlier at another Virginia institution, the Appalachian School of Law, was stopped when an armed student confronted the gunman. Appalachian, a private school, is not "gun free."

From these two incidents it is reasonable to believe that campus gun bans are more effective in preventing defensive than aggressive use of guns--a view that is gaining adherents on campus, Fox News reports:

College students across the country have been strapping empty holsters around their waists this week to protest laws that prohibit concealed weapons on campus, citing concerns over campus shootings.

"People who would otherwise be able to defend themselves are left defenseless when on campus," said Ethan Bratt, a graduate student wearing an empty holster this week on the campus of Seattle Pacific University.

Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, a group of college students, parents and citizens who organized after the deadly shootings at Virginia Tech University in April, launched the protest. . . .

But others believe college is no place for firearms.

"You don't like the fact that you can't have a gun on your college campus? Drop out of school," said Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

"Drop out of school." Hamm's advice certainly reflects the degree of maturity and thoughtfulness we've come to expect from the Brady Center.



Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Bit of Levity

The image to the left of Che Guevara's daughter would indicate that she enjoys access to more than the 2000 calories/day ration book allowance for ordinary Cubans.

Recently the observance of the 40th anniversary of the death of one of the left's martyred icons was the occasion of some amusement. Ernesto "Che" Guevara was killed in Bolivia in 1967 while attempting to spread the communist revolution to that country's peasants, who having none of it, betrayed him to their military.
On Oct. 8 1967, [...] upon finally encountering armed and determined enemies, Che quickly dropped his fully-loaded weapons. "Don't shoot!" he whimpered. "I'm Che! I'm worth more to you alive than dead!"

His Bolivian captors viewed the matter differently. In fact they adopted a policy that has since become a favorite among Americans who encounter (so-called) endangered species on their property: "Shoot, shovel, and shut-up.

To celebrate the budding islamist-leftist alliance, Guevara's spawn were invited to speak at a conference to mark the occasion at Tehran University in the Islamic Revolutionary Republic. Their expenses were paid by Hugo Chávez probably with petro dollars supplied by US motorists courtesy of Citgo aka PDVSA.

There were fraternal greetings and smiles all round as America’s “earth-devouring ambitions” were denounced. But then one of the speakers, Hajj Saeed Qassemi, the co-ordinator of the Association of Volunteers for Suicide-Martyrdom (who presumably remains selflessly alive for the cause), revealed that Che was a “truly religious man who believed in God and hated communism and the Soviet Union”.

Che’s daughter Aleida wondered if something might have been lost in translation. “My father never mentioned God,” she said, to the consternation of the audience. “He never met God.” During the commotion, Aleida and her brother were led swiftly out of the hall and escorted back to their hotel. “By the end of the day, the two Guevaras had become non-persons. The state-controlled media suddenly forgot their existence,” the Iranian writer Amir Taheri noted.

After their departure, Qassemi went on to claim that Fidel Castro, the [atheist] “supreme guide” of Guevara, was also a man of God. “The Soviet Union is gone,” he affirmed. “The leadership of the downtrodden has passed to our Islamic republic. Those who wish to destroy America must understand the reality and not be clever with words.

It doesn't get more amusing than this. Do these cretins attribute their abysmal level of intelligence to the rest of us? The question answers itself.

hat tip: John Ray


Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Modest Proposal

It appears that the ongoing drought being experienced in the southeastern section of the U.S. has begun to generate more widespread notice along with the proposals put forth to address the calamity. The facts of the situation are these:
1. The southeast over the past several decades has experienced exponential growth.
2. The infrastructure to support this growth has seriously lagged.
3. The control of the bulk of the infrastructure in the area is assigned to various governmental jurisdictions.
4. Seasonal rainfall which has historically been relied upon to supply adequate water has failed to do so.
As is the case in most all calamities, our society has fallen into the habit of seeking a scape goat to blame for the situation. The evil de jour of anthropogenic climate change is vigorously touted as the culprit by the warmistas who demand that more regulatory authority be ceded to the government in order to control changing climate patterns. Others would assign the responsibility for the crisis on the failure of the various governments to rationally control the recent surge in economic and consequently population growth.

These two schools of thought both favor augmenting the powers of the very entity who is responsible for the situation which is, in the opinion of ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ, the government. As governments are want to do, they generally either ignore the laws of economics or attempt to repeal them. A case in point is the simple fact that water is a commodity and as such is subject to the economic law of supply and demand: the value of a commodity increases to the extent that the demand for it exceeds the supply. The diminishing supply of water accompanied by the increase of demand created by a growing population has not resulted in an increase in the cost of the commodity delivered to the consumers as would be the situation if it were not under the artificial and irrational control of the government. The government's only tool for its purposes is force as exercised by its police powers such as imposing penalties for what it arbitrarily designates as "excessive consumption". The additional enforcement of such ukases generates increases in costs and in no way contributes to the incentive to access more of the commodity.

If the commodity were privately provided widgets and the identical situation existed, the increased value of widgets would generate a private incentive to increase widget deliveries to cover the demand. This basic and simple method of addressing these problems appears to escape the learned discussions of many economically illiterate products of government indoctrination learning centers.

Unfortunately, the above is not satire as was the essay by Mr. Swift.

cross posted at: Eternity Road

Friday, October 12, 2007

"Peace" Prize?

Today our suspicions are confirmed. This year's Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to former vice president Al Gore for his efforts in promoting awareness of anthropogenic global warming. Mr Gore thus joins the list of "progressive" icons to receive that once prestigious award such as Yasser Arafat and Jimmy Carter. I, for one am a bit puzzled as to how Mr Gore's crusade to raise awareness of man's contribution toward the causes of climate change directly relates to the subject category of "Peace".

Upon further reflection however, we can detect a tenuous connection. Bear with me here while I assist all and sundry in connecting these dots. Peace is the absence of war; therefore anyone connected to the waging of war would necessarily impact peace. Mr. Gore's crusade to end western industrial civilization as we know it by advocating reductions in carbon emissions and the resulting economic dislocations must qualify as war by any reasonable definition. We must however expand our vision further to understand how this relates to the achievement of Peace. After western civilization is crippled by implementing the means Mr. Gore advocates (a geometric expansion of the power of government over us) to wit, socialism; "peace" will reign supreme throughout the planet, for the means to resist the islamofascists will no longer obtain. This is indeed a brilliant strategic concept definitely worthy of a prestigious award such as the Nobel Prize for Peace which has for some time now been nothing more than the leftist "Man of the Year" citation.

As for Mr. Carter, his war on the Jews obviously qualifies his justly awarded Nobel prize. When his "Pax Islamicus" prevails in the Middle East and the global caliphate is established, "peace" will reign throughout the lands of the Earth.

Mr. Arafat's terrorist war on Israel and the United States were of such worthy significance as to justify his award of the coveted "progressive" Nobel Peace prize. What a pity that the nomination of Adolf Hitler for the award was withdrawn in 1939. We wonder how the nominations of Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao tse Tung managed to be overlooked.

Update: 15 Oct 2007 @1726 EDT

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Horns of a Dilemma

Kalifornia has long prided itself on being in the vanguard of the movement to advance the "progressive" (leftist) agenda of saving the planet from the evils of industrialization and other predations engendered by human activity. The prohibition on the construction of nuclear power plants enacted some decades ago and the phasing out of existing power plants through onerous regulations has resulted in the dearth of available energy sources and the concomitant periodic shortages of that commodity. The resultant blackouts are invariably blamed on the evil, greedy and hapless businesses engaged in the supply sector.

Included in the big tent of leftist activist organizations to save the environment and promote "social justice" are the animal rights wackos as well as environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace. What is a leftist activist to do when such holy groups offer up mutually exclusive solutions for their touted "crises"?

In order to reduce the global warming crisis caused by the release of greenhouse gasses including methane emitted by the flatulence of meat producing animals such as bovines and sheep, we are urged by none other than Greenpeace to substitute the Australian marsupials known as kangaroos. This is in clear and flagrant violation of the four decades Kalifornia prohibition on the importation of any kangaroo-derived products.

It becomes increasingly unclear how a leftist wishing to bring western industrial civilization to an end can comply with the recipes cited for such policies without contravening other well meaning proscriptions. Perhaps the Islamists have the most effective method for the accomplishment of that objective; that being to slay all western infidels refusing to convert to the "religion of peace".


cross posted at: Eternity Road

Monday, October 08, 2007

Chávez and the Anthropologist

During one of Hugo Chávez' lecture sessions to his followers as well as the general Venezuelan television viewers the subject of the period of human existence on the planet came up. Hugo asserted that the period is 2000 years and asks Francois, a hapless anthropology scholar in the audience to confirm this nonsense. The intimidated scholar politely avers the the period is "Un poco mas." [a bit longer] whereupon Hugo estimates that the time frame is 2500 years and asks that to be confirmed. Fearing to anger the "caudillo" the man answers: "Sí, como no." [Sure, why not.] Hugo replies: "Gracias hermano." [Thank you brother.] "Statesmen" like Chávez can assert that the earth is flat and if you are a Venezuelan, you had better agree. Is it any wonder that Hugo's hero and mentor is Fidel Castro?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"World to End Tuesday: Minorities and Women Hardest Hit"

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ experienced another interesting (and hilarious) observation on the occasion of exiting the post office this morning. The front page headlines screaming at all and sundry from today's Atlanta Journal and Constitution (Urinal and Constipation?) were: "MARKET SOARS, RISKS REMAIN". Half of the headline probably refers to yesterday's surge in the Dow Jones Industrial average on the New York Stock Exchange. The message transmitted in the last two words however is for government school dropouts somewhat more esoteric. It is an announcement that the editorial board of the "news" [sic] paper finds these tidings troubling i.e. what is news about "risks" and the stock market? Fear not however, those two words do notify us of the reason these tidings are bad news: there must be a Republican occupying the Whitehouse.

We are from time to time reminded that the traditional print media are losing readership. Various explanations are submitted as to the causes of this phenomenon by the so called "punditry". Our own reaction would be: DUH?