Sunday, August 26, 2007

The guy is completely nuts, even if what he does makes perfect sense. 

Simon Romero, the New York Times reporter based in Caracas, seems to be sinking further and further into a state of confusion. He clearly does not know what to make of the Venezuelan president.

The latest example of his confusion came in today's papers under the headline "Moving Clocks Ahead, Reaching Back in Time"

Mr Romero seems to think Chavez has lost his marbles after announcing building new cities, buying sniper rifles, and messing with peoples clocks by changing Venezuela's time zone. Because he finds it bizarre that these initiatives are often announced on a Sunday morning talk show he feels safe in his conclusion that the guy is unbalanced (oh, and I forgot to mention the most damning act of insanity; he changed the names of Venezuelan oil tankers from beauty queens to national heroes) and launches into a discussion on how he is the reincarnation of a turn of the century Venezuelan cuadillo. Of course, so as to make sure that his thesis is not contradicted he speaks only to people who share it - such as the international media's anti-Chavez darling Teodoro Petkoff.

[Note to Mr. Romero; your statement that Petkoff has "impeccable leftist credentials" almost caused me to choke on the ice cream I was eating. Petkoff has clearly been on the right of the political and economic spectrum since at least the 1990s as what he did during his stint in the Caldera government clearly showed. Saying that he has impeccalbe leftist credentials because he belonged to the Communist Party in the 1950s is like saying Ronald Reagan had impeccable trade unionist credentials because he was president of the Screen Actors Guild at one time - what he did to PATCO notwithstanding.]

But a funny thing happened on the way to the notion that Chavez is in need of therapy - even a New York Times reporter couldn't help noticing that many of the actual policies the guy carries out make perfect sense. As he notes Chavez steanghening OPEC was probably a good idea for a country that makes its living off of oil and his loaning money to other countries has helped weaken the grip of the IMF and World Bank. And truth be told, though a New York Times reporter could never get this past an editor, buying 5,000 sniper rifles probably makes a lot of sense, at least to any person who has ever heard of a country called Iraq.

Even playing with peoples time has things to recommend it. Venezuela has always had a problem with time - the even hour meridians for 4 hours and 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time lie on the extreme eastern and extreme western ends of the country respectively. Using either one of them to set time means a large portion of the country is way out of sink with the actual rise of the sun.

What to do? Simple, split the difference and make yourselves four and a half hours behing G.M.T.

Even though lots of people think Chavez is a crazed communist it really isn't that radical of an idea. As the following graphic shows it is what was done up until 1964:

The orange line is the current meridian Venezuela uses, the purple one is what was used until 1964 and the red one is what will now be used.

Of course, I am no expert on what exact meridian is best for Venezuelan's metabolism and energy usage. Apparently neither is Mr. Romero. But at least he had enough sense to contact someone who is:

With such dreary assessments of Mr. Chávez’s rule coming from some quarters, the potentially positive effects of some of his ideas, even those concerning the country’s time zone, are sometimes overlooked.

Víctor Rodríguez, a respected astrophysicist in Maracaibo, said the measure was justified since it would cut down on energy consumption.

“I’m not a Chavista; I don’t have a position in the government; but speaking truthfully, this will benefit the country,” Mr. Rodríguez said. “Every country has the liberty to choose its own time zone.”

But don't be fooled - that this will "benefit the country" does nothing to change what everyone with their head screwed on straight knows - Chavez is nuts. With that in mind, come November 2008 I am voting for the nuttiest person on the ballot.


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