Saturday, May 01, 2004

Unemployment way down in Venezuela 

According to the Wall Street Journal unemployment in Venezuela has dropped dramatically from last year. Unemployment, which had been well over 20% at the hieght of the strike that the opposition lead in an attempt to overthrow Chavez, has now dropped to less than 15%. It is quite amazing how well the Venezuelan economy does when the opposition is not actively trying to sabotage it.

It looks like there finally will be a count in Venezuela 

After much stalling by the opposition it looks like they have finally agreed to go ahead with the "reparo" process and attempt to convoke a referendum against president Chavez.


Saudi Arabia to lower oil prices in an effort to help Bush 

According to the new book, Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward, the Saudis made a secret deal to dramtically increase oil production over the summer to lower prices and help Bush's re-election prospects.


Thursday, April 29, 2004

Someone finally admits the obvious 

In Wednesday's Wall Street Journal "Capital Journal" column by John Hardwood former U.S. Army General William E. Odom admitted that the U.S. war in Iraq was a lost cause.

"We have failed" said Odom "The issue is how high a price we are going to pay. Less, by getting out sooner, or more by getting out later."

Odom who was formerly the head of the National Security Agency and is currently a fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute further stated that as a result of U.S. intervention "a highly illiberal democracy, inspired by Islamic culture, extremely hostile to the West and probably quite willing to fund terrorist organizations"

It is clear that most people with a military background realize that the U.S. is highly unlikely to be succesfull in Iraq. Unfortunately only the retired ones are able to speak out as the active duty officers are muzzled.


We know things are getting serious now! 

In a sign of complete desperation the U.S. Army has demanded that some ski areas in the western U.S. turn over artillery pieces that they have been using for avalanche control!

Artillery is commonly used by ski areas to prevent avalanches. Artillery rounds are generally shot into the snow pack early in the morning before the ski area opens to artificially induce avalanches of lose snow rather than having them occur when the slopes are crowded with skiers. This has saved many lives over the years.

Well, now that the war in Iraq is clearly not going well the Army wants the artillery back. In addition to the absurd situation of putting skiers at risk it also says something about how badly the situation is going in Iraq. Supposedly we are in a guerilla war where we need to wind over hearts and minds and precisely target and "take out" insurgents. But artillery is not the weapon for that. It is an imprecise weapon. Artillery does not hit a specific spot, it hits a specific area. So what this artillery will be used for in Iraq is more random destruction of Iraqi population centers and collective punishment of the type we have seen lately have seen lately.


Losing support in Iraq 

There was a very interesting poll of Iraqis carried out by CNN and USA Today most Iraqis said they want the U.S. to leave immediately. While a majority of Iraqis are glad the U.S. overthrew Saddam Hussien only a third of Iraqis believe the U.S. occupation is doing more harm than good. Further 58% of Iraqis thought the U.S. troops were very hostile and acted inappropriately towards Iraqis. Meanwhile only 11% believe the U.S. is working hard to restore services such as electric power.

However the most damming statistic coming out of the poll is this: a full 71% of Iraqis now view the U.S. as occupiers of Iraq rather than libertators. While this is not enexpected it does spell doom for the U.S. in Iraq.

There were some interesting quotes from the USA Today article on this poll:

"I'm not ungrateful that they took away Saddam Hussein," says Salam Ahmed, 30, a Shiite businessman. "But the job is done. Thank you very much. See you later. Bye-bye."


"I would shoot at the Americans right now if I had the chance," says Abbas Kadhum Muia, 24, who owns a bicycle shop in Sadr City, a Shiite slum of 2 million people in Baghdad that was strongly anti-Saddam and once friendly to the Americans. "At the beginning ... there were no problems, but gradually they started to show disrespect (and) encroach on our rights, arresting people."


Jalal Abbas, 20, a student in Baghdad, says it's widely believed "that when soldiers search houses, they steal gold and money. And in our houses, people are taking special (precautions) to hide their money and gold for fear of them being stolen by U.S. soldiers."


Najem Aboud Debib, 37, like many Shiites, says he feels deep disappointment now. The Shiites opposed Saddam, whose regime was dominated by Sunnis. A year ago, they welcomed the Americans and the freedom to exercise their brand of Islam without repression. Now, Aboud Debib says, "I'm sure they have no morals. ...They are something like Saddam Hussein. We are suffering under the same situation."


Sunday, April 25, 2004

Ideas not guns? 

In todays LA Times Brigadier General Mark Hertling, deputy commander of the 1st Armored Division, is quoted as saying "We're going to drive this guy (al-Sadr) into the dirt. Either he tells his militia to put down their arms, form a political party and fight with ideas not guns -- or he's going to find a lot of them killed"

Well General Hertling, how is he supposed to "fight with ideas not guns" when the U.S. just shut down his newspaper a couple of weeks ago? It seems the people who decided to resolve things through force are the US military forces, not al-Sadr.


Is Thomas Freidman on drugs? 

In an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times today columnist Thomas Friedman, who has consistently supported the war in Iraq, stated that he thought the U.S. would be out of Iraq within a year. What is this guy smoking?

I really wish he was willing to wager a bet on this. I really do need a new car and this would be an easy way to get it. Darn.


Why am I not surprised? 

According to a recent poll by the pro-opposition Venezuelan polling firm, Alfredo Keller & Associates, President Chavez would easily win any referendum vote. The resulst of the poll are as follows:

For Chavez 35%

Against Chavez 31%

Abstaining 34%

Please bear in mind that polling in Venezuela is a very inexact enterprise. Polls are conducted either on the street or in peoples homes making the samples not very random. Further, the poll takers often do not go into the poorer areas that are the base of Chavez's support. Worse still, all the leading poll firms in Venezuelan are highly partisan and anti-Chavez making their honesty in carrying out these polls highly suspect. Polls in Venezuela have traditionally underestimated Chavez's support by at least 10%.

So no wonder the opposition, in spite of its rhetoric, is doing all it can to avoid the referendum taking place. It would lose.


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