Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Even the opposition can't hide the good news 

In Venezuela the only news is bad news. The reason for that is that virtually all private media, with a couple notable exceptions, see there job not as informing the public but as doing everything they can to bring down the Chavez government. For that reason there is a very clear rule in the Venezuelan media; any news reflecting well on the Chavez administration should be hidden, any news reflecting poorly on the government should be emphasized. A clear example is that today's news of the economy growing 29.8% is either not reported at all or buried deep in the interior pages of the papers.

However, even the opposition media can't hide all the positive developments in Venezuela. So today there appeared the report in Ultimas Noticias that the opposition polling firm, Datanalisis, says that unemployment has fallen sharply. Now you may ask, why does a polling firm keep unemployment statistics? The answer is that although the government does keep official unemployment statistics the opposition does not like that they often show the economy doing well. So the opposition, through Datanalisis, keeps its own set of "statistics" which of course paint everything in a worse light.

The Datanalisis report released today said that the unemployment rate had fallen from 20.7% in November 2003 to 17.2% in April. This, according to Datanalisis's director Luis Vincente Leon, means that the economy has added 370,000 jobs over that period. These numbers, while probably not completely reporting the true situation, indicate that the performance of the Venezuelan economy is so strong even opposition organizations like Datanalisis cannot ignore it.

It bears mentioning that the official unemployment rate in Venezuela has dropped to below 14% from a high of over 20% after the opposition led strike at the beginning of last year.


Pretty darn good 

Well, the Venezuelan central bank finally released the first quarter (January - March 2004) GDP numbers. And while it was widely expected that the numbers would be very good the actual results were truly astounding. The Venezuelan economy grew a spectacular 29.8% compared to the same quarter a year earlier. The growth both in the public and private sectors of the economy. The output of the oil sector grew by 72.5%, manufacturing by 48%, construction by 19.5%, commerce by 27.9% and transportation by 25.3%.

Between December 2002 and February 2003 the opposition to President Hugo Chavez tried to bring the countries economy to its knees in an effort to unseat him. To this end the called a nationwide "strike" wherein many employers closed their doors and locked out employees who wished to work. Further approximately 40% of the workers in the state oil company (primarily executive, administrative, and some technical workers) went out on strike. Before going on strike they damaged and sabotaged equipment and computer systems to make it difficult to restart oil production.

However, the "strike" never had enough support to succeed as most Venezuelans continued to work. Further, the performance of the non-striking oil workers was exemplary as they managed to re-start production and gradually ramp it up over a number of months. The "strike" did cause an estimated $10 billion in damage to the Venezuelan economy and caused a very severe recession. The opposition then played the cynical game of blaming the faltering economy not on their own actions but on supposed mismanagement by the Chavez administration.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Once the strike ended the Venezuelan economy started to rebound rapidly. This rebound culminated in today's statistics which show an almost complete recovery from the sabotage of the opposition.


The excuses are official 

A little while back I posted about the different current excuses that the U.S. uses to explain away the increasing violence in Iraq. In that post I mentioned how bogus the current exuses are and said that when the violence intensifies after June 30th new excuses will have to be found. Well today the new excuse got unvailed. It really wasn't too far off the one I gave. And personally I think the excuse I thought of was more creative and will still probably wind up being used.


Monday, May 17, 2004

This is progress? 

In an New York Times Op-Ed piece “The State of Iraq: an Update” (be sure to open the accompanying graphic) a whole bunch of statistics are given showing how, in spite of all the bad news, Iraq is steadily progressing to some form of Nirvana under U.S. rule.

A lot of the statistics are, well, bizarre. For example, it is pointed out that we have trained 860 new Iraqi judges. Gee, if the goal of this whole thing was to impose the U.S. legal system on them even Rush Limbaugh would be against the war. It also points out that 90,000 Iraqi security personnel have been trained. To bad they left out the more relevant statistic of how many of those security personnel are on the side of the insurgency.

Then we have the downright comical. For example the chart says that last August there were 5,000 insurgents. But it then says that since then the U.S. has killed or detained 4,000 which would presumabely leave 1,000 alive. So all this fighting is being done by a 1,000 people !?!?!? Well, those insurgents sure do get around don’t they.

And then there are the statistics which show the utter failure of the war effort. For example, electricity production stands at 3.8 gigawatts. But before the war it was 4.4 gigawatts. So with all the technology and money in the world the U.S. hasn’t even been able to equal what Saddam’s engineers did with just rubber bands and paper clips holding things together. Worse still oil production, at 2.4 m.b.d., still doesn’t match pre-war levels of 3.0 m.b.d. I guess Halliburton is to busy fleecing American taxpayers to bother getting Iraq’s oil infrastructure up and running again.

Given the above should anyone be surprised by the last statistics given:

While in December 55% of Iraqis felt they were better off than before the war by April that number had fallen to 40%. And the percentage of Iraqis wanting U.S. forces to stay has dropped from 70% to 35%.


Iraqis know an occupation when they see one 

In an LA Times article “Iraqi Silence Indicts U.S. Occupiers” Alissa Rubin confirms that Iraqis do indeed view the U.S. as occupiers:

“The widespread and increasing resentment toward the U.S. is reflected in polling results over the last several months. Support for the U.S. presence here eroded dramatically well before photographs of the Abu Ghraib prison abuses came to light, according to two reputable polling organizations, the Iraqi Center for Research and Strategic Studies and the Independent Institute for Research and Civil Society Studies.

Between October and April, the percentage of Iraqis viewing the United States as an occupier rather than a liberator or peacekeeper more than doubled — from 43% to 88%, according to Dulaimi's Center for Research. The Independent Institute had almost identical numbers for the same question.

Similarly, the percentage of Iraqis wanting the U.S. troops to immediately leave the country rose from 17% in October to 57% in April, according to the Center for Research. Both polls rely on samples of between 1,200 and 1,600 people in at least five cities around the country. Interviews are done in person by Iraqi surveyors."

Of course, the real issue is not how many Iraqi’s view the Americans as occupiers. It is how many of them are willing to pick up arms and fight the occupiers or at least provide aide to those who do. It is only probably a small fraction of the 88% who are to that point. And even that small portion is creating enormous problems for the occupiers. Wait until next year when that portion is more substantial.

On another interesting little point the article exposed one of the big lies currently being propogated by many of the apologists for the war. Check out this gem:

”In what appears to be a closely related opinion shift, public support has risen dramatically for cleric Muqtada Sadr, who has been trying to rally a populist uprising against the U.S. occupation. Three months ago, 2% to 3% of Iraqis said they supported or strongly supported him; since his militia's confrontations with the U.S., more than 50% of those polled either somewhat support or strongly support him, according to the Center for Research.”

So instead of being some small time thug with limited support it appears that Muqtada Sadr has now has the support of 50% of the population. And by confronting the U.S. his support has gone from 2% or 3% to 50%. What this tells me is that for every member of his militia we kill there will be dozens to take his place. For the U.S. military the fighting going on in Najaf and Karbala is clearly a losing proposition if ever there was one.


“Cheaper than bottled water” 

In an NY Times article entitled “At $2 a Gallon, Gas Is Still Worth Guzzling” Danny Hakim points out what anyone who drives America’s highways already knows – gas is still inexpensive. Sure, there are people bitching about high prices. But you have to judge people by their actions not their words. And when they are driving by you in a behemoth SUV at 80 m.p.h. you know they really consider gasoline to be cheap. As Robert Schnorbus of J.D. Power and Associates says in the article: “The price of oil is still cheaper than bottled water and milk”.

The article had some interesting factoids. For example, gasoline would be selling for more than $3/gallon today if it had the same price, adjusted for inflation, as gas had in the 1970’s.

And the accompanying graphs showed how automobile weights have increased since the early 1980s while fuel efficiency has stalled or even declined. Yet more indications that consumers view gasoline as being inexpensive.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?