Thursday, June 07, 2007

Old and clueless 

Mary O’Grady, who haunts the Wall Street Journal opinion pages with her weekly “Americas” column, has been obsessed with Venezuela recently. For the most part she has simply re-hashed the old, tired, and false accusations that she has made for years now. It is hardly worth the effort to type of the articles just to critique their silliness.

However, in who article of last Monday entitled “The Young and the Restless” she outdid herself. To save on typing I will simply reproduce one sentence:

Oil prices are high but Venezuelans are no better off than they were eight years ago.

Really? That is simply amazing. Amazing that such clearly uninformed and flatly false statements can make their way into even the opinion pages of what at least used to be a prestigious paper (for those who don’t know the WSJ was gutted last fall when the size of the paper significantly reduced; there is far less quality journalism in its pages and now it is on the verge of being purchased by Rupert Murdoch). I realize it’s the opinion pages but shouldn’t there still be some effort to get basic facts right?

Anyways, on the highly unlikely chance that Ms. O’Grady were to run across this blog here are some charts that she might find enlightening:

Here we have it pointed out that Venezuelans are consuming 32% more today than in 1998. And best of all, it is a capitalist she would love, AC Nielsen, that tells us this, not some lying Chavista government functionary.

And as I know Ms. O’Grady’s heart bleeds for poor people I want to assure her they are doing well too:

She should rest assured, in the past three years the poorer half of Venezuelan society has seen there income go up a whopping 130% in REAL terms.

If only these facts could be brought to Ms. O’Grady’s attention I am sure she would be much kinder to President Chavez in her future articles. I second thought, I doubt that. After all, she gets paid to bash Chavez.

Regardless of how clueless Ms. O’Grady may be others seem to be much better informed. After watching food consumption grow an amazing 18% last year and another 10% in the first quarter of this year, not to mention the success of the governments Mercal food markets, it seems one of the worlds major food retailers wants in on the action:

Meanwhile, state-run Mercal is about to meet with a stronger competitor than it has yet had to deal with. Dutch retailer Makro opened its first Mikro outlet in January, created as a low-price, discount format for the low-income sector. Contrary to Makro, Mikro will be very much a retailer. The intent is to compete with Mercal on its home ground, in low-income neighbourhoods, with up to 100 stores over the next three years. Whether, in fact, Mikro will be able to match Mercal on price we do not know. Its format, though, may also be a draw for customers, as it will be the first appearance in poorer neighbourhoods of a supermarket with a bank, money-exchange house, butcher, and pharmacy, all under one roof a concept that Mercal does not have.

Should Mikro succeed in denting Mercals market dominance, it will inject new life into the Venezuelan private-sector MGR segment, which has been at something of a loss lately about how and where to make its presence felt in a market being increasingly blanketed by Mercal. Mikros discount stores represent the first new food retail outlets to be built in Venezuela for some time.

Poor and working class Venezuelans have seen their purchasing power increase dramatically. That is certainly good for them. Now a Dutch corporation wants to invest in Venezuela and make some money.

One more example of trickle up economics, notwithstanding whatever Ms. O’Grady of the former Wall Street Journal soon to be New York Post says.


Never let sifrinos do the talking for you 

So today is a big day for plurality of sorts, the opposition student movement got their shot at speaking at the National Assembly for the entire country to see. Both sides (5 students each) of the student isle were given equal time at the main podium to present their points of view. What was their reaction? to storm out of the building like silly sifrinos that they are. Could not stand that their ideas were being challenged by their peers so they had a hissy fit.

Well no matter, the spoiled nature of Goicochea will only drive them deeper into irrelevance. (but don't tell a certain Caracas weblogger that... apperantly this is the generation that will lead Venezuela in the future... sigh)

Here is a transcript in spanish:Link

After the first speakers of both sides presented their points of view, Goicochea spoke for a minute and the opposition left.

It seems they planned it all along:Link

Second Update:
Globovision took down the article, more evidence of their deceitfulness.

Third update (by OW): Here is the video:

Pretty amazing what a platform the students were given with this speach broadcast to the entire country. Can you imagine anyone opposed to the U.S. government - say Cindy Sheehan - being given the oppertunity to speak like this before the entire U.S. congress and country? That will be the day.

Of course, after this I'm sure these people will be on the street claiming there is no freedom of speach in Venezuela. Lacking for irony they are not.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Pushing Venezuela to the brink of civil war. 

Earlier this year the Venezuelan government bought out ("nationalized" in main stream media terms) the main Venezuelan telecommunications provider, CANTV. For various reasons I was not a fan of that decision, but that is what they did.

Of course, in the opposition all sorts of conspiratorial reasons were floated for why the government spent its money this way.

One was to prevent CANTV stock, which was listed in U.S. stock exchanges, as a vehicle to avoid exchange controls and move money out of Venezuela. Another, is that now peoples phones and internet connections would be used to spy on them.

Yesterday, we learned that it wasn't those things at all but something far more sinister - the government plans on jacking up phone rates on the upper classes and use the money to subsidize and add coverage for the poor!

It turns out that 80% of the land phone lines are held by people in social classes A,B, and C, which are the small upper classes (if you need a reminder of who makes them up see here) while the only 20% of land lines belong to people in social classes D and E. Further, the increased rates charged to the upper classes will be used to subsidize phone service to the poor and reduce their rates.

The new president of CANTV, Socorro Hernandez, explained: "We plan to have our rates correspond to the economic level of the customer with those who have more resources being charged more while those who have less being asked to pay less".

Hearing that quasi-Marxist language coming from the president of their phone company must send chills down the spine of any red blooded Venezuelan living in Country Club. Middle class Venezuelans LOVE their cellphones - and now everytime they blab on the phone they are going to be subsidizing those vile, worthless, lazy, red shirted hoards called Chavistas?!?!?!?

I really think this move needs to be thoroughly considered before it is implemented. It strikes at something something well off Venezuelans view as a birth right - low texting rates. In effect taxing the gab of the rich to subsidize the idleness of the poor has the potential to ignite civil war. What is going on in Baghdad could look like childs play once Venezuela errupts over this.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Just imagine if Venezuela did this. 

You live in Venezuela, you favorite TV station went off the air, and you think you have problems? That your basic rights are being violated? Well lets keep things in perspective – after all you could be in Thailand.

From last weeks New York Times:

Thai Court Disbands Former Prime Minister’s Political Party

BANGKOK May 30 — A constitutional court on Wednesday banned the political party of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra after finding it guilty of election fraud in a ruling that could throw Thai politics into disarray.

As if its not bad enough that they throw the votes of Thais in the garbage by overthrowing the government that millions of Thais voted into office they outright ban that party and make its existence illegal!!

What’s the big deal you think, can’t they just form a new party? No, they can’t:

The court barred Mr. Thaksin and 110 other executives of the party from participating in politics for five years, removing from the scene some of Thailand’s most powerful politicians.

The prospect of Mr. Thaksin’s return to power and the resurgence of his party has been one of the chief concerns of the country’s military leaders, who ousted him in a nonviolent coup on Sept. 19 while he was abroad.

I guess Antonio Ledezma, Manuel Rosales, Marcel Granier, Maria Corina Machada should feel a little better given that even in spite of all their shenanigans, including coups, they’ve never had their political parties disbanded nor have they been banned from politics.

How can the Thai military junta justify this? Simple, after overthrowing the government and getting rid of the old Constitutional Court they promptly appointed a new Constitutional Court. I know that might not look good but rest assured, the new court is completely independent. Overturning an election is one thing, but the junta knows that it should never, ever mess with the independence of courts.

So lets see what the new “independent” court ruled:

The court ruled that the party, Thai Rak Thai, was guilty of paying small parties to run against it in an election in April 2006 in order to satisfy a requirement for minimum participation.

“The defendant is responsible for upholding democratic ways,” Judge Vichai Chuenchompoonuj said. “It used parliamentary elections only as a means to achieve totalitarian power.”

He added: “It goes to show that the defendant does not believe in the democratic system. It also shows no respect for the rule of law, which is key to the democratic system.”

More broadly, the nine-member court accused Mr. Thaksin of using the party for his own gain and said the party had no ideology beyond its leader’s ambitions.

Well no wonder the military had to overthrow the government – they held parliamentary elections. I’ve always thought participating in parliamentary or legislative elections is a dead give away for dictatorial tendencies. And that is why I’ve always been sure of the opposition’s democratic bonofides – they boycott legislative elections.

Nevertheless, the concept of banning people from politics just because their parties have “no ideology beyond its leader’s ambitions” shouldn’t be taken too far – that would sure put an end to the Venezuelan opposition and Hillary Clinton.

Now, being a little less sarcastic for a moment, human rights organizations must be in a tizzy about this. After all, they didn’t take RCTV losing its license sitting down so I’m sure they would have something to say about political parties being dissolved and people being banned from politics.

So sure of that was I that I promptly went to the Human Rights Watch “Thailand” page and found that they… had absolutely nothing to say about it. That leaves me not knowing what to think. Could it be that the right of wealthy people to own their own television network is a human right but the right of other people to freely organize political parties and participate in politics is not?!?!?! [just as an aside, the military government made it illegal for more than 5 people to congregate for political reasons – the preppies at UCAB and USB should be thankful for what country THEY live in]

Or could it be that Human Rights Watch isn’t the impartial defender of Human Rights it pretends to be – needling “populist” or “leftist” governments over any alleged infractions while looking the other way while right wing, pro-U.S. governments commit much more egregious infractions?

Of course, it could just be that Thailand is an isolated case. Except that its not. From Monday’s Wall Street Journal (page A1):

Army Takeover in Bangladesh Stalls Key Muslim Democracy

Dhaka, Bangladesh – When the Bangladesh army intervened to abort a flawed election in this Muslim nation of 150 million in January, the U.S. and United Nations both offered tacit support for the coup.

Thank God someone stepped in and overthrew the government before a “flawed” election was held. Its bad enough that elections have gotten mucked up in places like Florida, but you sure don’t want it happening in third world countries.

But now the army-installed caretaker government is back-pedalling on its pledge to organize a quick, clean vote and then relinquish authority. And the once-bloodless coup is turning into something more sinister. Since January, an estimated 200,000 people, including hundreds of leading politicians and businessmen, have been jailed under emergency rules that suspend civil rights and outlaw all political activity. According to human-rights groups, scores of others, seized by the troops in the middle of the night, have been tortured to death or summarily executed.

Bangladesh’s new rulers insist the crackdown is needed to reform what international watchdogs such as Transparency International have frequently ranked as the most corrupt nation on Earth.
But critics say the outcome amounts to this: With the support of the U.S. and the international community, what used to be the world’s second-largest Muslim democracy, after Indonesia, has turned into the world’s second-largest military regime, after Pakistan.

This sure sounds pretty bad: the overthrow of a democratically elected government, 200,000 imprisoned, killings – Human Rights Watch must be in an uproar over this, right?

Sadly, in examining their web-page on Bangladesh they don’t seem that concerned about it at all. In fact, they never even acknowledge that there was a coup. In the one article where they tangentially refer to what happened here is what they write:

Bangladesh is in a period of political uncertainty as the country’s caretaker government, tasked with running the country until elections, negotiates with the main political parties over an election date and proposed electoral reform.

Jeepers, the Venezuelan opposition must be kicking itself for not thinking of that phraseology – “There wasn’t a coup on April 11th, there was just a period of political uncertainty”. Personally, I find it rather sad that an organization that claims to be dedicated to human rights is using euphemisms that would make even Orwell cringe.

Clearly Human Rights Watch isn’t all its cracked up to be and obviously it is using some criteria other than how egregious violations of human rights are in determining who to criticize. Given their very distinct and obvious bias I don’t think anyone in Caracas should be losing any sleep over their proclamations on Venezuela.

But there is still hope. Maybe some of the other organizations on this list have spoken up about what is going on in Thailand and Bangladesh. I'm sure if someone just takes the time to look it up they'll find very strongly worded condemnations. Volunteers, anyone?


Monday, June 04, 2007

Return of the moonbats 

Readers of the comments section may recall a couple of days ago I mentioned a rather commical appearence by Maria Conchita Alonso (a Cuban, Venezuelan, U.S. actress) on the U.S. Fox network. Fox, quite proud of the stupidity they broadcast, actually put the transcript of it on the internet here.

Of course, regular run of the mill idiocy is hardly worth posting on. After all exchanges like this:

ALONSO: The economy has gone down. There are more — more deaths than ever in Venezuela. You know, he owns 65 percent of the media of Venezuela.

HANNITY: Now he owns it all!

are so common even BoRev.net can't keep up with them all. [Note: Out of three facts presented in that exchange they got two of them wrong. I wonder if an editor was fired for letting something that WAS accurate slip by? After all Fox does have a reputation to uphold]

No what made this discussion between fools interesting was this almost very revealing exchange:

COLMES: As we all know the hallmark of a democracy is a free press, and this is the worst thing you can do in a government that was elected. — He got 60 percent of the vote. People question the veracity of the election, but nevertheless, he was democratically elected.

So the question is can he retain power if he continues this kind of action?

ALONSO: We go again with you! He was not democratically elected .

COLMES: He was elected — there was a democratic election. There were observers. There were 700 observers.

ALONSO: Oh, please, yes, right! Listen, when — when Rosales , who was the candidate of the opposition — I was there in Caracas in October. And I was going with Rosales. I was talking against Chavez and pro-Rosales.

Then I found out certain things. We don't have to time now to talk about that — that's for another program — about Rosales and about how this was just to let the world believe that it was democracy. And I just figured...



Hannity you idiot, what did you interupt her for!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She was just about to get to the good part - you know, where she would explain to us all that Rosales was nothing but a Chavez dupe, probably PAID by Chavez to run, just to make it look like there was a real election. That explains why Rosales so quickly conceded even though everyone, even dimwits like GWEH, know that he really got more votes than Chavez. And if Hannity hadn't cut her off I bet she would have told us how that commie Petkoff was in on it too.

So please, everyone, call up Fox news and tell them you want them to bring Maria back, immediately!! I don't know, but I am dying to find out what those "certain things" she found out are.


The home stretch!!! 

When last we checked in on it the new bridge on the route from the sea to Caracas was having its concrete blocks placed on top of the steel support lattice:

These concrete blocks were beeing hoisted into place by two cranes working side by side gradually moving out over the bridge as they laid down the blocks:

That process was went much faster than expected and was finished over a week ago. Following that concrete was poured into the spaces between the blocks to create a solid road bed. That process has also now been completed and as one can see the structure of the bridge is essentially complete:

The details waiting to be completed are fairly minor. First, note the steel rods sticking up out of the road bed. Those will be used to anchor the road divider and similar rods along the edges will anchor the barrier keeping vehicles from going over the side of the bridge (it's a long ways down!).

The remaining tasks are putting those barriers in place, paving the roadway and painting the markings, and installing lighting. Also, one ramp to the bridge is not yet complete and is being worked on. But all those tasks should be finished within the next two weeks and the bridge opened for traffic in time for the Copa America soccer tournament which begins later this month.

And by the way, the stadiums for that tournament are starting to look really nice. More on that later. Anyways, the next post on this bridge will probably be when the it is innaugurated.


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