Friday, February 19, 2010

Making Mountains ouf of Molehills

If there is one thing that is noteworthy about the Venezuelan opposition, and especially our clueless friends at Caracas Chronicles, it is their propensity to make a big deal out of nothing. For example, look at the big fuss they made last year about Venezuelan reserves being "double-spent" when they were transferred to the national development fund Fonden. Despite the fact that this was flat wrong, they went on to say it was going to create horrible inflation, there was going to be a huge shit storm that would bring the whole economy crashing down, and Chavez would have to resort to violence to maintain power. All of that, of course, was completely false, but it didn't stop our clueless friends from amassing a mountain of nonsense about it.

I can't help but notice that our friends are back at it again with their recent criticism of the Orinoco oil deals in Venezuela. Because of one small and completely insignificant detail, they have gone so far as to claim Chavez is "pimping out" Venezuela's oil and claimed the deals are worse than the semi-privatization scheme of the 1990's. But, once again, its much ado about nothing.

The insignificant molehill this time is that the foreign companies get to list their share of the oil reserves as an asset on their balance sheets. Anyone with any sense knows that this is insignificant. The reason it is insignificant is because the Venezuelan government still maintains majority (60%) control and ownership over all these deals. So what difference does it make that the foreign companies can list the oil as an asset when they don't even have control over it? Obviously, it makes no difference at all. But that doesn't stop our clueless friends from hyperventalating over it.

And the comparison to the 1990's deals is ludicrous. The current deals maintain Venezuelan control over all operations, require foreign companies to invest in technological upgrades, and royalties paid to Venezuela are 20 times higher than the 1990's deals. But, for some reason, none of this matters to our clueless friends. The only thing that matters is an entirely insignificant detail of no consequence whatsoever. I guess that's what happens when your hatred for Hugo Chavez doesn't let you see straight: dishonesty prevails and you make mountains out of molehills.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bordering on Fascism?

In the last few days, our clueless friends over at CaracasChronicles have made some very alarming comments; comments that are, quite frankly, pretty scary.

First, co-author of the blog Juan Cristobal made the statement that there is no one "normal" among Chavez's supporters, and that the only ones who support him are the "crooks, the hopelessly ideological and the co-dependent psychos". Of course, this would mean that a significant portion of Venezuelan society are "crooks", "psychos" and "hopeless ideologues". The statement is pretty revealing of the contempt that JC feels towards the majority of his fellow countrymen.

The comments that followed this post were especially interesting. Some people disagreed with JC, and insisted that "some of them are still decent people." Wow, what an admission! "Some" of the millions of Venezuelans who support Chavez are "decent people"!!!!

Others implied that perhaps some of them are "normal" but they are simply too stupid to know any better, and spend all their time "reading the baseball part of últimas noticias and watching soap operas." One commenter said:
...anyone who supports Chavez is "invariably either a piece of garbage whose only possible contribution to the world is as fertilizer or an ignorant retard."

Quico then followed JC's post with an attempt to explain the fascist views of his co-author. The post itself was actually very ironic. He makes some very broad generalizations about Chavistas, implying that those who support Chavez are members of a "cult" who have a very "abnormal" set of beliefs. (In other words, Chavistas are apparently not normal people.) And one of these "abnormal" beliefs is that the world can be divided into "good" and "evil."

But, isn't this precisely what they are doing??? According to them, one's political leaning defines whether they are "normal" or "abnormal". They divide up Venezuela between "decent" (good) people and indecent (bad) people, psychos (them) and non-psychos (us), "crooks" and non-crooks, etc.

First of all, these comments show very clearly just how unfamiliar our clueless friends are with the majority of the Venezuelan population that supports Chavez. This kind of stereotyping of such a large group of people can only happen if you have virtually no contact with, or understanding of, the group at hand. It is for the same reason that many people in the United States make similar generalizations about blacks or Mexicans. This is the very definition of prejudice; making preconceived judgments about a group of people based on their race, gender, religion, or, in this case, political beliefs.

Second of all, this is pretty serious stuff. When you feel so much disdain and contempt for a certain group of society, it can easily open the door to aggression and violence towards those people simply because of their political inclinations. And this is exactly what the Venezuelan opposition has done on several occasions. Perhaps most noteworthy was when the Venezuelan opposition briefly took power in 2002. Opposition forces planned and carried out the shooting of political activists and as many as 60 pro-Chavez protesters were shot dead on the streets of Caracas by the opposition government. Many of the officials in the Chavez government were hunted down and beaten, simply because of their political inclinations.

This just goes to show you, unfamiliarity (ignorance) leads to preconceived judgements (prejudice), which, in turn, leads to discrimination, racism, and intolerance. This kind of prejudiced intolerance is certainly one of the key elements of fascism. Let's just hope our clueless friends are never in a place to put their views into practice!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Our Clueless Friends Swallow Another Media Lie

Thanks to our resident moron JSB (pictured at right), it has been brought to my attention that our chronically idiotic friends have swallowed another media whopper regarding Hugo Chavez.

A Spanish newspaper started the lie with this headline: "Chavez accuses the United States of causing the earthquake in Haiti."

And then, as usually happens with these media lies, other news outlets picked up the story and have repeated it over, and over, and over again.

But, as everyone should know, this isn't the first time Chavez has been accused of saying something he didn't. These kinds of media distortions and lies are a well-known fact when it comes to Hugo Chavez, which makes it that much harder to understand why our clueless friends among the Venezuelan opposition keep believing whatever their private media outlets tell them. (I guess because they are CHRONICALLY clueless?)

What really happened here is that ViveTV, a pro-Chavez TV channel in Venezuela posted an article on their website about a Russian report that claimed the United States military might have provoked the earthquake in Haiti. The private media went on to report that Hugo Chavez had said this, even showing footage of Chavez talking to make it appear legit!!!

Once again, our chronically clueless friends show themselves to be complete media drones, and they make my job of showing you all how stupid they are so easy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chavez Makes a Brilliant Speech... Quico responds with ad-hominem

At the recent summit on climate change in Copenhagen, Hugo Chavez gave a brilliant speech on the root causes of global warming. He focused on the problems of global inequality and unsustainable development, both problems that are inherent to the capitalist system. He then proposed that the world take a different path, an alternative to capitalism, and suggested socialism as a possible solution. Here's video of the speech with English translation:

So what was the response from our chronically clueless friends among the Venezuelan opposition? In a nutshell, it was this: "But Venezuela also pollutes the environment, and they export oil, so Chavez has no room to talk!!"

I'm not making this up. It really was that stupid.

With this logic, no one could EVER discuss the cause of global warming and climate change, because EVERYONE contributes to polluting the environment in one way or another, and no country has a perfect record (especially the rich countries).

But not only that, their response is the definition of ad-hominem. Instead of responding to the actual arguments Chavez makes, they attack the PERSON who is making them. And, in fact, the clueless gang over at Caracas Chronicles has shown that they are entirely incapable of even engaging any of Chavez' key arguments.

Once again, our chronically clueless friends have outdone themselves.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Dumbest Development Policy Ever

I recently had an exchange with opposition commenter Torres on CaracasChronicles blog about his ideas for economic policy in Venezuela. And, as expected, Torres demonstrated the sheer ignorance and lack of serious proposals so common among the Venezuelan opposition.

His proposal basically goes like this: hand out all the oil money (about half of the Venezuelan budget) in equal amounts, to the Venezuelan population; an idea that has been proposed by the Venezuelan opposition parties before.

So, let's say Venezuela produces 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, and the price is $70/barrel, then that would mean that each Venezuelan would receive a cash payment of about $6/day every day, in exchange for nothing. Cash would simply be pumped into the hands of the general population without them doing anything in return. (Giving people an incentive to do nothing. Look out development here we come!)

Amazingly, some opposition bloggers think that this proposal would magically solve many problems in Venezuelan society. They think it would somehow eliminate corruption since the money would go directly to the people, yet they forget that government officials and other intermediaries would still be handling the distribution of funds. (Afterall, the money will not just fall from the sky!!!) And Torres even claims it would eliminate poverty overnight! (Somebody call the United Nations, Torres has found the solution for poverty!)

What they don't understand is just how bad this proposal really is, and what the real consequences of a policy like this would be. I explained all of this in detail it in a debate I recently had with Torres here and here.

In a nutshell, the results would be high inflation which would quickly neutralize the increased income of the masses. (So much for eliminating poverty!) But not only that, Torres' plan would mean that instead of using state revenue to invest in economic development, the state would be giving all this money away to consumers to spend!

In other words, the state would have drastically less money to invest in industry, infrastructure, healthcare, education, credits and subsidies to producers, agricultural reform, and all the other things that are necessary for development. So, the plan would not only condemn Venezuela to perpetual underdevelopment due to a lack of investment, but it would also condemn Venezuela to being an import-based economy, since there would be virtually no way to increase domestic production without the necessary investments!

Now, I've heard some pretty stupid economic proposals before, but this one definitely takes the cake as the dumbest policy proposal I have ever heard. That's because these guys have never taken the time to learn the complexities of development theory. They've never studied the economic theories of mercantilism or dependency theory. They don't know about world-systems theory, or neocolonialism, or the development of underdevelopment. They have virtually no knowledge of development economics, nor do they understand the extreme challenges to be confronted during the process of development. They can't tell you the shortcomings of development strategies like export-led development, or import substitution, let alone offer any ideas for how to confront these shortcomings.

No, they've got their own solution to the complex problems of poverty and underdevelopment that have troubled development economists for centuries: hand out free cash to everyone!

Sound stupid? That's because it is.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why Morgenthau (and Quico) Are Lying Idiots

Opposition blogger Francisco Toro (Quico) over at CaracasChronicles recently showed his support for a ridiculous propaganda piece against Venezuela written by Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau. However, unfortunately for Quico and Morgenthau, it took the experts over at the Center for Economic Policy and Research only a few minutes to show how ridiculous the allegations are. Here is their response:

From my colleague Jake Johnston: below is the text of Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau's September 9 Wall Street Journal op-ed, "The Emerging Axis of Iran and Venezuela," with rebuttals for 21 statements in the text.

Points number 9, 11, 15, 20, and 8, and 4 are worth noting because they all deal with allegations made by Morgenthau that are either complete fabrications or without evidence.

Others are grossly misleading statements; most important are numbers 1, 3, 15, 18, and 19.

One other point worth emphasizing: Brazil is on the same page with Venezuela regarding Iran, as is most of the world. Brazil's foreign minister went to Iran last December, where he publicly defended Iran's right to enrich uranium, and announced that expanding commercial and other ties to Iran were "a foreign policy priority" for Brazil. And President Lula himself also defended Iran. Below are two articles quoting Lula that show his opposition to U.S. (and European) bullying, sanctions, etc. against Iran - from just the last week.


The Emerging Axis of Iran and Venezuela

The diplomatic ties between Iran and Venezuela go back almost 50 years and until recently amounted to little more than the routine exchange of diplomats. With the election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, the relationship dramatically changed. [1) In fact, the relationship deepened before this, during the Presidency of Mohammad Khatami. A meeting with Khatami and Chávez in 2004 saw the agreement for both the development bank, as well as the tractor production . With the election of Ahmadinejad, Chávez was worried the agreements might be threatened .]

Today Mr. Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez have created a cozy financial, political and military partnership rooted in a shared anti-American animus [2) This is just rhetoric, the vast majority of the agreements are economic in nature. Two large oil producers are natural allies.]. Now is the time to develop policies in this country to ensure this partnership produces no poisonous fruit.

Signs of the evolving partnership began to emerge in 2006, when Venezuela joined Cuba and Syria as the only nations to vote against a U.N. Atomic Energy Agency resolution to report Iran to the Security Council over its failures to abide U.N. sanctions to curtail its nuclear program. [3) This is very misleading: this was a vote of only the Board of the UN Atomic Energy Agency. The vote was 27-3, with 5 abstentions. Most importantly, if this were a UN vote, the vast majority of the United Nations today would vote with Venezuela, Cuba, and Syria on this point. Morgenthau makes it look as if Venezuela is isolated on this issue; in fact it is in the large majority.] A year later, during a visit by Mr. Chávez to Tehran, the two nations declared an "axis of unity" against the U.S. and Ecuador [4) Ecuador? This must be a typo, or else this is the strongest evidence that Morgenthau doesn't know what he is talking about. This doesn't say much for the WSJ editors, however, that they missed this]. And in June of this year, while protesters lined the streets of Tehran following the substantial allegations of fraud in the re-election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, Mr. Chávez publicly offered him support [5)As did others, notably President Lula da Silva of Brazil]. As the regime cracked down on political dissent, jailing, torturing and killing protesters, Venezuela stood with the Iranian hard-liners [6) This is misleading, Chávez recognized the elections - for which no credible evidence has been provided demonstrating that they were stolen - but never said he supported jailing or torturing or killing protesters].

Meanwhile, Iranian investments in Venezuela have been rising. The two countries have signed various Memoranda of Understanding on technology development, cooperation on banking and finance, and oil and gas exploration and refining [7) Even the State Department acknowledges that each country has a sovereign right to have relations with any country it chooses]. In April 2008, the two countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding pledging full military support and cooperation. United Press International reported in August that Iranian military advisers have been embedded with Venezuelan troops. [8) The UPI article is very similar to this one. UPI, like the Washington Times, is now owned by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church and sometimes prints unsubstantiated allegations. This is not a reliable source.]

According to a report published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in December of last year, Venezuela has an estimated 50,000 tons of unmined uranium. There is speculation in the Carnegie report that Venezuela could be mining uranium for Iran. [9) These are complete fabrications, with absolutely no evidence presented.]

The Iranians have also opened International Development Bank in Caracas under the Spanish name Banco Internacional de Desarrollo C.A., an independent subsidiary of Export Development Bank of Iran. [10) This was agreed to before Ahmadinejad became President] Last October the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed economic sanctions against both of these Iranian banks for providing or attempting to provide financial services to Iran's Ministry of Defense and its Armed Forces Logistics--the two Iranian military entities tasked with advancing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

My office has been told that that over the past three years a number of Iranian-owned and controlled factories have sprung up in remote and undeveloped parts of Venezuela--ideal locations for the illicit production of weapons [11) No evidence has been presented that such plants are being used for anything other than what they are supposed to be used for]. Evidence of the type of activity conducted inside the factories is limited. But we should be concerned, especially in light of an incident in December 2008. Turkish authorities detained an Iranian vessel bound for Venezuela after discovering lab equipment capable of producing explosives packed inside 22 containers marked "tractor parts." The containers also allegedly contained barrels labeled with "danger" signs [12) Many chemicals are dangerous, so this is not proof of anything. Note also he uses the word "allegedly," making this an even further stretch. ]. I think it is safe to assume that this was a lucky catch--and that most often shipments of this kind reach their destination in Venezuela.

A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study reported a high level of corruption within the Venezuelan government, military and law enforcement that has allowed that country to become a major transshipment route for trafficking cocaine out of Colombia. [13) There is no news here. Venezuela sits between the largest cocaine-producing nation in the world, Colombia, with which it shares a 1300-mile-long border, and the largest cocaine-consuming nation, the U.S. Venezuela long has been, and invariably long will be, a major transshipment route for cocaine simply due to geographic proximity.] Intelligence gathered by my office strongly supports the conclusion that Hezbollah supporters in South America are engaged in the trafficking of narcotics [14) The largest narcotic traffickers in Latin America are based in Mexico and Colombia. Note also the non sequitur here: what does this have to do with Venezuela?]. The GAO study also confirms allegations of Venezuelan support for FARC, the Colombian terrorist insurgency group that finances its operations through narcotics trafficking, extortion and kidnapping. [15) The GAO report does not confirm any allegations - it merely presents allegations. To date, the U.S. government has presented no evidence that Venezuela has provided any material aid to the FARC. Since the State Department has repeatedly demonstrated that they are no fans of Hugo Chávez, we have to assume that they would present evidence if they had any.]

In a raid on a FARC training camp this July, Colombian military operatives recovered Swedish-made anti-tank rocket launchers sold to Venezuela in the 1980s. Sweden believes this demonstrates a violation of the end-user agreement by Venezuela, as the Swedish manufacturer was never authorized to sell arms to Colombia. [16) Chávez addressed this directly: the weapons had been stationed at a military outpost that was raided in 1995, whatever was there was stolen. For the last 40 years, guerrillas in Colombia have stolen weapons inside Venezuela. There is no evidence that this has increased under Chávez.] Venezuelan Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami, a Venezuelan of Syrian origin, lamely called the allegations a "media show," and "part of a campaign against our people, our government and our institutions." [17) It is racist for Morgenthau to mention El Aissami's heritage. What if someone wrote, "Morgenthau, an American of Jewish origin, has written a diatribe against Iran and Venezuela?" That would rightfully be considered anti-Semitic.]

In the past several years Iranian entities have employed a pervasive system of deceitful and fraudulent practices to move money all over the world without detection. The regime has done this, I believe, to pay for materials necessary to develop nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, and road-side bombs. Venezuela has an established financial system that Iran, with the help of Mr. Chávez's government, can exploit to avoid economic sanctions. [18) Morgenthau does not distinguish between UN sanctions, which target the Iranian nuclear program, and U.S. sanctions, which are broader. Venezuela is under absolutely no obligation to abide by U.S. sanctions.]

Consider, for example, the United Kingdom bank Lloyds TSB. From 2001 to 2004, on behalf of Iranian banks and their customers, the bank admitted in a statement of facts to my office that it intentionally altered wire transfer information to hide the identity of its clients. This allowed the illegal transfer of more than $300 million of Iranian cash despite economic sanctions prohibiting Iranian access to the U.S. financial system. In January, Lloyds entered into deferred prosecution agreements with my office and the Justice Department to resolve the investigation.

In April, we also announced the indictment of a company called Limmt, and its manager, Li Fang Wei. The U.S. government had banned Limmt from engaging in transactions with or through the U.S. financial system because of its role in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to Iran. But our investigation revealed that Li Fang Wei and Limmt used aliases and shell companies to deceive banks into processing payments related to the shipment of banned missile, nuclear and so-called dual use materials to subsidiary organizations of the Iranian Defense Industries Organization. (Limmt, through the international press, has denied the allegations in the indictment.) The tactics used in these cases should send a strong signal to law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and military commands throughout the world about the style and level of deception the Iranians' employ. Based on information developed by my office, we believe that the Iranians, with the help of Venezuela, are now engaged in similar sanctions-busting schemes.

Why is Hugo Chávez willing to open up his country to a foreign nation with little shared history or culture? I believe it is because his regime is bent on becoming a regional power, and is fanatical in its approach to dealing with the U.S. The diplomatic overture of President Barack Obama in shaking Mr. Chávez's hand in April at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago is no reason to assume the threat has diminished. In fact, with the groundwork laid years ago, we are entering a period where the fruits of the Iran-Venezuela bond will begin to ripen.

That means two of the world's most dangerous regimes [19) Good luck finding any knowledgeable foreign policy expert, even in Washington, that would call Venezuela one of the most dangerous regimes in the world], the self-described "axis of unity," will be acting together in our backyard on the development of nuclear and missile technology. [20) This is ridiculous - no evidence has been presented that this will happen.] And it seems that terrorist groups have found the perfect operating ground for training and planning, and financing their activities through narco-trafficking. [21) What about Mexico, where drug cartels are running large parts of the country and is directly south of the U.S.? Or Colombia, a narco-paramilitary state, with drug-dealers high up in the government?]

The Iranian nuclear and long-range missile threats, and creeping Iranian influence in the Western Hemisphere, cannot be overlooked. My office and other law-enforcement agencies can help ensure that money laundering, terror financing, and sanctions violations are not ignored, and that criminals and the banks that aid Iran will be discovered and prosecuted. But U.S. law enforcement alone is not enough to counter the threat.

The public needs to be aware of Iran's growing presence in Latin America. Moreover, the U.S. and the international community must strongly consider ways to monitor and sanction Venezuela's banking system. Failure to act will leave open a window susceptible to money laundering by the Iranian government, the narcotics organizations with ties to corrupt elements in the Venezuelan government, and the terrorist organizations that Iran supports openly.

--Mr. Morgenthau is the Manhattan district attorney. This op-ed is adapted from a speech yesterday at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

As you can see, Morgenthau provides no evidence to back any of his wild accusations, yet Quico and other sycophants of the empire gladly offer up their support for this nonsense for its propagandistic value and as a way to slander Venezuela.

What is perhaps the most obvious contradiction of Morgenthau's logic is that it is apparently okay for the US to have close relations with many nations in Iran's proximity including Israel and Pakistan, (who they have supplied with nuclear weapons), Saudi Arabia, and of course Iraq and Afghanistan (which they have invaded and taken over.) But for some reason it is a grave threat if Iran has relations with any country in the U.S.'s "backyard" (yes, he actually calls Venezuela the U.S.'s backyard!).

But the logic of imperialism is so ingrained in the psyche of sycophants like Quico and gang that they are incapable of perceiving what is so obvious to the objective viewer.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Letter to Opposition Author Brian Nelson

Brian Nelson is an author and professor at John Hopkins University. He recently wrote a book about the 2002 coup d'état in Venezuela, which gave a very one-sided account of the events, and left out some very important pieces of evidence. After hearing him on the radio recently, I decided to write him this letter:

Mr. Nelson,

I listened via web to a radio interview that you did on public radio a couple days ago. I couldn't help but notice that many of the things you said are factually wrong. I don't have time to go into each and every one of them right now, but I thought I should at least point out to you the most obvious one (and perhaps the most important to you) regarding the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela. Since you wrote a book on the topic, it surprises me that you could ignore some of the most basic pieces of evidence surrounding the events.

You said in the interview that the military decided to overthrow the Chavez government after they learned of the civilian deaths in the street. This is false, and even the coup leaders themselves have said as much. The day after the coup, the coup leaders discussed on national television their "plan", and how they had been planning it long before any deaths occurred. You can see parts of that video here.

Not only that, but you also ignore the testimony of Otto Neustadl and Mayela Leon, both journalists which were present when the military generals renounced support for the Chavez government on national television. Both of these journalists have given independent statements which reveal that the military generals were discussing the deaths in the streets hours before they had actually happened. Otto Neustadl even says that they told him the night before that there were going to be deaths at the march on April 11th. Those testimonies can be seen here and here.

An honest look at the available evidence shows that this coup was clearly planned in advance by opposition forces, and it also seems quite probable that the civilian deaths were planned and carried out by opposition forces. There is evidence that indicates members of the Metropolitan Police force, controlled at that time by opposition mayor Alfredo Peña, had infiltrated the La Nacional building and were, in their own words, neutralizing "los talibanes." Those audio recordings can be heard here.

As a scholar and professional, one would think you would be interested in including all relevant evidence about the events that day. However, I notice in your book that you fail to even mention any of the evidence above which contradicts your account. You also fail to mention anything about the media manipulation regarding the shootings on Puente Llaguno, or the overwhelming role of the media in the coup. I would be interested in hearing your explanation as to why you did not address these key pieces of evidence in your book, and why you continue to give a false account of what happened on April 11th, 2002 in your public appearances.

Thank you,


So, In my mind there are only two possibilities here. Either Mr. Nelson was unaware of these key pieces of evidence that refute his version of events, or he is simply dishonest, just like his friends over at CaracasChronicles. What's your guess? Wanna bet he doesn't respond?