Sunday, August 30, 2015

What's the real deal about the Venezuela-Colombia border crisis?

I am writing this as an American who's spent time in Venezuela amongst regular people who were and are engaged in their life struggles. I care about these my friends who treated me with kindness and hospitality, and whose country, Venezuela, I have a special fondness for.
Remember that movie Wag the Dog?
Well I don't know if pictures in the mass corporate Zionist media are staged. Were it to turn out so I wouldn't be amazed. Looking at the pictures I couldn't help but be reminded of the Hollywood tale of a false flag operation, a CIA-Hollywood production.

Do you remember the Kuwaiti baby incubator hoax? Almost the same except that a million or so people ended up dead.

Reading of the global concern for around a thousand deported Colombians and supposedly five thousand more who are said to have self-deported had been among five million or so residing in Venezuela I couldn't help but ask why and how five million Colombians are living in Venezuela in peace as legal residents and even as citizens. 

Poor Colombians have no human rights in Colombia! Farmers and ranchers pay paramilitaries to chase them off their land. Union activists turn up dead. 

Why and how could insurgent groups function for fifty years if things were even reasonably fair in Colombia? Where's the love for poor Colombians living in Colombia?

I don't know if there have been legal violations of process in the deportations of not. Two things though I do know:
Smuggling and other activities harmful to Venezuelans and Colombians residing in peace in Venezuela had been going on with increasing harm being done.
Also, paramilitarism, an unwelcome import to Venezuela, the same that makes a mockery of human rights in Colombia itself threatens all law-abiding people in Venezuela, be they citizens, legal residents, tourists, business travelers, foreign students or even people who are not legally in the country but otherwise law abiding. 

It has not been the practice of the Venezuelan government to round up and deport undocumented immigrants en masse nor to threaten to do so.

It's reported that the lines at stores and pharmacies and the shortages of food, medicine and personal hygiene products are abating. This would suggest that the border closure and deportations had a good effect. I would suppose, as Venezuelan Army Colonel Raga said, there's much corruption in Venezuela. I think just about everyone who lives in Venezuela or who follows the situation there knows that. So, perhaps, in some way the shutting down of the border puts the ball in those individual's court. The President, after all now has the issue of smuggling and paramilitaries front and center. By the way, Colonel Raga names several names. I have no way of forming an opinion about them and if I did, I'd keep it to myself. That's stuff that Venezuelans will sort out. 
Venezuela has undertaken a feat that has never happened before: Becoming a socialist country not born in violent revolution or war.

Looking around the world many people see that capitalism is kaput as far as being able to meet the needs of a growing number of billions of human beings on this earth yet the global capitalist class, yearning for a world without people (except for themselves) is weaponized in horrible ways that couldn't be imagined less than a hundred years ago. If Venezuela could cut the Gordian knot it would bring hope to millions around the world.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Nicolas Maduro Is Not Donald Trump

Venezuela is in an emergency situation and it called for emergency measures.

Venezuela is a nation of around 27,000,000 people that is dependent on oil exports for most of its government revenue and foreign currency needed for importing almost everything that's consumed in the country.

Since the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998 the government has made efforts to assure all Venezuelans have their necessities met. In spite of serious problems with corruption and inefficiencies and instability caused by the determination by the United States to overturn the government utilizing various means including the funding of opposition groups the living standards of the poor and near-poor were improving overall until the recent months since the collapse of oil prices. Venezuela has a complex monetary system that was intended to stop capital flight and facilitate the import and sale of low cost staples, medicine and personal hygiene products. It worked more or less well until the recent oil price collapse.

Neighboring Colombia has suffered through decades of insurgency and repression and its economic policies are neo-liberal. These factors have resulted in a large and growing Colombian population of around five million people living in Venezuela, where they've been afforded resident and citizen status.

Given the availability of cheap food, personal hygiene products and nearly free gasoline, as well as a wrinkle in the monetary system that's not hard to game Colombians as well as others have been involved in smuggling of contraband. Millions of people inside Colombia survive by informal work in the transportation and sale of items meant to go to people in Venezuela.

Venezuelans have been suffering long lines at stores where they don't always get the cheap items that they are looking for. Inflation is also eating away at the socialist type programs and living standard gains.

Last week three Venezuelan soldiers were shot while engaging in an anti-contraband operation at the border. That incident apparently was the straw that broke the camel's back. President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of the border and deportation of Colombians believed to be involved in contraband activities.

Some commentators have likened these steps (around 1,000 deportations out of a population of around 5,000,000) to the Nazi persecutions of the Jews. President Maduro is widely being compared to racist US demagogue Donald Trump. Trump brands all Mexicans as criminal and calls for revocation of citizenship of hundreds of thousands of people who are born in the United States and who are US citizens according to the constitution. Clearly the comparison to Nazism is outrageous and false as is the comparison of President Maduro to Donald Trump.

Because the Colombian government doesn't care about its own people many are in dire straits with the loss of contraband trade.

There is a humanitarian crisis in Colombia and those who claim to care ought to be organizing relief and pressing for international aid for the Colombian people.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Line jumping taxi 1K38 Cornell Medical Center 6:57 pm

I like to go to pick up passengers at Cornell Medical Center, which is located at the end of East 68th Street for a whole number of reasons. For one thing it's set a way that lets me wait on an orderly line rather than me racing up and down the streets competing with people who are younger than me. Their reflexes and vision are sharper than mine are. So waiting on a line and getting the luck of the draw, the good fares or the not so good ones, makes sense for me. Also the management of Cornell is thoughtful enough that they allow us taxi drivers to use the good clean restroom facilities of the E.R. while we don't have to worry about getting a parking ticket.

Also I like the idea of serving patients, visitors and the doctors, nurses and workers. Each deserves to be treated with respect, possibly more so than any.random passengers.

So it really bothered me that this character pulled in front of me while I was stopped, waiting for the taxi that had just picked up passengers at the front of the line to pull out, and for the taxis ahead of me to move up a spot. I didn't like it but I'd never thought of making a big deal about it. BUT when two people got into his taxi and a couple of moments later emerged and started walking towards my taxi I got angry. Very angry. This dirtbag was refusing to take them where they wanted to go. Just what they needed as they left the hospital - a rude insult.

Also it was the second insult this slimeball delivered to me directly. Here he's telling me : "I cut you off so that I'd get a fare before you, but these people are not going to be a profitable transaction. So here, chump, they're yours."

Well, I am not any cabbie's back up driver.

I walked over to him. I told him I'm going to report him to the TLC. He flipped the bird, and told me to go fuck myself.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Two Weeks Notice: A Latin American Politics Blog: Bloomberg's Confused Venezuela Editorial

Two Weeks Notice: A Latin American Politics Blog: Bloomberg's Confused Venezuela Editorial

Fidel Castro swears by the moringa tree. Here he is tending his garden.
Venezuela is now looking to the moringa tree for its nutritive and medicinal properties in the midst of food and medicine shortages.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Economic War In Venezuela (and Colombia).

Things are hard in Venezuela. There's no serious doubt about this. Inflation is at record levels- in fact it's been months since the National Bank has published statistics. Venezuela's government is a self proclaimed socialist one and opponents of the government and its ideology of Chavismo say that Venezuela is a case study of the impossibility of improving the lives of the majority through a collectivist system.
Shortages of staples and medicines, as well as personal hygiene products such as toilet paper and toothpaste force people to wait on long lines, at the end of which they might or might not find what they're looking for.

What seldom gets mentioned is that neighboring Colombia, which does not claim to be a socialist country in any way, (quite the contrary) is also mired in economic malaise. In truth many of the same causes are at play and the two countries fates are tied together like Siamese twins.

Venezuela is a major global petroleum producing and exporting nation. Columbia is not a petroleum power on the scale of Venezuela, but petroleum production and the production and export of commodities are important to Colombia.

Commodity prices in general and petroleum prices perhaps most of all have been falling rapidly lately. Venezuela in particular experienced a petroleum boom that allowed the Chavista government to expand socialist type programs like subsidized food and housing, even while capital was draining out of the country and food self sufficiency as well as industrialization remained as slogans and goals towards which little if any progress was made.

Living standards of Venezuelans have deteriorated over recent months. But as Venezuela has sneezed, Colombia has caught a cold, or maybe pneumonia. You won't find lines for food and other necessities in Colombia, as the market rations food and the government doesn't subsidize food prices like the Venezuelan government does (or more recently, as the Venezuelan government tries to do.)

According to the Venezuelan government around thirty percent of the staples, personal hygiene products and medicines it subsidized is smuggled into Colombia, where it is sold for more than the subsidized price but less than the market price. Poor Colombians have come to depend on the smuggled goods coming from Venezuela. Thousands of Venezuelans and Colombians, (4 - 5 million of whom live in Venezuela) make their livings from the trade in smuggled goods. An end to this trade would be catastrophic for thousands, maybe millions of people on both sides of the border. Yet along with the lucrative trade in smuggled gasoline (Venezuelans get gasoline for their cars virtually for free,) the contraband trade is bleeding Venezuela and also disrupting legitimate business in Colombia.

Aggravating the contraband goods trade is the black market in dollars. Venezuela's government makes available dollars for importation of staples and medicines at the price of 6.3 Bolivares fuerte per dollar. Other importers are supposed to get dollars for 12 Bolivares fuerte. On top of this there exists a supposed market driven legal exchange called SIMADI that theoretically makes dollars available to Venezuelans for a moving price that's currently around 190 Bolivares fuerte per dollar.

Historically it's been large businesses, many of them foreign owned multinational corporations, that get the cheap dollars. People who are called "plugged" also get these cheap dollars and use them fraudulently on the black market, which presently pays out over 600 Bolivares fuerte per one dollar. According to the Venezuelan government then, someone who earns 6,300 Bolivares fuerte has earned $1,000 while those Bolivares fuerte are fetching around ten dollars on the black market. The opportunity to steal is flagrant. Around $300,000,000,000 (yep, three hundred billions of dollars) have found new homes outside Venezuela over the course of the past ten years while workers are keeping their children alive with Arepas (a Venezuelan corn flour bread) and sugar water instead of milk.

Smugglers convert the Colombian pesos they get for dollars as well. This makes the sale of millions
of dirt cheap litres of Venezuelan gasoline incredibly profitable. There are virtually no legitimate gas stations in the Colombian border region.

So here is a puzzle for a genius to solve.

Friday, August 14, 2015

BlackLivesMatter and the Democratic Party contest for the Presidential nomination.

Symons D. Sanders, Press Secretary to Senator Sanders's presidential campaign speaking at the Seattle rally that was disrupted by two women affiliated with the organizations Outside Agitators and Black Lives Matter. Apparently never having sought a meeting with Senator Sanders, the group was upset that the Senator has not been supportive of the Black Community. Senator Sanders's record on the justice system and police brutality, going back over half a Century is far ahead of Hillary Clinton or any of the Republican candidates.

Hillary Clinton met behind closed doors with Black Lives Matter apparently lying to the press saying that the activists did not want the press to be present at the meeting. The activists say this question was never posed to them. They said that they had declined to be photographed with Clinton. The activists say that they have a video of the meeting. I can't wait to see it.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Venezuela opposition protest flops

I'd have thought that if any news outlet would cheerlead an opposition protest in Venezuela and inflate its attendance it would have to be a Fox News affiliate. Yesterday was the day that the splintering Democratic Roundtable coalition of numerous opposition parties was to hold rallies in the capital city of Caracas and in state capitals across the country. It fizzled. A few dozen adherents showed up in Caracas and the rallies in the other cities apparently were too pitiful to mention.

Consider the real problems the population of Venezuela is facing -rampant crime, inflation so high that the national bank hasn't even published statistics in half a year, shortages of staples, personal hygiene products, medical equipment and medicines you'd suppose that a call for protest from established political parties would get a response in a nation of 27 million people.

On top of this oppoflop an opposition legislator Ricardo Sanchez and two well known opposition activists, Carlos Sanchez and Andres Avelino have broken with the opposition and signed up to be pro government candidates for the Assembly.In the election scheduled for December 6.

On top of this Copei, the once mighty half of a two party duopoly system that had prevailed in Venezuela for the forty years before Hugo Chavez turned Venezuela's politics upside down has been kicked out of the leading opposition coalition after one faction went to court to unseat another.

On the Red side, Marea Socialista, a former faction of the ruling Socialist Party, which says that it was expelled without due process, has been denied the right to run its own candidates because, according to the election officials, Marea Socialista isn't a proper name of a political party. Marea Socialista has been campaigning for a transparent people's audit to find out where $250,000,000,000 in oil money has vanished to and take legal action to claw it back.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Sarah Lacy Doesn't Seem To Get It -'Drivers Want To.Get Paid

Sarah Lacy's publication, Pando, charges readers to read. Makes sense. They write about technology to make their livings over at Pando, but to bring readers/customers in they offer free samples, that's to say they unlock articles for limited time frames. The idea's not so freeloaders (such as I could be called,) get to take advantage of their work without paying. The idea's that people who find the articles interesting, or useful will decide to pay their fair share. After all the writers and other people at Pando have bills to pay. So do taxi drivers and Uber drivers too.

Now Uber drivers face serious problems in earning enough to pay their bills and keep their cars in running condition, since the base fares are lower than taxi fares are in most markets. Uber exempts itself from the legal and financial obligations of a taxi owner, pushing all costs and downside problems and obligations onto the drivers, who don't get to set the fares they can charge their customers , except for one loophole. Surge prices.
Surge prices are multiples of the rock bottom base prices set by Uber, and with which the drivers either eat or take care of their cars, rather than do both. Sarah Lacy knows this on an.intellectual level I don't doubt, but it seems that in her heart of hearts the drivers appear at her beck and call just to serve, and serve selflessly.

It isn't so! And so when Uber drivers (half of whom are college graduates,) discovered how to "rainmake" surge prices, and someone among them developed an app that helps them make rain more certainly, the app and the practice of rain making started to spread. In Lacy's heart of hearts this has to be simply a reflection of drivers hostility to Travis Kalanick and an adaptation of Kalanick's ethical and moral standards. It might be so, but it's safe to say that the "false surges" that so trouble Ms Lacy are a survival tactic and that they have to do this does say that Uber (and Lyft) customers are exploiters who the drivers are resisting by their wits and their obvious growing solidarity.

An Uber driver who goes by the monicker Uber Man makes YouTube videos about the ins and outs of Uber. He's saying that in recent days Uber passengers have been charged surge pricing but the drivers are not getting their contractually due share of this money they've worked for and earned. More to come.