February 16, 2007

Lose money or lose your business!

Quico says: Want to know how to blame the retail sector for its own expropriation? Ask yourself this:

So, really, the choice is up to you. You can either:

1-Sell at the controlled price, lose money and go bankrupt.


2-Refuse to sell at the controlled price, be tarred a "hoarder," and get expropriated.

...and they say Chávez doesn't respect property rights!

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February 15, 2007

Al Qaeda scrambles chavismo's ideological circuits

Quico says: This Al Qaeda threat thing has thrown the Chávez government completely for a loop. This one was definitely not in their play-book, they seem to have no idea how to react. In the last 24 hours, we've seen four different, mutually incompatible official reactions, three of them totally loony. It's all great fun to watch.

Over at the National Assembly, Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Saúl Ortega is playing it safe: the whole thing, he says, is - wait for it - a giant gringo conspiracy. A psy-ops job designed to prepare the ground for upcoming CIA covert operations to destroy Venezuelan (and Mexican, and Canadian) oil installations. Because, as we know, nothing threatens US interestsdd quite so much as foreigners selling them oil...

Sounding slightly less deranged - but every bit as stupid - Navy Rear Admiral Luis Cabrera was genuinely confused that such a thing could happen. On state TV he came within a whisker of declaring Al Qaeda an ally, saying he thought it "sounds illogical" for Al Qaeda to threaten a country that's just as committed as they are to ending US hegemony merely because "we use different methods." To relieve this heavy burden of cognitive dissonance, he couldn't help but refloat the old 911-was-an-inside-job cannard. Classy stuff! (Note to Al Qaeda: if you attack by sea, this is the caliber of opposition you'll be facing.)

Moving on, Interior Minister Pedro Carreño preferred to play it cool. As far as he can see, Venezuela already has all the state security it needs - who's afraid of Al Qaeda? No need to change anything as far as he can see...obviously, those guys are no match for Disip.

Only Defense Minister Raúl Baduel had a relatively reasonable reaction, saying Venezuela would step up security around its oil instalations. On the upside, his shtick wasn't as batty as his colleagues'. On the downside, his reaction implicitly accepts that the threat is real...with all the implications such an acknowledgment carries. "Yes," Baduel implicitly admits, "the real enemies of the United States could well target us, just as they target all countries that help prop up American power." Undoubtedly, a true thing to say - undoubtedly, a dangerous thing to think.

February 14, 2007

Al Qaeda: Laying it bare...

Quico says: Imagine you are an enemy of the United States. I don't mean a rhetorical, fancy-speech giving, UN-podium hoggin', radical-chic faux-enemy, I mean a real enemy. A no-kidding, bullets-whizzing-around, bombs-going-off enemy of the United States. Imagine your beef with the gringos isn't primarily rhetorical, but military and strategic. Imagine your goal is to cripple the United States' capacity to project power over distance. If that's where your coming from, what would you do?

Today, Al Qaeda gave an answer you'd be hard pressed to disagree with: hit their oil supply, worldwide. US empire is a machine that runs on oil; if you want to degrade it, you hit it at source. Al Qaeda understands that, objectively speaking, supplying the US with oil makes you an ally of the United States. No amount of overheated rhetoric can change that.

And so, irony of ironies, Al Qaeda calls for attacks on Venezuelan oil installations. The gringos' real enemies want to attack their imaginary enemies. Will wonders never cease?

In the end, it's not surprising. Chávez's rhetorical endless antigringo bloviations are sustainable only because the confrontation is fake. Were it anything other than a monumental sham, a smokescreen to conceal his drive for ever more power over Venezuelan society, it would be suicidal to continue selling his biggest enemy precisely the commodity it needs to sustain its capacity to attack him. Sottovoce, though, the gringos are wise to the game: it may disconfit them to be constantly scapegoated, but they know as well as Chávez does that Venezuela is a key American ally, still. When all is said, nothing is done: the oil is still flowing, and a bit of vaudeville on the side is a small price to pay for that.

Duplicity of this type is not for Al Qaeda. They're in a real war with the US, with real bombs and real bullets and real cassualties all around. Real wars have a way of focusing minds. Al Qaeda knows which countries, objectively speaking, are enabling the US's military efforts against them. And you can't fault their strategic vision in calling for strikes against those countries. There's no room for bullshit when you're in a serious fight. And there's no room for seriousness when you're in a bullshit fight...

Illiterate fly stew...

Quico says: By now, it's more hackneyed cliché than eye-opening parable: if you drop a frog in boiling water, the thing just jumps out, but if you put put a frog in cool water and heat it little by little...

That's pretty much how Chávez has decided to deal with the dissident press. It's clear by now that there will not be a single, dramatic move to mark the end of a plural media in Venezuela. Chávez's shtick has always been gradualism. The man is a frog stew masterchef.

This week, his cronies at the Children's Protection Council moved to add some illiterate flies to the stew. Tal Cual, the mordant opposition tabloid run by Teodoro Petkoff, was fined an as-yet-unspecified amount for running an impossibly vanilla article by Laureano Márquez that, allegedly, violated Chávez's daughter's privacy.

Tal Cual
is a small and perenially cash-strapped paper. As you can imagine, they don't get much advertising business from the government, and other advertisers realize that they expose themselves to retaliation if they advertise there. Even a seemingly modest fine threatens the paper's financial viability. This, I guess, is how 21st Century Socialists silence dissent.

For once, though, there is something we can do about it.

Send a donation, big or small, to Tal Cual's parent company. If you're in Venezuela - or if you have Venezuelan internet banking - you can make a deposit directly into either of these accounts:

Banco Mercantil Account Number: 0105-0021-47-1021517364

Banesco Account Number: 0134-0184-59-184304271

Deposits should be made in favor of: "Editorial La Mosca Analfabeta C.A." What are you waiting for?