Posts tagged ‘Hugo Chavez’

Hilarious Misdirection

Progressive green web site the Thin Green Line takes on subsidies for petroleum products, saying that reducing such subsidies could immediately have a major impact on CO2 production.  Fine with me, I am no fan of subsidies by governments of any private activities, though I don't live in fear of CO2.

However, the author, trying I guess to buff his progressive credentials in a sort of typical knee-jerk for green writers, tries to imply all this largess is somehow flowing to large oil companies, and the implication is that western nations like the US are subsidizing folks like Exxon and BP:

The timing couldn't be better: With BP's oil continuing to pollute the Gulf Coast, the question of how much our alliance with the oil industry really costs us is at the front of the everybody's mind.

The International Energy Agency released an early draft of a report documenting, for the first time ever, how much the fossil fuel industries get in subsidies each year (H/T Grist). The timing is, of course, coincidental: The IEA's work stems from an agreement made at this years G20 conference that subsidies of fossil fuel industries should be phased out as part of international efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

So "” drum roll, please! "” how much money are the energy giants taking in? $550 billion a year.

But the author is, I believe, misunderstanding the study and the underlying economics (no surprise there from a green progressive writer).  This is from a study of 37 developing, not rich, nations.  There is no way these guys are paying $550 billion in cash into private oil company pockets.  In fact, most of these countries barely let the private oil companies even play, or force them into some marginal operator role subservient to their state oil company.

If these countries are subsidizing producers at all, the vast majority who are getting such largesse are large state-run companies, not western private oil companies.

However, my guess (and I have not seen the report yet) is that what they mean by most of these subsidies is actually selling fossil fuels to their citizens at below-market prices.  These subsidies are not transfers of state dollars to oil companies at all, but below-market pricing of oil products to consumers by state-run oil monopolies.   The people getting subsidized here are poorer consumers, not private oil companies.  Countries like China, Iran, Iraq and even Venezuela (run by progressive heart throb Hugo Chavez) sell petroleum products way below market prices to their citizens.  I am fairly certain this is the half trillion dollar subsidy the report refers to.

So we have the ultimate irony of a "progressive" lamenting government-subsidized energy for poorer people in developing nations.  Wow, I never thought I would say this, but if this is the progressive position, I agree with it.  The whole situation does highlight the difficult tension between development and CO2 reduction programs, and reinforces my argument that aggressive worldwide CO2 abatement will mainly hurt the poor.

Explain the Difference

Is there any difference between Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama in terms of how they approach the auto industry?  "Make the kind of cars I thing you should, or the government will take you over."

Mr. Chavez said his socialist government is going to apply strict quotas regarding the number and types of vehicles auto makers can produce. The president also ordered his trade minister, Eduardo Saman, to inspect the Toyota plant, saying it may not be making enough "rustic vehicles," a style of all-terrain vehicle that is much-needed in Venezuela's countryside, where they are often converted into minibuses.

"They'll have to fulfill [the quotas], and if not, they can get out," Mr. Chavez said during a televised address. "We'll bring in another company."

He said if the inspection shows Toyota isn't producing what he thinks it should and isn't transferring technology, the government may consider taking over its plant and have a Chinese company operate it. "We'll take it, we'll expropriate it, we'll pay them what it's worth and immediately call on the Chinese," Mr. Chavez said. Chinese companies, he said, are willing to make vehicles made for the countryside.

It seems like Venezuelan workers want the same deal Obama gave the UAW:

Venezuela's auto sector is in tatters amid recurring labor problems that have led to a lack of productivity. Analysts say many auto workers hope their company is nationalized so they can become de facto government workers and enjoy the extra job security that comes with that status.

By the way, this seems like a suckers play -- please put more valuable stuff in your store window so when we break in there is more to steal:

Mr. Chavez said late Wednesday the Japanese auto maker needs to transfer more new technologies and manufacturing methods from headquarters to its local unit in Venezuela.

While Mr. Chavez directed most of his criticism at Toyota, he said other auto assemblers, including Fiat SpA and General Motors, are also guilty of not sharing technology from abroad with their Venezuelan units.

The left often seems to imply that the US government is too eager to shed blood to protect American industry overseas, but in point of fact American industry has had to live with the reality for decades that foreign governments often steal billions of dollars in American-owned assets with barely a peep being heard from the US government.  For example, there is really no such thing as a Saudi or Libyan or Venezuelan or even Mexican oil industry - those are just assets paid for and built by private Western concerns and then stolen by local governments.

Will Work for Food

I was reading through some leftish/alarmist environmental blogs, and I was struck by how many desperately want to buy into the story line that poorer nations are the true heroes of Copenhagen, holding the rich nations feet to the fire so they will commit to deeper CO2 cuts.

Really?  A bunch of dictators who demonstrably have little concern for their citizens and spend most of their time trying to figure out how to divert state funds into their Swiss bank accounts suddenly care about the effects of anthropogenic climate change on their nations?  Hugo Chavez, whose nation currently is avoiding following Zimbabwe down the toilet only by its oil revenues really wants the world to wean itself off oil?

Here is the perfect analogy for the Third World's sudden interest in climate:  The "I will work for food" sign.  Beggers learned that (at least for a while) this sign was a good marketing tool.  They had no intention of doing any work  (I had a friend who used to drive up to all of them and offer them landscaping work in exchange for lunch, always to be turned down flat) but they knew it made potential donors more sympathetic -  see, they really want to work but are just down on their luck.   If you haven't seen the movie Interstate 60, you really need to.  Relevant clip below:

This is exactly the equivalent of the Third World's sudden interest in climate change.  Up to this point, their leaders have shown no interest in stopping the raping of their own local ecosystems.  These guys are certainly not conservationists, but they know a good marketing tool.  Copenhagen is about these guys putting their hands out, and using climate as the marketing tool to soften up their marks in the West.  These nations certainly have no intention of having any targets or restrictions placed on their countries.   And it looks like they may succeed, at least in the treaty phase.

Obama has positioned himself in such a way that he feels that he has to have something he can call a win at Copenhagen.  So he goes to the politician's traditional playbook, which is to use taxpayer money to buy a deal to try to make himself look better.  He is working to do this with the passage of the health care bill and he probably will do this in Copenhagen, agreeing to $100 billion a year in payoffs to third world kleptocracies so he can look like a winner to western socialists.

If America Did Not Exist, Dictators Would Have to Invent It

Via Q&O:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told the military and civil militias today to prepare for war as a deterrent to a U.S.-led attack after American troops gained access to military bases in neighboring Colombia.

Chavez said a recently signed agreement that gives American troops access to seven Colombian bases is a direct threat to his oil-exporting country. Colombia has handed over its sovereignty to the U.S. with the deal, he said.

"Generals of the armed forces, the best way to avoid a war is to prepare for one," Chavez said in comments on state television during his weekly "Alo Presidente" program. "Colombia handed over their country and is now another state of the union. Don't make the mistake of attacking: Venezuela is willing to do anything."

Dictator play book page 1, paragraph 1:  When domestic situation goes bad, find an external enemy.

Another State-Run Oil Company Fiasco

And it couldn't happen to a nicer guy (hat tip to a reader):

Venezuela's daily oil production has fallen by a quarter since President Hugo
  Chavez won power, depriving his "Bolivarian Revolution" of much of
  the benefit of the global boom in oil prices...

The state oil company, PDVSA, produced 3.2 million barrels per day
in 1998, the year before Mr Chavez won the presidency. After a decade
of rising corruption and inefficiency, daily output has now fallen to
2.4 million barrels, according to OPEC figures. About half of this oil
is now delivered at a discount to Mr Chavez's friends around Latin
America. The 18 nations in his "Petrocaribe" club, founded in 2005, pay
Venezuela only 30 per cent of the market price within 90 days, with
rest in instalments spread over 25 years.

The other half - 1.2 million barrels per day - goes to America, Venezuela's only genuinely paying customer.

Meanwhile,
Mr Chavez has given PDVSA countless new tasks. "The new PDVSA is
central to the social battle for the advance of our country," said
Rafael Ramirez, the company's president and the minister for petroleum.
"We have worked to convert PDVSA into a key element for the social
battle."

The company now grows food after Mr Chavez's price
controls emptied supermarket shelves of products like milk and eggs.
Another branch produces furniture and domestic appliances in an effort
to stem the flow of imports. What PDVSA seems unable to do is produce
more oil.

Venezuela has proven reserves of 80 billion barrels,
but estimates suggest that it may possess 142 billion barrels - more
than anywhere else except Saudi Arabia....

All
this means that Venezuela has missed much of the benefit from the oil
boom and, now that prices are falling, Mr Chavez faces huge financial
problems. Nobody is sure at what point his government would be unable
to pay its bills, but most sources consulted believe this would
probably happen if oil falls to $80 a barrel. Yesterday, oil was
trading at $79.80.

More on "peak oil" being at least partially a function of state mis-management of promising oil reserves here.  Jim Kingsdale estimated last year, when prices were over $100 for oil, that oil prices would probably trade under $50 if the reserves were controlled by private companies rather than government buffoons.

Those Short-Term, Quarterly Focused Corporations

Everyone has heard the knock on corporations -- they are supposedly short-term focused and incapable of making investments that don't pump up the current quarter.  We hear this in particular from government officials, right before they try to sell some egregious bit of pork-spending that is supposedly for "investment" in things these awful corporate guys won't invest in.

But of course the entire existence of the oil industry is proof-positive that this knock on large corporations can't be universally true, or else the oil industry would have gone out of business for lack of reserves some time in the late 19th century.  The oil industry routinely makes huge investments that take 10 years or more to even start to pay out (e.g. Alaska pipeline, shale oil, deep Gulf).  One major reason that supplies are currently tight is that most of the world's oil reserves are held by state companies (like Pemex) that are incapable of making the long-term investments their fields needs because there is so much pressure on the government to divert the oil profits into social programs rather than into renewing the reserve base.

And now look who is singing the same tune as Hugo Chavez and the other oil producing kleptocrats - Barack Obama:

"Opening our coastlines to offshore drilling would take at least a
decade to produce any oil at all, and the effect on gasoline prices
would be negligible at best since America only has 3 percent of the
world's oil," Obama said in a statement that did not explicitly
distinguish between oil and gas drilling."

Of course, offshore drilling was approved 10 years ago, but was vetoed by Bill Clinton.  I don't believe for a second that this is his real reason for opposing drilling (in fact, I believe him to be in the pocket of radical environmentalists and perfectly happy to demagogue oil companies for high prices rather than take responsibility for past government action).  However, if we take him at his word, this is an absolutely unbelievable lack of long-term focus from a man people like to call "visionary."

There Are Two Americas, update

In a previous post, I observed that there did indeed seem to be two Americas:  the one productive people want to live in, and the one productive people are trying to escape because the local government is so controlling and confiscatory.  I further observed that, unfortunately, both Democratic candidates appeared to be from the latter.

This is an interesting follow-up
:

"When California faced a Mount Everest-sized $14 billion deficit in
2003, one of the major causes for the red ink was the stampede of
millionaire households from the state," says a report called "Rich
States, Poor States" by economists Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore.
"Out of the 25,000 or so seven-figure-income families, more than 5,000
left in the early 2000s, and the loss of their tax payments accounted
for about half the budget hole."

I am not sure how they got to this number, but holy crap!  20% of the wealthiest families left the state?  I'm not sure even Hugo Chavez is doing that poorly.

Update:  Even more here, comparing inward and outward migration rates of states vs. a state-by-state economic freedom index.

Dispatches from Zimbabwe

Here are a few scenes from Zimbabwe, stitched together form several posts by Cathy Buckle.  For all of those who support Hugo Chavez, and there are a surprising number in this country, this is exactly where Venezuela would be in a year if it wasn't for its oil.  And it may get there none-the-less (hat tip Q&O):

After three months of price controls the food situation in the country is
perilous and even those who were able to stock their pantries and cupboards are
now in trouble. In a main supermarket in my home town this week there was air
freshener, window cleaner, some vegetables, Indonesian toothpaste and imported
cornflakes from South Africa - one single packet costing more than half of a
teachers monthly salary.  There was also milk being sold from a bulk tank to
people who bring their own bottles and the queue went through the empty shop,
out the door and along the pavement. The line broke up suddenly before 10am when
the milk ran out and the huge shop was suddenly completely empty - nothing left
to sell, no more customers. This situation was a mirror image of conditions at
three other major supermarkets in the town and so we look desperately into
another week of struggle, praying for relief....

Milk is like gold in our town, as it is almost all over the country. When you
appreciate that the shops are empty and there is no food to buy, no protein, no
meat or eggs and now not even bread, you understand that people are desperate
for nourishment. A phone call to the local bulk dairy marketing outlet this week
went as follows:

Q: Hello, Do you have milk please?
A: Nothing.
Q: What about lacto (sour milk)?
A: Nothing.
Q: Any cheese?
A: (Bored) Nothing
Q: Ice Cream! ?
A: (Slightly annoyed) No, we have nothing. We are playing football in the car
park!
...

Standing outside over yet another smoky fire late one afternoon this week, a
Go-Away bird chastised me from a nearby tree. I'm sure this Grey Lourie is as
fed up of me intruding into its territory as I am of  being there - trying to
get a hot meal for supper. For five of the last six days the electricity has
gone off before 5 in the morning and only come back 16 or 17 hours later a
little before midnight. "Go Away! Go Away!" the Grey Lourie called out
repeatedly as my eyes streamed from the smoke and I stirred my little pot. My
hair and clothes stink of smoke, fingers are yellow and sooty but this is what
we've all been reduced to in Zimbabwe. Our government don't talk about the power
cuts anymore and don't even try and feed us with lame excuses about how the
power is being used to irrigate non-existent crops. We all know it's not true
and the proof is there in the empty fields for all to see.

Something else our government aren't talking about  anymore is the nationwide
non availability of bread and the  empty shops in all our towns and cities.
Everywhere you go people are struggling almost beyond description to try and
survive and yet the country's MP's, both from the ruling party and the
opposition, do nothing to put an end to this time of  horror. I have lost count
of how many weeks this has been going on for but it must be around three months.
None of the basics needed for daily survival are available to buy. There is no
flour to bake with, no pasta, rice, lentils, dried beans or canned goods. People
everywhere are hungry, not for luxuries like  biscuits or snack food but for the
staples  that fill your stomach. When you ask people nowadays how they are
coping, mostly they say that they are not, they say they are hungry, tired and
have little energy. This is a national crisis almost beyond description and
people say they are alive only because of " the hand of God."

That 70's Show

Straight from the 1970's, the US's golden era of bumbling government intervention in the economy, come the same proposals that worked oh-so-well the first time around.  Democracts blame big oil for gas prices, and propose channeling solutions from Hugo Chavez:   (via Q&O)

Congressional Democrats are taking aim at big oil companies as U.S. gasoline prices near a record average $3.05 a gallon.

Although
industry experts doubt it will have any effect, half a dozen senators
gathered in front of a Washington service station to push their own
remedies to the situation, the Washington Post said.

The latest average price for a gallon of unleaded regular gas was $3.042, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge report.

Sen.
Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Congress to consider breaking up the
giant companies. Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., pushed for a windfall
profits bill.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., promoted her
anti-price-gouging bill, which the Senate Commerce Committee adopted
earlier this week.

Gee, since every transaction in a free market requires a willing buyer and a willing seller, wouldn't it be just as correct to blame profligate consumers for the increase?  And why is it I don't remember any of these actors in Congress rushing to clamp down on greedy sellers when home resale prices skyrocketed far more than gas prices have?  Does anyone remember Maria Cantwell imposing windfall profits taxes on home-sellers?  Or, for that matter, on sellers of Internet stocks who financed their campaigns selling stock above $80 that would soon trade only in the single digits?  And by the way, how can any party who elected Maria Cantwell to the Senate seriously call members of the other party "stupid."

Let's do a thought experiment.  Let's assume that through a series of government actions, Congress is able to return oil profits "to the people."  Oil company profits are now reduced to zero.  That should make a huge difference in gas prices, right?  Well, out of a $3.00 gas price, taxes and the retailers margin are probably 75 cents or so (46 cents tax, 10% or 30 cent retail margin).  This leaves $2.25 for the greedy oil companies.  It turns out large oil companies like Exxon make about 6% of revenues in the bad times, and 10% in the good times, like now.  So, this leaves a profit of  14-22 cents per gallon.  The "people" are saved!  Gas prices can come down by a whole 15-20 cents.  Of course, in return for saving a buck or two on fill-ups, we've nuked the whole incentive system for investment and finding new oil and improving efficiency.  Gas prices over time will rise much higher than they are now, and lines will start reappearing at gas stations, but that probably won't show up until after the next election, so why should anyone in Congress care?

Finally, Someone States the Obvious

The media and many politicians have an inventive system that drives them to take the most pessimistic possible interpretation of every economic event (the media to sell papers, politicians to panic us into giving them more control of the economy).   Chinese ownership of US debt securities is one such issue that everyone seems to be in a tizzy about.  Thanks to Don Boudreaux for finally stating the obvious:

In fact,
foreign-government
holdings of U.S. debt arguably make these governments "hostage to the
economic decisions being made in Washington."  The Fed, after all,
could monetize this debt, inflating away its value.  Or Uncle Sam could
repudiate this debt, or unilaterally change its terms in ways
unfavorable to holders.  Or you and your colleagues could implement
economically disastrous policies that drive up long-term interest rates
and, hence, drive down the value of outstanding treasuries.

Finally!  All you have to do to understand this is reverse the situation.  If the US government owned a hundred billion dollars of Venezuelan government bonds, would this really give us power over Hugo Chavez?  Or would it, more likely, given him more power over us, at least in terms of circumscribing our actions?

Open Up to Cuba

The Bush administration is in the unenviable but not historically unprecedented position of not really being able to accomplish much of anything over the next two years.  Bush's credibility is such that a solid majority in Congress may oppose any plan he suggests, just because he suggested it.  Also, it is unlikely that any third-rail-type reforms will be considered in a presidential election cycle.  And I am generally OK with government legislative inaction.  In fact, it would be great if the Democrats chose to pursue impeachment hearings, not because Bush is any more or less a lying sack of shit than other politicians, but because it would divert Congress onto an enforced lassaiz faire path on every other issue.

However, one thing Bush could productively accomplish is to open up relations with Cuba.  If we are ready to pull out of Iraq after five years, even at the cost of being seen as "losing," we should be ready to reconsider our cold war with Cuba after over 46 years.  After all, our cold war with Russia, if dated from the end of WWII, only lasted 44 years.  We trade freely with communist China, and even with communist Vietnam, despite the fact that we were in a shooting war with them more recently than the Castro takeover.  And what have we accomplished?  Cuba is nowhere close to an anti-communist revolution, and its people suffer.  In fact, I think the embargo on Cuba, by turning Cuba's attention away from its natural trading partner the US, causes it to look for allies in places like Venezuela.

I think history has proven time and time again the power of open commerce and interchange in bringing closed, unfree societies into the modern age.  I can't for the life of me figure out why we still pursue the proven-pointless embargoes against Cuba except:

  • The sugar lobby like it that way
  • The Cuban expat community, operating on wounded latin pride, have stubbornly made it clear that anyone who suggests opening up to Cuba will lose the typically tight vote for Florida's key electoral votes.

With GWB's lame-duckracy and his brother moving on from the Florida governor's mansion, no Bush has to run for election in Florida again. With Castro's death (I'm not dead yet - yes you are, you'll be stone dead in a moment) the anti-Castro movement in the expat community loses focus, and might be reshaped into what it should be, that is pro-Cuba rather than anti-Castro.  I think these two stars are lining up to provide a unique opportunity to do something about Cuba, and in fact might be a useful step in counterpoint to Hugo Chavez's recent actions. 

Chavez Declared Dictator

Hugo Chavez has had himself declared dictator of Venezuela

Venezuela's National Assembly has given initial approval to a bill
granting the president the power to bypass congress and rule by decree
for 18 months.

President Hugo Chavez says he wants "revolutionary laws" to enact
sweeping political, economic and social changes. He has said he wants
to nationalise key sectors of the economy and scrap limits on the terms
a president can serve.

Mr Chavez began his third term in office last week after a landslide election victory in December.

The bill allowing him to enact laws by decree is expected to win
final approval easily in the assembly on its second reading on Tuesday.
Venezuela's political opposition has no representation in the National
Assembly since it boycotted elections in 2005.

Recognize that Chavez is the man, more than any other world leader, that progressives in this country have adopted as their hero.  Nowhere will you see a better illustration of what end-game progressives are really after.

Advice for the "Reality-Based" Community

Recently, the so-called "reality-based community" on the left has developed the theory that US oil companies have purposefully dropped gasoline prices from over $3.00 to $2.00 a gallon solely to help Republican re-election prospects in November.  This notion is so insane as to be, well, insane, and I am not even going to bother fisking it any more than I would bother refuting a flat-earth hypothesis.  OK, I can't resist, here are two quick arguments, by no means comprehensive.

  • US oil companies control a minority of world oil supplies, and those folks who do dominate the market (Hugo Chavez, Iran, the Saudis, the Russians) are highly unlikely to be cutting Bush much slack.
  • The implication is that either the old, high price or the current low price is somehow an unnatural contrivance.  If the higher price was a contrivance, ie above the normal market clearing price due to some collusion, then we would have been swimming in oil as supplies outstripped demand, and inventories would be overflowing.  If the current lower prices are a contrivance, then demand should outstrip supply and we should have lines at every gas station.  Of course, neither situation has been observed.

So here is this week's message for the Left:  Economics is a science.  Willful ignorance or emotional rejection of the well-known precepts of this science is at least as bad as a fundamentalist Christian's willful ignorance of evolution science (for which the Left so often criticizes their opposition).  In fact, economic ignorance is much worse, since most people can come to perfectly valid conclusions about most public policy issues with a flawed knowledge of the origin of the species but no one can with a flawed understanding of economics.

Postscript: In fact, the more I think about it, the more economics and evolution are very similar.  Both are sciences that are trying to describe the operation of very complex, bottom-up, self-organizing systems.  And, in both cases, there exist many people who refuse to believe such complex and beautiful systems can really operate without top-down control.

For example, certain people refuse to accept that homo sapiens could have been created through unguided evolutionary systems, and insist that some controlling authority must guide the process;  we call these folks advocates of Intelligent Design.  Similarly, there are folks who refuse to believe that unguided bottom-up processes can create something so complex as our industrial economy or even a clearing price for gasoline, and insist that a top-down authority is needed to run the process;  we call these folks socialists.

It is interesting, then, given their similarity, that socialists and intelligent design advocates tend to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum.  Their rejection of bottom-up order in favor of top-down control is nearly identical.

Update:  From Cafe Hayek, letter to the Washington Post

Dear Editor:

Alleging
that today's falling gasoline prices result from a fiendish plot to
keep the GOP in power, Kenneth Jones is certain that "gasoline prices
will go right back up to $2.75-plus after the [November] election"
(Letters, October 2).

If Mr. Jones is correct, he can make a
financial killing.  All he need do is to invest all of his assets going
long in gasoline futures (which are today about 30 percent lower than
they were in late July).  Indeed, he ought even to cash out all the
equity in his house, max out on his credit cards, and borrow heavily
from his brother-in-law so that he can invest as much as possible in
these futures.

He can then contribute his post-election financial bounty to the Democratic National Committee.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

 

Ah, Vindication

I love it when I get proven right, especially just days after my post, where I said:

I just don't know why conservatives are so afraid to let folks like Khatami speak in the US.
Sure, he is a lying dictatorial human-rights-suppressing scumbag, but
so what?  Its good to let people like this speak as much as they want.
They always give themselves away

And, shazam!  Both Khatami and Hugo Chavez bury themselves in a deep hole with their verbal idiocy.  Both did more for to rally support against themselves in the last few days than a hundred speeches by their detractors.

PS- My company is cutting up all its Citgo cards on Monday.

Heads You Win, Tails I Lose, Part 2

In my earlier post, I lamented the fact that "progressives" who criticize Bush for being undemocratic, illiberal, overly dependent on the military, and theocratic are proposing alternatives that are much, much worse.  In that post, they were championing Hugo Chavez of Venezuela as their savior.  Now, they seem to be latching on to Muslim countries like Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran as their champions of liberal values. In this interview of George Galloway, recently feted by liberals and progressives on both sides of the Atlantic:

M.B.H.S.: You often call for uniting Muslim and progressive forces globally.

How far is it possible under current situation?

Galloway: Not only do I think it's possible but I think it is vitally necessary

and I think it is happening already. It is possible because the progressive

movement around the world and the Muslims have the same enemies.

*Their enemies are the Zionist occupation, American occupation, British

occupation of poor countries mainly Muslim countries. * * *

*They have the same interest in opposing savage capitalist globalization which

is intent upon homogenizing the entire world turning us basically into factory

chickens which can be forced fed the American diet of everything from food to

Coca-Cola to movies and TV culture*. And *whose only role in life is to consume

the things produced endlessly by the multinational corporations.* And the

progressive organizations & movements agree on that with the Muslims.

Otherwise we believe that we should all have to speak as Texan and eat McDonalds

and be ruled by Bush and Blair. So *on the very grave big issues of the

day-issues of war, occupation, justice, opposition to globalization-the Muslims

and the progressives are on the same side*.

By the way, this is the movement that calls itself "reality-based".

Can't someone today emerge as a rallying point for those of use who are classical liberals and libertarians?

Hat Tip LGF.

Heads You Win, Tails I Lose

For years, high school civics books have portrayed our political choices as ranging from socialism on the left to fascism on the right.  These textbooks represent the statists' wet dream -- the reframing of political discussion such that all possible outcomes are defined as rigid government control of individual lives.  The only difference is who is in charge, and the path they took to get there. 

Think I am exaggerating?  Here's an example:

The left hate George Bush.  Fine.  I have my own problems with the man.  Over the last few years, the left has cast about for a person to rally around as a counterpoint to Bush.  Some latched on the the French leadership, some to Saddam Hussein, some even recently to George Gallway.   I think you can see the problem here, and the mistake Michael Moore made.  Forcing voters to choose between Saddam Hussein and George Bush is practically begging them to vote Republican.

After the last election, I had hoped that the left had gotten wiser.  I guess not.  Apparently the "progressive" community is rallying around Hugo Chavez as their next model leader:

Of the top oil producing countries in the world, only one is a democracy with a
president who was elected on a platform of using his nation's oil revenue to
benefit the poor. The country is Venezuela. The President is Hugo Chavez. Call
him "the Anti-Bush."...

Instead of using government to help the rich and the corporate, as Bush does,
Chavez is using the resources and oil revenue of his government to help the poor
in Venezuela. A country with so much oil wealth shouldn't have 60 percent of its
people living in poverty, earning less than $2 per day. With a mass movement
behind him, Chavez is confronting poverty in Venezuela. That's why large
majorities have consistently backed him in democratic elections. And why the
Bush administration supported an attempted military coup in 2002 that sought to
overthrow Chavez.

And this is the group that calls themselves "reality-based"?  Does anyone really believe that poverty results solely from not handing oil revenue to the poor?  The US doesn't do this (well, except in Alaska), yet despite this our poor in this country are wealthier than the middle class in Venezuela, and its because we have a stable government that protects property rights and individual freedoms and provides a stable environment for investment.  Prosperity comes from building a healthy and growing economy, not looting a particular industry.  (By the way, I am sure that the previous regime was looting the oil industry as well, so I am certainly not defending them.)

However, this point is worth repeating:  Progressives consider Venezuela to have a better policy for helping the poor than the US, but the poorest 20% in the US still make more money and live better and longer than at least 80% of Venezuelans.  A person in the middle of the "poor" quintile in the US would be upper middle class in Venezuela.  And I will bet anyone that after 10 years of Chavez rule, this will be more, not less, true.

Chavez is a totalitarian thug.  Human Rights Watch has plenty to say about his miserable record of trashing freedoms.  In particular, you can compare the supreme court shenanigans of the "anti-Bush" with ridiculously mild controversy in this country (at least by comparison) over judicial nominations.  More background on Chavez here.

So there you are.  We are given the choice of Bush or Chavez.  Statism or statism.  Thanks a lot.