Archive for April, 2012

What the USA can learn from Chile

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Mary O’Grady writes,
Chile’s Cautionary Lesson for Americans
A free economy is at risk when a demand for equality is not answered by a defense of liberty.

Even while the material benefits of the market economy have been piling up for decades, Chile has been intellectually swamped by leftist ideas. The common principle: Economic inequality is immoral and the state has an obligation to correct it.

Enlarge Image

Associated Press
Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera.

Rather than push back against this invitation to tyranny, the right too often cedes the moral high ground to its proponents. Mr. Piñera is among the culprits. His reactive half measures designed to satisfy the moderate elements of the equality brigades are undermining Chilean freedom. They are also undermining his power by making him look weak and incompetent.

Chileans aren’t interested in communism. That much was proved when Ms. Vallejo returned home from a trip to Cuba earlier this month to declare that Fidel Castro is a “great visionary” and his reflections are “light and hope” for Chile. She looked like a Castro stooge, and her popularity dipped. Things got worse when Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez pointed out how ridiculous the Chilean “rebel” appeared in Cuba, following the orders of the military dictatorship.

Like a good student, Ms. Vallejo learned fast. Tapping into the middle-class sense of entitlement is a safer avenue for a rising demagogue. When 10,000 students poured into the streets of Santiago to renew their demand for free universities Wednesday, she was again on hand. “The people of Chile are here to continue defending the right of education,” she declared.

Sound familiar?

Washington Needs A Lesson on Student Loans

The Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, April 30th, 2012

LatinAmerARGENTINA
S&P downgrades Argentina’s outlook after YPF deal, H/T Gates of Vienna.

Kirchner Aide Pushed Her to Take Over Oil Firm

BARBADOS
Caribbean aviation
Red in the face

BRAZIL
Brazil sex worker may sue U.S. embassy over injuries

BTG Pactual goes public
Back to basics
A purist pay scheme at Brazil’s high-flying investment bank

COLOMBIA
Colombia’s top diplomat demands apology from President Obama for Secret Service hooker scandal
“It is necessary, and I want to hear it from the White House,’ says Gabriel Silva

Prostitution in Colombia
Not the kind of press they were after

The Colombian-Venezuelan border
Pick your poison
Drug gangs now dominate where guerrillas once reigned

Panetta: Iranian influence in South America akin to ‘expanding terrorism’, via Legal Insurrection.

Journalist missing as Farc attacks Colombia drugs raid
A French journalist is missing after Farc rebels killed four soldiers trying to destroy cocaine laboratories.
via BadBlue.

ECUADOR
Ecuador should scrap new media bill, draft new one

HAITI
The UN in Haiti
First, do no harm
Foreign peacekeepers have worn out their welcome. How can they be held accountable for their actions?

MEXICO
Guadalajara’s Bosque de la Primavera

MMFA’S RESPONSE TO ‘FAST AND FURIOUS’ PLAYS FAST AND LOOSE WITH FACTS

Young men in Mexico say the US no longer offers them a better future
Seismic shifts in immigration and demographics leave towns full of young men who once would have dreamed of the US
, H/T Gates of Vienna.

Mexican immigration
Low tide

Walmart
Walmart’s Mexican morass
The world’s biggest retailer is sent reeling by allegations of bribery

EL SALVADOR
EXCLUSIVE: New Secret Service scandal centers on strippers, prostitutes in El Salvador
U.S. Secret Service agents brag they routinely use third-world prostitutes while conducting out-of-country security detail for Presidential visits

LATIN AMERICA
Populists, centrists square off in South America’s leadership divide
Argentina, along with Venezuela Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua, is part of a movement to centralize power in the executive, taking greater control of courts and the media. On the opposite end are Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay, which are led by centrist presidents using orthodox economic policies attuned to social needs

PANAMA
Panama denies Lavitola corruption allegations
Berlusconi aide suspected of illegal prison contracts, bribes

PUERTO RICO
Puerto Rico’s Growing Voter Fraud Scandal

VENEZUELA
Venezuela’s judiciary
Whistle-blown
An impeached judge says the courts are subservient and corrupt

Eladio Aponte’s Plan B

The week’s posts:
Obama got Osama but not much else
Venezuela: Chavez giveth, Chavez taketh away
Hugo Chavez and the singing judge
More Mexicans returning to Mx than coming to USA, UPDATED

At Real Clear World,
Bolivia: Venezuela Has Five Military Bases in the Country


Dalai {hearts} GWB

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Surprise, indeed! Via Instapundit.

But then, GWB never cancelled meetings or made the DL leave by the back door.

Obama got Osama but not much else

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

The above photo, into which some suspect the curiously shrunken President was photoshopped, was touted as depicting the moment(s) when Obama made “the gutsiest call in years,” namely killing bin-Laden. Joe Biden’s going around talking about that. The Obama campaign even came out with a video of Bill Clinton insinuating it was such a “gutsy call” that Mitt Romney wouldn’t have done it. Bill must be talking from experience, since Bill certainly didn’t,

Throughout the Nineties, bin Laden attacked US targets – military housing, ships, embassies – and Bill Clinton refused to respond. In 2000, after 17 sailors were killed on the USS Cole, Clinton’s Defense Secretary Bill Cohen said the attack “was not sufficiently provocative” to warrant a response.

So the question comes up, WHAT ‘GUTSY CALL’?: CIA MEMO REVEALS ADMIRAL CONTROLLED BIN LADEN MISSION

The memo puts all control in the hands of Admiral McRaven – the “timing, operational decision making and control” are all up to McRaven. So the notion that Obama and his team were walking through every stage of the operation is incorrect. The hero here was McRaven, not Obama. And had the mission gone wrong, McRaven surely would have been thrown under the bus.

Le·gal In·sur·rec· tion looks at what happened after,

But the killing of one person has been against the backdrop of a complete disaster for the United States throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.

North Africa is or is on the way to domination by radical Islamists. We pushed Mubarak out without any transition, and the Muslim Brotherhood and even more extreme Islamists are nearing control. The same is true in Libya and Tunisia.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban are resurgent, waiting out Obama’s timeline for withdrawal. In Iraq, the Iranians have extended their influence and the nation again is dividing along sectarian lines, with the unifying factor (except among the Kurds) being hostility to the U.S.

In Syria, where for once we could have dealt a crushing blow to Iranian influence, we have helped Bashar Assad hang onto power to the extent that both sides hate us.

Our one true ally in the region, Israel, is in its most precarious position in decades, surrounded by massive Iranian-backed missile bases in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.

There is almost nowhere in the Middle East that the United State is better off than it was four years ago.

In our hemisphere, the Obama administration has fared even worse,

  • Free trade agreements that are still not implemented, after years of being delayed by the Democrats and by Obama.
  • Hundreds of Mexicans killed by the Fast and Furious guns, an operation for which Eric Holder will never be held accountable, if the Democrats have any say.
  • Calamitous energy policies that keep the Keystone XL from happening but favor Venezuelan oils.
  • Insisting that Mel Zelaya, a clearly unstable man with ties to Cuba and the drug trade, be returned to power in Honduras, when Zelaya had clearly violated his own country’s Constitution. And, to make it look worse, having the US Ambassador do photo-ops in the tin foil-lined room where Zelaya holed up.
  • Botched Summits of the Americas that are treated like campaign stops, and embarrassing North American Summits where the pressing issues of the day are ignored so Obama can put down the Supreme Court.
  • Siding with Argentina against the Falklands, and then adding ignorance to insult by referring to the Falklands (which Argentina calls the Malvinas) as the Maldives.
  • Completely ignoring Iran‘s increased presence in our hemisphere.

These are but a few instances of failed foreign policy in Latin America by the Obama administration, and I’m barely getting started. As Professor Jacobson said,

Yet Obama and his campaign team trot out Osama bin Laden to cure all those political ills, and as political cover for a failed presidency.

Yet Obama’s “cool.”

Again, after four years of a celebrity president, is your life any better?

UPDATE,
Linked by Le·gal In·sur·rec· tion. Thanks!

Post re-edited for clarity and grammar.


Friday night tango: La bruja

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Antonio Martinez and Monica Paz at Salon Canning dance “La bruja” by Juan D’Arienzo

Venezuela: Chavez giveth, Chavez taketh away

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Chavez’s Grab at Severance Benefits Roils Venezuelan Workers

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who can usually count on a well-honed populist touch, may have made a misstep recently as he prepares to rewrite the country’s labor law in May.

Among the various revisions the leftist leader is considering, his proposal to expand government control over severance benefits has roiled the country’s workers, in the public and private sectors, and sent Venezuelan officials backpedaling.

The details of Mr. Chavez’s plans are sketchy but would involve pulling the rainy day money from individual trust accounts in banks and creating a state-managed fund.

As you may recall, Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez did something similar a few years ago.

But Chavez is taking it one step further,

The president would also issue new debt, dubbed “Petrorinoco” bonds and due in 2036, to pay for an increase of the benefit to the public sector that has been pending for more than a decade. Government workers, who are owed an estimated $18 billion, would be required to hold the bond for two years and then have the option to sell it in the local exchange.

The immediate reaction?

But workers, fearful of coming changes, aren’t waiting for clarity, and have started to line up at banks to empty as much as they can of their severance accounts and have threatened to turn against Chavez at the ballot box in presidential elections this fall.

If he lives that long.

Crucify the oil companies! UPDATED

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Last night I was having a quiet evening at home when the doorbell rang. An earnest young woman was gathering signatures for a petition against fracking. To the best of my knowledge there is no fracking in Princeton (and if there was, I would probably support it), so I told her I wasn’t interested.

She insisted that I sign, since the petition was “against the fracking companies in Pennsylvania sending their radioactive waste to New Jersey.” Again I declined, again she persisted. I wished her a good evening and shut the door. She yelled something to the effect of “the evil must be stopped,” and moved on.

She ought to get a job with Al Armendariz’s Region 6 EPA office:
EPA Official Not Only Touted ‘Crucifying’ Oil Companies, He Tried It

The Armendriz video (which appears to have been taken off YouTube late late night) was shot around the same time he was preparing the action against Range. Here’s the highlights of what he said.
The Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.

And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not compliant with the law. Find people who are not compliant with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them, and there is a deterrent effect there. And, companies that are smart see that, they don’t want to play that game, and they decide at that point that it’s time to clean up.

And, that won’t happen unless you have somebody out there making examples of people. So you go out, you look at an industry, you find people violating the law, you go aggressively after them. And we do have some pretty effective enforcement tools. Compliance can get very high, very, very quickly.

That’s what these companies respond to is both their public image but also financial pressure. So you put some financial pressure on a company, you get other people in that industry to clean up very quickly.

The former professor at Southern Methodist University is a diehard environmentalist, having grown up in El Paso near a copper smelter that reportedly belched arsenic-laced clouds into the air. (Here’s a profile of him in the Dallas Observer.) Texas Monthly called him one of the 25 most powerful Texans, while the Houston Chronicle said he’s “the most feared environmentalist in the state.”

Nevermind that he couldn’t prove jack against Range. For a year and a half EPA bickered over the issue, both with Range and with the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas drilling and did its own scientific study of Range’s wells and found no evidence that they polluted anything. In recent months a federal judge slapped the EPA, decreeing that the agency was required to actually do some scientific investigation of wells before penalizing the companies that drilled them. Finally in March the EPA withdrew its emergency order and a federal court dismissed the EPA’s case

The video has been pulled but you can watch a snippet at a Fox News report,

UPDATE,
found the YouTube with Almendariz’s statements here,

As Steven Hayward explains,

It is important to grasp why this kind of excessive zeal is the rule rather than the exception from federal regulators, and always will be. Armendariz is wholly typical of the regulator mentality, and we won’t prevent future “crucifixions” until we make fundamental changes to revive the rule of law and restore some kind of democratic accountability to the administrative state.

Let the snark flow!

UPDATE, 30 April,
Top EPA official resigns after ‘crucify’ comment


How cool is that?

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Mmmmm. Bacon! And cocktails!

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Not just any bacon, but chicken fried bacon, via Kermit,

Not related,
What Cocktail Parties Teach Us
The Brain Is Wired to Focus on Just One Thing; Which Tasks Are Easier to Combine

PAY ATTENTION | How to stay in the zone
Recognize your limitations. The brain can only fully attend to one thing at a time.

Make your senses work together. If you’re trying to listen to someone in a noisy room, look directly at the speaker.

Focus on what’s important. Many professions—from pilots to police officers—depend on keen powers of observation. Training and practice help. But experts say things like chess and videogames likely won’t expand your overall attention skills.

Allocate blocks of time to specific tasks. Sometimes a deadline can force people to focus.

Avoid distracted driving. Don’t talk on a cellphone, text or give voice commands while at the wheel

And, give bacon your full attention – especially if it’s chicken fried.

Arab spring? Or culture of death? UPDATED

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Only a very sick society would even think of such an outrage,
Outrage as Egypt plans ‘farewell intercourse law’ so husbands can have sex with DEAD wives up to six hours after their death

Egyptian husbands will soon be legally allowed to have sex with their dead wives – for up to six hours after their death.

The widowers may believe the deceased are pining for the fjords, but this is obscene.

Equally obscene,

The controversial new law is part of a raft of measures being introduced by the Islamist-dominated parliament.

It will also see the minimum age of marriage lowered to 14 and the ridding of women’s rights of getting education and employment.

As I said, obscene.

Over in England, George Galloway converted to Islam.

UPDATE,
Mark Steyn,

Gotta hand it to the Muslim Brotherhood. Hard to come up with a more apt image of the Arab Spring than an aroused Islamist rogering a corpse.

UPDATE,
Allahpundithas a different take,

Al-Ahram is controlled by the Egyptian government, which I assume means it’s heavily influenced by the ruling military junta. And the junta, of course, is invested in discrediting the Islamists in order to defend its prerogatives against parliament’s growing power. (It’s worth noting too that Al-Arabiya, which picked up the story from Al-Ahram, is a Saudi outfit and the Saudis are mighty anxious about the idea of Islamist populists seizing power from sclerotic tyrannical regimes.) Again, none of this is to say the story isn’t true — the part about the marriage age being lowered is all too plausible — but it’s not hard to see why Mubarak allies might want to make something up or inflate something one of the fringier parliamentarians said in order to galvanize international opinion against the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists. It is, however, hard to see why the MB would allow parliament to entertain a law like this at a moment when they’re busy gladhanding westerners to reassure them that the Brotherhood are “modern” Islamists who are worthy of foreign aid and trade deals. If this really is being kicked around by MPs, I’d bet it’s the Salafists who are pushing it. But we’ll see.

Anyone seen any news items today confirming this with sources besides Samea? If so, shoot us an e-mail at the tips line and I’ll update.