Saturday, November 30, 2013
Economic policy as seen by a bus driver Communist thug. Venezuela is well on it's way "to 72 years to nowhere"
(Reuters) - Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro said a stricter wave of inspections for suspected price-gouging would begin on Saturday in an aggressive pre-election "economic offensive" aimed at taming the highest inflation in the Americas.
"We're not joking, we're defending the rights of the majority, their economic freedom," Maduro said on Friday, alleging price irregularities were found in nearly 99 percent of 1,705 businesses inspected so far this month.
Maduro, who has staked his presidency on preserving the legacy of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, launched a theatrical - and often televised - wave of inspections this month to force companies to reduce prices.
He says "capitalist parasites" are trying to wreck Venezuela's economy and force him from office.
Opponents scoff at the measures as cheap and short-term populism that is hiding the failure of Venezuela's socialist economic model and intended to win votes at an upcoming poll.
Economic problems, including inflation running at an annual 54 percent and shortages of basic products, have been Maduro's biggest challenge since taking office in April.
"The inspections are continuing daily and have let us see into the under-world of capitalism," Maduro said in his latest speech to the nation, warning of severe sanctions starting Saturday against businesses maintaining unjustifiably high prices.
Government officials say companies have been marking up prices by as much as 1,000 percent over cost, though many retailers say they have been forced to hike prices sharply due to lack of access to foreign currency at the official rate.
The government has given a plethora of different figures on the inspections, with Maduro saying 100 retailers have been arrested but his chief prosecutor putting that at around 30.
"The government is seeking to transfer the political cost of the crisis to a third party (the businesses), while trying to give the impression it is attacking the problem," said Henkel Garcia, of local financial think-tank Econometrica.
LIMITS ON RENTS
Maduro also announced on Friday a new decree to limit monthly rents for commercial properties, to 250 bolivars ($40) per square meter, in a bid to reduce costs passed to consumers.
And in another populist move, the president said interest rates for savers on low incomes would be hiked to 16 percent, from 12.5 percent currently.
"This is just a first step to reward savers," Maduro said.
The leader of Venezuela's main business group Fedecamaras, Jorge Roig, said this week the government's erroneous economic policies and excessive controls risk setting up the nation for a dire 2014 of shortages and stagnation.
Wall Street analysts expect growth of 1 percent to 1.5 percent this year. The government has backed off its official target of 6 percent, but has not provided a new figure.
Roig accused policymakers of "improvisation" in the face of growing economic distortions and insisted that businesses nationalized in the Chavez era were operating at half capacity, while only 2 percent of expropriated land was productive.
"Mr. Jorge Roig, you have just declared economic war on the country," Maduro retorted on Friday, using the same combative tone and accusations against private enterprise common during Chavez's 14-year rule of the South American OPEC nations.
Having narrowly beaten opposition candidate Henrique Capriles to win April's presidential vote, Maduro and his supporters are gearing up for a new test at the polls with nationwide municipal elections on December 8.
The opposition is painting the vote as a referendum on Maduro's record, but any voter backlash over the economic problems may be tempered by his recent populist measures.
(Reuters) - The U.S. State Department extended six-month Iran sanctions waivers on Friday to China, India, South Korea and other countries in exchange for their reducing purchases of Iranian crude oil earlier this year.
The waivers had been expected. Under a law governing sanctions imposed on Iran's disputed nuclear program by the United States, the State Department is required to determine whether the Islamic Republic's oil consumers have reduced their purchases.
The decision comes even after the United States and five other global powers, known as the P5+1, agreed in Geneva this month to ease Iran's access to about $4.2 billion in foreign currency reserves for six months in exchange for Tehran's taking steps to curb its nuclear program.
The waivers, which the State Department calls exceptions, mean that banks in the consuming countries will not face being cut off from the U.S. financial system for the next six months.
"We will continue to aggressively enforce our sanctions over the next six months, as we work to determine whether there is a comprehensive solution that gives us confidence that the Iranian nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.
Since the beginning of the sanctions regime in 2012, all 20 of Iran's oil customers have qualified for the periodic waivers. But despite the Geneva agreement, the United States reserves the right to sanction any oil consuming country should it suddenly increase its purchases.
Officials from the Departments of State, Treasury and Commerce have worked with Iran's buyers since 2012 in an effort to find alternative sources of crude, including oil from Saudi Arabia.
Under the Geneva accord, the P5+1 agreed to pause efforts to further reduce Iran's crude oil sales, allowing consuming countries to continue buying their "current average amounts of crude oil." The interim agreement is meant to build confidence for a final agreement on the nuclear program.
Under that agreement, Iran's oil exports will be held to about 1 million barrels per day, the level its sales have averaged this year. Iran's oil shipments were about 2.5 million bpd in the beginning of 2012, before U.S. and European sanctions took effect. The U.S. sanctions law could have driven Iran's oil sales even lower if Iran and the P5+1 did not come to agreement in Geneva.
The State Department said Turkey and Taiwan also qualified for the waivers. Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore and Sri Lanka, which no longer purchase oil from Iran, also qualified for the exceptions.
From Daren Jonescu at American Thinker:
2013 has been a banner year for damning self-portraits of American progressivism. Just when you thought no one could top Hillary Clinton's agonized "What difference, at this point, does it make?" -- perhaps the most concise account of the leftist strategy of incremental subversion ever recorded -- along comes President Obama's revelatory time bomb, set ticking back in 2009 for detonation on October 1 of this year: "If you like your plan, you can keep it."With her "What difference" outburst, Clinton told the world what the progressive elite think of their subjects. They think you are stupid, morally shallow, and have the attention span of three year olds -- exactly as progressive schooling and entertainment are designed to make you. Hence they need only wait you out, until the haze of time dulls your capacity for outrage about whether your leaders knowingly took the phone off the hook as your fellow citizens called for help with killers closing in on them. Hence they need only bide their time after passing rights-violating, spirit-diminishing legislation, and weather the storm of criticism until the majority of you get used to the new shackles, and carry on with your little lives. Hence, in all things, they need only embrace the necessity of working through their totalitarian dreams gradually, so as not to allow any particular "transformation" to seem fundamental enough to disturb your equilibrium.Obama, not to be outdone, has matched Clinton's bid for Self-exposed Authoritarian of the Year, and raised it several degrees of amplification. "If you like your plan, you can keep it" gives clear expression to one installment in the multigenerational bait-and-switch strategy with which progressivism has undermined modernity.First of all, to state the obvious, the fact that Obama spoke those words, or words extremely like them, a thousand times during the ObamaCare debate proves they were carefully scripted, and not a throwaway remark. And to state the equally obvious, Obama knew -- or at least his strategists knew -- that he was making a promise he would not keep, for at least three reasons: first, the cancelled policy wave that ObamaCare's implementation has instigated was expected and predictable; second, no politician can guarantee that you will be able to keep something over which politicians have no direct control, such as a private insurance policy; and third, that you should keep your plan was exactly the outcome they were hoping to thwart.Obama's scripted and oft-repeated assurance, therefore, was more than a garden variety lie. It perfectly encapsulated the progressive method of civilizational betrayal, the deliberate poisoning of the well of representative government by means of what we might call "performative politics."All politicians subject to election make promises. And all politicians know that keeping every promise they make will be difficult, if not impossible. But when a politician promises a certain outcome, not because he actually wishes he could provide it (realistically or otherwise), nor even because he knows it is what the voters want to hear, but rather because he desires exactly the opposite outcome, then we have entered the corrupt realm of performative politics, the grand theater of fake representative government.Regarding healthcare, you have all heard America's progressive leadership, from Obama, Reid, and Pelosi on down, state explicitly that what they want is a single-payer healthcare system, i.e., socialized medicine. You also know that the ObamaCare "compromise" was intended, and has been described by various high-ranking Democrats, as a big turn of the ratchet in the direction of a single-payer system. (That is, it is a step "forward" into the dream of comprehensive government control over your physical preservation.) The progressives were, in effect, compromising with themselves: calculating that a complete government takeover of American healthcare would cause unmanageable outrage, they settled for an interim takeover by means of a labyrinth of unfathomable regulations and advisory boards.Whether they intended this compromise to crumble under its own weight immediately, thereby opening the door right away to the "fix" of even more direct government control, is debateable. What is not debateable, however, is that their ultimate goal, the definitive aim of socialized medicine, is precisely to deny Americans the "the plan they like" -- that is, the healthcare arrangements of their own free choice. Therefore, when Obama and his various mouthpieces promised that Americans could keep those arrangements, they were not merely lying in the ordinary political sense -- making promises they knew they couldn't keep ("No new taxes," "Ten million jobs," etc.) -- but rather defrauding a nation, by pretending they were happy and eager to allow people to do the very thing these planners were dead set on preventing people from doing.A typical politician is a slick used car salesman. A progressive politician is Iago. The former seeks to gain his advantage within the existing political machinery, while leaving that machinery more or less intact. The latter seeks a fundamental transformation of the existing arrangements, much as Iago seeks a fundamental transformation of Othello's marriage to Desdemona. And the methods used are virtually identical: foster in the victim a trust of his destroyer through pretended loyalty against imaginary rivals, stir doubts about the virtue of the innocent through insinuation and half-truth, and finally promote the victim's self-destruction through traitorous trickery."If you like your plan, you can keep it." This is a perfect iteration of the basic lie that has fueled modernity's "progress" down the drain of history -- or History, as progressive thinkers would have it. It is not so much a lie as a mask, the necessary first step, or thesis if you will, in each stage of the dialectical deflowering of a civilization against its better judgment and best instincts. It is the emphatic reassurance that the latest "five year plan" will in no way threaten the freedom, opportunity, and prosperity to which you have become accustomed -- a necessary buffer against reality which buys the progressives time to work their black magic, until the nasty truth arrives, obscured in the fog of time and cushioned by the human capacity for "learning to live with it." You have heard this lie, and witnessed the tyrannical dialectic it sets in motion, your whole life, as have your parents and grandparents. Variations on this theme have become the soundtrack of late modernity's decline. The theme remains the same; only the melodic details are changed to suit the collectivist totalitarian agenda item of the moment."If you like your current healthcare arrangements, you can keep them" -- except that our intention is to delegitimize, denigrate, and finally outlaw all private healthcare arrangements."If you like your 'negative rights,' you can keep them" -- except that the new positive rights we are gradually introducing into the political lexicon will necessarily override your life, liberty, and property, not to mention trumping all the secondary rights derived from those initial three, such as speech, association, and religion.
Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/11/if_you_like_your_tyranny_you_can_keep_it.html#ixzz2m8Na6YGY
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Friday, November 29, 2013
Proliferation: As we shutter our ICBM squadrons and destroy our silos, Iran and North Korea are working on technology to deliver nukes Pyongyang already has and Tehran is a few centrifuge rotations from acquiring.
As Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon reports, groups of technicians from the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), a unit in charge of building Iran's liquid-fueled missiles, have made repeated trips to North Korea during the past several months, including as recently as late October, to work on a new 80-ton rocket booster being developed by the North Koreans,
That booster is believed to be the foundation for a new heavy-lift missile with intercontinental range and capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead. It would be far more capable than Pyongyang's Taepodong or Iran's Shahab missile series.
The booster was described by one official as a thruster for a "super ICBM" or a heavy-lift space launcher. "It is completely new from what they have done so far," he added.
The blog 38 North, part of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, disclosed last month that satellite photos showed an expansion at a North Korean launch site for a larger rocket.
New commercial satellite imagery indicates that North Korea is moving ahead with major construction projects at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station at Tongchang-ri.
Iran has long worked with North Korea, particularly on intercontinental ballistic missiles. Its cooperation with North Korea began in the 1980s, when Tehran financed Pyongyang's production of Soviet-designed Scud missiles and received 100 of them. Later, North Korea shipped engines for Rodong midrange missiles to Iran.
Pyongyang has also helped Tehran set up missile production facilities, and North Koreans are regular visitors to these plants. Iran's Shahab-3, which can reach all of Israel, is simply the Islamic country's enhanced version of the North Korean Nodong.
Confirmed reports place Iranian scientists and engineers inside North Korea in 1993, when the Nodong-class missile was first tested and unveiled.
Iran is working hard to improve its missile capabilities. In February 2009, Iran demonstrated its global reach with the launching of its Omid satellite aboard the Safie space-launch vehicle.
The Japanese paper Sankei Shimbun reported North Korea sent missile experts to observe the launch. Iran's multistage Safir-Omid space launch vehicle owes much to North Korea's Taepodong missile.
In September 2012, Kim Yong Nam, a senior North Korean official, visited Tehran, and agreed with Iran's supreme leader Sayed Ali Khameni that the United States was their common enemy. When Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was sworn in this year, Kim was there to attend the ceremony.
"With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could probably develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States by 2015," warned a 12-page Defense Department report, released in 2010, on the "Military Power of Iran," a copy of which Reuters obtained. North Korea is surely willing to provide that foreign assistance.
"Perhaps (Secretary of State) John Kerry believes that Iran only wants ballistic missiles for peaceful purposes," says former Pentagon adviser Michael Rubin.
"The fact of the matter is that Kerry and crew left both ballistic missiles and the nuclear warhead trigger experimentation at Parchin (military site) off the table" during talks in Geneva, he said. "It's the diplomatic equivalent of installing a burglar alarm system in your house but leaving the keys in the door."
It wasn't long after Neville Chamberlain's return from Munich in 1938 with a paper proclaiming "peace in our time" that German V-2 rockets began raining down on London. As the saying goes, those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it, this time with nukes.
Accountability: President Obama says so many false things about ObamaCare that it's hard to keep up. But here are two more untruths that deserve debunking.
In speech after speech these days, Obama tries to shift blame for the ongoing ObamaCare debacles onto the backs of Republicans.
In late November, for example, Obama complained that "instead of rooting for failure, or refighting old battles, Republicans in Congress need to work with us to improve those things about the Affordable Care Act that aren't working as well as they should."
Obama's attempt to escape responsibility for the failure of his signature domestic achievement isn't surprising. But in this case, he's falsifying the record.
The fact is that Republicans in the House have already done much to fix ObamaCare, and Obama himself has signed many of those bills into law.
One of the first things Republicans did after taking control of the House was to repeal an onerous tax-reporting scheme Democrats tucked into the law, which would have buried businesses in IRS paperwork. Obama signed that in April 2011.
They also removed a "free-choice voucher" program that would have forced companies to hand vouchers to low-income workers who didn't want to sign up with their health plans.
Republicans repealed ObamaCare's long-term care insurance program, too, which even the administration admitted was fatally flawed.
They fixed an eligibility formula that would have let a couple making as much as $64,000 a year qualify for Medicaid, thereby saving taxpayers $13 billion.
Just this month, the House passed a bill to let individuals keep the plans they have. That, like many other House fixes, went nowhere in the Democratic Senate.
Meanwhile, Obama puts a happy face on ObamaCare by claiming it is already slowing health spending. "Thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years," he said recently. "Employer-based health care costs are growing at about one-third the rate of a decade ago."
This, too, is false. Yes, the rate of growth in national health spending has slowed in recent years. It was just 3.9% in 2009, 2010 and 2011. And employer premium growth had been on the downtrend.
But these have nothing to do with ObamaCare. The latest report from the chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — the official scorekeeper of health spending — says the spending growth slowdown is "unrelated to the (Affordable Care Act)."
It also reports that ObamaCare will add to national spending over the next decade. Other reports have pinned much of the slowdown on the recession and Obama's lousy recovery that followed it. Plus, ObamaCare is now pushing premiums up.
As Charles Blahous, a former trustee for Social Security and Medicare, puts it, Obama's latest cost-cutting claims "are just as groundless as the ones that misled so many Americans to believe they would be able to keep their previous coverage."
By VICTOR DAVIS HANSON
The densely populated coastal corridors from Boston to Washington and from San Diego to Berkeley are where most of America's big decisions are made.
They remind us of two quite different Americas: one country along these coasts and everything else in between. Those in Boston, New York and Washington determine how our government works; what sort of news, books, art and fashion we should consume, and whether our money and investments are worth anything.
The Pacific corridor is just as influential, but in a hipper, cooler fashion. Whether America suffers through another zombie film or one more Lady Gaga video or Kanye West's latest soft-porn rhyme is determined by Hollywood — mostly by executives who live in the la-la land of the thin Pacific strip from Malibu to Palos Verdes.
The next smartphone or search engine 5.0 will arise from the minds of tech geeks who pay $2,000 a month for studio apartments and drive BMWs in Menlo Park, Palo Alto or Mountain View.
The road to riches and influence, we are told, lies in being branded with a degree from a coastal-elite campus like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford or Berkeley. How well a Yale professor teaches an 18-year-old in a class on American history does not matter as much as the fact that the professor helps to stamp the student with the Ivy League logo. That mark is the lifelong golden key that is supposed to unlock the door to coastal privilege.
Fly over or drive across the U.S., and the spatial absurdity of this rather narrow coastal monopoly is immediately apparent to the naked eye. Outside of these power corridors, our vast country appears pretty empty. The nation's muscles that produce our oil, gas, food, lumber, minerals and manufactured goods work unnoticed in this sparsely settled fly-over expanse.
People rise each morning in San Francisco and New York and count on plentiful food, fuel and power. They expect service in elevators to limos that are mostly made elsewhere by people of the sort they seldom see and don't really know — other than to influence through a cable news show, a new rap song, the next federal health-care mandate or more phone apps.
In California, whether farms receive contracted irrigation water, whether a billion board feet of burned timber will be salvaged from the recent Sierra Nevada forest fires, whether a high-speed-rail project obliterates thousands of acres of ancestral farms, whether gas will be fracked, or whether granite should be mined to make tony kitchen counters are all determined largely by coastal elites who take these plentiful resources for granted.
Rarely, however, do they see how their own necessities are procured. Instead, they feel deeply ambivalent about the grubbier people and culture that made them.
In Kansas or Utah, people do not pay $1,000 per square foot for their homes as they do on Manhattan's Upper West Side. They do not gossip with the people who write their tax laws, as is common in the Georgetown area of Washington. Those in the empty northern third of California do not see Facebook or Oracle founders at the local Starbucks any more than they bump into the Kardashians at a hip bistro.
The problem is not just that the coasts determine how everyone else is to lead their lives, but that those living in our elite corridors have no idea about how life is lived just a short distance away in the interior — much less about the sometimes tragic consequences of their own therapeutic ideology on the distant, less influential majority.
In a fantasy world, I would move Washington, D.C., to Kansas City, Mo. That transfer would not only make the capital more accessible to the American people and equalize travel requirements for our legislators, but also expose an out-of-touch government to a reality outside its Beltway.
I would transfer the United Nations to Salt Lake City, where foreign diplomats would live in a different sort of cocoon.
I would ask billionaires like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and the Koch Brothers to endow with their riches a few Midwestern or Southern universities. Perhaps we could create a new Ivy League in the nation's center.
I would suggest to Facebook and Apple that they relocate operations to North Dakota to expose their geeky entrepreneurs to those who drive trucks and plow snow. Who knows — they might be able to afford a house, get married before 35 and have three rather than zero kids.
America is said to be divided by red and blue states, rich and poor, white and non-white, Christian and non-Christian, old and new. I think the real divide is between those who make our decisions on the coasts and the anonymous others who live with the consequences somewhere else.
President Barak Obama used the sexually vulgar expression “tea-baggers” to refer to tea party members in a letter he wrote to a Texas grade school Teacher. The term “tea-baggers” has been used to ridicule the tea party, a group of American activists who advocate reducing taxes, shrinking the size of government, and returning to traditional family values. Obama was replying to a letter he received from Thomas Ritter, a 5th grade school teacher from Irving, Texas.
Fraud is not an issue when the goal is to make as many people as possible dependent on government largesse.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama's White House politicized Thanksgiving to promote the reauthorization of the SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) or "food stamps" as part of the farm bill at a time when a record number of Americans are receiving assistance.
Bureaucrats won't help unless he is 'pregnant or an illegal alien'
And you thought Kafka was so yesterday!
Police are investigating a vicious attack on a Manhattan chef who was walking alone on Tuesday night when he was allegedly assaulted by a group of six to eight men, all between the ages of 16 and 21. ‘I'm not well, a lot of swelling and overall pain,’ said victim Diego Moya. ‘Should be four weeks until I lose the wires and can eat normally, which is devastating being a chef. Means I can't work.’Continue
Thursday, November 28, 2013
One of my great pet peeves is the uninformed adulation of Che Guevara, one of the most despicable characters of the 20th century.
Payton Alexander provides a list of 10 quotes that shed light on Guevara's character:
Payton Alexander provides a list of 10 quotes that shed light on Guevara's character: