We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Venezuela: an evolving story

Misreporting Venezuela’s economy – Mark Weisbrot, writing for the Guardian in September 2010

Venezuela’s devaluation doom-mongers – Mark Weisbrot, writing for the Guardian in March 2013

Sorry, Venezuela haters: this economy is not the Greece of Latin America – Mark Weisbrot, writing for the Guardian in November 2013

For some reason Mr Weisbrot has not written much for the Guardian comment pages on the subject of Venezuela recently, but to its credit the Guardian has covered developments in that country in the news pages:

‘At least 35,000’ Venezuelans cross border to Colombia to buy food and medicine – a story from the Associated Press appearing in the Guardian on 17 July 2016.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans poured into neighbouring Colombia to buy food and medicine on Saturday after authorities briefly opened the border that has been closed for almost a year.

A similar measure last week led to dramatic scenes of the elderly and mothers storming Colombian supermarkets and highlighted how daily life has deteriorated for millions in Venezuela, where the economy has been in a freefall since the 2014 crash in oil prices.

A verdict on Clinton – or on the USA?

A commentator on Breitbart, ‘Rob’, says of the decision by the FBI not to recommend charges relating to alleged violation of the law relating to the use and security of the Secretary’s private email server:

“Until this election, the corruption, coercion, and sleazy backroom deals were just that… backroom. The Clintons… AND Obama… have revealed who they are: criminals. IF in light of this clear abortion of justice this country elects Hillary, the United States DESERVES to collapse and disintegrate just like Rome. Shame on Comey. Shame on Lynch. Shame on Obama. And shame on that sleazy criminal hag Hillary. Disgusting… all of them, and I would love to watch Attorney General Chris Christie put them all in prison next summer.”

An un-convent-ional hiding place in Argentina for cash and a gun

Try as I might, I cannot but chuckle at news coming out of Argentina, of a lawmaker, Señor Lopez, from the Kirchnerite movement in Argentina being arrested in the alleged circumstances of hiding between 5-8 millions of dollars worth of cash and a gun in a convent.

An Argentine former secretary of Public Works with the Cristina Fernandez administration, Jose Lopez, and currently a member of the Mercosur parliament, was arrested on Tuesday in the Buenos Aires province locality of General Rodríguez while he was trying to hide bags full of money and an automatic gun in the garden of a convent.

The reason for the formal arrest was possession of a war weapon, a Sig Saguer rifle, loaded with 25 cartridges.

Lopez was arrested with six bags and a suitcase stashed with dollars, Euros, Yuan and Qatar currency as well as very expensive watches (Rolex, Omega). “We found 160 bundles of cash, 108 of dollars, and some of them still thermo-sealed with the stamps from China’s central bank”, revealed Cristian Ritondo, head of Buenos Aires province security. Ritondo said Lopez tried to bribe the police officers and went into shock when they did not accept, and later suffered a deep depression.

At first he told the officers he was planning to donate the funds to the nuns monastery. In effect one of the nuns interviewed said that Lopez had visited them the previous day and “he was quite crazy”, saying he had stolen the money which was to help the monastery, “but today when he turned up and started dumping the bags, police arrested him. I told the officers he was a good man, he came once a year to visit us and would help us with donations of coffee and tea”

Corruption in Argentina is, at least, like a certain beverage, reassuringly expensive. The comments are quite good, especially the one about the nuns needing a good Rolex to time their prayers.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Lootings are becoming a common occurrence in Venezuela, as the country’s food shortage resulted in yet another reported incident of violence in a supermarket—this time in the Luvebras Automarket located in the La Florida Province of Caracas. Videos posted to social media showed desperate people falling over each other trying to get bags of rice. One user claimed the looting occurred because it is difficult to get cereal, and so people ‘broke down the doors and damaged infrastructure.”

Robert Tracinski

Brazil – To avoid the cops, join the government.

I’ve heard it said that Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be….

Well, we have reports that former President Lula da Silva, he of the Workers’ Party, having had his collar felt recently by police over corruption allegations, has found a way that might help him sidestep further investigations, by joining the government of his successor, Dilma, that ‘likeable’ former Marxist guerilla, who is herself facing calls to resign over corruption.

Joining the government would mean that only the Supreme Court could hear a criminal complaint against him, and the lower courts have no jurisdiction to hear a case against a Minister. Such is the respect for the rule of law in that country.

So at least in Brazil they are perfectly open, if the cops are after you, you are safe if join the government. Is it any wonder that the country is a mess? This is one way to defend a government against politically-motivated prosecutors, but it is also a way to shield criminals.

I suppose the tipping point comes when politicians join a government when facing indictment, rather than resign from it.

Venezuela – a role model for the man probably going to be the next leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition

“When we celebrate, and it is a cause for celebration, the achievements of Venezuela, in jobs, in housing , in health, in education, but above all its role in the whole world as a completely different place, then we do that because we recognise what they have achieved.”

Jeremy Corbyn

(For those who haven’t been on Samizdata before, this posting is designed to highlight the vileness of this man, not to imply approval.)

No one could have seen this coming

From the “it’s just a temporary emergency created by the need to suppress vicious anti-social elements, and we will restore things to normal after the crisis has ended” department:

Venezuelan farmers ordered to hand over produce to state.

I’m certain this new measure will finally end the reign of terror of the hoarders and restore food to Venezuelan homes.

Meanwhile, a word about toilet paper. The capitalist propaganda machine outside of the Bolivarist Paradise has been telling people that toilet paper is now largely unavailable for purchase in the country. But, does man really require toilet paper to be happy? A few centuries ago there was no toilet paper at all – indeed, mankind survived for most its history without toilet paper. The desire for toilet paper is simply a form of manufactured desire created by capitalist marketing and advertising – the production of a want in people for a product they don’t actually have a real use for. The creation of toilet paper despoils forests and the landscape, is unsustainable, and it is only to the good that Venezuela now leads the world in eliminating this scourge from our midst.

(See also: What Socialism Has Done To A Supermarket in Venezuela.)

Chávez’s Better World

Presented for your consideration, two quotations and a hyperlink:

“I am convinced that the path to a new, better and possible world is not capitalism, the path is socialism.”

-Hugo Chávez

“I have said it already, I am convinced that the way to build a new and better world is not capitalism. Capitalism leads us straight to hell.”

-Hugo Chávez

Venezuelan Bolivar now worth more as toilet paper than as money.

Surprise!

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro given power to rule by decree

The Venezuelan parliament on Sunday approved a law giving the president, Nicolás Maduro, the power to legislate by decree for nine months in the face of what he described as threats by the US government.

The so-called “anti-imperialist” law will be in effect from the time it is published in Venezuela’s Official Gazette until 31 December.

Maduro requested the expanded powers in response to new US sanctions on Venezuelan officials accused of human rights violations. Critics of Venezuela’s government have called the move a power grab.

El Sistema in Venezuela probably is not that much harsher than most musical education

The moon is blue, so I shall defend a socialist prestige cultural project. East Germany had its shotputters, the USSR its grand masters of chess, Venezuela has “El Sistema” – a much lauded system of musical education. Now, however, there is a discordant note:

Author exposes ‘tyranny’ behind musical miracle for poor children

Over 40 years, El Sistema, Venezuela’s music education system, has given a million children the opportunity to play in an orchestra, enriching, they say, the lives of youngsters from the barrios.

Its methods have been emulated in 60 countries, notably Scotland, where a Sistema-style operation was pioneered on a tough housing estate in Stirling with support from the classical violinist Nicola Benedetti.

The mood music has changed, however, with the publication of El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth, by Geoffrey Baker.
Aghast at the book’s claims of corruption, mismanagement and nepotism within Venezuela, a Conservative politician has questioned whether El Sistema should extend its reach any further. Yesterday, Alex Johnstone, MSP for North East Scotland, said that plans for a Sistema orchestra in Dundee must be halted while the claims are investigated.

“This book gives the impression that the system is much more authoritarian and intolerant than some were letting on,” said Mr Johnstone. “Not so much a new idea, as back to the Victorian habits of teaching piano by rapping them across the knuckles.”

Corruption, mismanagement and nepotism in a socialist show project would astound me only by their absence. But authoritarianism is the norm when teaching children to play musical instruments the world over, and has been since forever. The exception is the namby-pamby modern Western middle classes, and not all of them. The common opinion of that portion of mankind that gives music lessons or pays for them is that you won’t be going anywhere until you have done your quota of scales, sweetums, and if your name is Wei or Xiuying, these days that quota is likely to be big.

Do not misunderstand me. I like namby pamby. I’ve been uncomfortable with compulsion in education for decades now, and if not convinced that it can be dispensed with altogether for the very youngest children, am certainly convinced that it can be phased out at a far younger age than most people think. In most contexts I am convinced that education without force is immeasurably better education.

But how do you get them to practise – or don’t you? Given that it takes unfailing hours of daily practice to make a great player, and that for most instruments the great players invariably start young, would the price of freeing children from the slavery of music practice be no more great classical musicians? If so, would it be worth it?

Our Chavez, who art in heaven

Progressive Venezuela has rediscovered the benefits of Emperor worship:

“Venezuelan Socialists rewrite Lord’s Prayer: ‘Our Chavez, who art in heaven'”

No doubt, like Claudius, the Divine Hugo will be worshipped by the more gullible among the British tribesmen. As Seneca wrote in the Apocolocyntosis,

Is it not enough that he has a temple in Britain, that savages worship him and pray to him as a god, so that they may find a fool to have mercy upon them?”

Venezuela circles the drain

Venezuela enters the high farce stage of its development.

In a move that will no doubt help further the Venezuelan government’s aim of establishing a socialist utopian republic, President Nicolas Maduro announced this week that grocery stores will soon begin the mandatory fingerprinting of customers. The peculiar initiative, which could be implemented by the end of the year, is meant to help combat the hoarding and smuggling of government-subsidized goods.

Is this not truly epic? Is not socialism stranger than a chorus of singing penguins?