Archive for January, 2004

Some species and even one hybrid

January 31, 2004






Blooming seems to be picking up now. Temperatures have dropped lower than usual ( I will not say how low, some people in the Notrthern Hemispehre would feel terrible) delaying the flowering of Cattleya Lueddemanniana. But this week I began to see some buds with promise. These are the ones that have opened. From Top to bottom:


Firt Row from the top: The lesser known Venezuelan Cattleya Lawrenceana, lots of flowers,, is is much smaller than the ususal Venezuelan Cattleyas.


Second Row: A beautiful Venezuelan Cattleya Jenmanii, it has a slight scnet, the flowers are very well shaped and the color is dard purple. This is a selfing of Cat. Jenmanii “Rose”. Everyday I like Cat. Jenmanii more and more, I don’t have too many, but will try to get some more.


Third Row: A month or two ago, this same plant of the Brazilian Cattleya Intermedia flowered as ingle flower and I was so proud and impressed by its beauty and its size. Well, this week it decided to be even more generous and sent out four blooms. Slight scent.


Fourth Row: This plant of Brazilian Cattleya Warnerii has nine flowers and two more buds should open this week. Very nice shape even if the pictures is not the best.


Fifth Row: Yes I do have some hybrids, here is Epicattleya Don Herman which I purchased from H&R in Hawaii. They finally have a website. They have very nice hybrids and lots of species too. Not too expensive either.

The smoking gun for cheating and bad faith

January 30, 2004

 


Today’s big news was the accusation by leaders of Movimiento al Socialism (MAS) that the Consejo Nacional electoral had disqualified 20% of the signatures gathered by the opposition to ask for Hugo Chavez’ recall. While El Nacional (by subscription) decided to make a big deal about it, it was simply old news and incorrect, but it provided clear proof that there was something very sneaky going on at the CNE at the verification levels, which merited last week’s conflict between international observers and Government authorities.


 


The truth was that not a single signature has been disqualified yet from the petition. In the first stage of the verification process, those forms (there are ten signatures per form) that have irregularities are set aside to be inspected by the quality control group as well as the technical committee. These two instances will decide whether the forms will be included in the verification of the signatures or not. The big scandal the week that the OAS and Carter met with CNE authorities was precisely over the fact that all of a sudden the number of questionable forms jumped from single digit levels to as high as 60%.


 


The table below clearly demonstrates that there was bad faith in the process. The verification of the forms was done alphabetically state by state. This table taken from page 2 of Tal Cual shows how after checking thirteen states the percentage of forms set aside for irregularities never exceeded 10%. Given that the opposition handed in close to 30% more signatures than it needed to activate the recall vote, this meant that the process was moving smoothly towards a recall. But then all of a sudden and in a manner which can not be justified by statistics, the same criteria began yielding rejection levels as high as 65%!. This was what raised all the issues that lead to allowing international observers to participate in all stages of the verification process. Just the week before the CNE had decided that they would not participate precisely in the stages where the validity of these forms would have been decided. Thus, as the Tal Cual headline clearly said it today, no signatures have been disqualified. That is certainly the good news. The bad news is that there is clearly a pattern of cheating and bad faith present which is aimed at blocking the possibility of a Presidential recall. Fortunately for the opposition, the people carrying this out are so stupid, that their blatant attempt at hijacking the will of the people has been clearly exposed. Unfortunately, not one of those CNE workers has been fired yet, while the CNE union continues to charge that more people are being fired in order to hire more pro-Chavez workers. Moreover, since the President of the CNE continues to defend the fact that he knows what is going on at all levels within his organization, he is either being taken for a ride or not as honorable as he claims to be.



Note added on Saturday January 31st.: The Table above does not include Zulia State which was completed yesterday. In that State 61.15% of the forms were put under observation bringing the total to 93,975 or roughly 939,750 signatures. The regulations say that only signatures can be invalidated, but this is definitely a source of concern.


 

The media, Kerry, Dean and Iraq

January 30, 2004

 


Although I have been concerned by events in Venezuela I have been following closely what has been happening in the Democratic primary in the US. I must say that from reading the traditional newspapers I got the feeling that Dean was the sure winner, while reading the bloggers I got a completely different picture. In fact, newspapers gave me the impression that Dean was first followed by Clark and then Kerry. Bloggers gave me the impression Kerry was their preference but was far behind. Then Dean lost in Iowa, had his little explosion and seems to be history now.


 


Since I am on the subject, you should read this response by an Iraqi blogger to Dean’s statement:


 


“You can say that it’s great that Saddam is gone and I’m sure that a lot of Iraqis feel it is great that Saddam is gone. But a lot of them gave their lives. And their living standard is a whole lot worse now than it was before.”


 


An excerpt:


 


I’m not going to comment about the rightness of the statement with more than saying that only a (blind) man would believe it and only a man blinded by his ambitions would dare to say it, but when you say such words, don’t you mean in other words that the sacrifices made by the American soldiers are all in vain? And that these soldiers are not doing a service to the world, nor to Iraqis and not to America. In fact you are saying that since they didn’t do the world, America or us a favour then they’re only doing a favour to GWB and his administration.

The media, Kerry, Dean and Iraq

January 30, 2004

 


Although I have been concerned by events in Venezuela I have been following closely what has been happening in the Democratic primary in the US. I must say that from reading the traditional newspapers I got the feeling that Dean was the sure winner, while reading the bloggers I got a completely different picture. In fact, newspapers gave me the impression that Dean was first followed by Clark and then Kerry. Bloggers gave me the impression Kerry was their preference but was far behind. Then Dean lost in Iowa, had his little explosion and seems to be history now.


 


Since I am on the subject, you should read this response by an Iraqi blogger to Dean’s statement:


 


“You can say that it’s great that Saddam is gone and I’m sure that a lot of Iraqis feel it is great that Saddam is gone. But a lot of them gave their lives. And their living standard is a whole lot worse now than it was before.”


 


An excerpt:


 


I’m not going to comment about the rightness of the statement with more than saying that only a (blind) man would believe it and only a man blinded by his ambitions would dare to say it, but when you say such words, don’t you mean in other words that the sacrifices made by the American soldiers are all in vain? And that these soldiers are not doing a service to the world, nor to Iraqis and not to America. In fact you are saying that since they didn’t do the world, America or us a favour then they’re only doing a favour to GWB and his administration.

Violence hits Merida today

January 30, 2004


Lots of violence today in the student city of Merida today in Southwestern Venezuela. Opposition students had organized a march to protest the summons received by many opposition leaders and the Bishop of Merida over the events of April 2002. The march could not proceed because the police used tear gas and plastic bullets to stop the students as they approached downtown Merida. In the middle of the confusion, unknown groups assaulted the headquarters of opposition party Acción Democrática (AD) and burned it. In the last report there were four students and two cops injured. As usual, justice was one-sided, the Governor of Merida state ordered an investigation of the leader of the Universidad de Los Andes Student Union for his role in the violence today, but no investigation has been opened on either the police or those that burned down the AD headquarters. Curiously the Prosecutor in the case happens to be the same one the Attorney General used in the case of the Puente El LLaguno shootings on April 10th. 2002, who were freed by the judge after the case was moved to a Court in Aragua state. That Prosecutor is an expert on environmental matters but is regularly used in cases with important political implications by our esteemed and cynical Attorney General.


 


 Let us hope that this is not a preview of things to come.

Violence hits Merida today

January 30, 2004


Lots of violence today in the student city of Merida today in Southwestern Venezuela. Opposition students had organized a march to protest the summons received by many opposition leaders and the Bishop of Merida over the events of April 2002. The march could not proceed because the police used tear gas and plastic bullets to stop the students as they approached downtown Merida. In the middle of the confusion, unknown groups assaulted the headquarters of opposition party Acción Democrática (AD) and burned it. In the last report there were four students and two cops injured. As usual, justice was one-sided, the Governor of Merida state ordered an investigation of the leader of the Universidad de Los Andes Student Union for his role in the violence today, but no investigation has been opened on either the police or those that burned down the AD headquarters. Curiously the Prosecutor in the case happens to be the same one the Attorney General used in the case of the Puente El LLaguno shootings on April 10th. 2002, who were freed by the judge after the case was moved to a Court in Aragua state. That Prosecutor is an expert on environmental matters but is regularly used in cases with important political implications by our esteemed and cynical Attorney General.


 


 Let us hope that this is not a preview of things to come.

Central Bank Director slams Government policies

January 30, 2004

 


After reading this morning’s interviews with Central Bank Director Domingo Maza Zavala in today’s El Universal and El Nacional (by subscription only page A-14) I was planning to do very much what Tal Cual did in its front page today of highlighting Maza Zavala’s criticism of the Government’s economic policy, item by item. What is interesting is that the statements are made by a one time Chavez sympathizer, who used to be considered a Marxist economist and is now the leading critic of the Government’s economic policy. I am amazed at the fact that I agree so much with Maza’s statements these days. During the Caldera exchange controls in 1995, when Maza was first named to the Board of the Central Bank, we used to have the “Maza Zavala weekly Award” given to the Government official who made the most stupid comment on the economy during the week. How times change! today Maza criticizes the Government regularly with great precision and today he slammed the Government, making very straightforward observations about its erroneous economic policies. Here is Maza’s list:


 


-There is an attempt to transform PDVSA into a different organization, whose destiny we do not know, in such a way that our oil potential could decline.


-Oil potential needs investment, if not, it drops, which is what is happening. Oil should contribute 30% to GDP and that contribution has dropped to 23%.


-Last year imports were US$ 9-10 billion and over half of that was financed outside the controlled exchange market.


-The parallel market grows because of the official restriction, the problem is not lack of foreign currency, the Central bank assigns the exhange control office US$ 1.5 billion a month and the office returns half of that.


-It is dangerous to submit the country to shortages of medicines, foodstuffs…


-The Government proposes to increase expenditures to extraordinary levels putting money in circulation in a profusive and diffusive way.


-An effective recovery rests on the private sector, we gain nothing by recovering to fall again.


-He criticized the growth in internal debt which went from 2 trillion Bs. to Bs. 22 trillion.


-Internal debt is a risk to the banking system at 25-30% of assets (it is more!!).


-We are facing an increasing inefficiency of public expenditure, the multiplication of administrative institutions, and growth without organization.


-Private investment has been at a rate of 8% of GDP, it should be at 25%.


-There is no such thing as excess international reserves.


-The parallel exchange rate of Bs . 2700 per US$ is the one used in fixing prices and thus inflation.


 


Wow! No wonder Chavez does not like the Central Bank.

The Credibility gap: An honest and responsible man

January 29, 2004

 


In an interview that attempts to be candid, the President of the Comision Nacional Electoral (CNE) gave a wide range of opinions today in page A-3 of El Nacional (by subscription). In it, Dr. Carrasquero says that President Chavez’ opinion has no validity for the CNE. He adds that he finds there is a lack of ethics in the political debate and considers that having international observers at every step of the process is like having someone visiting your home and having the visitor go to the bedroom.


 


When the interviewer points out that the Head of Informatics of the CNE is a strong Chavez supporter who is responsible for blocking the process of verification of the signatures (He has been accused of being one of the main problem within the CNE) Mr. Carrasquero replies:


 


“That is totally false. This is a very honest and responsible man, who comes from a great career in the private sector and is performing a great service, despite the fact that our technology is twenty years behind the times. I take responsability for this man”


 


Let’s look at his CV:


 


Name: Leonardo Hernandez


 


Educational Experience:


 


Undergraduate: Computer Engineering School, Universidad Central de Venezuela 1980-1990. Never Graduated.


 


Three times during his responsible and honest undergraduate career, Mr. Hernandez had the University temporarily expelled him for not satisfying minimum academic requirements. Mr. Hernandez was finally permanently expelled from the University after being registered for twenty years.


 


Of course, I imagine that in between he had that “great” career in the private sector.


 


I ask: How can I believe anything these people say?

The Credibility gap: An honest and responsible man

January 29, 2004

 


In an interview that attempts to be candid, the President of the Comision Nacional Electoral (CNE) gave a wide range of opinions today in page A-3 of El Nacional (by subscription). In it, Dr. Carrasquero says that President Chavez’ opinion has no validity for the CNE. He adds that he finds there is a lack of ethics in the political debate and considers that having international observers at every step of the process is like having someone visiting your home and having the visitor go to the bedroom.


 


When the interviewer points out that the Head of Informatics of the CNE is a strong Chavez supporter who is responsible for blocking the process of verification of the signatures (He has been accused of being one of the main problem within the CNE) Mr. Carrasquero replies:


 


“That is totally false. This is a very honest and responsible man, who comes from a great career in the private sector and is performing a great service, despite the fact that our technology is twenty years behind the times. I take responsability for this man”


 


Let’s look at his CV:


 


Name: Leonardo Hernandez


 


Educational Experience:


 


Undergraduate: Computer Engineering School, Universidad Central de Venezuela 1980-1990. Never Graduated.


 


Three times during his responsible and honest undergraduate career, Mr. Hernandez had the University temporarily expelled him for not satisfying minimum academic requirements. Mr. Hernandez was finally permanently expelled from the University after being registered for twenty years.


 


Of course, I imagine that in between he had that “great” career in the private sector.


 


I ask: How can I believe anything these people say?

A blank check for Chavez?

January 29, 2004

 


The Constitutional Hall of the Venezuelan Supreme Court made a decision this week that may have a far reaching impact on the country. First some background:


 


-One of the most curious features of the new Venezuelan Constitution is that it did not establish the number of Justices for the Supreme Court. The Constituent Assembly said at the time that the previous Organic law of the Supreme Court should be used, which consisted of twenty Justices and the previous Supreme Court Law should be used for its functioning. Thus any change to its Law was thought to be a modification of the previous law.


 


-Organic Laws in Venezuela take precedence over others. They are given priority in their discussion in the National assembly and according to Article 203 of the new Constitution: “All Organic bill projects, except those that are thus qualified by the Constitution on its own, will be admitted by the National assembly by the vote of two-thirds of the members present at the beginning of the discussion of the project of the bill. This qualified vote will be applied to modifications of Organic bills”.


 


 


-Chavez’ MVR has made a proposal for a new Organic law of the Supreme Court. Among other things, the bill increases the number of Justices from 20 to 32. If the Chavez controlled majority were to name an additional 12 Justices with its simple majority to the Supreme Court, a Constitutional Dictatorship could be established in Venezuela, since the Court would answer to Chavez’ whims and wishes. A two thirds majority would require 110 Deputies, while Chavez’ MVR only has 83 or 84 Deputies today.


 


Well, on Monday the Constitutional Hall of the Supreme Court decided by a vote of three to two that “articles of the Organic Law of the Supreme Court can be approved by the votes of half plus one of the Deputies present in the sessions”. Now this is a HUGE change, this says than rather than the 110 Deputies which the Constitution appears to prescribe, you need only 43 votes, since quorum is 84 Deputies and you would need half plus one of those. Not being a lawyer, from what I understand the decision by the court is based on article 209 of the Constitution which says that modifications to bills will be approved by the favorable vote of the majority of the Deputies present.


 


The decision has been publicly criticized by the two dissenting Justices who say this would give the Chavez majority in the National assembly carte blanche. These two Justices argue that Article 203 says that bills defined by the Constitution can be approved by simple majority (84 Deputies); but that changes to previous bills require a qualified majority and that the new Constitution changed the name of the Supreme Court but did not eliminate it.


 


The question is whether this will have an impact on the decision for the recall referendum or not. The opposition has been filibustering the discussion of the bill which means that only one article is approved at each session. At this pace, it will be difficult for the National Assembly to approve the new bill unless the regulations for internal debate of the national assembly are modified. Chavez’ MVR has been trying to do this for the eight time in one year, in order to be able to approve the bill without having to negotiate with the opposition. Even if approved, the procedures for selection and approval of the new Justices also take time, prolonging it even more. Thus, it appears to be difficult that the new Law will have an effect on the recall referendum itself even if the decision by the CNE is delayed a month or so.


 


However, a new Supreme Court could be in place right around the time that the recall vote against Chavez takes place. In that case, the issue of whether Chavez can or not run if he lost the recall vote in the subsequent election,would be defined by the new Court.


 


While some people believe that the Constitution is vague as to whether a recalled President can run to replace himself, I find the argument contrived. Article 233 of the Constitution defines the recall vote as an “absolute” absence. The same article says that when there is an absolute absence in the first four years of the term, an election will be held to elect a “new” President. This “new” President is not elected for a six year term, but to complete the term of the recalled President. Besides the fact that it seems absurd that a recalled President may run, the terms absolute and new seem pretty clear to me. Moreover, the fact that the new President is there only to complete the term of the recalled one would seem in my logical mind to nail it. But what do I know anyway.

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