Lines, shortages, rationing and those wonderful things the Chavez revolution has given us

April 23, 2010

Tomorrow I go on a very special trip, I will likely post, but don’t necessarily count on it, if I relax too much you may not read much from me. It will be nice to get away, life is getting rough down here and I am not talking about politics, I am talking about the daily details, the grind.

While everyone talks about shortages, there are some undesirable effects that sometimes you don’t realize. This week, I went to the supermarket to get my usual lunch, some fruit that I eat at my desk. This is efficient and it’s a simple task, I go to a market with a tiny parking lot, so that there are never lines at noon.

Except this week, on two different days I had the bad luck that items of which there is a shortage were available, if albeit very briefly. The first day there was milk and the cell phone shortage network was quite active, there were maybe twenty people ahead of me and I managed to get in the shortest line. Mind you, the milk was not even liquid, it was bags of awful tasting (to me) powdered milk, but clearly people were desperate, the lady behind me asked me if I was buying some, I said no, so she asked if I could buy two bags for her (Limit two bags per customer). I did, it was a complicated transaction, I paid for my stuff, then I paid for the two bags of powdered milk with her money and gave her the change and, of course, the bags. The pear I had for lunch was delicious, but it certainly took too much effort to get it.

Just my luck, the next day the market had soft margarine, another item of which there is a shortage, lines were shorter, maybe only ten people. I decided to participate in the hoarding, I know we run out of margarine regularly, as I was leaving I realized this was not the “light” stuff my wife usually buys but it was the “good” brand she likes, I hope its ok, she hasn’t said anything so far.

Then, I get a call from my sister’s boyfriend, my sister is trapped in the elevator in the building where I work. It’s the same effect, there is a shortage of spare parts, little maintenance, elevators even in the best buildings and malls of the country mostly don’t work. People get trapped, this time one of my (seven) sisters. Hey! We are Catholic!

I get back to the building where my office is and see some guys working on the elevators of the building and I tell them my sister is trapped. They look at them, only three of the six work, but that is what is expected. The three “good”” ones are working, so what gives?

Shoot, by the time I get in touch with her, I realize my sister is trapped in the parking lot elevator, not in the building. But she is out! Relief overall, she was in the only one of the two elevators to the parking lot that work, so when I left the office I had to walk down. Take a positive approach: Great exercize!

This morning, I got up at the usual time, read the news, then time for a shower. Plenty of time before rationing kicks in, twenty minutes to spare. Soap up, shampoo in, water pressure dies, I have suds all over the place as I try to catch every single drop that comes my way. I even kneel on the floor as the pressure dies! In the end, I dry mostly soap off and off to work, sticky, but smelling good.

I try to make a fuss when I go down asking why the water was shut off twenty minutes early, the lady (wife of the superintendent) smiles, laughing: “Oh! I made a mistake, I though we had changed the hours, but I have just been told I was wrong.”  What can I tell her? She was not even at the meeting when the time to stop rationing in the morning was not changed. She was just confused. No point arguing or getting mad.

So, hopefully, by the time I come back in ten days, a year and a decade older, things will have improved, my Electric Bill will come without a penalty, thanks to my efforts and the water rationing will be gone.

That is my hope, but somehow it is just wishful thinking. Things tend to get worse, not better.

At least I got some of those foreign exchange bonds at a 50% discount to the parallel swap rate, so hell, I should thank the revolution for at least one of their stupidities…

74 Responses to “Lines, shortages, rationing and those wonderful things the Chavez revolution has given us”

  1. Carlos Says:

    Miguel..
    Let me ask you about this new bonds auction (looks like a Cadivi clone, the newest rationing line ).
    The April 22nd auction was split in 2 rounds: a first one with 40 millions US$ focused to small businesses and a second one with 20 millions focused to ordinary people.
    Now, I read BCV awarded in the second one only 7 millions US$ fullfiling all the received bids.
    However, both myself and many others did not get a dollar, even tough we all were absoutely registered in the auction books and BCV records. Do you have a clue?
    BTW.. in the BCV record books my bid appears recieved and processed: asked 3000 US$, awarded 0.. What is the awarding criteria?

  2. deananash Says:

    In the year 2010, we know enough about economics to know that shortages are nearly always caused by government policies – those that limit the free market.

    If ever my country were suffering from such a government, I pray to God that I would have the courage to make whatever sacrifice was necessary to liberate my country from that government.

    Or, to paraphrase President Reagan, Venezuela is a government that has (possesses) a country, not a country that has a government.

    Thomas Jefferson said that when a government – and make no mistake, these shortages are a direct result of government policies – becomes the problem, then the people have the responsibility to overthrow it. And he, as one of America’s revolutionaries, was most definitely referring to armed conflict, if need be.

    I concur.

  3. Gringo Says:

    One thing for sure, Thugo can’t justify his autocracy by saying that the trains run on time (re the saying about Mussolini).

    Though if someone made such a remark, he would start braying about how much better things are today compared to the Fourth Republic.

  4. GB Says:

    Miguel: Things are the same in the eastern side of the country. Same scenarios exactly! It wears a person down.

  5. Kepler Says:

    I have been quite a long time away from Venezuela. When did people in Venezuela stop drinking normal milk actually? Because I remember once in 1997 an episode: lots of people in Santa Elena de Guairén only drank powder milk but also in Valencia some people used it at least part of the time for the coffee (although not at home).

    Is all this only for articles with regulated prices now?

  6. island canuck Says:

    Electricity rationing for those that don’t live here:

    According to the log on my APC battery back-up for my computer in the last 4 weeks we have had 40 blackouts lasting 3 days, 3 hours. Yesterday alone the power went out 5 times for a total cut of around 4 hours.

    This is here in Isla Margarita where we supposedly have sufficient power production for our needs & there are virtually no tourists at this time of year to create additional demand.

    We are also supposed to be on scheduled rationing. That worked great for the first 4 weeks or so however the last 2 weeks have been totally unpredictable. It’s almost like the people in charge of managing the rationing no longer care about any schedules. Typical Chavista organization.

    It’s really difficult to run a business this way. When it was for scheduled times you could prepare things. Extra lights on back-up battery systems. etc. Now we scramble if it’s dark to run the extension cords out to the areas we need them if it’s not the scheduled hours.

    Last night we were scheduled for 7 to 9 PM. In addition to the 3 cuts during the day the lights went out at 7. For some reason they came back on at 8. We thought it was in compensation for the 2 hours that we had cuts during the day. At 9 PM they went out again for another 1 hour, 15 minutes.

    My question is wtf is going on?? My suspicion is that things are much worse then we are being told. It has been deteriorating steadily over the last few weeks and will probably get worse.

    Is the big one imminent ??

  7. Robert Says:

    Well, it sounds like a feliz compleano is in order. If I read correctly, have a nice break and birthday. I’ve no doubt you are going somewhere with water and electricity which is pretty much almost anywhere except where you are now.

  8. HalfEmpty Says:

    I said no, so she asked if I could buy two bags for her (Limit two bags per customer). I did,

    A good heart means a lot, or was she ummm…..

  9. Pedrop Says:

    Canuck,

    Last night we experienced the same outage hours as you in Margarita and it seems to be getting worse. After the second outage last night we fell asleep at 9 pm and with the usual 8 hours woke up at 5 am.

    Not only are people suffering shower ‘issues’ but my body clock is
    completely bolloxed !

    I too have my doubts that all is well with the overall power supply. OK so it’s raining a lot these days, the Guri is more positive than negative on a daily basis but rarely here does logic apply.

    I admit Guri level was a key concern but at the same time could have been a side show, and a very effective one at that too. There’s something about the availability of aged and poorly maintained power generation units, a grid system that is probably in poorer condition. Now if you switch these components on and off like Christmas tree lights something will give, an analogy being garden hoses.

    Maybe something has gone bang and maybe that component is integral to the overall countrywide power supply. Maybe a key mechanical component has failed – a bearing, seal or turbine blade. A minor component failure giving rise to a disproportionate loss in power generation. The possibilities are endless and when combined with word like aged, maintenance, spares, abuse, non-Chinese and the likes I would rather bet on the Guri dam recovering overnight than on the mechanical reliability of the system.

    I suppose it’s much easier to blame El Nino, pray to the heavens, blame the Gringos and so on than it is to address the real issue.

  10. m_astera Says:

    There appears to be a great business opportunity opening up in home power supplies in Venezuela, everything from candles to oil lamps. Not joking.

    Deep cycle marine/golf cart batteries would seem to be a good thing to have.

  11. Kepler Says:

    Astera,
    I was joking some time ago saying Diosdado Cabello must be now unto buying candle factories.

    Perhaps reality is overtaking the realm of bad jokes.

  12. island canuck Says:

    Computer battery backups work well in conjunction with low watt tube lights.

    With a 1200 watt APC (cost BsF.1200 here in Margarita) we can run 3 lights with bulbs of 11 watts + the Wi-Fi modem for at least 2 hours.

    This gives me front, back & upstairs patio with dependable light + Internet for 2 hours on my laptop to play poker to fill the time. :-) Talk about adapting!

    We also use numerous emergency lights that sell here in Margarita for around BsF.90 each however their life span is short. They start off well giving 2 hours of light but after a few months you are lucky to get 20 minutes.


  13. Hello Miguel,
    Big fan of the blog. You constantly give quick remakrs here and there about how Hugito is giving away venezuela’s sovereignty. Could you please write a post just about this subject?
    I beleive a lot of ppl are uninformed or worse… confuse what everyone in Venezuela knows and spreads from mouth to mouth as truth with gossip…

  14. Deanna Says:

    Miguel, with people in Macuto, water rationing is not that they shut it off a few hours a day. Rather, they shut the water off from Thursday after noon until Sunday in the afternoon, just in time for the arrival of weekend tourists from Caracas. I am now quite used to filling up the extra barrels we have in the house, because even with 3 tanks, we still run out of water. No, we don’t stay in the shower all day long; it’s just that when the water finally comes, the pressure is so low that our 3 tanks never really get filled up.

    Deananash, I suppose if you were back home, you would be one of the people in the tea party movement!!! You’re right, Venezuelans should have reacted against this corrupt government a long time ago, instead of suffering from its inefficiency, lack of governance and good will from its members.

    Kepler, it’s not that Venezuelans have stopped drinking regular milk. sometimes, it is just too difficult to find even a quart of regular milk so that we all have to resort to powdered milk (which I use only for coffee).

  15. island canuck Says:

    Here in the “boonies” of Margarita (anywhere outside Porlamar) we have become accustomed to receive water for limited hours once or twice a week. This hasn’t changed in the over 20 years we’ve lived here.

    I remember when Turimiquire was inaugurated back in the 90′s people talked about eliminating their water tanks because we were going to have continuous water. We had some months where delivery went up to 3 times a week but it quickly returned to once or twice. I advised against it with good reason as it turns out.

    When we remodeled in 2007 we added a water tank of 80,000 litres in addition to our gravity tank of 10,000 litres.

    Money well spent & even with a full house of tourists we are never without water.

  16. Frank Says:

    Pedro and Canunck

    The Guri was a big show.. You know, Guri was short of water, right… But it never went out of service.. And you feed Guri with water, and rain shortage is related with EL NINO… So, the government focused all the electricity shortage discussion, shows, TV, speeches to GURI and EL NINO.. GURI AND EL NINO, THE RAIN SHORTAGE, EL NINO, GURI,
    Nbody explainded that actually there were general failures in the main thermal power facilities (PLANTA CENTRO almost shut down at all) and unreliability in the trasmission and distribution grids.

    Reality check.. It’s raining but electricity shortage is worse… THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING.. it’s the new nationalized electric system.. the red shirt engineers and technicians, this is the socialist venezuelan power system

  17. Antonio Says:

    I would like to look for another subject; in newspaper it said that Banks Bicentenario and Industrial report benefits about 250 millions Bs in first quarter of this year.

    I simply do not believe. Just for curiosity, somebody knows where is the trick in this lie?

    I assume the banks report the injection of funds from the government as profits.

    Or they have privilege assess to governments bonds, ect., and do not give lot of credits, because they are not regulated as private banks, to have the obligatory folders of credits.

    Can they be so simple?

  18. HalfEmpty Says:

    Island canuck:
    When we remodeled in 2007 we added a water tank of 80,000 litres in addition to our gravity tank of 10,000 litres.

    Was this for rain-water catchment? If it was for capturing the regular municipal flow then you’re adding to the problem, gotta even out the demand. :)

    Srsly.

  19. island canuck Says:

    “Was this for rain-water catchment?”

    We haven’t had 1″ of rain so far this year. How are we “adding to the problem? We are just trying to have a reliable supply. We don’t use any more or less because of this.

    I am not adding to the problem.
    If anything we conserve more than most however if you have paying guests they need to have water. If the government would supply a regular flow of water we wouldn’t need holding tanks. They are incapable of doing this.

    The tourism industry is almost non existent here in Margarita outside the normal national holidays. We are down to just one direct foreign charter line (Germany) that has 2 flights a week. There are no other direct flights to the US or Europe. You have to go through Caracas or Barcelona.

    Flights from England & Holland have been cancelled. The Canadian charters only come for 4 months a year (Dec – Mar). As much as 50% of our business used to come from the UK & Europe. Not any more.

    You would think that tourism would be a national goal when you have such a wealth of places & beauty to offer. Our national government has only destroyed what used to be a vibrant & healthy industry not only here in Margarita but also in places like Puerto La Cruz where you will seldom see a foreigner these days.

    I wish someone would just wake up but after all these years I have no hope that this will happen.

  20. Floyd Looney Says:

    Thank you very much Miguel.

    These posts that show the scarcity, higher prices and attempts to get around the limits placed on you by government are important. Foreign eyes will glaze over when told about banks and government shenanigans but food shortages, power and water outages they definitely understand.

    Socialism is a spoils system at its core and this is how it happens, one part of the country or economy is looted to benefit the rest but sooner or later there is nothing left to loot.

    Without a system that rationally produces what the people need and want there can be no sensical, is that a word? economy.

  21. HalfEmpty Says:

    Copy that IslandCanuck
    I can see your problem and would do the same thing in your circumstance. I was serious about the catchment. :) But opening up the taps full bore when water is available screws up the peak pressure (I assume everyone is doing the same) your basin is acting as a local resevoir which maximizes out risk for the waternetwork. Best to have one big resevoir.

    Meh, likely it doesn’t make any difference at all.

    GL.

  22. moses Says:

    Miguel:

    Have a nice trip away from this mess !

    Check this link in ND for the latest news on Guri:

    http://noticierodigital.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=625097&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=990&sid=a0ddfc460176de20e576e850adce12c1

    Parece que a pesar de las lluvias, Guri empezo a bajar otra vez. Segun el Twitter de Alfedo Weill @alfredoweill:

    http://twitter.com/AlfredoWeil

    Nivel de Guri (22 abr) 248,92 msnm (-7 cm). Caudal de entrada 3.815 m3/s, caudal “turbinado” 5.354 m3/s. Pérdida neta 1.539 m3/s
    about 2 hours ago via UberTwitter

    Nivel de Guri (21 abr) 248,99 msnm (-4 cm). Caudal de entrada 4.808 m3/s, caudal “turbinado” 5.201 m3/s. Pérdida neta 393 m3/s
    11:47 AM Apr 22nd via UberTwitter

    Nivel de Guri (20 abr) 249,03 msnm (+ 0 cm). Caudal de entrada 5.830 m3/s, caudal “turbinado” 5.024 m3/s. Ganancia neta 806 m3/s
    11:47 AM Apr 21st via web

    Nivel de Guri (19 abr) 249,03 msnm (+5 cm). Caudal de entrada 6.385 m3/s, caudal “turbinado” 4.277 m3/s. Ganancia neta 2.058 m3/s
    12:55 PM Apr 20th via web

    # Ayer, luego de varios meses, OPSIS reporta una subida de 1 cm en #Guri. Lo curioso es que subió a pesar de un déficit de 477 m3/s
    3:13 PM Apr 16th via web

    Nivel de Guri (15 abr) 248,80 msnm (+1 cm). Caudal de entrada 3.844 m3/s, caudal de salida (“turbinado”) 4.321 m3/s. Pérdida neta 477 m3/s 3:11 PM Apr 16th via web

  23. island canuck Says:

    “Meh, likely it doesn’t make any difference at all.”

    We only open the taps for very short periods.

    We do not affect the peak pressure.

    As I said we conserve.

    Our monthly usage is low.

  24. m_astera Says:

    Kepler-

    I went looking for candles at CM the other day; all gone. There were a few gallons of kerosene but no kero lamps.

    Island Canuck-

    I lived off-grid in the US from 1989 to 2006. If you had a true 1500 watt backup, you could run 150 watts for 10 hours.

    My old Dell laptop burns 40 watts, the newer Toshiba laptop 80 watts. Using 80 watts for a figure, plus five 11 to 15 watt light bulbs is 150 watts.

    (To figure out watts, for those new to this, it is amps x volts. So 3 amps times 12 volts is 36 watts.)

    The only way to go is marine/golf cart 6 volt 225 amp hour deep cycle batteries. Trojan is a popular brand. Two wired in series will give you 12 volts and 2500 watt hours in theory, but a very dependable 1500 for sure.

    One also needs a 30 to 50 amp battery charger; Iota makes a good one for around $250, and a DC to AC inverter, 600 watts is plenty, around $100 (or less) for that.

    I’ve been asking around but haven’t found the deep-cycle batteries on Margarita; they must be here though because that’s what all the boaters use. A friend emailed from Guadaloupe the other day and said he could get them there for $150. Two batteries is the minimum, four or six are better. I had six in the US, used them to run a few 15 watt bulbs, the stereo and the computer and only needed to charge them once a week. I used a gasoline powered generator. Here you would just use house current when it was on.

    Once you have the battery bank, you can think about solar panels and wind generators too.

  25. deananash Says:

    Floyd Looney is spot on. Socialism is a “spoils” system. In the socialist’s minds, products exist – and it’s simply a matter of expropriating them for ‘better’ uses.

    Thus little new government housing is built. And private sector productivity plunges – why produce more if it’s only going to be stolen, er, sorry, confiscated? Ditto water, food, etc…

    It quickly becomes the worst of every man for himself.

    Capitalism is, of course, also every man for himself. But each man ONLY gains when he produces something of value, either for himself or for others to purchase.

    Sorry, I know that I’m preaching to the choir. Damn, if I feel this level of frustration for Venezuela, with my very weak ties, I can only imagine how the rest of you are suffering.

    And yes, Deanna, I am a Tea Partier in spirit. Government isn’t the answer. Never has been. Never will be. Government at it’s worst (Chavez, Castro) are leeches to be destroyed. At it’s best, it provides for public order, particularly by protecting each individual’s rights (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, property, et al.)

  26. Speed Gibson Says:

    but ultimately the real question is…..what are you going to do about? besides blogging?

  27. m_astera Says:

    Speed, maybe your question was directed elsewhere but I’ll put in my two cents anyway.

    In Nature, the organism that is best adapted to its environment will prevail in the long term. This will not be the organism that exploits the environment for short-term gain. An exploitative organism will thrive for a short while and then die out when its food and energy source have reached a certain point of diminishing returns.

    An analogy might be a yeast organism that thrives for a short while until it has consumed all of the sugar and poisoned its own environment with its waste product, alcohol.

    On a societal and economic level, this happens to both socialistic and capitalistic exploiters.

    What can be done about it is to create systems that do work, in harmony with their environment and the resources available. Create them at a local level, not for the purpose of exploitation or unbridled growth, but with an emphasis on sustainability, mutual benefit, and health.

    In order to do that, those involved must be able to see beyond short-term gain.

    Our present society is controlled by those who have succeeded in accumulating large amounts of power and wealth to themselves, with no thought of mutual benefit. Because they are in control, they have promoted their own version of success as desirable, and the media (which they own) have made them into heroes, so the ignorant seek to emulate them.

    It is my observation that if one asks a normal non-sociopathic person what they really want, what would bring them contentment and satisfaction, it isn’t simply the accumulation of wealth, power, and material goods; that is, however, the only example they have been given of “success”, and as long as they take their cues and values from the media that is likely to continue.

    At this point I work mostly with people who understand that health, happiness, and security are more important than the accumulation of money and things. We are working towards those goals, figuring out how to accomplish them in a sustainable manner. Part of the concept is that as the “yeast organisms” run out of niches to exploit and their system collapses. there will be a need for systems that do work to be in place and functioning, to serve as templates and examples to follow.

  28. moses Says:

    Island canuck:

    Acumuladores Duncan sells Inverters and deep cycle batteries:

    http://www.duncan.com.ve/english/productos.html

    Automotive Dealers:

    http://www.duncan.com.ve/english/servicios_ven_a.html

  29. Roger Says:

    I fail to see anything socialist about Chavezimo. All they do is feed the masses with oil money at the expense of education, infrastructure and so on. Same formula as the Spanish who grabbed the wealth and retired back to Spain. As far as XXI century Socialism, here is a better definition and it carries its own concerns. http://www.wired.com/culture/culturereviews/magazine/17-06/nep_newsocialism?currentPage=1 One could argue that Venezuela did not move forward much after winning independence and at this point its a net loss?

  30. Kepler Says:

    I agree with Roger.
    There is nothing socialist about Chavismo. Chavismo cannot even keep crime down.

  31. Antonio Says:

    Chavez regime it is not socialism, looks more like a mix of “stealcialism” with communist.

  32. Kolya Says:

    I guess it’s good to know what is it that people mean by socialism.

    For example, is a place like Denmark, a liberal democracy with highly a developed economy, private property, a flexible labor market, but also with generous government-provided social benefits and high income taxes a socialist country?

    Many conservatives in the US (especially Tea Party types) would say yes, but many socialists would scoff at that notion and state that Denmark, alas, is a capitalist country.

    (Interestingly, the Index of Economic Freedom of the conservative Heritage Foundation ranks Denmark as virtually tied with the US in economic freedom. According to the same rankings Australia, despite having government social policies that are much more generous that in the US, has more economic freedom than the US.)

  33. loroferoz Says:

    In Valencia, on weekdays, light used to go out at 10:30 AM. Not that you would expect light not to go at times under the old CADAFE utility. But in the big cities, this is news. Some of the bigger marts (like MAKRO) have margarine still. But rationed too.

    But now, I have noticed that it seems that we labor under an erroneous impression here:

    “All they do is feed the masses with oil money at the expense of education, infrastructure and so on. ”

    For a while, that is.

    “Socialism is a spoils system at its core and this is how it happens, one part of the country or economy is looted to benefit the rest but sooner or later there is nothing left to loot.”

    The problem is, that the only part of the country that benefits in the long run is the political elite that handles the oil money.

    Sounds as if the masses of the poor will reap some benefit from this charade in the end, like chavismo wants to impress upon us. Well, the puntofijista governments they anathematize did something like that with no better results.

    Do not forget runaway inflation. This makes sure that the poor will never be able to save money, invest and produce, and stop being poor some day.

    The government will raise minimum salaries with one hand and devalue the currency with the other hand. In the meantime it will let it’s own “social” programs go to hell on their new, devalued budget, and the old corruption. Worse if there are exchange controls, because there is no escape then for juan bimba.

    So you have more poor to believe the old steamy BS that the government can be your banker (the money and the reserve for bank deposits is theirs) and spend your money freely too.

  34. Miguel Octavio Says:

    And a live report from the Arepera Socialista:

    http://settysoutham.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/mmm-arepas/#more-168

    Proof that cheap is usually not good

  35. Kepler Says:

    Miguel, thanks for the Arepera account, those details are interesting.
    And the cashier’s eyes are sweet.

    Kolya,
    Indeed.

  36. Kepler Says:

    OT: does anyone know how much the salary increase was for Chavez’s military last year? I am plotting it against the salaries of less equal people and I still need the percentage for 2009
    Thanks

  37. An Interested Observer Says:

    Sweet eyes, Kepler? They look hollow to me. They probably would be sweet with a good night’s sleep and a smile on her face, but not in that picture. Instead, she’s halfway to zombie. Maybe she’s willing to suffer like that for the good of the people. Or perhaps just because she can’t find another job.

  38. firepigette Says:

    Kolya,

    Sounds like Australia might be a good place for you to go.Perhaps you can agree more with how things are there.

    “Foundation ranks Denmark as virtually tied with the US in economic freedom. ”

    Generous social programs have a down side as well as a good one.
    Perhaps you can discover what it might be.People are not so evil that they only wish hardships on others.

    Two of them are something many of us think of as strength and independence.

    There have been many times I have had to live by my wits here in the US and I feel all the better for it.I don’t wake up in the morning and ask myself what can the government do for me.I wake up and say what can I do for others.

    I think every country has a right to decide their own system.What is fine for Australia does not mean it has to be that way here.Most traditional US Americans take pride in surviving without help, and this has its own benefit for those who believe in it.It would be a dull and intolerant world if we were all liberal social democrats.

  39. John Es Says:

    As a result of the water shortage, to be able to take a shower I kneel every day …. for the way it goes, we should get ready for getting knee blisters and itchy red eyes…

  40. Kolya Says:

    This should be obvious, but just in case: The United States IS a liberal democracy. So is Denmark, Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, etc, etc.


  41. [...] Lines, shortages, rationing and those wonderful things the Chavez revolution has given us [...]

  42. Bill Simpson in Slidell Says:

    As I was reading this story about lines for anything in country sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of oil, the last scene from the classic movie ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ came into my mind. After the explosion, Major Clipton says, “Madness! Madness!”
    And then I read that Hugo is getting ready to nationalize the gold mines. He may soon discover that gold is far less important than oil. If I were a foreign mining company, I would walk away immediately, and take the tax loss. Don’t throw good money after bad, as they say.

  43. Kepler Says:

    Te jodiste, Kolya. Te van a quitar la nacionalidad estadounidense por haber hablado así de Dinamarca, digas lo que digas ahora. ¿No es así, Firepigette?

    AIO,

    She does look knackered and bored but that does not take the fact – for me, at least – that her eyes are proportional and set in a regular face, to put it more objectively. She would certainly look better in other conditions, but at least she is not wearing tons of makeup, something I dislike.

    I venture to say she is there because she can’t find another job. Few people can find proper jobs in Venezuela these days without the right education,unless they are ready to load cement in their lorries and stuff like that.

  44. m_astera Says:

    Re the arepera-

    So the government takes the money from oil, arguably a resource belonging to all Venezuelans, plus tax money from private businesses and individuals, and uses it to subsidize a restaurant that undercuts the prices of restaurants owned by private citizens.

    They sell arepas cheaper, using the people’s money to make up the difference, while undercutting the efforts of those paying taxes.

    I’m not sure what this is supposed to be a shining example of.

  45. Deanna Says:

    m_astera,

    But, isn’t that what Obama’s administration is trying to do in the US, not with arepas but with health care and everything else? Tax the more successful working people in order to subsidize and ones who are not so successful or not working? This is what they call “redistribution”!!!! Yes, I’m a Tea Partier too.

  46. Deanna Says:

    Sorry, “subsidize the (not and) ones…”

  47. loroferoz Says:

    “They sell arepas cheaper, using the people’s money to make up the difference, while undercutting the efforts of those paying taxes.”

    It is a shining example of the thing most “social-whatever” populist governments do well. THROW AWAY GOOD MONEY, give bad service for NO BENEFIT IN THE LONG RUN, and DESTROY THE FUTURE of most everyone by destroying their SAVINGS AND SALARY; because they are THE CENTRAL BANKERS too and WILL DEVALUE the junk currency or otherwise run HYPER-INFLATIONARY ECONOMIES when they feel they DON’T GET ENOUGH.

    Then, there are guilt-ridden PSFs who suggest that the poverty in the third world is caused by international trade with developed countries, who give a veneer of respectability to regimes that do just the things said above.

  48. Kepler Says:

    The more succesful? By what criteria?
    I think the amount of money you “earn” is not necessarily related to how productive you are.

    Come on: there are some accountants or “financial advisors” who earn a lot while producing very little while there are nurses producing a lot of value while earning a misery. Don’t pretend all the big earners are clever blokes developing very useful algorithms, new health products or rice.

    What’s next? Should school books be paid by everybody? And why on Earth are those Tea Parties so fond of giving so much money for defence? Shouldn’t private companies deal with defence?

  49. m_astera Says:

    Deanna, I hope you don’t think I support the Obama admin. I’m a true-blue Liberal Anarchist and proud of it. :-) I don’t support any government anywhere: they are all thieves, liars, and crooks running a protection racket at the point of a gun. They steal all they can steal while tossing a few bones towards the poor for propaganda purposes.

    The so-called “health care” bill in the US is only to enrich the insurance companies. And the money will be taken from those who produce something of value at gunpoint as usual.

    They are bandits who have set up shop in the middle of town so they can rob and steal 24/7. And no, I don’t see any exceptions.

    The best government is NO government, the next best is local and unpaid.

    Kepler, for what do we need “defence”? So that the sociopaths on “our” side can play legal murder games with the sociopaths on “their” side, using gullible adolescents as pawns?

    I’d say most communities are perfectly capable of defending themselves, if they were allowed to; but the government won’t let them defend themselves. Only government agents are allowed to do that, and they are mostly busy finding ways to extract taxes and fines from peaceful citizens.

    As a side note, the US has the world’s largest prison population, by numbers and by percentage of the population. Around 90% of all inmates are there for victimless “crimes” against the government.

  50. An Interested Observer Says:

    Kepler, I agree with that assessment. Under other circumstances, the first word I would come up with probably would be positive, just not in that picture. Suddenly I’m thinking of another fast food place: “You deserve a break today…” From your job.

    Deanna, subsidizing a business and subsidizing an individual are two distinct things. I’m not trying to justify either or both (and those are arguments that really don’t belong on this blog, or this thread at least), but you’re making a mistake to lump them together.

  51. Speed Gibson Says:

    Astera….pull your head out of your ass

  52. Anonimus Says:

    Miguel:

    What do you prefer, a Socialist Arepa or a CDO sold by Goldman Sachs?

  53. loroferoz Says:

    “I think the amount of money you “earn” is not necessarily related to how productive you are.”.

    It is related to how much somebody who hires you will pay for your services, probably compared to what somebody else in a similar situation is ready to pay. It really might have to do with how much value you seem to produce for that somebody, and to how scarce your services might be.

    It’s not “fair” in an individual sense. It depends a lot on collective action and collective intelligence. That of society. Real “social” action. I do think the setup would be “fairer” if the economy only depended on individual decisions. However…

    I might not think that some “artists” and “musicians” deserve the oodles of money they earn. But it is not my money they necessarily get. I get to decide, at the very least, what I hear or watch. If something is better, I can plug for it. If something offends me, I can boycott it. Yes, there are lots of people I judge unintelligent or at least of dubious tastes, given Reggaeton’s popularity.

    And besides, lines, rationing and blackouts is what you get when people delegate the decisions that should be theirs alone to the State, and then proceed to elect governments that are more idiotic than usual, which happens invariably every once in a while. They have a limited, limited power over the State, enough to turn it over to rascals for a long while, in fact. The State has great power over life and property and well…

    In the U.S. they got the War on Terrorism (Iraq and Afghanistan), the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, the low interest rates, the bubble, the bailout, a “public” debt of $14.4 trillion, etc.

  54. m_astera Says:

    “Speed” wrote:

    “Astera….pull your head out of your ass”

    Demonstrating your intelligence again, Pokey?

    Do you have a rational rebuttal, or are you another one who thinks government is the answer? Perhaps you need governing, so you assume everyone else does? Or let me guess, you don’t need it but others do?

    You are probably on the government dole, another welfare queen. Hmmm?

    I stand by what I wrote.

  55. Kepler Says:

    Loroferoz,

    I am not talking about artists and the like. I mentioned two examples. Another are bunch of blokes who inherited some property and simply
    rent it. They are everywhere: here and in the US and they produce nothing, they just live off others. There are many cases where these guys who get these huge salaries are getting them just because
    they are part of a mafia, because they are in an amigos world in Germany, in the UK, in the US, everywhere.
    And they manage to spread their profits in such a way that they often manage to pay less than the software engineer or bioengineer who are employees but who are creating the core of very important businesses.

    I don’t see the taxing issue as something definite, it is something that needs to be adjusted to time and country and it needs to be done through an open debate based on very concrete arguments, not “principles”. Economics is not physics or mathematics, those economic laws are based on ideal worlds that have never ever existed and never will.

    The US already during Reagan times had higher taxes than hyper corrupt, inefficient Venezuela now. The US states were and are paying for providing books to all children at public schools. They have been providing very valuable public libraries from well before the independence from the UK. Richard Feynman started to learn calculus from a book he got from his nearest tax-payed library.

  56. deananash Says:

    When the cat’s away, the mice will play…..I’m just saying. haha

  57. m_astera Says:

    Kepler, re libraries in the USA-

    They are local, not state or national, at least in all of the US states where I lived, and that’s a lot of them. There are city libraries and county libraries, funded locally and staffed locally. Their funding is just a tiny amount, and they are the first to be cut when funding gets tight.

    Libraries are where many in the US get their education, myself included.

    Which brings up an interesting and rather sad question: Why wouldn’t a free public lending library work in Venezuela?

  58. moctavio Says:

    Anonimus:

    Goldman Sachs sold a product aimed at making money if something happened to a sophisticated investor and there was clearly another sophisticated investor betting the opposite on the other side, the whole thing is political. I would buy the CDO from GS first.

  59. Kevin Says:

    Moctavio,

    Goldman Sachs (The Giant Vampire Squid) vs. Hugo? That’s a choice? That’s like asking if your rather be burned at the stake or torn apart by wolves.

    But it raises an interesting question: Who has misallocated more capital?

    I honestly don’t know, but I suspect Goldman. They just had more to work with. Hundreds of billions of dollars bet on and against comically bad mortgages mostly in the U.S. South West.

    Hugo misallocates tens of billions of dollars, but does it with an engaging opera bouffe style. Miguel, if you are really lucky you are going to wake up and find out that you just dozed off during a comic opera and you will see someone handing Hugo a big bouquet of roses as he takes final bow. And everyone around you will say that you should have stayed awake because “The Bolivarian Republic” was really pretty funny.

    On the other hand, even if they got Michael Douglas to play the lead role, “Goldman Sachs” couldn’t even rate as a boring movie. They stole a lot, but it was just rather pedestrian. Not funny, not interesting — just corrupt — Michael Lewis’ excellent book, “The Big Short” not withstanding.

  60. moctavio Says:

    Look, everyone knew that the mortgage crisis was coming some were betting it would not be sooo bad.

    Let me put it this way:

    How far down do you think the euro will go?

    GS is in the middle of bets that may go as far down as 0.8 to the $

    Will there be investigations in three years because GS “helped” someone make a bundle by betting the euro would collapse?

    To me it is exactly the same.

    I wrote this post in November:

    http://devilsexcrement.com/2009/11/28/dubai-greece-and-venezuela-three-countries-three-different-debt-profiles/

    The euro was at 1.45, it is now 1.31, so far so good, how much deeper will it get?

    “Smart” institutions are betting very cheaply that it will go below 1

    “Smart” institutions are betting that it will not.

    Is GS the guilty party if the euro unwinds?

    I dont think so, and I think it will. My bet is the euro gets very weak or dissapears.

    I will not blame GS for it.

  61. moctavio Says:

    Betting the mortgage crisis was going to be as bad as it got is like betting today the euro will go to like 0.7, few people think it will, those betting that it will today will make a mint.

    Suppose you could get 15% interest as long as the euro stays above 0.9 for the next three years and lose everything if it drops below that magic number. You can make that bet today, is the broker guilty for setting it up?

  62. Kevin Says:

    No! These were not simple bets. Hundreds of billions of dollars of money was simply wasted making comically bad mortgages and other housing related loans to ignorant people. But these people, some of who were ignorant and corrupt and other who were simply naive enough to ask for financial advice from a banker (What a stupid idea! Asking a banker for financial advice!) were given loans that they could never pay back until the whole housing market was distorted. And the people who gave them these mortgages using other people’s money in an enormous Ponzi enabled the whole thing were the firms like Goldman and Lehman. Without Goldman and other clever Wall Street hucksters, this whole mortgage system could never have been financed. And it is fraud even if the other party was really gullible or you paid a politician to legalize it. That may be the biggest scandal of all — these guys may have actually succeeded in legalizing it!

    The US had a better system 40 years ago and it was more prosperous as a result. There was a smaller, simpler financial system that worked better. Goldman is a parasite: Like a tapeworm. If it dies, the host will live without it. It should just pay its debts before it dies.

  63. Miguel Octavio Says:

    I disagree, Merril and Lehamn and Bear financed them, but not GS, that is what saved them from the crisis. They helped structure products that bet on the crisis, but lil more. In the end these products accelerated the crisis, so that if they had not been around the bubble would have gotten bigger.

    It was relaxing the criteria, in which the Government played a crucial role, that was more important to the crisis, or allowing leverage to increase, this is just politics. GS survived by being smart, let’s kill them.

    Again the euro analogy is useful. It is the markets that are forcing the Greek tragedy, if Governments were in charge, it would bubble up even more.

  64. Kevin Says:

    Miguel,

    We are getting off topic. But it interests me.

    Goldman helped finance a lot of this stuff. Unlike some of the others the new that many of the instruments that they were selling were bad and protected themselves even as they were helping spread the poison, they took the antidote. AIG supplied the antidote (at Goldman’s initiative) but died of the poison themselves.

    But this was NOT capitalism. The magic of capitalism is that it causes capital to grow. Money makes money. Benjamin Franklin described it very well in an essay, Advice to a Young Tradesman:

    Remember that money is of the prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on. Five shillings turned is six; turned again it is seven and threepence, and so on till it becomes a hundred pounds. The more there is of it the more it produces every turning, so that the profits rise quicker and quicker. He that kills a breeding sow destroys all her offspring to the thousandth generation. He that murders a crown destroys all that might have produced even scores of pounds.

    Goldman destroyed capital. They rendered it useless. The problem was not what Goldman took for themselves — it was what they destroyed in the process. They are like the burglar who breaks into your house and does $1000 in damage to steal $20.

  65. Miguel Octavio Says:

    I find it fascinating. From what I read, ML, Bear and Lehman went into the originating business, bought mortgage companies, particularly subprime specialists that helped the bubble.

    Goldman on the other hand sold and bought synthetic products to sophisticated institutions and when it wanted to reduce risk went to AIG. Yes AIG sold the antidote, but because AIG found it to be a fantastic business, as long as it lasted, it sold antidote on anything in the world.

    To me it’s different and I go back to my euro analogy. Many people think the euro is collapsing and are going to GS to create the hedges agaisnt this drop. If these instruments did not exist, the drop would take moe time, the instrumenst accelerate it, but it will still happen. I think derivatives have proven to be useful, CDS’s should be part of an exchange and regulated, but I think they serve a useful purpose.

    Obviously we dont have time and space to discuss it here, wish we could. Keep trying.

  66. m_astera Says:

    Funny no one is mentioning several trillion in Wall Street Casino bailout money that was handed over to the losing gamblers and used to pay bonuses. And the US taxpayer was handed the tab. Even Congress can’t get the Fed to release the list of who got what money.

    All legal of course, just like whatever contracts and treaties Thugo is obligating the people of Venezuela to every day. The Venezuelan people may wake up in a few years and realize that they don’t own their country any more, China and Russia do.

    Much the same could be said about the US, don’t you think?

    As for gambling on derivatives: That is capitalism? Funny, didn’t capitalism used to have something to do with producing goods?

    I would also point out that there is a difference between free enterprise and capitalism.

  67. MassGnat Says:

    Except the taxpayers got the bank bailouts back. They even got interest on the loans. The only losses in TARP program to lose money were those to the car compainies.

  68. m_astera Says:

    MassGnat, I really wonder where you get your news. No, I take that back. You get your news from CNNBCBS, NYT, WSJ, the Murdoch chain etc.

    You simply do not know what you are talking about and are parroting what you were told to believe. All the news your masters want you to believe.

    Please point to one of those taxpayers, the mechanics and waitresses and truck drivers who got one cent back, including interest.

    A few TARP loans were paid back, a few hundred billion maybe. I am talking about trillions of dollars in bailouts and guarantees, not the paying back of a short term loan for appearances sake while pushing a wheelbarrow full of money out of the treasury.

    Get this: The Fed bought the toxic derivatives from the losing gamblers at market rates, and the US citizens are on the hook to pay the Fed back.

    That’s a start to understanding the situation; you might also ask WHY the Fed won’t tell Congress who it bought the CDOS etc from and for exactly how much.

    On the other subject, the internet is an example of free enterprise. Having large amounts of capital gives no overwhelming advantage on the internet.

  69. m_astera Says:

    “Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke admitted the central bank created $1.3 trillion out of thin air to buy mortgage backed securities. This shocking admission came from the Joint Economic Committee hearing on Capital Hill last week. I was dumbfounded when I saw Bernanke shake his head in the affirmative as Representative Ron Paul said, “Well, where did you get the money? You created this money. So you did monetize debt, and that went into the banking system.” I was amazed he admitted this. I looked up the original hearing on C-Span to make sure the clip was not edited. It was not.

    What is even more shocking is I could not find a single mainstream news agency that covered this revelation.”

    http://usawatchdog.com/bernanke-admits-printing-1-3-trillion-out-of-thin-air/


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