Venezuela, Corbyn, and Brexit

Dan Hannan, MEP for SE England, on Venezuela, via Conservative Home. Good Stuff.

To grasp the full extent of Venezuela’s tragedy, consider just one statistic. In 1959, GDP per head in Venezuela was 10 per cent higher than in the United States. That’s right. Venezuela wasn’t just the richest country in Latin America; it was one of the richest countries on the planet.

When I was growing up in Peru in the 1970s, Venezuela was the place people aspired to emigrate to. Not just from South America, either. People came in their tens of thousands from southern Europe in search of a better life.

One man, even during those plentiful years, fretted about the future. Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, a former Venezuelan energy minister and a founder of OPEC, pronounced what now looks like a spookily apt prophecy in 1976: “Ten years from now, 20 years from now, you will see, oil will ruin us.”

In the event, he was out by 20 years: the ruin came in the 2000s. And for once the word “ruin” is literally accurate. Inflation in Venezuela is running at ten million per cent. There are verified deaths from malnutrition. Far from importing immigrants, the country has lost three million people since Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution, the worst refugee crisis in the history of the Western hemisphere.

What caused a collapse on this scale? Was it the “resources curse”, the name economists give to Pérez Alfonzo’s theory that unearned wealth wrecks an economy? Was it, as Corbynistas are now claiming, external sabotage? Or was it something else?

It is certainly true that oil can have a devastating effect on a country’s political system. Think of Iraq, Iran, Nigeria or Russia. Politics becomes a scramble for what Pérez Alfonzo called “the devil’s excrement”. To be more precise, the politicians who can place themselves between oil reserves and oil companies can make such vast fortunes that they can buy elections with their loose change.

But the “resources curse” is not inevitable. It did not destroy democracy in, say, Norway or Alberta. Several Gulf states – perhaps because they are aware of Pérez Alfonzo’s gloomy thesis – are now careful to place some of their oil bonanzas in sovereign wealth funds, aimed at diversifying their economies.

In the case of Venezuela, the spike in the cost of a barrel of oil during the early Chávez years had the effect of temporarily masking the worst effects of his policies. “There are no good or bad presidents,” Venezuelans say, “only presidents when the oil price is high, and when it’s low”. Chávez, needless to say, did not use his oil bonus to diversify the economy or build up reserves. He used it to cover the massive costs caused by his imposition of price controls, nationalisation and exchange controls. Anything he had left over went to backing Leftist insurgents elsewhere in Latin America. It was during those early years that the international Left (not only Momentum types) lectured the rest of us about how the rest of us ought to copy the Venezuelan example.

When the oil boom ended, the calamity of the command economy caught up with Venezuela. Like every other socialist strongman in human history, Chávez had made people poorer. Much poorer. Stories of hunger and emigration spread, opposition groups were harassed or closed down, but overseas Leftists still wanted to support the regime. So they began to claim that US sanctions were to blame. In fact, the only US sanctions in place before August 2017 were asset freezes and travel bans aimed at a handful of Chavista politicians and their cronies. (Many of the children of Venezuela’s socialist élite have scandalised their countrymen with their conspicuous consumption at luxury resorts around the world, and Chávez’s daughter is said to be worth four billion dollars.) There is no way that such personalised micro-sanctions could conceivably have harmed the Venezuelan economy as a whole. Even after 2017, eight years into the economic crisis, the sanctions were extended only to a ban on buying government bonds or bonds in state-owned enterprises.

He goes on to show how Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party still worship at Maduro’s feet, it’s both true and sad. It’s also one reason that Teresa May remains Prime Minister, very few people can stomach the thought of Corbyn as PM, nor does anyone appear willing to take on May in the Tories. In short, they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Sad, not least because it functions as a spanner in the gears to properly negotiating Brexit as well. Yes, I know not everything is Brexit, and yet Brexit is so fundamental, to Britain moving forward, that almost everything is.

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Continuing the Mission

One year ago today, the day of the Brexit election, my post started with a quote from Thomas Paine, this one

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but “to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER” and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.

It was true in the winter of 1776, and it was true last year, and it is still true. But the British, being the steadfast friends of freedom they have always been voted to leave the EU regardless. They’ve had a tough year. They will stay the course, I think. We’ll talk about that later, but just for comparison what happened in the year after we Americans declared independence? A quick overview from BritishBattles. com.

  • Battle of Long Island:The disastrous defeat of the Americans on 27th August 1776 leading to the loss of New York and the retreat to the Delaware River.
  • Battle of Harlem Heights:The skirmish on 16th September 1776 in northern New York island that restored the confidence of the American troops.
  • Battle of White Plains:The battle on 28th October 1776, leading to the American withdrawal to the Delaware River and the capture of Fort Washington by the British.
  • Battle of Fort Washington:The battle on 16th November 1776 that saw the American army forced off Manhattan Island and compelled to retreat to the Delaware River.
  • Battle of Trenton:George Washington’s iconic victory on 26th December 1776 over Colonel Rahl’s Hessian troops after crossing the frozen Delaware River; the battle that re-invigorated the American Revolution.
  • Battle of Princeton:The sequel on 3rd January 1777 to the successful Battle of Trenton: the two battles began the resurgence of the fortunes of the American Colonists in the Revolutionary War.
  • Battle of Ticonderoga 1777:The humiliating American abandonment of Fort Ticonderoga on 6th July 1777 to General Burgoyne’s British army.
  • Battle of Hubbardton:The hard-fought battle on 7th July 1777 in the forest south-east of Fort Ticonderoga.

The next winter will see the naked Continental Army starving at Valley Forge. We didn’t win our independence until 1783. I think the cousins will have a somewhat easier time, but their perils are also different. But amongst other things, they have us. As they started this trend, we picked it up last fall, not a little encouraged ourselves by Brexit.

Dan Hannan recapped the status the other day for us.

An unexpected defeat is always unsettling. I suspect many ConservativeHome readers were disoriented when two in five people voted for Jeremy Corbyn. We wondered how we had so misunderstood our own country; and that was following a vote that we had won.

In the days following the referendum, three false assertions became widespread. First, that Leave had won dishonestly. Second, that the country had become more racist. Third, that the 52 per cent had wrecked the economy.

The “liars” complaint is levelled the losers of every vote. Political campaigners are not trying to behave like neutral academics: they are trying to win. Both sides make good and bad arguments; both sides get to rebut each other’s claims.

Remain told us that a Leave vote would trigger a recession in 2016, cost every family more than £4000, cause Scotland to leave the UK and transplant the Calais refugee camp to Kent. In fact, Britain boomed after the vote, support for Scottish separatism plummeted and the Calais jungle was dismantled. […]

What of the idea that the referendum somehow unleashed xenophobia? The notion that the Leave vote had been “all about immigration” was endlessly repeated in Remain circles and on the BBC. In fact, every opinion poll showed that sovereignty had been the main motivator. Lord Ashcroft, for example, carried out a massive survey on the day, interviewing more than 12,000 people, and found that democratic control was by miles the biggest issue for Leavers (49 per cent of them named it as their main reason for backing Brexit), with immigration a distant second (which was cited by 33 per cent). But opinion polls, for many Remainers, were no match for anecdotes: “Well, one Leaver I spoke to said…” […]

Saddest of all, though, was the determination to believe that Britain would become poorer. To be fair, several experts thought there would be an instant crash. A week after the poll, 71 per cent of City economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected a recession in 2016; in fact, Britain grew faster in the six months after the vote than in the six months before it. Another survey, by Reuters, found that the consensus among economists was that unemployment would rise by 9,000 a month in the second half of last year; in fact, it fell by almost exactly that amount.

Well, almost none of that happened. In fact, Britain is booming.

From Euro-Guido:

UK manufacturers’ order books are at their highest level since August 1988. A CBI survey of 464 firms found a “broad-based improvement” in 13 out of 17 manufacturing sub-sectors, with food, drink and tobacco and chemicals leading the British-made boom. Meanwhile, export orders rocketed to a 22-year high. CBI Chief Economist Rain Newton-Smith said:

“Britain’s manufacturers are continuing to see demand for “Made in Britain” goods rise with the temperature. Total and export order books are at highs not seen for decades, and output growth remains robust.”

Outstanding!

Britain’s got some serious problems, many of them caused by uncontrolled immigration, and by a Conservative Party which seems to have lost its mooring in history. Not to mention a press that is at least as biased as the American one. So it ain’t all beer and skittles. But remember what Paine wrote, and hopefully they will get themselves back on track one way or another. Along that line, I was thinking the other day that Tom Jefferson and George Washington were miles prouder to be British (until arbitrary government forced them out) than Jeremy Corbyn ever dreamed of being. Sad for a prominent politician to owe his allegiance to something outside his country, mostly for his own aggrandizement. Right General Arnold? Was Peggy Shippen worth it?

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

You Had One Job

Sometimes, no matter your job title, you really have just one job. Theresa May was selected as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to execute Brexit, and that was what was expected. I like Mrs. May, then and now. I think she is a steady, dependable woman. But I also think she may a bit detail obsessed, it’s a fault many share.

She decided a few weeks ago she needed a bigger majority in Parliament to carry out Brexit properly. It made a fair amount of sense, the Tories have a lot of ‘Remainers’ and maybe she could weed a few out while increasing the majority. So OK.

But why in the hell, during the campaign were we talking about a Dementia Tax, or, of all the useless distractions, fox hunting, why the stupid slogans, let alone the American style presidential conceits, ‘Team May’ and ‘Theresa’s local candidates’, (we might have some lessons to teach, but the hubris of our Presidential candidates is about the worst thing one can pick up from us.) Why issue a manifesto written by a cabal, that your government hasn’t agreed to, especially one that will cause you to have to make a U-turn. ‘Strong and Stable’? Hardly. More like Hubris meet Nemesis.

And then you suffer a couple of Islamic terrorist attacks, and you let an opponent (who spent a considerable portion of his career supporting the IRA, Hamas, and Hezbollah) take the initiative because you once perhaps cut the number of police.

Of course, part of that is that is that because you’ve (or pretty much anybody else in Westminster) never had the guts to stand up to the racists that run the BBC, you have to be oh so politically correct. So you can’t tell the people the truth. The truth that because you let in all those bearded 13-year-old refugees, and their parents, and their sisters, and their brothers and their aunts, your security services have no idea where the potential terrorists are now, not even the ones that aren’t citizens.

But your police are pretty good at catching Christian pastors who teach what your father did, that homosexual sex is a sin, maybe if they weren’t doing that, they could catch a few of the terrorists. You keep saying that you want to help those ‘just about getting by’. Well, the best way to do that is to get out of the way, and out of their wallet, and let them spend their money on what they want and/or need, instead of sending it to Inland Revenue to fund those who will not work and live off the working poor.

And just how much does the NHS spend on medical tourists, let alone those who shouldn’t even be in Britain but are anyway. Not to mention bloated administration that couldn’t care less about administrating effectively.

But, that is what you let happen, and so now you didn’t increase your majority, you lost it, and now you have a hung Parliament. As Cranmer noted this morning…

With no majority in the House of Commons, the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ fades away and grammar schools whither. With no majority, it’s hard to see how Brexit will now mean Brexit (that is, out of the single market and customs union; free of the European Court of Justice; the end of free movement; out of the CAP and the CFP; and the restoration of parliamentary supremacy). You don’t boast about being a ‘bloody difficult woman’ if those bloody difficulties lead to greater division and more instability. With Brexit in jeopardy and the clamour for ‘soft Brexit’ growing, it is difficult at this stage to see where the necessary leadership will come from.

Steven Hayward adds this…

[B]ut at a macro level there is one big thing in common with the major election results of the past year, starting with Brexit, then Trump, but including the French election (the major parties shut out of the final) and even the Italian referendum on constitutional reform—a rejection of the establishment. Bad news for Angela Merkel I think.

He’s right of course. He’s also right that there will probably be still another election in the UK within a year.

The really sad thing is: The British people deserve far better than this sorry spectacle.

Virtuous Reality Specs

Spring-Heeled Jack jumping over a gate Image o...

Spring-Heeled Jack jumping over a gate Image obtained from: http://anomalyinfo.com/illus.htm#i000001 A 19th century “penny dreadful” illustration. From the BBC Hulton Picture Library. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Heh! This is from England, but I’m very sure you’ll recognize the symptoms and easily be able to substitute the appropriate Americans. Zika, who cares (yet anyway), this is really dangerous!

If you think today’s violent porno online culture is corrupting our kids, wait until you see what’s coming next.

Games involving extreme violence, murder, gang rape, theft and misogyny are a bad influence on developing minds, but they are not that lifelike. I don’t care how good the graphics are in Grand Theft Auto, it’s still two dimensional and nobody is convinced this is real life.

However, there’s a new cult that is far more dangerous. It’s in 3D, startlingly realistic, and allows the participant to immerse themselves in a fantasy word of their choice. They become cut off from the physical world, oblivious to facts and data and the geography of their real surroundings, because they have the capacity to make everything look how they want it to. Before information can reach the rational regions of their brain, it is re-arranged into the picture the user wants to see, by being passed through a prism of their prejudice.

They call this Virtuous Reality. Celebrity users include Jeremy Corbyn, trendy vicar Giles Fraser, New Statesman columnist Penny Dreadful and the entire editorial staff of the BBC.

Like many new phenomena, virtuous reality has been around for a while, but it’s only just reached mass consciousness. Recent events in Cologne and Sweden have alerted the public to the power of this reality distorting power of virtuosity, but in truth it’s been around for decades.

via Nick Booth: I’ve rumbled Polly T and Co. Their distorted view is down to virtuous reality specs – The Conservative Woman.

And so we must develop the ‘New Soviet (British, American, German et. al.) Man’. or rather pick one of 20, 50, 100, whatever choices of virtuous reality genders.

Nor can they make sense of Islam, because they can’t make sense of religion, except perhaps as coffee houses full of do-gooders. A real religion, with a God who means what he says, whether Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, or any other, is simply beyond their ken. Daniel Greenfield expanded on this the other day on Frontpage Magazine.

The left’s greatest intellectual error is its conviction that the world can be divided into a binary power struggle in which both sides agree on the nature of the struggle, but disagree on the outcome.

For leftists of a certain generation, it was class. Marx began the Communist Manifesto by laying out a primal class struggle throughout human history. For Marxists, everything in the world could be broken down to a class struggle with the wealthy oppressors on one side and the oppressed on the other.

It didn’t matter that this model didn’t fit a reality in which Communists leaders came from wealthy backgrounds and their opponents were just as likely to be poor peasants. To the left, everything is defined by the model. Reality is an inconvenience that is suppressed with gulags and firing squads.

Today the variable is identity politics. Everything must be intersectional. There are those who stand on the right side of history, in favor of abortion, gay marriage and illegal immigration. Everyone who isn’t on board is a racist, even if they’re black or Latino, a sexist, even if they’re female, or a homophobe, even if they’re gay. Once again, reality doesn’t matter. The binary struggle is the model for everything.

The left believes that there is a binary struggle over the future of humanity with only two sides. It does not understand how the right actually thinks and it has no room for understanding equally compelling belief systems that operate outside this model.

That’s where Islam comes in. Or doesn’t.

The left has never been able to understand religion. It’s not so much secular or atheistic as it is consumed by a compelling belief system of its own which leaves no room for religious conviction.

Via: WHY THE LEFT CAN’T UNDERSTAND ISLAM

I would say these loose cannons are too dangerous to let run free amongst us, but we’ve nearly given them the keys to the kingdom. I think it may be time for the adults to reassume control.

Democracy and disillusionment

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Well, friends, dear Neo is back, and safe and sound from his trip across these United States; whatever the disadvantages of air travel, it sure has one big plus – time (and usually money too). 2016 will be an election year in the USA, and since that’s Neo’s province, I’ll let him cover it as and when he’s ready. I’d like to thank you all for your forbearance with me, and leave you with a few political thoughts to pave the way for ‘business as usual’ (though I shall be back).

Across the Western world democracy is under threat – not from other ideologies (though there are such) but from its own imperfections.. In order to win votes, politicians have promised things, things which they have been unable to deliver, and things which they must have known at the time were undeliverable. Raised hopes get you into office, failure to meet them can get you unelected and the next guy comes along and repeats the trick. The net result is disillusionment. Aristotle warned that one of the results of a democratic constitution would be that demagogues would outbid each other to bribe the people with other people’s money; what he failed to foresee was that they would eventually bribe them with their own money.

It sometimes seems that politics is all about economics, but most economic decisions are political ones in the end – and politics is about vision – which is one reason Obama became President. His main Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, offered a kind of bureaucratic efficiency (despite having no record in that area), where Obama offered an uplifting message of ‘hope’. But what do you do when hopes are dashed? Ruling, General de Gaulle used to say, is choosing. Once in office, people generally find it harder to govern than they imagined, and the room for initiatives is far less than they imagined in the heady irresponsibility of opposition.

Here in the UK, the Conservative Party defied the pollsters and won an outright victory, but I doubt even Mr Cameron thought it was because of enthusiasm for his message. It was largely a negative result – that is too few people could see the Labour leader as Prime Minister, the Labour Party lost nearly all its seats in Scotland, and the electoral system ensured that despite getting millions of votes, the UK Independence Party failed to win more than one seat. There was no ringing endorsement of the Conservatives, more a resigned recognition that in times of austerity it was better to stick with nurse for fear of finding something worse. It is fashionable in the UK to say that the new and very left-wing Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, hasn’t a cat in hell’s chance of winning the next election, and I daresay fashion has it right. But his anti-politics as usual message is putting together a coalition of the discontented and the young, and depending on what happens on the political front in the next four years, it could be one which gathers momentum.

Mr Corbyn is a mirror image, politically, of Donald J Trump, but they are both products of a discontent with a ruling elite which seems out of touch with anything but its own interests. Both men appeal to a wider sense of what politics is about, and both seek to draw in those who feel disenchanted and disenfranchised. There the parallel ends. Donald J Trump appeals to an older vision of America and rejects political-correctness, whilst Mr Corbyn is painfully politically correct – it will be interesting to see which vision gains traction in this year.

But for millions of us, it still seems as though whatever is going on in politics is primarily about political elites positioning themselves for power. For all the insurgent rhetoric, Donald J Trump is hardly everyman, and for all his talk about ‘the people’, Mr Corbyn comes from a comfortable middle-class background and has never had a job outside politics. The more they talk of change, the more we count our tea-spoons!

Happy New Year to us all!

 

God bless fracking! and Teaching our History

Look at this – Hard.

The environmentalists and the left and the Democrats1 would have us believe that fracking is evil, evil, evil! but I, as a working man, sure have seen the benefits. The chart shows what I had to pay for heating oil last winter, in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, compared with what I paid for a delivery on Wednesday.

The great increase in domestic oil production, coupled with OPEC’s decisions to not cut production, has driven the price of oil down, and that’s a real benefit to working families in the northeast.

Source: God bless fracking! | The First Street Journal.

Now tell me again why you oppose this safe method of obtaining oil, which is even environmentally friendly!


 

We talk a good bit here about education, and we try to do more than ‘scream and shout’ but look at things that don’t work, or might, or do. Well, you all know how much I love history, and how horribly it’s taught these days. Suzannah Lipscomb talks about it a fair amount as well, and with a far better grounding than I have. Here’s a bit of her latest.

On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, in July 2003, Tony Blair told the US Congress: ‘There has never been a time when … a study of history provides so little instruction for our present day.’ The aftermath proved how wrong this hubristic judgment was and it is a sentiment that few in the public eye would dare to voice today.

[…]

Much of the concern about the curriculum hinged on a perceived choice: that versions of history must either tell a traditional story of the great and the good, a national narrative of Whiggish heroes, or, by incorporating the histories of women and racial, religious and ethnic diversity, they will tell a politically motivated history that fragments our treatment of the past. My colleague, Oliver Ayers, reminds me that much the same discussion was had in the US in the 1990s, resulting in an all-out cultural war.

Both in the US and the UK it is and was a false dichotomy. First, there need not be anything intrinsically wrong with telling a nation’s history as part of the curriculum. As Simon Schama pointed out in 2013, there is value in preserving a national memory of our ‘imagined community’, but the narrative cannot be uncritical. Second, it is ahistorical to suggest that these two stories can be extricated from each other. Any intellectually robust tour of British history requires consideration of the ongoing interactions between Britain and the world and must incorporate local histories that will bring those global communications home.

Source: An adult education

That’s important, I think. We need some kind of balance, both in how we present our history (especially to our kids), we aren’t, and never were, perfect, but you know, we were and are pretty damn good at that. And it’s inexcusable to me to leave out other things, or exclude whole groups of people.

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