Business Insider has the details. As the probe widens, more and more of the botched and frankly stupid operation becomes known:
The WSJ reports today that federal authorities are now investigating why the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix — the same office that oversaw Fast and Furious — released Jean Baptiste Kingery after he confessed to providing military-style weapons to the now-defunct La Familia Michoacana drug cartel.
Kingery, who was arrested and released in June 2010, confessed to manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using grenade components from the U.S. He also admitted to helping the cartel convert semi-automatic rifles into machine guns.
Mexican criminal organizations are increasingly using these military-style weapons as the cartels’ escalate their wars against the government and one another.
Despite Kingery’s confession, and over loud protestations from the arresting ATF officers, the U.S. Attorney’s office let Kingery go within hours of his arrest.
This has led the Phoenix U.S. Attorney’s office to attempt to push back:
The Phoenix U.S. Attorney’s office denies that it declined to prosecute the case, saying that it wanted to continue surveillance. The office alternatively told investigators that ATF agents wanted to make Kingery an informant, but lost contact with him within weeks of his release.
Prosecutors involved in the case also accuse ATF agents of devising a failed sting that allowed Kingery to take hundreds of grenade parts across the border in the months about six months prior to his arrest.
Kingery had been hauled in by ATF agents and confronted with the evidence and the U.S. Attorney’s office thinks he’s going to go back to work and it’ll be business as usual? Really? I guess they figured out that wasn’t the case when they “lost contact with him within weeks of his release”.
Botched? That’s being kind. And notice too the attempt to distract by the U.S. Attorney with the “failed sting”. It seems to me if that’s the case and six months later the agents had the goods on Kingery, it was probably a good arrest at that point. But apparently the U.S. Attorney there knows better, huh?
This is Clown College stuff. How badly can an organization screw up an operation that was absolutely stupid to begin with? Obviously worse than we thought. The level of stupidity, incompetence and outright dumb decisions wrapped up in this case are staggering. It was a dumb idea to begin with and it was compounded with incompetence, poor execution and it inevitably ended up killing a US agent and untold Mexicans.
The question is, who at what level knew about this in the administration. There are those who believe Eric Holder is certainly knew and there’s speculation that the man in the White House may have known and condoned the operation as well.
The Fast and the Furious case has escalated over the past weeks, with news that at least three White House national security officials knew about the gunrunning program.
Emails obtained by the Committee last week show contact between the head of the Phoenix ATF and Kevin O’Reilly, then-director of North American affairs, about the operation. The White House confirmed that O’Reilly briefed Dan Restrepo, senior director for the Western Hemisphere, and Greg Gatjanis, director of counterterrorism and narcotics.
The emails, first reported by the LA Times, do not indicate that the White House aides knew about the more controversial tactics of letting the guns "walk." There is also no indication that the information went beyond those three officials.
Yeah, that sort of stuff never makes it into security briefings for the President, does it?
And you can already see the attempt to limit the damage if it is finally proven the President was aware of the operation (and tacitly approved it) with the line that says the White House security aides didn’t know “about the more controversial tactics of letting the guns “walk.”” That was sort of the whole point of the operation, wasn’t it?
Lots of interesting revelations yet to come methinks. Whether or not the press will cover it in any depth remains to be seen, but in my estimation, this is a large enough scandal that at least Eric Holder’s job ought to be in jeopardy.
The usual treatment has been meted out by some unknown (at the time) foreign entity we chose to help. We’ve been stiffed. After spending months, not weeks, helping the Libyan rebels overthrow Mommar Gadaffi, payback comes in the form of refusing to hand over the convicted murderer of 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Having fully duped the Scots by acting as though he was terminally ill, Abdel-Baset al-Megrahi was released by them to a hero’s welcome in Libya, and, apparently a full recovery. Must be the air.
A group of US Senators, obviously presuming that the new rebel government would be somewhat thankful for all the help given them over the past months, requested al-Megrahi be turned over to US custody.
But the transitional government’s justice minister, Mohammed al-Alagi, said Sunday in Tripoli that the request by American senators had "no meaning" because Mr. Megrahi had already been tried and convicted.
"We will not hand over any Libyan citizen. It was Gadhafi who handed over Libyan citizens," he said, referring to the government’s decision to turn Mr. Megrahi over to a Scottish court for trial.
Yes, he’s be tried and convicted … and sentenced. And the only reason he was released was for supposed “compassionate” reasons based on his health. As it turns out, that was a lie. Seems pretty open and shut to me – he’s still convicted and his compassionate release, because of the ruse, is null and void.
Mr. Megrahi’s current whereabouts are unknown, and on Saturday no one answered the door of his villa, hidden behind high walls in an upscale Tripoli neighborhood. A neighbor, Yousef Mohammed, said he saw Mr. Megrahi’s son in the street on Friday and assumed the family hadn’t left the area.
No private guards or rebel fighters were visible in the quiet side street of walled villas. The neighbor, said he often saw Mr. Megrahi in the neighborhood. "This guy is sick. All the time, I saw him" in the wheelchair, he said.
Yeah, I think we’ve seen this movie before.
OK … seems pretty easy from here. No Megrahi, no aid, no assets unfrozen, no help of any kind.
The latest reports on the economy is due out this week and it doesn’t appear they will contain much good news:
Economists have been insisting for months that the economy is poised to lift off into a self-sustaining orbit, only to be forced to scrub the launch date several times.
Thus the repeated “unexpected”.
The way the economy works is that it takes growth higher than a 3% rate before good things, like a sustained decline in unemployment, even start to happen. Anything in the 2.5%-to-3% range is just treading water.
Growth has averaged 2.8% over the past seven quarters. And at this point, economists would welcome a 2.5% growth rate.
Economists polled by MarketWatch now expect growth to actually decelerate to a 1.6% annual rate in the second quarter from a tepid 1.9% rate in the first quarter.
Those are some pretty shocking numbers when you consider all the political hype that’s been flying around lately about the “vastly improved” economy. I’ve put in bold type the numbers you need to know to be able to analyze the numbers thrown around as these reports come out. As you can tell, we’ve been in the treading water stage for quite some time.
We’ve covered many of the reasons. One is the administration’s war on carbon-based fuels – an sector that could be creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, revenue and growth if not essentially shut down by bureaucratic foot-dragging and stifling regulation. ObamaCare is another reason we see blamed because it has thrown thousands of new regulations about health care at businesses.
Those and other factors have led to extraordinary caution on the part of business about expansion and hiring. So where are the profits these companies are enjoying coming from?
The sluggish pace of hiring may be hobbling the US economy, but it’s not been holding back big US companies’ profits thanks to growth overseas and cost controls at home. And that’s bad news for the more than 14 million Americans without jobs.
Big businesses would normally be desperate for surging job growth as it would feed into domestic demand but these aren’t normal times. Massive growth opportunities overseas, especially in China and other buoyant Asian economies, have some of the largest American companies on track for record profits, even if they’re businesses are mostly treading water in the US.
The message last week from the chief financial officer of one of the nation’s industrial giants couldn’t be clearer.
"We’ve driven all this cost out. Sales have come back, but people have not," said Greg Haynes, chief financial officer at United Technologies Corp. "It’s the structural cost reductions that we have done over the past few years that have allowed us to see strong bottom-line results."
The company, the world’s largest maker of air conditioners and elevators, said second-quarter profit rose 19 percent, and it is doing most of its hiring in emerging markets where demand for its products is growing fastest. It isn’t alone in seeing profits climb in the current earnings reporting season.
They’ve learned to do more with less, thus their cost cutting measures in the really bad times are now beginning to pay off. The easiest and quickest way to cut costs, of course, is reduced headcount. They’ve also identified new markets that aren’t as onerous or unsettled to do business in – so their hiring – what hiring they’re doing – is overseas. And given all that, it’s unlikely to change anytime soon:
Employers added fewer jobs in June than at any time in the past nine months, and the jobless rate rose to 9.2 percent, higher than when the recession ended in early 2009.
"We’ve never seen the kind of shedding of jobs that we saw in this recession. America’s corporations have never been running so efficiently," said Ellen Zentner, senior US economist at Nomura Securities in New York.
An example of that is the car industry:
With the economy still struggling to regain momentum after the financial crisis of 2007-09 and 14 million Americans out of work, the planners at GM and a host of corporations across America are in no rush to make big new investments to ramp up output and hiring.
The world’s second-biggest carmaker has not re-opened its idled plants or built new ones as Americans rein in spending.
Like many US manufacturers, it is squeezing more from existing factories and using time-honoured efficiency boosts such as adding to overtime and eliminating plant bottlenecks.
‘Our manufacturing folks have been tremendous at squeaking out extra units through improving line rates, adding on extra shifts,’ GM’s US sales chief Don Johnson said.
That, of course, means a long recovery period for employment. Here’s a rather startling “did you know” fact for you:
Has anyone in Washington noticed that 20% of American men are not working? That’s right. One out of five men in this country are collecting unemployment, in prison, on disability, operating in the underground economy, or getting by on the paychecks of wives or girlfriends or parents. The equivalent number in 1970, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, was 7%.
That’s neither a good cultural or economic trend and certainly not a trend that we want to see continued into the future. It has a tendency to have a negative effect that can be profound. It also tends to see incidents of criminal activity rise.
So what is government to do? Follow policies that will encourage businesses to expand and hire. Exploit those sectors that have low hanging fruit like the carbon-based energy sector.
Instead, what do we get? Thousands of pages of new regulations and laws. More and more government intrusion. A further and artificial stifling of the economy.
Well read those bold numbers again and ask yourself if that’s what you’re willing to live with – because as it is going now, despite its rhetoric to the contrary, it is that with which this administration seems to be content to live.
And that is unacceptable – or should be.
When you see someplace begin to try to legislate feelings and intentions, well you’re looking at a place that is headed toward more and more authoritarian government. Tennessee recently passed a law which make it a crime to post images which cause “emotional distress” without a “legitimate purpose”.
One has no idea what constitutes “emotional distress” or how one decides if the “purpose” is “legitimate”, but it certainly suggests someone will and that someone will be the state.
(a) A person commits an offense who intentionally:
(4) Communicates with another person or transmits or displays an image in a manner in which there is a reasonable expectation that the image will be viewed by the victim by [by telephone, in writing or by electronic communication] without legitimate purpose:
(A) (i) With the malicious intent to frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress; or
(ii) In a manner the defendant knows, or reasonably should know, would frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress to a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities; and
(B) As the result of the communication, the person is frightened, intimidated or emotionally distressed.
When you see language like you see in this law, the extent to which it can be abused and used to, ironically, “frighten, intimidate or emotionally distress” someone supposedly in violation of it are evident.
Eugene Volokh finds it to be “clearly” unconstitutional. Here are his comments:
- If you’re posting a picture of someone in an embarrassing situation — not at all limited to, say, sexually themed pictures or illegally taken pictures — you’re likely a criminal unless the prosecutor, judge, or jury concludes that you had a “legitimate purpose.”
- Likewise, if you post an image intended to distress some religious, political, ethnic, racial, etc. group, you too can be sent to jail if governments decision maker thinks your purpose wasn’t “legitimate.” Nothing in the law requires that the picture be of the “victim,” only that it be distressing to the “victim.”
- The same is true even if you didn’t intend to distress those people, but reasonably should have known that the material — say, pictures of Mohammed, or blasphemous jokes about Jesus Christ, or harsh cartoon insults of some political group — would “cause emotional distress to a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities.”
- And of course the same would apply if a newspaper or TV station posts embarrassing pictures or blasphemous images on its site.
This is clearly the end-game of this pernicious trend that supports this pseudo-right we have to not be offended. Obviously, you have no such right. But when the state gets into this sort of territory, it is not headed toward the slippery slope, it’s bobsledding down the slope.
This is clearly a law designed to stifle what any person of “reasonable sensibilities” would call free speech. What most who understand the right emphasize is that its strength is in the fact that we don’t penalize those who say things we don’t like, but protect their right to do so even while we denounce what they say.
This is another of those freedoms that is constantly under assault by the authoritarians among us who, for whatever reason, think it is their job to control every aspect of our lives, to include what we can and can’t say. So, as in the case of Tennessee, they criminalized behavior which might “frighten, intimidate or emotionally disturb”.
Really – I can think of any number of movies which do precisely that for any number of people – is Tennessee going to ban them? Books? Political writing (that is intended to “frighten, intimidate or emotionally disturb” readers? If you’re from another state and you have a bumper sticker that “frightens, intimidates or emotionally distresses” someone (say an abortion sticker or one that denounces Islamists) am I subject to Tennessee’s liberty destroying law?
And how does this law coexist with our right, codified in the First Amendment, that claims we can speak freely without considering any of those concerns?
Busybody lawmakers with an authoritarian streak make bad law and shred our basic rights. I’m sure they’d explain it as an attempt to ensure others aren’t offended. I, on the other hand, find that sort of nonsense un-American and unconstitutional. Repeal the law, Tennessee. Rejoin the rest of the union and quit being so afraid of free speech. Most of all, grow up and quit worrying about others being offended. That’s their problem – not the state’s.
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The world is officially nuts. I’m not sure how else you classify what follows. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany recently remarked on the death of mass murderer Osama bin Laden saying was “glad” he’d been killed. That prompted the following from a German judge:
But Hamburg judge Heinz Uthmann went even further. He alleges that the chancellor’s statement was nothing short of illegal, and filed a criminal complaint against Merkel midweek, the daily Hamburger Morgenpost reported Friday.
"I am a law-abiding citizen and as a judge, sworn to justice and law," the 54-year-old told the paper, adding that Merkel’s words were "tacky and undignified."
In his two-page document, Uthmann, a judge for 21 years, cites section 140 of the German Criminal Code, which forbids the "rewarding and approving" of crimes. In this case, Merkel endorsed a "homicide," Uthmann claimed. The violation is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment or a fine.
"For the daughter of a Christian pastor, the comment is astonishing and at odds with the values of human dignity, charity and the rule of law," Uthmann told the newspaper.
Of course the judge is assuming it’s a “homicide” (certainly no proof exists that’s the case) and thus a criminal act. In fact, the Geneva Conventions will clearly show otherwise. Obviously he files his complaint with nothing more than his opinion as a basis.
So you say, it’s one extremist view, why get excited about it?
While the judge’s reaction may seem extreme, his sentiments are apparently shared by 64 percent of the German population. That was the proportion of Germans who said bin Laden’s death was "no reason to rejoice" in a poll published by broadcaster ARD on Friday.
Germany – never a bastion of human rights or individual freedoms – continues to live up to its past with a new extremist but pacifist twist. This is an example of absurdity masquerading as reason, extremism as normalcy and stupidity as compassion.
Everyone who loves freedom and hates mass murderers should be “glad” Osama bin Laden has been killed. He was a monster, just like one which once ruled the land this puffed up pratt Uthman lives in. As much as Germans claim to have been “disgusted” with the “jubilation” over OBL’s death, nonsense like this does them no favor. The disgust on this side of the Atlantic for a country that assaults free speech and protects the memory of a mass murderer by going after those who express satisfaction at his demise isn’t one that I or most anyone here would ever care to live in.
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According to a CBS New poll It appears the American public isn’t buying the attempt to connect what is termed “hateful” rhetoric and the Tucson shooting of Rep. Giffords:
Overall, 57 percent of respondents said the harsh political tone had nothing to do with the shooting, compared to 32 percent who felt it did. Republicans were more likely to feel the two were unrelated – 69 percent said rhetoric was not to blame; 19 percent said it played a part. Democrats were more split on the issue – 49 percent saw no connection; 42 percent said there was.
Independents more closely reflected the overall breakdown – 56 percent said rhetoric had nothing to do with the attack; 33 percent felt it did.
So a note to the left trying to make political hay with this incident – the meme is not resonating. And, as usual, you’ve underestimated the good sense of the American people and their ability to separate political nonsense from the truth. I think we can reasonably call the attempt to establish the “hateful rhetoric caused the shooting” a “FAIL.”
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Well, as you can imagine, the Giffords shooting has sucked all the oxygen out of just about every other subject. And, as you can probably further imagine, the "let’s make a law" crowd is busily at work trying to again limit our freedoms in the name of "security".
We have a representative from PA who wants to outlaw "crosshairs" in political advertising. I have to wonder what part of "Congress shall make no law" in the 1st Amendment and political speech he doesn’t understand? Perhaps the word "no" as in none, zip, zero, nada?
The typical overreaction is underway. As is the inevitable. Gun control pops its ugly head up again as a New York Congresswoman prepares to introduce legislation banning high-capacity ammunition clips.
And then there’s Paul Krugman. The historically blind and deaf Paul Krugman. Check out these opening two paragraphs in a piece entitled “Climate of Hate”:
When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?
Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.
Notice anything missing in his trip down memory lane? Yeah, 8 years of inflammatory rhetoric and what he now labels as “hate” directed at George Bush and the right. I’m sure you’re not surprised – this sort of memory loss is endemic on the left. The memory hole, which they seem unable to acknowledge, is why most on the right take the likes of Paul Krugman and their hate claims with the grain of salt they deserve. When their rhetoric was pointed out to them, their retort was “dissention is patriotism”.
Note too that the economist turned political hack continues to insist, in the face of almost conclusive evidence to the contrary, that the violence visited on Rep. Giffords was the result of the “hatred” from the right. And he uses the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center’s report (hidden in the just as discredited Homeland Security report) as “proof” of his claims.
Krugman must have sensed he’s on thin ice because a few paragraphs in he throws this out:
It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.
Holy Mars and Venus, Batman – is this guy living on the same planet we’re living on? Of course it can be an “isolated event” and it certainly can have nothing to do with the so-called “national climate”. The guy was a loon. A nutcase. He has serious mental problems. He’s a yahoo who became fixated on Rep. Giffords for no apparent logical reason other than she was a local politician. Trying to warp this into something it isn’t, however, is suddenly becoming the pastime of the left. Well, much of it anyway (there are indeed islands of sanity out there, but they’re becoming less prevalent).
Krugman then attempts to whitewash the left’s very recent past by claiming you’ll mostly hear only caustic remarks and mocking at worst. Michelle Malkin neatly disposes of that myth.
So will the Arizona massacre make our discourse less toxic? It’s really up to G.O.P. leaders. Will they accept the reality of what’s happening to America, and take a stand against eliminationist rhetoric? Or will they try to dismiss the massacre as the mere act of a deranged individual, and go on as before?
If Arizona promotes some real soul-searching, it could prove a turning point. If it doesn’t, Saturday’s atrocity will be just the beginning.
What then, as evidence continues to mount supporting it, if it was indeed a “mere act of a deranged individual” Mr. Krugman. Will we get an Emily Litella like “never mind” from you?
This is the latest in a long line of efforts by the left to shut its opposition up. Political correctness has finally begun to wear thin as most have now recognized it for what it is – an attempt to control speech. This effort is nothing less than that. It is the claim that speech must be modified because others who are deranged might act on it, even out of context. But that lack of memory about their own toxic speech and their spirited defense of it (again, see Malkin’s listing of the left’s happy talk about George Bush) smacks of such hypocrisy that the word is almost insufficient to define them at this point.
Freedom and democracy demand risk to work. They must not be held prisoner to speech codes and “security”. We must not let the priorities that underpin freedom be chipped away or removed by a bunch of scared rabbits. If Congress wants to beef up security around its members, I can understand that. However, that’s as far as I’m willing to go. Restricting the freedoms of the rest of us because of some nut is just flat unacceptable.
And by the way, Mr. Krugman – go see a doctor. I’m told the type of memory loss you’re suffering is the first sign of senile dementia. Have it checked out, will you?
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One of the reasons I find libertarianism satisfying to my inner philosophical self is it eschews and condemns the use of coercion and force.
That doesn’t make me a pacifist or someone who won’t use force defensively. But that’s not what happened today in a Safeway parking lot in Arizona. What happened today was cold-blooded murder of innocent bystanders and the attempted murder of a Congressional Representative. It was an attempt to coercively change what has been decided democratically. I may not agree with Rep. Giffords or her leanings, but I will defend unto death her right to stand in any parking lot in this country and say what it is she wishes to say without some jerk shooting her.
What happened today was wrong and it should be condemned – period. No matter what the leanings or ideology of the person targeted and no matter the ideology and leanings of the fool who did this, there is no excuse for this at all.
Prepare yourself for an onslaught of the two sides attempting to find a way to work this to their advantage. Already I’ve seen Sarah Palin blamed. Expect all the blogospheric loons to try to torturously spin whatever is found about this asshat who shot Rep. Giffords into something that hurts the other side. It is as predictable as night and day. The online equivalents of the National Enquirer will do what they always do.
As for those who are going to try to proclaim this guy a hero striking a blow for freedom, you’ve got a hell of a job in front of you selling that. He no more struck a blow for freedom than did James Earl Ray. The guy is a coward who shoots at unarmed women and kills children. If that’s the type of murderous clown you want to tie your revolutionary wagon too, good luck with that.
It appears Rep. Giffords has survived the surgery and doctors are very optimistic about her recovery. That’s good news, but we all know how difficult it is to fully recover from a bad brain injury. As for the jackwagon that shot her, there’s a maximum security prison in Colorado which has a cell with his name on it. Put him in there and throw away the key. Solitary confinement for the rest of his life. Let Glenn Greenwald whine about that.
And yes, I’m pissed.
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Apparently if you don’t like the law and you’re the Homeland Security Department – you know, the department charged with ensuring your safety – you can just quietly refuse to do your job. Judicial Watch clues us in:
A month after the Department of Homeland Security launched a covert program to dismiss pending deportations there’s been an increase of more than 700% in the number of cases that have been dropped by the government in one of the nation’s busiest immigration court systems.
In August Homeland Security officials quietly began to systematically dismiss the pending removal of illegal immigrants, even when expulsion was virtually guaranteed or the aliens had a criminal record. The move, first reported by Texas’s largest newspaper, stunned the legal profession and baffled immigration attorneys who said it was “absolutely fantastic” for their illegal alien clients.
Instead of enforcing the law, they’ve decided to interpret it as they wish and to modify the criteria for expulsion to whatever they arbitrarily decide.
However, EOIR’s liaison with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Raed Gonzalez, said he was briefed on the guidelines in August directly by DHS’ deputy chief counsel in Houston and described a broader set of internal criteria.
Government attorneys in Houston were instructed to exercise prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis for illegal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for at least two years and have no serious criminal history, Gonzalez said.
To qualify for dismissal, defendants also must have no felony record or any misdemeanor convictions involving DWI, sex crimes or domestic violence, he said.
Now before some nimrod who never reads the blog beams in and claims I’m “anti-immigration”, let’s be clear. No, I’m not. But we have a proper and legal way of immigrating into this country and an improper and illegal way of doing so. The government’s job is to enforce the law and its priority should be the protection of the rights of its citizens. Decisions to arbitrarily enforce law or not enforce it at all shouldn’t be within the ability of the government’s enforcement agencies to decide. We have a process for that – it’s called legislation.
As I recall, law enforcement agencies require oaths of their agents to “enforce the law”. Not to “internally” decide to modify them to suit their tastes or a political agenda.
I understand the “system” is broken. But “clearing a backlog” by dismissing cases against law breakers on whatever grounds simply encourages more of the illegal behavior they’ve displayed. If there’s really no risk in flaunting the law, there’s no reason not to engage in the behavior that breaks it.
Obviously the immigration system needs to be overhauled and immigration brought into the 21st century with a speedier and less costly process that better serves all.
But that is a separate issue from the subject of this post. It is dangerous and destructive to have government agencies who have been charged with enforcing the law to be internally deciding what if any of the law they will enforce. It’s just another example of the government not serving the needs of those it is Constitutionally charged with protecting. It has, however, become almost a trademark of this administration.
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That’s right – even at their lowest ebb right now, Obama’s are better numbers than Hugo has (although Harry Reid would probably kill for Hugo’s numbers):
In a survey last month, Consultores 21 found that only 36 percent of Venezuelans approved of Chavez’s performance, a seven-year low.
Any guess why? Yeah, I know, a real stumper. Let’s channel Bill Clinton’s campaign message for a minute. Ah, yes, there it is – "it’s the economy, stupid." Do you know what the Venezuelan economy looks like right now?
The Economist magazine provides statistics weekly on 57 nations, from the United States to Estonia. Its most recent report forecasts that gross domestic product in Venezuela will decline by 5.5 percent in 2010. Next worst is Greece, with a 3.9 percent decline. Greece, of course, came close to defaulting on its debt earlier this year, and analysts at Morgan Stanley worry that Venezuela is moving in the same direction.
“Our new baseline of at least three years of economic contraction suggests the risks to Venezuela’s ability to honor its international financial commitments may be on the rise,” wrote Daniel Volberg and Giuliana Pardelli in a June report, at the same time predicting that GDP will fall by 6.2 percent in 2010. “While most of Latin America, in line with the globe, has been in recovery mode since last year, Venezuela has seen an intensifying downturn in activity,” they added.
So that’s GDP, the single best measure of economic health. When it comes to inflation, no one is close to Venezuela. Consumer prices are already up 31 percent for 2010 and are expected to rise more by year-end. Only two of the remaining 56 nations monitored by the Economist are suffering double-digit inflation: India and Egypt, both with 11 percent price increases.
Venezuela’s stagflation is all the more remarkable because, as the No. 8 oil-producing nation in the world, the country should be benefiting handsomely from high oil prices.
And it most likely would be doing so if it didn’t have an idiot who thinks socialism works at the helm.
Chavez has spent a lot of time, however, consolidating the organs of government power under his control and stomping out any opposition media in an attempt to keep Venezuelans in the dark (and not just from the rolling blackouts that plague the country) as to what is happening. But economics have a way of running those sorts of blockades when the reality of them sets in on the populace:
But even a news blackout would not prevent Venezuelans from knowing firsthand what is happening to their nation’s economy. Retail sales were down 12 percent in the first half of the year; sales of food, beverages, and tobacco in specialty stores were off 30 percent. Chavez slapped on permanent exchange controls to prevent “the oligarchy from taking U.S. dollars and depositing them in banks around the world.” But like most such controls, they have only panicked investors and businesses and led to more capital flight. Figures from the Central Bank of Venezuela showed $9 billion in capital outflows in the first half of the year.
Venezuelans go to the polls tomorrow in a similar situation to the US – midterm elections and a ruling party that has proven to be inept and corrupt. It is parliament they’ll be voting for. And given the shape of the country, the censorship, inflation, crime (Caracas is more dangerous than Baghdad) and economic disaster Venezuelans have been experiencing the opposition does indeed have some "hope" for "change".
Whether Hugo actually allows that, of course, is another matter altogether.
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