Odds and Sods

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The Telegraph reports something that Venezuela specialists have been pointing out for a long time now: While oil revenue is way up—as one would expect, with prices ten times what they were when Hugo Chavez was first elected—Venezuelan oil production is way down. In 1998, the country produced 3.2 million barrels a day. Today, OPEC says the nationalized oil industry (remember, Chavez fired 19,000 strking PDVSA employees in 2002, replacing them with party loyalists like Gaston Luis Parra Luzardo, the Marxist economist who took over the company) is producing 2.4 million barrels. And as The Telegraph points out, it is only the United States that is paying full price for Venezuelan crude, with most of Chavez's allies receiving oil shipments at a deep discount. Also worrying Venezuelan economists—and almost certainly worrying the Miraflores gang—is the possibility of oil prices falling even further. According to this report in the Caracas daily El Universal, the government would need the price of oil to remain at around $90 a barrel to sustain its current rate of spending.

– Citing an investigative piece in El Nuevo Herald, UPI reports that "The Venezuelan government is operating a secret paramilitary training camp with the help of Cuban military advisers and leftist Colombian guerrillas." A paranoid, Claire Sterling-like conspiracy theory? Hardly. As UPI notes, the government has neither confirmed nor denied the allegations, "but local officials have acknowledged its existence and the presence of Cubans."

– A jarring helmet-cam video obtained by Salon suggests that a 2006 insurgent attack that killed two American soldiers in Ramadi was, in fact, a friendly-fire incident. One cannot help be moved by both the awful tragedy on display and the professionalism of the soldiers responding. That is until, at the very end of the video, when the squad leader orders his soldiers to report that they were hit by enemy mortars and not a U.S. Army tank shell.

– According to the state-funded Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague, Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, ratted out an anti-communist spy working against the Soviet-backed government in Czechoslovakia. As the New York Times reports, the agent was arrested, "narrowly escaped the death penalty, a common punishment for espionage, and eventually served a 14-year sentence, including hard labor in a uranium mine."Kundera denied the charges. (Perhaps, in light of these charges, it is worth revisiting Kundera's 1969 debate with Vaclav Havel, in which he accuses the playwrite and dissident of "moral exhibitionism.")

– One final commie related story—and one largely ignored by our horse race-obsessed comrades in the D.C. media. A player from the Cuban national soccer team, Reinier Alcantara, on a visit to our nation's capital, waits for his minders to be distracted by the brilliant capitalist gifts on display at the Doubletree giftshop—mini-spoons with a picture of Lincoln glued to the top, a half-sleeve of barabcue Pringles, US Weekly instead of Juventud Rebelde—and bolts out of a hotel service door. The Miami Herald has details:

"The phone lines in the players' rooms at the Doubletree Hotel were disconnected, their passports and visas were collected by a team official upon arrival in the nation's capital, and coaches watched their every move."

[…]

He ran, and ran, and ran. Six to eight blocks. At full speed, looking over his shoulder the whole way, worried that someone would snag him and deliver him back to the Cuban delegation. Finally, when he realized nobody was chasing him, Alcantara stopped at a corner, caught his breath, and flagged down a taxi.

He speaks very little English, but he used what he knew when he got into the taxi cab. "Drive me far," he told the driver, motioning with his hand. "Go far, far, far." They drove for nearly half an hour and Alcantara, a 26-year-old forward, got off at a McDonald's. He asked the cabbie if he could borrow his cellphone to make a call. He called a friend in New Jersey, told him where he was, and the friend drove down to meet him.

Welcome to America, Mr. Alcantara.

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  1. Damn, I thought the story was going to end with Mr. Alcantara celebrating his newfound freedom with a large Coke and a Big Mac.

  2. Did Mr. Alcatara pay the taxi driver??

  3. More from Mr. Alcantara

    ”It’s beautiful to see the amount and quality of food here, the choices, the possibilities ,”

    “Meanwhile, people are hungry in Cuba, scraping to get by, obsessing about where they’ll find dinner. I have to be careful with all this great food. If I keep eating, I won’t be able to run anymore and I’ll get out of shape.”

    Why would he give up all that wonderfulfree health care?

  4. Welcome to America, Mr. Alcantara.

    Ditto.

  5. How many Cuban soccer players does this make now? This would be the tenth that I can recall.

  6. Well, at least he got in a taxi instead of on the OrangeLine, right LonelyWhacker?

  7. Damn, SIV beat me to the healthcare joke. But seriously, congratulations to Mr. Alcantara. My GF showed me some pictures she’d taken in Cuba, and I was shocked – some people in Havana are living in what basically look like ruins. Seriously, the buildings look like they’ve been shelled. I didn’t realize things were quite that bad.

  8. Welcome to America, Mr. Alcantara.

    The Mariners could use a good middle reliever.

  9. Paraphrasing my favorite “center left” Democrat,

    Isn’t democracy wonderful?”

    The question I long to ask El Presidente Hugo Chavez is “How do you fuck up a wet dream, anyway?

  10. Hell, if there had been a game that night, he could have run straight out of the hotel, jumped on the metro, and run straight onto the field at RFK stopping only to put on a DC United uniform.

    Yes, we are that desperate.

  11. One good thing about an economic slowdown – the price of oil will plummet. Besides paying less for gas, it’ll be great to see shitbags like Putin and Chavez pressured.

  12. According to the state-funded Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague, Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, ratted out an anti-communist spy working against the Soviet-backed government in Czechoslovakia.

    That would be very disappointing if true.

  13. The Telegraph reports something that Venezuela specialists have been pointing out for a long time now: While oil revenue is way up-as one would expect, with prices ten times what they were when Hugo Chavez was first elected-Venezuelan oil production is way down.

    Wow, it’s almost like socialism doesn’t work, or something.

  14. Seriously, I got pretty choked up reading Alcantara’s story.
    But I’m concerned about what they’ll do to his family now.

  15. Besides paying less for gas, it’ll be great to see shitbags like Putin and Chavez pressured.

    I don’t see Putin seeing very much pressure unless by pressure you mean “increased frequency of killing those who oppose him.”

  16. Congrats to Mr. Alcantara! I have known a few Cuban deserters: two Cuban doctors (brought by Chavez’ government to help with the “Misiones” in Venezuela) attending my father-in-law deseterd a few months ago. Since they were given Venezuelan ids, they ran away to the U.S. Embassy, got in with the Venezuelan id and then asked for asylum.

  17. I thought I had heard that two players from the soccer team defected. Is there another or is there only one?

  18. It’s nice that the Cubans are allowed to stay, but I will be a lot happier about it when we treat people who want to come here from all of the other crappy countries the same way.

  19. “…remember, Chavez fired 19,000 strking PDVSA employees in 2002…”
    My sister-in-law and her husband were among those fired workers. It was very difficult to watch them lose their life savings. I’m happy to report they are getting back on their feet in Canada.
    PDVSA is a real mess, much like the rest of Venezuela.

    “The question I long to ask El Presidente Hugo Chavez is “How do you fuck up a wet dream, anyway?”

    There are so many ways, JsubD… Hmmm, firing competent, educated and skilled workers and replacing them with corrupt, uneducated criminals is a good place to start.

  20. @mk – that’s 6 cuban soccer players this year, plus 2 in 2006 iirc (Maykel Galindo is now playing for Chivas USA in LA).

    It would have been *Really dumb* to run to RFK, since that’s where the USA-Cuba game was played. Plus, they can’t sign professional contracts until they get asylum.

    Except for Galindo, none of the cuban players have been all that.

  21. Huh. Kicking out people who actually know what they’re doing and replacing them with incompetent thugs. Don’t know where he could have learned that from.

  22. PEMEX production is declining 8% a year yet no one is writing articles complaining about Mexico’s oil production policy.

    Fields decline in production over time. Chavez might eventually run PDVSA into the ground but Mr. Bush has spiked his income handsomely for the time being. So give Bush/Cheney an assist on the new Russian military hardware on order.

  23. Oscar,
    I was imagining a scenario where DC United was playing, not, you know, the actual game that was happening. It was fanciful of me.

    Anyways, ten is right, two this week, the 6 from last year and I was counting Galindo and his friend as well.

    As for the quality of the players, DCU’s last two acquisitions were from a USL2 team ffs.

  24. Thank goodness Mr. Alcantara did not have to wait for the Brits to tunnel into a locker room, just to have Sylvester Stallone almost completly compromise the escape.

  25. Chuck – the article is mainly about the one guy but if you read through it mentions another who defected simultaneously.

  26. You know, Reason’s own Drew Carey has draw with a certain soccer team that he part owns. Maybe he could set up a try-out?

  27. Guy,

    Not funny. Tunnels scare the shit out of me. Points for the reference however.

  28. shrike,
    No one here has written an article praising Mexican oil policy either. And while natural reductions in output might explain some of the dropoff, such a dramatic decrease cannot be explained in such a way, unless we’re talking about catastrophic depletion.

  29. Economist,

    Incompetence could explain so of it.

  30. mk,

    Since Seattle will be starting almost fresh, he may actually make it. But in general, these guys tend to wash out entirely or drop to USL at best. Galindo is the exception.

    The Washington Post had a good article on this as well (Steven Goff’s blog).

    And for anyone into more soccer-nerdy stuff, you can read Bill Archer’s blog post on the front page of Bigsoccer.com. Except that Bigsoccer.com has been down “for about thirty minutes” for hours now.

  31. Naga Shadow,
    And that was my point.

  32. I figure the leftwing love affair with Chavez should end when millions of Venezuelans starve to death or leave the country, and he has to rig the elections to win. Then, suddenly, he’ll be dead to the left (Except the insane left, which will claim the unflattering aspects of his regime are really just evil capituhlist propaganda).

  33. One of the reasons US refineries buy Venezuelan oil is because they can process it. It’s generally heavy in sulfur. It’s also the reason why Venezuela can’t sell oil to just anybody. I know they are increasing their supply to China, but China has had to build new refineries to process it, specifically built for that oil.

  34. My apologies, economist. I have been away for a while but I seem to mastered stating the obvious.

  35. In other news, as the November election approaches, Chavez is cracking down on opposition leaders (Manuel Rosales, who ran against Chavez in the last Presidential election and Miguel Otero, President of the Diario El Nacional and member of Movimiento 2 de Diciembre, among others) and is obtaining warrants for their arrest… Such is life in this potential dictatorship.

  36. rana,
    I’ve noticed a pattern. A socialistic control freak comes to power in an election and the left says “It’s okay because he was democratically elected!” Then, after his policies have screwed everything up and he has to rig elections, he turns into the bad guy.

  37. economist,
    I’m afraid you are right: things here will have to get much worse before some people’s religious-like adoration of Chavez will fade.

  38. Welcome to America, Mr. Alcantara.

    Most excellent- these days, a bit of good news is very gratefully received.

  39. I wouldn’t judge Kundera so quickly. Rarely were confessions extracted voluntarily – there’s a reason that Eastern bloc governments did so much espionage, and that’s to collect incriminating evidence on people. Homosexuality, adultery, and black market activity (adultery being very common among all humans, and black market activity being common in Eastern bloc countries) were grounds for blackmail. Furthermore, information in these reports is often flat out wrong. There were incentives for security agents to make things up, in order to convince superiors that the surveillance was necessary, for a variety of reasons.

  40. Cue joe to explain why everything Chavez does is okay because he’s democratically elected.

  41. I figure the leftwing love affair with Chavez should end when millions of Venezuelans starve to death or leave the country,

    It will not, nor will it ever. Its cause will be spun into a result of “liberal economics” and American intervention.

  42. economist:
    Exactly what happened with Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Twenty years ago, he was a marxist anti-colonialist hero.

    Now the marxists are all like “He’s not really a Marxist”, without exactly articulating how his policies have diverged from what real marxists would actually do.

    Aside from the insane fringe that still thinks that Zimbabwe’s problems are the result of a western imperialist plot.

    You could say the same thing for Stalin, 20 years before that.

    It seems to take about a generation for the political spectrum to forget the results of socialism and try it again. Possibly because it’s main supporters seem concentrated in the 18-22 year old crowd. People with longer memories are a bit more wary.

    Eventually Naomi Klein will get bit in the ass by her support for people like Chavez. Notice how nobody remembers anyone who supported Mugabe or Stalin any more either.

  43. Hazel Meade,
    Glad somebody got the reference. Nobody likes Mugabe now. Hell, 10 years ago the man was a Marxist hero. It’s only relatively recently (last 3 or 4 years) that people have generally acknowledged that most of Zimbabwe’s current problems stem from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF rule.

  44. Heh, stupid Venezuelan govt, spending more money than they can expect to take in over the long-term. What a bunch of fools. I’m glad I don’t live in a silly place like that.

  45. Actually, Bush and Chavez have a lot in common, despite hating each other. Both have dramatically expanded the role of their governments at home, Chavez through new welfare programs and taking care of his cronies, Bush through new entitlements and taking care of his cronies. Both consider it their right to plunder their own countries to meddle in foreign affairs. And both believe that they are God’s own gift to their respective countries, nay, to the world.

  46. Then again, lots of bitter enemies had important things in common. Like this German (actually Austrian) fellow and this other Russian (actually Georgian) fellow.

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