May 9, 2016: op-ed in WSJ -- Venezuela's hunger is no game.
87% of those polled reported that they did not have sufficient income for food. Their privation is a result of artificially holding down prices, which creates shortages.
Consumers are forced to scurry about black markets looking for what they need and then pay dearly for it—if they can. They face killer inflation which, according to the central bank, was 180.9% on an annual basis in the fourth quarter of 2015, up from 82.4% in the first quarter of last year.
Hunger is only a symptom of a broader economic collapse, all along the production chain, brought on by state diktat.The problem I have with these editorials: we are long past the point of describing the reason for Venezuela's problems. We need some nice op-eds on the likely outcome.
May 9, 2016: nothing new here; just more of the same, from Bloomberg.
Making sense of the rolling political and economic disaster in Venezuela isn't easy. But the bigger mystery may be why the whole country isn't flooding into the streets to demand the end of the social revolution that's left one of Latin America's most resource-rich nations in a shambles.No light at the end of the tunnel; no end in sight.
Start with the riddle of why the country with the world's largest crude oil reserves has suffered constant power outages. (Spoiler: instead of using oil to generate electricity, the government has relied on hydropower while failing to plan for this year's punishing drought; it neglected to build new power plants or invest in its crumbling infrastructure.)
And how has President Nicolas Maduro responded to the energy crisis? He cut the work week for public servants to two days. Along with the furlough, Maduro -- who also is presiding over the world's worst recession -- ordered a 30 percent hike in the national minimum wage. Just how much the crowd-pleasing bonus will matter in a country with high triple-digit inflation, where consumers queueing for hours can't find eight out of 10 staple goods at grocery stores, is debatable. Not to mention that Venezuela is literally running out of bank notes.
It's come to this: The country with the largest oil reserves in the world can't afford to brew its own beer, stay in its own time zone, or even have its own people show up to work more than two times a week.
Venezuela, in other words, is well past the point of worrying that its economy might collapse. It already has. That's the only way to describe an economy that the International Monetary Fund thinks is going to shrink 8 percent and have 720 percent inflation this year. And that's not even the worst of it. No, that's the fact that the state itself is near collapse. Venezuela already has the world's second-highest murder rate, and now the Chavista regime seems to be threatening violence of its own if the opposition succeeds in recalling President Nicolás Maduro. It's a grim race between anarchy and civil war.North Korea appears to be in better shape than Venezuela, or maybe I'm just misreading Asian News.
This is an entirely man-made catastrophe. Venezuela, by all rights, should be rich. As we just said, it has more oil than the United States or Saudi Arabia or anyone else for that matter. But despite that, economic mismanagement on a world-historical scale has barely left it with enough money to even, well, pay for printing money anymore. That's right: Venezuela is almost too poor to afford inflation. Which is just another way of saying that the government is all but bankrupt.
How did Venezuela get here? Well, by spending more than it had and not having as much as it should. Let's take these in reverse order. It really shouldn't have been hard for the government to use some of its petrodollars on the poor without destroying the economy. Every other oil-rich country, after all, has figured that out. But you can't redistribute oil profits if there aren't oil profits to redistribute, or at least not many of them. And there weren't after Hugo Chavez replaced people who knew what they were doing with people he knew would be loyal to him at the state-owned oil company. It didn't help that he scared foreign oil companies off too. Or that he took money out, but didn't put it back in, so that they can no longer turn as much of their extra-heavy crude into refined oil. Add it all up, and Venezuela's oil production actually fell by about 25 percent between 1999 and 2013.
It's enough to make one want to vote for Donald Trump.
The big question is why would The Washington Post post this story?
Venezuela. Tick. Tick. Tick.
The Apple Page
I used to think Apple's obsession with "thinner" and "thinness" was getting a bit out of hand. But now that I use the MacBook Air almost exclusively I find the MacBook Pro is incredibly thick, incredibly heavy, and something I would never use again.
The importance of "thinness" cannot be overestimated.
I will eventually get the Apple Watch. I have never wanted an iPhone, but to have the Apple Watch one needs the iPhone. Maybe next year.
I still think Apple needs to become a "private" company. I wish it would become a 100% employee-owned company. If not that, it would be nice if Apple would report earnings once yearly or even less often.
Theme Song For 2016 Presidential Race
I Can't Wait For The Debates
Play Loud and Often -- Really Loud
The death of Prince puts things into perspective. One wonders how Bob Dylan made it. No matter how good people say Bob Dylan is, he's a thousand times better. I saw him once in concert -- in San Antonio -- maybe 10 years ago.
Years ago the USAF sent me to northern England for what we called "temporary duty." It was not a good period of my life. I survived, I guess, by walking the moors, or whatever they were called, for 12-hour stretches each day on the weekend.
I carried a portable CD player and listened to Woody Guthrie (in the original post, I mis-wrote the name of the artist). That's how I ended up listening to Bob Dylan tonight. It's nights like this I think about shutting down the site, but I never will. So indulge me tonight. Forget about the Bakken; let me write about other things for awhile.
Tomorrow I will be back to normal and back to the Bakken but tonight, Bob Dylan. Really loud.
I used to care, but things have changed. Prince, Trump, wind farms/eagles, the human mind can only stand so much. People are crazy, times are strange, I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range, I used to care, but things have changed.