Venezuela Clarity

Rich Lowery is on point in discussing Venezuela at NRO.  He has a great way of summarizing how bad things are there:

The result is a sharp, years-long recession, runaway inflation, and unsustainable debt. The suffering of ordinary people is staggering, while the thieves and killers who are Chávezista officials have made off with hundreds of billions of dollars. At this rate — The Economist calls the country’s economic decline “the steepest in modern Latin American history” — there will be nothing left to steal.

The situation leaves The Donald with limited options as Rich discusses.  Read his whole analysis.  What he doesn’t remind us of is the policy of The Donald’s predecessor.  To him Chavez was mi amigo.  As Patrick Cooper at USA Today had a quote from AP back in 2009:

“President Barack Obama has gone abroad and gored an ox — the deeply held belief that the United States does not make mistakes in dealings with either friends or foes. And in the process, he’s taking a huge gamble both at home and abroad, for a payoff that could be a long time coming, if ever.”

Read all of Patrick’s column to remind yourself how controversial the predecessors actions toward Venezuela were.  The Donald’s predecessor always seemed willing to gamble with our future.  If we were at the track we would say he wasn’t an astute improver of the breed.

Recently we cited David Horowitz at PowerLine on why the Middle East is a disaster.  The Middle East is not the only disaster left for The Donald to work out.  We wish him greater insight than his predecessor.  The problem is he has less degrees of freedom because of the actions that were taken.

Venezuela Confusion

Brandon Morse at The Blaze informs us that World of Warcraft currency is worth more than Venezuelan currency.  Brandon gives credit to others and then says:

According to sites that track the value of both currencies, KalebPrime’s math is outdated, and WoW gold is now worth even more than the bolivar.

According to the site dolartoday.com, which actively tracks the worth of the bolivar on the black market, the bolivar has dropped to 11,185.95 per dollar since KalebPrime posted .

Meanwhile, according to mmobux.com, which tracks the value of WoW’s in-game currency for sales outside of the game, the lowest sale of 10,000 gold in a real life exchange will get you $1.21 [or 8,264 per USD].

So when did this come about?  Brandon tells us:

This drop in the worth of the bolivar is stark compared to its worth just a few months ago. In May, 279 bolivars would net $1, according to CNN Money. In June, the worth dropped to 408 bolivars for every dollar.

What is the cause of it?  Brandon gives the party line:

The Venezuelan economy has suffered greatly under President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist regime. The drop in oil prices, combined with the Venezuelan government’s mismanagement of the economy has resulted in a shortage of everything from food to everyday items.

So the drop in oil prices is listed as the first cause.  What was the oil price at the beginning of May when things were less terrible?

Sidebar: We use the Brent price per barrel from Oil.Com.  There are several different benchmarks.  All will show that the price has jumped up and down but has been relatively stable in the last few months.  We use WTI for a longer view because that is the data we could find.  The benchmarks have different prices but they move together.  We are more nervous about Brandon’s measurements of the Bolivar.  It could be that CNN Money and dolartoday. com are not comparable because the Bolivar has an official rate and a real or black market rate.  End Sidebar

Brent crude was just above $52.  What was it at the beginning of June?  It was just below $52.  What is it today.  It must be like $1.43 to cause all this turmoil.  It is $52.72.  That’s right, the oil price has moved up slightly.  Now oil prices did plunge.  It plunged from about $100 a barrel to, roughly, the current price in the second half of 2014 as this chart shows (alert: it is a different benchmark (WTI) so the price today is a couple of dollars different).  Since the beginning of 2015 the price has jumped around on both sides of $50 but is is hard to discern a trend.  So oil prices dropped three years ago.  It is a problem for Venezuela but it is hard to connect what happened three years ago to its current woes.  The government needs to take at least 99 percent of the responsibility for the current problems.

Compare what is happening in Venezuela to the more capitalistic USA.  USA produces (2014 =8,764) over times as much oil as Venezuela (2014 = 2,500) but it is a smaller part of our economy.  The USA and its oil industry is recovering nicely in 2017 while Venezuela in chaos.  The different economic systems are why.

If that is how The Blaze presents Maduro’s problems then you know what to expect from the legacy media.  Venezuela is socialism.

 

 

 

Never Forget

With the mitigated joy of having The Donald as president, it is good to remind ourselves of the horror of his predecessor.  David Horowitz does just that for foreign policy at the PowerLine.  His opening salvo:

During the eight years of the Obama administration, half a million Christians, Yazidis and Muslims were slaughtered in the Middle East by ISIS and other Islamic jihadists, in a genocidal campaign waged in the name of Islam and its God. Twenty million others were driven into exile by these same jihadist forces. Libya and Yemen became terrorist states. America – once the dominant foreign power and anti-jihadist presence in the region – was replaced by Russia, an ally of the monster regimes in Syria and Iran, and their terrorist proxies. Under the patronage of the Obama administration, Iran – the largest and most dangerous terrorist state, with the blood of thousands of Americans on its hands – emerged from its isolation as a pariah state to re-enter the community of nations and become the region’s dominant power, arming and directing its terrorist proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and Yemen.

Do read the whole thing.  It is quite a powerful reminder.  We don’t love The Donald but he is an improvement and he is a better choice than the Secretary of State that implemented these disasters.  It does mean that The Donald has a big job.  We hope he is up to it.

 

Hire Sophie

Sophie Mann is a senior at Scripps College, part of the Claremont University Consortium, and a Bartley Fellow at WSJ.  After discussing the much publicized events this spring at Claremont and elsewhere she concludes her WSJ column:

Even at the University of California, Berkeley, where spring riots shut down speeches by conservative controversialists Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter, administrators now say they’ll allow the College Republicans to bring author Ben Shapiro for an appearance in the fall, a request the dean of students initially denied.

That actions such as these are considered unusual, even courageous, is a sign of just how bad things are on campus today. But colleges and universities across the country should be following the examples being set in California.

Do read the whole thing to appreciate how level headed a college student could be.  Sophie gives us more confidence for the future of free speech than the often uncertain actions of a few college administrators.

A Lesson And An Analogy

Yesterday we accompanied the Lady deGloves to an event at American Players Theatre (APT) and we taught a lesson in a beautiful fashion.  We taught a similar lesson, less elegantly, about 20 years ago.  To explain why we need to explain the analogy between APT and the university.

Brenda DeVita, the APT artistic director, was meeting with a group of supporters ostensibly to plan a season at APT.  The real lesson was: we really appreciate your support but you can’t have the plays you want because of all the constraints.

We faced a similar situation a couple of decades ago when accounting majors were in extraordinarily high demand.  Every firm wanted to be the first on campus so they could get the top candidates.  The Department worked with Career Services to create Accounting Career Expo (ACE) on Monday evening and Accounting Interview Days (AID) to follow immediately.  That way we could avoid no.

The analogy is that APT is very much like a university.  The comparisons are

Brenda is the department chair
The Core Company is the (tenure track) faculty
Other actors are academic staff
Directors are deans, albeit of one production
Supporters are supporters
Financial constraints are that seats must be filled

Brenda’s job is more complicated than a chair’s because almost all university performances are one-man shows while her shows are larger and often much larger.  The nature of the chair and her position, however, is the same.  Both of them have folks with awesome but not unlimited skills and often substantial egos that must be allocated to certain shows.  The Core Company or the faculty gets first consideration.  Other actors or academic staff fill needs and come and go.  Director and deans always have big ideas.  Both of them need to fill seats.  Both need to add new supporters without alienating continuing supporters.  Both need to accomplish much without much authority.  Agreements are reached by discussing, convincing, and cajoling.  We saw these attributes yesterday.

APT provided us with a nice dinner, plied us with alcohol, and brought in some of the performers to meet us (we met James Ridge who is wonderful as Cyrano) before moving into the Touchstone Theatre to design a season of APT.  They encouraged and got lots of input and put together a season.  Then they dropped “the math” on us.  The plays most folks like have lots of actors.  Not every actor can play every part.  Actors can only do a few plays a season.  There must be a Shakespeare comedy because “it is the gateway drug to the theatre”.  We’re not sure if everybody got it but the point was clear: You can’t always get what you want.

We learned the lesson and are more aware of the constraints than almost anyone but still want to see Arsenic And Old Lace at APT.  It only has 14 characters and the new stage will give them access to the Panama Canal.  Our casting is almost complete but we are have trouble with Dr. Einstein.

Oh Canada!

Kyle Smith discusses the left’s infatuation with Canada and Justin Trudeau at NRO. As part of the suggestion that these folks take up permanent residence there he says:

It’s not as if there’s no room. Canada is a land of 36 million people spread out over 3.9 million square miles. Among the 100 largest countries on earth, it ranks 99th in population density. Canada is empty.

Unlike Kyle, we are unwilling to start or donate to a Kickstarter campaign to send these folks north.

Sidebar: Well not necessarily north.  One of them lived in Detroit and if you go south from Detroit the first country you enter is?  Yep, Canada.  End Sidebar.

We agree that Canada has lots of room to welcome folks but we wondered about the data.  Our first question is: What country is number 100?  Our second question is: How did Kyle determine the largest 100 countries?

It is hard to answer the first question without answering the second although it seems likely that Kyle has Australia at 100.  It is much like Canada: Big and with a lot of people but very low population density.

It sounds like Kyle means area when he says the 100 largest countries on earth.  If that is correct then he is mistaken and there are some interesting definitional problems.  Canada is number 230 in population density on this list and second in area on this list.   Botswana (231/47), Mauritania (232/29), Nambia (236/34), and Mongolia (239/19) (in addition to Australia (235?/6) are all below Canada and it the top 100 of area.  The Aussies get a question mark because they are listed as 236 but they should be 232 by the data presented.

But the results work for population,  See this list.  It takes a bit of work but Canada is 99 and Australia 100.

The definitional problems are Greenland and Western Sahara.  Greenland is:

Greenland is a Danish-occupied territory of Denmark, but Greenland is not a member of the European Union. It is part of the North American continent, and Greenland is the largest island in the world, excluding Australia and Antarctica, which are continents. The prime minister of Greenland is Kim Kielsen.

It is large and if you think it is a country it is by far the one with the lowest population density and it would be the 12th largest country.

Western Sahara:

has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since the 1960s when it was a Spanish colony.[7] The Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement, with its Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) government, both want control of the territory.

If you think it is a country it is 238/78.  That makes it less dense than Canada and still in the top 100 in area.

Three lessons: First, be careful with wording.  The 100 largest counties will be interpreted as area. Second, cite your source.  Third, it is easy to dispute data and lead to confusion about the point.  Whether Kyle’s data is exactly right or not, his point that Canada has lots of space is right.  Sensitivity is important.

 

Heresy – Can It Be A Good Thing?

Reihan Salam invites conservative opprobrium in what we think is the latest National Review (yes, we admit to being behind on our reading) when he says we should consider raising the top tax rate to a number that starts with a four.  This will bring reasoned responses like: Kill the witch!

Well, seriously, we might consider Reihan’s suggestion.  We agree with him that there are two questions: What are the options and what you get in return?  Like Reihan, we want corporate tax reform.  Unlike Reihan, we prefer rate reductions rather than immediate expensing.  At a minimum we would also eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax or AMT as part of the trade-off.

Before you get out the robes and start the incantations for Reihan and your humble scribe, you need to think about what is actually going to be proposed and what will pass.  This is nowhere near our proposed policy but our priority is corporate tax reform.  What are your priorities and what deals are you willing to make?  If you are not willing to go the full Monty Hall then do you think that anything will change for the better?