You are browsing the archive for 2019 May 09.

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Ancient Egypt's 10 Most Jaw-Dropping Discoveries

May 9, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Cosmic Rays Reveal Mysterious Chamber Inside the Great Pyramid

It’s Official: King Tut’s Tomb Doesn’t Contain Any Secret Chambers

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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Venezuela Shows Why Socialism's Failure Still Matters

May 9, 2019 in Economics

By Chelsea Follett

Chelsea Follett

Last week, a number of left-wing activists occupied the Venezuelan embassy in Washington,
DC, while Venezuelan-Americans counter-protested outside the
building and demanded the end of socialism in the Latin American
country. Today’s proponents of socialism often fault their
critics for equating twenty-first-century “democratic
socialism” with totalitarian versions of that philosophy,
which dominated many countries in the twentieth century and
continue to exist in places like Cuba and North Korea today.

But the comparison between old and contemporary kinds of
socialism is still warranted.

First, democratic socialists too often slip into support for
socialist dictatorships—the phenomenon extends beyond the
Maduro fans at the Venezuelan embassy. Up until Venezuela’s
collapse became undeniable, prominent socialists heaped praise on
the country as an example of successful socialism. In 2011, U.S.
Sen. Bernie Sanders touted on his official U.S. Senate website an
article proclaiming, “These days, the American dream is more
apt to be realized in … Venezuela … where incomes are actually
more equal.” Sanders has also praised both Fidel
Castro’s Cuba and the Soviet Union (where he honeymooned).
The UK’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has, on camera,
called Chávez “an inspiration to all of
us” for having allegedly, “showed us there is a
different and a better way of doing things. It’s called
socialism, it’s called social justice, and it’s
something that Venezuela has made a big step toward.”

We should not ignore the
lessons of twentieth-century socialism’s failures, nor turn a blind
eye to what socialism has wrought in Venezuela.

Mark Weisbrot of the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy
Research criticizedwarnings about Venezuela’s
socialist path, writing in The Guardian in 2013,
“Predicting a Venezuelan apocalypse won’t make it
happen.” Those words have aged badly.

Sympathy toward authoritarian socialism by some on the political
Left is, sadly, nothing new. During the height of Stalinism, the
Moscow correspondent for the New York Times(and Stalin
admirer) Walter Duranty famously lied to hide the mass starvation
in Ukraine and the extent of the dictator’s crimes, and was
rewarded with a Pulitzer Prize.

As if socialists occasionally suffering from a blind spot for
socialist despots weren’t enough, the second reason that the
“old” socialism remains relevant is that the policy
program of today’s socialists has not meaningfully
evolved.

Today’s self-identifying socialists may no longer
regularly speak of direct government ownership of the means of
production (with occasional exceptions like analyst Matt Bruenig of the
People’s Policy Project), but the rhetorical shift of contemporary
socialists masks support for what are, in effect, policies similar
to those that existed in socialist countries in the twentieth
century. Harvard University’s Jeffrey Miron and my colleague
Ryan …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How Venezuela Fell From the Richest Country in South America into Crisis

May 9, 2019 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

Overspending, lower oil prices and political unrest all combined to trigger a decline for the once-prosperous nation.

It wasn’t that long ago that Venezuela, which possesses the and The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela. “Land was monopolized by a handful of powerful families, infrastructure was lacking and the country lacked a nationally integrated economy.” But, Salas explains, oil and the rise of cities such as Caracas enabled people to flee rural poverty.

Venezuelan President Romulo Betancourt, circa 1958.

1958: Venezuela Elects President Betancourt

After the overthrow of brutal, corrupt Venezuelan dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez, the nation’s three political parties agree to the Punto Fijo Pact to accept the results of popular elections, and opposition leader Rómulo Betancourt—widely regarded as the father of Venezuelan democracy—is elected president. But, as anthropologist Iselin Åsedotter Strønen has written, the power-sharing agreement also helps establish a system in which each of the parties is guaranteed a slice of government ministries, jobs and contracts, and keeps oil revenues in the hands of the government.

1973: OPEC Embargo Brings Billions

The OPEC embargo against the U.S. and other countries causes the price of oil to quadruple, and Venezuela becomes the beneficiary. As billions more flow into the state treasury, its per-capita GDP soars throughout the rest of the decade. Two years later, Venezuelan President Carlos Andrés Pérez signs a law nationalizing the oil industry, creating a state-owned oil company called owned Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), and compelling foreign companies to give it a 60 percent ownership share in oil projects.

1989: IMF Bailout

After oil prices plummet due to a glut in the late 1980s, President Perez’s government struggles under the weight of $33 billion in foreign debt. Ultimately, Venezuela is forced to accept an International Monetary Fund bailout and impose austerity measures that result in sharp rises in the prices of consumer goods and fares for public transportation. Protesters take to the streets for demonstrations that turn violent, leading to a nationwide curfew and suspension of civil liberties.


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaking to citizens in 2000 regarding his economic plan.

1998: Hugo Chávez Elected

Firebrand populist leader Hugo Chávez, a former lieutenant colonel in the Venezuelan military who six years earlier led a failed coup attempt, is elected president, upending a political establishment that had controlled the nation for decades. Over …read more

Source: HISTORY

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IRAQ 2.0?

May 9, 2019 in Economics

By Emma Ashford

Emma Ashford

Tensions are rising in the Middle East. The White House, citing
poorly sourced intelligence, has increased the US force presence in
the region, and ramped up sanctions aimed at preventing the
development of weapons of mass destruction.

Sound familiar?

The Trump administration’s Iran policy today certainly has
uncomfortable parallels with the run-up to the Iraq War. But there
are also substantial differences. The administration has sought to
punish — rather than persuade — US allies into working
with it on sanctions. The intelligence in question isn’t about a
nuclear violation. And the White House itself seems unclear what
it’s actually seeking to achieve in Iran.

At the end of the day, however, it hardly matters. The
administration’s actions are increasing tensions and driving us
down a path where miscalculation is increasingly likely. It may not
be Iraq 2.0, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t end in a war.

Trump might not want war
with Iran, but he might get it anyway.

Under (Maximum) Pressure

Tensions have been rising for weeks, beginning with Trump’s
decision to end waivers on Iranian oil imports. Though it sounds
like a dry, technical issue, the real-world implications of this
choice could not be more real: countries like China, Japan and
India must stop importing Iranian oil entirely, or face US
penalties. The move removes about a million barrels per day from the global oil
market.

The administration has taken other draconian steps too. Just a
few weeks ago, they designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard
Corps as a terrorist group. That label has never before been
applied to a state military, and prompted Tehran to respond,
declaring that all US forces in the Middle East are
terrorists.

The White House also announced that they had sped up the
long-planned deployment of a carrier strike group to the region,
with National Security Advisor John Boltonstating
that the move sends “a clear and unmistakable message to the
Iranian regime.” The intelligence that prompted this move
— which suggests the existence of plans by Iranian forces to
attack US positions in the region — is debatable. Indeed,
there’s no clear indication that these were active plans,
rather than mere contingency planning for any future
conflict.

Finally, this morning — on the first anniversary of
Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal — Iranian
leaders announced steps that could make it harder for
them to abide by the deal in the future. More importantly, they
announced that they would potentially violate the deal if other
countries don’t do more to mitigate the impact of US
sanctions.

To make a long story short, the stakes in …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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China Isn't an Enemy and Hawks Shouldn’t Turn It into One

May 9, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The Pentagon recently released its latest report on the Chinese
military, titled “Military and Security Developments
Involving the People’s Republic of China 2019.”
Although mandated by Congress, the Department of Defense probably
would have produced the volume even if not required to do so. How
else would they justify Washington’s massive military
expenditures, globe-spanning network of bases, and troop
deployments in dozens of nations? China is the best
“necessary enemy.”

The Chinese economy continues to grow, even if not quite as fast
as claimed, and likely will eventually match America’s.
Moreover, China has become the world’s greatest trading
nation, surpassing American commerce with such U.S. allies as South
Korea. Beijing has become a tough economic competitor even in Latin
America.

The Xi Jinping government is increasing state direction of the
economy, treating everything as a resource to enhance national
power. It’s also expanding totalitarian controls over
academic institutions, social media, private business, websites,
churches, and non-governmental organizations. The Maoist project is
being reborn as hopes for a more liberal China go aglimmering.

Beijing wants to protect
its own neighborhood, not commit suicide by challenging
America.

The State Department’s director of policy planning, Kiron
Skinner, noted, “It’s the first time that we will have
a great power competitor that is not Caucasian.” That’s
not strictly correct, given Japan’s aggressive advance a few
decades ago. But for some, the PRC still fits the historic
stereotype of the “Yellow Peril,” which makes China
seem more credible as a global menace.

The Pentagon report describes the alleged threat in great
detail. Ironically, Beijing’s behavior sounds a lot like that
of America once the latter broke free of British control.

Chinese leaders, asserts the Pentagon, “are focused on
realizing a powerful and prosperous China that is equipped with a
‘world-class’ military, securing China’s status
as a great power with the aim of emerging as the preeminent power
in the Indo-Pacific region.” The People’s Liberation
Army is expected to be “able to fight and win wars, deter
potential adversaries, and secure Chinese national interests
overseas, including a growing emphasis on the importance of the
maritime and information domains, offensive air operations,
long-distance mobility operations, and space and cyber
operations.”

But the military is not Beijing’s only weapon.
“China conducts influence operations against media, cultural
business academic, and policy communities of the United States,
other countries, and international institutions to achieve outcomes
favorable to its security and military strategy objectives,”
says the Pentagon. The goal is to convince others “to accept
China’s narrative surrounding its priorities.”

Washington became dominant in its own region by dismembering
Mexico, seizing half of that nation’s territory. Threats of
military action also led to a favorable settlement along
America’s northern border. Overwhelming …read more

Source: OP-EDS