Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Venezuela orders soldiers armed with assault rifles to impose price controls

Venezuela: price controls don't work

Assault weapons vs Amazon and Ebay: socialism in practice

From the left-leaning USA Today.

Excerpt:

 Thousands of Venezuelans lined up outside the country’s equivalent of Best Buy, a chain of electronics stores known as Daka, hoping for a bargain after the socialist government forced the company to charge customers “fair” prices.

President Nicolás Maduro ordered a military “occupation” of the company’s five stores as he continues the government’s crackdown on an “economic war” it says is being waged against the country, with the help of Washington.

Members of Venezuela’s National Guard, some of whom carried assault rifles, kept order at the stores as bargain hunters rushed to get inside.

[...]Images circulating online as well as reports by local media appeared to show one Daka store in the country’s central city of Valencia being looted.

“I have no love for this government,” said Gabriela Campo, 33, a businesswoman, hoping to take home a cut-price television and fridge. “They’re doing this for nothing but political reasons, in time for December’s elections.”

Maduro faces municipal elections on Dec. 8. His popularity has dropped significantly in recent months, with shortages of basic items such as chicken, milk and toilet paper as well as soaring inflation, at 54.3% over the past 12 months.

Economists are expecting a devaluation soon after the election, likely leading to even higher inflation.

This will surely encourage more businesses to come to Venezuela to create jobs, and compete with other businesses in order to lower prices and increase quality for consumers. Oh wait, no it won’t. It’s just going to causes businesses to scale back, expand in other countries, and go out of business entirely – taking jobs with them.

The real face of communism

The real face of communism

Earlier, Venezuela nationalized some oil drilling plants, as well:

Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state oil company, seized about $1 million worth of equipment from Superior Energy Services Inc. (SPN:US), the Houston-based company said.

PDVSA expropriated two hydraulic units that were idled after the Caracas-based company missed payments, Greg Rosenstein, head of corporate development, said by phone from New Orleans. The units operated in eastern Venezuela’s Anzoategui state, Associated Press reported Nov. 1.

[...]Under President Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer in March, Venezuela initiated a nationalization process, seizing assets from companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM:US) and ConocoPhillips. (COP:US)

Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB:US), the world’s largest oil-services company, said in March it would reduce work in Venezuela because of mounting overdue payments from PDVSA. Schlumberger subsequently reached an agreement and announced on May 24 that it would provide a $1 billion rolling credit for a joint venture in Venezuela.

That will encourage oil companies to come to Venezuela and pay royalties to the government, and give jobs to more Venezuelans. Oh wait, no it won’t. It’s just going to cause companies to scale back their investments, expand in other countries, stop hiring, lay off more people, and pull out of Venezuela. I’m sorry but this is standard leftist economic policy.

Are Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez very different?

Are Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez very different?

Remember the last time that Venezuela seized privately-owned oil companies? They eventually had a nice explosion at the oil drilling facility, because the government doesn’t know how to run a business better than the people who created that business. You can see it today here, as Obama nationalizes the health care industry and tries to substitute his own web site. He thinks he knows how to create web sites. The man who has never run so much as a lemonade stand in his entire life, and is an authority on how to read a teleprompter and play golf. You do NOT put people like this is in charge of the economy.

Comparing Chile to Argentina and Venezuela

Comparing Chile to Argentina and Venezuela

The strange thing is that the economies of Chile embraced free market capitalism, free trade, private property, and the rule of law. Unlike Venezuela and Argentina, they are doing vastly better economically. Look at that chart, which I got from libertarian economist Dan Mitchell. You can’t refute that, because economics is real. No one can hide from the facts.

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An honest look at the many contributions of Hugo Chavez to Venezuela

Are Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez very different?

Are Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez very different?

From Reason magazine. (H/T Ian L.)

Excerpt: (links removed)

Hugo Chávez’ presidency has been a disaster for the Venezuelan people. Chávez’ “Socialism of the 21st Century” changed Venezuela from one of the most prosperous and politically free countries in Latin America to one of the least competitive and most repressive countries worldwide. Venezuelans who go to the polls today will ponder many of the President’s policy failures, including a long list of Chávez’nblunders in the last year alone.

Under Chávez’ rule, oil-rich Venezuela has become one of the least economically competitive countries in the world. In 2012, the country ranked 126 of 144 in a study by the World Economic Forum. According to the report, Venezuela now has some of the lowest scores worldwide in functioning of public institutions, trust in the justice system and domestic competition. It has some of the highest scores in terms of regulation, trade tariffs, and rules that deter foreign investment. The country has an inflation rate of 26 percent, and has also suffered several food shortages this year.

Venezuelan infrastructure has been falling apart under Chávez. On August 15th, the Cupira bridge near Caracas collapseddespite repeated warnings from engineers that it was in disrepair. Last month, poor drainage infrastructure led to nationwide flooding, resulting in over 400 families losing their homes and 1,500 people ending up in shelters. Chávez also mismanages Venezuela’s oil wealth. Since the government effectively took control of the national oil company in 2004, it has become much less efficient and production is 25 percent lower than when Chávez took office. Accidents are common—an offshore oil rig sank into the sea in 2010 and an oil refinery explosion in August killed at least 48 people. Despite sitting atop the world’s largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela nowimports and rations gasoline.

According to USA Today, Venezuela has the fourth highest murder rate in the world and is now the most violent South American country. Between the time Chávez took power in 1998 and 2012, kidnappings have risen from a few hundred annually to a record of 16,000 in 2011. Homicide rates have nearly tripled and suspect arrests have fallen by 61 percent. Only eight in every 100 murder investigations lead to an arrest. Murder of police officers has risen by 45 percent  in the last year alone. Violence is much worse for Venezuela’s inmates despite Chávez’ campaign promises of prison reform. A prison riot on August 24 left 26 people dead and 43 injured after inmates took over the compound and held it for four hours. Venezuelans are 20 times more likely to be killed in penitentiaries than outside of them. More than three hundred people have died and 572 have been injured in Venezuelan prisons this year alone.

Venezuelans have also witnessed alarming revocations of political liberties during Chávez’ presidency. On September 10th, Chávez decided to withdraw from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. He regularly targets media who expose his failures. He recently arrested two journalists for writing a satirical article about his leadership. In addition, he demanded the names of voters who participated in the opposition’s primary election last February, just as he did to those who unsuccessfully voted to remove him from office in 2004. Chávez has banned foreign funding for civil society watch dogs, which will make electoral transparency in upcoming elections difficult.

UPDATE: Reformed Seth sent me this article from Human Rights Watch as well.

Excerpt:

Hugo Chávez’s presidency (1999-2013) was characterized by a dramatic concentration of power and open disregard for basic human rights guarantees.

After enacting a new constitution with ample human rights protections in 1999 – and surviving a short-lived coup d’état in 2002 – Chávez and his followers moved to concentrate power. They seized control of the Supreme Court and undercut the ability of journalists, human rights defenders, and other Venezuelans to exercise fundamental rights.

By his second full term in office, the concentration of power and erosion of human rights protections had given the government free rein to intimidate, censor, and prosecute Venezuelans who criticized the president or thwarted his political agenda. In recent years, the president and his followers used these powers in a wide range of prominent cases, whose damaging impact was felt by entire sectors of Venezuelan society.

Many Venezuelans continued to criticize the government. But the prospect of reprisals – in the form of arbitrary or abusive state action – forced journalists and human rights defenders to weigh the consequences of disseminating information and opinions critical of the government, and undercut the ability of judges to adjudicate politically sensitive cases.

[...]Chávez also rejected international efforts to promote human rights in other countries. In recent years, Venezuela consistently voted against UN General Assembly resolutions condemning abusive practices in North Korea, Burma, Iran, and Syria. Moreover, Chávez was a vocal supporter of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, bestowing upon each of these leaders the “Order of the Liberator,” Venezuela’s highest official honor.

Under Chávez, Venezuela’s closest ally was Cuba, the only country in Latin America that systematically represses virtually all forms of political dissent. Chávez identified Fidel Castro – who headed Cuba’s repressive government until his health deteriorated in 2006 – as his model and mentor.

That’s the dream of people on the left like Sean Penn. They love the idea of doing away with liberty and human rights. They want to force their secular leftist ideology on everyone at gunpoint.

Everyone who is praising this communist dictator today should be ashamed. None of them would move out of the United States to live in Venezuela – it’s nothing but hypocrisy.

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Socialist government of Venezuela announces devaluation of their currency

Are Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez very different?

Are Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez very different?

From the Boston Globe.

Excerpt:

Venezuela’s government announced Friday that it is devaluing the country’s currency, a long-anticipated change expected to push up prices in the heavily import-reliant economy.

Officials said the fixed exchange rate is changing from 4.30 bolivars to the dollar to 6.30 bolivars to the dollar.

So, if you are earning and saving Bolivars, you just got a massive cut to your earnings and savings.

More:

By boosting the bolivar value of Venezuela’s dollar-denominated oil sales, the change is expected to help ease a difficult budget outlook for the government, which has turned increasingly to borrowing to meet its spending obligations.

[...]Economist Jose Guerra told The Associated Press that given the devaluation, he predicts inflation of more than 25 percent this year.

The announcement of the devaluation came after the country’s Central Bank said annual inflation rose to 22.2 percent in January, up from 20.1 percent at the end of 2012.

The oil-exporting country, a member of OPEC, has consistently had Latin America’s highest officially acknowledged inflation rates in recent years. Spiraling prices have come amid worsening shortages of some foods.

[...]It was the fifth time that Chavez’s government has devalued the currency since establishing the currency exchange controls a decade ago in an attempt to combat capital flight.

[...]The government’s announcement drew strong criticism from opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who said that the government’s heavy spending was to blame for the situation and that officials were trying to slip the change past the public at the start of a long holiday weekend.

The opposition party explains why this is happening:

‘They spent the money on campaigning, corruption, gifts abroad!’’ Capriles said in one of several messages on his Twitter account. Capriles was defeated by Chavez in an October presidential vote that was preceded by a burst of heavy government spending.

Who else do we know who likes to spend money and borrow from future generations? Someone whose economic policies are similar to Chavez? Who could it be? Increasing inflation is a very attractive policy to socialists who want to spend more money without raising taxes. It’s a hidden tax on those who try earn more and save their money. It punishes independence and makes dependence on the government inevitable.

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UK Law Society cancels event to silence dissent on same-sex marriage

From the UK Telegraph.

Excerpt:

Sir Paul Coleridge, the Family Division judge who recently launched a new charity to combat marital break-up, had been lined up as the main speaker at the annual event at the Law Society’s London headquarters later this month.

But organisers were forced to cancel it at short notice after the Law Society ruled that the programme reflected “an ethos which is opposed to same sex marriage”.

They accused the Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, of an “extraordinary” attempt to stifle debate on current affairs and warned that the cancellation itself could be against equality laws.

Lawyers, journalists and think tank chiefs were due to speak alongside Sir Paul at the annual conference organised by the World Congress of Families, a US-based non-religious group which promotes traditional family values.

Around 120 people were expected to attend event which this year took as its theme: “One Man. One Woman. Making the case for marriage, for the good of society.”

Sir Paul, who made headlines last week as he launched a new charity, the Marriage Foundation, was due to speak on the effects of divorce on society.

A follow-up event for MPs was being planned take place in Parliament after the conference.

Organisers said the conference had been booked for up to six months and a deposit of around £4,700 has already been paid.

But in an email on Thursday, Adam Tallis, general manager of Amper&and, the company which organises hospitality at The Law Society, informed them that the booking was being cancelled and the deposit refunded.

“We regret the need to take this step,” he wrote.

“I can assure you that it is not something we do lightly.

“However, where an event does not fit within this company’s diversity policy, it is a step we must take.

“The nature of your event has recently been drawn to our attention, and it is contrary to our diversity policy, espousing as it does an ethos which is opposed to same sex marriage.”

Same-sex marriage is not currently legal in Britain, although a consultation is under way on a possible change in the law.

So, disagreement with same-sex marriage is not “diverse” enough, but agreement with same-sex marriage is “diverse” enough. That’s what diversity means – it means agree that marriage is anything that any vocal minority wants it to be, including polygamists, polyamorists and so forth, or be accused of rejecting “diversity”. Diversity now means there is only one correct view, and anyone who dissents has to be silenced, coerced or worse.

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Dr. Ben Carson faces the Darwinian Inquisition at Emory University

Evolution News writes about an eminent scientist who is under by professors and students at Emory University because of his disagreement with Darwinian orthodoxy and his assertion that morality isn’t possible on a materialistic worldview.

Here’s the first article from Evolution News, which explains what got Dr. Carson in trouble with the Darwoids.

Excerpt:

You can be a brilliant, innovative pediatric neurosurgeon at a sky-scraping top medical school, in addition to being a generous philanthropist with an inspirational up-from-dire-poverty personal story, plus a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, and a best-selling writer whose memoir was turned into a TV movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr.

All that, but if you once shared your critical thoughts on evolutionary science and its moral implications — everything else about you suddenly dwindles to very little.

Dr. Ben Carson of Johns Hopkins University is that man. He’s scheduled to give the Commencement address and receive an honorary degree at Emory University but close to 500 faculty members, students and staff protested, drawing up a gravely serious letter to the student paper expressing their “concerns.” Over what? Carson had no intention of speaking about evolution but someone dug up an impromptu interview he once gave to a publication associated with his Christian denomination (he’s a Seventh Day Adventist).

Carson explained why he’s not impressed by the evidence on offer for Darwinian theory and why a materialist philosophy is at odds with the idea of free will and therefore makes it tough to offer a coherent account of moral principles. The interview is casual in tone and it’s not clear whether his views are more along the lines of theistic evolution, intelligent design, or some other perspective. Not that the protestors seemed inclined to make any careful distinctions.

Emory isn’t withdrawing the invitation and the letter’s signatories don’t demand that the university do so. But they do distort his opinions and make him sound far less thoughtful than he actually is. Because he says you can’t, under materialism, give a sound rationale for morality, they claim he said that evolutionists are therefore morally defective, which is of course absurd.

At the First Things website, Princeton University moral philosopher Robbie George comes to Carson’s defense. Professor George agrees with Carson:

But of course Gentle Ben (and he is indeed one of the gentlest, kindest people one could ever meet) doesn’t believe that his Darwinist friends and colleagues are necessarily unethical. What he believes is that Darwinism is necessarily materialistic. (This is a view about Darwinism that he shares with some devout Darwinists themselves.) And he believes that materialism, if true, is incompatible with free will and with ethical norms (which must be, after all, norms for the guidance of free choices, if they are to have any standing, force, and validity at all). Now, he knows perfectly well that people who believe in materialism are in many cases decent, honorable, ethical people. But he thinks that they lead lives that are much better than their formal philosophical beliefs would require them to lead. He believes that their commitment to materialism makes it impossible for them to give a sound account of the ethical norms which they themselves, to their credit, live by. Of course, he might be wrong about that (though I don’t think he is), just as he might be wrong about the validity of Darwinism as a scientific theory, or the compatility of Darwinism with the rejection of materialism. But it’s certainly not a mean or crazy thing to believe or say. It’s scarcely a cause for “concern” about having him as a Commencement speaker.

Robbie George is one of the best moral philosophers out there. If he says that morality is not rationally grounded on a materialist worldview, then that’s the way it is. Naturally, people who believe in Darwinism can behave morally, because they are made in God’s image. Therefore, they have free will and an awareness of the moral law, even though these things are not rationally grounded on materialism. The point that theists make is merely that materialists are not able to make sense of morality on a deterministic worldview. They can, however, act better than their worldview allows – but it’s not rational for them to do that.

I note that Emory University is on the list of LEAST-FREE universities, according to the non-partisan, non-religious Foundational for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), so it’s not surprising that they would be censor anyone who has different views than they do.

Here’s another article from Evolution News.

Excerpt:

Almost 500 Emory faculty and students have expressed their dismay that their commencement speaker on May 14 does not toe the ideological line on evolutionary biology. Yes, gasp, the renowned Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson does not believe in evolutionary theory. Not only that, but biology professors at Emory and their supporters also accuse Carson of committing a thought crime because he allegedly “equates acceptance of evolution with a lack of ethics and morality.”

Since I am a historian who has studied and published on the history of evolutionary ethics, I was rather surprised by the Emory faculty’s consternation over Carson’s belief that evolution undermines objective ethics and morality. Last summer I attended a major interdisciplinary conference at Oxford University on “The Evolution of Morality and the Morality of Evolution.” So I am well aware that there are a variety of viewpoints in academe on this topic. Nonetheless, many evolutionists — from Darwin to the present (including quite a few at that Oxford conference) — have argued and are still arguing precisely the point that Dr. Carson highlighted: they claim that morality has evolved and thus has no objective existence.

One of the keynote speakers at the Oxford conference was a leading philosopher of science, Michael Ruse, who stated in a 1985 article co-authored with Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson: “Ethics as we understand it is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to co-operate.” Why do biologists at Emory try to make Carson appear foolish for asserting that evolution undermines ethics, while one of the leading evolutionary biologists and one of the leading philosophers of science admit that evolution destroys any objective morality? Wilson in his book Consilience (1998) argued: “Either ethical precepts, such as justice and human rights, are independent of human experience or else they are human inventions.” He rejected the former explanation, which he called transcendentalist ethics, in favor of the latter, which he named empiricist ethics.

Atheists who think about these issues agree – on a materialist interpretation of nature, ethics is arbitrary, made-up nonsense.

Even atheists like Richard Dawkins think so:

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

(“God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American, November, 1995, p. 85)

Surprise! Atheism, which assumes that matter is all there is, implies the complete destruction of rationally grounded morality – including moral standards and human rights. This is denied by no one who has thought about this problem for more than 5 seconds. If you are talking to an atheist, you are talking to someone who thinks that any statement about right and wrong is as true as it’s opposite. On atheism, the morality of rape or slavery is as arbitrary as fashion or food. Any statement that rape is wrong has as much reason behind it, on atheism, as the statement that rape is right. Any statement that slavery is wrong has as much reason behind it, on atheism, as the statement that slavery is right. And that’s what atheists mean by morality, on their view. It’s just like picking which side of the road that people will drive on in different groups of people in different places in different times. That’s “atheist morality”. And when they die, there is no accountability in the afterlife for anything they’ve done and managed to escape judgment for in this life.

And, in point of fact, you can see it right now in the way that they are treating Dr. Carson.

What to do about it

If you are not happy with the actions of the Darwish Inquisition at Emory University, then please  sign the petition!

And any atheists who are reading this post and don’t support Carson’s right to speak, please understand why theists have the opinion that atheism is nothing more than the practice of running from debates and silencing (one way or another) anyone who disagrees with you. That’s our experience of dealing with secular humanists like Richard Dawkins – no debates, just insults and coercion. To us, secular humanism is just a phrase that means totalitarianism and censorship. That’s our experience.

If you disagree, then sign the petition and prove us wrong.

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