opec oil

The US did not somehow order OPEC to flood the oil market for several years just in order to bankrupt Venezuela y'all, come on. Most of the rest of OPEC is itself unhappy with prices being this low, they’re trying to enforce a supply cut as we speak. That’s a conspiracy theory and a poorly thought-out one at that, you don’t need to make up a cause to Venezuela’s current crisis in order to recognize the immense damage US imperialism has done to Latin America or to argue against it

Phone calls, dismissal threats: Venezuela pressures state workers to vote

By Alexandra Ulmer

CARACAS (Reuters) - State workers in Venezuela are receiving frequent phone calls, pressure from bosses and threats of dismissal to ensure they vote in favor of President Nicolas Maduro’s controversial new congress on Sunday.
The unpopular leftist Maduro is pushing ahead with the election to create a powerful new legislature despite four months of deadly anti-government protests in the oil-rich South American nation, which is reeling from food shortages, runaway inflation and violent crime.
Maduro says the 545-seat Constituent Assembly, which will have the power to dissolve all other state institutions, will overcome the “armed insurrection” to bring peace to Venezuela. His opponents say it is a puppet institution designed to cement a dictatorship.
With surveys showing that almost 70 percent of Venezuelans oppose the assembly, the government wants to avoid embarrassingly low turnout in a ballot being boycotted by the opposition.
Pressure on state employees is higher than ever, according to interviews with two dozen workers at institutions ranging from state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) to the Caracas subway, as well as text messages, internal statements, and videos seen by Reuters.
“Any manager, superintendent, and supervisor who tries to block the Constituent Assembly, who does not vote, or whose staff does not vote, must leave his job on Monday,” a PDVSA vice-president, Nelson Ferrer, said during a meeting with workers this week, according to a summary circulated within the company and seen by Reuters.
In a video of a political rally at PDVSA, an unidentified company representative wearing the red shirt often worn by members of Maduro’s Socialist Party shouted into a microphone that employees who do not vote will be fired.
“We’re not joking around here,” he says.
Workers recount a laundry list of pressures: text messages every 30 minutes, phone calls, mandatory political rallies during work, requests that each worker enlist 10 others to vote, or orders to report back to a “situation room” after voting.
While it remains difficult to estimate how many of Venezuela’s 2.8 million state workers will vote, most interviewees said a significant majority probably will, either out of allegiance or out of fear.
Some Venezuelans also said Socialist Party operatives had threatened to stop distributing subsidized food bags to those who did not vote.
“I’ve seen a stream of people crying because they don’t know what to do. There’s so much fear,” said one PDVSA employee, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid reprisals.
Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment. PDVSA did not respond to a request for comment about Ferrer’s alleged remarks or wider pressures.

TO VOTE OR NOT TO VOTE?
After a brief coup against him and an oil strike over a decade ago, Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez increasingly staffed state institutions with his supporters.
Cheering government employees became fixtures at marches to defend the leftist firebrand’s “21st century Socialism”. PDVSA’s headquarters are still decorated with portraits of Chavez, who died of cancer in 2013.
Critics say unqualified political appointees have sunk the OPEC nation’s oil industry and spurred a brain drain.
Under Chavez’s less charismatic successor Maduro, the bolivar currency has plummeted and dragged down salaries to a few dozen U.S. dollars a month, fomenting discontent among the rank-and-file.
But, with the country of 30 million people submerged in a fourth straight year of recession, many employees stick to their posts because of health insurance, subsidized food or lack of other jobs.
Some employees said they would vote on Sunday to avoid the fate of those fired after a government lawmaker published a list of Venezuelans who signed a petition demanding a recall referendum against Chavez.
“My mother is ill, my wife is pregnant, and if I lose my job I’ll be even worse off than I am now. I need to go vote,” said a worker at Venezuelan steelmaker Sidor.
Other workers have decided to ignore phone calls and lay low on Sunday. Some are gambling that their bosses will be lenient, while others say they have compromising information about corruption or misdeeds that could protect them from dismissals.
A handful say they are willing to risk their jobs to oppose Maduro.
“We’re tired of working and working and still not being able to save. We can’t change cars or fix up our little house, let alone take a vacation,” said the director of a public school, once comfortably in the middle class.
“We’re ready to assume the consequences of not voting.”

(Additional reporting by Mircely Guanipa in Punto Fijo, Maria Ramirez in Puerto Ordaz, Anggy Polanco in San Crsitobal, and Deisy Buitrago and Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by James Dalgleish)

10 little known things about Israel’s past

In honor of the Jewish state’s 69th birthday, we present, in no particular order, 10 little-known aspects of modern Israel’s history.

1. El Al used to fly to Tehran.

Iran and Israel enjoyed mostly good relations up until the Islamic revolution that overthrew the shah in 1979. Iran recognized Israel in 1950, becoming the second Muslim-majority country to do so (after Turkey). Iran supplied Israel with oil during the OPEC oil embargo, Israel sold Iran weapons, there was brisk trade between the countries, and El Al flew regular flights between Tel Aviv and Tehran. All that ended a week after the shah’s ouster, when Iran’s new rulers cut ties with Israel and transferred its embassy in Tehran to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Even after 35 years of hostilities, however, Iranians have less antipathy toward Jews than any other Middle Eastern nation. A 2014 global anti-Semitism survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that 56 percent of Iranians hold anti-Semitic views — compared to 80 percent of Moroccans and 93 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. For more on Israelis in Iran, check out the 2014 documentary “Before the Revolution.”

2. Israel is home to hundreds of Nazi descendants.

At least 400 descendants of Nazis have converted to Judaism and moved to Israel, according to filmmakers who made a documentary about the phenomenon several years ago. In addition, others converted to Judaism or married Israelis but do not live in the Jewish state – such as Heinrich Himmler’s great-niece, who married an Israeli Jew and lives overseas.

In Israel’s early years, the state was roiled by a debate over whether to accept German reparations for the Holocaust (it did), and Germany remained a controversial subject: From 1956 until 1967, Israel had a ban on all German-produced films.

3. Ben-Gurion invented Israeli couscous (sort of).

The tiny pasta balls known as Israeli couscous – called ptitim in Hebrew – were invented in the 1950s at the behest of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who asked the Osem food company to come up with a wheat-based substitute for rice during a period of austerity in Israel. The invention, which Israelis dubbed “Ben-Gurion’s rice,” was an instant hit.

4. Israel had no TV service till the late ‘60s.

The first Israeli TV transmission did not take place until 1966, and at first was intended only for schools for educational use. Regular public broadcasts began on Israeli Independence Day in May 1968.

This 1958 scene of a family watching television could not have been photographed in Israel, as the Jewish state had no TV until 1966. (Wikimedia Commons/JTA)

For almost two decades more, Israel had only one channel, and broadcasts were limited to specific hours of the day. A second channel debuted in 1986, and cable was introduced in 1990. Today, Israeli TV is a popular source for Hollywood scriptwriters: “Homeland” (Showtime), “In Treatment” (HBO), “Your Family or Mine” (TBS), “Allegiance” (NBC), “Deal With It” (TBS), “Tyrant” and “Boom” (Showtime) all are remakes of Israeli shows.

5. Queen Elizabeth II’s mother-in-law is buried in Jerusalem.

Prince Philip’s mother, born in 1885 as Princess Alice of Battenberg and congenitally deaf, spent much of her life in Greece after marrying Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (yes, he was simultaneously prince of two different European countries). During the Nazi occupation of Greece, Alice hid a Jewish woman and two of her children from the Nazis, earning her eventual recognition by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial as a “Righteous Among the Nations” and by the British government as a “Hero of the Holocaust.”

She moved to London in 1967 to live in Buckingham Palace with her son and daughter-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II. After the princess died two years later, her body was interred in a crypt at Windsor Castle. In 1988, she was transferred to a crypt at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives – honoring a wish she had expressed before her death. The Mount of Olives is home to the world’s oldest continuously used cemetery.

6. Alaska Airlines airlifted thousands of Yemenite Jews to Israel.

When anti-Jewish riots broke out in Yemen after Israel’s victory in the 1948 War of Independence, Yemen’s Jewish community decided to move en masse to the Jewish homeland. James Wooten, president of Alaska Airlines, was among those moved by their plight. Between June 1949 and September 1950, Alaska Airlines made approximately 430 flights in twin-engine C-46 and DC-4 aircrafts as part of Operation Magic Carpet, the secret mission that transported nearly 50,000 Jews from Yemen to Israel. Pilots had to contend with fuel shortages, sandstorms and enemy fire, and one plane crash-landed after losing an engine, but not a single life was lost aboard the flights.

Fracking has given the US a chance to break OPEC's stranglehold on gas prices

Gas prices have tumbled in recent months, and while prices still aren’t as low as they could be, it’s a marked improvement on the outrages prices drives have faced at the pumps for the last five years.  Why are gas prices tumbling? One word: fracking.  Fracking has given US oil producers a leg up on the OPEC cartel that has left the US at the mercy of Saudi oil barons for decades. OPEC has recently been forced to increase their production and lower oil prices in order to stay competitive with the oil boom in the United States (which, by the way, has virtually all happened on private land). 

from BBC:

US domestic oil production has boomed due to fracking.

“The growth of oil production in North America, particularly in the US, has been staggering,” says Jason Bordoff.

Speaking to BBC World Service’s World Business Report, he says that US oil production levels are at their highest in almost 30 years.

It has been this growth in US energy production, where gas and oil is extracted from shale formations using hydraulic fracturing or fracking, that has been one of the main drivers of lower oil prices.

“Shale has essentially severed the linkage between geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East, and oil price and equities,” says Seth Kleinman, head of energy strategy at Citi.

What’s more, the majority of US shale oil is far cheaper to produce than a lot of conventional crude. So in any long term price war, US producers would be likely to win.

“Some 98% of crude oil and condensates from the United States have a break-even price of below $80, and 82% had a break-even price of $60 or lower,” Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency, told Reuters.

read the rest

Isn’t the free market a beautiful thing?  When there’s competition, the consumer always wins.  However, when government starts to interfere, the consumer always loses.

Things I’ve seen “Trumpians” support:

Indentured Servitude - Forcing illegal immigrants to either work for the “state” or to build Trump’s mythical wall

Mass Deportation - Even if it were possible, logistically, the immense cost of such an action would be prohibitive.

Forcing an end to dual citizenship - Even though that is not a problem in any real sense.  I personally know several US/French dual citizens, and a few US/English dual citizens.  Why are they suddenly targets?

Exploitation of neighboring economies - You know, “making Mexico pay” for the mythical wall.

Destruction of foreign oil infrastructure - Because OPEC and the oil kingdoms of the Middle East aren’t going to respond by manipulating our oil prices, right?

Economic Isolationism - Because we definitely haven’t benefited in any way from trading with other nations or expanding our businesses into other nations.

Executive Fiat - All of the above, along with many other things proposed by Trump, Trump himself has said will be done with or without congressional or court support; essentially a continuation of Obama’s dictatorial policies with a populist agenda instead of a socialist one.

Bigger government, Bigger costs, Bigger problems, Bigger failures.

I’m a conservative, and staunchly so.  This is not conservative.  Trump is not conservative.  Trump is an authoritarian populist making big promises with hard-hitting but empty rhetoric.  Obama ran on big promises and empty rhetoric, too.  We don’t need another four years of authoritarian policy with a red coat of paint.  We need decentralization and pragmatic problem solving.

Scott Walker and Marco Rubio are the ones we need to be listening to.  They are the ones with the kind of approach we so desperately need right now; not the bumbling blowhard Donald Trump

Random thought #66

The moment you realize that OPEC and the oil companies are effectively drug pushers you begin to realize that cheaper gas prices aren’t a purely good thing: like any pusher, the oil lords need their users to keep buying as much of their product as possible at the highest possible prices. Price reductions merely keep us addicted to oil rather than choosing pesky but pricier alternatives like solar and wind.