Sunday, August 14, 2016

"The ['Hillary Care'] plan prescribed some eye-popping maximum fines: $5,000 for refusing to join the government mandated health plan; $5,000 for failing to pay premiums on time; 15 years in prison for doctors who received ‘anything of value’ in exchange for helping patients short circuit bureaucracy; $10,000 a day for faulty physician paperwork; and $50,000 for unauthorized patient treatment. When told the plan could bankrupt small businesses, Mrs. Clinton said, 'I can’t be responsible for every under-capitalized small business in America'!"
-- Tony Snow reporting on Hillary's health care plan

...This is not a joke nor even an exaggeration. I just found out that my sister in law’s other brother-in-law was arrested in Venezuela at the airport while trying to leave the country. His crime, he was an employee for a company that went out of business. Waiting for more? There isn’t any. Maduro has decreed that any business that goes out of business has committed economic treason and its employees are subject to arrest. They had already arrested numerous owners and managers but this is the first time they went after rank and file worker bees....

How Venezuela's Repressive Government Controls the Nation Through Hunger
...In addition, lines and rationing give the government the chance to extend Orwellian supervision. Retailers are being required to keep tabs on who buys what and how much. The government has installed fingerprint scanners in grocery and drug stores. The government has seized supplies from food firms and threatened to take over idle factories. The police often allow certain groups of citizens (many with ties to the ruling party) to control access to the lines or even mug people standing in line.

Lines and scarcity give the government the chance to engage in new forms of favoritism. One of the most important games in Venezuela is guessing which stores will have which products. Only the government, which controls food distribution, knows this information for sure. So one of the games it has started playing is to disclose information only to those who are pro-government.

Another form of favoritism has been the creation of CLAPs (Comités Locales de Abastecimiento y Producción). These are government-run "committees" that distribute groceries. Bags of groceries are given mostly to loyal groups. By the end of May, more than 9,000 CLAPS were operating. A recent poll suggests that at least 9 percent of Venezuelans are taking advantage of the CLAPs. CLAPs do nothing to end Venezuela's food crisis but they do wonders for the government: they force Venezuelans to demonstrate loyalty to Maduro regime in order to qualify for the handout.

But the most important consequence of lines and rationing has been the increase in military control. Military personnel have been deployed to monitor food lines and supermarkets. They are there with the pretext of protecting citizens from crime, but what they are most successful in doing is repressing any protest that might emerge....

Looking back on the Great Leap Forward
...In collective canteens, food, distributed by the spoonful according to merit, became a weapon used to force people to follow the party’s every dictate. As incentives to work were removed, coercion and violence were used instead to compel famished farmers to perform labour on poorly planned irrigation projects while fields were neglected. ...

...What comes out of this massive and detailed dossier is a tale of horror in which Mao emerges as one of the greatest mass murderers in history, responsible for the deaths of at least 45 million people between 1958 and 1962. It is not merely the extent of the catastrophe that dwarfs earlier estimates, but also the manner in which many people died: between two and three million victims were tortured to death or summarily killed, often for the slightest infraction. When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, local boss Xiong Dechang forced his father to bury him alive. The father died of grief a few days later. The case of Wang Ziyou was reported to the central leadership: one of his ears was chopped off, his legs were tied with iron wire, a ten kilogram stone was dropped on his back and then he was branded with a sizzling tool – punishment for digging up a potato.

Caribbean contagion
...For the past 15 years Venezuela has been shipping oil to Cuba, which in turn sends thousands of doctors and other professionals to Venezuela. The swap is lucrative for the communist-controlled island, which pays doctors a paltry few hundred dollars a month. It gets more oil than it needs, and sells the surplus. That makes Cuba perhaps the only importer that prefers high oil prices. Venezuelan support is thought to be worth 12-20% of Cuba’s GDP....

... Tourism has surged since the United States loosened travel restrictions in 2014, which will partially offset the loss of Venezuelan aid. The cost of fuel is minuscule compared with the fares Hector’s American passengers pay....

Venezuelan court upholds 14-year jail term given to opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez
A Venezuelan court upheld the 14-year sentence of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez on Friday, in a move likely to increase tension in the crisis-hit South American country.

Lopez has repeatedly declared himself innocent of the charge of inciting violence at anti-government protests in 2014, calling himself a political prisoner.

"This is certainly a political trial. Unfortunately, the government's interest takes priority over the justice system," Lopez's lawyer Juan Carlos Gutierrez told AFP.

"They upheld his sentence under the same terms," Gutierrez said, referring to the 14-year sentence....