Venezuela is holding a general election this year.

Yes, the most miserable country on Earth is again going to pretend it is a democracy.

How miserable?, you may ask.

Let Johns Hopkins economist Steve Hanke tell you,

Venezuela holds the inglorious tile of the most miserable country in 2017, as it did in both 2016 and 2015. The failures of President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist, corrupt petroleum state have been well documented over the past year, including by my measurements of Venezuela’s hyperinflation. Not only is Venezuela the most miserable country in the world, but its Misery Index score has dramatically increased since 2016.

Venezuela’s economy is nearly totally dependent on oil production, which continues to plummet.

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The petro cryptocurrency is a sham,

Since certified reserves aren’t such, the petro will be, at best, another way to make opaque transactions by an already shady administration.

The people are broke,

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Mary O’Grady of the WSJ asserts that Venezuela Is Starving Its People. The Maduro regime is using its control of food to stamp out protests. Let’s also not forget the colectivos,the government-sponsored marauding motorcycle gangs,

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Venezuela’s vice-president, Tarek El Aissami, has been tied to the Cartel of the Suns and to Islamic networks. El Aissmi was a key figure as Hugo Chávez allowed Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaeda to use Venezuela as a bridge to other Latin American countries. Additionally, the Maduro regime allowed the world’s largest narco-terrorist organization, Colombia’s FARC, into the country.

People are trying to leave by any means possible. Economist Dany Bahar, a fellow at think tank the Brookings Institution, predicts that the Venezuelan refugee crisis could eclipse Syria’s.

Earlier this year the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) called for an early presidential election, scheduled for April 22d. The National Electoral Council (CNE) now has announced it was postponed to May 20th:

Traditionally, presidential elections are held in Venezuela in December but in February the CNE announced they would be brought forward to 22 April.

The decision was widely interpreted by critics of the government as an attempt to steamroll the deeply divided opposition coalition and throw it into disarray.
. . .
It also triggered international criticism, with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru all rejecting the early election and some countries warning that they would not recognise the result.

The US has said it would consider imposing further sanctions against the government if it went ahead with the presidential vote under what it called fraudulent conditions.

What’s left of the opposition has the option of

two different tactics: take part in the election with the only purpose of organizing demonstrations, or organize an electoral boycott.

Which means, there’s very little they can do.

I said five years ago that Chavismo will not relinquish power through democratic means. You can count on that whether the so-called election is held, or not, in April, May, or December.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin America at Fausta’s Blog.

The Winter Olympics came and went, and it was full of ads.

I tried watching, but as far as I could see the coverage was a ratio of 1:1:2. For every minute of actual sports, you were subject to one minute of athletes’ sappy personal stories, and two minutes of commercials.

Then there were the skating competitions, with commentary from an effeminate young man in a pompadour wearing more sequins than the performers. I miss Dick Button, who is now 89 years old, and miss the Wide World of Sports “thrill of victory, agony of defeat” commentators in logo-emblazoned blazers.

No wonder Charles Lane wants to Stop the Olympics.

The only ones who caught my attention were The Curling Dads: skip John Shuster, lead John Landsteiner, second Matt Hamilton, third Tyler George, and alternate Joe Polo. Four guys from Minnesota and one from Wisconsin. The US Men’s Curling Team.

Having grown up in the tropics, curling looks to me like what a bunch of Scots sipping whisky on a frozen tundra would have come up with if they wanted to play shuffleboard. You have rocks, you have ice, you have brooms, and you want something active but not exhausting? Presto! You come up with curling.

Sure enough, curling was invented by Scots, according to this article, and “today’s curling stones are made of a special kind of granite from Scotland.”

Curling is soothing, mild, lacking in violence and free of drama. No one crashes down a snow-covered slope in the agony of defeat. The players don’t get into fist fights like they do in hockey. You won’t see little girls being flipped in the air like they do in pairs ice skating; heck, no one tries the triple salchow, if they know what a salchow is.

Enter the Curling Dads of the US Curling Team.

The dads did not wear flashy pants like the Norwegians.

The US team – and I mean this as a compliment – look like a group of regular guys out of central casting.

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They worked hard.

They don’t scream at each other like a bunch of girls.

They quietly overcame hardship:

A four-time Olympian who won bronze in 2006 with Polo — the United States’ only other curling medal — Shuster left that team after Turin to form his own foursome and skipped them back to the Winter Games in Vancouver.

But he performed so badly he was benched, and then finished ninth of 10 teams in Sochi. After failing to make the national training program the next year, Shuster teamed up with two of the others who were cut (and George, who hadn’t even tried out) and called themselves “Team Reject.”

And they won.

Let’s hear it for The Curling Dads!

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin America at Fausta’s Blog.

When Justin Trudeau decided to go to India, he must have tried to kill two birds with one shot, and dress up like Mr. Darcy in Bride and Prejudice:

You could say that Justin vaguely resembles Martin Henderson, who played Mr. Darcy in the 2004 film.

Trudeau has one of those faces: He also resembles a young Fidel Castro,

and he reminds me of one of my classmates at the University of Georgia (I wonder what became of him? But I digress).

Bride and Prejudice was rollicking good fun,

so Justin’s enthusiasm for Bollywood fancy dress must have carried to the rest of his family. Mrs Trudeau and the kids took off their shoes and joined in dressing up while in India.

Then they made thousands of tourists wait in the heat while they had their photo-ops.

It was not a good idea:

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Looks like the Trudeaus studiously practiced “Namaste” in yoga class,

For years I worked with, and had neighbors and friends from India, but I don’t recall much Namaste-ing. Maybe we just didn’t feel like it.

The fancy dress didn’t go over well, but things got worse when the

Canadians had invited a Sikh separatist, now a Canadian citizen, convicted of the attempted murder of an Indian politician to a dinner with Trudeau at the Canadian High Commissioner’s residence in New Delhi. (It’s not clear how he obtained a visa to enter India.)

The Atlantic quotes,

Shivam Vij wrote in the Washington Post, “for Trudeau, this trip is all about the Sikh vote in Canada.”

It may be, but after the invitation was rescinded Trudeau finally got around to wearing a business suit. He wore Darth Vader socks to meet Prime Minister Modi, a Star Wars fan.

And the trip remains an embarrassment.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog. She’d love to visit India in her regular clothes.

Billy Graham has died, age 99.

He was one of the most influential people of our time:

In his career as an evangelist, Graham preached to more than 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories.

Indefatigable, he wrote a syndicated newspaper column and dozens of best-selling books, had a radio show, and appeared on the cover of the leading magazines, but he is best known for his crusades.

From the BBC obituary,

After the success of his ministry in the US, Graham wanted to take his message worldwide and he began the process in London in 1954.

Demand
It was a calculated risk. At the time only 10% of Britons were regular churchgoers, compared with 50% in the United States.

He also faced a hostile British press, which was scathing about the motives of the man from Charlotte, and he faced calls from one MP for him to be banned from entering the UK

He conducted his first full-scale mission in a 12,000-seat auditorium next to a greyhound track at London’s Harringay Arena.

Such was the demand to hear him that he filled the arena every night for three months.

The final meeting of his UK crusade was held at Wembley Stadium, when 120,000 people heard Graham speak of the reception he had received in London.

“These meetings have been far beyond anything we had the faith to believe possible,” he told the crowd. “The spirit of God is moving across Great Britain as perhaps at no time in the last century.”

It was the beginning of what would be a series of missions to all parts of the globe.

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His crusades were always meticulously planned. As his reputation grew, so too did the crowds, from New York to Nigeria. In Korea, more than a million turned out to hear him speak.

In 1957 he invited the civil rights leader Martin Luther King to join him on a 16-week stint in New York, which more than two million people attended.

Rev. Graham was a trusted adviser to decades of U.S. presidents and heads of state.

His popularity is such that he was portrayed in the Netflix series The Crown, where Queen Elizabeth requested to meet him. The WaPo managed to fact-check ‘The Crown’: Queen Elizabeth’s faith and her close relationship with preacher Billy Graham. Unfortunately the WaPo characterizes “his fiery preaching style,” which shows they probably never listened to him.

He was tall, good-looking, very American, hugely appealing, but he made a difference only because of his message – which resonated not just because Billy Graham spoke the words. It’s because he lived them.

“A Christian is more than a person who is living up to a system of ethics. A Christian is more than a person living a good moral life. A Christian is a person in whom Christ dwells.” Billy Graham, 1958, Charlotte

Rev. Graham’s message was “give your life to Christ and receive Him as your Savior.” A direct, simple message.

Here’s a video of the 1957 Madison Square Garden crusade, which includes a lovely performance of His Eye Is On The Sparrow by Ethel Waters,

In this video he emphasized that “the Christian life is one of growth.” I invite you to listen. I was raised Catholic, but Rev. Graham’s message resonates to all Christian denominations.

Here’s a link to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s memorial site.

Shane Vander Hart reminds us of these words from the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” (2 Timothy, 4:7). Let’s join in a prayer of thanks for Rev. Graham’s inspiration.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

Anthony Faiola reports that Venezuela’s economy is so bad, parents are leaving their children at orphanages in the hope that the children won’t starve.

The latest WSJ headline: Venezuela’s Misery Fuels Migration on Epic Scale

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans are fleeing their country’s misery and pouring across borders into nearby countries, particularly Colombia, creating a sharpening challenge for the region.

Juan Forero reports, “Residents flee crumbling economy in numbers that echo Syrians to Europe, Rohingya to Bangladesh,” since

By the end of this year, Venezuela’s economy will be half the size it was in 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund. Inflation is expected to hit 13,000% this year.

Add to the list of woes a trend of extrajudicial killings.

All of this is exactly what one would expect from what dead dictator Hugo Chávez named 21st Century Socialism.

Chávez died five years ago, but his legacy carries on. He armed government-sponsored marauding motorcycle gangs with Cuban and FARC support. He closed down and persecuted independent media. He sent his opponents to jail. He fired key employees of PDVSA, the government-owned oil monopoly, and replaced them with his political cronies, while neglecting innovation and maintenance. He brought aeroterror flights carrying drugs and money.

Liberals may want you to believe that Chávez saved Venezuela, and that his heirs are the ones who caused this disaster, but all of it is due to the failures of 21st Century Socialism, just as the failures of 20th Century Socialism ruined lives in the countries it was tried.

But don’t expect change anytime soon. Almost a year ago I wrote,

Maduro will continue to blunder in office for the time being.

Venezuela’s military are allegedly involved in the drug tradewhile possibly being outnumbered by the government-armed colectivos. As I posted yesterday,

the popular militia has added another 50,000 members (link in Spanish) – to an estimated total of 500,000. The regular armed forces total 160,000 with army reserves of 25,000, according to Clarín.

Yet, it is impossible to know the actual number of colectivos. The military may not see it in its best interest to fight them. [added:] Additionally, the military control the food supply, and will do so with any humanitarian aid.

The opposition is disarmed, and quite fragmented, aside from being mostly socialist.

Foreign actors such as Iran, Russia and the FARC are in cahoots with the government, especially Cuba, which controls the intelligence agencies. Maduro lived in Cuba in his younger days. Venezuela’s own vice-president, El Aissami, is in the U.S. Treasury Department’s kingpins list,  which  has frozen nearly US $3 billion of his assets, and he is reportedly linked to the sale of Venezuelan passports to Hezbollah.

The State has spent twelve-plus years consolidating power around itself. The amount it spends on its oil-sponsored international propaganda machine is immenseEverything is the fault of the U.S. “empire”.

That pretty much describes Venezuela today.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

It’s Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, giving you a unique opportunity to simultaneously atone and celebrate if you have a significant other, or just atone.

Among the gloomy Libs, “celebrating” Valentine’s Day with the Vagina Monologues was a “thing” for a while. Now the Vagina Monologues is canceled due to inclusivity issues, since apparently the play does not provide enough opportunity for “all races, sexualities and genders” to kvetch in public. I have sat through the play, and it was once too many.

If you are on Facebook, you’ll find lots of Valentine-related posts. This one popped up,

Men are threatened by intelligent women, study finds. The yet-to-be-released study reports that men ‘showed less attraction toward women who outsmarted them’

immediately followed by this,

Children inherit their intelligence from their mother not their father.

But never fear, brains or lack thereof, AI is there for you,

Tongue-tied this Valentine’s Day? Let artificial intelligence help.

You’ll even find romance on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, tying in Valentine’s and the Olympics,

Lovers? Spouses? Just Good Friends? On the Olympic Ice, It’s Getting Hard to Tell. Some couples say their relationship is a boon. Others have broken up to preserve their teamwork. Then there’s the guessing over Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

This year I’ve only watched curling, and the article explains the curling couples‘ dilemma,

The Norwegian curling lovebirds say maintaining separation between their relationships is essential. In curling, Mr. Nedregotten plays the role of sweeper, using a broom to reduce friction on the ice in front of the stone pushed by Ms. Skalsien. In their Oslo apartment, Ms. Skalsien makes sure to reciprocate.

“He does all the sweeping on the ice,” she said, “so I have to do that at home.”

You can’t escape Valentine’s Day ads, try as you may, unless you are entirely unplugged from all media, but just to be on the safe side, don’t show up with a broom for Valentine’s Day gift.

Even if you are in a mixed-doubles curling team.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

Cuban state media announced that Fidel Castro’s oldest son, Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, age 68, a.k.a. Fidelito, ended his life:

Castro Díaz-Balart was the only son of Fidel and his first wife, Mirta Díaz-Balart, who were divorced before the Cuban revolution. As a child, he was the subject of a nasty custody battle — with his mother, having kidnapped and moving with him to live in New York. He eventually landed back in Cuba when after his father seized power in 1959.

Castro Díaz-Balart was trained in the Soviet Union as a nuclear physicist and served as a scientific adviser to Cuba’s Council of State.

Fidel Sr had ten other children.

There is much speculation regarding the news: Carlos Eire writes,

To paraphrase Hamlet, something smells rotten in the kingdom of Castrogonia.

The Ministry of Truth attributes the suicide to depression.

But… one must wonder about the timing of all this, as King Raul approaches his sideways shuffle from the public throne to a hidden one, and issues of succession are at stake.

Think Game of Thrones. Think Sopranos. Think Godfather….

As for Fidelito: who can imagine what it was like to have Fidel for a father and Raul for an uncle?

Fidel kidnapped him at a young age, after he divorced his mother. And that was just at the beginning of a very miserable life.

Miserable it must have been, yes, but he did live like the prince he was, along with all the other princes and princesses of the Castro dynasty.

Fidel Sr paraded Junior in olive green fatigues as a child. As an adult, Jr was head of Cuba’s nuclear program. When that fell through,

Those dreams came crashing down along with the Berlin Wall. The Soviet Union’s implosion robbed Cuba, for a time, of its greatest benefactor. At the same time, insurmountable technical and financial problems doomed the plant — which became an abandoned Cold War relic. The elder Castro publicly blamed his son, whom he unceremoniously fired in 1992.

Years ago there were rumors – which I cannot verify – that Sr had Jr placed under house arrest.

Fidelito, by all accounts, was marginalized by his uncle Raúl, Cuba’s dictator since 2006 (Raúl was acting president from 2006 to 2008, and has been president officially since 2008).

The Miami Herald points out that

The suicide rate in Cuba is among the highest in the Americas, according to a 2014 study by the Pan American Health Organization, a regional office of the World Health Organization.

Fidelito is, directly or indirectly, one more casualty of the Revolución.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

A couple  of days ago, I shared on Facebook Daniel Greenfield’s article, The Imaginary Hispanic.

A dozen years ago I pointed out that there is no such thing as Hispanic. There are Peruvians, Puerto Ricans, Paraguayans, Panamanians, and whatnot,

However, here in the USA there are a large number of people who are making money out of the “multicultural diversity” culture of dependence, and the industry it has generated, who are willing to go along. Some may be politicians, some may be bureaucrats, some may be using the sizeable amount of monies allocated to “minority businesses”, some just like to get a handout. And then there are theprofessional Hispanics, which as Val has correctly pointed out,

Professional Hispanics have no discernible talent other than to beat their chest and play the race card. It’s just sad.

Greenfield recognizes that “In the economics of identity politics, Hispanics, unlike African-Americans, are not an enduring group.”

In the political arena, Greenfield posits,

Hispanic immigration becomes less politically helpful with each generation. The Dem majorities grow thinner and less reliable. Hispanic immigration, unlike Islamic migration, produces diminishing political returns for its sponsors. The only solution to the retention problem lies with open borders.

The Democrats don’t value the DACA illegal aliens who benefited from Obama’s equally illegal amnesty because, as they claim, they’re really Americans. They only care about them to the extent that they aren’t. And even they’re useful only as a wedge issue for open borders and unlimited migration.

As long as the census counts heads instead of citizens, migration creates Dem districts. And in machine politics, illegal aliens and non-citizens can even vote in those districts. But it’s momentum, not minorities, that the Dems are really after. A constant flow of immigrants transforms America. But when the flow stops, then the immigrants are the ones who become transformed by America.

I agree totally, not simply on theory, but from personal experience. I have known hundreds of people from Latin America who legally moved to the USA generations ago, others who came more recently and legalized their residency status at great expense after arriving here. They may still retain traditions from their faiths, or from their countries of origin, but assimilated American values completely and have thrived.

They are not in favor of open borders.

So I shared Greenfield’s post on Facebook, and this morning I get a notice, “We removed your post because it looks like spam.”

Just last week

[Mark] Zuckerberg, in a sweeping post on Facebook, said the company would change the filter for the News Feed to prioritise what friends and family share, while reducing the amount of non-advertising content from publishers and brands.

On the one hand, “reducing the amount of non-advertising content from publishers and brands,” but they dismiss posts against open borders as spam. On the other hand, my timeline ads features $15,000 ball gowns and jewelry, as far away from my lifestyle as you can get.

Also last week,  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asked his followers to call their congressmen and congresswomen to ask them to solve DACA immigration issues. And yes, FB labels you.

All the same, FB deletes Greenfield’s post as spam.

I don’t know if this is all coincidental, but it sure doesn’t look like it.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

news: information reported

Here are some news you might have missed:
As JD reported, jobless claims are at a 45-year low and 164 major companies and rising have given their employees salary raises and bonuses because of the lower tax rates.

Apple

unveiled plans on Wednesday that would bring back the vast majority of the $252 billion in cash that it held abroad and said it would make a sizable investment in the United States.

Apple will make a one-time tax payment of $38 billion on the repatriated cash, and is expected to create 20,000 jobs in the US.

Hispanic unemployment at all-time low under Trump

U.S. oil industry set to break record, upend global trade

Surging shale production is poised to push U.S. oil output to more than 10 million barrels per day – toppling a record set in 1970 and crossing a threshold few could have imagined even a decade ago.

Dow jumps 323 points, closes above 26,000 for first time in its 121-year history

Teen pregnancy rates continue to drop.

Last year Abortion rates in US hit historic low, CDC report finds

dregs: the least valuable part of anything

Here are the dregs, i.e., what the legacy media wants you to focus on:
Nancy Pelosi is going to be a guest judge on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars’

Hillary Clinton could still become president if Russia probe finds conspiracy evidence

On Stage Was Springsteen, in the Audience, Chris Christie

Marla Maples dating TV host who called Trump ‘physically disgusting’

One year after Trump’s inauguration, no one will say how they spent the extra money

Is Trump’s doctor okay?

I had to do searches for the items in the above news roundup. I didn’t have to for the dregs; all it took was a quick glance at Memeorandum. As JD said,

In this election year, the Democrats will utilize their puppets in the media to try to make as many people as possible believe things are really bad. It doesn’t matter that the economy is looking great. Perception trumps reality and mainstream media wants to change as many people’s perceptions as possible. We have to fight against that.

It’s up to each one of us.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

I’m old enough to remember when John Boehner was the only man crying on Capitol Hill.

Boehner cried when he got the House gavel. He cried with the Pope. He cried with kids. He even cried with Arnold Palmer, fer cryin’ out loud.

I was glad he retired.

Now the tears are in the Senate. Cory Booker:

“I hurt!” he yelled. “When Dick Durbin called me, I had tears of rage when I heard about his experience in that meeting, and for you not to feel that hurt and that pain and to dismiss some of the questions of my colleagues … when tens of millions of Americas are hurting right now because of what they’re worried about what happened in the White House, that’s unacceptable to me!”

Really.

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The former mayor of Newark, N.J. – not exactly the garden spot of the Garden State – allegedly did not live there during his term. He spent a large part of his time away from the city in speaking gigs, while still being paid by his former law firm. It was Cory Booker’s Newark Mirage

The criticism that Booker was not focused on his day job stuck. The Newark-based Star-Ledger tracked the days Booker was out of the city 118 days in one 18-month stretch, often earning lucrative fees for speaking gigs. (The newspaper later did the same for Gov. Chris Christie, who shared a similar reputation for being an absentee executive.)

That reputation for detachment didn’t help when the bad headlines hit.

There was a corruption scandal at the Newark Watershed Conservation Development Authority that centered on Booker’s friend and ally, Linda Watkins-Brashear. One watchdog group said the authority had gone “Hog Wild,” while overseeing Newark’s water and sewer infrastructure. Top officials were convicted of taking millions in bribes, kickbacks and engaging in other misuse of public money. Booker had to distance himself with the sheepish, yet accurate, excuse he had not been paying attention, had not been to meetings.

The water authority has since gone into bankruptcy.

More (emphasis added),

Months after he first entered the Senate, the New Jersey comptroller alleged that under Booker’s watch—or, more likely, because he was not watching—corruption ran rampant at a publicly funded water-treatment and reservoir-management agency, where Booker’s former law partner served as counsel. And speaking of his former law career: Despite having resigned from his law firm once entering the mayor’s office, Booker received annual payments until 2011, during which time the firm was profiting handsomely off of Brick City. That would be the Brick City that Booker professed to love with the fire of a thousand suns, but did little to fundamentally change. Murder, violent crime, unemployment, and taxes all rose dramatically under his stewardship.

Some 250,000 people live in Newark. After crying over “tens of millions of Americans”, did Booker save any tears for them?

Four years ago, Politico was saying,

“Beware of men who cry,” the writer Nora Ephron once cautioned. “It’s true that men who cry are sensitive to and in touch with feelings, but the only feelings they tend to be sensitive to and in touch with are their own.”

Remember that the next time Booker starts emoting.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog