How Did Venezuela Become Such A Disaster?

You’ve probably read or heard a great deal about the incipient chaos in Venezuela.  There are serious food shortages, rampant crime, seething unrest, and the threat of a violent government crackdown.  And yet Venezuela has untold riches in oil.  Most people are unaware that it was one of the major driving forces behind the founding of OPEC many decades ago.  It used to be a stable, prosperous, and reasonably efficient state structure.  How could a country with so many natural resources be unable to feed its people?  What happened?  How did it all unravel?  And what lessons can we draw from the drama?

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Sunday Movie Roundup (4/23/2017)

Oklahoma City (2017)

Director:  Barak Goodman

The 1990s seem to have an air of unreality about them now.  Looking back, they seem like a time of missed opportunities:  failure to reform the financial system, failure to improve the infrastructure, failure to understand the consequences of unrelenting interference in Middle Eastern affairs.  The drama of 9/11–and everything that followed from it–superseded all that came before it.  It blocked out from our collective memory the threat of domestic radicalism and replaced it the the overarching National Security State where everything was watched and everything was monitored.

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The Stratagem Of Datames

Datames was a general and political leader (satrap) who was born in Asia Minor in the region of Caria.  We do not know the exact date of his birth; we do know he was assassinated in 362 B.C.  He had a high reputation in antiquity for his generalship and battlefield tactics.  The short biography by the Latin historian Cornelius Nepos is one of the few intact sources we have about him.  Nepos relates the following anecdote about a stratagem Datames used to destroy, in one stroke, those who had betrayed him and those who opposed him in war.

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Permanent Irritation: Why Nothing Will Change With North Korea

ذبابة ما هي شئ و تغلت الروح

(A fly is nothing; but it is still loathesome.  –Egyptian proverb)

There has been much talk in the news of possible military action of some sort on the Korean peninsula.  Western observers—the United States in particular—suspect that the North Korean government is planning shortly to test a nuclear device.  Before, US officials have repeatedly expressed their dissatisfaction to their Chinese counterparts regarding North Korea’s refusal to abide by its previous treaty obligations.  Compounding the confusion are recent statements by President Trump that he plans “solve” the North Korean problem one way or another.

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Sunday Movie Roundup (4/16/2017)

Disorder (2015)

Director:  Alice Winocour

This is one of those great, slow-burning movies that slipped under the radar (at least here in the United States).  It’s part character study and part suspense drama, but the end result is a very satisfying cinematic experience.  Lead actor Matthias Schoenaerts is a great actor whom I’ve admired for a long time; he deserves to be a big star and I hope he continues on the trajectory he’s on.  To get an idea of just how good he can be, you should check out the great horror film Left Bank (2008) and the drama Bullhead (2011).

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Business As Usual, And Missed Opportunities: The Trump Record So Far

Entering office amid a whirlwind of promises of real change, Donald Trump’s actions thus far have fallen far short of the lavish promises that were used to seduce parts of the electorate.  We’ve seen this movie many times before:  presidents Clinton and Obama both promised everything yet delivered very little when it came to improving the lives of the average citizen at the end of the day.  The wealthy elites and the special interests never had it so good, of course.  An so far, it looks like it will be the same story with the Trump administration.

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