“I call petroleum the devil’s excrement. It brings trouble…Look at this locura—waste, corruption, consumption, our public services falling apart. And debt, debt we shall have for years.” —JUAN PABLO PEREZ ALFONSO, a founder of OPEC, in 1975

Venezuela—owner of a very large pool of oil and, thus, the curse of an oil economy—is set to choose whether Hugo Chavez gets to be President for Life or not come December 2. Chavez, for those of you who don’t know, is El Presidente of Venezuela, petro-dollar fueled caudillo and current object of bootlicking by dipshit celebrity leftists like Sean Penn and Naomi Campbell, along with tepid support from the likes of Noam Chomsky (whom Chavez seems to think is dead).

“He who draws his sword against his prince should throw away the scabbard.” —ALESSANDRO FARNESE, Third Duke of Parma

TORANAGA: There is no mitigating factor for rebellion against your liege lord.
BLACKTHORNE: Unless you win.
TORANAGA: Very well, you may have named the one mitigating factor. —JAMES CLAVELL, Shogun

All this could have been avoided. Back in 1992, then Teniente Coronel (Lieutenant Colonel) Hugo Chavez led a failed “colonel’s” coup against the government of Venezuela. The government of Venezuela, led by then-President Carlos Andres Perez, didn’t listen to the corollary of the advice of the Duke of Parma. I’m sure that the good Duke would have thought it was so obvious it went without saying. Updated for modern times, the reward due to all who attempt a coup and fail is, in order:

  1. A night to make peace with the maker of your choice (optional);
  2. A nice meal (optional);
  3. A cigarette (optional);
  4. A blindfold (optional);
  5. Several high velocity rifle rounds to the chest (not optional, though a stout length of rope around the neck or a sharp blade are acceptable substitutions);
  6. A hollow point to the head (if needed).

Failure to follow this obvious advice is not a recipe for long-term survival of a government and, indeed, a profound sign of its weakness. Think, for instance, of the savings had Adolf Hitler received his justified reward for the Beer Hall Putsch rather than several months in jail, which he used to write Mein Kampf and catch up on his sleep for his soon-to-come European tour.

Given the nature of Venezuela as a petro-state, weakness is almost guaranteed, which is why Chavez has been able to win in slow motion since 1992. Post-World War II, Venezuela developed an odd system of planned party alternation known as puntofijismo, in which two political parties agreed, starting in 1958, to swap back and forth who got the presidency. Venezuela was beset by outsiders wanting to intervene, e.g., Cuban-backed revolutionaries and rightwingers financed by Dominican dictator Trujillo, and had recently come out of its own caudillo past. So at the time getting some political stability probably made sense, but as time went on, the system got more and more corrupt, creakier and creakier, until Chavez made his move in 1992, pushing himself up from nobody in the army to the center stage, kicking down the puntofijismo to allow in third parties. By that he meant, of course, his party.

While many like to think that petroleum (or any other expensive commodity) is a Godsend to a poor country, petro-states are widely known to have severe weaknesses, corruption, serious lack of broad-based economic development, and the accompanying political corrosion. They rarely do well over the long term, instead going through major boom-and-bust cycles as oil prices go up and down. Right now, oil is up. In the ’80s, oil was down, way down, which is why Chavez was able to stage his coup. It won’t be up forever, most likely being replaced as a diverse basket of bio-fuels, solar, etc. While Venezuela could be a participant in the development of modern energy (and hence a modern economy), rather than spending the money on future investments, Chavez is busy spending it on a giant planned city in currently uninhabited hills, oil subsidies to the Mid-Atlantic states and New England, petro-swaps to Cuba for doctors (rather than, oh, trying to grow some of your own), lots more guns to protect against a coming “Yanqui” invasion, six hour workdays, etc. And, of course, he buys off the legions of Venezuelan poor—those who don’t benefit from the oil bucks that are stolen by Bolivarian apparatchik cronies, competed away, or diverted into the coffers of international companies, just like in basically any other petro-state, but have to suffer through the boom-and-bust of a commodity economy. Chavez’ behavior, in short, reminds me of the kind of thing I’d expect of a lottery winner elevated up from the trailer park to the realm of multi-millionaire, only writ large. Sure, he’s putting his friends’ kids through college and paying mom’s medical bills, but he’s also supporting a deadbeat uncle with six kids and doesn’t realize his stash is, in fact, limited, and needs to be grown for the future.

“All great historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice … the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” —KARL MARX, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

In 1994, Chavez was let out of jail. In 1998 he ran for President, running as a “Bolivarian,” more or less meaning “socialist.” Over the last decade, he’s been gradually undermining the democratic state of Venezuela—flawed as it was—using the playbook of dictators such as Louis Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, etc., a playbook first written by the original “man on horseback”, Gaius Julius Caesar. These include:

  • Widespread use of rule by decree and emergency powers of highly dubious legal grounds.
  • Ignoring international bodies (in this case the OAS) when it suits his purposes.
  • Whipping up populist fury by constantly playing the nationalist and the xenophobic “they’re out to get us!” card, e.g., by conveniently cutting ties with Colombia right before an election.
  • Engaging in a my way or the highway foreign policy based on chumming up with lackwits like Mahmood Ahmadinijad.
  • Siccing jackbooted thugs on his Jewish countrymen (where have we heard that one before?)

Since being elected president in 1998, Chavez is busy actually doing a lot of the stuff that gives Dick Cheney major wood when he’s in his undisclosed location and not busy shooting hunting companions in the face. Add to that plenty of stuff that Cheney wouldn’t ever countenance, too. If Hugo wasn’t constantly giving Uncle Sam the middle finger and, let’s face it, they weren’t so f—ing stupid, Hollywood Leftists and my home boy Radical Jack would be slamming him for what he really is. Now, he’s completing the process of autogolpe, “self-coup,” or so he hopes. He may well have over-played his hand.

Why, may you ask, has the US done nothing? Well, first of all, the US does not have the power that the wildest dreams of Latin American conspiracy theorists believe it to have in general and certainly not in the case of Venezuela. Simply put, Chavez has us—mutually—by the cojones. The US obtains 15%+ of its oil from Venezuela. Remember all those refineries forced to shut down by Hurricane Katrina? They’re set up to refine the very tarry Venezuelan oil. Oil, you see, is only fungible up to a point, since it varies greatly in its characteristics. US refineries are set up to receive Venezuelan oil. Most other refineries aren’t. Refineries are not easy or quick to build. You do the math.

Unfortunately, Chavez is very, very good at playing the anti-American populist card. Also unfortunately, much of American foreign policy is designed for domestic consumption (or as bureaucratic grandstanding). Backroom channels, supporting the locals, letting the locals own initiatives, etc., don’t look sexy to the American voter and thus often lose out to more active policies that often breed long-term resentment. So it is with Chavez. Two examples spring to mind:

  • Pat Robertson’s loose lips calling for Chavez’ assassination. While most people in the US think Robertson is a lunatic (not enough, however, to keep him off the air entirely), abroad he’s perceived as a non-governmental figure who is close to the current administration.
  • In 2002 there was a coup attempt to overthrow Chavez, who by that time was a democratically-elected president. Whatever really happened, the US government was seen to be giving tacit support to the coup. While Chavez himself attempted a coup, he doesn’t much like the notion of it happening to him (duh) and, more importantly, is quite willing to use the event rhetorically forever.

Chavez’ idol Simon Bolivar ended his life as a dictator and was about to go into exile, but he died of consumption first. The people of Venezuela will, alas, probably not be so fortunate since I’m quite sure that Chavez has the best Cuban doctors his petro-dollars can buy…. Morphing from “leftist hero” to “right wing oppressor” is really not at all hard to manage. Mussolini started as a socialist “man of the people.” Juan Peron was similar. Indeed, we should not forget that the “socialism” in National Socialism was there for a reason.

Let’s hope the people of Venezuela on Sunday finally realize that giving ultimate power to one man is a road best not traveled… though, of course, it may be too late.

Update: It looks like Venezuelans decided that Chavez for life was too much for them. Let’s see if Chavez actually has any democratic bones in his body and actually accepts the verdict of a loss, which is, in my view, the key test. Of course, just because Chavez himself won’t be in office doesn’t mean he won’t pull a Vladimir Putin, unarguably the most successful of the petro-state presidents. Lest we forget, the fall of the Soviet Union was, in no small part, due to the drop in the price of oil in the late ’80s, and chaos in Russia in the ’90s was also maintained by the drop in oil price. Next time the price goes down….

Update (02/12/08): Hugo’s regime seems to be unraveling. It seems that even large amounts of oil money can’t balance the unicycle.


In an earlier missive I addressed some physical constraints to actually constructing a Jedi lightsaber. The task was formidable, not to say impossible. Perhaps some new physics will intervene to assist in the future, but for the moment, I am going to take the challenge to construct a lightsaber metaphorically. I will define the Dark Side of the Force and create a weapon to defend against that Dark Side. And strangely enough, I will be using bosons and fermions.

First we need to discover the lair of the Sith Lord and the Dark Side of the Force. Fortunately, one only needs to look at a few interesting correlations. My two axes are the Economic Freedom Ranking and crude oil production provided by the United States Department of Energy. With a little judicious editing, an abreviated table appears as follows. The economic index ranges from 1 being most free to 157 (North Korea). (For those interested, the top seven are Hong Kong (1), Singapore (2), Australia (3), United States (4), New Zealand (5), UK (6), and Ireland (7)).

Correlation Between Oil Revenue and Economic Freedom
Country Crude Production Ranking Ranking in Index of Economic Freedom Characteristics
Saudi Arabia 10.4 M bbl/day 85/157 Wahabi Islamic Fundamentalism
Russia 9.5 M bbl/day 120/157 Resurgent KGB, Socialist Power Elite
Venezuela 3.4 M bbl/day 144/157 Chavez, Totalitarian, Communist
Iran 2.7 M bbl/day 150/157 Islamic Fundamentalism
Nigeria 2.5 M bbl/day 124/157 Choppa offa your hands

While the correlation is not particularly inverse linear, e.g., Saudi Arabia ranks number one in oil production and revenue but is not the worst Economic Freedom ranking (after all, Kim Il Jung doesn’t produce any oil), when additional factors, such as the Saudi’s urban redevelopment plans are added to the mix, clusters definitely form. Clearly there seems to be a correlation to the use of oil revenues to prop up totalitarian despot regimes. Each of these producers represent the worst elements of the Dark Side of the Force. These are governments which deplete their natural resources on the backs of their populations to further narrow nationalistic aims benefitting only the power elite. “Let’s see: fear, anger, hate, suffering — yup all there.” The difference between these regimes and those listed at the top of the index is that free society governments, where their people are economically free, view their populations as resources, not impediments. And because of the requirements for energy, those free countries must make a pact with the Dark Side to secure that freedom.

So what if we had a weapon that would directly attack these Dark Forces at their most vulnerable point. Without oil revenues, these regimes would collapse overnight. Iran must actually import gasoline. Without petrodollars to spend, Iran would be reduced to selling crappy carpets to fund their Islamic Jihad. Russia, which experienced a brief surge of freedom before Putin, would deteriorate into pure organized crime verses the state sponsored kind.

What weapon is this? Energy independence! By all means, let’s continue with wind power and solar power, and even allow the playing with sawgrass and synthetic fuels; but the paramount effort should be placed in developing an energy source that can replace petroleum. Start with home heating. That is a straightforward application which affects non-discretionary fuel usage. Then let’s adapt that new source to transportation. We probably will not be able to do this directly and will have to convert to electricity first, suffering some loss of efficiency in the conversion, but when we are finished with this effort, petroleum will be reduced to feedstock status for plastics and the chemical industry — which we can supply domestically.

We did the Manhattan project, and the Moon Project. The United States can accomplish remarkable things with the application of the national will. Surely, these despot states are more of a threat than the chimera of a Nazi atomic bomb which started the Mahattan project, of the launch of Sputnik, which started the Space Age. We need to focus. The technologies are out there withering on the vine from inadaequate funding and attention.

When we have these developed, I suggest the entire scientific and political leadership of the United States gather and collectively flip the bird to Abdullah al-Saud, Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Olusegun Obasanjo. And afterwards, as much as it pains me, convey and deliver the technology to our European (choke) and Asian allies. And oh, by the way, we do all of this AFTER we have all of our new generators and engines in production. [Might want to short oil futures also as a way to pay for the development.]

The lightsaber is the weapon of a Jedi, an elegant armament of a more civilized time

What could be more elegant that using their own petro-greed against them. Now that is a light saber!

How would you like to make small untraceable donations to Al-Qaeda? Interested in supporting Terrorism and helping America’s enemies win? Then you’re in luck my friend! All you have to do is buy an SUV. That’s right, by purchasing a Sports Utility Vehicle, you too can be a terrorist. In the spirit of Regan’s Trickle-down economics, soulless American consumerism has brought you Trickle-down terrorism. Sure everyone needs to drive, and so some money from US oil purchases will end up in the hands of unsavory types, but by buying an SUV, you can ensure that you are funneling your hard earned dollars into terrorist hands even faster!

Before we really begin to dig into the issues here, I want to preface my argument by pointing out that some people need SUVs, or big trucks. Farmers in particular, who use SUVs and trucks as actual workhorses, are blameless, as are disabled individuals for whom sitting in a car causes discomfort or pain. These people are forced into using SUVs because of their jobs, or personal injuries. But these people are the minority. Most of the individuals who drive SUVs do so because they are hip, shiny and cool, and to help them keep up with the Joneses. After all, if your car isn’t as new and pointless as the one Chad and Buffy Jones just parked next door to your coastal McMansion, you might not be invited to the next shallow cocktail party they throw!

Given that over 25% of our daily oil imports come from countries with known or suspected ties to terrorism (and an additional 13% comes from Venezuela, a country none too fond of Western governments), we should be weighing our consciences to see if driving that new Ford Valdez is really worth the price. The average SUV uses 169% of the gas of a sedan does to move the same distance, and 281% of the gas a hybridized car uses. The cost of this useless inefficiency isn’t just to your wallet. The cost is paid by your children too. By wasting money on SUVs instead of the passenger car you really need, more money ends up in the hands of people who hate freedom.

But how much money ends up in the hands of terrorists each time you fuel up your good old SUV? It’s easy to ignore the costs when they’re just abstractions so I am going to tear away the curtain and force you to pay attention to the terrorist behind it. With the current US gas price of $2.87 and roughly 20 gallons in the tank of an average SUV, we’re talking about $57.40 for a full tank. Of that, roughly 45% of your money goes towards the oil producing countries, or $25.83, and of the money that ends up back at the sources 25% of it goes to nations with known or suspected terrorist ties, giving us the final amount of $6.45. Every time you fill up your SUV, you donate $6.45 to Al Qaeda. Based on DOE average yearly gas consumption, the average SUV driver donates more than $240 to Al Qaeda every year.

But $240 isn’t a lot of money right? Wrong. Your yearly donation to Al Qaeda helps to outfit 24 terrorists in Afghanistan with assault rifles. Or perhaps it will be used to buy 10 Improvised Explosive Devices in Iraq? Either way that SUV parked outside of your house right now means more innocent people dead every year. It is time to do our patriotic duty as Americans, and get rid of our SUVs, replacing them with fuel efficient alternatives. Stop trickle-down terrorism today!

-Angry Midwesterner