Posts filed under Fellow Workers

Bolivarian Process

State socialism is the cooptation and consumption of popular energy and liberation movements into a brutal and exploitative structure of party control, self-feeding state structures and authortarian power politics. It is the graveyard of social change, and the human costs that it exacts range from waste and malinvestment to degenerative, systemic social and economic collapse. What has happened in Venezuela is a long, slow-motion horror show illustrating how state socialism feeds on itself, and eventually subdues any aspiration of popular empowerment under the weight of a brutal, desperately feeding vampire of bureaucratic state-capitalism.

Venezuela’s epic shortages are nothing new at this point. No diapers or car parts or aspirin — it’s all been well documented. But now the country is at risk of running out of money itself.

In a tale that highlights the chaos of unbridled inflation, Venezuela is scrambling to print new bills fast enough to keep up with the torrid pace of price increases. Most of the cash, like nearly everything else in the oil-exporting country, is imported. And with hard currency reserves sinking to critically low levels, the central bank is doling out payments so slowly to foreign providers that they are foregoing further business.

Venezuela, in other words, is now so broke that it may not have enough money to pay for its money.

. . . Last month, De La Rue, the world’s largest currency maker, sent a letter to the central bank complaining that it was owed $71 million and would inform its shareholders if the money were not forthcoming. The letter was leaked to a Venezuelan news website and confirmed by Bloomberg News.

It’s an unprecedented case in history that a country with such high inflation cannot get new bills, said Jose Guerra, an opposition law maker and former director of economic research at the central bank. Late last year, the central bank ordered more than 10 billion bank notes, surpassing the 7.6 billion the U.S. Federal Reserve requested this year for an economy many times the size of Venezuela’s.

–Andrew Rosati, Venezuela Doesn’t Have Enough Money to Pay for Its Money
Bloomberg (27 April 2016)

The Venezuelan Boli-Bureaucracy survives by feeding off oil revenues and redistributing part of the take to popular subsidy programs for basic goods (especially food and gasoline). But as they’ve become increasingly unable to find the money to keep those programs functioning, they’ve responded by escalating state confiscation of businesses and inflating the currency to pay off looming bills. As the value of the bolivar has cratered, prices on those basic goods have skyrocketed; since the legitimacy of the Boli-Bureaucracy depends on keeping basic goods affordable to the poor, they responded by blaming greedy merchants and instituted rigid price controls on food, medicine, batteries, deodorant, diapers, etc. etc. etc. Predictably, the effect of price controls in the midst of sky-high inflation was that people rushed to buy everything they could before their wages became even more worthless, and stores sold what they had but couldn’t afford to import any more.[1] So now the government inflicts massive shortages on the people it claims to be aiding, and it responds by enacting increasingly draconian efforts to force more goods to be brought to market and to monitor shopping and limit the quantities that people can buy. The degenerative process has gotten so bad that even the government’s ability to pay for its own inflation is breaking down. The spiraling, swallowed-the-goat-to-catch-the-cat, swallowed-the-cat-to-catch-the-bird process of complete systemic breakdown would be comical, if its human costs weren’t so grimly, horribly real. From a recent overview article in The Atlantic, whose contents are as horrifying as they are predictable to anyone who has been following the situation over the last few years:

Shared Article from The Atlantic

Venezuela Is Falling Apart

Scenes from daily life in a failing state

theatlantic.com


… In the last two years Venezuela has experienced the kind of implosion that hardly ever occurs in a middle-income country like it outside of war. Mortality rates are skyrocketing; one public service after another is collapsing; triple-digit inflation has left more than 70 percent of the population in poverty; an unmanageable crime wave keeps people locked indoors at night; shoppers have to stand in line for hours to buy food; babies die in large numbers for lack of simple, inexpensive medicines and equipment in hospitals, as do the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses.

But why? It’s not that the country lacked money. Sitting atop the world’s largest reserves of oil at the tail end of a frenzied oil boom, the government led first by Chavez and, since 2013, by Maduro, received over a trillion dollars in oil revenues over the last 17 years. It faced virtually no institutional constraints on how to spend that unprecedented bonanza. It’s true that oil prices have since fallen—a risk many people foresaw, and one that the government made no provision for—but that can hardly explain what’s happened: Venezuela’s garish implosion began well before the price of oil plummeted. Back in 2014, when oil was still trading north of $100 per barrel, Venezuelans were already facing acute shortages of basic things like bread or toiletries.

The real culprit is chavismo, the ruling philosophy named for Chavez and carried forward by Maduro, and its truly breathtaking propensity for mismanagement (the government plowed state money arbitrarily into foolish investments); institutional destruction (as Chavez and then Maduro became more authoritarian and crippled the country’s democratic institutions); nonsense policy-making (like price and currency controls); and plain thievery (as corruption has proliferated among unaccountable officials and their friends and families).

A case in point is the price controls, which have expanded to apply to more and more goods: food and vital medicines, yes, but also car batteries, essential medical services, deodorant, diapers, and, of course, toilet paper. The ostensible goal was to check inflation and keep goods affordable for the poor, but anyone with a basic grasp of economics could have foreseen the consequences: When prices are set below production costs, sellers can’t afford to keep the shelves stocked. Official prices are low, but it’s a mirage: The products have disappeared.

When a state is in the process of collapse, dimensions of decay feed back on each other in an intractable cycle. Populist giveaways, for example, have fed the country’s ruinous flirtation with hyperinflation; the International Monetary Fund now projects that prices will rise by 720 percent this year and 2,200 percent in 2017. The government virtually gives away gasoline for free, even after having raised the price earlier this year. As a result of this and similar policies, the state is chronically short of funds, forced to print ever more money to finance its spending. Consumers, flush with cash and chasing a dwindling supply of goods, are caught in an inflationary spiral.

There are many theories about the deeper forces that have destroyed Venezuela’s economy, torn apart its society and devastated its institutions, but their result is ultimately a human tragedy representing one of the most severe humanitarian crises facing the Western hemisphere. . . .

–Moisés Naím and Francisco Toro, Venezuela Is Falling Apart: Scenes from daily life in the failing state
The Atlantic (May 2016)

Under the name and banner of a socialist and revolutionary movement, the emerging Boli-bureaucracy has used subsidy, co-optation, conversion, and violent repression to devour any and every independent project or association, whenever, wherever, and however it could get them into its ravenous maw. All too many Potemkin-tour Progressives and authoritarian Leftists deluded themselves into believing that this process of the endlessly self-aggrandizing State bureaucracy engorging itself on the living remains of industrial and civil society, was something that Leftist, grassroots, and populist tendencies ought for some reason to support. For years the discourse on the Left has responded to Anarchistic voices criticizing the Bolivarian regime by trying to bully them out of the conversation with charges of neo-liberalism and golpismo. But it is too obvious at this point to be worth continuing the debate on terms like these. Bolivarian government has produced nothing more than a grotesque, slow-motion train wreck that keeps happening and happening.

Government! Ah! we shall still have enough of it, and to spare. Know well that there is nothing more counter-revolutionary than the Government. Whatever liberalism it pretends, whatever name it assumes, the Revolution repudiates it: its fate is to be absorbed in the industrial organization.

–Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Reaction Causes Revolution
From General Idea of the Revolution in the XIXth Century (1851).

The promise of revolutionary government is nothing but a mirage; and the problem is not with the revolution, but with the government. In Anarchy there is another way. Que se vayan tod@s.

See also.

  1. [1]Almost the entire consumer economy in Venezuela is now import-dependent, because the economic chaos makes it impossible to produce almost anything domestically.

War on the Informal Sector, Tamale Control Edition

For your own safety, natch.

450 illegal tamales from Mexico seized at LAX and ‘incinerated’ (not steamed)

Apparently there are illegal tamales.

A passenger at Los Angeles International Airport learned that the hard way earlier this month when he tried to bring pork tamales into the U.S. from Mexico.

The passenger arrived from Mexico on Nov. 2 and was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists, who found 450 pork tamales wrapped in plastic bags in the passenger’s luggage.

The passenger apparently denied that the tamales were made with pork, which is on the list of products that travelers may not bring into the country under customs regulations.

For many families, tamales are a quintessential holiday tradition. Making a batch takes days of planning and exhaustive preparation — all for a tasty bite of corn masa, red chile mole and pork, beef or chicken.

The passenger would have been in the clear had he tried to bring sweet tamales – or those all masa ones that always seem to be left over.

. . . The passenger, who was not identified, was fined $1,000 because authorities believed the tamales were going to be sold and distributed.

As for the tamales, they met their demise. But not in the traditional manner: By being devoured.

All 450 of them were destroyed. The tamales were literally “incinerated,” a Customs and Border Protection spokesman said.

–Veronica Rocha, 450 illegal tamales from Mexico seized at LAX
Los Angeles Times, 18 November 2015.

Now of course Customs is being ludicrous, mean-spirited, invasive and petty. This is a heavy fine, and a pointless assault on the freedom of a peaceful traveler who did nothing to violate the rights of even a single living soul. It’s also a waste of perfectly good tamales, and just kind of a damned shame all around. But it is — qué pena! — just the most recent installment in a long, ludicrous history of American government’s mean-spirited and petty war on tamales and tamaleros:

By 1901, more than a hundred tamale wagons roamed Los Angeles, each paying a dollar a month for a city business license. Their popularity spurred others in outlying cities to follow their example. In 1906, Sonoran immigrant Alejandro Morales began selling his wife’s tamales from a wagon he commandeered through Anaheim. Morales, a ditch digger by trade, grew the concept into a restaurant, then a tamale factory, then Alex Foods, a multimillion-dollar empire now known as Don Miguel Mexican Foods.

. . . It wasn’t just Latinos who operated tamale wagons — African Americans, European immigrants and whites also partook in the industry. In 1905, even the YMCA opened a temporary tamale wagon to raise funds so it could send a boy’s track and field team to compete in Portland, Ore.

Strangers coming to Los Angeles, reported The Times, remark at the presence of so many outdoor restaurants, and marvel at the system which permits men … to set up places of business in the public streets … competing with businessmen who pay high rents for rooms in which to serve the public with food.

Not everyone appreciated those first loncheras. L.A.’s press sensationalized any fight, quarrel or theft committed around the eateries, leading to a perception in polite circles that they weren’t safe (typical headline: “Says the Tamale Wagon is a Nursery of Crime”). As early as 1892, officials tried to ban them; in 1897, the City Council proposed to not allow tamale wagons to open until nine at night at the behest of restaurant owners who didn’t like their crowds. Four years later, Police Chief Charles Elton recommended they close at 1 a.m. because they offered “a refuge for drunks who seek the streets when the saloons are closed for the night.”

Los Angeles school trustees constructed kitchens at the city’s high schools (including the first prep cafeteria in the country at Los Angeles High) in 1905 to offer healthier lunches after having “long waged a crusade against the tamale wagons,” according to the Herald. And in 1910, 100 downtown businessmen signed a letter asking the council that tamale wagons be prohibited because they didn’t reflect well on the district.

The tamaleros fought back with their most powerful weapon: their fans. In 1903, when the council tried to outlaw them altogether, they formed a mutual-aid society and presented the council a petition with the signatures of more than 500 customers that read, in part: “We claim that the lunch wagons are catering to an appreciative public, and to deprive the people of these convenient eating places would prove a great loss to the many local merchants who sell the wagon proprietors various supplies.”

They also found an ally in Councilman Fred Wheeler. In 1920, he offered an impassioned defense in council chambers when tamale wagons once again faced the ax. “The tamale put Los Angeles on the map,” he thundered. “These wagons are almost an institution of our city. Cabrillo and his sailors are said to have found them here when they landed. Drive these wagons from our streets? Never!”

Wheeler convinced his fellow councilmen to spare the tamale wagons that year but wasn’t as lucky in 1924, when a resolution booted tamaleros from the plaza. They continued as usual, though, a move that sparked The Times to quip, “Those lunch carts have more lives than the eighty-one incarnations of Methuselah’s nine cats.”

By then, the wagons sold more than tamales — the massive wave of migrants from central Mexico over the previous 20 years had introduced other Mexican delicacies to the city, such as barbacoa, menudo and tacos. But their era was waning. “They belong not to the new order of things,” The Times editorialized in 1924. “They were born of the pueblo — they perish in the metropolis.”

The plaza, of course, transformed into Olvera Street, as a new generation of Angelenos wanted a more refined Mexican culinary experience than that offered by the chaos of Tamale Row. As the automobile grew in popularity, Latino families loaded up their trucks and drove through East Los Angeles selling food before settling in downtown, the precursor to today’s loncheras.

By 1929, when Samuel C. Wilhite received a patent for a “Tamale Inn” — a tamale wagon shaped like its eponymous snack complete with awning, rows of windows, and even steps — there was no need for it. He parked it on Whittier Boulevard and named it the Tamale, where the structure still stands, although it’s currently a beauty salon. The last tamale wagon on Southern California’s roads belonged to the Morales family: their Tamale Wagon, a legendary sprint car that captured the minds of race fans for decades.

–Gustavo Arellano, Tamales, Los Angeles’ First Street Food
Los Angeles Times, 8 September 2011.

Free the tamales and all political prisoners.

See also.

Markets Not Capitalism’s Fourth Fifth

Markets Not Capitalism: Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Structural Poverty
Edited by Gary Chartier & Charles W. Johnson
Published by Minor Compositions
428pp. Release date: November 5, 2011.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November 2015 is the fourth anniversary of the publication of Markets Not Capitalism. Many happy returns; and countless thanks to my friend and co-editor Gary Chartier, and to our publishers, Stevphen Shukaitis and Minor Compositions, along with the Autonomedia Collective, for helping to recover and renew a vital conversation within the Anarchist tradition, as well as doing so much to help start so many fascinating new ones.

To all of our contributors, living and late;

To Stephanie Murphy for her amazing work in preparing the free Markets Not Capitalism audio book, and to Nick Ford for his tireless work enthusiastic leisure in bringing the audiobook to Youtube;

To Jason Lee Byas and to all the participants in the SFL Past & Future of the Libertarian Left VRG who hosted a fascinating study and dialogue around several of the essays last fall;

To James Tuttle and C4SS, who have indefatigably and very kindly promoted the book and helped to get it into many new hands;

To the Gnu’s Room (Auburn/Opelika), Brave New Books (Austin), MonkeyWrench Books (Austin), Firestorm Books (Asheville), and the folks at AltExpo and Libertopia, who generously provided a forum for book readings and open discussions;

And to all of the contributors, readers, reviewers, interlocutors, friends, and everyone else who’s made this such a fascinating exchange. We are immeasurably indebted to you all.

Antifederal Security

Shared Article from Business Insider

FBI Arrests Former SpaceX Employee, Alleging He Ran The 'Deep We…

The site was the deeb web's biggest drug marketplace.

James Cook @ businessinsider.com


O.K., so:

  1. Frak, frak, frak. This is a shame. It’s also a sign of some things we need to get seriously careful about.

  2. We need to talk about new security models for online black markets.

If the Feebs’ bill of particulars is accurate, then it’d seem that there were a lot of unforced errors here. That said, in this case it sounds like a lot of the case was allegedly built either by being in from the start and placing undercovers, or else by starting out with a series of controlled buys and then using their position over time to move on to actually infiltrating the support staff. From the looks of things their campaigns over the last year or so have been pretty aggressive. In either case, this sounds like a good reason to think that part of the security model needs to be working on ways of doing business in other ways — perhaps, in particular, through smaller federated sites and peer-to-peer relationships rather than through single clearing-house servers, — because Tor and Bitcoin at this point are not nearly enough to cope with the threat model.