Thursday, 29 December 2016

Detached from Reality

President Obama's comment that Jeremy Corbyn is 'detached from reality' met with a frosty response from the Labour leader's office according to The Guardian newspaper.

But you don't have to search far for firm evidence that Corbyn really is living on a different political planet from most UK voters.

As everyone knows, Jeremy's popularity ratings are through the floor - the worst of any Labour leader in living memory.

Not because of the mainstream media, as Jeremy's supporters claim, but because of the many stupid things he has said and done over his 30 years in the Westminster Parliament.

Just recently Jezza hailed the repressive Castro regime in Cuba where free trade unions are banned of course and his support for Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela goes back a long way too, despite this 'looney tune' president driving the economy his oil-rich country into the ground.


Corbyn hits back after Obama suggests Labour is disintegrating

Labour leader’s spokesman says he stands for what most people want after outgoing US president’s ‘fact and reality’ remarks
A spokesman for Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said his ideas were ‘common sense and grounded in reality’. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

By Rowena Mason and Peter J Walker - The Guardian

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn has hit back after Barack Obama appeared to suggest that the Labour party has moved away from “fact and reality” and is disintegrating.

The spokesman said the Labour leader “stands for what most people want” and suggested that the outgoing president’s Democratic party needed to “challenge power if they are going to speak for working people”.

Obama had earlier said he was not worried when asked if the Democrats could undergo “Corbynisation” and “disintegrate” like Labour following Hillary Clinton’s election defeat by Donald Trump.
Barack Obama suggested that he would have beaten Donald Trump if he had been able to run for a third term. Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The departing US president was giving an in-depth interview, in which he also said he would have won the 8 November contest if he had been able to run for a third term, to David Axelrod, formerly an adviser to Ed Miliband, Corbyn’s predecessor as Labour leader.

Looney Tune President (24/05/16)

Wyre Davies puts the point succinctly in the first paragraph of this post for the BBC - either President Maduro is delusional or he really does believe that President Obama is about to authorise an invasion of Venezuela.

Now President Maduro has form in this area, as regular readers know, because in the past the Venezuelan leader has claimed that his mentor and predecessor (Hugo Chavez) appeared to him in the form of a 'little bird' during his presidential election campaign.

Just imagine the headlines, if Donald Trump had said something like that - the media at home and abroad would be having a field day.

But to make matters worse President Maduro went on to claim that a miraculous image of Hugo Chavez subsequently appeared on a construction site wall, as if endorsing his new government which was, by that time, already in big trouble. 

The men in white coats can't be too far away. 

Venezuela: Maduro evokes spectre of foreign threat

Wyre Davies - Rio de Janeiro correspondent

BBC Latin America & Caribbean

Image copyright - REUTERS Image caption - President Maduro said the country's armed forces and militia were prepared to meet any threat

Either President Nicolas Maduro genuinely believes there is a credible threat to Venezuela's national security from an unspecified foreign power, or he is delusional.

In what were described as the biggest ever military exercises to have taken place on Venezuelan soil, President Maduro proudly declared that more than 500,000 troops from the armed forces and civilian militias loyal to the government participated in "Operation Independence 2016" over the weekend.

"We have never been more prepared than this," barked the president in a speech evoking Venezuela's military heroes of the past, none more important than Mr Maduro's predecessor in office, Hugo Chavez.

Prepared for what exactly? There is no threat of invasion from Venezuela's neighbours and, while clearly keeping a close eye on developments, Washington is highly unlikely to make any direct intervention.

Full alert

Appearing alongside President Maduro, Minister of Defence Gen Vladimir Padrino Lopez said US "spy planes" had been detected violating Venezuelan airspace on two occasions this month.

Image copyright - REUTERS Image caption - Gen Vladimir Padrino (right) stood shoulder to shoulder with President Maduro

Proof, suggested the general, that Washington was planning an invasion and that Venezuela's armed forces should be placed on full alert.

President Maduro frequently blames the country's many crises on "economic warfare" promulgated by internal business elites and hostile foreign governments.

But by raising the spectre of a foreign invasion, many commentators suggest, the embattled president is showing signs of desperation, using an old but tired tactic to divert attention from what is really happening.

One might respectfully counter that the root cause for Venezuela's many problems lies much closer to President Maduro's front door.

Venezuelans are certainly suffering, as I saw in a large regional hospital in the provincial city of Maracay, to the west of Caracas.

Concerned doctors, at the end of their tether, told me how the healthcare system is on the verge of breakdown.

Image copyright - EPAImage caption - Pharmacies are running low on stocks of essential medicines; many shelves are empty

They showed me wards, crammed full of patients but without basic medical equipment. I spoke to patient after patient whose operations could only proceed after they themselves had bought the appropriate medical supplies - splints, dressings, antibiotics etc.

With wards full, many people were forced to lie on gurneys or on the floor in filthy, dark corridors as the daily national blackout affected the most critically important sectors of society.

I spoke to the parents of a baby, severely ill with acute respiratory complications. They had to dig deep into their own pockets for an ill-fitting mask and respirator to keep her alive.

In another makeshift emergency room, as a young girl was undergoing an operation for a broken arm, there was an open drain full of filthy waste water with flies and mosquitoes everywhere.

'Patients are dying' 

Most doctors are fearful of speaking on the record because of potential reprisals by loyal pro-government officials attempting to conceal the chronic crisis in Venezuela's health system.

But one junior doctor who did not mind speaking out was Emmanuel Torres.

Image caption - Dr Torres says he sometimes pays for medical supplies himself

"Patients are dying because they can't get basic drugs," he told me, having just had to refuse a desperate mother ventilation treatment for her acutely asthmatic child because of an extended power cut.

"I've even had to pay for supplies myself to ensure that routine medical procedures can take place." added Dr Torres.

Reluctantly, he is contemplating a move abroad to work, along with as many as 40% of the country's doctors. 

Image copyright- REUTERS Image caption - Venezuelans often have to queue for hours outside supermarkets to get the basics

But the shortages go much further than medicines. Venezuela has become a nation of queues.

Food, basic ingredients and household goods are all scarce in a country that became so dependent on oil revenues, it could not cope when the price crashed.

Outside supermarkets and pharmacies across Venezuela, people queue for hours on end, often not even knowing if they will get what they need once inside.

Babies' nappies, flour, sugar, milk and shampoo were just some of the items I heard being repeatedly listed by desperate but stoical shoppers.

You have to admire the resilience and patience of Venezuelans. This situation has persisted, indeed worsened, for the last two years.

Many of those I spoke to in a long queue near the sprawling Petare shantytown would have once regarded themselves as "Chavistas", supporters of the revolution promoted by the late President Chavez.

Recall plans

These are the people who, in last December's Congressional elections switched their allegiance to the opposition coalition.

Emboldened by that victory, opposition supporters have repeatedly challenged the government of Nicolas Maduro.

Their aim is to gather enough signatures to force a recall referendum against the increasingly unpopular leader.

Image copyright -EPAImage caption - Opposition politicians say they have collected 1.85 million signatures backing a petition in favour of a recall referendum

Mr Maduro, in turn, appears more autocratic and entrenched.

He recently declared a state of "economic emergency" and extended, for 90 days, his powers of decree.

He has also publically contemplated using those powers to dissolve a Congress which he regards as hostile and a threat to Hugo Chavez's socialist revolution.

Thus far, President Maduro has been able to count on the support and loyalty of the Venezuelan armed forces that he has vowed to use against opposition protesters "in defence of the revolution".

Perhaps, say observers, that is the real reason behind all the talk of "imminent invasion" and "foreign aggression": to create the emergency conditions that would enable the armed forces to deal with internal dissent.

These are dangerous days in Latin America's most unstable nation. Both government and opposition leaders have recklessly hinted at military intervention in the crisis.

International mediators have urged dialogue before it is too late but it is an appeal that has thus far fallen on deaf ears.

Spitting Image (12/11/13)

Anyone looking for confirmation that Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, is nothing more that a political snake-oil salesman should consider his latest crazy antics - his claim, for example, that a 'miraculous' image of Hugo Chavez (his mentor and predecessor) appeared on the wall of an underground construction site.

Now I've posted the 'miraculous' image with this post and have to say that I can't see this as the 'spitting image' of Hugo Chavez - no matter how hard I try.

In fact it looks at best to me like one of those misshapen vegetables that attract publicity from time-to-time as loosely resemble a human face - good for a laugh perhaps, but that's all.

Yet Nicolas is keen on interpreting this as another miracle, a sign that Hugo Chavez is somehow watching over his country and giving his blessing from beyond the grave to the increasingly wacky Maduro administration - which has price inflation running at an astonishing 50%. 

Now Nicolas is a 'socialist' politician of course, but he seems more than happy to inject a little voodoo into his pitch to the voters - many of whom are deeply religious.  

Which is a load of old bollix, if you ask me - and while you would think that no socialist worth their salt would indulge in this kind of mumbo jumbo, President Maduro appears unabashed.

So, I would not be in the least surprised if he is carted off by men in white coats any day now - or perhaps even the military - because there seems little doubt that the President is losing the plot.   

Here's a report on the 'Chavez is everywhere' story from the Telegraph newspaper - which made me laugh out loud. 


Hugo Chavez 'appears' on construction site wall

President Nicolas Maduro claims marks on a wall are the image of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez

Stories of Chavez appearances draw mockery from the roughly half of Venezuelans who do not support Mr Maduro Photo: Reuters

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said an image of his political idol and predecessor, the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, had appeared miraculously in the wall of an underground construction site.

Since his death from cancer earlier this year, Chavez has taken on mythical proportions for supporters, and Mr Maduro has spoken of seeing his former mentor's spirit several times, including in the shape of a bird.

In the latest incident, Mr Maduro said Chavez's face briefly appeared to workers building a subway line in Caracas in the middle of the night.

"My hair stands on end just telling you about it," Mr Maduro said on state TV late, showing a photo of a white-plaster wall with marks that appear like eyes and a nose.

"Who is that face? That gaze is the gaze of the fatherland that is everywhere around us, including in inexplicable phenomena," added Mr Maduro, who won an April election to replace Chavez after his 14-year presidency.

Mr Maduro's reverence for Chavez plays well with government supporters, who treat the charismatic former leader's memory with religious adoration. The 50-year-old Maduro, who mixes Catholic beliefs with a penchant for Asian spirituality, has been a devoted personal follower of Chavez since first meeting him at a jail in 1993.

Workers took the photo with a mobile phone during the image's brief appearance, the president added.

"Just as it appeared, so it disappeared. So you see, what you say is right, Chavez is everywhere, we are Chavez, you are Chavez," Mr Maduro said during an event on live TV.

Stories of Chavez appearances draw mockery, however, from the roughly half of Venezuelans who do not support Mr Maduro. Many of them regard him as a buffoon riding on Chavez's image and causing embarrassment for Venezuela's international standing.

Both sides are gearing up for local elections in December that will be a major test of Mr Maduro's standing in the OPEC nation of 29 million people. Rampant violent crime and economic problems are the main issues taxing voters.

The president's first six months in office have been characterized by dozens of accusations ranging from assassination and coup plots to sabotage of the power grid. Critics say that is a smokescreen to cover up domestic problems.

Edited by Bonnie Malkin

Sleep Disorder (19 October 2013)

I've been taking a keen interest in what's going on in Venezuela these days as I'm fascinated by the rise to power of President Nicolas Maduro to power - because I'm convinced he's a political panhandler, a phoney or as we might say here in Scotland a complete chancer.

My reason for saying this is that the Venezuelan Maduro sees 'dead people' when it suits his purpose and one in particular - his predecessor Hugo Chavez who appeared to him in the form of a little bird at the height of the presidential election.  

But this kind of shameless behaviour has continued with the new President letting it be known that he beds down frequently in the mausoleum where Hugo Chavez's remains have been paid to rest - in the Mountain Barracks which is a 19th century fort in a run-down areas of Caracas.  

Apparently, the 'Great Leader's' tomb is housed in the ornate central atrium of the military barracks and is now guarded - around the clock - by soldiers replete with red and yellow hussars uniforms and swords, although what Hugo Chavez is being protected from is anyone's guess. 

President Maduro 'slipped out' this revelation, quite deliberately of course,  and announced portentously to his people

"I sometimes come at night. At times, many times, I sleep here. We enter at night and we stay to sleep. At night we reflect on things here."

The royal 'we' in this case is the president's entourage who join him in the mausoleum, but it's all clearly just a silly political stunt designed to reinforce the personality cult that grew up around Hugo Chavez - in the hope that some of this will rub off on Maduro.

The latest wheeze from the new President is to ask parliament to grant him special powers - so that Nicolas can govern by Presidential decree for up to three years - allegedly to tackle corruption and economic sabotage.   

Yet the language used by President Maduro in seeking these new powers is very revealing and in a three-hour speech to the Parliament  he reportedly called it a "matter of life or death" for the country's socialist revolution, before adding:

"If corruption keeps expanding and perpetuating its destructive capitalist logic, there will be no socialism here."

Now the problem with this kind of overblown rhetoric is that it's empty-headed, rabble-rousing nonsense of course - since all kinds of people around the world will tell you that 'capitalist' countries have no monopoly on political corruption.

If politics has taught me anything, it's that people with 'left' or 'right' wing views are both very  capable of behaving very badly - and that by and large it's bad for democracy and the body politic for any one person or party to remain in power for too long - because as the saying goes 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts, absolutely'.  

Looney Tunes (7 May 2013)

A few weeks ago, the acting President of Venezuela - Nicolas Maduro - told the world that the former President of Venezuela - Hugo Chavez - had appeared to him during the presidential election campaign in the form of a little bird.

Now at the time I said Nicolas was either bonkers or a complete charlatan - and evidence in support of my statement continues to pile up as the Venezuelan leader sees plots around every corner.

Is the President paranoid?, seems a fair question to ask in the circumstances - but I think not, I suspect it's all just a cynical political act.

The latest claim from Nicolas Maduro is that he is the target of an alleged Colombian plot to  assassinate the Venezuelan President - an incendiary charge to make towards a neighbour and one for which Nicolas has not a shred of evidence to back up his claim.

Just like Hugo Chavez appearing to him in the form of a little bird - it's an emotional appeal that's designed to exploit people's feelings - their sense of loss over Chavez and now their sense of resentment towards a neighbouring country, Colombia.

So the newly elected President Maduro has accused former Colombian leader - Alvaro Uribe - of plotting to assassinate him - and Nicolas has alleged other conspiracies against him since taking over from the late Hugo Chavez - and winning disputed elections last month.

The BBC reported Maduro as saying last week:

"Uribe is behind a plot to kill me. Uribe is a killer. I have enough evidence of who is conspiring, and there are sectors of the Venezuelan right involved."

Yet, conveniently, no evidence has been produced - and this latest outburst seems like yet another inflammatory attempt by Maduro to portray his critics variously as  killers, traitors, fascists and bogeymen.

Meanwhile, Mr Uribe responded by describing President Maduro as 'immature' - which seems an very apt description to me of a new President who appears to be way, way out of his depth.