Venezuela’s “Death Spiral”

For many Venezuelans, by every economic, social and political measure, their nation is unravelling at breakneck speed.

Severe shortages of food, clean water, electricity, medicines and hospital supplies punctuate a dire scenario of crime-ridden streets in the impoverished neighborhoods of this nearly failed OPEC state, which at one time claimed to be the most prosperous nation in Latin America.

Today, a once comfortable middle-class Venezuelan father is scrambling desperately to find his family’s next meal — sometimes hunting through garbage for salvageable food. The unfortunate 75% majority of Venezuelans already suffering extreme poverty are reportedly verging on starvation.

Darkness is falling on Hugo Chavez’s once-famous “Bolivarian revolution” that some policy experts, only a short time ago, thought would never end.

In a 2007 study on the Chavez years for the Washington, DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, Mark Weisbrot and Luis Sandoval wrote:

“[a]t present it does not appear that the current economic expansion is about to end any time in the near future. The gains in poverty reduction, employment, education and health care that have occurred in the last few years are likely to continue along with the expansion.”

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American Law? Or Christian Law, Muslim Law, Jewish Law?

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has rejected an argument that would essentially have required a lower court to divide the proceeds of a wrongful-death suit under shariah (Islamic law) rules governing inheritance. The decision was based on technical grounds, leaving open the question of whether a state court would apply shariah in the future.

Nadir Ibrahim Ombabi, a 57-year-old taxi driver, was killed October 29, 2012, in a car accident outside Minneapolis. Ombabi was a native of Sudan, where he was a family doctor, and was working on becoming certified as a medical doctor in the U.S. when he died. He was active in Minnesota’s Sudanese community.

Ombabi left behind a wife, mother, brother, and sisters. He married Nariman Sirag Elsayed Khalil in Sudan, under Islamic law. Reportedly, she was still living in Africa when Ombabi died, and he would “often send back money to help his family.” His brother was living in California and a sister in Canada.

Ombabi’s next of kin brought a wrongful-death claim, which was settled for $183,000. Minnesota law requires the proceeds of a wrongful-death suit to be given to “the surviving spouse and next of kin, proportionate to the pecuniary loss severally suffered by the death.”

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Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning.

Eurosceptics are up in arms today following the High Court’s ruling that Theresa May would have to seek Parliamentary approval before she can trigger Brexit by invoking Article 50. “A great betrayal is underway”, Nigel Farage wrote in this morning’s Telegraph. “It was a mistake for the courts to intervene on such a huge political issue,” Philip Johnson said.  Iain Duncan Smith accused the judges – Lord Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Terence Etherton, the Master of the Rolls, and Lord Justice Sales – of risking a “constitutional crisis” by “pitting Parliament against the will of the people”.

The Attorney General is already under pressure to resign after losing the High Court case, with Tory MPs saying that Jeremy Wright should be replaced by a more experienced lawyer. The Government has already pledged to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, although an insider told this newspaper that ministers are resigned to losing the case. If this happens, ministers are preparing an Act of Parliament on the triggering of Article 50, which would mean that both the Commons and Lords would be able to debate, amend and vote on it before it is invoked. This process could end up delaying Brexit by a year, as Europhile MPs are already planning how to exploit it. George Osborne and Nicky Morgan have already indicated that they would seek to use it to force Mrs May to reveal in the Commons her plans for Brexit, despite her prior refusal to “show her cards” before starting formal negotiations.

There are 17.4 million reasons why they won’t try to throw out the bill in the hopes of stopping Brexit, and they’re called voters. But that won’t stop them trying to table amendments to water down the type of Brexit Parliament goes on to approve. Hillary Benn has already admitted that he would approve Article 50 in a vote, but hinted that his fellow Europhiles could target “what we should be seeking in negotiations”. If they succeed, Mrs May could be forced to trigger an early general election in order to increase her majority in the Commons. “If we get to the stage where [MPs] are not willing to allow this negotiation to even begin,” Dominic Raab warned, “I think there must be an increased chance that we will need to go to the country again.” One minister said that Mrs May and her closest advisers are “completely against” calling an early general election, but could this change?

The Government seems quietly optimistic about its chances in a vote on Article 50, as Sajid Javid told BBC’s Question Time last night that it could win such a vote next week if necessary. But how would it fare in the Lords? Europhile peers could try and obstruct the bill without having to worry about voters, but Eurosceptic MPs are already onto them. Jacob Rees-Mogg suggests in today’s paper that the 1911 Parliament Act may be needed to ram the bill through the Lords, or the Government could create “a thousand new peers to overcome the Remain majority in the Upper House”.

In the meantime Theresa May is talking to Jean Claude-Juncker today to make clear to him that the High Court ruling won’t stop her from taking Britain out of the European Union. You can follow what happens today on our liveblog here. “In Brussels, the court verdict has been widely interpreted as the first step in the undoing of Britain’s plebiscite,” Dan Hannan warns. The Prime Minister won’t let judges take her off course.

European Leaders Discuss Plan for European Army

European leaders are discussing “far-reaching proposals” to build a pan-European military, according to a French defense ministry document leaked to the German newspaper, the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The efforts are part of plans to relaunch the European Union at celebrations in Rome next March marking the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Community.

The document confirms rumors that European officials are rushing ahead with defense integration now that Britain — the leading military power in Europe — will be exiting the 28-member European Union.

British leaders have repeatedly blocked efforts to create a European army because of concerns that it would undermine the NATO alliance, the primary defense structure in Europe since 1949.

Proponents of European defense integration argue that it is needed to counter growing security threats and would save billions of euros in duplication between countries.

Critics say that the creation of a European army, a long-held goal (see Appendix below) of European federalists, would entail an unprecedented transfer of sovereignty from European nation states to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, the de facto capital of the EU.

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The Rich and Us

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, having a net worth of $81.8 billion, and Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, having a net worth of $70.4 billion, are the nation’s two richest men. They are at the top of the Forbes 400 list of America’s superrich individuals, people who have net worths of billions of dollars. Many see the rich as a danger. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote, “It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.” His colleague Paul Krugman wrote, “On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.” It’s sentiments like these that have led me to wish there were a humane way to get rid of the rich. For without having the rich around to be whipping boys and distract our attention, we might be able to concentrate on what’s best for the 99.9 percent of the rest of us.

Let’s look at the power of the rich. With all the money that Gates, Bezos and other superrich people have, what can they force you or me to do? Can they condemn our houses to create space so that another individual can build an auto dealership or a casino parking lot? Can they force us to pay money into the government-run — and doomed — Obamacare program? Can they force us to bus our children to schools out of our neighborhood in the name of diversity? Can they force us to buy our sugar from a high-cost domestic producer rather than from a low-cost Caribbean producer? The answer to all of these questions is a big fat no.

You say, “Williams, I don’t understand.” Let me be more explicit. Bill Gates cannot order you to enroll your child in another school in order to promote racial diversity. He has no power to condemn your house to make way for a casino parking lot. Unless our elected public officials grant them the power to rip us off, rich people have little power to force us to do anything. A lowly municipal clerk earning $50,000 a year has far more life-and-death power over us. It is that type of person to whom we must turn for permission to build a house, ply a trade, open a restaurant and do myriad other activities. It’s government people, not rich people, who have the power to coerce us and rip us off. They have the power to make our lives miserable if we disobey. This coercive power goes a long way toward explaining legalized political corruption.

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