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Collapse: Venezuelan oil workers voting … with their feet

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Nicolas Maduro has claimed the state-owned oil company PDVSA as an example of “maximum socialist efficiency.” Its production trends tell a much different story, but Reuters notices another kind of output that portends even more economic disaster for Venezuela. Working conditions have deteriorated to the point where workers have lined up to quit, only to be told that their resignations won’t be accepted:

What’s going on is that thousands of oil workers are fleeing the state-run oil firm under the watch of its new military commander, who has quickly alienated the firm’s embattled upper echelon and its rank-and-file, according to union leaders, a half-dozen current PDVSA workers, a dozen former PDVSA workers and a half-dozen executives at foreign companies operating in Venezuela.

Some PDVSA offices now have lines outside with dozens of workers waiting to quit. In at least one administrative office in Zulia state, human resources staff quit processing out the quitters, hanging a sign, “we do not accept resignations,” an oil worker there told Reuters.

Official workforce statistics have become a closely guarded secret, but a dozen sources told Reuters that many thousands of workers had quit so far this year – an acceleration of an already troubling outflow last year.

About 25,000 workers resigned between the start of January 2017 and the end of January 2018, said union leader and government critic Ivan Freites, citing internal company data. That figure comes out of a workforce last officially reported by PDVSA at 146,000 in 2016.

The exodus flows from every level of PDVSA, but it’s the educated flight that might matter most in the long run. Professionals at PDVSA no longer earn enough to feed their families, but they also have skills and knowledge that will allow them to flee to other countries in South America and start over.  The Venezuelan education system is no longer capable of producing professionals; in a country that can no longer feed itself, baccalaureate degrees are a low priority, let alone doctorates in engineering and law.

The flight of workers at other levels present more acute issues, and not just in production. Without enough people to service the equipment, the job’s getting more dangerous too:

Jobs at PDVSA were once coveted for their generous salaries and benefits, including cheap credit for housing. Now, many PDVSA workers can’t feed their families on wages that amount to a handful of U.S. dollars a month. …

In the Orinoco Belt, some drilling rigs are working only intermittently for lack of crews, said two sources there. In PDVSA’s refineries, several small fires have broken out because there are no longer enough supervisors, two sources in the northern Paraguana peninsula said. Lack of personnel in export terminals have forced some ports to cut back working hours, according to two shippers and one trader.

One would think under these circumstances that Maduro might try to bolster morale within PDVSA. And he’s tried, in the usual dictatorial beatings-will-continue manner:

Maduro has overseen the arrest of dozens of high-level PDVSA executives since late last year, sometimes at the Caracas headquarters as shocked employees looked on. Workers now feel watched by supervisors and are loathe to make any business decision out of fear they will later be accused of corruption, the sources said.

This, of course, is straight out of F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. Socialism and its central command of a national economy create impossible economic contradictions. When failure inevitably results, the socialists in charge cannot admit that socialism itself is the problem, so they accuse others of corruption or incompetence and find ever-more-ruthless replacements to solve the problem. It’s not a coincidence that the man running PDVSA is a major general who had been previously a housing minister for Maduro, and it’s also no coincidence that his predecessors got arrested for “graft.”

Quevedo’s game plan could have come right out of Hayek’s warnings:

A stiff official who rose through the National Guard, Quevedo fired many long-term employees upon arrival and urged remaining ones to denounce any of their colleagues who oppose Maduro. He tapped soldiers for top roles, giving the oil firm the atmosphere of a “barrack,” two company sources said.

“The military guys arrive calling the engineers thieves and saboteurs,” said a Venezuelan oil executive at a private company who frequently works with PDVSA.

Hey, who wouldn’t want to work at PDVSA under those conditions? Small wonder that Venezuelans are exercising the only effective vote they have — voting with their feet. Even that small breath of freedom will likely depart soon. Closing the HR offices is just the first step; soon, Quevedo and Maduro will declare that workers have no right to quit their job and deprive the glorious Socialist revolution of their skills. They’ll be forced to work at PDVSA at starvation wages. Just imagine what that will do for production.

Hey, Hayek didn’t call it The Road to Serfdom by accident.

Reuters also notes that PDVSA is being propped up mainly by three international firms: Russia’s Rosneft, China’s CNPC, and … Chevron, based in California. All three are reportedly concerned over the flight of workers from the PDVSA paradise. One has to wonder why Chevron’s still sticking around at all. Maybe they should explain that.

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You won’t have Maggie Haberman to kick around anymore (on Twitter, anyway)

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Another voice on Twitter is falling silent (at least mostly) but it has nothing to do with the recent Great Twitter Purge. New York Times columnist Maggie Haberman is throwing in the towel for the time being, while allowing the possibility that she may return after a break. The first indication of her imminent departure came, ironically enough, on Twitter.

I’m not sure how “no reason or prompt” fits into the explanation, but Haberman expanded on her decision in a column yesterday.

I woke up last Sunday morning feeling anxiety in my chest as I checked the Twitter app on my phone, scrolling down to refresh, refresh, refresh. There was a comment I started to engage with — I opened a new post, tapped out some words, then thought better of it and deleted the tweet. The same thing happened repeatedly for the next two hours.

The evening before, I had complained to a close friend that I hated being on Twitter. It was distorting discourse, I said. I couldn’t turn off the noise. She asked what was the worst that could happen if I stepped away from it.

There was nothing I could think of. And so just after 6 p.m. last Sunday, I did.

After nearly nine years and 187,000 tweets, I have used Twitter enough to know that it no longer works well for me. I will re-engage eventually, but in a different way.

Haberman goes into greater detail than simply saying it “wasn’t working for her” anymore. She describes at length the, “viciousness, toxic partisan anger, intellectual dishonesty, motive-questioning and sexism” she regularly encounters. In a sweeping bit of generalization, she describes the platform has having become, “an anger video game for many users.”

Having been a user of the system for eight years now, and not wanting to come off as too much of a jerk, all I could really think to say is, “welcome to Twitter.”

People leave Twitter all the time, some permanently and others just for a break. And yes, if you allow it to absorb your life it can definitely be an overwhelming experience. But as I said, that’s only if you let it. The fact is that Twitter is what you make of it, particularly in terms of how much time you’re willing to invest and to what purpose. Many of us (including yours truly) went through a period during their early days on the internet where our entire evening could boil away because… Oh My God… Somebody Is Wrong On The Internet.

I can remember some of my first online community interactions on the web. For a time I enjoyed participating in some USENET newsgroups. Since we’ve always kept pets I spent a brief period participating in the alt.cats community. What could go wrong in a group that enjoys talking about cats, right? Let me enlighten you. I ran into some Brit who was virulently opposed to keeping cats as indoor pets and thought they should all live outdoors. And yes, I spent weeks in a flamewar with him on that subject which sometimes kept me up until the wee hours of the morning because of the time difference between us. To this day I’m not sure which one of us came off looking more like the troll.

The point is that I eventually learned that I didn’t have to do that. Twitter is no different. If you’re getting so much hate and trolling that you’re losing your mind you can always simply shut down (or ignore) your mentions. It’s easy enough to set up groups of people you actually want to hear from. If you’re a relatively famous blue checkmark person (and Haberman definitely qualifies) you can also tone down the noise by filtering your mentions to only show verified accounts. Mute is also a wonderful feature if those other filters don’t do the trick.

But mostly it’s just a question of how compelled you feel to engage or how much weight you assign to some anonymous user who wants to call you names, impugn your reputation or otherwise haunt you. Personally, I find that my eyes are the best filter of all. After enough time walking through the maelstrom of the various social networks, you can quickly skim past the comments that aren’t going to add to the experience and simply engage with the ones who are either positive or at least offering constructive criticism.

I’m sure Maggie Haberman and I don’t see eye to eye on much but I’ve been following her on Twitter for some time. She frequently highlights and links to articles which I at least find worth my time to read and possibly even respond to here. I hope she comes back.

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Rep. Mark Meadows Calls For Carter Page FISA Docs to be Declassified, Unredacted

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On Saturday, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton announced documents related to the FISA warrants on Trump’s former campaign advisor, Carter Page were released by the FBI — and arrived at JW headquarters.

Fitton said Saturday evening Judicial Watch received the requested documents and even though they are heavily redacted, they confirm the FBI and DOJ misled the courts.

Obama’s Deep State DOJ and FBI withheld information about Hillary Clinton and the DNC being behind the information used to obtain the FISA warrant.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) called for the FISA docs to be declassified so “Americans can know the truth.”

Meadows tweeted: Potentially groundbreaking development here. The Carter Page FISA docs should be declassified and further unredacted (protecting only sources and methods) so Americans can know the truth.


If the previous admin was funneling campaign research toward surveillance, we need to know.

Comey, Rosenstein, McCabe and Sally Yates all signed the FISA applications even though Hillary’s fraudulent Russia dossier was used as a pretext to obtain the warrants.

Obama’s Deep State FBI and DOJ obtained a FISA warrant on Carter Page in October of 2016 and three subsequent renewals in order to spy on Trump’s campaign and transition team.

By law, the FBI must present to the FISC new, compelling information gathered from current monitoring in order to get a FISA warrant renewed every 90 days…

However, the applications filed to renew the Carter Page FISA warrants simply recycle old Christopher Steele/Yahoo information [Michael Isikoff’s Yahoo article on Carter Page] from the original application, reported Paul Sperry.

The newly released docs also reveal Peter Strzok did indeed provide information which was used to obtain a FISA warrant on Carter Page, directly contradicting his sworn claims to GOP lawmakers.

And President Trump isn’t allowed to question our intel agencies after all of this corruption??

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Nikki Haley: For peace, we need to tell the truth about Hamas

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UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, along with presidential adviser Jared Kushner, ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and assistant to the president Jason Greenblatt, published a piece today at CNN arguing that peace in Gaza will require telling the truth about Hamas. Haley recounts a recent vote in the UN when it seemed, for the first time, a majority of other nations might actually agree:

On the surface, everything about the General Assembly session on June 13 appeared to be business as usual. Algeria offered a grossly one-sided resolution blaming Israel — and Israel alone — for the recent violence in Gaza. The resolution blatantly ignored the facts.

Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza, has been inciting the violence at the Israeli boundary fence for months, using Palestinian civilians as human shields. And Hamas and other terror groups have fired more than 100 rockets and sent untold numbers of flaming kites, some displaying swastikas, into Israel in the past month, hoping to kill as many Israeli civilians and destroy as much property as possible. And yet the Algerian resolution not only failed to hold Hamas terrorists accountable for their role in the violence, it failed to mention Hamas at all.

In response, the United States proposed a simple amendment to the resolution that called out Hamas for its role in the skirmishes. A minimum fealty to the truth demanded that the United Nations condemn Hamas by name for firing rockets into Israel and for allowing other terror groups to do the same…

When the amendment came to a vote, a miracle by UN standards happened. Although the measure ultimately failed for technical reasons, more nations voted for holding Hamas accountable with the US amendment than against it.

For the first time in the United Nations, more nations than not acknowledged that peace between Israel and the Palestinian people must be built on a foundation of truth regarding Hamas.

Haley goes on to say that this kind of realism will be part of any U.S. sponsored peace proposal. If you haven’t been keeping up with what is going on in Gaza, Israel unleashed a string of attacks on Hamas outposts after an Israeli soldier was killed by a sniper:

On Friday, a Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier along the border — the first casualty it has sustained in four years — and Israel unleashed an offensive it says destroyed more than 60 Hamas targets, including three battalion headquarters. Four Palestinians were killed, of which three were Hamas militants.

“The attack delivered a severe blow to the Hamas’s training array, command and control abilities, weaponry, aerial defense and logistic capabilities along with additional military infrastructure,” the Israeli military said in a statement, adding that the strikes “will intensify as necessary.”…

In a brief statement early Saturday, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the movement accepted the cease-fire brokered by Egyptian and United Nations officials and that calm had been restored. Later, the Israeli military announced a return to civilian routine along the volatile border.

So, further escalation of the conflict has been avoided for now but there’s no telling how long it will last. While Hamas lacks the military strength to make significant strikes on Israel, its leaders continue to talk in terms of ethnic cleansing. It’s difficult to imagine making peace so long as these people are in control:

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