Archive for August 2008
Labour Day in Canada is fast-approaching, and in Toronto a wide range of events have scheduled by various levels of government and other organizations to celebrate thss holiday. (The airshow and Toronto Island beaches top my list.)
Is the public holiday of Labour Day popular where you are? Is it even legally recognized (I address this question to my non-Canadian readers)? Do you have plans to do anything on Labour Day, or are you just hoping to be able to find someplace to hide from the madness?
When I first heard Mariah Carey’s 1995 song “Fantasy”, I remember thinking that, wow, that funky rhythm was something really original that made the dreary song worth listening to as background! That juxtaposition was unsettling. Thus, you can imagine my relief when I found out that “Fantasy” was built around a sample from the Tom Tom Club‘s much superior 1981 “Genius of Love”.
“Genius of Love” sounds preternaturally cheerful, with the funky rhythms (prodyuct of the song’s narrator, perhaps, who sings “I’m in heaven/With the maven of funk mutation”) and the cheerful animated music video (shown above) and the call-and-response stylings. It is: It is so cheerful that phrases like “With my boyfriend, my laughing boyfriend/There’s no beginning and there is no end/Time isn’t present in that dimention” can coexist alongside “I surely miss him/The way he’d hold me in his warm arms/We went insane when we took cocaine.” Let’s not forget how the entire song is set up by the question “What you gonna do when you get out of jail?”
“Genius of Love”: Faintly sleazy, but still wonderful.
Earlier this week Noel Maurer wrote a post (“Building a Machine”) on how Venezuela’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela seemed to be building a polity-controlling political machine akin to Chicago’s Cook County Democratic Organization.
The idea is to make key aspects of everyday life dependent on support for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). It’s not Communism; rather, it’s Daleyism, put in charge of a country. Do it right, and there will be no need for secret police or election stealing. Do it wrong, and your government will eventually (if you’re unlucky) start breaking heads or (if you’re lucky) become like Mexico.
The least machine-like part of the emerging PSUV machine involves the Mercal stores. The Bolivarian Republic imports food and other basic products (or purchases them from approved suppliers) at market prices, and then resells them to the public through the Mercales. I visited several; except for the one in a high-priced part of Chacao, there were always lines. This should not be unexpected, of course. If the idea is to get basic products into people’s hands at subsidized prices, then lines are what should result, if the prices really are subsidized.
[. . .]
Subsidies are expensive. I haven’t been able to find any information on how much Venezuela spends on Mercal subsidies. That doesn’t mean that it’s out there; that just means that it’s hard to find. This IESA case on the stores, published in 2008, has no data past 2005. So it’s hard to tell whether the government is actually stimulating “food security” or just subsidizing imports, which is probably the last thing it needs to be doing in the middle of an export boom.
[T]he stores give the government a political hedge against inflation. For a brief period last year, the government tried to fight rising inflation via price controls. That led to problems. (Venezuela reminds me of Mexico back in the 1980s and early 1990s. Boy, do I have price control stories from back in the day.) Now, though, the government can let inflation rip while protecting some of its constituents from the worst effects, albeit at a growing fiscal cost.
Finally, the Mercal stores provide the infrastructure for creating a machine. It wouldn’t be hard to add ration cards or other ID requirements to the stores; accelerating inflation would provide a rationale. Of course, other income subsidizing programs could also be politicized: vigorous multi-party politics and a vigilant press is the reason that doesn’t happen in Mexico and Brazil, but it has elsewhere. My instinct, though, is that it would be much easier to politicize access to subsidized stores than access to an income-supplementing program.
All that reminded me of my native Prince Edward Island, where the incumbent premier Robert Ghiz might well lose his job come the next election because, among other things, he seems to have respected the Supreme Court’s decision that political patronage is illegal and that it’s quite right to hire people for their skill sets and not for their affiliation to the ruling political party of the day. There’s also the time in the early 1970s that the very popular premier Alex Campbell decided, wth no small measure of support from an afraid populace, to deal with the possibility of hippie infestation by passing a law that declared public gatherings of more than three people illegal. (It was later quietly pointed out that this law might, in fact, be unconstitutional.)
What does all this prove? Whether on the Gulf of St. Lawrence on on the shore sof the Caribbean,a dn likely in many other places besides, it’s probably a very good thing for the state not political parties to judge who should get access to the necessities of life. The Nika riots don’t recommend themselves as systems of government.
Brazil’s emergence as one of the famed BRIC powers, coinciding as it does with the massive oil-driven economic boom in a similarly Lusophone Angola that lies on just the other side of the South Atlantic Ocean, has seen Brazil emerge as one of Angola’s major trading partners as described in Mario do Queiroz’s article “Portuguese – the Common Language of Trade”. This economic engagement doesn’t mean, as Paula Góes points out in her Global Voices Online links post “Angola, Brazil: A culture shock divide”, that there aren’t more than a few misunderstandings along the way, as a Brazilian’s blog post from Angola and an Angolan’s from Brazil illustrate.