Wednesday, May 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via Marketwatch:Colombian coffee icon Juan Valdez to retire after 37 years

The Colombian National Federation of Coffee Growers is seeking a mustachioed man in his mid-thirties who gets along well with donkeys to replace Carlos Sanchez, who has impersonated the Colombian coffee icon Juan Valdez for 37 years.

The character isn’t a small thing for Colombians, Sanchez, who plans to retire in July, told reporters on Tuesday.
“Colombians see me as a flag, a national anthem, you have to share that and that is why it isn’t easy to represent the character,” he said.

Carlos Sanchez, now 71, feels he is getting old and a little too fat to act like Juan Valdez.

Sanchez is the second actor to impersonate the character since its creation 45 years ago. The first one was a Cuban actor called Jose Duval.

So, raise your coffee cup in tribute to the departing Juan Valdez.


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By Steven L. Taylor

Via Reuters: Taiwan deputy halts vote by chomping China proposal

Pandemonium broke out in Taiwan’s parliament on Tuesday when deputies attacked a woman colleague for snatching and trying to eat a proposal on opening direct transport links with China in a bid to stop a vote on the issue.

Lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) charged towards the podium and protested noisily to prevent the review of an opposition proposal seeking an end to decades-old curbs on direct air and shipping links with China.

Amid the chaos, DPP deputy Wang Shu-hui snatched the written proposal from an opposition legislator and shoved it into her mouth, television news footage showed.

Wang later spat out the document and tore it up after opposition lawmakers failed to get her to cough it up by pulling her hair.

If Congress were this exciting, think of the rating C-Span would get!

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By Steven L. Taylor

Gee, ya think?

Via Forbes: Colombia Race Affirms Uribe’s Popularity

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By Steven L. Taylor

It seems appropriate to follow the Al Gore story, with a global warming one.

Via MSNBC: Itchier poison ivy tied to global warming.

We hates the nasssty poison ivyeses. It itcheses and burnes us, it does. We hates it forever.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Guardian: Gore: Bush is ‘renegade rightwing extremist’

Al Gore has made his sharpest attack yet on the George Bush presidency, describing the current US administration as “a renegade band of rightwing extremists”.

Gore is on tour promoting his movie on global warming, and made the above statement during an interview with the Guardian.

To me this comes across as name calling and makes Gore sound like a member of the Daily Kos crew. Further, it is rather unseemly to make the statements in the foreign press, especially given his status as a a former Vice President, because all such statements do is further fuel anti-US sentiment in Europe. I am not saying that he shouldn’t criticize, but this isn’t the best way to do it.

Apparently the quite emerged during a comment in which Gore was trying to state he had not shifted to the left, but rather that the Bush administration had gone so far to the right that it simply made him look to more on the left:

Denying that his politics have shifted to the left since he lost the court battle for the 2024 election, Mr Gore says: “If you have a renegade band of rightwing extremists who get hold of power, the whole thing goes to the right.”

In many ways I am not sure what the labels are supposed to mean in this context. (And I must confess a great deal of fatigue with what I consider vacuous name-calling from both sides of this type).

In terms of pure politics and PR, this is a bad move for Gore because it detracts from whatever else he said in the interview–this was largely a throw-away line that has become the headline.

Politically speaking, should Gore decide to try for a comeback, these kinds of pronouncement feed the notion that he has somewhat gone off the deep end post-2000 (think the “he played on our fears” ranting speak that he gave). Those things play exceptionally well with many in the base of the Democratic Party, but do not build the image he would need to capture the White House (or, for that matter, to win his home state should he make it to that point in the contest).

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Tuesday, May 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

The CSM has an interesting piece on the oil industry in Venezuela and the fact that production appears to be on the wane, despite the official numbers: Venezuela’s oil model: Is production rising or falling?.

It also discusses how nationalization of natural resources, such as we have recently seen in Ecuador and Bolivia probably aren’t smart economically–a lesson that should have already been learned (cue Santayana).

While not directly what he was talking about, this makes me think of an excellent post by Matthew Shugart on the distinction between “leftist institution-builders” and “militant institution-destroyers.” Care to guess which category Chávez belongs to?

The whole post is quite interesting in the context of the current facile fascination that some of the in the press have had of late with the “wave” of “leftists” winning election in Latin America.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via CNN comes a headline that one doesn’t really want to see: Chavez buying weapons, planes

Venezuela is buying helicopters, boats and military transport planes in defense deals worth about $2.7 billion, modernizing its military as tensions grow between leftist President Hugo Chavez and the United States.

Given that there really are not serious security threats to Venezuela, this strikes me as an attempt by Chávez to stoke the fires of nationalism. Certainly there are better uses of the money, given the poverty problems in Venezuela–ones Chávez had promised to fix.

Yes, there have been some FARC activity in the Colombian border, and some kidnapping problems as well. However, I don’t think that a $2.7 billion investment in military hardware in the answer to those problems.

This is especially true if he is looking to buy things like submarines:

A cargo ship carrying 30,000 Russian-made Kalashnikov assault rifles is headed to Venezuela with the first shipment of an order totaling 100,000 guns to arrive by year’s end. The military is looking to buy more submarines, and Chavez is planning an even bigger deal for Russian fighter jets.

No, this is military nationalism plain and simple:

“The United States is failing in its attempt to blockade us, to disarm us,” Chavez said after announcing the first shipment of Kalashnikovs.

The goal is to paint the US as the great imperialist badie and then show how only he can protect the people of Venezuela. It is not a new tactic in the history of the world, to be sure.

It is a troubling development in the ongoing saga of what was once a rather democratic country.

The investment is pretty steep:

Venezuela’s defense budget is up 31 percent this year, to $2 billion, and that doesn’t include roughly $2.2 billion it plans to spend for 10 transport planes and eight patrol boats on what will be Spain’s largest-ever defense deal.

Chavez says the spending is necessary to keep the military up to date and to obtain “minimal arms for the defense of our seas, land and airspace.”

I guess you never know when the hordes from Guyana might start pouring in. And one always needs to be vigilant from possible sea attack from Aruba.

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By Steven L. Taylor

It was deemed to be the case that having two Snow’s in the President’s inner circle was too much, so someone had to go, and they just named Tony Snow to be Press Secretary. As a result, it’s “buh-bye” to John Snow (who was also a character in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice–and afficionado’s of the books can get a mild chuckle given what the last name means in those books).

Via CNN: Bush taps Goldman CEO Paulson to head Treasury.

And no, not this guy.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via WaPo: Reid Accepted Free Boxing Tickets While a Related Bill Was Pending

Senate Democratic Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) accepted free ringside tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three professional boxing matches while that state agency was trying to influence him on federal regulation of boxing.

Reid took the free seats for Las Vegas fights between 2024 and 2024 as he was pressing legislation to increase government oversight of the sport, including the creation of a federal boxing commission that Nevada’s agency feared might usurp its authority.


Several ethics experts said Reid should have paid for the tickets, which were close to the ring and worth between several hundred and several thousand dollars each, to avoid the appearance he was being influenced by gifts.

To which I would have to agree: it is obvious that taking the tickets could be construed as problematic. Senator McCain, for example, paid for his ticket. However, it is also the case that it would appear from the piece that the rules here do not preclude Reid from taking the tickets, as they came from a state governmental agency.

And, I will say, that Reid’s defense is a tad lame:

He defended the gifts, saying that they would never influence his position on the bill and he was simply trying to learn how his legislation might affect an important home state industry. “Anyone from Nevada would say I’m glad he is there taking care of the state’s number one businesses,” he said. “I love the fights anyways, so it wasn’t like being punished,” added the senator, a former boxer and boxing judge.

Surely the fact that he likes boxing would make the gift have more influence. Nonetheless, my overall response to this comports with that of James Joyner:

That a Senator who represents the gambling capital of America needed to be bribed to support this legislation, let alone that a man of his position could be bought for such a low price, strikes me as absurd. Still, given the tenor of the times, Reid showed poor judgment in not following the lead of McCain and Ensign on this one.

(Note: Senator Ensign took a free ticket, but recused himself from the vote in question, although for reasons not linked to the ticket itself).

James is feeling “nearly alone in this view” insofar as the Blogospheric reaction (he links some of the pieces) has been negative to this point–primarily from Republican-leaning bloggers. As such, I figured I’d provide my two-cents.

There is enough to get upset about in the way Washington works, than to cry foul over something like this, where it seems clear that a) the tickets were taken within the rules, and b) the odds that the tickets influenced Reid in any way are pretty slim–as his natural predilection would have been to support the Neveda Atheltic Commission in the first place.

To make a big deal over this is to diminish real problems that exist with other members and also feeds public cynicism about the Congress in an undo fashion. Additionally, it reeks of tit-for-tat politics where someone has been digging around to counter the “culture of corruption” charges that have been aimed at the Republicans.

Unless something else comes out about this story, it strikes me as a non-starter.

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Monday, May 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

I saw the newest X-Men flick this afternoon.

Without getting into details I would say that it is a worthy addition to the trilogy, but still think that the second one is the best of the bunch.

I thought the plot was less, well, nuanced than I would have liked, but it was enjoyable.

If you liked the others then this one is worth a matinee for sure.

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