In the pantheon of Ecuadorian leaders, Correa is fitting in nicely

Ok people bear with me for some history. Among its presidents, Ecuador can count Abdala Bucaram or “El Loco Ladron” (the crazy thief).  And,  in the 10 years between “El Loco” and Correa, the presidency changed hands 7 times!!

So in some ways Correa is an outlier in that he’s been in there for almost 9 years now.

But in other ways, it’s meet the new loco, same as the old loco

So most recently, Rafa got epically trolled by a future voter:


Later that week, he also tweeted out the following:

Did I mention he has a PhD in economics from the University of Illinois?

6 degrees of Hugo

A recent article in Reuters talks about a new college course offered in Venezuela called “Studies of the Thoughts of the Supreme Commander Hugo Chavez.”  It was created by the military and so far more than 10,000 students have enrolled.  There are so many howlers in the article (even the name of the class is awesome) that I decided to just list my favorites:

1. “Students rise to their feet as a uniformed Venezuelan brigadier-general enters a large classroom at a Caracas military institute and proclaims: ‘Chavez lives!’ In unison, they reply: ‘The fight goes on!'”  Of course they do!  This seems appropriate for a college class.

2. “The course, which can form part of a degree or post-graduate studies, traces Chavez’s philosophical roots.”  And this is part of a degree or post-graduate studies?  Check out the incredible rigor of the course provided by this description: “The class analyzes Chavez’s boyhood in a rural shack, his love of baseball, his years in the military and failed coup attempt, the election victory that brought him to power, and the 1999-2013 presidency” 

or this (unintentionally hysterical) description by this student:Victor Flores, a military colonel, said he specially enjoyed learning personal anecdotes he had not heard before – about Chavez’s grandmother Rosa Ines, and another distant relative and revolutionary known as Maisanta.”

3. “‘At all times, he [Chavez] sought to imitate Christ in his actions,'” said Nerio Galban, secretary of the Bolivarian Military University of Venezuela where the course originated. Galban likened the Biblical story of Jesus feeding the five thousand to Chavez’s subsidized food programs. He compared Jesus’ healing of the sick to the “Miracle Mission” set up in 2004.”  Kevin says at this point Hugo has only miracle left in his bag! 

Markets in everything, cringeworthy development edition

I saw an ad on my FB feed yesterday for a “Compassion Experience” in OKC.  A local church has set up a bunch of trailers to “look like” poor areas of the world, namely Uganda, India and Bolivia. Visitors walk through the exhibit while listening to the voices of real poor people who narrate their lives and explain how Jesus saved them from their grinding poverty.  I kid you not–I couldn’t make this stuff up even if I tried.

Here is the official description of the event:

Through over 3,000 square feet of interactive exhibit space, visitors will step inside daily life in a developing country — visiting homes, markets and schools — without getting on a plane. Through the use of an iPod and headset, each tour is guided by a child whose story starts in poverty but ends in hope. The event is an excellent opportunity to experience another culture and better understand the realities of global poverty. Don’t miss this life-changing event brought to you by Compassion International and Church of the Servant.

and here is the awesomely cringe-worth video.  I think the sentiment behind this is perhaps a good one, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.  Now you can participate in poverty porn without ever leaving your doublewide in OKC.

What could possibly go wrong?

Wow. Bobby Mugabe just opened his latest campaign for president. He’s 89, he’s lost at least the last two elections, but he’s still president, he’s still running hard, and he still is a very snappy dresser:


And, he and his surrealistic party ZANU-PF, have an amazing plan to fix Zimbabwe:

In the 108 pages of Zanu-PF’s election manifesto, the word “indigenisation” appears at least 156 times.

The party is not coy about this, declaring: “Only the indigenisation and people’s empowerment reform programme can meet the goals of the people. There is no other alternative.”

Under its plan, 1138 companies across 12 different sectors would be targeted over the next five years. The party believes the takeovers would realise $7.3billion in assets for the government.

The value of these assets would then be used as security against borrowings, which, Zanu-PF believes, would ultimately create total value of $29.2billion. The money would be used to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, support agriculture, and fund education and health.


People, after a government nationalizes 1138 companies, how many foreign lenders will be knocking on the door offering to loan them money?





Your 21st Century Socialism Roundup

1. Due to shortages of basic, price-controlled commodities, Venezuela has introduced a rationing system that limits the quantities people can buy in supermarkets. People being people, have started buying the max quantity in one supermarket and then going to another and buying more. So the government is piloting a web-based system that registers all purchases of rationed items and supposedly will prevent duplicate buying (the article is very short on details of how this would work, it may just be cheap talk / jawboning). Among the 20 rationed goods are “leche, arroz, aceite, harina, azúcar, papel higiénico, crema dental” (milk, rice, cooking oil, flour, sugar, toilet paper, toothpaste). Yikes!

2. The Venezuelan government is trying to gauge international interest in a bond sale to raise dollars to buy….toilet paper? Plenty of other snarky tidbits in the article including the fact that while the (recently devalued) Bolivar officially exchanges at 6.3 per dollar, the black market rate is around 28 per dollar.

3. Finally, an amazing article about political feuding inside post-Chavez Chavismo by the excellent Alma Guillermo-Prieto in the NY Review of Books.

A “creative” view on academic ethics

In the last couple of years, I have increasingly received email invitations to obscure conferences.  I wonder sometimes if these conferences are for real and if anyone participates.  I mostly just put them in the trash folder and rarely read the details, but a colleague alerted me to this awesome conference and it’s interesting definition of ethics.

2013 International Conference on Creative Education (ICCE 2013) will be held on September 21-23, 2013, Singapore.

“Note: You are invited to contribute papers either in English or Chinese, which must include English title, abstract and references. The copy rate can not be more than 30%(include references ), and the article must be strictly typesetting in accordance with the template , otherwise the article will not be published, please respect the academic ethics !”

I was dumbfounded by this–I’ve never heard of a journal specifying a “copy rate,” let alone one that allows for 30% of the paper to be copied.  I would have thought the copy rate should be essentially 0, but I guess the idea of “creative education” has an different take on what it means to “respect the academic ethics!”