April 19, 2008

A Dilbert Delay

Justin Katz

It's too bad today's Dilbert cartoon wasn't published in closer proximity to the percentage of a percentage debate here on Anchor Rising.

Although, the stink eye is much less effective in the comment sections than in a boardroom.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I don't know how my previous post was lost/removed, but I'll redo and paraphrase.

Thanks for supporting my argument in the thread titled, "Venezuela's Casualties of Revolution". The contention there was that absolute numbers are less important than percentages, i.e. the number of murders in Venezuela vs. the number of murders in Colombia (much higher in absolute terms). I asked you to please inform Andrew and have him look at "A Dilbert Delay".

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 20, 2008 9:54 AM

It wasn't lost/removed, OTL; you put it in the comment thread of the post to which I link in this one.

Or maybe we're just so sinister that we were trying to hide it from you...

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 20, 2008 10:45 AM


Back to the original point of the post to which you are referring; by your analysis, it was safer to be an American serviceman or servicewoman serving in Iraq in 2007 (903 deaths) than it was to be a citizen of Venezeula (12,249+ murdered in 2007), ergo however bad you feel the Bush presidency has been for American soldiers, the Chavez presidency has been orders of magnitude worse for Venezuelan civilians, right?

I sincerely hope no one is employing leftist math to any actual physical engineering projects anywhere in the world.

Posted by: Andrew at April 20, 2008 12:05 PM

Or maybe we're just so sinister that we were trying to hide it from you. You sink to sarcasm when you have nothing to say. Incidentally, Justin, the word comes from two Greek words, sarcos, meaning flesh and and chasm meaning to tear. So when you have nothing constructive to say you "tear the flesh" in response. Underneath the snot of your remark you did supply a reason why my remarks weren't posted. For that, Thanks.

Back to the original point of the post to which you are referring; by your analysis, it was safer to be an American serviceman or servicewoman serving in Iraq in 2007 (903 deaths) than it was to be a citizen of Venezuela (12,249+ murdered in 2007), ergo however bad you feel the Bush presidency has been for American soldiers, the Chavez presidency has been orders of magnitude worse for Venezuelan civilians, right?

Why do you keep dodging the point that I have been continuously attempting to make which is that you turn a blind eye to the policies of the Colombian government and give them a free pass because you consider that government friendly to the United States. Respond to that and I will then take up your percentage argument.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 20, 2008 2:28 PM


I can't say that I'm terribly interested in leftist "math" that reaches the conclusion that homicide is less of a problem in Detroit (418 in 2006) than in Canada (605 in 2006). I'll stick with real stats.

And I already answered your question about Colombia. But since you apparently missed it the first time, I'll repost…

The last year I can find data for Colombia is 2005, with 17,726 homicides. That's a rate of about 40 per 100,000 per year, not good, but better than current conditions in Venezuela. It's also significantly lower than 2002 (28,837 murders), the year Alvaro Uribe was elected President.

Venezuela has earned scrutiny in this area because of the dramatic and sustained increase in the homicide rate that occurred over a short period of time and has not relented. The homicide rate in Venezuela was in the high teens-low 20s per 100,000 per year for most of the 1990s, but since 2000 has been consistently in the 30s, 40s and above. Are you at all curious about what changed in Venezuela around the year 2000?

I do admire your chutzpah for suggesting I'm the one looking at this ideologically. So purely in the abstract, given one leader who has presided over high but decreasing homicide rate, and another who has presided over a homicide rate that has increased so much, it has surpassed the first one, who would you say provides the better example of domestic governance?

Posted by: Andrew at April 20, 2008 3:33 PM

I find no answer to my question about the prejudiced way that you look at Venezuela vs. the pass that you give the Colombian government. Your citing of statistics, fails to answer my original question. 'Fess up and then we'll go from there on the subject.

I will say this, that Colombia has a policy of political murder and Venezuela does not. Here's a citation from The South County Independent.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN - Eustaquio Polo Rivera, 39, of Choco, Colombia, remembers a time when he, his wife, nine children and two grandchildren lived happily in the Curvaradó River Basin.

"We were free and grew our own food," Polo Rivera said, through an interpreter, using a small notebook to help him gather his thoughts.

But that changed in 1997, when the Colombian military and paramilitary began taking their land so multi-national corporations could farm it. In the years since, thousands have either been killed or fled.

"They said whoever didn't leave would be shot," Polo Rivera said. He stayed and worked with the resistance, but the pressure continued, he said.

The military made offers few could refuse. "If you don't sell us the land, we will buy it from your widow," he was told.

Now, instead of native crops like rice, bananas, plantains and yucca, African palm oil grows on thousands of acres that Polo Rivera's people - the indigenous Afro-Colombians - claim is rightfully theirs. And large swaths of forests have been cut down to make way for grazing fields.

"There has been huge ecological damage," Polo Rivera said. "Forests are gone, animals are destroyed and they drained swamps to make canals. The people get very sick from the chemicals sprayed on the crops."

Polo Rivera serves on the Board of the Major Council of the Curvaradó River Basin, an organization leading a peaceful resistance to reclaim the land for the Afro-Colombians.

Eustaquio provides a first hand account.
Your comments would be welcome.


Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 20, 2008 9:37 PM

Andrew, here are a few items that you may want to consider along with your statistics:
Published on Thursday, May 4, 2005 by the Associated Press
U.S. Troops Accused of Arming Colombian Death
Two soldiers arrested in raid Colombians may not be able to prosecute pair under treaty.
CARMEN DE APICALA, COLUMBIA -- Colombian police arrested two U.S. soldiers for alleged involvement in a plot to traffic thousands of rounds of ammunition - possibly to outlawed right-wing paramilitary groups, authorities said today.

PUERTO ASIS, Colombia -- Just walk into District Attorney German Martinez's office, and it becomes obvious he's a watched man. From across the street in the town's central square, hard-eyed men watch his every movement. Inside the dark, steamy, one-story building, two military officers wait to speak to him.
Just a few feet away from the soldiers, the 31-year old lawyer fiddles with his neatly stacked papers on the corner of his desk. Martinez gets death threats regularly, usually by telephone in this office. Two heavily armed bodyguards accompany him everywhere. All of this attention makes Martinez nervous; he shakes as he speaks.
"As public servants, we should have confidence in the military," Martinez says softly, hunching over his desk. "But we don't, because the ties between these criminals and the armed forces are very clear."
"These criminals" are the clandestine right-wing paramilitaries which operate with impunity in Puerto Asis, unofficial allies of the Colombian military in its decades-long war against leftist guerillas. Martinez lays the blame for over 100 murders last year on the paramilitaries who are trying to violently purge the area of left-wing guerrillas. (Source= Mother Jones)

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Florida accuses the Coca-Cola Company, its Colombian subsidiary and business affiliates of using paramilitary death squads to murder, torture, kidnap and threaten union leaders at the multinational soft drink manufacturer's Colombian bottling plants. The suit was filed on July 20 by the United Steelworkers of America and the International Labor Rights Fund on behalf of SINALTRAINAL, the Colombian union that represents workers at Coca-Cola's Colombian bottling plants; the estate of a murdered union leader; and five other unionists who worked for Coca-Cola and were threatened, kidnapped or tortured by paramilitaries.
Colombia has long been the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists with almost 4,000 murdered in the past 15 years. Last year saw 128 labor leaders assassinated. Most of the killings have been attributed to right-wing paramilitaries belonging to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

When asked about his company's use of paramilitaries to kill and intimidate union members, Bebidas y Alimentos owner Richard Kirby, who is also a defendant in the case, said, "You don't use them, they use you. Nobody tells the paramilitaries what to do." He also claims that the facts regarding the murder of Isidro Segundo Gil have been distorted: "One day the paramilitaries showed up at the plant. They shut the plant down, put everyone against the wall, and started shooting. Now its been turned around so that it's our fault."

The US multinational Chiquita Brands International has admitted funding death squads which unleashed a reign of terror in Colombia.
The company recently pleaded guilty to charges of funding “foreign terrorist organisations” after an indictment by the US Department of Justice. It has been fined £12.7 million.
The plea confirms allegations made by human rights groups that US companies are behind the murder of many trade unionists and left wing activists.
Chiquita admitted to funding the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia – known by its acronym AUC – with £864,000 between 1997 and 2004. Senior executives at the company, including a member of the board of directors, personally approved the payments. (Source=Socialist Worker of Great Britain Online)

In a deal with the US justice department, Chiquita recently acknowledged paying paramilitaries $1.7m (£860,000) over six years. It was fined $25m. Chiquita claimed the payments were to protect its workers but campaigners claim some money was used to finance the assassination of union leaders who lobbied for better pay and conditions.
Mancuso made the allegations in testimony that was part of a deal with the Colombian authorities. Journalists were not allowed in court but the testimony was confirmed by his lawyer, Hernando Benavides, and Jesús Vargas, a lawyer for victims of paramilitary violence. (Source= Manchester Guardian)

Do you want more?

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 20, 2008 10:05 PM

"Do you want more?"

Only if it's pertinent to the topic. The point is not the sometimes disgraceful history of the US involvement in South America or whether another country has a condemnable policy of political murder. The subject is the murder rate in Venezuela and the fact that it substantially increased since Chavez came to office.

And if someone is deciding where to relocate or a tourist is trying to figure out where it would be safer to visit, s/he is not going to compare the total number of murders per country, as you suggest, but the total per capita (per person). The higher the murder rate per capita, the higher the chances that an individual (tourist or resident) will be murdered.

Posted by: Monique at April 20, 2008 10:33 PM

Pertinent to the topic This requires a review of how we arrived at this point in the first place:

I responded to Middendorf's article in the ProJo by pointing out that one could change "Venezuela" to "The United States" and "Chavez" to "Bush" and reread Middendorf's article as an indictment of the current administration in Washington. Rather than picking up that argument you introduced the red herring of death rates, another topic entirely. You ran away from the main point and in doing so exposed your prejudices behind a wall of off the topic criticism. I'm not going to let go of this until you admit the obvious prejudice of your views.

You put words in my mouth and then refute them. I can't say that I'm terribly interested in leftist "math" that reaches the conclusion that homicide is less of a problem in Detroit (418 in 2006) than in Canada (605 in 2006). I'll stick with real stats.
1. I never said that homicide is less of a problem in Detroit than it is in Canada. You did and then argued against it, a very cheap rhetorical trick.
2. Why do you talk about leftist math, a branch of mathematics that exists only in your head? Why do you say leftist math? What is the basis for that absurdity? You are imputing this "math" to me and crowning me the Rene Descartes of whatever it is that you think leftist math is. You give me too much credit, but I suppose that you could not resist an ineffectual jab. Substituting invective for argument is a very weak way to procede.

Let me repeat, I am sceptical with regard to news about South and Central America because I remember that Pinochet of Chile was lauded by our government while he was savaging the Chilean people. I remember that Rios Mott in Guatemala was considered our friend and a democrat while he was trying to exterminate the Mayan population. I visited Guatemala several times and can recommend a few books that you might care to read on the subject - Try reading, "I Rigoberta Menchu". Ms. Menchu won the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize. As I also said, I live in the U.S. and it is our propaganda machine that I fear.

You said:The higher the murder rate per capita, the higher the chances that an individual (tourist or resident) will be murdered. An absurd assertion and an unwarrented bundling of tourists and residents. You'll have to show statistics on the number of tourists murdered, until then, "What you freely assert, I just as freely deny."
'Fess up. 'Fess up. 'Fess up. Live clean. Let your works be seen.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 21, 2008 2:26 AM


1. I've now answered your basic question twice. I'll try once more. Over the past decade, the homicide rate has grown faster in Venezuela faster than in any other South American country. It has grown so much, Venezuela is the country where a person is most likely to be a victim of homicide. For the past six months, a Venezuelan civilian has been more likely to become a victim of homicide than an Iraqi civilian has been likely to become a casualty of war (which was the original premise of my post, despite your claim in the previous comment of having been the one who started this thread).

So, if you don't think that things are going all that swimmingly in Iraq, doesn't a rational person have to acknowledge there's a problem in Venezuela too?

2. Yes, Colombia also has a high murder rate. But its murder rate has declined under its current President (about 40%) while Venezuela's has tripled. Explain to me why it's reasonable to say that Colombia should be reducing its homicide rate faster, while saying Venezuela's increase doesn't matter?

3. I didn't put any words in your mouth. You asked me why "absolute numbers don't count, only percentages do". I provided an example of how the absolute numbers can be deceiving. The formal term is proof by induction. (It's part of the regular math syllabus, not sure if it's part of leftist math). By now, I suspect your answer to this will probably be that I haven't answered some other of your complaints, but I'll ask anyway: Why do the absolute numbers matter in the Venezuela v. Colombia case, but not in the Detroit v. Canada case?


'Fess up. 'Fess up. 'Fess up. Live clean. Let your works be seen.
The President of Venezuela is certainly letting his works be seen – in the form of a tripling of his country's homicide rate, and you seem to have no problem with that. It's a fascinating system of values that you people who label yourselves leftists have. Lives matter, if they belong to the proper collective. Otherwise, they don't. Their elimination is just a "red herring".

Hope I never have to live under that kind of system.

Posted by: Andrew at April 21, 2008 9:04 AM

Here again are my comments on the Middendorf article. You have never addressed these seven points. Do you deny or accept them? If not, why not. Present your argument to these points and then we'll discuss statistics and their interpretation. Quit the dodge ball.

1. "there has been little, if any, real improvement in the lives of the poor under Chavez" - Change "Chavez" to "Bush" and the same is true of life in these United States.

2. "The underlying structural economic and political problems of Venezuela have not been solved" - Change Venezuela to The United States and we are looking in the mirror.

3. "living conditions there have actually deteriorated significantly." - Change "there" to "here".

4. "Income inequality and poverty have not improved" - We're currently staring at a deepening recession with unemployment on the rise.

5. "Crime in Venezuela continues to rise", and "Poor economic fundamentals plague the country. Venezuelans suffer from rising inflation." - Change "Venezuela" to "The United States" and arrive at several more ugly domestic truths.

6. "In Venezuela, poor governance is pervasive. Chavez has ignored many needed repairs to infrastructure despite increased borrowing and growing budget deficits." - Change "Venezuela" to "The United States" and "Chavez" to "Bush", and look at our infrastructure and budget deficits.

7. "Under Chavez, corruption permeates all levels of society. Bureaucrats rarely follow existing bidding regulations, while demanding bribes from ordinary citizens and neglecting basic government services." - Anyone remember the "great job" Brownie did after the New Orleans disaster, or Scooter Libby, or no bid Blackwater contracts, just to name a few?

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 21, 2008 10:54 AM