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Venezuela: A Case Study On What Happens When Gun Rights Are Trampled.

With all deference to hunters and sportsmen, it wasn’t their right to hunt that inspired James Madison and our nation’s First Congress to include the Second Amendment in their proposed Bill of Rights.  There’s was a much greater concern, that of checking the power of a potentially tyrannical state.  The modern left dismisses this argument as nonsensical, superfluous, and yes, even hysterical.  But despite its foolish attempts at diminishing the importance of gun ownership as a check on government, the fact still remains that the concern was central in the minds of the Framers.  Perhaps Noah Webster, that great American scholar and teacher whom we have all come to know by way of his dictionary, put it best when he wrote, “The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops.”

Indeed, history has seen the pattern of gun right suppression in coordination with the rise of tyranny and oppression play out time and again.  China, Nazi Germany, communist Cuba, Russia, North Korea are but a few examples.  In fact, in keeping with Webster’s observation, the propagation of a dictatorship would be difficult to conceive if imposed upon a well-armed population.  And now, as we witness the financial and societal collapse of our southern neighbor, it is evident that Venezuela is no exception. 

In 2012, Venezuela’s, communist National Assembly banned gun ownership.  The stated reason for such an intervention is the oft-quoted safety argument.  In 2011, 40% of Caracas’s homicides were robbery related with armed robberies accounting for 70% of all major crimes.

Predictably, the government’s call for voluntary disarmament produced virtually no results, leading to the forcible confiscation of 12,603 firearms in 2013 alone.

The result? A rise in violence against police officers, and most ominously, a rise in violence by the state against its own citizens.  

In 2015 alone, 252 law enforcement officers were killed in Venezuela.  Why?  Well, in Venezuela, police officers are targeted for their firearms![1]

Additionally, when Venezuelans took to the streets to protest the “unjust laws” of which Webster wrote centuries ago, the state used live ammunition to quiet them down.  And like Cuba, Maduro’s regime established a group of colectivos, groups of local individuals charged with the implementation and enforcement of Maduro’s policies, except that, in Venezuela, 400,000 of them were officially armed and allowed to “carry out the regime’s rule by violence.” 

And what about the national homicide rate?  The rate government was trying to suppress? It actually rose from 73 per 100,000 in 2012 right before the ban was implemented to 90 per 100,000 in 2015.  In fact, in 2015 Venezuela faced the world’s highest homicide rate with 27,875 murders.  

There are elements within our country obsessed with restricting our gun rights.  Yes, there are sections in our country where gun violence reigns supreme.  And yes, the recurrently played out stories of senseless killings and associated suffering is tragic beyond words.  But there is no greater tragedy than a people who once given freedom are robbed of their liberties in pursuit of false assurances of safety and protection.  

Truly, Madison was not thinking of our right to hunt when he penned our Second Amendment.  He was thinking of much more ominous possibilities, the same eventualities that inspired Thomas Jefferson to proclaim, “it is [our] right and [our] duty to be at all times armed.”

The Author acknowledges the work of David Kopel and Vincent Harinam, cited below, on which the Author relied heavily.

[1]  David Kopel, Vincent Harinam, In The Wake Of A Gun Ban Venezuela Sees Rising Homicide RateThe Hill, April 19, 2018.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Countries Where Citizens Don’t Have Guns and Become Subjects

The Second Amendment Now Applies To More Than Just Firearms.

EDITORS NOTE: This The Federalist Pages column is republished with permission. The featured image is from Pixabay.

Why do we have an Oil Glut?

The world is awash in oil and gas. Amazing.  Less than two decades ago in 1998, the predictions were by this time in 2016 oil production would be past its peak. In fact the gloom and doom experts were called Oil Peakists. Note this from Science magazine back in 1998:

From Science magazine’s “The Next Oil Crisis Looms Large—and Perhaps Close,” Aug. 21, 1998:

This spring . . . the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported for the first time that the peak of world oil production is in sight. Even taking into account the best efforts of the explorationists and the discovery of new fields in frontier areas like the Caspian Sea . . . sometime between 2010 and 2020 the gush of oil from wells around the world will peak at 80 million barrels per day, then begin a steady, inevitable decline, the report says.

However, technology, especially here in the U.S., relegated that prediction to the proverbial dust bin of history. With the private developments of  revolutionary shale fracking and horizontal drilling technology, vast new energy resources were opened up in places like North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and even in the older Permian field in West Texas. The U.S. is now pumping 9 million barrels of oil a day, and trillions of cubic yards of gas. We are no longer dependent on importing Middle East oil. In fact much of the oil that we import comes from our neighbors Canada and Mexico.

In the wake of lifting sanctions against nuclear Iran, oil is beginning to flow again to the European Union from Tehran which says it could add another 500,000 barrels in production this year.  U.S. oil is also flowing to Europe now that the 43 year old ban on oil exports was lifted and signed in law late in 2015. The first shipment of sweet crude drawn from the Eagle Ford Shale field in South Texas left the port of Corpus Christi, Texas on New Year’s eve and landed at the port of Marseilles on Friday. Another shipment out of Houston made it to Rotterdam on Thursday. A third one out of Houston is on its way to Marseilles. The oil is the equivalent of the so-called Saudi light or sweet crude which doesn’t require as much refining producing profit margins for the refiners.

So, why do we have this glut? 

The world’s economies are not growing as fast or rather slowing down, especially in the big consumer of raw materials and energy, China.  China’s economy and trade is impacting on those exporters of commodities like oil, gas,  copper, aluminum  and  iron ore like Australia,  Brazil, Canada,  Russia, Venezuela  and African countries. Where China was growing at a purported 10 percent plus, annually, the evidence is it has fallen to less than a third of that towering inflated level. We have come to realize those growth estimates were based on questionable figures  prepared by the Chinese government.  Some economic experts suggest the annual growth in GDP may be less than three percent.  So with that news came the sudden plummeting in the world trading markets for commodities, especially oil.

There is  also the great geo-resource political game in the Middle East going on between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and let’s not forget Russia.  Saudi Arabia as the keystone in the OPEC oil Cartel is not listening to the complaints of the other members of the group at meetings in Vienna demanding that it reduce domestic production. It is pumping oil and still making money, because it costs less than $5 a barrel. This despite a yawning budget deficit of $98 billion. The Saudis have an estimated $600 billion in hard currency reserves, which provides a cushion to ride out the geo-political storm. They are using the oil weapon to beat back competitors including Iran across the Persian Gulf, Russia which  has military in Syria supporting the Assad regime, and  the newly resurgent producer, the US.   Russia, as Shoshana Bryen of the Washington, D.C.-based Jewish Policy Center pointed out in a recent interview, mispriced its budget at $119 a barrel of oil, then redid the numbers at $87 dollars only to see it plummet to less than $30 at one point.

So what is the impact here in the U.S.?

When was your last trip to fill up your car at the gas station?  Here on the Gulf Coast in the U.S., regular unleaded gas is currently selling for less than $1.80 a gallon.  That means savings to consumers who appear to be putting away the difference awaiting a return to a more confident economy.   Diesel that at one point was priced at nearly $1 dollar a gallon above gasoline has shrunk to less than ten cents a gallon differential. That means that the cost for moving shipments via long haul truckers has gotten cheaper. It means that jet fuel cost is less reflected in the huge profits being declared by the major airlines. Some of that may be due to the lagging airline ticket surcharges that remain in place.  However, the drop in oil production is also impacting the profit margins of rail carriers who minted money from train loads of combustible leaving the Bakken formation in North Dakota. The drop in oil prices occasioned by the glut also means that the cost of petro chemical feed stocks is enhancing profit margins for plastics,.

Remember, the discussion about lifting the 43 year old oil export ban?

One of the by-products of that was the convergent pricing of U.S. crude has converged with world pricing.  If you went onto the COMDEX oil trading floor in lower Manhattan, you would see traders vying for futures contracts in West Texas Intermediate (WTI) versus Brent-the so-called North Sea crude oil benchmark. The lifting of the oil export ban in the U.S. virtually eliminated the difference making Brent the world standard.  As of Friday, January 22, 2016 WTI was $32.19 per barrel for March 2016 deliveries, a 9.0 % jump, and Brent priced out of the London ICE was $32.18. Heavier grades like Canadian Tar sands or Venezuelan heavy sulfur crude require more refining to produce various products. These grades actually sell at discounts from those benchmarks by as much as five dollars.

Can we expect the oil glut to last? Hardly. The current excess supply will work itself off and oil futures will gradually begin to rise again. That will bring rigs on stream here in the U.S. to start producing again, it may cause Iran to produce more than the declared 500,000 barrels  annually and the Saudis would just be minting more billions to add to its hard currency reserves. However, by mid century those fabled Saudi sweet crude reserves may likely begin to tail off. Energy, whether oil or gas will reflect the cyclical demands of the world economies.  The U.S. stands in pretty good shape to weather the current volatility in trading markets; thanks to technology, entrepreneurial prowess and the lifting of the oil export embargo. Don’t panic and consider investing in contrarian values in the equity and debt markets. That is what the long term value investors do. They buy when values are relatively cheap compared to long term returns.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. An earlier version was published in the Newsletter of the Lisa Benson Show National Security Task Force Newsletter, January 23, 2016.

Unrest in Venezuela and Ukraine coming to America?

The prevailing theme for this week is liberty. A lot of attention is being focused towards the events in Ukraine. However, just south of us here in South Florida there is another example, Venezuela.

In Venezuela we see what always happens when socialism takes root, as described so aptly by Margaret Thatcher, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” When Hugo Chavez rose to power in Venezuela, he promised everything for everyone: shared prosperity, fair share, economic equality. He enacted policies that directed the government to nationalize more of the country’s production — especially the lucrative oil industry.

He took over the means of informing the people – hm, I wonder if he started with a “critical information needs” study similar to what the Obama administration’s FCC is seeking to initiate?

What resulted? The same that always happens when you punish, demonize, and denigrate the individual entrepreneurial spirit. The same that always happens when you disincentivize work for a government subsidy check. The same that always happens when there is a promotion of a welfare nanny-state focused on dependency rather than opportunity.

The producers stop producing and flee. We see it right here in South Florida in Broward County in the city of Weston, where the Venezuelan flag flies right along with the American. So as Prime Minister Thatcher poignantly stated, socialism fails because its empty promises are rooted in the legal plunder of others based upon some ill-conceived – I submit, actually demented — sense of benevolence. And then come the riots — because after all, you promised stuff but in the end what do the people gain? Nothing. What do they lose? Liberty.

In the Ukraine the fight for liberty is not against socialism but rather totalitarianism. A quarter of a century ago, Ukraine was given a new lease on life, a chance to determine its own future. It had once been a central part of the Soviet Union but then became an independent state.

However, old desires don’t fade away easily and control is a powerful motivator. Ukraine is caught in the middle of a fight to gain control of its future and it centers around a very important commodity: natural gas. Control of energy resources is a vital aspect of foreign policy and national security strategy — as well as important to the resurgence of Putin’s Russia. Liberty is the result of independence. Subjugation is the result of totalitarianism. Ukrainians seek the former, not the latter, and so they are making a stand.

There are lessons to be learned for us here in America. Venezuelans and many from Eastern Europe have fled to our shores to enjoy liberty and freedom as they escape the ills of their home countries. But if America succumbs to progressive socialism and totalitarian control of our government, where will people go? If America succumbs, who will be the beacon of liberty and freedom? Let me refresh your memory about what’s happening in America. Democrats and the New York Times are advocating for the IRS to eliminate and attack Americans. The FCC is seeking to put monitors into newsrooms. Our president feels he does not need to govern by legislative process but rule by edict — executive order. Elected officials such as Obama and DeBlasio are leading the charge to punish hard-working successful Americans — for what purpose? Redistribute their wealth.

So where do Americans flee? What is actually perplexing is that liberal progressives run away from failing liberal states such as California and New York. Unfortunately, they do not leave behind their damaging political beliefs. Like locusts they migrate to states like Colorado, Montana, and Florida with their cancerous political philosophy and destroy those states — message to Texans: you may want to stop asking Californians to relocate, unless they renounce liberal progressivism!

As we watch unrest in Venezuela and Ukraine unfold, I wonder, will we soon reach a tipping point in America?

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com.

RELATED COLUMN: Americans rising up against government – USA Today