Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Venezuela: Chavez and His Ambidextrous Horse

LMAO, one of the funniest things ever...

So the Boliviarian giant himself, decrees that from now on the horse on the Venezuelan flag will be turning to the left, rather than to the right..

But A.M. Mora at Publius, cites a writer on a post that Daniel had at Venezuelan News, correctly stating that the animal in question is in reality facing right, because we are viewing it FROM THE FRONT.,.....
According to Thomas the writer, it is the wearer of the shield whose vantage point controls what direction said animal is facing.

I found the change concerning the coat of arms incredibly funny. Coat of Arms - because they are derived from the front painting of a shield - are *always* read from the point of view of the *bearer* of the shield.

In other words, previously the horse pointed to the left and looked back at the *right* opposition left behind. Now the horse is not only pointing to the right, it is galopping frantically away from the left (where Chavez stands politically). The correct description of Venezuelas coat of arms is now: ".... a silver (white does not exist in heraldry) horse on blue ground, galopping to the *right*..."

LOL, Chavez equine changes, make him out to be a total jackass.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Racing: NASCAR Busch in Mexico, Half Baked Success??

Good Start:

Last spring, about 100,000 people massed at the city-center track for NASCAR's first major race south of the border. They watched little-known Jorge Goeters beat Robby Gordon for the pole, and DEI's Martin Truex Jr. beat Richard Childress' Kevin Harvick in the marquee Busch race.

It was, all in all, a good beginning.

Two countries, multi-prong strategy

France's Hispanic game plan is both admirable and makes good sense financially, given the increasing Hispanic segment of the U.S. population. Not only is the Hispanic market important to ticket sellers at California Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway, Texas Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway, but also to ticket sellers in other large urban areas such as Chicago.

One big reason for NASCAR's coming to Mexico City is to show Hispanics in the United States that the sport is serious about wanting their business at U.S. tracks. The other big reason is for American companies - GM and Ford, for two good examples - to expand their use of NASCAR marketing.

As Ed Hinton says in another piece, they really made an effort to back that up.

Fox's live telecast of Sunday's Busch Series race from Mexico City will offer Hispanic audiences the option of play-by-play in Spanish via the "SAP," or Second Audio Programming, system.

Jim Hunter, the NASCAR vice president for corporate communications, makes no bones about it: "We need the Hispanic market."

Market Size

Mexico's growing economy also makes it attractive to NASCAR:

* During the past four years, family income in Mexico has gone up a whopping 50 percent. The peso is strong, and inflation is falling.
* More than two-thirds of this population is under 35.
* And there is a major construction boom in housing and in new shopping malls, Wal-Marts, Coscos, and Home Depots. Wal-Mart has almost 500 stores in the country. Home Depot entered the market in 2001 and has 50 stores, boasting a growth rate of 10 percent a year. That, of course, raises the question of why rival Lowe's, which has no stores yet in Mexico, has logos on Adrian Fernandez's quarterpanels.

The upside potential for NASCAR and its teams and drivers and sponsors is clearly large.

De Segunda

Mulhern asks a very pointed question here.

Why is France wrapping this event around a Busch race, NASCAR's second-tier series, rather than a Nextel Cup race?

Mexican racing fans are very savvy, and have seen the true best of the world. They had Formula One, the very pinnacle of motor racing, at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez throughout the sixties, and then from the 80's to early 90's. Champ Car has been racing at the circuit for the past four years, as well as top notch sportscar racing the past four decades. In addition, Monterrey hosts other top races, and the FIA World Rallye Championship was racing in Leon Mexico this same week. They know that the Busch series is. kind of............Bush may we say.

Where Da Smoke At? Bushwacked, Cars and No Stars,

So Busch does good in the US because of all the Nextel Cup drivers, competing on Saturdays.

And the Busch series itself has lost its distinctiveness the past two years, in part because of the soaring cost of racing, in part because of an influx of Nextel Cup drivers and team owners wanting to use the series for extra practice and testing. Last Saturday's Busch race at California Speedway, for example, featured 19 Nextel Cup stars, almost half the field, and the top 11 finishers were Nextel Cup drivers.

That Nextel Cup-Busch entourage may be good for ticket sales in the U.S., but many of those Nextel Cup drivers are taking this week off.

So in Mexico, we get Busch sans Stars

If Home Depot is so big here, where is defending Cup champion Tony Stewart?

If Lowe's wants to make inroads, where is its driver, current points leader Jimmie Johnson?<

In the past 15 years Mexicans have had the opportunity to see the likes of Senna, Mansell, Prost, Schumacher, Piquet, Gronholm, Sainz, Loeb, McRae, Tracy, Zanardi, Castroneves, Andretti, Bourdais, race in their country.

So lets insult the Mexican fans by not only running a second tier series, but without the stars of Nextel Cup.

Y la lana?

When NASCAR teams approached Mexican companies last year for sponsorships, the companies were generally aghast at the costs. How NASCAR addresses that financial disconnect will be closely watched.

Nothing new here, there is no money for auto racing sponsorship, most Mexican multi-nationals like Telmex and the Beer companies already have their budgets mapped out. Champ Car racing is fairly big in Mexico, had top ratings on TV and packed houses on two circuits. But even top draw Adrian Fernandez had trouble securing sponsorship when Cerveceria Montezuma cut their funding for him. A switch to the rival IRL with a decent TV package did nothing for AF, despite race wins he was uanble to run most of last year. That filtered down to other popular and talented Mexican drivers like Michel Jourdain Jr. who lost his Gigante sponsorship and was unable to get any money for his Busch efforts and Mario Dominguez who lost Grupo Herdez.
The money would have to come from US Companies.

Bolivia's Constitutional Assemblty: Compromise and MAS proposal -- Mechanics

The Official Proposal and Eventual Compromise, Mechanics.

From Miguel at Ciao a careful and informed analysis of the voting proposal, and projections about where that would leave the assembly if voting patterns from the presidential election replicated themselves.

Evo's proposal is for three delegates to be elected from each of the country's 70 uninominal legislative districts (the single-seat district tier of the House of Deputies). That would allow for a constitutional assembly of 210 member
s. Such a proposal isn't radical, of course, although it does give preference to population (the legislative districts are roughly based on census figures) over other forms of representation (e.g. ethnic or territorial). Smaller departments (w/ fewer legislative districts) have already complained. As of today, Beni, Pando, and Tarija won't go, Chuquisaca hasn't decided, and Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, and Oruro oppose Evo's formula for a constitutional assembly. That's 7 of 9 departments opposed.

In large measure, the reaction against Evo's constitutional assembly plan comes from the electoral formula he wants. He wants the winning list in each district to win 2 seats; the second-place list would win 1 seat. Unless, of course, a list wins a simple majority (50%+1). In which case that list would win all three seats. Theoretically, a party could win 51% of the vote in every single district & win every single seat (leaving 49% of votes unrepresented).

If voters voted as they did in the 2005 election, by legislative district, MAS would win:

Chuquisaca 13 (of 18) seats
La Paz 41 (of 45) seats
Cochabamba 26 (of 30) seats
Oruro 10 (of 15) seats
Potosí 17 (of 24) seats
Tarija 3 (of 15) seats
Santa Cruz 13 (of 39) seats
Beni 0 (of 15) seats
Pando 0 (of 9) seats

This would give MAS 133 (of 210) seats, or 63.3% of the legislature (nearly two thirds). This is a highly disproportional result, when we consider that MAS only won 43.5% of the vote across the 70 legislative districts
. How votes are translated into seats can have dramatic consequences.

This obviously caused an uproar among both the opposition and in the departments, starting with Santa Cruz.
So the compromise according to MABB, based on what has been reported, is set out like this

The CA bill calls for the election of 255 members, of which 210 will be elected with direct vote. There will be three members per electoral district. Two for the party, group, civic organization, ethnic group, etc., that wins the most votes and one for the second majority. The number of electoral disctricts is 70. That satisfies the demands of the government. The other 45 members will be elected in departmental districts. That means each department will have five more members. The first two seats will go to the winner and the rest three will be distributed to the political forces achieving 5% of the vote.

One thing to highlight is the mode of seat distribution in the first 210 members. Had the government gotten what it wanted, the three seats would have gone to the political force winning 50% plus of the vote
. As you can see now, it will be distributed among the first and second majorities. This was an important victory for the opposition. Another important victory was that the CA will carry on to completely reform the constitution,

Now lets go back to Miguel at Ciao, and he runs a projection, again based on the results of the 2005 elections, but based on the new electoral formula:

La Paz would elect 50 delegates (45 from its 15 districts, 5 department-wide). MAS should expect to win each district, for 30 seats, plus another 2 department-wide seats, for a total of 32.

Cochabamba would elect 35 delegates (30+5). MAS should expect to win nine of ten districts & place second in the other, for 19 seats, plus another 2 department-wide seats, for a total of 21.

Santa Cruz would elect 44 delegates (39+5). MAS should expect to win in five districts & second in three others, for 13 seats, plus another 1 department-wide seat, for a total of 14.

Chuquisaca would elect 23 delegates (18+5). MAS should expect to win in five districts & second in the other, for 11 seats, plus another 2 department-wide seats, for a total of 13.

Oruro would elect 20 delegates (15+5). MAS should expect to win in three districts & second in the other two, for 8 seats, plus another 2 department-wide seats, for a total of 10.

Potosí would elect 29 delegates (24+5). MAS should expect to win in seven districts & second in the other, for 15 seats, plus another 2 department-wide seats, for a total of 17.

Tarija would elect 32 delegates (27+5). MAS should expect to win one district & second in two others, for 4 seats, plus another 1 department-wide seat, for a total of 5.

Beni would elect 20 delegates (15+5). MAS should expect to place second in one district, for 1 seat, plus another 1 seat department-wide, for a total of 2.

Pando would elect 14 delegates (9+5). MAS should expect to place second in one district, for 1 seat, plus another 1 seat department-wide, for a total of 2.

The grand total would give MAS 116 delegates, or 45% of the constituent assembly (based on 43.52% of the total nation-wide vote across uninominal districts

Monday, March 06, 2006

Bolivia: Compromise Reached For Constitutional Assembly

Compromise it..

This weekend an important compromise was reached in the Bolivian congress to set the ground rules for the elections to elect delegates to the assembly charged with re-drafting Bolivia's constitution, and in setting up the autonomy discussions.

Evo and MAS were trying to throttle through an arrangement where the outcome could have been a majority for MAS, if we went by the 2005 election results and Evo's current popularity. The mechanics of this proposal and of the eventual compromise are set out in this prior post, which summarizes the careful analysis by both Miguel at Ciao and MABB.

Against this lined up the opposition parties, the smaller departments, and of course the Santa Cruz-based autonomy movement, which combines its elected officials, its congressional delegation, business sectors, and the social movements. The issue is heavily tied in to the autonomy issue for Santa Cruz, since re-drafting Bolivia's Constitution would necesarilly involve setting the rules and scope for any departmental autonomy. Given the antagonism between MAS and the pro-autonomy forces - and the traditional East-West rivalry a MAS majority could stamp out any pretentions for autonomy.

From Joker to Broker, Garcia Linera As Dealmaker


How are Bush and Evo Similar?

They both have lilly-white vp's who are the true brains behind the presidency and who can't shoot worth s$#%!

Vice President Garcia Linera is being credited, even by those on the right, with helping broker the compromise. From a self-taught Sociologist,whose writings were almost Senderismo-light he now seems to have become Mr. pragmatism. Maybe he has started reading the Federalist Papers. Whatever it is, he helped cut a deal that MAS and its more radical followers did not want.

Its All Good

In the end it was probably Santa Cruz that presented the more powerful challenge and counterweight, since MAS has a majority in both Chambers. The Cruce~os did it by displaying a united front, and implicitly threatening to secede.

This is a good sign, it means that regions, social movements, native peoples, interest groups, will be represented in drafting a document that would act as a charter for the nation.

Representative Democracy is not only about popularity in polls and absolute majorities, it is about checks and balances, and protection of majority and minority rights. What MAS tried doing was no different than what Fujimori did in Peru in 1992 when he tried justifying his coup, by showing poll numbers. That is precisely what this new document should try to stop.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Music, Racing: El Tri To Headline Long Beach GP Friday

Great double bill for those checking out the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Tecate on Friday sponsors Mexican band El Tri, and on Saturday Bad Religion.

Official Press Release here.

Press Release

Release date: March 1, 2006

The classic Mexican rock Band “El Tri” headlines Tecate’s 2006 “Fiesta Friday” Concert, set for Friday, April 7 at the conclusion of racing activities at the 32nd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The concert, to be held on the main stage adjacent to the Long Beach Convention Center, is free to all race ticker holders.

Fronted by Alex Lora, El Tri has sold more than 100 million albums in Mexico, spearheading the “rock in Spanish” music movement and becoming one of the most respected rock bands in Mexico’s history.

“We are thrilled to bring El Tri to Southern California and to thousands of race fans at this year’s Grand Prix,” said Jorge Cornejo of Heineken USA. “As pioneers in Mexican rock music, El Tri has greatly impacted the Hispanic music industry and to have them on our stage is an incredible honor.”

Often referred to as the “Mexican Rolling Stones” because of their timeless rock sounds, El Tri and their music have been likened to the classic sounds of AC/DC, U2 and even Jimi Hendrix. The group has shared the concert stage with, among others, The Rolling Stones, Carlos Santana, The Ramones and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

“Racing is all about speed and adrenaline and nothing can imitate that sensation quite like rock-n-roll,” said Lora. “We’d like to personally invite all racing fans to join us for an evening of great music at this year’s Fiesta Friday.”

In addition to the concert, Tecate – the official beer of race weekend – will help celebrate the ultimate speed festival with two authentic cantinas inside the race circuit, where adults 21 years of age and older can enjoy Mexican food, Tecate and live mariachi music. There will also be two “Playas Tecate,” complete with sand volleyball courts, music, food and Tecate for adults 21 years of age and older.

Bolivia: Santa Cruz Fires Warning Shots

Most of the main sectors of Santa Cruz leadership, including its new regional government, the Civic Committee, and the various business groups have stated that they will fight tooth and nail for autonomy, even if it involves shedding blood.

They warn Evo Morales' that they will continue, with the central government or not, for a referendum for regional autonomy.

Evo is pushing forward with his ideas for a Constitutional Assembly, which critics say is skewed towards MAS, and which would deprive Santa Cruz of the representation it is entitled to, proportionally.

What I think Santa Cruz is doing, is acting as a counterweight to Evo's electoral strength, by relying on its own elected bodies, and the pro-autonomy forces. Ironically, they are using the same tactics and language that Evo used to mess with elected governments in the past. But with the regional government, they do have some sort of popular legitimacy. Evo's cards are social movements in Santa Cruz that voted for him. But, there are signs that even MAS' Santa Cruz leadership can play the regional game as well, they feuded over local representatitves, claiming they had to be "born in Santa Cruz". If the pro-autonomy forces would try to exploit these differences, and try to incorporate highland migrants and local indigenous movements to their side, they could effectively end Evo's remaining stranglehold over them.

Bolivia, Mexico: PEMEX and Bolivia, LNG to be sold in USA?

Interesting note, Mexico's Energy Secretary and the head of PEMEX, Mexico's national oil and gas company, are in Bolivia right now, talking with the Oil and Gas Ministry to see if they can reach agreement on some joint ventures, as this article states.

One of the ones discussed would be the processing of gas into Liquid Natural Gas, for sale to the U.S. Remember that a prior project of sale to gas to the US, caused riots that brought down Goni, because it involved a pipeline through Chile, as well as a sale to the U.S.

Evo certainly has the political capital to try this again, right now. Having a radical reputation also helps bargaining positions, when negotiating big deals with foreign entities. If he can score a good deal for Bolivia, it would be a real coup (no pun intended). If he is serious about "industrialization", he would find the way to get some financing so Bolivia could get the capacity to produce LNG on its soil. Trinidad and Tobago is already becoming a big LNG producer, Bolivia needs to get on board.

Cuba Drilling For Oil Near Florida Keys, Republicans Use It As Excuse To Press For Drilling

Babalu found this item.
Turns out the Cubans are planning on drilling for gas and oil really close to the Florida Keys.

WASHINGTON, DC, Mar. 2 -- Cuba is moving to develop its offshore oil and gas resources, which would result in development closer to Florida's coast than the US government allows, Rep. John E. Peterson (R-Pa.) warned on Mar. 2.

"Offshore oil and natural gas drilling, sanctioned by the Cuban government, occurs within 60 miles of Florida's southern borders. Moreover, the drilling potential within the existing Cuban basin is such that oil wells will, in the near future, be as close as 35-40 miles from the Florida keys," he said.

Peterson then goes on to try to squeeze the ban on off-shore drilling in Florida..

Calling Florida "awash in gas" with the potential to be self-sufficient, he said, "I would never negotiate with one state at the expense of the country—especially one that uses 133 times the natural gas it produces."

He and Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Ha.) have introduced HR 4318, a bill that would lift congressional and presidential bans on offshore drilling for natural gas. The measure has 133 cosponsors, including more than 20 Democrats, Peterson said.

Personally, I don't want anyone, Cubans or Floridians drilling so close to Florida's coastline, which is this State's principal natural resource, and a national treasure.

I am with Senator Mel and Don on this one:

Most of the state's congressional delegation supports another bill that its two US senators, Republican Mel Martinez and Democrat Bill Nelson, introduced on Feb. 1 that would effectively push new offshore exploration 260 miles from Tampa Bay (OGJ, Feb. 20, 2006, p. 24).