Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cuban Democracy|Part Three

All good blogs have guest bloggers and as such I wanted to post from a friend from Thom's Board, and he goes by BrentBozo.
I am an expert on the Cuban political system. Have read quite a bit on it.


1) there is only one legal party in Cuba: the Communist Party (but, please don't stop reading here)

2) no one at any level of government runs as a member of the Communist Party

3) there are three tiers to the Cuban system (municial, provincial and national). Nominations at the municipal level have the Party and all civil-society mass organizations banned by law from interfereing in the nomination process; meetings to determine which are held at the neighborhood level, nominations are spontaneous and voting is by secret ballot.

For the provincial and national there is a "candidacy commission" which is comprised of civil-society groups which submit names for nomination to these bodies and, either at the provincial or national level, candidates must receive a "Si" on at least 50% of ballots in order to hold office.

4) Now for the "democracy" part: you see, people who associate democracy only with formal political institutions and the running of elections entirely miss the point of the Cuban system, although at the muni level, at least, the Cuban scores well even on those scores.

The democracy is that each sector of a municipality or each small town oversees day-to-day management of all infrastructure located within that locality. You see, socialist democracy is about citizens having input in all areas of endeavor, not just leaving it to vote for a professional political class at set intervals.

So, if you live in a neighborhood with a factory, you and your neighbors have a councilperson, representing only about 1500 people, who is answerable to you and your neighbors and is responsible for the management and staffing and working conditions in the factory (which is cool, because a lot of the neighborhood people most likely work there, or some other facility within the neighborhood).

You will find that Cuban neighborhoods are really old-fashioned in that the sense of community is something vanished from many countries. Which is one reason they have very little crime (there are other reasons, too).

As an adjunct to this, there are neighborhood councils which can be accessed for them to bring their full weight behind a complaint when it is brought to the full municipal assembly (as many problems affect more than one neighborhood).

5) And for a short summary on the national level politics: Castro is (or was) President of the Council of State (also is or was Secretary of the Communist Party and Commandante-en-Jefe of the military). Castro stands for election just like all the other members of the Assembly. The Council of State is elected out of the membership of the Assembly, with the election happening within that body.

The Council of State can rule by decree, but they then have to refer their decisions to the full Assembly for approval. Within the Council of State, many times Fidel Castro has been outvoted in positions he's taken.

A usual criticism is that the full Assembly meets only twice a year for a few days, so people assume it's a rubber-stamp. True, their votes are usually unanimous, but the Cuban gov't will tell you that's because there's an attempt to reach consensus and that controversial bills are rewritten before the voting begins (so, I admit, this area is suspect, but, then again, I say the real, original democracy is at the local level, although even the national system does have its advantages, like no need to raise money in order to stand for election).

The National assembly does have committees meeting year-round which hold open hearings.

6) I don't know as much about the provincial councils- assume they function vis-a-vis the national as the municipal does the provincial. The provincial membership is elected in the same way as the national (as has been mentioned).

7) In the early days of the Revolution, polling showed 90% support for Castro's government and 60% not even wanting liberal-style, traditional elections, as the Cuban process had been often sullied in the past. This is the idea behind socialist democracy.

There is limitation on free expression. The idea is that this is a socialist state and, within that parameter, expression can be used as to the best means to fine-tune socialism. So, yes, Cuba falls short in terms of criteria of liberal democracy, but the U.S. has very little of the socialist brand of democracy.

I think that pretty much summed it what I also said in Cuban Democracy? and Cuban Democracy|Part Two. I still would not want to live under such a regime but at I think we now have at least a better understanding of their grass roots form of democracy. Will greater freedoms including freedom of travel break this rhizome structures?

Also, I strongly think they need to increase the level of democracy at all levels including of course the President.

P.S.: Brent said, Feel free to use whatever you want, although I'd say authors D.L. Raby and Peter Roman express the ideas much better than I.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cafe Standards II

I was recently shown a couple of links about CAFE standards. The first link is to the NHTSA site entitled CAFE Overview - Frequently Asked Questions.
Since 1983, manufacturers have paid more than $500 million incivil penalties. Most European manufacturers regularly pay CAFEcivil penalties ranging from less than $1 million to more than$20 million annually. Asian and domestic manufacturers havenever paid a civil penalty.

Well so much for the EU being better at fuel efficiency than the USA. OOOOPS! I stuck my foot in my mouth there, anyway look at post script for a more thorough explanation. I wonder if CAFE really works? Isn't the object to reduce gas consumption? But before I try to answer that, please take a moment to read the portion labeled: How is a manufacturer’s CAFE determined for a given model year?...
So it is based on number sold of each model in a 'fleet' and the average MPG for that model. But this does nothing to address which vehicles will be driven farther and how they will be driven. Instead of the market (individuals) deciding how best to conserve fuel, the manufacturers have to market to a CAFE standard. What ever happened to the Station Wagon?

Let me use a fleet of 2 to illustrate some points. My parents tended to have two vehicles when I was growing up. A Ford F150 pickup (12-15 mpg) and a VW Bug(30 mpg). Now their CAFE would be about 21 mpg. But this disregards the fact that most miles were put onto the Bug. So his actual average was above 21 mpg. Also the vehicles were used for strictly different functions and thus one could not substitute for the other. The Bug was used for daily activity and commuting to work. While the F150 was used for hauling stuff for the farm and our frequent hunting trips. When we went hunting it was usually 3 in the F150 and many times it was 4 hunters. Thus the actually MPG for the individual was actually 36 mpg. So I am just saying that sales has no bearing on actual fuel consumption or conservation. Another person I met had a pickup and with a computerized control system he was able to increase his fuel economy greatly. Of course going 50mph on the roads pissed off more than a few people.

The second article (China Set to Act on Fuel Economy; Tougher Standards Than in U.S.) is a little old but has some interesting parts.
Various Chinese government agencies still have three months to review the legal language in the fuel economy rules, giving automakers some time to lobby against them; as yet, there has been no mention of the approval of the new rules in the government-controlled Chinese media.

Well that is great, how well do plans tend to work when they are implemented without a democratic process? Of course 'Experts' should be the decider of what is best for society. I wonder why that theory does not hold for the IMF.
The new standards are based on a vehicle's weight — lighter vehicles must go the farthest on a gallon — and on the type of transmission, with manual-shift cars required to go farther than those with less efficient automatic transmissions.

Seems like this is distorting the market. Now manufacturers have an incentive to switch to automatic transmission heavier vehicles and thus create the incentive for less efficient vehicles on the market.
The Chinese rules do not cover pickups or commercial trucks.

That is funny. Do you think they created a loophole that manufacturers will try to exploit?
The fastest way to improve fuel efficiency is to switch from gasoline to diesel engines, as Volkswagen is starting to do in China. The latest diesel engines are much cleaner than those of a decade ago, but are still more polluting than gasoline engines of similar power.

Again we have the trade off between more fuel efficiency and a cleaner environment. As a matter of fact if we reduced our smog controls we could increase fuel efficiency overnight.
In the United States, G.M. has argued that tighter fuel economy rules are unnecessary because technological improvements will someday improve efficiency anyway. G.M. and other automakers have also contended in the United States that higher gasoline taxes would represent a better policy than higher gas mileage standards, because it would give drivers an economic incentive to choose more efficient vehicles and to drive fewer miles.

I couldn't agree more!
Another company that could run into trouble over the Chinese mileage standards is Toyota, which on Nov. 6 began selling a locally produced version of its full-size Land Cruiser sport utility vehicle in China. A spokesman said on Monday that Toyota had not yet heard about the new Chinese fuel economy regulations, which have been prepared with a level of secrecy typical of many Chinese regulatory actions.

This line is one of Toyota's most profitable line. This is one of the reasons the US automobile industry is losing ground. They are losing their profitable lines and unable to find something to replace it with.

The original debate I had was about international CAFE standards, but so far I have only been shown China standards. But now let us look some distortions in the market that are not conducive to saving energy.
CAFE advocates claim that all the gains in fuel economy over the past 30 years can be attributed to the command and control approach. An historical look at the data shows that fuel price did more to increase fuel economy than any other factor. In the early years of CAFE, manufacturers exceeded standards by a wide margin largely due to high fuel prices driving customer purchase decisions. When fuel prices stabilized, so did average fuel economy. CAFE Standard

So maybe GM is right.
The Dutch have the dubious distinction of paying the most to fill 'er up, according to the U.S. Deptatment of Energy. (There are various agencies that track gasoline prices, but these are among the most recent figures available.) As of April 10, drivers in the Netherlands were paying the equivalent of about $6.73 a gallon at the pump. The gas itself cost $2.61; the rest — $4.12 — represented tax. That’s a 158 percent tax. By comparison, the U.S. has the lowest tax on gasoline of any industrialized country: about 15 percent at current prices. What does gasoline cost in other countries?

So what is more effective, trying to dictate what vehicles will be purchased or going to the source of what you want to control? And now for other countries...
So much for Europe and Japan. In less-developed parts of the world, some countries actually subsidize pump prices to keep them below what the gasoline actually costs to make. China, which recently raised fuel prices, still keeps them well below international market rates. Chinese drivers — and farmers — still pay the equivalent of less than $2 a gallon. As a result, the oil refining industry there is losing billions of dollars. That’s why the Chinese government is expected to continue to try to raise retail prices, while trying to avoid a major consumer backlash.

The cheapest places to top off, not surprisingly, are in countries that produce the most oil. In Iraq, until recently, pump prices were capped at 10 cents a gallon. Prices have recently risen to nearly 40 cents a gallon — still a bargain compared to the U.S. Iran also keeps pump prices low — less than 35 cents a gallon, according to a recent Reuters survey.

But for a real bargain, drive on down to Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez has made a name for himself lately by delivering heating fuel to low-income American families at bargain prices. In Venezuela, you’ll pay just 12 cents a gallon to fill your tank.

Doesn't sound like much if any incentive to reduce consumption in some of those countries.
And this same theme is spelled out more fully in Asian countries subsidizing fuel hit hard by higher oil prices.

And lastly, 'Just-in-Case': How to Think About Uncertainty and Global Warming:
"One can only wish that U.S. political leaders might have the insight to understand and the courage to act upon the breathtakingly-simple market-friendly idea that the right carbon tax could do way more to unleash the decentralized power of greedy, self-seeking American inventive genius on the problem of developing economically-feasible non-carbon-intensive alternative technologies than all of the command-and-control schemes and patchwork subsidies making the rounds in Washington these days."

P.S.: A friend of mine has pointed out that I did not look into my statement very well. I jumped to a conclusion or did not explain concisely what the issue was. In his own words:
"Well so much for the EU being better at fuel efficiency than the USA."
Actually, European car manufacturers are quite good at fuel efficiency. The average fuel efficiency of European cars is over 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km) and North American cars only average 20.4 mpg (11.5 L/100 km).

However, European car manufacturers make cars especially for the US market. The line of cars you see here in the US from Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Volvo, Volkswagen, Saab, Jaguar... are happy to pay the CAFE fines so that they can sell gas guzzling luxury cars and SUVs here. Since they concentrate on the luxury end of the market, they don't want to dilute their luxury niche with econo-boxes. Thus they don't introduce their economy cars in the US. For example you hardly ever see Mercedes' SmartCar or other A series cars, BMW 100 series cars, VW's Eos, Fox or Polo... etc. here in the US.

Since I don't know the European market, I will take what he says as fact. It is also important to look at the forwarding link to Fuel Efficiency and Lessons from Europe. And I will take the numbers as truth also, even if the measurement of the averages may not make sense. I believe it is not average MPG per vehicle that matters it is MPG per person mile driven. But even with all this, does this not signify that CAFE standards are not efficient in reducing gas consumption? The way the fleet system of calculating CAFE standards favors some fleets over others and not individual vehicles. So European car manufacturers are violating the intent of our regulations for economic gains. Why don't they regulate their exports since they think they know better than the US.

Cars: Fuel Economy

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hugo Chavez Is Crazy!

Editors note: As a globetrotting investigative reporter who has worked for major news outlets on both sides of the Atlantic, Greg Palast has had ample opportunity to see how media coverage can strongly skew how events are seen by the public. Last week, in an original article published on AlterNet, "The Screwing of Cynthia McKinney", he showed how sloppy reporters at the New York Times and National Public Radio were complicit in the political destruction of progressive Rep. Cynthia McKinney. Now, in another case study, he takes on U.S. media coverage of Venezuela's political turmoil.

True enough that media is strongly skewed in one direction and many times in the opposite. There has been times when the attacks on Republicans have been even harsher. And the Republicans rightly (in most cases) or wrongly jettisoned the individual from power. Bob Packwood is one person that comes to mind. There was plenty of stuff to get rid of him on but accusations of things that happened as much as 30 years prior just looks like a political witch hunt. And there are plenty more people on both sides of the aisle that have been "Screwed". I just wonder how Greg Palast seems to always know the internal workings of a lot of countries of the world?
Once again, the larger pro-Chavez demonstrations were, as they say in Latin America, "disappeared." I guess they didn't fit the print.

In the first portion of the title link ending with the above passage, I can not actually comment on the biasness since I have not seen the papers and no links were provided. But...

Venezuela Netzwerk Deutschland

And while I don't follow the mainstream media as closely as some people do, I don't believe these marches were published:












No not a march but pictures of the voting:

And now back to the title link article:
Look at the Chronicle/AP photo of the anti-Chavez marchers in Venezuela. Note their color. White.

And not just any white. A creamy rich white.
And the color of the pro-Chavez marchers? Dark brown. Brown and round as cola nuts -- just like their hero, their President Chavez. They wore an unvarying uniform of jeans and T-shirts.

I am not sure what to say except this is race baiting if I ever saw it. To the reader, I hope that you had a chance to see all the "creamy rich white" people in all the pictures in the links provided earlier. I happened to find a couple of white people but not much blond hair blue eyes running around. But after living in Los Angeles for a over a decade, the framing of this is completely a racist stunt. Shall we have him explain???
Let me explain.

For five centuries, Venezuela has been run by a minority of very white people, pure-blood descendants of the Spanish conquistadors. To most of the 80 percent of Venezuelans who are brown, Hugo Chavez is their Nelson Mandela, the man who will smash the economic and social apartheid that has kept the dark-skinned millions stacked in cardboard houses in the hills above Caracas while the whites live in high-rise splendor in the city center.

Yes, there has been inequality in the past and it continues. But his socialist autocratic techniques have not worked in the past (ask Zimbabweans how they like it), so I am doubtful with the "The Devil's Excrement" that things will improve all that much...
‘Ten years from now, 20 years from now, you will see, oil will bring us ruin. It’s the devil’s excrement. We are drowning in the devil’s excrement.’
Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso, former Venezuelan oil minister and a founder of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), speaking in the early 1970s.

I hope to write my next post on these issues.
Odd phrasings -- "dictator" and "autocrat" -- to describe Chavez, who was elected by a landslide majority (56 percent) of the voters. Unlike our President.

Now true, during the writing in 2002 and 2003 the press maybe went a little quick with the autocrat label but now with his new powers in "The Mother of All Laws" - Is Chavez Now Officially a Dictator?. I can not see how his regime is anything except a autocratic regime.
Problem was, the "resignation" story was a fabulous fib, a phantasmagoric fabrication. In fact, the President of Venezuela had been kidnapped at gunpoint and bundled off by helicopter from the presidential palace. He had not resigned; he never resigned; and one of his captors (who secretly supported Chavez) gave him a cell-phone from which he called and confirmed to friends and family that he remained alive -- and still president.

The problem is not that the media got it wrong, but whether it was corrected and explained later. I have heard Democracy Now make enough mistakes also, expecially when 'rushing to print'.
"He's crazy," shouts a protester about President Chavez on one broadcast. And if you watched the 60 Minutes interview with Chavez, you saw a snippet of a lengthy conversation -- a few selective seconds, actually -- which, out of context, did made Chavez look loony.

Watching the speech in the UN and his willingness to hug and praise brutal dictators from around the world then maybe 60 minutes saw stuff that we had not seen yet. And I actually think they are part of the MSM liberal biasness.
Try it: Do a Google or Lexis search on the words Chavez and autocrat.

For who is the autocrat? Today, there are hundreds of people held in detention without charges in George Bush's United States. In Venezuela, there are none.

Yes, I did and it showed plenty of Google Bombing including this article was high on the list. Plenty of people trying to defend him in the alternative media I see. As far as autocrat, I don't believe Bush has gotten an 18 month decree endorsed on 11 sections of the society and unlike Venezuela the USA was attacked. Even the Patriot Act was debated in congress.
Lesson: If you want to get accurate news in the United States, you might want to learn a language other than English.

I will concede that we do not get all the news about the world. That is called editing. But with the internet, small nitch markets can provide that information that is more in depth than MSM. This is not all of my sources and most are aggregators, but wanted to show some good alternative news outlets (and not even British papers-which are rags also)...

Watching America I love this site since it gives mostly editorials (opinions) in foreign papers about the USA and our relations with the world and is translated to English.
MemriTV-Mostly a translation service of broadcast journalism from the Middle East, but shocking none the less.
People's Daily Online-Yes a look at how the last socialist country views the world. I also have Pravda as an interesting site to visit.
Indymedia-Their endless pursuit of bad things sometimes does reward the reader. They did a piece on Syria in Lebanon a few years back and it was astounding the detail and showing the level of corruption.
Hindustan Times-Great source of information about India. A while back a person was accusing India of censorship on the Internet, and I was able to pull a couple of articles out as well as some American Blogs and piece together a compelling story of what the real story was. Love it.
WashingtonBlade-Just a quick read to see if anything strikes the Gays hot buttons. As in: Alaska House Republicans push expensive vote on gays D.P. benefits
Unpartisan I have a link from my blog also to there, and have not used it much, but is an interesting idea of aggregating news and blogs from the left and right. This could be a valuable tool for research on specific topics.
AfroCuba This link is to Venezuela and does not get updated that often, but should be good to get a different perspective.
Fars News And yes hear directly what the Iranians are saying. Some of it is funny. For example:
Ahmadinejad to Give Good News to Iranians
TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said here on Sunday that his country has already stabilized its nuclear rights, and further added that the Iranian nation will hear good news within the next two months.

How do you stabilize nuclear rights????
Jus Global And this is just out there in left field. Truly a hate site (IMHO). And no I have not paid for membership, but could be useful for finding out about terrorists.
NAM News Network Another step in globalization that small countries can have a voice to get information out. (NAM-Non-Aligned Movement)
Alsabaah is news from Iraq.

Well one more passage from the title link:
The Times reporter wrote that "the president says he will stay in power." "In power?" What a strange phrase for an elected official. Having myself spoken with Chavez, it did not sound like him. He indicated he would stay "in office" -- quite a different inference than "in power." But then, the Times' phrasing isn't in quotes.

I see a distinction without merit in the difference. And now that Hugo has toyed with the idea of President for life and/or reversing term limit laws, I see that his earlier statements seem to correlate with his actions now.

I can only pray that this does not end up bad...
"We will put up a good fight for our freedom"

P.S.: Anonymous said...
President Ahmadinejad's real views are summarized on this website:

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Corruption and Democracy.

This will be mostly a summary of information sources of the correlation between Democracy (which is broadly defined as a liberal democracy with a certain level of freedoms) and Corruption.

I had already been somewhat familiar with Dr. Rummels theories and knowledge. And this post was a good starter to think about the topic title.
Environmentalist Looks at Corruption.|RDR
Saturday Responses 8-20-05|DR
Saturday Responses|DR 02-06
RJR: Good point. Aside from convictions, etc., how can we gauge the tendency to corruption in a state? By how close in electoral power the two parties are. If they are very close, and the turnover in power is frequent, then the parties tend to check the corruption of each other's officials, since the party in power knows that will likely cause it to lose the next election. One party states, as with one-party nations, tend to be very corrupt.

Corruption Top Threat to African Animals, Study Says

Next is just a summary of some places of information about eco-environmentalism.
Markets/Democracy Protecting Environment|RDR

This one points out the struggle that young democracies(YD) have. And this has been an area of great interest in recent years. Including ideas that young democracies have sustainable credibility problems as well as another that looks at whether YDs are more violent than other forms of government.
Corruption Trap|RDR
The Corruption Trap|EconoLodge

While this is not an article about Democracy, it is an important issue that needs to be addressed. I see the best way to proceed when a nation/state/area derives a large amount of its wealth from mineral extraction is the use of a PDF as they have in Alaska. A person interested in these problems should also look at Dutch Disease.
Fuelling poverty: oil, war and corruption

The below link is to an excellent post by Dr. Rummel on a variety of democracy issues, but I wanted to point out the segment on "Myths and Realities of Governance and Corruption" (pdf) by Daniel Kaufmann (World Bank) that also links to that PDF report in the next two links. And his last three links deal with good governance starting with "Governance Matters IV: 
Governance Indicators 
for 1996–2004".
This And That On Democracy/Democratization|DR
Myths and Realities of Governance and Corruption|World Bank|PDF

After learning about democratic peace ideas, I too have come across times when a report seems to sidestep the issue of democracy as the root cause of the solution or lack thereof being the problem, as I noted in the Corruption being a Threat to African Animals. The second link is to the 2005 report.
Democracies are the Least Corrupt In 2006|DR
Transparency International|Corruption Perceptions Index 2005

Two more posts by Dr. Rummel on Corruption and Democracies.
Global Corruption and Democracy 2006|DR
Are Democracies Least Corrupt?

I am not sure if Dr. Rummel has used these numbers because they only rank ordinally and thus do not allow groupings of countries. Not as useful for statistical measurements. But I did notice one thing of interest. That the better a countries ordinal rank in democracy and thus press freedom the better a countries ordinal rank in Corruption is, and vice a versa. There is a couple of cases to note. Both Cuba and China have a better rank in corruption than what would be expected by the statistics. This tends to support that strong central governments can control corruption but the transitional democracies do often suffer corruption and other forms of poor governorship.

And to end with a graph that should help explain some things:

Thursday, February 01, 2007

And now for something completely different...Hugo's Rule by Decree

In this post I wanted to look at some recent news, commentary and blog posts covering the Hugo Chavez Rule by Decree that was recently approved.

1.Harry has a nice short piece:Second Time as Farce. In addition to showing pictures of Hugo as the great, they include these two important quotes:
Mr Chavez...announced he would nationalise key businesses, declared himself a Trotskyist and cited the ideas of Marx and Lenin.
He has also called on the National Assembly to give him the power to rule by decree (From: Chavez accelerates on path to socialismJan 10)

2.Harry has a video of the Daily Show at Authoritarian Regime + Oil = Begging Supplicants.

3.Telephones for the Classes – Socialism for the Masses is a good article about the development of CANTV which Hugo is planning to nationalize and links to a report (PDF) Nov 06 by Transparency International that rates Venezuela as among the most corrupt nations.

4.Superfluous Authoritarianism
Ruling by decree is what originally got Chávez in trouble back in 2001, when he first showed his disdain for pluralism by dictating 49 laws he'd discussed only with his pillow. That episode will likely seem mild, though, compared to the veritable orgy of rule by decree Venezuela is facing now that Chávez has asked the National Assembly to give him The Mother of All Enabling Laws.

An Enabling Laws is an authorization the National Assembly grants the president to legislate by decree for a fixed period of time. Time was when Enabling Laws could be used only as a last-resort, and only on financial matters. Under the old constitution, they allowed the president to move fast in situations where a long debate in congress risked deepening a financial crisis. Heading off a currency collapse, fighting a wave of bank failures, that sort of thing.

In came Chávez, and out went the safeguards. The 1999 Constitution removed the caveat that Enabling Laws could be used on financial matters only. Henceforth, the National Assembly could empower the president to go over its head on any matter, for any period of time. Sweet, sweet discretion.

Last week, Chávez asked the all-chavista National Assembly to give him the power, for 18 months, to dictate the following types of laws by decree:

1. Laws to accomplish the transformation of the institutions of the State.
2. Laws to establish mechanisms of popular participation.
3. Laws to establish the essential values that will guide public service.
4. Laws dealing with social and economic issues.
5. Laws dealing with financial and tax-related issues, including the Central Bank Law.
6. Laws dealing with the personal and judicial security of Venezuelans.
7. Laws dealing with science and technology issues.
8. Laws dealing with the way the country's territory is organized.
9. Laws dealing with the security and defense of the nation and the State.
10. Laws dealing with infrastructure, transportation and services....

The rest of the post is good also.

5. Venezuela in July 2005: a political portrait has a good break down of the Electoral System.

6. A sad day for Venezuelan democracy or what was left of it
When Hugo Chavez ran for President in 1998, one of his main proposals was that Venezuela required a "participatory" democracy instead of a representative democracy, in which decisions would somehow percolate down so that the Executive and legislative branches would have the input of the citizens and their opinion would be heard on all matters. This concept was in fact incorporated into the 2000 Bolivarian Constitution in many places and at the Quebec Summit in April 2001, Chavez refused to sign the final declaration of the Summit, because he did not believe in representative democracy, but only in a participatory democracy and the term was not included in the declaration.

After the events of the last two weeks, it should be very clear even to those with a limited understanding of what democracy is about, that Chavez does not believe in either of them. As the Venezuelan National Assembly approved today a first draft of the Enabling Law that will give Chavez absolute power to legislate for the next eighteen months, those "representatives" of the people not only relinquished their own power to legislate in favor of the autocrat, but they also precluded the exercise of that participatory democracy that Hugo Chavez claimed to believe in and which was clearly included in the 2000 Bolivarian Constitution.
But what is worse is the type of Enabling law that he will be granted. First of all, rather than being for a short and limited period of time, it will be for 18 months, a lifetime compared to the previous such Bills. Moreover, Enabling Bills granted on the past to incoming Presidents have been quite specific. Even the 2000 Bill was extreme in its details, as there was some semblance of democracy and not a docile National Assembly willing to comply with every wish and whim of the autocrat. You can find that Bill here and examine the exquisite level of detail of the mandate given Hugo Chavez at the time.

In contrast, the current Enabling Bill is simply grotesque, with no guidelines or mandate, almost all encompassing and allowing the President to completely change the social, economic and political structure and fiber of our country in any way he may desire over the next eighteen months. To wit, the Bill, as proposed, will "allow the President to legislate in ample and unlimited manner on":

-The transformation of the institutions of the State.
-Popular participation
-Public Functions
-Social and economic spheres
-Citizen safety and judicial security
-Science and Technology
-The National Health System
-Security and National Defense
-Infrastructure, transportation housing and services
-Telecommunications and information technology
-The penitentiary system
-Territorial organization
-Food supply security

As you can see, President Chavez has been given powers to legislate on essentially anything he wishes for in the next eighteen months, without any specifics and without control. This is certainly not in the spirit of any known Enabling Bill ever approved in history, anywhere, except those to given to Dictators at the peaks of their rule.

7. Winds of Change has a good post on: Do cry for Venezuela: the vulnerability of an easily amended Constitution

8. Publius Pundit has a couple of pieces: TO DICTATE BY DECREE and IN THE EYE OF THE STORM.

9. DICTATOR BY DECREE (PP) has a Spanish version of the decree order.

A.Chavez gets sweeping new powers
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been granted new special powers after an extraordinary assembly vote in the main square of the capital, Caracas.

Mr Chavez will now be able to rule by decree for the next 18 months.
In the open-air public ceremony in the capital, lawmakers voted unanimously to grant the Venezuelan leader the new powers, shouting: "Long live Socialism."
According to the so-called enabling law, the president can remake laws for "the construction of a new, sustainable economic and social model" to achieve an equal distribution of wealth.

Mr Chavez will be able to effect change by presidential decree in 11 broad areas.
He wants to scrap presidential term limits and rewrite the constitution to build what he calls "socialism for the 21st Century".

B.Gateway Pundit has a nice piece of trivia between Hitler and Hugo. Which links to: Chavez set to receive decree powers in Venezuela:
The move is part of a strategy to centralize power around Chavez, who is closely allied with communist Cuba. He has vowed to use his mandate to strip the central bank of its autonomy, eliminate presidential term limits and form a single party from the dozens of groups supporting him.
Aides predict he could implement up to 60 measures through decrees.
In 2001 he won similar temporary powers, which allowed him to issue decrees boosting state control over oil fields and increased presidential power to confiscate land deemed idle.

But the approval took months of political wrangling and became a lightning rod for many Venezuelans' anger that prompted large street protests.

C.SwissInfo:Chavez gets powers to rule by decree
The vote was applauded by hundreds of Chavez supporters in red T-shirts, carrying placards such as "With Chavez, the people rule" and "Venezuela towards socialism."

D.I saw several blogs mention:Chavez nationalization vow sparks assets sell-off but had not ran across it until today.
Currency traders said the local bolivar currency, officially pegged at 2,150 bolivars to the dollar, was now changing hands at more than 4,100 to the dollar.

E. The Oregon gains free rein in Venezuela

F. From Houston Chronicle: Chavez getting special energy powers
Chavez has said the private companies affected — British Petroleum PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Total SA and Statoil ASA — would be given the option to stay on as minority partners in the eastern Orinoco region.

G. Venezuela's Chavez gets powers to rule by decree
The lawmakers, all loyal to Chavez after opposition parties boycotted the 2005 congressional elections, flaunted their populist credentials by taking the unusual step of holding their vote in public in a square in Caracas.

H. Hugo Chavez gets unprecedented powers in Venezuela
"If you have all the power, why do you need more power?" said Luis Gonzalez, a high school teacher who paused to watch in the plaza, calling it a "media show" intended to give legitimacy to a repugnant move. "We're headed toward a dictatorship, disguised as a democracy."
"What kind of a dictatorship is this?" Rodriguez asked the crowd, saying the law "only serves to sow democracy and peace."

"Dictatorship is what there used to be," Rodriguez said. "We want to impose the dictatorship of a true democracy."

Venezuelan lawmakers will continue to hold session and pass laws in other areas.
Chavez plans to reorganize regional territories and carry out reforms aimed at bringing "power to the people" through thousands of newly formed Communal Councils designed to give Venezuelans a say on spending an increasing flow of state money on projects in their neighborhoods, from public housing to potholes.