Archive for September, 2002

The Scam works sometimes- How stupid can people be?

September 22, 2002

Well, out of the millions of e-mails sent by the African scammers, I guess sometimes they feel it is worth it. Look at the case of the secretary of this law office who stole $2.1 million to wire to the scammers to “help” in transferring the $18 million Mr. Mbuso Nelson needed to transfer out of the South African Ministry of Mines. I guess greed wins too often. Overshadows the $5 record by the scamees by quite a bit.

(As shown by this article it is even worse than I thought, too mant people fall for it!!!!)


Chavez is the one! by Carolina Hernandez

September 22, 2002

Another good article from today’s El Nacional page A-4, transalated freely by me

Chavez is the one!              by Carolina Hernandez

For a while I have been impressed by the immense capacity that we Venezuelans have to criticize everything, absolutely everything  that our President does. It can’t be that we don’t like anything or that nothing satisfies us! Its absurd and amazing! After hours of reflection, I began to see everything in a different light.

My change came about just when Chavez announced that he would travel to South Africa to participate in the World Summit on Sustainable Development, where he would address issues relating to poverty. That statement created a whirlwind of criticism which I believe is absolutely unfair.

Since then I have been transformed. Now I understand Chavez. It was precisely after hearing that blessed statement that I became his defender. Because those that have crticized him have been too harsh, without analizing well his intentions and the duty he has to attend that meeting.

My friend, for one moment remove yourself of all your prejudices against Chavez and reflect on it. Be as objective as possible and answer: Is there a country with a Chief Executive more capable or as capable as Chavez to explain to the world the formula of how to kill poverty? Let’s consider some things that make Chavez the ideal person to expose such a blessed formula. Given the remarkable increment in the numbers that reveal that a high percentage of the venezuelan child population of less than two years has some type of malnutrition, do you think any other President has managed to improve Chavez’ record in only four years, sorry, two years in power? Maybe you are still not convinced of the mandate Chavez had to go to the summit. And if I remind you of the unemployment numbers? Since the beginning of this beautiful revolution, the number of unemployed has doubled and today, there are more than four million people who are part of the informal economy. Still don’t think that Chavez is the ideal person to speak about how to eliminate poverty? I see that you have high standards, but think about it! Look at Chavez’ partners in the National Assembly, they are now charging a VAT  to most, for not saying all, the products that feed those that have the least. Since the approval of the damm tax, Chavez’ Governemnt is fullfilling one of its main objectives. He is getting rid of the poorest! He is killing them of hunger! See how he was the indicated person to explain the silly formula? Have I convinced you? After all I have said , you still don’t believe that Chavez was not the ideal person to explain the thesis of how to attack poverty? But, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, we have to accept even if it hurts deep in our souls, that the Government Chavez leads is one for the record books. We have to recognize that it has established records in statistics of empovireshment of the population. It is so fast! With four, sorry! with two, recently achieved, years in power, it has also halved the purchasing power of the population.

Is there in the world someone with more merit, someone with more proof of talent to erradicate poverty? Is there another person as or more capable than Chavez to explain to the world how to combat and destroy -his own people- with poverty? In my opinion Hugo Chavez was the most ideal person to present such a plan. We have to leave selfishness aside! I definitely believe that he had to go to South Africa to share with the world the formula that has been so infallible to extermiante the poor. And you……what do you think?

From savage neoliberalism to the populism of a savage by Oscar Garcia Mendoza

September 22, 2002

Translated liberally from an article in page 2-6 of today’s El Universal:

From Savage Neoliberalism to the Populism of a Savage

by Oscar Garcia Mendoza

In some latter time, which I hope will not be too distant, I would like to read an essay entitled like this article which evidently will summarize the disaster that we are living.

Many times a relative of mine described his wife sayng that she was crazy, but that she was very dangerous because she was a coherent nut. She would say things that seemed reasonable, but they were not and that was her danger. I don’t want to say that we have not noticed this with our leader, but many that do not have this perception or don’t know him believe that what he says has some degree of reason and believe from him the most incredible things.

Liberalism is good administartion. Assigning limited resources to unlimited needs. And better yet , except in evident cases, is that those resources be managed by the private sector rather than the state.

Argentina is now shown as the symbol of the bad things about globalization. This is not the case: The President of Uruguay, without wanting all of us to, know gave hi opinion:” what we have in Argentina is a bunch of thieves”. With this, neither theory or practice will ever work. Argentina is the example of the what is bad about corruption, not of what is bad about neoliberalism. Our case is the same. The Venezuelan case is the case of hypercorruption. The only things that has saved this Government is high oil prices. When they drop, we will all be screwed, but these “populists” will not care.

The economic and political slide is quite large and the decisions are getting worse every day. One small one reflects a lot: Changing the keeping of official statistics from the Venezuelan Central Bank (which are not too trustworthy) to the Central Government. Why don’t you be sincere: Eliminate them. Give the numbers you want. The  citizens don’t eat numbers but foodstuffs and they will know anyway.

Patience. There is no illness that lasts 100 years nor body that can resist it.



Venezuela approaches the brink: NYT article agrees with my implosion view……

September 21, 2002

From today’s NYT article:

“It is starting to look very much like what led to the Spanish Civil War,” said Eduardo Fernandez, a former general secretary of the opposition Copei party. “We are tempting the devil.”

I really dont think the Civil War analogy is a good one, but do think there will be many deaths when this is all over. Sadly, but our coward military leaders have allowed it to go too far in the name of an institutionality which exists only in their imaginations.

Disagree also with the statement Mr. Chavez has moderated. He did modearte his speech but he is back to his old self. I also believe that he would lose in an election of three candidates or less and not like the article suggests that he would win an election. If this were true he would have scheduled one already. Polls show he has no more than 30% of the vote but it is not clear these people would go vote as demonstarted by recent regional elections in regions where his party had the same 30% support, but got less than 5% of the vote, see my earlier post.

Foveon and Sigma disclose price for SD-9

September 20, 2002

Foveon and Sigma revealed today the price of the SD-9 camera that will be the first one to use the Foveon chip (see my post on the subject). Contrary to expectations, the pirce is much lower, the Manufacturer Suggested Retail price will be US$ 1,800 in the US, probably lower with discounts. Cool, very cool!!

Venezuela: Demonstration Repressed by the National Guard

September 20, 2002

Background: An anti-Government group announces an anti-Chavez vigil starting at 3PM Friday afternoon and scheduled to last until 6 AM Saturday. The vigil is to take place right outside a military airport in the East of Caracas. I really did not expect more than 100-200 people at the demonstration as its leader is somewhat right wing and has been calling for the millitary to take power away from Chavez. On Thursday the Government issues a decree declaring eight areas of the city as “protection” areas including the military airport. The organizers of the demonstration change their permits to a square two blocks away which is a symbol of the anti-Chavez movement two blocks away. Simultaneously on Thursday the intelligence police detains the leader of that movement, without any legal order to do so.

Today’s Events: During the day one sees large contingent of National Guards moving around the military airport. As demonstrators begin to gather in the new location, the Guardsmen leave the airport and surround the area where the demonstration is to take place. As the crowd grows, the National Guard General tells people that they can’t be there because it is within the protection zone of the decree. The demonstrators, mostly women, say they have a permit and will not move. As TV stations broadcast this, more and more people gather. The National Guard gives them a 4:30 PM deadline to vacate the square. The crowd grows. At 5:30 PM as I was going to join the crowd, the National Guard begins using tear gas and the absolutely peacefull, legal demonstration is bombarded by tear gas and plastic bullets for over an hour. The crowd disperses and meets somewhere else in the city (no permit), three people are injured. 

The leader of demonstration was released roughly at the same time as the demonstartors were gassed. The judge found that his rights were violated and none of the procedures required to detain a person had been followed, including no arrest order and there was no attorney from the Attorney General’s office present as required by law.

Here you can read the NYT story on these events in english.

This is the “democratic” Government that the OAS, the Carter Center and PNUD have been defending. Shame on the President, the National Guard and the military, who for months have been saying they are “institutional”. They are simply cowards. They have seen this Government murder 18 people in April. they have seen people’s rights violated over and over and they claim they are defending “insitutionality”. They are defending their asses and their pensions, nothing more. the actions yesterday and today are simply repression and actions by a semi-dictatorial Government who cares nothing for human rights. They are hypocritical bastards who use tear gas against a peaceful demonstrations made up mostly of courageous middle-aged women that have the guts the military does not have. How many people have to be repressed, injured or killed before the world sees this…….


(picture in my brother’s blog Tyromaniac)

Venezuela tense………

September 19, 2002

The country is very tense at this time, as it is clear that the US Embassy had grounds to be concerned yesterday about the threats to the Venezuelan democracy. While yesterday the warning appered to be directed towards the Venezuelan military, todays events suggest that it may have been directed more at President Hugo Cahvez warning him not to attempt a self-coup. At 8:15 PM EST on Thursday, the leader of a demonstration scheduled for Friday has been detained without a warrant and President Chavez has boasted about it in speech. Meanwhile, a former member of the Venezuelan Supreme Court reports intelligence police is parked right outside her house and a reporter for UnionRadio says over the air that he has a list of the people that are scheduled to be detained, which includes a Catholic Church priest and a Cardinal. Stay tuned….

Strange warning by US Embassy in Caracas

September 18, 2002

Can’t help but find it strange that the US Embassy in Caracas issued late Wenesday a statement in which they condemn any possible attempt either violent or illegal which would endanger democracy in Venezuela. The statement says that the diplomatic representative is gravely concerned about intense rumors about a possible violent action to solve the current political crisis.

What makes the statement strange is that while things are indeed tense in Venezuela, there is no sense of an impending resolution to the problems like there was a few months ago. I do believe that things are slowly building up again to a strong confrontation, but obviously US intelligence must know something I don’t know, given the timing of the statement. Interestingly enough, local newspaper Tal Cual, carried today an editorial against the possibility of a military coup. I found the timing of the article strange, but maybe the two go together.

On a lighter note the same newspaper carried on page 6 a note on Solomon Babu of Trinidad, a witchdoctor, according to whom there will be two coups in the world soon, one in Pakistan and the other in Venezuela. Mr. Babu (or is it Mr. Salomon) says that Chavez will be replaced by another parachutist. Curiously, in Venezuela parachutist (or paracaidista) is the word used for those that achieve positions without having the merits or qualifications to occupy them. I guess it would apply rather well to both Mr. Chavez and Babu’s predicted President.


Some observations on the tech world and investing

September 18, 2002

Cisco CEO and CFO certify the company’s financial statements

Funny stocks used to go down on fears that they would not certify, but fail to go up when they do, maybe it was simply an excuse. Interesting that none of the major Silicon Valley companies failed to certify or had an accounting scandal, maybe the true tech revolution is also ethical.

Sun to agressively sell Linux with its computers.

Oh! Oh! Is this bad luck for Linux? Another failed anti-Microsoft strategy? Why is Sun always paranoid about Microsoft? Sun should just find its own vision. This must be the 37th. anti-Microsoft strategy planned by Sun. Sounds weird, expensive box, Linux inside. McNealy says his boxes will be cheaper, I remember him saying the same thing when the Pentium first came out in ’93.

Lucent will do anything to return to profits

Umm, Lucent must be on its 17th. consecutive warning on profits. Is it different this time? Merge with Nortel? Fire everyone? Build a molecular transistor?. Compete with Dell? How about using Linux? Oh, no, I guess Unix was born here I guess we just decided to give it away for free!

Cisco sees Dell as a competitor

Well, if this were sports I would be happy, but maybe Cisco will find at last a true competitor. I like Cisco better if only because there is no Mr. Cisco, even if his name may be Chambers.

Intersil may start a price war on 802.11a chipsets

Maybe this will be THE solution to the broadband access problem. Cheap wireless networks everywhere!!

Linux worm hits the network

What I find weird about this story is that nobody says Bill Gates is the suspected hacker.

Bell Labs Physics scandal: Fascinating

September 17, 2002

Fascinating article in about the research scandal at Bell Labs. As a Physicst who worked for many years in experimental Physics I find it fascinating, not only because some of the players are former collaborators and friends, but because of the issues it raises about ethics and the high pressure in prestigious labs to produce high quality work permanently.

Briefly, a young rising physicist from Lucent’s Bell Labs Jan Hendrik Schon was producing such high quality work on making switches out of molecular layers, basically making molecular transistors that would be revolutionary.People even thought his work would lead straight to a Nobel Prize. Somebody tipped off my friend Prof. Lydia Sohn from the Princeton Physics Dept. that there were two figures on two different papers with different materials that looked identical. (Down to the little wiggles in the noise). One of the journals was notified, they contacted the author and he said he had made a mistake and sent in the “right” figure. However, another researcher found other duplications up to eight figures in six papers appeared to have duplicate figures which were supposed to be from different materials. The probe has even expanded into the field of superconductivity where Schon has also published some papers.

Bell Labs has convened a committe that it will likely release its report fairly soon. The panel is headed by a former Prof. of mine Mac Beasley who is now at Stanford. The article also quotes my friend Teun Klapwijk from The Netherlands.

What amazes me the most about this scandal is that I always thought good physicists had the highest standards of ethical conduct when it came down to their data and their interpretation. Even when you got “fantastic” results, you questioned their validity, whether something may be faking you out and you thought of other tests to confirm that what you were seeing was the right effect or interpretation. Moreover, it is also incredible that nobody could reproduce even the most basic effects of the early results, but the Bell Labs team kept publishing new papers almost monthly. We will soon hear from the panel about their conclusions, whatever they may be, I am sure they will add even more integrity to experimental physics, or at least fear…..