Mickey Mouse spoke with LBJ.

This is too funny. The Navy was experimenting with sending divers to deeper and deeper depths for longer and longer periods of time. One of these divers- the former astronaut Scott Carpenter- has just set a world record: he's spent thirty days in the ocean at a depth of 200 feet.

A pre-arranged phone call to the White House is planned. The idea is to have President Lyndon Johnson offer Commander Carpenter a formal congratulation. This is a purely ceremonial call. It should be cut-and-dried. But there's a bizarre problem. Commander Carpenter is no longer underwater; he's in a decompression chamber. He's breathing air in which nitrogen- the gas which can give people the bends- has been replaced by helium. Helium is harmless, but it distorts the voice. When he speaks, Commander Carpenter sounds like Mickey Mouse.

Via Boing Boing


Continuación de la discusión del presupuesto

Con autorización de los autores Fabian Chang y Pedro Romero anexo para la discusión de estos últimos días esta tesis (cuidado archivo de 4 megas) sobre el tema del presupuesto en el Ecuador y una visión histórica de como se ha manejado el tema en el país.


You want to know what the government is doing?

One of the great things about this country is that you always find ways to know what the government is doing with your taxes. Despite recent fears of more secrecy around government actions there are several people dedicated to keep this tradition of transparency available to the public. Now the internet technology put this in your hands. Check this Wired article about sources of information of the government actions


Las aventuras de Alby con la Aduana

Hace un mes y un poco mas publiqué un comentario sobre la eliminación de las aduanas en Ecuador y como nuestro país se beneficiaría de la eliminación de las mismas. Así mismo en el post hable de la facilidad con que la eliminación de los aranceles se podría hacer con la firma y voluntad del Presidente. Hoy quiero acotar un comentario que nos dejó al final de dicho post Alby Aguilar, sobre los encuentros y desencuentros con el sistema aduanero ecuatoriano y el americano. El sistema aduanero americano es tal vez mas eficiente que el ecuatoriano, pero no por eso con mas razon de ser que el ecuatoriano. Las aduanas en cualquier parte del mundo no tienen razón de existir.

Comenta Alby:

"Este jueves mi esposo y mis hijas regresan a GYE luego de tres años de
permanecer fuera del pais. Yo estare unas cuantas semana mas en EEUU ....



In an effort to attract more readers and entice bloggers, WSJ is free this week.  Be sure not to miss this opportunity.



I haven't said anything about the current elections results.  To my friends on the loosing side, my deepest sorrows, I have heard that Canada is a nice country (altough a little bit cold) and as an inmigrant myself I can say, that inmigration is the only solution when one's view of a doomed future is something very real in your mind.  To my friends on the winning side, after all the winning hangover think about the bad things that have to be solved, unemployment, big deficits, unfulfilled social security privatization promises, Irak, etc.  Be sure to ask for less government and not for more.  This term offers the historic advantage of having full control of the congress (both houses) the presidency and soon the Supreme Court.  There are no excuses for not accomplishing the offered promises this time around. 

As for myself?  I was not too cheerful for any side as you might remember, but in any case I will stay here DHS willing.  I have seen worst things happen in my home country and regardless of the results I believe that this country has a lot to offer still.

Life after the elections

Ever since the elections finished on wednesday (after the defeat and winning speaches)  I noticed on my bloglines blogroll that the updates on some of the blogs that I read went down like a snowball.  It might be that everybody is tired after the election blogging, but the WSJ offers a reason why this might be happening in an article titled "Bloggers face life after the election".


1984 in Venezuela

It seems that the Orwellian State state in Venezuela is taking a strong hold of all elected positions. This last weekend were the regional elections. The opposition somehow disilussioned with the previous recall referendum results opted to keep fighting the results rather than focussing on the coming regional elections. They even encouraged people to abstein from voting as a protest. As expected the absentism was high and the results were rigged. The Chavez's party, the MVR won 22 of the 20 gubernatorial elections. The opposition not even won the states in which they were popular. Big Brother has arrived to Venezuela and it seems that is going to stay in charge for a long time indeed. Check the Blog of the Devil's Excrement for news on the current election.


After the election

I have mentioned before that I am not to happy with the choices that the US has for President. I don't like Kerry for his ideas and his demagoguery and on the other side I think that Bush has not done a good job, and even though that I can not say that we shouldn't get rid of dictators abroad, I believe the role of the US as world police is wrong. Also Bush has not accomplished his promises and the spending has gone crazy in this administration. My friend Brad Lips in his blog Lips Brothers quotes the following from a NRO article that he just published:
The challenge for conservatives remains the same whether Bush wins or loses. Victory followed by complacency could be just as damaging as outright defeat. Conservatives ought to recommit themselves to a shared vision, and for that we should look to Ronald Reagan.
Although I am not a conservative, I couldn't agree more with the quote. Regardless if Bush wins or looses, if you are a Libertarian or Conservative we have to take a stronger position against big government, and in favor of more freedom.

Electoral College

In anticipation to the upcoming election I am trying to understand the electoral college and how it works. While I am reading about it on different sources I will be posting below the links to places that offer an explanation. I will add more links as I read them and eventually I will grade them in order of quality of explanation, so you would be able to go directly to the most clear one. This since I have heard so many different explanations about this institution on the previous days, none to my satisfaction.




Daylight Saving Time

This coming sunday in the US we turn our clocks back one hour, so we will be able to sleep one hour later. Since I am a recent arrival to this country I found this webpage that explains the rationale behind this curious practice not observed near the equator.


McElroy and DV

I came across her website long time ago, but I have not checked it back in a long time among other things because I only go through websites that have Rss or Atom feeds. This time it caught my attention her parallel blog on domestic violence (DV) and her own experiences with the issue some 20 years ago. As always her positions are not the traditional feminist positions, and are more geared toward individualistic feminism. She cites also George Rolph expert on DV against males and the gender bias that currently exists on the issue towards taking only into account the violence against women and not against men. McElroy tries to draw paralalells to her own experiences and how she thinks Rolph's insights are non-gender specific.


Head of the OAS resigns

Yesterday at 5 Miguel Angel Rodriguez Secretary general of the OAS resigned. What a pitty, the press says that he recived a personal loan from a Minister that received the bribe:
"The evidence seems damning enough: Rodriguez's close friend and former housing minister, Jose Antonio Lobo, now under house arrest while cooperating with authorities, told prosecutors last week that then-president Rodriguez demanded a cut of the lucrative deal. Rodriguez claims the money was not a bribe but a personal loan, a loan that ended up in a Washington bank account held by his wife. There is no paper trail, according to Rodriguez, because it was a deal done con el pelo del bigote -- from the hair of his moustache -- a Costa Rican idiom for word of honor. "

Check the story by Marcela Sanchez of the Washington Post (registration required). Lets hope this is all a coverup of the guy in prison and Miguel Angel is innocent. I don't know him personally, but I have spoken with him a couple of times over the phone to invite him to conferences and he has always struck me as a very accesible and humble person. I have known from other people that he is a very honest and principled man. His resignation could only mean that he is a very principled man that gave out his post to defend his dignity.


Michael Moore exposed

This new film Celsius 41.11 promises to debunk and expose Michael Moore lies. Produced by Citizens United the film's trailer gives a glimpse of a more realistic view of whatever has happened in the last four years. Hopefully the producers will allow this movie to be downloadable as Michael Moore did for his movie as I mentioned on a previous post. In the meantime watch the trailers here. You can also watch it free on a theather near you if enough people sign up here.

JibJab #2 has arrived

The second release of the political sattire cartoon phenomenon of this election year has arrived. This one titled "Is good to be in DC" has the hard time of being overshadowed by the raving success of "This land". Check their website and check if the second release is funny as the first one.

Now you can own both on DVD, I will run to get my copy too. So far my only concern at this time of the posting is that their website is having problems to load due to the heavy traffic so be patient, or if you want to see them on tv today check at the following stations:

October 8th, Catch the JibJab brothers on the

boob tube!

The Today Show

Between 7:30 AM and 8:00 AM EST

CNBC Squawk Box

Immediately after the Today Show


Between 9:15 AM and 9:30 AM EST

FOX News - DaySide

Between 1:30 PM and 2:00 PM EST

CNBC Capitol Report

Between 3:00 PM and 3:30 PM EST

ABC News Now (tentative)

Between 5:00 PM and 5:30 PM EST

MSNBC – Countdown with Keith Olberman

Between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM EST


Big Brother in Virginia

The use of RFID in Virginia Licenses is currently being taken into consideration. That has sparked a debate over privacy and security issues. The traditional privacy advocates views is that this might be a nightmare and that our privacy is going to be thrown into the trash. On the other hand tech gurus, and big companies that will be able to handle more efficiently their inventory and offer better suited products to the consumer preferences, argue that RFID is only going to make our lifes easier. Reason Magazine had a good article that explored the pros and cons of this new technology that is being pushed by big companies as Walmart as well as governments, and it's hottly debated among libertarians.


Si Suecia puede por que Ecuador no?

A los socialistas les encanta citar como ejemplo de modelo de reformas Suecia. Aquí incluyo un link de la BBC sobre Vouchers en Suecia y el impacto que este ha tenido en el sistema educativo. Lo interesante de la nota es que a pesar de las sospechas que generaba el sistema en los sindicatos de profesores, estos ahora se han convertido en defensores del sistema (siempre y cuando cumpla con ciertas reglas que ellos han impuesto).


La eliminación de las Aduanas

Constantemente nos quejamos de que uno de los problemas nacionales más grandes es la corrupción. Quizá una de las fuentes mas grandes de corrupción es el contrabando. Todos nos quejamos de la corrupción que esto significa y sin embargo muchos de los que se quejan de la corrupción de las aduanas no tienen empacho alguno en ir a comprar a la bahía o productos que sean contrabandeados.

Mas sobre las ventajas de la Educación Privada

Ante el comentario de Alby en el post Educación y Etica en la cual citaba un comentario que negaba los beneficios de los vouchers en la educación y que reproduzco a continuación:


My wife suspected it all the time

Ever since we moved to our new home there has been a fish tank in our room that belongs to the owner of the house. Since the fish are too big and the tank is huge we have accepted those pets until a new home for them could be found. My wife complains that the fish tank is smelly, I don't have a good sense of smell, and besides the smelly food that its poured in the tank every once in a while I don't see why they should be smelly. Now imagine this morning that I was reading about the Ig Nobel Prizes, that honor the best in oddball research, run the gamut from a nudist library to a psychology experiment featuring a man in a gorilla suit to a recent finding that herrings communicate by farting. I don't know what kind of fish we have but my wife suspected it all the time the fish tank is in fact smelly. We definitively have a group of chatty fish in the tank.


Se acabó la fiesta en Venezuela (The party is over in Venezuela)

Only weeks after the national recall referendum Chavez is tightening the grip on the opposition. For those who believed in the legitimate democracy of Venezuela and its blessing by Carter and the Gaviria's OAS, how can they explain this?

How I feel about the current political debate

Throughout this electoral campaign, I have felt uncomfortable with the current political positions; I think that the candidates are more alike than most people think. I was reading the last Cato Policy Report and on the back page there is an essay by David Boaz. The essay could have not said better on what I think about liberals and conservatives. Read the essay and you will probably agree with Boaz and me.


Vouchers para la educación

La semana pasada inicie el tema de los problemas de la educación en el país. Como alternativa al actual sistema educativo propuse un sistema educativo basado en vouchers. La propuesta genero una larga serie de respuestas sobre la posibilidad de tener un sistema de este tipo. Una de las príncipales críticas a mi propuesta era que se consideraba mi propuesta algo inadecuado para la realidad de nuestro país por ser algo que solo se ha discutido en Estados Unidos o países desarrollados.


Who is Charles Ponzi?

This is an interesting story from NPR that explains what is the story of Charles Ponzi. In my home country a Ponzi scheeme is called this "Piramidación" to make financial piramids using other people's money. That is what basically Ponzi did in the 1930's and made himself famous for that. To add an interesting twist to the story Ponzi died in Rio de Janeiro in South America, why did he went there? Listening to the story I could not stop thinking how many state institutions behave like a Ponzi scheme. Social security is the most close example. The government makes everybody pitch in, so when you are old you get in return a pension to sustain yourself. Now the problem is that as the population grows older the payments start kicking in and that is when you have a problem. Since the money that is collected was not enough to cover future desimbursements it turns out that the only way to support it is you either increase the contribution on the younger ones, break your promise of paying x amount to the older ones or start running deficits and wait until congress or the President try to salvage it so the people don't loose their savings. Why a Ponzi scheme is a crime if the government does that everyday? Check also this webpage to learn more about Ponzi


La educación del país

El Universo del día de hoy trae un editorial de Fausto Segovia sobre la importancia de brindar a los sectores mas necesitados una educación pública de calidad. El editorial habla en general de las fallas de la educación nacional, como incluso con el uso de 200 millones de dólares en ayuda internacional los problemas se han vuelto peores.


Are we better off?

Virginia Postrel author of the Book the Substance of Style has an interesting commentary on why we are better of today than 20 years ago, even if the macroeconomic numbers don't show much difference.  The key is variety and how modern world offers today more choices than before.  Just the fact of being able to choose not among 20 products but rather 100 products (what is called the consumer surplus) even if it doesn't means macroenomically speaking anything means that we are better off.  Check her commentary in NPR or on her blog where she has a transcript of the radio commentary.

Connections and all in the family

I was reading about the dead of Aaron Director, founder of Law and Economics, that is the use of economic thinking tools in Law. This last paragraph caught my attention:

He stayed at Chicago for several years as an instructor, also bringing his younger sister Rose to the University. There, she finished her undergraduate work and entered graduate school in economics, where she would meet her future husband, Milton Friedman.

It turns out that Aaron Director was also one of the great promoters of Hayek's Road to Serfdom and even convinced the editors at Chicago University Press to publish it. He also was the teacher of Supreme Court Justice candidate and legal schoolar Robert Bork.

What an influence a man can have into a movement (both through family and ideas).

Where in the world is RLC

For those of you that read my blog and have been wondering where I have been this last month let me explain it here. Around the same time I posted the last time in August I started with a group of friends a new weblog www.cambiemosecuador.com. (spanish, sorry for the english readers)

The blog done in collaboration with other friends tries to search solutions to my belaguered home country Ecuador. The people that write on the blog are not necessarily on agreement over the solutions, but we all agree that we have to change Ecuador. I don't know if this is going to trascend or not, and if this is going to be another story of a failed project on the net, but I am excited that this can lead to other things, personally and politically speaking. Nonetheless this is a lame excuse for not updating this blog. I will try to be more constant this time. My apoligies to my loyal readers, if I still have some after abandoning this site.


Photos of my Home Town

Luis Ortega a friend of mine in my hometown Guayaquil, has published with some photos of my city. Take a look at his blog to find out more about the economic lung of Ecuador. What a difference after being called 15 years ago the American Calcutta. Another good page with turistical info of Guayaquil was prepared by the city council called www.visitaguayaquil.com.

Crece la proforma presupuestaria

Diario el Universo en su edición de hoy viernes 27, comenta sobre la proforma presupuestaria del 2005. La misma solo le falta la ratificación del Ministro Yepez. Entre los puntos interesantes que menciona el Universo como destacado es el precio del petroleo a 22 dólares. Sin embargo lo que yo veo grave en la proforma es que el gasto sigue creciendo como que si el país fuera un emirato árabe donde el petroleo fluye y donde la economía no está en crisis. Aunque el crecimiento este año es del 5% es lamentable que nadie tome en cuenta la gravedad de que el gasto sigue aumentando descontroladamente. A eso sumemosle que dicho precio del petroleo en cualquier momento puede caer y el gobiernos empezará a correr como gallina sin cabeza tratando de solucionar la crisis fiscal. Que soluciones proponen para este descontrolado e irreal presupuesto del gobierno? Gracias a Luis Ortega por el tip


John Kerry's campaign

I have tried to avoid talking about the campaign in my personal Blog, but this is too devastating to ignore. Thanks to Brad for the link I was really amazed by how demoralizing must be this ad to his campaign, acurate or not. If the statements are true he will not only be a guy that has been bragging about things in Vietnam but also lying outright.


Los efectos del resultado electoral de Venezuela en Ecuador

Si bien este sitio web tiene por objetivo discutir los problemas de Ecuador quisiera centrar la discusión en este artículo escrito por Ariel Cohen/Stephen Johnson que apareció hoy en el Washington Times sobre los efectos en la región de que haya ganado el referendum Chavez. El artículo menciona especificamente a Ecuador y sería interesante que se discuta en el caso específico de nuestro país y el impacto de Chávez en la política nacional.


The resurrection of Guayaquil

The webpage of the Hispanic American Center for Economic Research, on its weekly bulletin makes reference to a article published by Cuban American essayist Carlos Alberto Montaner in Firmas Press about The resurrection of Guayaquil Cheers for my home town.

La resurección de Guayaquil

La página web del Hispanic American Center for Economic Research, en su boletín semanal, hace referencia a un artículo publicado por Carlos Alberto Montaner en Firmas Press sobre la resurección de Guayaquil El artículo en cuestión es muy interesante pues pone en el tapete algo que los monos hemos venido observando en los últimos 10 años. Que estamos esperando para que lo mismo se de en Ecuador?


Arbol Genealógico

He estado revisando ultimamente mis libros viejos y me encontré con este libro - revista de CENIGA donde está el arbol Genealógico de la familia López. El arbol está compilado a la fecha de la publicación Julio de 1998 y por lo tanto salgo soltero y sin mi hijo al igual que otros en la familia que se han casado y aumentado la ganadería López. En todo caso para los curiosos que quieran ver la historia de mi Familia he incluido el archivo publicado. El trabajo fue publicado por Marcia León López, prima hermana de mi papá que hizo uso de los archivos de mi abuelo Pío López Lara para elaborar este trabajo. El archivo está en PDF.

Bajar Archivo lopez_ocr.pdf



Investment in Ecuador

Today Hernan Pérez Loose of El Universo has an op-ed piece titled "El costo de la inseguridad" The op-ed is interesting because it reveals what is wrong in my country.

The whole problem started when oil companies using the current Tax code tried to get a refund on the taxes that were paid and when the tax forms were filled the state had the duty of returning the overpaid taxes. Instead of that the Internal Revenue Service said that according to their oil concessions they were getting enough from the state. In a clear violation of the same tax code the state refused to pay back the oil companies the overpaid taxes. The solution as I saw it was either Ecuador government paid back those taxes and then modifies it's own tax law or they paid back them but at the same time they modify the concessions to the oil companies. In any case the state had to bite the bullet and be the first one to comply with the law. Neither of those 2 options were taken.

So the oil companies decided to take the ecuadorian government to a higher international court and obviously they lost. Perez Loose op-ed hightlights the government contradictions that forces its citizens to comply with stupid regulations that are damaging to their own interests and the government itself is incapable of abiding to the same rules.

That denial that the rules are for everybody is root of all the problems with legal insecurity and the reason Perez Loose says, why people prefer to invest in guerrila battered Colombia rather than doing it in peaceful Ecuador. Ecuador is a country where anybody with a slight connection to a government official feels the right to be above the law. Very few people follow the law to its full consecuences.

Why nobody wants to respect it is the big question. The answer has two angles. The first one is pure and simple lack of tradition of respect. Since colonial times the law was designed not to impose some restrictions on freedom and recognize people's freedom, but rather as a tool of control and benefits to certain groups of power. That in turn has made the law a complex collection of restricitions and benefits that makes people think twice before complying with it. Only fools comply with the law. The law is not for smart people. My friend Enrique Ghersi likes to quote a peruvian dictator that said, "For my enemies the Law, for my friends everything". That in a way reflects why in Latin American countries the law is a tool of power, not freedom. Only those that we don't like should comply with the law following this logic.

In regards to the Law Ghersi says :

"The compliance of the Law is a cost benefit behavior. That is the reason why the people in Latin America barely comply the law, because it is too expensive to meet the regulations"

Getting back to the issue that Perez Loose points out, the Ecuadorian government should apply the same standards that requires to the general people. If they find it too hard to comply, then there is no reason for the people to comply with it.


Constantine Menges

Constantine Menges last year when I was working to organize a conference on Argentina at a joint project between Atlas and Hudson Institute. Later on he helped me put together the conference about Venezuela, and to host some visitors that came to DC to network in the area. At all times it struck me that Constantine was a very accommodating person, willing to listen to anybody with a good idea. He was humble and not infatuated by an aura of punditry, although his impressive career would have allowed him to do it. The only thing I regret was not to have befriended Constantine in a more personal way. Rest in peace, and my depest sorrows for his family. The US has lost one of the most clever experts on Latin American security issues. Check also Atlas tribute to him.

Prehistory of the Moderm Libertarian movement in America

My colleague Leonard Liggio in an interview with John Blundell of the Institute of Economic Affairs in London in a recent Liberty Magazine recalls some of his encounters with the heroes of the libertarian, consevative world. I am amazed by this interview on how little things lead to great changes in the history of the US. As he says in his interview the election of a Republican congress in 1946 probably saved the country from becoming another Sweeden. Six influential books helped save the US according to him and is the answer of how the US started leaving the path in which Roosevelt and his New Deal had put the country after WWII. Read this piece in PDF format at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation Website


Freedom in Ecuador

In a recent discussion in a private forum with a group of friends I have been discussing why my home country is in trouble economically, even though we dollarized in 2001. My main argument is that the lack of continous reforms toward more freedom are the main reason why Ecuador is still in crisis.

Checking the index of economic freedom at Heritage Webpage in spanish or english (careful very large files), I found the following. Latin America appears together with Africa among the countries with less economic freedom. This is no surprise given that the Ecuador economic situation is in shambles. The only country among Latin America with a high ranking in freedom is Chile (13), very close to Sweden (12), Australia (11) and the USA (10)

There are other Latin American countries in the ranking high enough, but they are small countries with small development. It would take years of continous policies and capital accumulation to reach a state of welfare similar to the top 16. Among others, El Salvador (24), Bolivia (41), Costa Rica (50), Jamaica (56), Panamá (60)

Among the Latin countries that are less free are Venezuela (147), Cuba (144), Suriname (143), Haiti (137), Ecuador (126) (close to China by the way at position 128).

If you decide to download the file when you finish downloading it compare Ecuador with Chile and with Hong Kong. Any doubts on why Ecuador is in crisis, even with dollarization?

CATO has a competing version of the Index of Economic Freedom, the PDF's are lighter check here. Heritage's index is more user friendly but Cato's index to me is more precise although not very user friendly.


Another good reason to watch downloaded versions of Farenheit 911

It turns out that watching a downloaded version of Moore's Farenheit 911 can result in him loosing the chance of getting an Oscar for best doccumentary as reported by Wired Magazine. It would be really funny if this happens given his total rejection of IPR laws.

I watched Farenheit 911 from a downloaded movie as I recommended in my previous post. Although funny at times, it turns out to be not too funny, too long, too boring, and I think he ends ups loosing any credibility he has by not digging deeper on some issues that he touches and spending too long on his personal opinions on discrimination, and the suffering of some of the families of the heroes of the Irak war.

Some topics that he touches might be interesting to develop, like the saudis leavind the US right after 911, or the connections of Bush family with middle east interests, but he rather fails to do so by trying to spread his propaganda and knitting his conspiracy theories. Even critics that might be simpatetic to the idea that the Irak war has been a total mistake seem to be not favorable to him and his ramblings. To see more critics check the following:

From the right:




and from the left:




Michael Moore contradictions

I this interview featured in BoingBoing Michael Moore says that he does not believe in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), just to contradict himself seconds later to say that he is willing to let others share "his" work if they don't profit from it. If he says that there are no Intellectual Property Rights why would he care if a guy with a computer, hight speed internet access and a DVD burner starts selling his movie to guys who do not have high speed connection? So he does or does not believe on IPR? You be the judge.

I was not willing to pay for a movie theater ticket to watch Moore's latest release Farenheit 911 especially after all sort of op-eds in major US newspapers decrying that the film is full of inaccuracies. But since he has allowed it to be free, I feel no remorse in downloading it and see by myself why so many people are talking about it.

I believe in IPR, you cannot deny the existence of ownership of ideas and things, but I am not sure how you can enforce IPR in in a digital age. And that is the reason why I think the current approach by defenders of it are wrong. The whole enterteinment industry needs to reasess themselves and try to reinvent their business model. New technologies are making each day more difficult to enforce IPR and on the other hand its friends are using 18th century concepts to enforce them.

I believe that authors should start working more in a bussines model where their income does not come from selling a book, a record or a movie, but rather from lecture tours, concerts, or the selling of the movie memorabilia. After all an actor, book writer, or singer wants to be listen, read, and commented. They do need a revenue to compensate them for their creative work, but it has to come from other sources, not by selling the product itself. The product in a way is their ad campaign for people that find interesting the author's work and will like to go the extra mile and support those efforts. I don't expect anybody to pay me to write this nor I expect to be paid if someone quotes me, but I do expect that if I become quoted and read by people, they will acknowledge or recognize that I did it and that it will in turn open the door to jobs writing, more income for selling to somebody first my comments or just be supportive by someone sending me a gift choosen from my Amazon wish list. At least if I don't cash anything for my efforts, I will develop some prestige and a lot of fun doing this kind of work.

In any case if you are interested in finding out by yourself why Michael Moore is right or wrong check Eduardo Arcos Blog about a good comment on how to find the movie and what software you need in order to dowload it and watch it. By the way thanks to him that his post alerted me about watching Michael Moore for Free.



Check out this funny note from Texas Public Radio about spanglish language spoken by hispanics in the US and more specifically on the Texas border. Thanks to Freedom Pundit for the link.


Life is Beautiful

Today I rented Roberto Benigni's Life is beautiful. After seeing it, it couldn't think anything else than how could I have missed it. The movie is breathtaking and although is considered a comic movie the topic it deals with could not be more serious and tragic. I felt so emotional, sad and desperate after seeing Life is Beautiful.

I am a great fan of movies that depict reality as it is. But the truth is that I have huge problems to see those that show realistic violence. I feel really uncomfortable. I do not mind watching movies that I know are not true like any of the Lethal Weapons, but it's a different story when I see movies like Schindler's list and Saving Private Ryan. I have not seen yet the Passion of Christ, for that reason but someday I will do it. Life is beautiful is such a great movie because it is so touching without depicting images of violence. I actually think I have never been more emotional in a movie about the horrors of war and violence, without actually being tortured seeing the images of it.

We as parents should go at great lenghts to protect our children of all evil. No matter what our current situation is, always we have to be positive. It all depends on the glass that we use to see reality.

No matter what, even if as parents we have to do what Guido did for Giosué.

How emotionally healthy we and our children are depends on our efforts to see reality. How we see it whether as tragedy or as something beautiful is going to shape our feelings of success or our feelings of accomplisments. No matter where we are or what problems we confront always remember that Life is Beautiful.


"A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the "why" for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any "how."
"It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life - daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual." p.122

Above quotations reprinted from, Frankl, Viktor E., Man's Search for Meaning, Washington Square Press, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1963. As quoted by Tracy Marks at http://www.geocities.com/~webwinds/frankl/frankl.htm


Phishing and Spam

citiI got this message, and although I was already aware that this kind of e-mails are flying around I was alarmed at how real this message looked.

Citibank website says about this kind of e-mails:

Recently our customers have reported receiving fraudulent e-mails that appear to be from Citibank but which are, in fact, sent by imposters. How can you tell the difference? Fraudulent e-mails typically include attachments, request personal information, or both.
When such e-mails are sent in our name, Citibank works aggressively with law enforcement agencies to investigate them. Below is a list of several e-mails currently under investigation. If you've received any of them, please notify us by selecting the link of the e-mail you received. If you suspect you've gotten a fraudulent e-mail that's not on this list, please report it now.

The e-mail message itself is not a text message that you can select, is an image that automatically sent you to the official Citibank website along with the fake website that ask you info whenever you try to select the text or any part of the message. The interesting thing is that first you are sent to the real Citibank website, and then a pop up window appears asking you for your personal info. If you try to close that window is almost impossible to close it because it keeps opening, the pop up turns out to be a fraudulent webpage. If you receive any of this give it a try at your own risk if you want but don’t fill out any data, and you will see how difficult is to close the windows, I almost had to turn off the computer.

I guess that sooner or later spammers will try to do the same with other banks, e-mail accounts or so. As a policy I advise people not to sent passwords, and personal info on e-mail messages to anybody even to people you know, call them instead and identify yourself. So be careful don’t trust places where sensitive personal info (name, birth, social security, passwords) is asked.

This whole e-mail problems has a lot of people crying for more regulation. The truth be said is that I don't believe regulation will solve the problem. The problem is going to be solved once the software and standard makers make the systems more secure. Using the internet is becoming like driving a car, you need to be aware of the risks and know what to do. Accidents are going to happen but only education and knowledge will prevent them. Only you are responsible for taking the necessary precautions. I wonder how this is going to lead to the development of more secure standards to send e-mail or to keep security in new technologies. What about an insurance market for accidents on the internet. I am not aware if something like this exists yet, but it makes perfect sense for companies that want to protect themselves of stolen information, virus outbreaks, etc. E-week magazine has 2 articles on this week's issue that deal with the problem. The first one is about how lawmakers are trying to protect users. First I think that approach is wrong because what is currently happening is going to outdated when it's approved given the level of tech development. Second I believe more in market based solutions to this problems as I was mentioning the idea of having insurance companies getting into the business. That will surely force the users who want to insure his computer against this problems to be risk assesed by the insurance company first before signing any policy and for instance correct and stop any behavior deemed risky. The second article on that same eweek magazine is about how given the huge avalanche of e-mail spam, some larger companies are resorting back to old tecnologies like faxes and old fashioned mail. Althought that can be a temporary solution or a quick solution for companies not willing to invest in technology I think that mostly the best approach that I found on this issue is an article that I read on Freeman Magazine about the issue.

New technologies are appearing and I believe at some point having spam in your inbox will be be reduced to having a few outbreaks as it has happened with viruses once the blocking tecnologies evolve into more sophistication. At least here in the US nobody responsible enough will dare to run their computers unprotected without anti-virus. Those people receiving and spreading viruses for a long time without knowing it are those who are either lousy to take some time to fix their computers or technologically illeterate that don't know what they are doing when using the internet. Sorry for being harsh but as a coworker was making fun of it, I told her not to laugh at my use of words because not knowing at this point how to basically use a computer, what is a virus, how to protect yourself and your info is like not knowing how to read and aspiring for a job as a writer on a newspaper. You can tell good stories but in order to work there you have to know how to read and use at least a typewriter (if they are still around). The same can be said about computers, you might know about the wonders of the internet and how it helps our personal lives and how you trade things on e-bay and buy stuff in Amazon, but you have to know certain basics of internet security before attempting to use one.


Miss Universe 2004

If your bored tonight at 9PM EST Miss Universe 2004 is going to take place in Quito, Ecuador this year. A 6 or 9 minutes video presentation of my home country is scheduled to take place in between the different segments of the contest. Hopefully they will show not only the Galapagos Islands, the Amazonian Jungle or the 16th century catholic convents, but also other features of my country like my home town Guayaquil. Thanks to this preference in showing the nature wonders or historic features of my country makes some foreigners think that in Ecuador everybody lives in the jungle, has exotic pets on their backyards (I have to admit that on my parents house Iguanas walked on the yard), or everything is pretty much old. The event is going to be aired on NBC here is a link to their webpage:

Miss Universe NBC

For the political pundits President Bush cousin, Billy Bush is going to be the host of the program along with Cuban refugee and MTV Video J, Daisy Fuentes.


Freedom of Speech

Today I watched over the lunch with my co-workers the terrific video by June Arunga and produced by the BBC, "The Devils foothpath" which recounts the adventures of this Kenyan law student trying to travel from Egypt to South Africa through several countries of the continent. The video is excelent and my friend Brad saw it first and made an interesting review of it here where among other things recounts her stay here at Atlas. As I watched the video I realize how akward things are in Africa and how freedom of speech will bring them some sort of relief. Speaking with a fellow co-worker, he pointed me out to this article that appeared in MSNBC The Lifeline Radio Project by the Free Play foundation.

The idea of the project is basically that you can do a lot of good in Africa, specially in war thorn countries were communications are inexistant and infraestructure like electricity is years away. The idea as explained by the MSNBC article came:

In 1994, just as South Africa was emerging from the years of apartheid and forming its first democratically elected government, a colleague of Rory Stear saw a TV special featuring a wind–up radio.
In the spirit of the great hope and optimism at that time, Stear, a South African entrepreneur, and his colleague, Chris Staines, immediately saw the potential of a manually operated radio to spread information and education in sub-Saharan Africa and bought the rights to develop the technology.

The radio which gets the energy it needs from a hand cranked generator built into the radio can be also powered by solar cells. It also features 4 bands (FM, MW, SW1, SW2) and is built to resist a fall from a second floor. It's colors are bright and I guess they are choosen to appeal the kids, that according to the foundation, are the beneficiaries of the equipment.

I find the idea appealing and I will add my contribution here. If the idea is that freedom of speech to get news is behind all this project, why don't add also a simple feature to allow those radios to communicate with each other like walkie talkies do, to nearby ones. This will add another dimension to the radio that will not only allow people to be passive recipients of the broadcast but also to empower them to communicate with other fellow listeners and make their comments. In that way the radio will not only play a role in spreading information and news but allow other people to communicate easily and although is not a phone or a CB radio at least will allow them to use on a personal level to broadcast their own information and news. I guess that adding that functionality is not difficult or expensive and will have an impact like CB communication made on its time, and then later on, the internet and it's sub-products in particular like e-mail, Instant messaging and BLOGS like this.

I will really love this idea to be added to the radio, and since the organization that promote it is a non-profit one, I am not claiming any sort of intellectual property right on the idea, just recognition to the origin of it in case no one else came up with the idea before and it is found worth it by the makers of the radio.

Lazy Congressmen in Mexico

Thanks Eneas for this funny piece of news. A Mexican congressman affiliated with the Green party applied to participate in the newest edition of Big Brother Mexico.

The incredible and outrageous part of the story is not only that he is going to be absent from his duties for 3 months, but when asked about things that he will do or not do, he said that he will not get naked or have sex with other players for respect of his post dignity but he will probably get drunk because he is human. Just the idea of being there tells you that he is not doing much for his constituents besides circus for the people. I also find revealing of his moral character, the fact that he justifies not having sex on the basis of respect of his position as congressman and not out of respect for his wife (yes he is married!!).

On the other hand I have to admit that given the law creating fever in Latin America, congressmen (as well as executive members) should be severely limited in their functions and maybe even gather not round year but rather for shorts periods of time for absolutely essential matters. In other words the problem of Latin American governments is not the lack of laws but the excess of them and the sheer irrelevance that they bring because law is not simple.

A simple example will tell you the whole story. The US constitution has 7 articles and 27 ammendments. Some latin countries like mine, Ecuador has had 20 constitutions on a period of 174 years of life as an independant Republic. The number of ammendments is incredible if we count all of them together for each constitution. The current constitution has 284 articles that fill out a small book and was signed in 1998. The constitution norms out every possible aspect of life in Ecuador. You have to add to this numbers the incredible amount of laws out there that make impossible for the non-trained citizen to respect it or even know about it. No wonder constitutions are not regarded as important and besides the lawyers nobody knows what they have. The story goes on and on with every other Latin American country. You were asking yourself why Rule of Law does not work in Latin America, go to the laws and see for yourself?

Hernando de Soto did in the early 80's and interesting analysis "The Other Path" of why informality occurs in Peru. He found out that the problem was the excessive regulations that made virtually impossible to be a law abbiding citizen and bussinessmen in Peru. The same applies to every other country that is underdeveloped, see their number of laws and regulations, see their constitutions and you will be able to tell which ones are rich an which ones are poor or on way to become one (That is happening to some rich countries that are becoming increasingly regulated).


Problems closer to Home

In the last few days people in Metropolitan DC, especially in northern Virginia, have been worried about the news of gang violence preying the area. Altough the problem is not new it was always thought by people living in the suburbs (like me) that if we avoided the troublesome area (SE and NE DC) we were actually fairly safe from that violence.

It turns out by the last events, that the problem of gang violence is not new, has always been there, and police have been avoiding to mention it so the most wanted reason for this groups to engage in violence, fame, is not awarded to them.

Suspiciously the event that prompted all this news reports came out in the middle of crisis that most americans depict as one of grossest example of violence by terrorist activities in the middle east, the beheading of Nick Berg (I am not going to put any links here, I assume that everybody that reads knows about him. I find the whole Berg incident too grosse even mention it). The choppin off hands with a machete by Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) in Northern Virginia of a rival gang member has been in a sense a well calculated incident by gang leaders to attract national attention, and thus increase their wicked sense of pride for the fear caused.

The gang problem I think has 3 elements to consider. The first one and most obvious is the war on drugs and how the prohibition on drugs has created a huge delinquent market for this groups. Until a solution is reached on that issue the money to support those activities is going to be there.

The second aspect, perhaps the most widely cited by newspapers is the lack of values. While I think that this is an important issue I see this among other reason as a consequence of a lack of alternatives to the state education options. It is true that gang problems are not limited to public schools, but certainly those problems are more common among those. The benevolence of the school system toward the involvement of their students into gang related activities is another angle of the values problem as well as the parents involvement into their kids education. The value side of the problem can only be addressed by some sort of campaign, by the parents alone. That will include being able to choose and pay the best school available through a system of vouchers or any other free market alternative.

The final element into this issue of gang activity gives more room for policy makers analysis. It seems to me from what I have read, that laws are not strong enough with minors, and this is something that organized criminals have noticed. In other words laws whose main intentions were to protect minors have had the unintended consecuence of creating incentives for criminals to use kids and for instance cause more harm than good to the protected minors. Few years ago children in Colombia, Brazil and other Latin countries were used by criminals to act on their behalf and sometimes to kill people, all this with the understanding that children will be more trusted by average people and even worst, the kid will receive no major punishment. I think that here is where news commentators and policy analysts are not putting too much attention. Public policy institutes should focus on how the law should be structured to act as a deterrant of criminal activity in minors. The law should protect minors, but without giving them license to commit crimes. I believe that many troubled children get away with crimes because the system is too lenient on them. For instance the Annandele machete attack author should get the regular treatment by the judicial system and face charges for that crime even if he turns out to be a minor.

As a father I agree that there is not the same level or responsability when a minor commits a crime than when and adult does, but only when we are willing to analyse honestly and sincerely our law system, and carefully weight in the consecuences of its provisions, we are going to be able to effectively start getting rid of this social problem of gang violence / children criminal activities.


Beware of Eating Cicadas

I have to admit that my direst predictions on Cicadas, were not true, besides the continous sound of them that makes you feel like some sort of UFO is flying around.  They have turn out to be completely harmless and not annoying as crickets.  The story below is a funny one, on somebody that tried to eat Cicadas.  I guess that the same common sense should apply here, if you are allergic to food stuff don't even try them.
Man Becomes Ill After Gorging on Cicadas (AP)

AP - A man who cooked and ate nearly 30 cicadas sought medical treatment after suffering a strong allergic reaction to the sauteed insects.

For those of you still brave enough wishing to try them, check this link


Alive here

Well it seems that throughout April I have been lazy to write in this BLOG. Part of the problem why I am not blogging is that most of the time I did that while I was forced to used the computer for my final work in my MBA.

After working for 2 or 3 hours I will usually be a little hiperactive, after all the coffee I drank and to get use of that extra energy I will usually continue blogging until exausted.

After I finished that work I promised myself not to use again my home computer (win98 with dial up) for blogging. Since I have been really busy at work that meant that I did not had time to Blog at all. If you add to the equation that my mother in law was on a visit to my home I did not sat down to read and Blog on April.

No more excuses on sunday a I brought one of those Wi fi Antennas. A Microsoft MN-710. So far everything perfect. I have been able to find 2 or 3 neighboors willing to share their connection. My wife was worried that somebody will complain about it, because I am in a way "stealing" access. Since I have not forced anybody to give me access, I consider the access a gift, a sign of neighborly good will and not theft. Since I don't pay the bill I try not to use the access for intensive downloading. I don't want to loose access or anger my good neighbor that allows me to share his connection. Thanks again to the good Samaritan.

I think that technologies like Wi-FI will push internet companies sooner or later to lower the price of access I think is outrageous that in order to get a hi-speed connection I have to pay 40 dollars monthly to my local cable provider. For a while I had dial up with Microsoft until one day I discovered Net zero that slashed half of the payment I did to Microsoft. Hello guys (Microsoft) knock, knock 20 dollars for dial up!!! is too expensive still (much worse than 9.99). So far my only complain with Netzero has been their propietary software for dialing that forces me to see an add and not always shut's down cleanly. Besides that, the service has been reliable. If the wi - fi proves to cover me up all day long I will be shortly cutting off Netzero.

Well I feel relieved for Bloggin again. Hopefully dear reader you will be seeing me more often in the blogsphere.



Interesting article from the scientific point of view.  This, to say the least explains how people's brains react based on their sense of things, but does not at least in the short term helps you predict people's reactions to certain products or issues.  It only tells you that different people have different reactions to the same stimulus.  On the other hand somebody would figure out a sort mind reader using this tecnology to present you ads, based on what things make you feel confortable.

Asimov saw it coming: Picking a voter's brain

All the brain scans in the world won't crack the mystery of what makes people vote.

Gas Prices for Washingtonians

This is an interesting website for those who live in the Washington Area


Blogging is serious

Interesting article it relates to what is going on at the Blogshpere with the Kos' affair and how serious Blogging is becoming.
Keep Your Day Job

New at Reason: Could the growth of weblogging into a quasi-professional industry be taking the fun out of blogs? Assuming for the sake of argument that there was ever anything "fun" about blogging, Julian Sanchez casts a cold eye on the Kos affair.

What I found interesting about the article besides the power of blogging is the fact that Blogging is becoming a more trusted source of news than the conventional News.  For this matter and how Blogs are making the headlines check wired Magazine Article:http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,56978,00.html


Mario Vargas Llosa on 11-3

Mario Vargas Llosa writes and interesting article published by the Guardian in London, about the March 11 tragedy in Madrid.


Hernando De Soto is Awarded the Milton Friedman Award

Hernando de Soto has been awarded by the Cato Institute the Milton Friedman Award that grants a prize of $500.000 US Dollars to the to an individual who has made a significant contribution to advance human freedom. Awarded every other year the prize and named to perhaps the most influential economist to advance freedom on the 20th century, Milton Friedman.

The 2002 winner was Lord Peter Bauer because of his contributions to development economics. The bitter sweet prize was a little bit too late, because Lord Bauer passed away shortly after been told about the award. John Blundel former President of Atlas economic Research Foundation and current President of the Institute of Economic Affairs received the prize on behalf of Lord Bauer.

Peter Bauer largely ignored by main stream economists was the hardest critic of foreign aid to developing nations because the horrible consecuences on the local markets and the disastrous effects that led to more dependance and to less development.

Hernando de Soto's first work the Other Path was a breakthrough of the 80's by opening the doors to study the reasons of the informal economy and how they are not the result of market economies, but of the excessive regulation. His second seminal work was on the Mistery of capital in which he argues how important are property rights to promote development of people.

Cheers to Hernando de Soto and his work. Cheers to my friend Enrique Ghersi who in the early 80's was one of the main contributors to De Soto's work as co-author of the Other Path.


Not only bad news from Venezuela

Yesterday the Devil's Excrement a Blog on Venezuela posted a note on the current legalization process of land by the planning office of the Baruta district of Caracas. The interesting thing that it's mentioned is the fact that for the first time, people is really getting land titles, not just the land, but a legal document that they can use to mortgage the property and do all sort of commercial transactions. A revolution in the pure De Soto's style to resolve the mistery of Capital. CEDICE has been also working on the issues of the informal economy and recently Wladimir Zanoni its Chief analyst on the issue was mentioned on NPR


Territorial conflict between Chile and Bolivia

This morning the Washington Post Published and interesting report on the current sparks between Bolivia and Chile about their territorial conflict because of the land that Bolivia lost in the 1870 Pacific War with Peru and Chile.

Although more than 100 years had passed since that bloody war, the political irresponsibles (Evo Morales, Chavez and it's gang) in Bolivia are trying to capitalize on the feelings of citizens for a land that is no more a part of Bolivia.

The supporters of this claims to Chile argue that the lack of access to the sea has determined that they should remain impoverished for most of their lives. The argument is a fallacy and makes me remember the big lie that ecuadorians lived for most of the last 50 years crying for the lost riches of the Amazon. I don't deny the fact that the land was taken by force, invasion, and pure greed of the military in Peru that always considered Ecuador a part of their country. But the reality is that Ecuadorean military used this battle cry to grab huge benefits in all aspects of society. After 6 or 7 years of closing this chapter the Ecuadorian armed forces still are not able find a proper role in Ecuadorian society, and the corruption flaws of the armed forces still go unresolved and they are reluctant to be questioned.

I should also point out that with todays techonology is possible to live without access to the sea and be a rich nation. A case in point was Berlin that being walled for more than 40 years was able to manage huge amounts of development using planes to bring everything that the city needed. Also the Swiss have been landlocked all their lives, and it's one of the nations with a better standard of living.

What makes societies rich is not their vast natural resources or access to the sea or Oil wells in the Amazon basin but is actually a government that protects rule of Law, does not grant privileges, respects private property and free trade, and among all that respect it's citizens and privileges the Human capital and makes all the conditions for the individual creativity to spark.

If Bolivia wants to get in the path of development and need access to sell their products to the world markets, sign a free trade agreement with the Chilean (and all the surrounding nations), follow their example of liberalization of the local economy, stop crying for bitter episodes of the past and start looking to the future.


Hayek passed away 12 years ago

Yesterday, March 23 was the 12th anniversary of Friederich A. Hayek passing away. Hayek was an influential figure on the Free Market movement that wrote Road to Serfdom in 1944. The book was reproduced in Readers Digest condensed book section (first and only time to appear at the front of the magazine and not at the back as usual), and featured as cartoons also. Recently there was a celebration for the 60th anniversary of Road to Serfdom . My Dad wrote yesterday some recolections about his meeting with Hayek at a Mont Pelerin Society meeting in Berlin. Dad was the first ecuadorian member of that organization in 1981.

I reproduced the article verbatin below in case the link in spanish dies (sorry in spanish):

Friedrich A. Von Hayek

Verdades Evidentes

by Rómulo López-Sabando

Hoy 23 de marzo se cumplen 12 años del fallecimiento (1992) de uno de los hombres más trascendentes e ilustres en la historia de la libertad: Friedrich A. von Hayek. Austriaco de nacimiento (1900), nacionalizado inglés en 1938, abogado, filósofo, economista, maestro universitario, dictó cátedra en lógica, historia, filosofía, economía, estadística, moral, derecho y ciencias políticas.

Se hizo acreedor al Premio Nobel en Economía en 1974, según la Academia de Ciencias de Suecia, por “su contribución pionera a la teoría del dinero y de las fluctuaciones económicas, y por su original análisis de la interdependencia de los fenómenos económicos, políticos y sociales”.
Fue miembro de la Academia británica, obtuvo sendos doctorados en Derecho y en Ciencias Políticas. Doctor en la Universidad de Viena en 1927 y poseedor de muchos Doctorados Honoris Causas en todo el mundo, Profesor en las universidades de Londres (Economía y Estadística), Chicago (Ciencias morales y sociales) Friburgo, Salzburgo y Profesor invitado en muchísimos otros claustros académicos de América y Europa. Fue también director del Instituto Austriaco de Investigaciones Económicas.

Cuando el mundo vivía el horror del totalitarismo estatista y las convulsiones morales, económicas y sociales, que aherrojaron la libertad, derivados del nacional-socialismo (Hitler), del internacional socialismo (Stalin) y del socialismo corporativo italiano (fascismo de Mussolini), escribió en 1944 su magistral obra “Camino de Servidumbre” en la que con realismo social y profundidad académica exponía que los gobiernos no debían intervenir en la economía para controlar la inflación ni otras variables económicas, excepto la oferta monetaria estatal, cuyo crecimiento es el causante de la pobreza, de la pérdida del poder de compra del ingreso, de las desvalorizaciones monetarias, el deterioro social y moral y el vector más dinámico de la corrupción.

Escribió más de 50 libros de carácter científico. Sus estudios sobre Filosofía Social y Análisis económicos son el sustento del desarrollo, progreso, avances científicos y proliferación tecnológica que asombra y beneficia al mundo contemporáneo. Sus consejos son vitales para rescatar la libertad que día a día se pierde.

En su monumental obra sobre “Derecho, Legislación y Libertad” Hayek trata sobre el concepto de orden, sobre las fuentes generadoras de orden, las propiedades y características de los órdenes espontáneos, los órdenes espontáneos naturales, y el hecho de que los órdenes espontáneos son resultado de la sumisión de sus elementos a ciertas normas de conducta, rescatando los antiguos conceptos filosóficos sobre los orígenes del orden y de la naturaleza de los órdenes espontáneos (cosmos) y las organizaciones (taxis).

Según el CEES de Guatemala, Hayek en su visión y profunda reflexión sobre la libertad., se refiere a la diferencia de sentido en dos interpretaciones de la libertad económica. La una, la concepción original, que puede interpretarse como la “ausencia de coacción” que impide al individuo a actuar libremente respetando el derecho de los demás, o bien la “ausencia del poder que obliga” al individuo a actuar en contra de su voluntad. La otra concepción a que se refiere, es la libertad económica. Siendo hoy muy común la creencia de que para liberar al hombre de preocupaciones económicas es menester responsabilizar a los gobiernos, cobra mucha actualidad el discurso de Hayek, quien nos hace ver el riesgo que corremos al adoptar tal actitud, de perder la libertad en el sentido tradicional de la palabra” por el intervencionismo gubernamental.
En mi calidad de miembro único en el Ecuador de la Sociedad Mont Pelerín, fundada en 1947 por Hayek en Ginebra, (y a la que yo había ingresado en 1981), en una de las reuniones anuales de esta institución académica (Berlín Occidental 1982), tuve el honor de conocerlo, platicar y escucharlo y mientras, junto a él, navegábamos por el Rhin conocí, asombrado y estupefacto el cruel y degradante Muro de Berlín levantado por el totalitarismo de la Unión de Repúblicas Socialistas Soviéticas (URSS).

Los muros y cortinas de hierro, que parecen cosas del pasado aun perviven, pese a las experiencias fatales, para coartar la libertad y someter al hombre a designios totalitarios y fundamentalistas, sin respeto a la vida, la propiedad y el honor ajeno. En sus obras “Fundamentos de la Libertad” y “Fatal Arrogancia” conceptúa el rescate de conceptos y valores tan necesarios en los tiempos que corren.

Venezuela on NPR

National Public Radio (NPR), has been running this week a special on Latin American cities. Although I have disagreed with the comments on Guatemala because of the innacuracies yesterday, today's comments on Venezuela about informal economy were superb. It featured Wladimir Zanoni from CEDICE's projects on Informal economy. CEDICE the free-market think tank was recently recognized within Atlas's Templeton Freedom Awards Program



Seems like a good movie to see. Welcome Eneas to the blogging world.

Good News in El Salvador

Yesterday general elections in el Salvador between presidential candidates Tony Saca and Schafik Handal took place. The victory for Saca apparently was overwhelming given the high percentage participation of the voters, over 60% for a country used to see rates of barely over 50%.

The people of El Salvador choose wisely for a continuity in reforms, which is making this country a Central American Tiger. What a shame the lack of conformity of FMLN former guerrilla candidate Handal of the results of the election.

El Salvador showed yesterday several important things. Changes and free market reforms can be sold to the people if they bring positive effects to the population. The reason why so many countries in Latin America have apparently rejected the free market reforms has been because of the lack of results or benefits for the general population. The answer to development problems is more reforms and not less reforms. Salvador has proven the contrary and asides from the social problem of the Maras (gang violence) that has to be solved this time, the people in el Salvador seems to be determined to continue the path of prosperity and development.

Equally important is the fact that ARENA is not controlling the congress because that is a powerful reminder to ARENA that they can not in any way deceive people's hopes. FMLN will have to learn also that the only way to become a significant player in the Salvadorian politics is to get away from the revolutionary practices of the past (which they seem to be doing) and to get away from the left rhetoric of class warfare and revenge (which they seem to be having a hard time accepting).

What is happening in el Salvador right now should be also a sign that the reforms are not lost at all as it seemed after the elections of Lula, Gutierrez, the overthrow of President Sanchez de Lozada and the nostalgic feelings for the time of Che Guevara in Argentina. El Salvador and ARENA particularly have a great responsibility in carrying the torch of freedom. Everybody from left to right is seeing what is happening and everybody is going to be keen in making it work and not work. There is too much at stake now in El Salvador. The challenge now for ARENA is to make a reality in a widespread way the benefits of a free society to the vast majority of it's population.


Inmigrants settle in Suburbia

The Economist of March 13 has an interesting article about inmigrant trends about where they live when they come to the US. The article points out the fact that Hispanics more and more are settling into the suburbs. This is another reason why Huntington is wrong.


Blogging and good news from Ecuador

One of the reasons why I started this blog was to force myself to write after 3 year hiatus of not doing it. I have to admit that after a trial period of 1 month I am satisfied with it although the discipline of trying to write everyday is harsh.

During this trial period I have discovered what RSS is, how trackbacks work and how ahead of the news you can be if you use Newsreaders or aggregators. I think I am hook into this and ready to go the next step further which is start paying for this service. I know there are some "free" options out there, but as I told one friend, I am not willing to spend more time learning more code from what I need to continue doing this for free.

Let's see then if I am able to continue blogging and making the paid subscription services of typepad worth. I have added a wishlist in case somebody out there considers this Blog worth reading and would like to make a gift. I have been considering also adding a Pay Pal account to receive donations or payments, but I am not so sure that I want to start keeping track of receipts and donations to declare taxes for uncle Sam. Maybe if in the future if I become good enough at this and people find my comments worth reading them, I will start accepting donations. In the meantime this Blog is just for my pure pleasure and readers are welcome to enjoy it too.

Finally looking out for some information to add to this BLOG I found this article by Carlos Alberto Montaner in english and spanish. What I like about this article is the fact that I have notice that Ecuadoreans (and I include myself) because of the recent political and economic crisis of the late 90's and early millenium, have become pessimistic and cynical about our future as a country. I don't know how much of what Montaner says is real and how much of it is just a facade that somebody painted to him (the cynical inside me). Nonetheless if this holds to be true it will be worth praising it and a proof that not all is lost in my native country, there is hope and future in it.


Get ready for fried Cicadas

I grossed out after reading this morning's Washington Times forecast for an expected Cicada Invasion to surface after 17 years of pleasant sleep on the soil. The invasion is forecasted to be like the egiptian plagues of the bible and its expected to last for a month. It seems that we will have to get ready to cook them and try all sort of recipes with Cicadas during May and early june.

New way of doing politics

I was not at all surprised on sunday night when I learned about the Socialist Party winning the elections after the stupid attack on the trains on 11-M as the spanish are calling the tragic events of March 11 at the train system.

Instead I have been feeling uneasy by the results and the subsequent commentaries on different BLOGS I have been reading about the possibility that the elections have been turned upside down by the tragic events. Will this means that potentially dangerous groups might be targeting elections on the very last days before they take place? Can this be called a victory for Al Qaeda?

I don't think it matters if it was ETA or Al Qaeda the authors, they are equally destructive and equally evil when they hit innocent people to accomplish their wicked objectives. Terrorism I believe only has two ways of being fought. With a strong hand, lots of intelligence and going to the roots of the problem.

It seems to me that Aznar government so far did well engaging into fighting ETA with a strong hand and choking their leadership. That is the only response possible. On the other hand they went the wrong direction when they engaged into the fight of terrorism internationally up-front. By this I mean that perhaps Aznar should have been collaborative with the war but not engaging into it. This proved to be fatally tragic on one hand and on the other hand it didn't bring home any additional benefit, not politically and not defeating ETA.

The US has definitively to get rid at all cost of the threat of Al Qaeda, for political reasons and for security reasons. Too much effort although is spend on defeating minor players (like Saddan and his cronies) on the scene and doing too much international activism. Defeating Taliban regime and capturing Bin Laden would have been more than enough in the war on terror. That would have been a strong statement that nobody should mess with the US. Instead of that Bin Laden whereabouts are unknown and a difficult war on Iraq has been fought. I don't deny that the world is better off without this fellow copycat of Hitler. But that was a problem that should have been resolved by the Iraqis themselves.

Republicans and some War Democrats don't seem to understand that in many parts of the world in distress for their wicked rulers or by the corruption of their government officials, many people like to think that their problems are the consequence of the American or European imperialism. All their problems and misfortunes are according to their theory caused by the interventionist policies of another country. The reality is that their problems have been caused by the lack of their citizens of tacking responsibility of their decisions, at elections, electing the worst or politician giving the worst to win the elections.

Obviously I don't deny the fact that some situations started because of that intervention, but definitively is the people's choice to change that. For instance the American's intervention support of the Sha one way or another caused a violent outburst that ended with the deposition of him and the dictatorship of conservative Clerics. Fast forward 20 years later, the best thing that the US could do about Iran is stay away from there. The people is finally taking care of their problems, and even though the last elections were severely compromised because of the clerics rejection of the reformist candidates the people more and more is pressing for more secular society inside Islamic world.

That would have been the case of Iraq if it wasn't because the US tried to accelerate things. Everybody is better without him, but Iraqi people will always feel that their problems could only be resolved with the external help, and for instance some stupid people (hopefully not) will always be tempted to continue helping would be Saddams to become rulers. This nation building policy does not help other countries to learn how build their own country.

What I liked about Haiti situation as it started was that nobody on the international arena dared to get into the conflict. It seemed as if the conflict was going to be resolved by Haitians. Unfortunately at the very last minute the US and the French stepped in. My worst case scenario for Haiti (hopefully not) sooner or later the Haitians have not learned the lesson, and Aristide or any would be dictator will be taking power. And that has been the case in Haiti in the last 200 years.

Learning is a difficult process that only can be accomplished when you suffer the results of your decisions. The world is better without the Duvaliers, Chavezes, Husseins, Noriegas, or Castros, but they have to be taken out by the people who have the power to support or elect them. Otherwise there is huge risk of seeing every 10 years a replay of the same events. There are no shortcuts into the nation building process only when people are made responsible of their decisions the countries will have incentives to have better societies no matter how long it takes.

As for the US regarding the fight on terrorism I think they should focus on hunting Bin Laden and deactivating all the sleeper cells around. In the meantime stop loosing time in the nation building bussiness.


Scared at the airport

Life Liberty and Property Blog features an interesting encounter of a Spanish member of the IMF with the USA immigration authorities. Check also HIT and RUN Reason's Magazine interesting discussion about the implications of this episode.

The way I see it as a foreigner in the USA it's that the story is really scary and we can not expect anything less whenever anybody travels to the US. The bad part of this story is the sheer abuse of force by immigration officers, instead of conducting a questioning without handcuffing the passenger and respecting his dignity (why treat him as delinquent alien instead of presuming his innocence).

Moreover the lack of protection by a lawyer or at least the embassy or the IMF as granted by the sixth amendment in the US constitution (that does not make distinction between Citizens and non - Citizens) is regrettable

Article [VI.]
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

The interesting part is that the victim was member of a multinational organization that has some sort of privileges like not needing any sort of visa approval, not paying taxes in the US, and a quasi diplomatic status. What would have happened if the victim in case was a simple traveler without all this added protections.

Don't get me wrong I am not against questioning and this is something that we will have to get used to in a new world order with terrorist threats around us, but that does not justify trashing the constitution or violating your rights. Maybe this is a case for the Institute for Justice


Idiocy strikes again

This morning that I heard the news from a friend that was asking me about the terrible terrorist attack in Madrid I felt again what happened 3 years ago on september 11.

At first I couldn't believe that I did not see anything on the morning news while I was getting ready to leave to the office. It was later when talking to some friends that they told me that the news were on the TV but most networks only mentioned it and then continued talking about the campaign. I was surprised by the sheer parochialism of the TV media in the US (at least during the morning) of not giving enough importance to it while in other parts of the world it was front news and some channels as some friends told me were just pluggin in the spanish channels directly into the local network.

This sort of attacks rather than advancing political objectives of the terrorist organizations as one might think only pollarizes the public opinion into more security and total rejection of those tactics. What has september 11 brought to Al QAEDA besides offering terror for a while to a nation? 2 nations that were dominated by rogue rulers have been rebuilt or are in the process of being rebuilt. The terrorist and rogue rulers have been hunt down like rats, and their objectives so far are less and less far from being accomplished.

Maybe I am naive but I don't see how this terrorist attacks are bringing forward the terrorist objectives. Sooner or later this terrorist attacks are going to wake up the muslim world into total rejection of this tactics, and their objectives will be totally wiped out of the minds of simpatizers of this idiotic war against the western world and it's values.

You can check more interesting discussions on what is happening in Spain at Daniel Drezner's website.

Also the Main Spanish newspaper El PAIS is accesible at least today without subscription

P.S. While searching for news after posting this I found this list of victims. This is for those who have friends in Spain, but also reminded me of a conference by José Calleja, Journalist and Member of Basta YA during a workshop on Terrorism and Rule of Law in Colombia in which he emphasized that only when we remember the name of the victims, recognize them politically and stop counting them as statistics the war on terrorism will be won.

Right Now Venezuela is another Cuban province

I heard last night on my way home a funny note on NPR radio about how Cuban doctors that have been brought to Venezuela to help move forward Chavez Bolivarian Revolution. Nonetheless this doctors once they settle have been trying to flee Venezuela through the Colombian border or going into hiding. The comment from one cuban doctor was "Right Now Venezuela is another Cuban province"


Huntington's new book causes ruffles

I have to admit that when I read Samuel P. Huntington's article in Foreign Policy about the Hispanic Challenge I felt outraged by its conclusions

This article is article featured by a number of blogs like Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution that features a link to Daniel Drezner about several facts that Huntington touches in his article.

My main concern with Huntington article is that he rants all over the article about the lack of integration of the Hispanic community into the wider American experience without ever touching the institutional reasons why this happens. He mentions as possible explanation the fact that this group feels proud of its language and its traditions, but he misses the point totally when the fact is that most immigrants feel proud of their heritage. Many immigrants leave their country with great pain and just because they face economic hardships or political intolerance at home.

People come to the US primarily not because it's culture but because the economic opportunities it brings. My guess is that many when they arrive and start discovering the intricacies of the American culture discover also its virtues. Liking the American culture does not means that you reject your own culture. Having loyalties to both cultures does not mean that you hate one or the other. Latinos as I have experienced in my short time here in the US admire the American system and they want to participate more on it.

Currently the biggest stumbling block, as opposed to what happened in the past with other ethnic groups, for integration I believe is the immigration law. Latinos or Hispanics are less and less integrated because of the legal system that leave little or no room to be here in the US legally and with the same rights as any American. This forces Latinos to live in ghettos permanently and not as a stage in their settling in this country. The ghetto provides shelter and anonymity in a world where being illegal is becoming more difficult. Why leave the ghettos and settle in a community where you can be easily pointed out as an outsider. This I believe is the reason why less and less Latinos are refusing to learn the Language and integrate. The ghetto provides them security from the police and the ability to remain there without learning the language. Why move to a neighborhood were he will be pointed out as a foreigner and potentially be singled out by the authorities?

On the other hand I agree with Huntington’s allusion to the fact that the American culture is going to be affected by the huge influx of Latinos to the US, but my question is what is wrong with it? Latinos have a lot of virtues that are cherished and are desirable like family values, appreciation for the history and hard work. I don’t see where Huntington sees the problem. If he is worried about the ever increasing influence of the Democratic Party on Latino’s it’s because the Democratic Party has opened the doors to them. The Republican Party until recently had paid no attention to them, and have crazy guys like Representative Tom Tancredo (by the way his last name sounds Portuguese) or Pat Buchanan that are the most outspoken anti-immigration or anti-Hispanic. I will definitively agree with Peter Carlson in a review of Huntington’s Article at the Washington Post. He says that at some point a new crisis will send a new flood of immigrants to America and some fully assimilated Hispanic politician or pundit or Harvard professor will denounce this new comers citing their ignorance, their barbaric customs and so forth and he will at last find a Hispanic soul brother.

Other comments on Huntington's Book:

The Economist