Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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What happened in Ecuador?

October 4, 2010

Was it an attempted coup? Was it just a protest gone horribly wrong? Does it leave Correa empowered (especially given the support he received from unlikely governments like Colombia, Peru and… the United States), or does it leave him more vulnerable to future possible coup attempts? Is the United States to blame for this given its late, weak condemnation of the coup in Honduras last year?

Fun things to read, organized by… well, it should be obvious:

I like Weisbrot and he says all signs point to attempted coup. I find Keating’s article mostly solid, asserting that democracy is alive and well in Latin America, although he has a bizarre paragraph in which he claims that U.S. opposition to the Honduran coup and a “quick return to democracy” there is a big reason “coups happen a lot less often than they used to” in Latin America. Huh?

When your only source of news is various media outlets, without any contacts on the ground, it’s hard to know what to believe. The only things I’m willing to concretely take away are: Correa seems firmly in power; the U.S. response was much more encouraging this time around than last year with Honduras, although I remain very skeptical of Obama administration policy towards Latin America; and there was a freaking gun battle to evacuate Correa from a hospital, and I doubt it even cracked the awareness of the vast majority of Americans, which is pretty amazing.

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Pawlenty makes making sense a priority

February 11, 2010

I heard Republican Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty speak at a conference this week.  And, well, he was a great speaker.

He argued that we’re headed into a period of “radical decentralization” as technology threatens the aggregated power of centralized monopolies.   Because these monopolies tend to be sluggish, technological innovations are leapfroging them—institutions like higher education (versus online universities) and major newspapers (versus dispersed, real time news sources).  He also added “many current roles of government” to the list, though wasn’t as clear about what the decentralized alternative would look like—privatization, I’d imagine.

While I think there are many government functions that shouldn’t be privatized—prisons, detention centers, pre-collegiate education, and most overseas military operations, among others—it was a smart, compelling speech.

And it made me wonder why the hell conservatives are even looking at Palin when they’ve got someone like Pawlenty actually making sense.

Jonas

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There is no left-wing politics in the United States

January 26, 2010

Exhibit 3,427: this happened last night.

I was not really mentally prepared to watch Jared Bernstein, former senior economist at the progressive Economic Policy Institute, defend the idea of a spending freeze in the middle of a recession, but this debate between him and Rachel Maddow is worth watching for the administration’s justification of this move. Maddow doesn’t give an inch but gives Bernstein a chance to make his case.

While my initial reaction was pretty extreme (something like Paul Krugman’s), if the administration defense is right, this may not actually mean all that much in a real economic sense, and might just be a move to try to gain support among the general populace that has bought into the frame that excessive government spending is the biggest problem we face economically.

That’s appalling in and of itself, of course. The left has spent its entire existence fighting against the misguided notion that government is bad. That the Obama administration is now feeding this narrative (in a knee-jerk panic reaction to a bad election result) is massively disappointing. Even if this is all words and no real meaningful action, the words matter.

For more, Andrew Sullivan has a nice summary of the range of blogger reactions.

Flying Whale

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Apparently I don’t know what it means to be a failed state

January 22, 2010

A few weeks ago, when Yemen grabbed a news cycle or two and folks were saying things like this, Flying Whale and I had a conversation with a good friend about what the criteria was for being considered a “failed state” and whether or not Yemen qualified.

Between the three of us, we dutifully recited Weber (loss of monopoly on violence) and hypothesized that it meant the inability of a centralized government to enforce its will outside of the capital.

And then I read this article.  And now I’m wondering if being categorized as a failed state is even bleaker than I realized.

Khaled Fattah of the Yemen Times writes that Yemen’s government has lost its “infrastructural power” and become a creator of problems, not a source of solutions.

[O]ne may point to the wide-spread endemic corruption, the expansion of ‘dark spaces’ that are far beyond the reach of the state’s eyes and hands, the growth of hidden economies, and the tendency to ignore the juridical processes of the state.

This loss is evident in the absence of the state in many parts of the country, in the inability of state institutions to counter lawlessness and social disorder, in the very poor quality of basic government services, and in the very limited impact of state controls. Unsurprisingly, Yemen today is one of the best examples of political entities where the state is performing ‘self-canceling.’

Although united Yemen has been holding together as a fragile Middle Eastern state, the wide array of anti-central authority actors who are engaged in varying degrees of violence and subversion are operating within a new poisonous environment that can push Yemen towards joining the list of failed states.

A birds-eye view of the current security situation in Yemen reveals how the Weberian notion of a state that enjoys a monopoly on violence is nothing more than a fantasy.

If the author hadn’t so clearly implied that Yemen wasn’t yet a failed state, I’d have thought the description certainly qualified it. I need a new working definition.  Thoughts?

P.S. I’ve been following these three blogs.  They’re a decent starting point.

Jonas

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[Sigh]

January 21, 2010

From the continuation of the nightmare in Haiti to a devastating Supreme Court decision (more soon) to the Democrats’ inability to pull it together, this has been one hell of a news cycle.

On the upside, nice job, Washington Post.  If only the Democrats could find it in them to do this level of analysis themselves and, I don’t know, turn this narrative to their advantage.

Jonas

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Biden and the Vice-Presidency

October 15, 2009

There’s a very interesting article at Newsweek about Joe Biden’s role in the administration as Obama’s foil on certain issues. Cover story, if I’m not mistaken (but I’m all Digital Age and haven’t seen a hard copy version of Newsweek in ages, so I don’t actually know for sure). Fascinating reading, for insights into Biden’s personality, Obama and Biden’s relationship, and the role of a vice president more generally.

Essentially, the article paints Biden as being unafraid to oppose Obama and the bulk of his advisers if he feels they’re about to do something silly, yet willing to fall in line for the public to give an appearance of consensus within the administration. One of the chief issues of contention is Obama’s war in Afghanistan (yes, I thought about that possessive before writing it).

And here’s Arianna Huffington going off the deep end, her response to the article being that Biden should resign in protest of the war in Afghanistan. Come on – exit over voice already? Did she even bother to read the article? The whole thrust of it is that Biden could very well end up being a very effective voice within the administration. Not to mention that “Biden has been incorrectly characterized as a dove who wants to pull out of Afghanistan. In fact, according to his ‘Counterterrorism-Plus’ paper, he wants to maintain a large troop presence.”

I don’t follow Huffington because I find Huffington Post an incomprehensibly designed website (not to mention sensationalistically sexist). Is she always this bizarre?

Flying Whale

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Two takes on the Olympics

October 2, 2009

Why didn’t Chicago get the 2016 Olympics?

Chris Bowers: Because we’re corrupt, power-hungry, carbon-spewing, torturing, evil bastards and the IOC was right to spurn us.

Moe Lane: Because we’re not loud, obnoxious and vulgar enough and we failed make it clear that we couldn’t care less what the rest of the world thinks of us.

Discuss.

Flying Whale