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Sunday, September 27, 2009
Ocho
By Steven L. Taylor

Ocho

365.267

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By Steven L. Taylor

Warming Up

365.266

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Merkel ‘heads for’ new coalition

Mrs Merkel’s bloc now looks set to form a centre-right alliance with her preferred partner, the pro-reform FDP.

The story includes the following vote projections based on exit polls:

If those numbers hold they will represent an historic high for the FDP and an historic low for the SPD.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the LAT: German election a yawner for voters

Opinion polls give Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (together with its Bavarian sister party), a healthy lead over its nearest rival, the Social Democratic Party. Even stronger are Merkel’s personal approval ratings, which have encouraged her to play it safe and sedate in the campaign, even as her chief challenger, a man seen by many as a colorless bureaucrat, has been unable to fire up voters’ imaginations.

[...]

The Free Democrats, the Greens and the rapidly rising Left party, the successor to the Communists of the former East Germany, have been polling more than 10% each, making them potential kingmakers and speeding up the erosion of support for the two big parties, which no longer dominate the scene as they once did.

Well, it should be noted that the two large parties almost always needed a coalition partner to govern, which historically was the FDP, although prior to the current grand coalition of the CDU-SPD it was the Greens that were the main coalition partner with the SPD (1998-2005).

Here’s a great chart showing the historical electoral fortunes of the parties:

Exactly what the next government will look like remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, it won’t be headed by the SPD (via Reuters): German SPD candidate concedes bitter defeat in vote:

Germany’s Social Democrat (SPD) chancellor candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier conceded defeat in the federal election on Sunday after his party suffered its worst result since World War Two.

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Colombian Primaries Today
By Steven L. Taylor

Today Colombia is holding primary election to choose presidential candidate for two parties, the Liberal Party (PL) and the Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA). Also the Independent Movement for Absolute Renovation (MIRA) and the Conservative party (PC) are using the process to select congressional candidate (for MIRA it is both the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate and for the PC only the Chamber). The inclusion of congressional candidates into the process is new. Also noteworthy: the PC is no longer holding a primary to select a presidential candidate waiting until March to hold a primary in anticipation of President Uribe being allowed to run for a third term. The practical ramification of all of this is that the process today is to choose the main opposition candidates to run against Uribe (or, barring some failure of approval for re-election, the uribista candidate, probably Juan Maunel Santos).

The inclusion of the congress is sufficiently new that I am not even certain what the precise process is.1 Voters are allowed only one choice on the ballots (which, for the Chamber, are Department-specific), but since these nominations are not for single-member districts, one presumes that the number of votes will determine construction of the parties’ electoral lists. Ballots can be viewed here. I will post some examples later today.

El Tiempo has an overview of the PL and PDA contests: Colombianos ya votan por las consultas internas de Partido Liberal y Polo Democrático.

The most interesting aspect of the article is about the internal struggle within the PDA:

El Polo Democrático Alternativo se juega su futuro hoy en la consulta, no sólo entre dos nombres, sino también entre dos propuestas diametralmente opuestas.

La que encarna el sector del ex magistrado Carlos Gaviria promueve un partido ideológicamente puro, cuya vocación sería mantener la unidad y la hegemonía de la alianza entre la Anapo, el Moir y el Partido Comunista. Su táctica consiste en ir a la primera vuelta presidencial con candidato propio.

La otra propuesta es la que lidera el senador Gustavo Petro, quien considera urgente aliarse con otros partidos antirreeleccionistas (Partido Liberal, Cambio Radical o los “tres tenores”) apuntando a convertirse en opción de poder en el corto plazo.

I will skip a word-for-word translation. However, what the above notes is that the two main candidates for the PDA nomination,2 Carlos Gaviria (the party’s nominee in 2006) and Gustavo Petro, have different visions for the party. Gaviria is more interested in “ideological purity” and the maintenance of the current PDA alliance, which consists of center-left and left parties such as ANAPO, MOIR and the Communist Party of Colombia. His goal is to be viable enough to have a first-round candidate (with the implication being that said strategy is focused on getting a message out and having a decent showing, but not really having a shot at winning). Petro, on the other hand, wishes to broaden the coalition/form an alliance with other anti-reelectionist parties, such as the PL, Radical Change (CR) and the newly formed Confianza (known as the “three tenors” because it is based on an alliance of three former Bogotá mayors, Enrique Peñalosa, Antanas Mockus y Lucho Garzón).

If anything, the course of the PDA is going to be affected by today’s vote.

More later, no doubt.

  1. I will sort it out and post on it later today. [↩]
  2. The sample ballot at the Registry has a third candidate, Edison Lucio Torres, but he is not mentioned in the ET piece. I am unsure if this is because he dropped out, is too minor to be trifled with, or because the ET reporter was sloppy. [↩]
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Saturday, September 26, 2009
By Steven L. Taylor

One of the things that I find anywhere from amusing to annoying about the current situation with Iran is that so many commentators1 are convinced that what Obama needs to do is to be tougher.

Now, the problem is:  we have already tried this route and it didn’t work, so I am not sure why it is supposed to work now.

Understand, please, I am not trying to argue that Obama’s approach will lead to success (if success is defined as a nuclear-free Iran over the long term).   But, the notion that what we need strong rhetoric (especially about force and such) as a means of stopping Iran is nonsense.  We did that under the Bush administration and it didn’t work and it isn’t going to work now (or in the future).  Indeed, threats of military action coming from the Bush administration had serious credibility, given that it had already ordered invasions of the countries to Iran’s east and west and still, the threats didn’t work.

I will say this, to follow on from a point made below (here and here):  the best we can hope for is a slowing of the process, a goal that is more likely to be achieved at this point via diplomacy than belligerent rhetoric.

  1. For example,  see my post from yesterday, Stephen Hayes, and/or Michael Goldfarb, both of the Weekly Standard. []
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By Steven L. Taylor

Here’s what I think is going to happen in regards to Iran:  the international community will condemn and point to treaties and international law and there may be some sanctions imposed.  At the end of the day, and amidst  loud complaints the Iranians will eventually develop both nuclear energy and, almost certainly, a nuclear weapon.   And then, like other nuclear powers, they will not use the weapon because they don’t all want to die.1

The best that we can hope for is that via various diplomatic means that the process can be slowed.

Now, understand:  I am not a proponent of nuclear proliferation and would certainly prefer that Iran not acquire such a device.  However, as I continue to point out:  there is ultimately very little that can be done to stop a state which has sufficient economic means from eventually acquiring the needed technology to produce a nuclear weapon.

The only possible route available for stopping an Iranian nuclear program would be a massive military invasion and occupation.   Sanctions, “crippling” (quotes both because it is a quote and because I think that scare quotes are appropriate) or otherwise, won’t work.  First, it is wholly unclear that there is sufficient international support for such a move.  Second, I can think of no historical example in which sanction worked on this kind of scale.  Third, the likelihood is that sanctions will simply increase Iranian resolve.

Indeed, after writing the above, I noted the following from Jim Walsh of MIT writing at the NYT:

Research on the effect of sanctions is difficult to assess, but some scholars conclude that sanctions work about half the time. They are most effective when applied over a long period of time on small countries that are dependent on the outside world Iran is a big country with oil, and it can build centrifuges faster than the international community can impose sanctions. The Islamic Republic is also a proud country, the kind for which sanctions are as likely to elicit defiance, as they are cooperation. Indeed, the Islamic Republic has been under one kind of sanction or another since its founding 30 years ago. Any objective assessment would have to conclude that sanctions have completely failed to alter Iran’s nuclear policy.

Indeed.

I would also note that being isolated and poor (the goals of sanctions are to isolate and impoverish) does not mean that a state cannot develop nukes (see:  North Korea).

This takes us to war, and that way is madness.  Let us consider a few specific facts.

1)  The US military is already rather heavily vested in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Where are the resources going to come from for a war against Iran?   Are we going to reinstitute the draft to populate the military?

2)  War in the Persian Gulf would create a dramatic increase in oil prices.  The global economy is currently teetering between recovery and continued recession.  A massive spike in oil prices might very well cause a global depression.2

3)  An invasion of Iran would, no doubt, spark a wave of terrorism from groups like Hezbollah.

Further, there are no guarantees that a) the invasion would be successful (Iran is not Iraq, either in terms of military capacity or geography), and b) that an occupation could be maintained.    And then what happens once the occupation forces leave?  How long before some post-invasion government decides that what it really needs to protect Iran from future invasions is a nuclear weapon?

One of the things that too many people are missing in this debate:  there are reasons other use for the acquisition of said weapons.  Not only are there defensive reasons for wanting such a weapon, but perhaps more importantly, there are prestige reasons for wanting such a weapon.  Can anyone doubt that states with nukes aren’t treated differently than are states without?

  1. The same reason, by the way, that the Cuban Missile Crisis ended as it did, and the same reason why there has been no nuclear war between Pakistan and India, and the same reason that the North Koreans haven’t used their nukes, etc. []
  2. Correction: I originally wrote “recession,” but meant “depression” []
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Friday, September 25, 2009
Mack’s Nut Shop
By Steven L. Taylor

Mack’s Nut Shop

365.265. In Pine Level, AL on US231 between Troy and Montgomery. Amusingly, it was Jack’s Nut Shop when I first started working at Troy University, but at some point they changed ownership and they just painted over the "J"s and replaced them with "M"s-at least one place you can still see the "J" (although not in this shot).

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By Steven L. Taylor

Post-Game

365.264. Keeping the streak alive (although I do kinda like the shot). All I know is that it is difficult to coach 7 and 8 year-olds and take photos (hence the post-game shot).

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By Steven L. Taylor

AJ Stata on the revelations of a Iranian nuclear facility and Obama’s reacion: Obama All Hat, No Cattle

Our loquacious young president came out on TV and gave the Iranians a serious tongue lashing in bureaucratese. Which means he said a lot of nothing. No sanctions, no actions, no proposals. Just a lot of lofty rhetoric and pleading.

Pathetic. This is when you need a daring cowboy – those community organizers just wilt at times like these.

Now, here’s the fundamental problem with Stata’s critique: to come to the microphone and spout threats and demands that one cannot back up is the very definition of “all hat, no cattle.” If one cannot back up one’s threats, then it is best not to make them. Tough rhetoric does not translate into reality just because one wants it to be so. The Bush administration tried some fairly harsh rhetoric with the Iranians and, oddly enough, it didn’t work. Indeed, a lesson that should have been learned from the Bush administration, but remains unabsorbed by some, is that while some of us may like to hear harsh and direct rhetoric, it tends to a) not produce the desired outcome and/or b) results in belligerent action that we come to regret.

It is true, by the way, that Obama’s appeal to international law and such will likely have little effect on the Iranian nuclear program, but not because he is a wilting community organizer, but because of the exigencies of the international system that are outside of the control of the President of the United States, regardless of who he is, what party he is from and what type of rhetoric he spouts.

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