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The Collective
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

I agree with Alex Knapp, this is funny.

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Filed under: The Economy, US Politics | Comments/Trackbacks (0) |
By Dr. Steven Taylor

In these difficult and unpredictable times, it is comforting to know that some things remain consistent, like the fact that McCain campaign wants to heavily control press access to their veep nominee. Via the AP: Palin bans reporters from meetings with leaders

The campaign told the TV producer, print and wire reporters in the press pool that follows the Alaska governor that they would not be admitted with the photographers and camera crew taken in to photograph the meetings. At least two news organizations, including The Associated Press, objected and were told that the decision was not subject to discussion.

In other words, the campaign wants the publicity of photos of Palin with world leaders, but not any threat of any actual pesky press write-ups. I am not sure what it is that they are afraid of.

As I continue to note, the notion that someone who aspires to be Vice President, and therefore be in line for the presidency, needs to be protected from the press is utterly insane (and disturbing).

Further, it strikes me it is an odd notion that simply meeting foreign leaders equals “foreign policy experience.” By this logic, perhaps I should have applied for the job of veep, as I have had actual sit-down interviews1 with three presidents of Colombia (although one of the interviews was before one of them became president): Misael Pastrana (1970-1974), Alfosnso López (1974-1978) and Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002). I interviewed Pastrana in 1995, so he wasn’t a “world leader” at the time (he had run for the presidency and lost in 1994 and had been mayor of Bogotá and Senator, however). Granted, I have never met a sitting world leader, so perhaps that’s why the McCain camp didn’t put me on the short list…

Update: Andrew Sullivan points to this report that states that the campaign has capitulated to at least allow a CNN producer to attend the meeting.

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  1. Which is even better than just meeting them, I would think! []
Filed under: 2008 Campaign, The Press, US Politics | Comments/Trackbacks (14) | | Show Comments here
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Nuevo golpe a las Farc, cayó alias el “paisa”:

Cayó uno de los más bárbaros jefes guerrilleros. Se trata de Aicardo de Jesús Agudelo, alias “el paisa”, quién murió durante un bombardeo de la Fuerza Aérea a su campamento, ubicado en el departamento del Chocó.

Translation: “New Blow to the FARC, “El Paisa” Falls”:

One of the most barabaric of the guerrilla chiefs has fallen. Aicardo de Jesús Agudelo, alias “El Paisa” died during an air Force bombing against his camp in the Department of Chocó.

El Paisa was not a member of the FARC’s Secretariat, but he was considered a “high value” target by the Colombian government. Among other actions, El Paisa was responsible for ordering the kidnapping (in 2002) and eventual murder (in 2003) of Antioquia’s Governor, Guillermo Gaviria, ex-Minster of Defense Gilberto Echeverri eight others who had undertaken a peace mission to the FARC.

El Tiempo’s write-up is here: Muerte de ‘el Paisa’, autor de la masacre de Urrao, octavo gran golpe a las Farc en 15 meses.

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Filed under: Colombia, Latin America | Comments/Trackbacks (1) | | Show Comments here
By Dr. Steven Taylor

In his WaPo column (McCain Loses His Head) takes McCain to task for one of his early responses to the financial crisis last week, his calling for SEC Chairman Chris Cox’s firing:

Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journal to editorialize that “McCain untethered” — disconnected from knowledge and principle — had made a “false and deeply unfair” attack on Cox that was “unpresidential” and demonstrated that McCain “doesn’t understand what’s happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does.”

This reminds me of Steve Bainbridge (a McCain supporter) who stated at the time in regards to McCain’s rant against Cox: “There’s so much stupidity here, it’s hard to know where to begin.”

Will connects the statements about Cox to broader McCain modes of behavior:

McCain’s smear — that Cox “betrayed the public’s trust” — is a harbinger of a McCain presidency. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are “corrupt” or “betray the public’s trust,” two categories that seem to be exhaustive — there are no other people. McCain’s Manichaean worldview drove him to his signature legislative achievement, the McCain-Feingold law’s restrictions on campaigning.

Not exactly soothing words given current events.

He concludes:

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

A legitimate question. Neither scenario is especially comforting, to be sure. Still, I think that as the financial crisis settles into the mind of Americans it will reshuffle the way the candidates are viewed.

On the bailout specifically, Will writes:

The political left always aims to expand the permeation of economic life by politics. Today, the efficient means to that end is government control of capital. So, is not McCain’s party now conducting the most leftist administration in American history? The New Deal never acted so precipitously on such a scale. Treasury Secretary Paulson, asked about conservative complaints that his rescue program amounts to socialism, said, essentially: This is not socialism, this is necessary. That non sequitur might be politically necessary, but remember that government control of capital is government control of capitalism. Does McCain have qualms about this, or only quarrels?

These are all rather serious questions. Further, it strikes me that we seem to be heading into socialism sans the benefits, i.e., without the social programs.

One of the odd legacies (at least for an alleged fiscal conservative) of the Bush tenure in office has been a remarkable increase in the size and power of the federal government. Even before the current situation, which is, at least, the result of an acute crisis, we had the expansion of Medicare, massive spending on a war of choice in Iraq and the expansion of the government’s police powers under aegis of the War on Terror.

The financial implications of these policies are pretty clear, but there are certainly political ones as well. For example, I do wonder if the combination of understandable feelings of insecurity in the population, the serious weakness of the GOP for the foreseeable future, and the clear demonstration of late that it at least appears that money can be found if we really want it, that we will not see an increased demand by the population for new social programs, most specifically for health care. In terms of very simplistic approaches to politics (and sometimes, that is the best way to understand why things happen), I can certainly see large swaths of the population no longer being willing to accept the argument that “we can’t afford it.” Further, the need to bailout the financial sector damages arguments about the virtues of the private sector vice government. Beyond that, I think that the bailout of the financial sector will stoke class resentment, as many will perceive this entire situation as nothing more than saving a bunch of rich white guys. As such, the argue will emerge along the lines of: if the feds can find piles of cash to help the wealthy, surely it can find the cash to help the rest of us.

Of course, having spent borrowed the money to do all of these things, the political will for such reforms may emerge, but getting the cash is a whole other matter. A clear legacy of the last eight years will be a severely hampered federal government (raising serious questions, btw, of the policy programs being proffered by both candidates).

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Filed under: 2008 Campaign, The Economy, US Politics | Comments/Trackbacks (11) | | Show Comments here
Monday, September 22, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Well, that ought to be the title, anyway. Or, perhaps, The Ginormous Blank Check Act of 2008.

CNN Money has the text: Treasury’s 3-page bailout proposal.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Like a lot of people, I am not sure what to make of the current financial crisis the commensurate ~$1 trillion bailout/nationalization of much of the country’s financial sector.

Beyond the question of whether what it is that is being done and whether it is the right thing to do, I continue to wonder as to where are the actors in question getting the authority to do what they are doing? At such, I am with James Joyner:

do we really want such fundamental decisions being made by obscure, unaccountable men like Bernanke, Paulson, and SEC chair Chris Cox? Shouldn’t Congress and the president be more than bit players?

Indeed.

I must say, I am not surprised by the lack of transparency in the behavior of the Bush administration, as we have seen this movie before, i.e., in war on terror policy. The Bush administration has never been all that fond of explaining to the American public the what and why of its policies, but rather it is fond of telling us that it is doing the right thing to help us all, but that we should trust them. They have also never much cared for involving the Congress.

Right now the process of Paulson and Bernanke going behind closed doors to negotiate these moves with Wall Street executives and then announcing multiple hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts is unnerving and since it is our money ultimately, I would like to see a bit more public deliberation.

In regards to the process, I am with Paul Krugman:

Treasury needs to explain why this is supposed to work — not try to panic Congress into giving it a blank check.

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Filed under: The Economy, US Politics | Comments/Trackbacks (5) | | Show Comments here
Saturday, September 20, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via AFP: Khan sacks Cuban trainer.

To which I can only point to this.

I find this to be highly amusing at the moment.

(Have I mentioned that I have been editing my manuscript for most of the day?)

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Filed under: Latin America | Comments/Trackbacks (1) | | Show Comments here
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the BBC: Hadron Collider halted for months.

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Filed under: Not politics | Comments/Trackbacks (1) | | Show Comments here
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the BBC: Peru rebel rejects surrender call:

Comrade Artemio, whose real name is Filomeno Cerron Cardoso, leads what is left of the group.

In his first apparent interview in almost two years, he told a local radio station near the rebel stronghold, Radio La Luz in Aucayacu in Huanuco region, that the rebels completely rejected an ultimatum issued by Peru’s national police chief to surrender.

“We still insist that what is needed is a political solution, what is needed is a general amnesty and national reconciliation,” he said.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if one’s first reaction was “the Shining Who?” depending on one’s age and predisposition to pay attention to Latin American politics. The Shining Path was once one of the most fearsome and violent guerrilla groups in the history of Latin America and they created a great of havoc in their day. However, they are now less than a shadow of a shell of their former selves:

The Shining Path nowadays is just a fraction of its former size, reports the BBC’s Dan Collyns from Lima, but its fighters still control remote coca-growing areas of Peru’s central jungle and are heavily involved in the drugs trade.

Experts say there are no more than 150 fighters and they no longer present a threat to national security.

The group has killed dozens of policemen and anti drugs workers in recent years, but it is a far cry from the Maoist-inspired organisation of the 1980s and 1990s which tried to impose a communist regime and in the process saw almost 70,000 people killed, our reporter adds.

This is not a group in a position to demand much of anything from the government. Indeed, save for the legacy of the name,1 they would appear to be little more than petty criminals at the moment.

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  1. To range into the silly for a moment, I have always thought the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso in Spanish) had ones of the best all time guerrilla group names-although nothing can top this one. []
By Dr. Steven Taylor

If you have ever read and enjoyed the blog Arms and influence, please go read the linked post and vote.

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