Monday, October 25, 2010

LA Quick Hits: Correa's Cops, Evo in Iran, FTA for Peru, Mex Senate Finds a Cash Cow, APRA's Pick, To Godoy or Not To Godoy & More

Grenada's Goons Still Silent After All These Years

Writing in the Guardian Gus John points out that the main characters who sank Grenada into chaos in '83, Bernard Coard and General Hudson Austin, are not only out of jail, but seem to be doing o.k. for themselves. He feels, justly, that they still have plenty to answer for:
Seventeen people — including Coard and General Austin — who were jailed for the Fort Rupert murders have recently been released from prison in Grenada. Coard now lives in Jamaica. Some of their fellow prisoners, including Austin, are employed by the Grenadian government.

But the released prisoners should not be embraced by Grenada's civil society without answering the many questions that still remain about the events which led to the Fort Rupert massacre: questions to which the island's long-suffering people need answers. Who gave the orders that live ammunition should be used against unarmed children and adults at Fort Rupert? Who ordered the execution of Maurice Bishop and the members of his government? Where were the bodies of those killed taken on 19 October 1983, and why were they not given to the public mortuary for relatives to identify, claim and bury? And for me, that to which I shall probably never find the answer is: who buried my father?

25 October is a public holiday in Grenada to mark the start of the "rescue mission" (as Reagan dubbed the invasion). Those who still mourn the victims of the massacre are calling for 19 October to be declared "Martyrs Day" and a public holiday, as a reminder that they have yet to bury their dead.

I should note that Mr. John's father passed due to a medical condition that could not be attended to; militia forces obligated his mother to return home when she sought help. Mr. John's was in a funeral home and taken by the army and buried at an undisclosed location during the American invasion.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

LA Quick Hits: Cholera Kills in Haiti, Juarez (Again), Hugo and Santos, Bolivia - Not So Gassy, Peru Talks Security, PRD Drops Godoy & More

Not VAT Again

Bruce Bartlett, an otherwise astute observer of the economic and financial scene weighs in on the VAT once more. Just as he did in his book The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward, Bartlett stumps for the VAT as a solution to our growing fiscal instability. For someone who prides himself a realist on anything and everything related to our red-soaked balance sheet Bartlett is venturing into the realm of fantasy if he thinks the VAT stands a chance of ever being enacted.

Let's begin with the obvious, there is no way that any Republican would back a VAT as long as there is an income tax. Come to think of it I can't think of a politician alive that would go home to their district or state and explain who adding a new source of revenue for the federal government is good for them. So only way that you can get VAT is if you repeal the 16th Amendment. Let's go a bit further, our judicial branch is a bit more activist than in the late 19th century. Conservatives would not trust a strict repeal, they would want a repeal and replace with a prohibition on the implementation of a federal income tax. It is just too much and too academic.

The VAT would be an improvement over our current tax system, but the probability of it being put in place is highly unlikely. By the way, ignore the inflammatory title and read Bartlett's book. In his slim volume, in simple prose and a smattering of stats Bartlett lays out the challenges that we face. The slap at Reaganomics is the application of supply-side solutions to the current crisis. Bartlett actually defends (mostly) what the supply-siders were able to do in the '80's.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Conservative Crack-Up: Viguerie v. Newt

Obama is obviously dead in the water, the Senate is obviously going to go Republican, Angle is sure to best Reid...blah, blah, blah. As we await "Conservative Victory 2010" let us pause for a moment to reflect on just how insane conservatives have become. Richard Viguerie, father of direct mail fundraising, funding godfather of the "New Right" and conservative gadfly linked to a piece by the unknown one-time presidential candidate, Chuck Baldwin. Chuck's problem is that Newt is a Tea Party Fraud. Among Newt's most egregious crimes? He is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations!

Chuck also points out something that has long been forgotten, or never quite understood, that many of Clinton's greatest accomplishments were shepherded by Newt. WTO, NAFTA, the Mexican bailout, welfare reform and a balanced budget. Best story on this is Derek Chollet's America Between Wars. I have not read it but Steven Gillon's The Pact actually focuses on the Gingrich/Clinton relationship and how they had planned to save Social Security and Medicare until Monica's blue dress became public knowledge.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Baba-Bull Watch: El Maleconazo

Alberto at Babalu has a good post marking the 16th anniversary of the Maleconazo - a fleeting moment in which Cubans expressed their displeasure with the way things were. My only problem with the post is the conclusion where Alberto posits that the real story of the Maleconazo is how close Cubans came to freedom that day. Uhhhhh, not really. I think he exaggerates the promise and possibility of el Maleconazo. He can't be blamed for that since examples of street protests and demonstrations are so rare in Cuba. Regimes that have regimes that are usually dislodged by street protests are usually pseudo/quasi democracies and even some of them survive, see Iran. In addition to topple a regime it requires a sustained mass effort, something obviously lacking in el Maleconazo. The last outright totalitarian government to fall due to the strength of public demonstrations was Romania.

I also believe that the greater story is that el Maleconazo was the first mass public display of discontent on the island since the storming of the Peruvian embassy that gave rise to the Mariel Boatlift - over 14 years before. There also has not been a significant uprising since then, another 16 years. That is the big story - two mass signs of protests in 30 years. That is not a very inspiring record.

Calderon: Let's Talk Legalization

I could not believe the headlines when I read them but in a bold and unexpected move Felipe Calderon said drug legalization should be put on the table for discussion. Previously Calderon had said that proceeding alone on this matter made no sense and that Mex would have to follow the US lead on the matter. As a justification this was a little weak. Ultimately Mexico needs to do what it is in her best interests and while upsetting US is something to be taken into the equation, the option need to be explored especially if the survival of the Mexican Republic was at stake.

Particularly refreshing is the fact that the principal opposition parties, nor even fellow PANistas, took Calderon's honesty as an opportunity to grandstand. Deputies from the PRI, PAN and PRD welcomed the President's call for discussion. Only the relatively insignificant left wing Convergencia took the opportunity to rip into Calderon's initiative calling to citing Mexico's lack of socio-political maturity and development. Not a completely outrageous concern, but not one that should be the end all and be all to this debate.

Legalization needs to be discussed. As I have stated repeatedly, it makes little to no sense for Mexican blood to be spilled for what essentially America's problem. If we were not such a ready and boom market for narcotics, Mexican drug cartels would not be in an all out war with each other and the state. There is a political cost to all this. Obviously any move by the Mexicans to regulate the drug market will draw a severe reaction by the US - that cost needs to be considered. In the end however, I do believe that a Mexican state that regulates narcotics can only hope to be less violent, less corrupt and more stable. There will be social and political costs but none quite as perilous as how the situation now stands. The options before Calderon right now are continuing an all out war with the cartels that he may or may not win or cede to said cartels the riches and control they have gained. It may be that his people find current options to be unpalatable.


Op-Ed in Washington Examiner by Heritage research fellow James Carafano rips into the recently signed START agreement. To back his position up he uses a game devised by his colleague Baker Spring that demonstrated what a horrible world it would be if we followed Obama's "nuke-free world" plan. I will try not to quibble too much although it must be noted that Ronald Reagan had a vision of a nuclear-free world when Obama was still striking up spliffs. As I a Republican and a conservative I can take Carafano, Spring and Mitt Romney at their word and believe that this START thing isn't any good orrrrrr....I can listen to Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, James Baker, Colin Powell, Stephen Hadley and Brent Scowcroft who have all voice support for START. Hmmmm...this one is tough. A bunch of no-name researchers who have accomplished nothing in the foreign policy realm, a politician desperate to show off his tea party bona-fides or a who's who of the Republican foreign policy establishment?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Being Racist Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry...Or Fact Checking

The jumping off point for Steve Sailer's latest screed is a year old photo of Sammy Sosa in white face. Never been a fan of Sammy. Unlike Barry Bonds he was not much of a player till he started juicing and his mugging for the cameras and his desperate need for attention always annoyed me. He is a multi-tasking cheater, recall that he was caught with a corked bat. Coming to Sammy's defense is difficult for me, but defend I must. I do not know what was going through his skull when he popped up at a party ghostly pale, with color contacts and straightened hair but it should be noted that he gave up the look just as quickly as he adopted. It would be too much for Sailer to check that out, of course because it would not fit into his worldview. Sailer is a particular brand of racist, one who thrills at provoking without actually showing us his Stormfront tat. Sailer never actually shouts "White power!" from the rooftops nor does he proclaim that blacks or other minorities are inferior per se. Rather he just likes to needle and poke, noting that those darn minorities sure have some issues, don't they?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

LA Quick Hits: Hugo & the Banks, Cubans Doubtful About Change, Peru Talking FTA as Exports Explode & I Wish My Girlfriend Was Colombian

Monday, August 02, 2010

Next to Hugo, Sean Penn is Sane

In "Hugo Boss" Christopher Hitchens recounts his time with Hugo and Sean Penn. Same title as a good Foreign Policy piece (subscription only) from a couple of years back. Anyway the best part for me is glimpse into the mind of Hugo:

It did not take long for this hero-obsession to disclose itself in bizarre forms. One evening, as we were jetting through the skies, Brinkley mildly asked whether Chávez's large purchases of Russian warships might not be interpreted by Washington as a violation of the Monroe Doctrine. The boss's response was impressively immediate. He did not know for sure, he said, but he very much hoped so. "The United States was born with an imperialist impulse. There has been a long confrontation between Monroe and Bolívar. … It is necessary that the Monroe Doctrine be broken." As his tirade against evil America mounted, Penn broke in to say that surely Chávez would be happy to see the arrest of Osama Bin Laden.

I was hugely impressed by the way that the boss scorned this overture. He essentially doubted the existence of al-Qaida, let alone reports of its attacks on the enemy to the north. "I don't know anything about Osama Bin Laden that doesn't come to me through the filter of the West and its propaganda." To this, Penn replied that surely Bin Laden had provided quite a number of his very own broadcasts and videos. I was again impressed by the way that Chávez rejected this proffered lucid-interval lifeline. All of this so-called evidence, too, was a mere product of imperialist television. After all, "there is film of the Americans landing on the moon," he scoffed. "Does that mean the moon shot really happened? In the film, the Yanqui flag is flying straight out. So, is there wind on the moon?" As Chávez beamed with triumph at this logic, an awkwardness descended on my comrades, and on the conversation.

LA Quick Hits: Calderon Still Talking Security, Hugo Isn't, But He Should, Hugo Skipping Mercosur, Chincilla Wants to Cash In & More