Thursday, September 30, 2010

Another coup to write about.

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa was just rescued from the hospital by the leaders of the military. I heard the news first on Eva Golinger's Twitter account (pro-Chavez journalist in Caracas) but the first paper to report it in English is the Wall Street Journal. The American corporate press editors are in a quandary now about how to spin this because all day they've been reporting that the coup was a mere allegation by Correa and Hugo Chavez, that Correa was taken into the police hospital merely for treatment and didn't confirm that he was being held against his will, but for some reason the military decided they needed to shoot their way in and out, perhaps because the nurses were taking too long to fill out the forms. And of course, even if there was a coup, the coup would be, according to the US corporate press, Correa's fault for telling the IMF to shove off.

The day of the Honduras coup Obama and UN Ambassador Susan Rice denounced it, calling it a coup, but afterward they were told to shut up by whomever it is that tells the president to shut up, and there were no further US statements calling it a coup. This time the US State Department, Obama, and the UN staff has been more disciplined about not saying it was a coup and saying they were merely "monitoring the situation closely."

What set this off was Correa's austerity proposal to reduce increases in pay for the police and other government workers, which was announced yesterday. However, Golinger goes on to say that the Ecuadoran government reported in October 2008 that the US was infiltrating the Ecuadoran police and military and that $38 million of US taxpayer money has been allocated to USAID in Ecuador. Most of the military, including its leadership, has remained loyal to Correa today, although it was a faction of the military that closed down the airport for a few hours. There has been a wide range of reports about who and how many are demonstrating for what from different sources, but as we pro-democracy folks know they have these crazy things called elections that Correa keeps winning.

Hey! AP has fussed up to the fact that Correa "has been trapped by police."

There is some footage of Correa being confronted by the police.. supposedly Correa said "Kill me if you are brave enough. There will be more Correas." He was then hit with stones and somehow got into the hospital where he was held by the "rebel police" by force. This narrative is sketchy now because the press has been denying his being held by the police. It will be interesting to hear the story told properly.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

2012 Presidential: Preliminary Analysis

The news in late 2008 that the financial sector required a federal bailout surfaced after the field of presidential candidates had been winnowed to two, Obama and McCain, both of whom could be counted on to support the bailout. During the “debate” over the bailout, all political leaders receiving extensive media coverage supported the bailout, but at the grassroots, the bailout was extraordinarily unpopular on all sides of the political spectrum, causing the passage of the House bill to be stalled as both parties negotiated which representatives in competitive districts would jeopardize their future by voting for it. Representatives from both parties reported that calls and emails were coming in to their office 20-to-1 against the bailout.

While the Democratic party publicly denounced its grassroots opponents of the bailout as reckless radicals, grassroots anti-TARP organization on the Republican side attracted the support of financiers, leading to the Tea Party, which is neither purely grassroots nor Astroturf. Since its formation, it has prompted larger voter participation on the right while Obama's many foot soldiers watched in disappointment as his sweeping rhetoric made way for his Wall Street-friendly policies, which during his campaign were never a secret to those who paid attention (or read Piri' Miri Muli').

Where this could be seen as a boon for the GOP in the mid-term cycle and will lead to legislative gains, Tuesday brought with it structural changes in the party that threaten to alienate it from mainstream opinion, even if it resists the nomination of a Tea Party-endorsed presidential ticket.

Where there is agreement amongst Tea Partiers on TARP, there is disagreement on whether to wage foreign wars, which, absent of a credible provocation, increasingly are justified to the Republican base as religious wars. This divide will be made visible if, say, Mike Huckabee, a promoter of religious war who has declared the TARP issue to be the primary litmus test of 2012, faces off against a rejuvenated anti-war libertarian like Ron Paul or Gary Johnson. It is Huckabee, however, who can promote his militarism on FoxNews with a 20% base of support and a lead in the Iowa Caucus to build on.

Huckabee was out of the race when the financial crash was reported, while Sarah Palin, another pro-war Tea Party standard-bearer, was on McCain's ticket and therefore instructed to support TARP, before losing the race and then “changing her mind.” Newt Gingrich, who came out swinging early against TARP, changed his mind, presumably in deference to McCain. Mitt Romney, not known for consistent opinions based on convictions, seems to summon both consistency and conviction when it comes to his support for insulating the financial industry from risk, a conviction which figures to lose him support during his next round of squandering the family inheritance. Tim Pawlenty, angry that he was passed over for VP, has had the liberty to formulate a well-nuanced position on TARP, palatable to both Tea Partiers and investors that originally gave Hank Paulson the benefit of the doubt, but has the low name recognition that comes with being passed over for VP.

It is likely that the field will be winnowed in the form of a Tea Party sub-primary (between Huckabee and Palin) and a Blue State sub-primary (between Romney and Pawlenty, plus Gingrich, who, despite being from Georgia, came out ahead in a May poll in fiscally conservative, affluent California). Romney is the front runner in New Hampshire and it will be difficult for any other relatively moderate Blue Stater to keep him from undercutting their support as they try to compete against the Tea Party. Palin doesn't benefit from TARP and her name recognition is so high, her levels of approval and disapproval so entrenched, that each percentile increase of support becomes more and more difficult.

If TARP is indeed the primary litmus test two years from now, and the Tea Party continues to have an organizational advantage, Huckabee emerges as the front runner. His numbers have recovered from the November 2009 nose dive after a criminal whose sentence he commuted opened fire on cops in a coffee shop. It is difficult to predict Ron Paul's support if he runs in such a Tea Party-friendly environment – one presumes it would slightly exceed previous levels but it could really be anywhere on the chart.

The general election thus becomes another choice between the status quo and the possibility of expanded religious wars, a menacing possibility that hovers over the picture of benign mayhem painted by the Republicans' predicament this week. Even amid the momentum of the GOP in legislative elections, though, Obama has held a steady lead against candidates with high name recognition. An economic recovery would sweep him into reelection; a slow or absent recovery would benefit an opponent with a viable economic alternative, but no such alternative appears to be forthcoming from the field of likely candidates.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's more fun for a liberal than watching Mike Castle lose to Christine O'Donnell? Going to high school with her!

Chris (she was Chris then) and I never hung out outside school, lest anyone think that someone would date me and then become an anti-sex crusader. But that is me with the disco hair and the hair on the chest she would joke about. Did she run for school assembly? I don't recall she did. She never said a word about politics. Neither did I. Kidding about the second part.

Very, very bizarre to see her on the cover of everything: first the political pages, then the NY Times cover, then the BBC front page, then Le Monde. Libération, Sartre's old newspaper, has been on the Christine beat for a few days, running the headline yesterday: "Le Delaware, pour ou contre la masturbation?" and even translating her aphorisms (« On ne peut pas se masturber sans désir sexuel »).

Readers of my other blog know that I was following the 2008 Senate elections rather closely, but had no idea that she was also nominated against Biden that year. Who'd think to check whom Biden was running against? I did see her on Politically Incorrect back when I would watch tv, like 10 years ago, outing her sister as a lesbian on the show. Her sister didn't dig me as much but we got along ok. A friend of mine did the egg-as-baby health class exercise with her sister and developed a crush on her. The egg/baby was named Jesus and when he asked about breast-feeding she said “I don't want Jesus drinking me!” That was funny in high school. Despite that and other experiences, he didn't join Chris' anti-sex campaign.

The GOP has been particularly rough on Chris: first the smear campaign, then Castle not acknowledging her or conceding to her, then the news that he wouldn't endorse her, and the national party saying they won't spend a dime on her. At first I thought they wanted to teach the Tea Party that their candidates are futile and they have to vote the slate if they don't want Democrats, then I realized they're funding other Tea Partiers, so it's just her they think is unelectable (and some other words I won't repeat). I suppose that after you accuse someone of misappropriating campaign funds, it's harder to give them your donors' money. And if you were wondering when I would mention Karl Rove on my new blog: it was your idea to play to the base, a_____e. Also, the GOP is getting so much momentum out of aimless anti-incumbency that the Tea Party nominees make for a minor correction.

I'd pick her to be president over Sarah Palin any day. Either way, the world would blow up, but she doesn't have that grating voice.

And however crazy her views sound now, she really was a sweet person through and through. I mean that.

Note: I'm not one to publish correspondence and your emails are safe with me, but some things are too funny. & don't you just love that “For sure the academics of Moorestown are challenging and provide great opportunities for growth”? I wasn't on the yearbook committee, nor was this school in the San Fernando Valley.