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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politics

[LINK] “Obama’s Denali Divide”

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Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg View takes a look at the controversy surrounding the restoration of Denali as the name of the highest peak in Alaska.

For decades, this has been a low-profile dispute pitting Ohio Republicans (who have been loyal to the assassinated president from the Buckeye State) against Alaskans of all political stripes — most of them Republicans — who used the older name. No less a partisan conservative than Sarah Palin has referred to “nature’s finest show — Denali, the great one, soaring under the midnight sun.”

But as soon as Obama became involved, many Republicans from the lower 48 who probably couldn’t tell you what state the mountain was in last week started protesting against the gross abuse of power intended to erase white people from U.S. history.

One of the stronger findings about the presidency from political scientists is that when presidents associate themselves with an issue, voters — Democrats and Republicans — tend to line up strongly for and against it based on party loyalty. This isn’t just about Obama; the same thing happened on small and big things alike when George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were presidents. (Democrats turned against a mission to Mars when Bush proposed one, for example.)

[. . . W]hen all that’s needed is to win over members of his own party, presidential speeches that polarize can be extremely helpful. This was true during Obama’s first two years in office, when Democrats had majorities in the House and Senate. It has also been the case recently with the Iran deal: Obama may have deliberately chosen a partisan path to ensure that Democrats in the House and Senate stayed on board.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 2, 2015 at 7:50 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talks about the simple pleasures of her life.
  • Centauri Dreams discusses 2014 MU69.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that less that 0.3% of galaxies could host Kardashev III civilizations.
  • Kieran Healy shares his paper “Fuck Nuance.”
  • Joe. My. God. notes the unhappiness of one American conservative with the restoration of Denali’s name.
  • Language Hat mourns poet Charles Tomlinson.
  • Marginal Revolution argues that China’s 2008-era debt binge is now coming back to haunt it.
  • The New APPS Blog discusses the role of philosophy in making life decisions.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw dislikes the rhetoric and institutions charged with guarding Australia’s borders.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that the reports of Russian losses in Donbas are likely false.
  • Torontoist is unimpressed by the satirical musical version of Full House.
  • Towleroad notes an American conservative who is going to continue participating in Scouting despite its new gay-friendliness.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that secession rarely works out well for seceding entities.
  • Window on Eurasia notes a prediction that Ukraine is now on track to go west.

[URBAN NOTE] “Budget committee says ‘meh’ to Olympic bid”

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The Toronto Star‘s Betsy Powell writes about how the City of Toronto’s budget committee is unexcited by the idea of Toronto bidding for the 2024 Olympics.

Not a single member of the city’s powerful budget committee is endorsing Toronto entering the race to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.

Toronto has only a slim chance of submitting a winning bid, and even if the cash-strapped city is selected, the Olympics could prove to be financial boondoggle for years to come, councillors said after the committee met Monday to begin discussions on the city’s 2016 budget.

Several councillors said an outright no to a bid, while budget chief Gary Crawford and Councillor James Pasternak said they’d only consider Toronto advancing a bid if the cost — estimated at between $50 million and $60 million — is paid for by the private sector.

Toronto is under pressure if it wants to try to secure the 2024 Olympics, an idea that appeared to gain traction after the success of the recent Pan Am Games, the largest sporting event in Canadian history. Los Angeles is poised to enter the contest — its city council is expected to vote Tuesday — and is considered a frontrunner. LA2024 has already released a copy of its bid.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 1, 2015 at 1:42 am

[LINK] “Kazakhstan’s quiet balancing act”

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At Open Democracy, William Echols looks at how Kazakhstan is trying to stay stable. It has been doing well so far, but can this continue?

With a ‘president for life’, poor human rights record and hydrocarbon-dependent economy, Kazakstan often appears a mirror image of its northern neighbour, Russia.

Scratch beneath the surface, and you find a post-Soviet state, which, though similar in behaviour to its Russian counterpart, is making its own path.

Over the past ten days, the business world has overwhelmingly been focused on Kazakhstan’s record 23 per cent currency plunge, which followed Astana’s decision to float the tenge. The situation recalls the fate of the rouble after the Russian Central Bank allowed it to float in November 2014.

By that time, the Russian currency had already fallen 50 per cent against the dollar. But the once-maligned 45.6 rouble-dollar exchange rate would soon seem a dream. On December 16, 2014, Russia was hit with its own ‘Black Tuesday,’ when the rouble dropped by 20 per cent —hitting almost 80 to the dollar and inciting panic among a populace no stranger to economic collapse.

Perhaps used to the shocks, perhaps fatigued with bad news, the Russian public has been less swift to react as the rouble hit a seven-month-low last Monday, reaching 71 to the dollar. Some analysts believe the Russian currency could hit 85 by year’s end. Having less and expecting less is perhaps the new norm. 



In contrast, the tenge has begun a slow, though turbulent recovery. Kazakhstan has no plans to intervene to prop up the currency should the situation deteriorate. The central bank claims there is no specific devaluation target they are aiming for.

As Bloomberg reports, Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Karim Massimov claims the free float ‘will create the necessary conditions for a recovery of economic growth, increased lending and investment activity, creation of new jobs and a decrease in the inflation rate to between three per cent and four per cent in the medium term.’ Such high hopes, however, may be wishful thinking.



Written by Randy McDonald

September 1, 2015 at 1:37 am

[LINK] “Catalonia’s regional elections: scenarios for independence”

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Open Democracy’s Fernando Betancor writes about different scenarios for Catalonian independence following upcoming regional elections. He makes a compelling case that things could get very bad indeed.

Nothing that has come before has mattered; it has been all talk. Up until and including the September 27, every action of every politician and of the Catalan government will be legal; no one is going to go off-script and give Madrid an excuse to intervene. But as the Romans used to say: “res, non verba” or “act, don’t talk”. Now everyone will have to declare themselves in positive action. As soon as the government is formed, it will execute what it perceives to be its electoral mandate: attain independence for Catalonia. It is likely to proceed in the following manner:

1. The Catalan government will formally request secession negotiations with the Spanish government and the Catalan representatives of this list in the national legislature will attempt to submit a bill to that affect;

2. Both efforts will be immediately and conclusively rebuffed;

3. The Catalan government will then draft (or has already drafted) a unilateral declaration of independence and will submit it to the regional legislature for a vote. If the Catalan Parlament can muster a quorum, they will undoubtedly hold an immediate vote on the measure, which will probably be passed by the same majority, or slightly greater, that the pro-independence parties enjoy in the chamber.

At this point, Mariano Rajoy will have the legal justification to intervene. The intervention include many actions, but at a minimum he will use his constitutional authority from Article 154 to declare a state of exception in Catalonia, suspend the civil institutions and attempt to reassert the national authority. And this is when the feces begin to strike the ventilation unit.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 1, 2015 at 1:33 am

[LINK] “Catalonia Attacks ‘Infinite Cynicism’ as Spain Curbs Powers”

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Esteban Duarte of Bloomberg examines ongoing controversies in Spain over federalism. I can easily imagine ways this could spiral out of control.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has introduced rules that effectively revoke the powers of the Catalan government, the regional president’s right hand man said, before a vote that could fuel separatists’ bid to split from Spain.

Rajoy is forcing regional officials to get approval from the central government before paying commercial creditors, Francesc Homs, the head of the Catalan’s presidency department, said in an interview in Barcelona Wednesday. The national government in Madrid has also ruled that laws only come into force once they’ve been published in the Spanish Official Gazette, preventing regional leader Artur Mas from introducing legislation using the Catalan equivalent, Homs said.

Mas’s bid for independence has set him on a collision course with Rajoy who says that his plans are unconstitutional. Mas has framed the Sept. 27 regional election as a ballot on independence after Rajoy blocked his attempt to hold a referendum last November.

“When someone says we could get the region’s autonomy suspended, I tell them they’ve actually done it already,” Homs said. The central government is acting with “infinite cynicism,” he added.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 28, 2015 at 7:36 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “The most disturbing thing we learned from the G20”

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Edward Keenan’s Toronto Star article describing how, at the G20 fiasco years ago, the police collaborated with the Black Bloc is stellar.

The bad guys, the Black Bloc anarchists and vandals — the people Fenton referred to as “terrorists” — were trying to make a point, and the police reacted by proving it for them.

See, the peaceful protesters were the optimists, who gathered under the premise that our leaders — the leaders of much of the world — would listen to the people, would have to, if they gathered together in a large enough group with big enough papier-mâché puppets and loud enough chants of “Hey, hey, ho ho.”

This is the essentially generous democratic assumption behind all peaceful dissent: if enough of us speak loudly and clearly enough, our leaders will listen.

The Black Bloc do not share the faith that we live in that kind of democracy. And they make it their mission to expose that faith as misplaced. The point of their activities, which, if they don’t fit most people’s modern interpretation of “terrorism” (despite Fenton’s characterization) are certainly intended to be scary and chaotic and disorienting, is to provoke a reaction. They think the idea that police (and world leaders) serve and protect the public is a sham. Those authorities, they claim, only protect capital, and they only serve corporate interests and their own power.

And so while the innocent march and chant, the Black Bloc say to them and to the general public: if you don’t believe us, watch what happens when we smash some windows, destroy some property, light a police car on fire. See how your capitalist democracy holds up then, see how your constitution is applied, see how well your voice is heard.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 27, 2015 at 7:55 pm

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