Thursday, November 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

The Miami Herald has a lengthy piece on the pending referendum in Venezuela, that will be settled this weekend: Chavez seeks expanded power in charter .

In regards to what types of power changes the referendum would bring, here are some:

The amendments would remove term limits, extend presidential terms from six to seven years, grant Chavez direct control over the Central Bank and monetary policy, allow his government to detain citizens without charge during a state of emergency, and let the state occupy private properties it wants to expropriate.

He also would be empowered to redraw the country’s political map and handpick provincial and municipal leaders – a change opponents fear will push aside any elected officials who aren’t his allies.

There are also social reforms to sweeten the electoral pot:

many Chavistas see real benefits in these and other amendments – such as shortening the workday from eight hours to six, creating a social security fund for millions of informal laborers and promoting communal councils where residents decide how to spend government funds in their neighborhoods.

And yes, I am cynical about the reform if anything because if they were the main goal here, there was no reason that Chávez couldn’t have pursued them apart from the package of power enhancements. There is nothing, for example, about removing term limits that is a necessary precondition for social welfare reform.

It is worth noting the degree to which Chávez is personalizing the entire affair:

Chavez has sold these changes by capitalizing on his personal popularity – he is seen by many Venezuelans as their savior, spreading more oil wealth among the poor than any leader in memory.

A “yes” vote keeps him on as captain of a ship that otherwise “could sink,” he warns. His image is everywhere – even the Caracas subway plays a rap-style campaign jingle for Chavez.

The former lieutenant colonel, now 53, insists he will stay in power for as long as his people want him to – perhaps into the 2024s, or for life.

“If you wish – and if you approve the referendum – I will stay as long as God wills! Until the last bone of my skeleton dries up! Until the last bit of my body dries up!” he shouted to the applause of thousands.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

On Sunday I commented on Fred Thompson’s general demeanor in interviews, in which I said, amongst other things, “[h]e doesn’t look like he wants to be campaigning.”

While it is no secret that Thompson is seen as a lazy campaigner, it is noteworthy that it isn’t just people like me, who always thought Thompson had no shot, who think his approach is problematic. Michael Medved finds him “shockingly listless” and described Thompson as sounding “disengaged, bored, flaccid and tired” in an interview Medved had with the Senator back in October.

Meanwhile, Thompson supporter Steve Bainbridge entitles a recent post on the subject, Fred Thompson, RIP? and asks

Has there ever been a more lackadaisical candidacy?

As James Joyner notes this morning:

if the man is already tired from the rigors of the campaign trail after, oh, six minutes of campaigning, maybe he’s not up for four years as president?

No kidding.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via BBC: Musharraf gives up army uniform

Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has handed over the command of the military in a ceremony in Rawalpindi.

Gen Musharraf passed a ceremonial baton to Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani at the army’s headquarters.

In his farewell address, Gen Musharraf said the army was his “life” and he was proud to have been the commander of this “great force”.

Of course, for all the hoopla, he remains president–which was the point of the recent state of emergency/coup (depending on how one wants to look at it).

As James Joyner noted the other day:

Pakistan’s military dictator will resign his position as army commander, thus becoming a civilian dictator.

The key word, or course, being “dictator.”

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Tuesday, November 27, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Writes Frank Gaffney in WaTi: Gang rape in Annapolis

Despite official efforts to low-ball its significance, Miss Rice’s conclave is shaping up to be a gang-rape of a nation on a scale not seen since Munich in 1938, when the British and French allowed Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to have their violent way with Czechoslovakia.

This time, the intended victim is Israel.

That has got to be one of the most rhetorically chaged paragraphs I have read in a while, and I live in the Blogosphere! We have not only rape, but gang-rape and not just Hitler, but Mussolini thrown in as well! What, Generalissimo Francisco Franco was busy when Gaffney was writing the paragraph? Heck, why not throw in Stalin, too, and add totalitarian communism into the mix. It’s easy if you try!

He doesn’t stop with rhetorical overkill, but also adds in dire predictions:

The interests of the Free World in general and the United States in particular will suffer from what the Saudis and most of the other attendees have in mind for the Jewish State — namely, its dismemberment and ultimate destruction.

Numerous things comes to mind. First off, the idea that anything substantive is going to come out of this meeting is highly optimistic (or, in Gaffney’s case, pessimistic). Second, even if something does emerge from the meeting, it isn’t going to be the destruction of Israel. Third, the notion that the current status quo is good for Israel, the US, the region or the world is rather odd, and surely having a meeting and talking isn’t likely to make things appreciably worse (although, granted, it might).

One of the things that also strikes me about positions like this one is that it starts from the premise that of the actors involved, Israel is the weakest and most vulnerable. However, it should be noted that when the Arabs and the Israelis have gone to war, Israel has won. Further, despite the rocket-flinging and suicide bombings of Palestinian militants, it is quite obvious which group has the most power. As such, the notion that simply having a meeting equates to a gang rape and will lead to the destruction of Israel should be seen as an absurd proposition on its face. Yet, to many, it isn’t.

I have no illusions about the complexity of the situation or of the ability of this conference to accomplish much of anything. Still, I am struck by the fact that so many seem to find the very notion of having a meeting to be so outrageous.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Guardian: Ahmadinejad offers to be an observer at US presidential election.

My first reaction was to be amused by the whole prospect.

My second was, heck: let him come be a poll watched. Let him watch us vote. He could sit with some senior citizens in a middle school gymnasium and hand out ballots.

The man does, however, need a basic course in American government:

the terms of Ahmadinejad’s offer appeared to betray some confusion about the potential candidates.

“If the White House officials allow us to be present as an observer in their presidential election we will see whether people in their country are going to vote for them again or not,” he said. The US constitution prevents Bush from seeking a third consecutive term, while no member of his administration is expected to be in the running in next November’s poll.

Not only does he get the term limit thing wrong, he seems to assume that being an election monitor means knowing how people vote. For that he’ll need to watch the news like the rest of us.

And, of course, this is amusing as well:

Some domestic critics pointed out yesterday that Ahmadinejad’s idea clashed with his government’s opposition to allowing independent observers at Iranian elections. The interior ministry, controlled by one of the president’s most hard-line allies, has rejected pressure for party representatives to be allowed to oversee proceedings at polling stations for next March’s parliamentary poll.

In all seriousness (and knowing full well that Ahmadinejad is simply engaging in a publicity stunt), we get far too touchy about people wanting to come observe our elections. If we are the exemplar of electoral processes that we think we are, then we should be proud to have our elections observed as example to all. And, if we aren’t the exemplar we think they are, it would be nice to have the flaws documented and fixed.

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By Steven L. Taylor

In all honesty, the theory that Lott is leaving for a big lobbying paycheck before the law changes (and thus making him wait two years after leaving office) makes a lot more sense than the idea that he is resigning over a pending gay escort scandal.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Peru court sentences coup backers:

Ten former ministers in Peru have been sentenced for their part in a 1992 coup d’etat against their own government.

The men were members of the government of Alberto Fujimori when he suspended the opposition-controlled Congress and the constitution.


A former Interior Minister, Juan Briones, was sentenced to 10 years, while others received suspended terms.

Briones also has to pay reparations to some who were detained during the coup and all ten owes reparations to the state.

Fujimori is in custody in Peru and awaits corruption charges linked to his time in office.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Bolivia opposition calls strike

Opposition leaders in six of Bolivia’s nine provinces have called a general strike for Wednesday in protest at a new draft constitution.

At least four people died in the city of Sucre over the weekend after violent protests broke out against the reforms.

President Evo Morales says the new charter is part of a democratic revolution but opponents say the proposed reforms concentrate power.

I suspect that the following won’t help quell the frustration of the opposition:

In the absence of opposition delegates, who boycotted the session, the assembly voted by a simple majority to approve all of President Morales’s draft proposals.

The final draft will be put to a national referendum but no date has yet been set.

Two issues that are part of the conflict have to do with the power of the capital versus the regions and a dispute over where the capital itself will be:

One of the key sticking points has been the designation of the country’s capital.

Sucre has seen weeks of unrest, with protesters taking to the streets in support of an opposition proposal to make the city the sole capital of Bolivia.

It is currently home to the Supreme Court, and was Bolivia’s capital until 1899, but since then it has shared the title with La Paz.

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Monday, November 26, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

The Washington Times has all of the gory details: Terrorists target Army base — in Arizona

Fort Huachuca, the nation’s largest intelligence-training center, changed security measures in May after being warned that Islamist terrorists, with the aid of Mexican drug cartels, were planning an attack on the facility.

Fort officials changed security measures after sources warned that possibly 60 Afghan and Iraqi terrorists were to be smuggled into the U.S. through underground tunnels with high-powered weapons to attack the Arizona Army base, according to multiple confidential law enforcement documents obtained by The Washington Times.


According to the FBI advisory, each Middle Easterner paid Mexican drug lords $20,000 “or the equivalent in weapons” for the cartel’s assistance in smuggling them and their weapons through tunnels along the border into the U.S. The weapons would be sent through tunnels that supposedly ended in Arizona and New Mexico, but the Islamist terrorists would be smuggled through Laredo, Texas, and reclaim the weapons later.

Several things struck me as I read this. First, if there was evidence of a terrorist plan to attack a military base in Arizona, it would be all over the media. The 24/7 cable news nets live for this sort of thing. Second, and along the same lines, if such a plan had been found and halted, the Bush administration would be letting us all know of its success (not to mention the fact that Republican candidates for president would be jumping all over the story as proof that what we need is a strong defense and sealed borders). Third, why in the world would a Mexican cartel do business like this for a mere $20,000? That strikes me as chump change for even a low-level drug lord.

This story had the smell from the headline one of a “too good to be true story” (“too good” in the sense that the story would validate a specific worldview of specific niche of the population, in this case those who are convinced that the southern border is a sure entry point for Islamic radicals). It has everything: Iraqis and Afghans! Mexicans! tunnels under the border! It just has to be true! (Except that it isn’t–see below). The fact that the story appeared in a publication that is known to cater to a specific ideologically oriented readership reinforced the notion that it might be of dubious reliability. Further, the story’s dramatic details are all based on an “FBI advisory” and no other actual empirical data. The statements from the Fort Huachuca spokesperson are sufficiently generic as to be able to either fit the narrative of Islamic terror plots or nothing but basic boilerplate about security.

Once one gets to the later third of the story, one starts to see reference to the fact that the source of the report might be dubious:

The FBI report is based on Drug Enforcement Administration sources, including Mexican nationals with access to “sub-sources” in the drug cartels. The report’s assessment is that the DEA’s Mexican contacts have proven reliable in the past but the “sub-source” is of uncertain reliability.

And further that:

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson would not elaborate on the current investigation regarding the threat, but said that many times the initial reports are based on “raw, uncorroborated information that has not been completely vetted.” He added that this report shows the extent to which all law enforcement and intelligence agencies cooperate in terror investigations.

In other words, there is no solid information to back up the claim, yet if one just read the first couple of paragraphs of the piece, once would likely think that an actual attack had been thwarted. Indeed, in the next to last paragraph is it theorized that the whole story may have been made up by one Mexican drug gang to cause the US military to move against a rival. In other words, the story has very little credence. Of course, that didn’t stop some bloggers from buying the story, hook, line and sinker.

Meanwhile, about 10 seconds worth of research would lead one to the following from the Arizona Star: FBI: Widely reported terrorist threat to Fort Huachuca unfounded:

A plot by dozens of foreign terrorists who purportedly planned to attack Fort Huachuca with rocket propelled grenades and mines has proved unfounded, an FBI spokesman said Monday.

The threat, detailed by a local television station and The Washington Times after information was recently leaked to them, involved Iraqi and Afghan terrorists working with a Mexican drug cartel to smuggle themselves and weapons across the U.S. border.


the attack never occurred and was the result of bad information, said Manuel Johnson, an FBI spokesman based in Phoenix.

“A thorough investigation was conducted and there is no evidence showing that the threat was credible,” he said.

Emphasis mine.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Paul endorsed by Nevada brothel owner

Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite BunnyRanch near Carson City, said he was so impressed after hearing Paul at a campaign stop in Reno last week that he decided to raise money for him.

“I’ll get all the (working girls) together, and we can raise him some money,” Hof told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “I’ll put up a collection box outside the door. They can drop in $1, $5 contributions.”

Hof and two of his prostitutes, Brooke Taylor and a woman who goes by Air Force Amy, attended a Paul news conference.

A apropos endorsement for a libertarian, I suppose. And it beats support from white supremacists!

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