Monday, March 31, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Thanks Raul: Cubans can stay in hotels

Cuba has made a series of crowd-pleasing announcements in the past few days. Cubans with enough cash will be able to buy computers, DVD players and plasma televisions starting Tuesday, and soon they’ll even be able to have their own cell phones — consumer goods only companies and foreigners were previously permitted to buy.

But the latest surprise, allowing ordinary citizens into luxury hotels and resort beaches long reserved for rich foreigners, is a particularly symbolic victory for Cuba’s everyman.

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By Steven L. Taylor

I just got off the phone doing an interview for a Kurdish magazine (name Golan, I think) about democracy and multi-party systems. I think the fellow found me via the blog, but it was a little unclear. Still, when one answers one’s phone at 11 o’clock in the morning on a normal Monday, one doesn’t expect Iraqi Kuridstan to be on the other end of the line…

At any rate, hopefully I was helpful, although his question were quite broad, making succinct and useful answers somewhat difficult to provide.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the LAT: Vulnerable to terror: NYC, New Orleans and . . . Boise?

In a study funded by the Homeland Security Department, Idaho’s state capital was the only Western city in the top 10 among 132 urban centers ranked by vulnerability based on a unique mathematical calculation.

The top five seemed logical: big cities with exposed ports and bridges. The list reads like a who’s who of Eastern and Southern port cities: New Orleans; Baton Rouge, La.; Charleston, S.C.; New York City-Newark, N.J.; and Norfolk, Va.

Not a single West Coast city, from Seattle to San Diego, raised more than an eyebrow.

Juneau, Alaska, ranked least vulnerable.

Out West, at No. 10, stood landlocked Boise, population about 200,000, nicknamed the City of Trees.

Granted, this is not my expertise, but it is stuff like this that really makes me wonder about the efficacy of our domestic security analysis apparatus. While I have no doubt that there are items that are vulnerable in Boise (the story notes a major dam that, if destroyed or damaged, could wreak havoc on the area) but there are a lot of places in the US that, if attacked properly, could create great damage or harm to citizens.

In terms, however, of real probability of attack, and therefore as a question of where resources should go in terms of security, I have a hard time thinking that Boise, Idaho is really more likely to be attacked by terrorists than targets in places like Los Angeles and San Diego.

The index used to create the list looked at variables that I am not sure are as key to al qaeda-like attacks as the study itself assumes:

Scores depended on three main considerations: social demographics, natural hazards (floods, wildfires, earthquakes, extreme weather, etc.) and infrastructure vulnerability (roads, bridges, tunnels, ports, dams, skyscrapers, etc.).

It would seem that issues such as symbolic value and based logistics should be taken into account as well in making such a list. Still, all of this will probably mean more federal dollars for Idaho.

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By Steven L. Taylor

The LAT has a profile of Clinton operative Harold Ickes: Ickes is Clinton’s not-so-secret weapon.

Ickes is of interest at the moment, because he is “the man in charge of Clinton’s feverish effort to lock up superdelegates”.

And, at the moment,

Clinton is ahead among superdelegates, but the margin has been slipping. In December, she led Obama by 106 superdelegates. In early February, the number was down to 87. Today it is 36, according to Associated Press surveys.

Ickes runs the superdelegate operation from a third-floor war room in this suburb across the Potomac River from the capital. About 20 aides are divided into teams. One woos the uncommitted; another works to prevent defections.

Of course that last matter is no small thing, as at this stage of the game, the votes of the superdelegates are far from a wholly settled matter.

This entire process is rather interesting to watch, and I have to wonder when all is said and done if the DNC will wish to keep the supderdelegate mechanism in place. My guess is that barring an utterly disastrous outcome this summer, change will be too difficult to achieve and so the system will persist, and probably return to its previous incarnation of being an background idiosyncrasy of the party, rather than a center-stage player.1

On paper the system makes some semblance of sense, i.e., the creation of a mechanism to manage a potentially problematic primary season and to diminish the chances of a bloody mess at the national convention. However, in reality the system is rather problematic as what it ultimately does is top off a democratic process (i.e., primaries and caucuses at the state level) with an elite-controlled one. A voter could rightly ask: why did we bother tolerating all those commercials, speeches and rallies, let alone the whole voting thing, if it really comes down to 800 party elites? Now, granted, the actions of those voters will influence said elites, but it is still a legitimate question. It strikes me as further relevant if the party in question is one that cultivates an image of being the one more oriented towards the mass public and attempts to paint the other major party as the party of the elite.

Having said all of that, the Clinton campaign’s attempt to secure as many superdelegates as possible as their main (indeed, only) real shot at the nomination is perfectly legitimate given the current rules. Still, I must confess that the notion of a high-powered political operative and his staff calling up party elites to lobby for their votes to be a tad distasteful–at least in the context of a system of candidate selection that is ostensibly democratic.2

  1. Because the likelihood of another nomination fight being this close again in the near future is quite small. []
  2. Although given the flaws in the system, one oughtn’t give too much credence to the purity of its democratic nature…Although regardless of problems with who starts the process (i.e, the Iowa/New Hampshire fetish) or issues of whether caucuses provide equal opportunity for all voters to participate and so forth, those mechanisms trump elite-driven ones if the goal is a democratized candidate selection process. []
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Sunday, March 30, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

First there was garfield minus garfield, and now’s there The Nietzsche Family Circus

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By Steven L. Taylor

The pressure on the FARC regarding Ingrid Betancourt and other hostages continues to build. Now, the possibility for rewards and life in exile has emerged. Via the BBC: France ‘could take Farc rebels’:

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has said France would be willing to take Farc rebels as part of a deal to free hostages held by the guerrillas.


He announced the establishment of a $100m fund for any information leading to the whereabouts of the hostages.

Mr Uribe urged Farc fighters to accept his offer of cash rewards and reduced jail terms for abandoning rebel ranks and releasing kidnap victims.

“People have asked me, can they [Farc rebels] also go overseas? Yes, they can go overseas and we will help in that matter,” he said.

“We have spoken to the French government, which has told us it would be willing to take them in over there.”


Analysist say the promise of exile in France could be attractive to anybody wanting to turn themselves in, since the Farc has a policy of hunting down and killing deserters

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Iraqi cleric calls off militias

Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has ordered his fighters off the streets of Basra and other cities in an effort to end clashes with security forces.

He said in a statement that his movement wanted the Iraqi people to stop the bloodshed and maintain the nation’s independence and stability.


Moqtada Sadr’s statement said: “Because of the religious responsibility, and to stop Iraqi blood being shed, and to maintain the unity of Iraq and to put an end to this sedition that the occupiers and their followers want to spread among the Iraqi people, we call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and all other provinces.

“Anyone carrying a weapon and targeting government institutions will not be one of us.”

What exactly this all means, however, is rather unclear at the moment. If anything, it may demonstrate that Sadr has more influence over the situation than does Prime Minister Maliki. And inded, perhaps that’s the point.

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Saturday, March 29, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Here’s a follow-up to a story I noted earlier in the week.

Via the BBC: Argentine farmers halt tax strike

A farmers’ spokesman said the 16-day protest – which included roadblocks and caused food shortages – had been halted to allow talks with the government.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner had refused to negotiate with the until the action was stopped.

As such, this would appear to be a “cease fire” of sorts, as the farmers appear ready to resume the protest if negotiations breakdown.

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Friday, March 28, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Yesterday I noted the story of the TSA forcing a woman to remove a nipple ring before she was allowed to fly. While I was inclined to believe the story, I left some room open for the possibility that it wasn’t true.

Well, via CNN it is confirmed that TSA agents in question properly followed procedure: Nipple ring search procedures faulty, TSA admits

The Transportation Security Administration said Friday its officers at a Texas airport appear to have properly followed procedures when they allegedly forced a woman to remove her nipple rings — one with pliers — but acknowledged the procedures should be changed.

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By Steven L. Taylor

And I received a graphic from the publisher yesterday of the cover for my pending book, Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia.

Here it is:

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