Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


Sunday Items

April 19, 2009

On a lighter note, the Berlin Wall (what’s left of it) will be repainted. More here.
A piece on Moldova’s failed “Twitter Revolution” in Foreign Policy.
US missile strikes in Pakistan? From the Telegraph.


Obama’s approach to Iran

April 15, 2009

The New York Times has a piece elaborating on the Obama Administration’s decision to allow Iran to continue with its nuclear program as the US enters negotiations. Granted, the story’s two days old at this point, but seeing as how it’s continuing policy, it’s one to be aware of:

The proposals, exchanged in confidential strategy sessions with European allies, would press Tehran to open up its nuclear program gradually to wide-ranging inspection. But the proposals would also allow Iran to continue enriching uranium for some period during the talks. That would be a sharp break from the approach taken by the Bush administration, which had demanded that Iran halt its enrichment activities, at least briefly to initiate negotiations.

The proposals under consideration would go somewhat beyond President Obama’s promise, during the presidential campaign, to open negotiations with Iran “without preconditions.” Officials involved in the discussion said they were being fashioned to draw Iran into nuclear talks that it had so far shunned.


Sunday Items

April 12, 2009

Bird flu, less virulent, perhaps more contagious. From The Independent.
The intersection of politics and technology in Moldova via Foreign Policy Journal.
Death of an Iranian blogger from Haaretz.


Somali pirates hijack ship with American crew

April 8, 2009

A few grafs:

Somali pirates are trained fighters who frequently dress in military fatigues and use speedboats equipped with satellite phones and GPS equipment. They are typically armed with automatic weapons, anti-tank rocket launchers and various types of grenades. Far out to sea, their speedboats operate from larger mother ships.

Most hijackings end with million-dollar payouts. Piracy is considered the biggest moneymaker in Somalia, a country that has had no stable government for decades. Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at the London-based think-tank Chatham House, said pirates took up to $80 million in ransoms last year.

The whole piece.


Mayhem in Moldova

April 7, 2009

From the NYT:

The crowd is demanding that President Vladimir Voronin announce his resignation and leave Moldova, Interfax reported. Mr. Voronin is scheduled to step down as president, but the newly elected Communist parliament will almost certainly appoint a Communist to succeed him.

Javier Solana, chief of foreign policy for the European Union, said he was “very concerned” about the situation. He said that election observers had reported that the April 5 polls met many international standards, but that there had still been “undue administrative interference” and a lack of public confidence. The observers have documented complaints that the state dominated television coverage during the campaign, virtually banishing opposition politicians from the airwaves.

More here.


Q&A: Dambisa Moyo on aid damaging Africa

April 7, 2009

Two weeks ago, I posted on an article in The Wall Street Journal about the crippling effects of aid to Africa. I came across an interview of the author of that column, Dambisa Moyo, who just released a book on the subject: Dead Aid:Why Aid is not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa.

Here’s Moyo in an exchange on celebrity aid:

Guernica: In your book, you discuss the different eras of aid. The money started flowing in the post-war years to keep African countries friendly to the U.S. You go on to describe the 2000s as the decade of “Glamour Aid,” and you’re critical of Bono and Bob Geldoff, in particular. Do you feel these celebrities who are beating the drum for increased aid—and in doing so, drawing attention to themselves as well as the cause—are acting out of paternalism and perhaps egoism rather than true altruism?

Dambisa Moyo: First of all, I talk very little about the celebrities [in Dead Aid]. To focus on them is to miss the point. There are three things I want to say about celebrities and “Glamour Aid.” First, I don’t think they’re right. I may have been more sympathetic if they were pushing an agenda for more trade or more foreign direct investment, but the fact that they’re pushing for an additional fifty billion dollars [in aid] illustrates to me that they don’t understand economics and perhaps do not add value to the debate. It certainly worries me that they’re getting more airtime than they should. The second point is that in the aid model, you disenfranchise Africans because the governments are not held accountable. The fact that there was a vacuum big enough for these celebrities to step in and speak, ostensibly, on behalf of the African continent is worrying. Africans stand in the hot African sun to elect their leaders, not celebrities.

Here’s the whole interview in Guernica.


UK report assesses national drug policy

April 7, 2009

While the drug-policy discussion has been limited in the US, the volume has increased over the past couple of weeks. A few weeks ago, President Obama made a flippant comment when replying to a reporter’s question as to whether the legalization of marijuana in some states might bring in much needed revenue. But the press came back at Robert Gibbs, Obama’s White House press secretary, with similar questions, and it was clear that they were somewhat embarassed by their lack of preparation on the issue.

It was this question that rendered Gibbs tongue-tied: “When the president said he doesn’t think that legalizing marijuana would give the economy a boost, was he giving a political answer or an economic answer? Does he have numbers to back (his position) up?”

Today there’s a note-worthy piece in the Guardian about how such a move might benefit Great Britain:

For many years the government has been under pressure to conduct an objective cost-benefit analysis of the current drugs policy, but has failed to do so despite calls from MPs. Now the drugs reform charity, Transform, has commissioned its own report, examining all aspects of prohibition from the costs of policing and investigating drugs users and dealers to processing them through the courts and their eventual incarceration.

As well as such savings is the likely taxation revenue in a regulated market. However, there are also the potential costs of increased drug treatment, education and public information campaigns about the risks and dangers of drugs, similar to those for tobacco and alcohol, and the costs of running a regulated system.

The report looked at four potential scenarios, ranging from no increase in drugs use to a 100% rise as they become more readily available.

“The conclusion is that regulating the drugs market is a dramatically more cost-effective policy than prohibition and that moving from prohibition to regulated drugs markets in England and Wales would provide a net saving to taxpayers, victims of crime, communities, the criminal justice system and drug users of somewhere within the range of, for the four scenarios, £13.9bn, £10.8bn, £7.7bn, £4.6bn.”

As an aside, one can tell from this piece why The Guardian has long been ridiculed as The Grauniad. As you can read in the first paragraph, this sentence: “Now the drugs reform charity, Transform, has commissioned its own report …” might be confusing without morning coffee, something a hyphen would help tremendously, as in the “drugs-reform charity.” If you’re interested in the whole piece, go here.