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Archive for October, 2012

Voici une analyse de Bernard Guetta sur France Inter hier, que je trouve assez juste

Ça n’a pas été « non » mais ca n’a pas été, non plus, un «oui concret». Malgré les « discussions approfondies » qu’elle a menées, hier, avec le président algérien, la secrétaire d’Etat américaine, n’a pas encore su le convaincre d’approuver et appuyer l’intervention contre les groupes islamistes qui font régner la terreur au Nord Mali depuis le printemps.

Les contacts vont se poursuivre, a déclaré Hilary Clinton en assurant avoir « beaucoup apprécié » l’analyse de la complexité de la situation malienne que lui a présentée Abdelaziz Bouteflika mais, courtoisies diplomatiques ou pas, quatre raisons retiennent l’Algérie de s’engager dans cette crise aux côtés de la France, des Etats-Unis et de pays de la Cédéao, la Communauté économique des Etats d’Afrique de l’Ouest.

La première est que l’Algérie reste allergique à tout renforcement de la présence ou même de l’influence française à ses frontières. Un demi-siècle après avoir recouvré son indépendance, l’Algérie continue de se méfier de son ancienne puissance coloniale et cela d’autant plus qu’elle a désapprouvé son rôle dans le renversement du colonel Kadhafi et, plus généralement, le soutien des Occidentaux aux révolutions arabes qui sont perçues comme une menace par le pouvoir algérien.

La deuxième est que l’Aqmi, al Qaëda au Maghreb islamique, l’un des groupes qui a pris le contrôle du Nord Mali, est essentiellement constitué d’islamistes algériens qui avaient trouvé refuge au Sahel après avoir été militairement défaits à la fin des années 90. L’Algérie ne veut pas se retrouver aux prises avec eux et la troisième raison pour laquelle elle est si réticente à appuyer cette intervention est que 50 000 de ses citoyens sont des Touaregs, vivant aux frontières du Sahel et très proches des Touaregs du Mali, ceux-là mêmes dont l’aspiration indépendantiste a permis aux islamistes de prendre pied au Nord de ce pays.

L’Algérie craint de susciter une question touareg sur son territoire et la quatrième raison de sa réticence est qu’elle veut encore croire en la possibilité de faire éclater par la négociation le fragile front qui s’est formé entre les islamistes touaregs et Aqmi. L’Algérie est tout, sauf allante et sa prudence gêne considérablement la France et les Etats-Unis qui ne voient pas comment leur appui logistique pourrait garantir le succès de l’intervention africaine qu’ils préparent si le plus puissant Etat de la région ne leur prête pas la main. Français et Américains vont donc continuer à tenter de convaincre l’Algérie de sortir de son attentisme mais, s’ils n’y parvenaient pas, un point d’interrogation supplémentaire pèserait alors sur cette opération dont les points faibles sont nombreux.

Mal entraînées, les troupes du Mali et de la Cédéao peuvent sans doute reprendre les villes du Nord Mali mais plus difficilement les sécuriserà long terme et moins encore rétablir l’ordre dans le vaste Sahel si la frontière algéro-malienne n’est pas hermétiquement fermée et si les renseignements algériens ne leur apportent pas un complet soutien. Cette intervention reste aussi nécessaire qu’aléatoire.

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It has been alleged that he doesn’t have one but Matthew Yglesias says that he does indeed. It is centered on transforming taxes and health care. Read about it here.

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John McWhorter has a spot on critique in TNR of President Obama’s black critics (Cornel West, Frederick Harris et al), who have expressed disappointment that he has not specifically addressed black concerns as they define them and in a way they had hoped he would. Money quote

Black people know racism exists, but also know that today black America’s problems are as much cultural as structural. It’s a cliché on black talk radio and barbecue conversations that “It isn’t anybody white shooting all these people in our streets,” and that there isn’t much that a President could do, black or not, to turn such things around. The black barbershop reality—and I’m basing this on actual time getting my hair cut in them—is that for every guy complaining “Obama ain’t done nothin’ for us,” there are three who object “Come on man, he’s the President of America, not black America!” In other words, once you get beyond a segment of the ivory tower and scattered fellow travelers, most black people know that black America’s problems are not all about racism—institutional or not—the way they were fifty years ago. Obama indicates that he understands this in his speeches to black audiences urging responsibility—which black audiences eat up…

Read the whole thing here. I’ve been having exchanges lately with a few friends and family members on the role race is playing in this election, and particularly over the (misinterpreted) AP poll of last week. I’ll try to write more about the matter here before next Tuesday.

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That’s the title of an on target editorial in today’s NYT

Most Americans have never heard of the National Response Coordination Center, but they’re lucky it exists on days of lethal winds and flood tides. The center is the war room of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where officials gather to decide where rescuers should go, where drinking water should be shipped, and how to assist hospitals that have to evacuate.

Disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of “big government,” which is why Mitt Romney wants to eliminate it. At a Republican primary debate last year, Mr. Romney was asked whether emergency management was a function that should be returned to the states. He not only agreed, he went further.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.” Mr. Romney not only believes that states acting independently can handle the response to a vast East Coast storm better than Washington, but that profit-making companies can do an even better job. He said it was “immoral” for the federal government to do all these things if it means increasing the debt.

It’s an absurd notion, but it’s fully in line with decades of Republican resistance to federal emergency planning. FEMA, created by President Jimmy Carter, was elevated to cabinet rank in the Bill Clinton administration, but was then demoted by President George W. Bush, who neglected it, subsumed it into the Department of Homeland Security, and placed it in the control of political hacks. The disaster of Hurricane Katrina was just waiting to happen.

The agency was put back in working order by President Obama, but ideology still blinds Republicans to its value. Many don’t like the idea of free aid for poor people, or they think people should pay for their bad decisions, which this week includes living on the East Coast.

Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness. Representatives Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans have repeatedly tried to refuse FEMA’s budget requests when disasters are more expensive than predicted, or have demanded that other valuable programs be cut to pay for them. The Ryan budget, which Mr. Romney praised as “an excellent piece of work,” would result in severe cutbacks to the agency, as would the Republican-instigated sequester, which would cut disaster relief by 8.2 percent on top of earlier reductions.

Does Mr. Romney really believe that financially strapped states would do a better job than a properly functioning federal agency? Who would make decisions about where to send federal aid? Or perhaps there would be no federal aid, and every state would bear the burden of billions of dollars in damages. After Mr. Romney’s 2011 remarks recirculated on Monday, his nervous campaign announced that he does not want to abolish FEMA, though he still believes states should be in charge of emergency management. Those in Hurricane Sandy’s path are fortunate that, for now, that ideology has not replaced sound policy.

A question for conservatives and libertarians: if a Sandy-like storm were heading your way—to your town and your home (and which may indeed be the case today for some reading this)—who would you wish to handle the response: a fully funded FEMA or cash-strapped state governments? Or, failing that—as state government is still government, after all—, private, for profit enterprises, perhaps working with faith-based charities? If the answer is not a fully funded FEMA, please explain how these other organs would handle the job more efficiently and at less cost (and I’m not going to hold my breath awaiting the response).

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Matt Latimer, a Republican speechwriter and operative, has a piece in The Daily Beast on “What Newt Gingrich can teach Obama, and America, about Romney.” The lede:

How Romney beat Gingrich in the primary foreshadowed the general election against Obama—and shows how a President Romney will govern. From his shamelessness to the right’s hatred for Obama, Matt Latimer offers six lessons.

One of these lessons is that a politician—here, Romney—may, in effect, lie through his teeth and get away with it. Latimer, who was with Gingrich during the primaries—no comment—reminds us of Mitt’s GOP opponents denouncing his serial untruthiness (here, here, and here).  And then there was (fellow Mormon) Jon Huntsman’s marvelous line about Romney being a “perfectly lubricated weather vane” (here).

But one of Latimer’s lessons is that it ultimately doesn’t matter, as Republicans hate Obama so much that they’ll vote for one of their own whom they may not like too much no problem, as he is, by definition, better. If the shoe were on the other foot, Dems would do likewise, bien entendu.

ADDENDUM: This Pew Research Center poll just out on the race is worth looking at. I take Pew seriously and heard one of its directors, Bruce Stokes, speak on the election at a conference last week. His numbers were sobering (for a Democrat). The race is tied. Down to the wire.

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Thomas B. Edsall has an excellent and important piece in the NYT on one of the perverse downsides of Citizens United v. FEC and other court rulings that have voided legislation on campaign finance, which has been to enable a handful of billionaires to, in effect, hijack the political system and undermine political parties—particularly the Republicans—, and to their own, iniquitous ends. Edsall’s conclusion:

If the parties are eviscerated, the political system could adjust itself and regain vitality. But I doubt it. For all their flaws, strong political parties are important to a healthy political system. The displacement of the parties by super rich men determined to flex their financial muscles is another giant step away from democracy.

Yet one more reason why this election is so critically important.

(Above image, from the NY Daily News: The biggest Republican presidential campaign donors, from left: Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands casino empire; Harold Simmons, owner of Contran Corp.; Bob J. Perry, head of a Houston real estate empire; Robert T. Rowling, head of Dallas-based TRT Holdings; and William Koch, an industrialist.)

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Ruy Teixeira positively reviews Joan Walsh’s new book in TNR. Important subject for the Democrats, needless to say.

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