Sunday, September 29, 2002

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - An amazing story about free trade's arrival to Cuba in the New York Times this past Saturday. It appears that US Agribusiness is cracking into the Cuban market - albeit in a very limited way. And agribusiness interests, to whom the Bush Administration has pandered in oh-so-many surprising ways, is chomping at the bit to burst through the restraints of the anachronistic embargo. I was equally astounded to hear Castro speaking timidly and hopefully of "fair trade" with capitalists in the US as opposed to simply railing against such capitalists with the equally anachronistic Marxist rhetoric and bombast that one usually expects him to spew forth. While the trade fair was very restricted, it's foolish to think that its impact won't be felt and recognized by the Cuban people. I am a firm believer that cracking into the Cuban market will do much more to chip at the Castro dictatorship and bring democracy to Cuba than will the embargo. But that old argument is for another post. What simply floored me in this article was a comment attributed to Otto Reich, Bush's controversial pick to coordinate the administration's Latin American policy. According to the article, Reich, a member of the Cuban exile community whose single-minded antipathy towards any policy of accommodation with Cuba, warned Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who was in Cuba participating in the trade exposition, to "steer clear of the island's 'sexual tourism.'" What the hell kind of a comment is this!?!?!? Is Reich not cognizant of the fact that "sexual tourism" also exists in the US? This comment is insulting to the American politicians and agribusiness representatives in attendance (in that it paints them as lecherous sex-hunters), as well as to the decency of the Cuban people. No question that prostitution is a problem in Cuba. I think every time Reich passes through Las Vegas or even Miami, we ought to "warn" (insult?) him likewise. But for Otto Reich to hurl such barbs just indicates all the more what an infantile idiot he is - as well as are all those who supported Reich's nomination and hailed him as the best candidate for the job.

Lagniappe - It's been a while since I posted; but I have a legitimate excuse. I have been joyously distracted from all but the essentials by the arrival of my new daughter, Ella Rose, to this world. She was born on Sep. 10, a healthy 7 lbs., 13.7 ounces, and has been the central focus of attention for the past weeks. I haven't forgotten about my blog, but I just put it on hold for a while. The birth of Ella, plus the start of the academic year at the University, has been just about all that I can manage. But I'm back, spurred to the blogosphere by some recent events in Latin America, which I'll pick up in my next post. Hopefully, I'll be able to give some attention to the blog from now on out.

Friday, September 06, 2002

Liberal Lighthouse - Well, it's time again to check in with Slate's Jacob Weisberg and his Bushisms. Always good for a hearty chuckle.

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - While the Mexican Supreme Court has given a setback to supporters of indigenous autonomy in the country, I still maintain that the activity of the High Court in such a public way and on such controversial subjects marks the welcome and positive evolution of a respect for the rule of law in that country. If the Mexican Supreme Court decisions, even if supportive of government positions, comes to be accepted as independent of the other branches of government, then the cause of Mexican democracy is well-served. I am more and more encouraged by the democratization of Mexico, even though such democratization has fallen far short of (almost unrealistic) expectations.

Liberal Lighthouse - I've been reading a lot lately about the "killing" of the Priscilla Owen nomination to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals by the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Byron York, of the National Review has written back to back laments on the subject. Republican Senators are issuing some bullying threats and are trying to "shame" their Democratic Colleagues for playing the same game of partisan politics with Judicial Nominations that was the modus vivendi for Republicans when Clinton was President. But even beyond that, Jason Zengerle of The New Republic has written an intriguing article which says that it is the very Bush Administration itself which should shoulder some of the blame for the litmus testing of federal judiciary nominees. Senate Republicans would be wise to read this article to realize that their grandstanding on this issue won't go very far (and may even backfire) if the public at large, like Zengerle, perceives the very "nominations" of judges by the Bush Administration to be the product of a pre-selection litmus testing process even before they reach the Senate. I, for one, can admit that Zengerle expresses a sentiment that resonates with what I have felt all along.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - Mexico, always the independent energy maverick, seeks to increase its petroleum output. Ostensibly, this is part of Fox's national development plan. Really, this is Mexico once again taking advantage of an unstable Middle East supply to try to cash in. Cynical, yes, but probably on the mark.

Monday, September 02, 2002

Blog Banter - I must say that I'm very much looking forward to Andrew Sullivan's return after a month-long hiatus from the blogosphere. I'm sure he'll give me (all of us, actually) a lot of challenging and bold things to ponder. Welcome back, Andrew Sullivan! Even though you may never ever know about my blog, I look forward to a dialogue with you - even if a one-way dialogue!

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - Vicente Fox pleads with the Mexican Congress to help him ease the burdens of poverty and struggle faced by a majority of his country's people. He pleads for the Mexican Congress to do this by supporting his agenda for solutions to these difficult problems. He links the Mexican Congress's obstinacy to a failure of democracy. In doing so, he is feeding the fires of autocracy. Attention Mr. Fox: A Congress that doesn't just approve an executive's blueprint for change is not anti-democratic. Gridlock, though frustrating to many, is part of democracy. It is the strengthening of an effective balance of power, which is something Mexico has lacked for many, many years. His challenge is to convince the Congress to buy into his plans, not to call them anti-democratic for refusing to do so. He is welcome to play politics all he wants, and to call Congess obstinate and partisan and mistaken and wrong -- but to call them anti-democratic (and to imply that democracy is not working because of them) is to undermine one of the main pillars of a strong and vibrant democracy. Fox should be speaking of democracy in Mexico as a working reality, not as a failing expectation.

Lagniappe - I have been following the whole Pappy-Bush vs. Baby-Bush punditry with more than a casual interest. William Safire has recently weighed in on the subject with an op-ed piece in the New York Times. My feeling, which I've expressed numerous times, is that there is some sort of give-and-take going on between Pappy and Baby. I'm not quite sure exactly what this means or how it will ultimately play out, but Safire makes a convincing case that because of the perception of this family rift, Pappy-Bush will need to come out with a public stance at some point - either for or against - in order to put the rumors to rest once and for all and clear the way for an unhidden policy agenda regarding Iraq. But aside from the whole family rift gossip, I've been wondering more acutely about Pappy-Bush's original policy actions with regard to the Gulf War. People have spoken of Pappy-Bush's failure to finish off Saddam in round one as a policy blunder. But I'm not so sure of this. If one speaks of blunder in the sense that it may have contributed to Pappy-Bush's failed reelection campaign, that's something to debate. However, to speak of this blunder as an unintended mistaken decision on the part of the Pappy-Bush war team, as I think most do, is wrong-headed. The more and more that I give some thought to the Gulf War and its immediate aftermath, especially given today's context of the Pappy-Bush team's softness on Baby-Bush's current hardline Iraq position, the more I think that Pappy-Bush knew exactly what he was doing when he let Saddam off the hook at the end of the Gulf War. For some reason, which I can't quite fathom yet, Pappy-Bush seems to have thought that the security of the Middle East (as well as US Security) required (and still requires) the continued existence of Saddam in power. Did Pappy-Bush know something about the Middle East dynamic in a post-Saddam world that gave him the willies? What do we know about a post-Saddam Middle East now? I think it is worth exploring this subject further, and to stop thinking of Pappy-Bush's allowing Saddam to survive as a "blunder" and to think of it more critically and strategically as perhaps a policy with some good reason (if not soundness) to it after all. This is not to say that Saddam needs to stay, but that we stop thinking about his absence from the scene as necessarily a positive end to an all around ugly situation in that part of the world. Even though I'm not a big fan of Pappy-Bush, I do think we need to give Pappy-Bush some credit here. After all, Pappy-Bush was and is by far the more experienced statesman and diplomat of the two. The fact that this "rift" seems to be evolving tells me that Pappy-Bush's experience is telling him that precipitous action can be disastrous and can undermine the stated goal of strengthening US and world security. Why else would he allow the perception of a break with his son rise like it has? He must be seriously concerned about a real "blunder" coming from his son's current policy.

Lagniappe - After a brief hiatus, I am back and ready to blog. Last week was quite hectic for me given that it was the start of a new semester. With welcoming and orienting our new graduate students, as well as advising the returning grad students and gearing up for classes, the pace has been frenetic. Now, with a restful labor day weekend behind me, I'm primed up and eager to write. So, start up your regular visits again, I'm promising you some huckupchuck smack!