Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Mum's the word

I'm sure we've still not heard the last of this story, but this Newsday story that I missed last week notes that declassified CIA briefs indicate the U.S. knew a coup against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was brewing in the days prior to the April 2002 coup attempt--and did nothing to warn the Venezuelan government. Of course, surely they weren't caught that much off guard, were they?

Monday, November 29, 2004

About that Quito conference

I'm still not up for much analysis, but check out Jim Lobe's piece on the hemisphere-wide defense minister's meeting a couple of weeks ago in Quito. He notes some worrisome viewpoints from Rumsfeld (human rights shouldn't be a concern in fighting terrorism, the police/military distinction is decreasingly useful), but criticizes US press coverage --or lack thereof-- at the same time. WOLA also has a good memo laying out some of the issues that were at stake.

One thing only a couple of press outlets picked up was how the U.S. didn't actually dominate the meeting, with their security view challenged by Brazil and most of South America. On a similar note, Larry Rohter had an excellent piece in the New York Times quite a few days ago about increasing Chinese economic influence in Latin America, which of course also means decreased U.S. influence.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

On the road

Again, until Dec. 1st. But there are a few things I want to write about, including the hemispheric summit of defense ministers in Quito this past week, so do check back.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The US goes after a bad guy

It's miniscule and probably merely symbolic, but it's somewhat heartening to see this "Wanted" poster from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for Alvaro Saravia, who was recently convicted in a California court for his role in the murder of Msgr. Romero. (I blogged about it here.) I received this via email; I wonder how much real-life circulation it's actually received.

Whither U.S. Policy toward Latin America?

You can get The Economist's take on this question over at their website, where they have an article that focuses on, you guessed it, economics. Of all the major weeklies, in fact, The Economist has the greatest amount of Latin American coverage. While many of their articles require a subscription, this one does not. The article concludes by noting the "surprisingly cordial" relations of the Bush administration with the increasingly leftward tilting hemispheric leaders.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Veterans Day in El Salvador

Rumsfeld stopped in El Salvador on his way to a hemispheric conference of defense ministers in Ecuador. On Veterans Day, he laid a wreath at a memorial for U.S. personnel killed during the Salvadoran civil war, including 20 service personnel. And Friday he paid homage to six Salvadoran military for saving the lives of six U.S. employees of the Coalition Provisional Authorities by awarding them with the bronze star. A few points worth mentioning:

  • This is apparently the first time we've heard about this particular episode, as I'm quite sure it wasn't reported at the time. Why? Perhaps because Flores did not want to highlight the combat role (security details in a war zone might be considered that), especially days for the Salvadoran elections. It was always blatantly obvious why "special forces" were sent to Iraq for what was being toted as a humanitarian mission, but this would have made it even more clear.
  • El Diario de Hoy said this was the first time that Bronze Stars had been awarded to any Central American officers. Actually, I did a quick internet search, and find that rarely do foreign troops get this honor. (The U.S. offered bronze stars to Canadian troops that had been accidentally killed by a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan, for example.)
  • La Prensa Grafica reported that troop levels would rise to 200,000 by the end of 2005. Has that been noted yet in the U.S. press?
  • Of course, the headline elsewhere, including an AP story that got wide play, was how Rumseld noted that El Salvador could be a model for Iraq. The LA Times had this quote from Rumsfeld: "When one looks at this country and recognizes the fierce struggle that existed here 20 years ago and the success they've had despite the fact that there was a war raging during the elections, it just proves that the sweep of human history is for freedom. We've seen it in this country, we've seen it in Afghanistan and I believe we'll see it in Iraq."
  • All stories mentioned the continuing request by the U.S. to the Nicaraguan government to destroy some 2000 surface-to-air missiles still in the hands of the Nicaragua military--this after 14 years of conservative government rule. Sounds like there might be some "reserved domains" still among Sandinista higher-ups in the military.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

After the Wars

A 13-part radio series starts this Friday on your local NPR station, produced by Maria Martin and a slew of reporters -- "some of public radio's most talented reporters and their Central American colleagues" with "the most comprehensive coverage of Central America in years," according to their website. The first segment provides historical context, and is produced by NPR veteran Richard Gonzalez. I'm looking forward to hearing this, and hope that it will be available on their website without too much delay.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Haiti: Latin America to the rescue

I haven't been following the situation in Haiti much in recent months, but my interest was piqued by the decision of El Salvador and other Central American countries to send peacekeepers there soon -- this time, of course, under a real UN mandate, unlike Iraq. There's quite a bit of pessimism, however, about the potential success of the Brazil-led mission there, as is noted in an article this week by IPS that's worth reading. One academic observer in Brazil notes that Haiti looks like it might become "the first failure of President Lula's foreign policy", since "the situation is getting worse, and for now there's no solution in sight."

But an editorial in the Jamaica Observer today has a rather different take on the situation, seeing the recent meeting of Latin Americans in Rio de Janeiro this week as a chance for CARICOM to make a comeback. At the same time, it notes that the initiative isn't necessarily going to be to the liking of what they call the Western Troika -- the U.S., France and Canada:
...the countries of the Rio Group plan to send a diplomat to South Africa to meet with Mr Aristide about their plan to rebuild Haiti, ensure security and advance democracy.

Although it has been made clear that Mr Aristide will not be invited to participate directly in the process, this initiative recognises that he remains a powerful and important force in Haiti and the legitimacy of his political movement Lavalas, which Mr Latortue and his supporters have sought to sideline.

Indeed, it flies in the face of the propositions that have been advanced by the Western Troika and re-endorses the logic of the Kingston Accord led by Prime Minister P J Patterson, which had the best potential for political change in Haiti within a constitutional framework.

Caricom proposed a power-sharing arrangement that would have allowed Mr Aristide to serve out his remaining two years as president.

That, ostensibly, was rejected by the formal opposition. The upshot was intensification of unrest in Haiti, increased violence by a force of irregulars and pressure on Mr Aristide by the United States, France and the new Canadians to resign.

Haiti is now perhaps more divided and unstable than before.Mr Latortue has consistently blamed the violence in Haiti on the hidden hand of Mr Aristide and accused South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki of breaking international law for harbouring Mr Aristide.

In that context, it does not seem that any engagement of Mr Aristide by the Latin Americans, whatever the message they carry, will find favour with Latortue. It is also unlikely to sit easy with the Americans. Yet Washington may see Latin American help as broadening the burden of Haiti and a lessening of a distraction while it grapples with Iraq.

For Caricom, the Latin American initiative, in the absence of the fine print, could be a way for the Community to find its way back into Haiti with greater insulation - a kind of new start without the total abandonment of strongly held principles.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Thumbing through the Times

I realize I have nothing new to say today, but I am struck by some rather useful insights in the New York Times, especially in the piece by the ever-judicious and historically informed Todd Purdum.

First, he notes Bush strategist Matthew Dowd's comment that "Mr. Bush had become the first incumbent Republican president to win a presidential race with majorities in the House and Senate since Calvin Coolidge in 1924, and the first president of either party since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 to be re-elected while gaining seats in both houses." That's a sobering fact.

Second, he hints at an issue that will make many progressives uncomfortable when he cites former Clinton aide, Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL): "Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter got elected because they were comfortable with their faith. What happened was that a part of the electorate came open to what Clinton and Carter had to say on everything else - health care, the environment, whatever - because they were very comfortable that Clinton and Carter did not disdain the way these people lived their lives, but respected them."

Elsewhere, on the editorial pages, we're treated to some great analysis -- still no game plan, however -- from several mainstays:
  • Thomas Friedman says it feels like two different Americas now exist, such that "it felt as if we were rewriting the Constitution, not electing a president."
  • Maureen Dowd is scathing and pessimistic: The president says he's "humbled" and wants to reach out to the whole country. What humbug. The Bushes are always gracious until they don't get their way. If W. didn't reach out after the last election, which he barely grabbed, why would he reach out now that he has what Dick Cheney calls a "broad, nationwide victory"?
  • Garry Wills says that, in America's counter-Enlightenment, we are most closely resembling our putative enemies: "Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein's Sunni loyalists."
I hate to provide proof of anything that Tom Friedman has to say, but when he writes that the election could just as well have been between those who watch Fox News and those who read the New York Times, I guess it's clear which side I come down on.

P.S. The Washington Post has a good story that seeks to explain why Kerry lost Ohio.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

What's next?

Okay, so Rove's base strategy worked. 22% of those who voted yesterday were evangelicals, according to Steve Waldman, the founder of Beliefnet. Youth also turned out in record numbers, but so did everybody else. And Ohio is definitely lost--Kerry is conceding at 1 pm EST.

I've scoured my usual sites, however, and have found a few people who have managed to spell out something other than other utter despair, and I urge you to take a look.
  • Mark Schmitt thinks "that this will be like Nixon's second term, and thus the seeds of a bigger long-term change than could have occurred just by Kerry winning the election."
  • For David Corn, the good news is, paradoxically, that "America is a divided nation. Despite the pundit hand-wringing over this fact, it is a positive thing. Nearly-- nearly--half of the electorate rejected Bush's leadership, his agenda, his priorities, his falsehoods."
  • Marc Cooper has a good critique of what went wrong, but also says "the only succor I cling to is the notion that the President’s punishment for being re-elected is that he will now have to manage the myriad catastophes he has conjured."
  • And Paul Waldman of The Gadflyer notes: "Progressives need to do what conservatives did forty years ago: build a movement. Not a campaign, not an organization, a movement. Stop thinking about whether you can win the next election and start thinking about creating something that will lead to victories for decades. It's long overdue."

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Impudent pandering to the Latino vote

Yesterday I posted something about how Bush was losing the non-Cuban Hispanic vote in Florida, and how generally he was doing badly with Hispanics, which could make a huge difference nationwide.

Now I see the Washington Post reports that yesterday the Department of Homeland Security --I'm sorry, but things are really screwed up when it's Homeland Security making that kind of decision -- announced an extension of temporary protected status for Nicaraguans (4,300) and Hondurans (82,000), while they are "favorably disposed" to granting another 18 months to some 300,000 Salvadorans living in the U.S. TPS for the former is up in January, while for Salvadorans it expires in March.

The good news is that, as far as I can tell, there's very little coverage (newspaper or wire service, that is) of this fact, importantly not even in the Miami Herald today. Could it be that everyone sees this is a brazen, last-minute electoral ploy for votes? There was a story in Monday's Herald, however, noting that Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mel Martinez was already trumpeting this decision over the weekend.

Too little, too late.

Bush's fatal flaw

Tom Burka, who also was one of the bloggers invited to comment on the elections in today's New York Times, has the final word on why Bush will lose today:

Bush's Inability To Distance Self From Self A Problem, Republicans Worry

President Bush has been utterly unable to distance himself from what critics call "George W. Bush's presidency," enabling opponent John Kerry to blame virtually all four years of it on him, a crucial mistake in a critically important campaign season.

"If Bush had been able to depict the past four years of his presidency as belonging to someone else, it would have dramatically improved his chances for re-election," said Harry Schmetterer, checkers-player-turned-pundit. "Because he did not, the war on Iraq, the record on the environment, the economy, all of that can be laid to rest at George W. Bush's feet."

In this last week, Karl Rove had intended to reveal his "October Surprise" -- an allegation that someone else, probably Bill Clinton, had actually been President during the past four years. Unfortunately, allegations concerning the theft of 380 tons of powerful explosives from Iraq by terrorists distracted the Bush campaign from pursuing that strategem.

In other news, Bush aides feared that the wolves unveiled in a recent anti-Kerry campaign spot did not sufficiently "frighten the living bejesus" out of voters.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Latin Difference

There's evidence that the non-Cuban Hispanic vote -- that would be Mexicans, Salvadorans, Dominicans, Colombians and Puerto Ricans among others, many of whom voting for the first time -- will outflank the Cuban-American vote in Florida, making a huge difference for Kerry in places like Miami-Dade county.

Nick Confesore over at the Tapped notes that:
Republicans need to get up to 35 or 40 percent among Hispanics in order to remain competitive in a country that is become less and less white. And Bush was supposed to be the perfect ambassador to Hispanic voters: Bilingual (more or less), pro-immigration, from a border state, anti-nativist, and so forth. He's failed nonetheless.
By the way, for my money, in addition to Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo, the American Prospect's Tapped and Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum blog entries are really hot these days.

A nicer map

Professor Sam Wang of Princeton University has been doing meta-analysis:
Below is a meta-analysis directed at the question of who will win the Electoral College. Meta-analysis provides more objectivity and precision than looking at one or a few polls, and in the case of election prediction gives a more accurate current snapshot. The calculations are based on all available recent state polls, which are used to estimate the probability of a Bush/Kerry win, state by state. These are then used to go through all possible combinations of battleground state results. The effects of undecided voters, turnout, and polling bias are calculated using the bias analysis. Here are the full methods.
As you can see, he comes up with virtually the same map as the most optimistic scenario I mentioned yesterday, with two exceptions: he includes Nevada in the Kerry camp, and he gets the colors right! (duh)

His final numbers: Kerry 316, Bush 222.

Oh, and the map is weighted (expanded?) to represent the actual number of electoral college votes.

More encouraging poll analysis

Alan Abramowitz has been saying some very wise and learned things over at Donkey Rising in recent weeks, and his final, pre-election poll analysis is now up. I'm going with it, if only so that I can sleep well tonight:

Final Pre-election Poll Analysis
By Alan Abramowitz

1. The National Polls
In the 12 most recent national polls listed on pollingreport.com, among likely voters, Bush is leading in 7 polls, Kerry in 2, and 3 are tied. Average support was 48.2 percent for Bush, 46.7 percent for Kerry, and 0.8 percent for Nader. In the 7 polls that provide results for registered voters, however, Kerry is leading in 4, Bush in 1, and 2 are tied. Average support was 47.0 percent for Kerry, 46.7 percent for Bush, and 0.9 percent for Nader.

Bottom line: Even in the samples of likely voters, Bush is well below the 50 percent mark generally needed by an incumbent. In fact, when Gallup allocates the undecided vote, their likely voter sample goes from a 49-47 Bush lead to a 49-49 tie. In the broader samples of registered voters, Bush is actually trailing in most of the recent polls. With a very high turnout expected tomorrow, the registered voter samples are probably more representative of the actual electorate than the likely voter samples.

2. The Four Major Battleground States

In Florida, there have been 11 polls since October 15. Bush led in 5, Kerry led in 5, and 1 was tied. Average support was 47.5 percent for Bush, 46.5 percent for Kerry, and 1.2 percent for Nader. Turnout in the early voting has been enormous, with a clear advantage for Democrats. Expect a huge turnout tomorrow as well that will put this state in the Kerry column.

In Ohio, there have been 11 polls since October 15. Kerry led in 7, Bush led in 3, and 1 was tied. Average support was 47.2 percent for Bush and 48.3 percent for Kerry. Ralph Nader is not on the ballot. Turnout is going to be enormous and two federal judges ruled this morning that Republican political operatives cannot challenge voters in minority precincts. That was Karl Rove's last gasp in Ohio. The Buckeye state will go Democratic this year and no Republican has ever won a presidential election without carrying Ohio.

In Pennsylvania, there have been 11 polls since October 15. Kerry led in 8, Bush led in 2 and 1 was tied. Average support was 46.8 percent for Bush and 48.7 percent for Kerry. Ralph Nader is not on the ballot. Pennsylvania looks solid for Kerry.

Finally, in Michigan, there have been 5 polls since October 15, including only the most recent release of the Mitchell tracking poll. Kerry led in all 5 polls. Average support was 44.2 percent for Bush, 47.2 percent for Kerry, and 1.0 percent for Nader. Michigan also looks solid for Kerry.

Bottom line: George Bush's situation in all four of these key battleground states is dire. His support is well below 50 percent in all of them and he is currently trailing John Kerry in 3 of the 4. A clean sweep of all four states by John Kerry is a distinct possibility.