Posted on 16-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

The economist profiles the rise of Brazil.  Also see here.  Once better known for soccer, its beaches the women and inflation, Latin America’s giant has taken some giant leaps forward in the last 15 years.  When gasoline prices rose in the United States, many looked with envy at Brazil’s ethanol driven cars.  Brazil’s sugarcane derived ethanol is economically far more viable than America’s corn based ethanol giveaway to Archer Daniels Midland Company.  Yet Brazil still has many hurdles to overcome, notably the endemic violence, crime and poverty in its shanty towns.  The riots there last month were an embarrassing distraction from the pride and joy of winning the 2016 Summer Olympics.

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Posted on 16-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

The Economist thinks that the UK’s political parties should call Scottish Nationalist Party chief Alex Salmond’s bluff an hold a referendum on Scotland’s future.  With only about a third of Scots hankering for independence a referendum could put the idea of reviving an independent Scotland in cold storage for some time.  Alternatively it could set a precedent for repeated referendums on the subject as in Quebec.  The idea of a referendum is fairly unusual in the United Kigdom’s constitutional history.  The Parliament being sovereign major decisions have always been decided in Westminster.  This does permit the passage of essential but unpopular decisions, but they could also result in the elites thumbing their nose at public will (as was the case with the original Act of Union).  None of this will of course address the fundamental constitutional flaws that the United Kingdom currently faces.

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Posted on 16-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Ever since Barack Obama announced his plans to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Republicans have been in a lather about the perceived risks that would happen if these terrorists were transferred to a federal super-max facility.  The fact that these facilities already house people like the original World Trade Center bomber, Ramzi Yousef somehow seems to elude them as does the fact that nobody has actually escaped from these facilities. Finally some conservatives (Republican Congressman and Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr, David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform) have called out the GOP for its scaremongering.  Yet somehow I do not hold out hope that any of the prospective 2012 candidates will display any fortitude and stand up to the Republican base.

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The New York Times profiles former Sandinista dictator Daniel Ortega’s end around term limits in Nicaragua.  A persistent conflict in democracies is the extent to which institutions bow down to popular will.  Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and his acolytes (Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Ortega and former Honduran president Zelaya) have complained with some justification that Latin America’s institutions have historically ignored the economic underclass and indigenous minorities.  However, their solution essentially replaces military caudillos with elected populist ones.  The end results are just as bad and like Chavez the populist demagogues start justifying their stay in power because they are some how irreplaceable.  The elected populist demagogue is not unknown in Latin American history as the disastrous career of Argentina’s Juan Peron can attest.

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