November 26, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 108

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Topics: Big Ideas for Reforming American Governance – Rethinking Immigration; Volkswagen unionizes in Tennessee; Burkina Faso’s pseudo-civilian government. People: Bill, Nate. Produced: November 26th, 2014.

Discussion Points:

– Big Ideas: On immigration reform, do both Congressional Inaction and Executive Action miss the real causes of the current situation? Should immigration law be rewritten from the ground up?
– Can Volkswagen’s cooperative unionization of Tennessee workers serve as a model for other firms in the US?
– Has the military government of Burkina Faso co-opted the purported transition to civilian rule? Did foreign powers rush the transition?

Part 1 – Big Idea/Immigration:
Part 1 – Immigration – AFD 108
Part 2 – Volkswagen:
Part 2 – Volkswagen – AFD 108
Part 3 – Burkina Faso:
Part 3 – Burkina Faso – AFD 108

To get one file for the whole episode, we recommend using one of the subscribe links at the bottom of the post.

Related links
Segment 2

AFD: “Volkswagen US still driving toward unionization”
Nashville Public Radio: “Labor Secretary Wants Volkswagen’s Tennessee Plant To Become A Model”

Segment 3

AFD: “Lt. Col. Isaac Zida: The Wolf of Ouagadougou”
War Is Boring (Medium): “Burkina Faso Made the Pentagon Nervous”

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Nigeria government raids opposition offices

After more than 15 years in power, the ruling party in Nigeria doesn’t seem too keen on letting a credible opposition emerge. Between the police assault on the country’s House Speaker inside the National Assembly last week and the subsequent raid of his party’s Lagos offices, I think it’s pretty clear what’s going on right now.

Here’s the BBC report on the raid:

Nigeria’s main opposition party has condemned a weekend raid of its Lagos offices by state security agents.

“We call for an independent commission of inquiry to ascertain the reasons why armed officers raided our office,” the All Progressive Congress (APC) deputy chairman Lawal Shuaibu told the BBC.

The party said computers were destroyed and documents seized during the raid.
[…]
But the APC said the incident was “another one in the string of attacks and illegal actions of the administration.” It said “more than a dozen” computers had been destroyed, a server had been “vandalised” and 28 people arrested.
[…]
“Just like the Watergate scandal in the USA, the state-sponsored security operatives apparently acting at the behest of the ruling PDP [People’s Democratic Party] government turned the office upside down, and pulled out and vandalised everything in sight,” he told the AFP news agency.

 
The conservative PDP — delicately balancing market liberalization supporters with Christian and Muslim social conservatives from the north and south — has held the presidency since first democratic elections of the Fourth Nigerian Republic, in 1999, and then again won elections in 2003, 2007, 2011. (In 2003, the win came easily and freely. In 2007, there was serious controversy over whether it had been rigged — which seems fairly likely. In 2011, the PDP won relatively easily in a fair election.)

Incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, who assumed office in early 2010 when his predecessor died, is now almost five years into office and wants another full term, amid mass disatisfaction with his tenure and a chaotic insurgency. Unfortunately for him, after years of PDP domination, the splintered opposition has formed a left-leaning unity party (the aforementioned All Progressives Congress) and is coalescing around a single candidate for the presidency. They have also captured key defectors from the ruling party, including the House Speaker in the assembly, to the point that the APC now holds a slight majority in the House and may even have a majority in the Senate (depending on the exact defector count). Nearly as many governorships are also now in APC hands.

The PDP is facing its darkest political hour right now and is very reluctant to give up power after 15 years of control. But beyond the inherent dangers of single-party democracy cycle after cycle, the PDP, and their leader in President Goodluck Jonathan, have been massively incompetent in the past four years. It’s time for Nigeria to give someone else a crack at it.

Logo of the All Progressives Congress opposition coalition. (Credit: Auwal Ingawa)

Logo of the All Progressives Congress opposition coalition. (Credit: Auwal Ingawa)

Indonesia debuts world’s largest cash transfer program ever

Earlier this year, Indonesians elected Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as their new president. The Jakarta governor’s background was unusual in Indonesian federal politics extremely humble:

A former carpenter and furniture exporter who was born in a slum in Central Java Province, he will be the first president in Indonesian history not to emerge from the country’s political elite or the ranks of former army generals.

 
For Indonesia’s very poor and near-poor, this election choice is already paying dividends — quite literally:

As part of the three-card package comes a pre-activated mobile phone SIM card linked to a saving account at state-owned Bank Mandiri. Using this system, the government said it hopes to transfer 200,000 rupiah ($16.50) a month to 15.5 million poor and homeless families to ease the pain of the fuel subsidy cuts. Beneficiaries will be able to cash in their payments at designated bank branches and post offices. If successful, the new system will become the world’s largest government-funded cash-transfer programme, bigger than Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, a similar scheme that has covered 12 million families since its launch in 2003.

 
Previously from Arsenal For Democracy — on cash transfer experiments in Brazil and Bolivia: “Social inclusion, anti-poverty policy are great for the economy!”

President Jokowi, then Governor of Jakarta, shakes hands with a crowd in January 2013. (Credit: Provincial Government of Jakarta via Wikimedia)

President Jokowi, then Governor of Jakarta, shakes hands with a crowd in January 2013. (Credit: Provincial Government of Jakarta via Wikimedia)

Lt. Col. Isaac Zida: The Wolf of Ouagadougou

I think we can safely conclude, as feared, that Isaac Zida’s military government has not ended, just rebranded itself.

Look how civilian this not-military government in Burkina Faso is… So civilian… mmm…

Burkina Faso authorities issued a decree on Sunday announcing an interim government, with President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida also taking on the key ministries of foreign affairs and defence.

Of the 26 posts available, the army claimed six, including mines, communications and the interior ministry. Other members were drawn from civil society groups and a medley of political parties.

 
To recap: 23% of the cabinet portfolios in this “civilian” transitional government are now held by military officers, including basically the five most important ministries in the country, internally and externally.

Zida seems to be a much more smooth operator than previously anticipated. He’s the wolf inside the democratic transition sheep’s clothing.

Ukraine: In defense of a “total war” in the east

Ukraine did not oppress or attack its Donbass or Crimean citizens, and yet they took up arms against the government. (A disorderly but civilian-led, non-violent, constitutional change in central government doesn’t qualify as a legitimate cause of secession, particularly when even the former president’s power base in eastern Ukraine overwhelmingly also supported his removal.) Ukraine has held back in Crimea because it was unprepared and secessionist sentiment was much higher there. Ukraine’s government has also held back in the east until now, for the most part, to try to find a political solution and to spare the lives of innocent local civilians wherever possible, particularly since most of them initially opposed the secessions being foisted on them by radicals and Russian infiltrators.

That time has come and gone, and Russian interference continues unabated. Something has to be done to recover rebellious territories that pre-emptively took up arms against their country without warning or cause.

President Poroshenko’s announcement last weekend was that Ukraine is “ready for total war” against the eastern secessionist zones, after much restraint and persistently separatist-sabotaged negotiations.

Total and overwhelming force against armed, insurgent separatists is morally acceptable in the recovery of territory when the government has done nothing to warrant its secession and no peaceful efforts to achieve partition have been attempted. The Ukrainian government is no more “fascist” (as Russian media claims daily) than Abraham Lincoln for trying to end these illegitimate and violent secessions. 

And the specially-elected Poroshenko government and newly elected parliament are legitimate governing authorities elected by free, fair, and popular vote in the non-insurrectionist vast majority of the country. Rebel blockades of the 2014 special Ukrainian elections in their small zones of control are not an impediment to the legitimacy of the elections, in the same way President Lincoln’s 1864 re-election was legitimate despite the non-participation of Union-occupied secessionist states and Confederate-controlled rebel states.

In addition to overwhelming force, Ukraine can also legitimately engage in economic warfare against the insurrectionist areas, as part of the “total war” strategy. Suspension of services, economic blockades, general sanctions, and the like are all regularly deployed tools of warfare. Poroshenko’s cancellation this week of various banking, governmental, and pension services in rebel-held areas is a long-overdue step that most governments would have taken sooner, restraint or no.

People in areas in an active state of insurrection and secession cannot reasonably expect to receive continued government services and pensions, regardless of combatant status. If they have now set their clocks to Moscow time, they can also get Moscow to replace all their abruptly deactivated ATM cards. Hundreds of thousands of people have already fled the combat zones (whether to Russia or to government areas).
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Your New Nevada Assembly Speaker…

Update: On November 24, 2014, Nevada Republican Assembly members reversed course and forced out Mr. Hansen from his Speakership nomination in the formal vote in January.

According to an investigation by the Reno News & Review, as summarized in The Atlantic (excerpted below), Nevada State Assembly Speaker-elect Ira Hansen is a full-on neo-Confederate, in his own self-authored and self-recorded words over a two decade period to present:

​The News & Review published excerpts in which he opines, among other things, that women shouldn’t serve in the military “except in certain roles,” that “homosexuals” often downplay the “grossly disproportionate numbers of child molesters, called ‘pederasts,’ which fill their ranks,” and that the Clinton administration was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. His most eye-opening remarks, however, are about African Americans.

“The relationship of Negroes and Democrats is truly a master-slave relationship, with the benevolent master knowing what’s best for his simple minded darkies,” Hansen once wrote in a column about education reform. “For American blacks, being denied choice and forced to attend the failing and inferior government school system is a form of involuntary servitude.” His use of the epithet “negroes” extended beyond historical metaphor to refer to black state legislators and to the current president of the United States.

Hanson’s thoughts on slavery do not end there. “The lack of gratitude and the deliberate ignoring of white history in relation to eliminating slavery is a disgrace that Negro leaders should own up to,” he once wrote. Paradoxically, Hansen also pays homage to the slaver aristocracy that fought to keep millions of black men, women, and children in chains. When discussing the Confederate battle flag on display in his office, Hansen wrote, “I fly it proudly in honor and in memory of a great cause and my brave ancestors who fought for that cause.”

 
I take it he shares fellow Nevadan Cliven Bundy’s lack of that anti-Confederate spirit the state’s founders so enthusiastically tried to foster as Nevada entered the Union mid-war. They’re clearly bosom buddies in blatant racism and condescension toward Black Americans.

As the News & Review explained, his elevation to power was a long time in the works, despite it coming as a bit of a shock, because of the rise of the party’s radicals in every level of party authority in Nevada, which has been charted for quite some time:

The GOP members passed over Assembly Republican leader Pat Hickey of Reno to choose Hansen. It was treated as a victory for the more radical wing of the party, which took over the Clark County and state party organizations in 2012, cutting presidential candidate Mitt Romney loose from state GOP support.

While members of the GOP caucus talked about a united front, they selected as speaker a legislator who is one of the most contentious public officials in the state. Hansen doesn’t like blacks, gays, Israel, many Republicans, and most Nevadans—he once wrote that newcomers to the state, who constitute four of every five Nevadans, should accept Nevada as it is or leave.

Hansen has opposed Republican presidential nominees Robert Dole and Mitt Romney (“way too liberal”), and other Republicans at lower levels.

 
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Civilian Kafando takes Faso presidency, but with military premier

Yesterday, Burkina Faso made the next step in its transition with Michel Kafando, the country’s former longtime UN Ambassador, being formally sworn in as the civilian Interim President until elections are held next November.

However, in a troubling development announced Wednesday, Lt. Col. Isaac Zida — who headed the military government for three week’s following the October 31 and November 1 coups, was appointed Interim Prime Minister, the crucial post which will actually appoint all the cabinet ministers for the coming year.

Civilians consider Zida’s appointment as a betrayal of their “revolution” and Guy Herve Kam, spokesman for the Citizen Broom association said “we are worried, but that’s all.”

There are reports that Western diplomats have advised against Zida’s nomination.

A senior military official revealed that the military and the politicians had a gentleman agreement. He said that “it was on this understanding that we gave the post of president… to civilians.”

 
In another worrying turn, it was revealed that the Transitional Charter governing the country for the next twelve months will include an interim legislature, as opposed to the restoration of the existing (elected) National Assembly, suspended by the military during the coup. That would make sense if the principle of the move was to rectify the fact that the Assembly’s composition is heavily skewed toward the ruling party of former dictator Blaise Compaoré, except that we have no idea who will choose its members. And that’s a bad sign…

As traced on this blog in the past three weeks, initially promising suggestions of a representative process to choose an interim president from suggestions by a wide range of interest groups and constituencies ended up simply evolving into the military submitting a short list of candidates (with a clear preference for Kafando), followed by the appointment of the coup leader to the prime minister’s post. We can reasonably expect a similarly flawed selection process for the temporary legislature, with a heavy hand of the military behind the scenes.

However, as I argued previously, it’s still possible (though unlikely) that this is less a power grab and more a recognition of political realities in a country stunted by 27 years of one-man-one-party rule and fractured opposition:

In fact, I’m not fully convinced that a stable transition is even possible in Burkina Faso without substantial military involvement (and heavy supervision from the international community). On the one hand, military-guided transitions to democracy have a super high failure rate (not sure if that’s adjusted for economics though); so that’s an argument for a rapid transfer. But on the other hand, Burkina Faso has 40+ political parties, an absurd and borderline non-functional constitution (now suspended by the military), no legitimate successor to the presidency, and so on. Thus, I’m kind of thinking the military might actually be the only valid option here for overseeing the transition, as it serves as a unifying factor cutting across competing affiliations.

 
I just don’t think Zida can be trusted any more, if he ever could, now that he’s maneuvered himself into the premiership, a job he has no place being — both in terms of governance experience and in terms of permitting a legitimate transition to democratic, civilian rule.

And then there’s this reminder from Reuters:

Zida, previously considered a close ally of the president, received counter-terrorism training in the United States in 2012 on recommendation from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou. He attended a second U.S. military course in Botswana.

 
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