Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Unholy Alliance

Russia, an increasingly autocratic country, is looking more like your average middle eastern hellhole especially since its primary income is derived from oil and has rampant corruption (especially in its security agencies). Russia also has problems with terrorism, jails opposition and tramples freedom of the press. For Putin it seemed like the right time to re-establish Russia's relationship with the Islamic world. Despite trying to break the back of the Chechen rebels by blowing up ramshakle houses with tanks (where are those human shields when you need them?) Russia is attempting to mend fences through the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and is hoping to become a member citing its 20 million Muslims.

Putin stated at the conference in Kuala Lumpur in 10/03
"Russian Muslims are an inseparable, full-fledged, and active part of the multiethnic and multidenominational nation of Russia. Russia, as a unique Eurasian power, has always played a special role in building relations between East and West. I am convinced that our actions within the framework of the OIC can today become an important element of a just and secure world,"

Putin also called for an increased UN presence in the region (which is the opposite of what he did in Chechnya)
"Like most Islamic states represented here, Russia defends the strengthening of international law, for a central coordinating role for the United Nations to solve international problems,".

With Putin at the OIC was the newly "elected" president of Chechnya (later killed in bomb attack). The OIC and the Arab League were the only organizations to back this sham election but it allowed Putin to claim Chechnya was under the leadership of a democratically elected Muslim President

Russia’s recent efforts to make nice with Islamic despots appears to be a new direction for dealing with the Islamism threat. Having identified Saudi Arabia as the key, diplomatic exchanges between Russia and the Kingdom intensified over the last year. Russia and Saudi Arabia don't have the best history with Saudi Arabia financing rebels in Afghanistan in the 80's and Chechnya in the 90's. Putin may have seen a relationship with the Saudi's as a way to starve the Chechen rebels of funding while Saudi Arabia can make a claim its no longer sponsoring Islamic insurgents to the U.S. If Saudi Arabia sends its money to Putin's hand picked Chechen President instead of the rebels maybe Russia would join the Saudi's in regulation of oil prices and production. Its too bad private firms control most of Russia’s petroleum industry, OOPS not anymore with the head of Yukos (Mikhail Khodorkovsky) jailed on trumped up tax evasions charges. Putin is also helping the Iranian nuclear program with hopes that Teheran's support for Muslim insurgencies won't include Russia. If Russia and the Saudi's, the worlds two biggest oil producers, team up to control the oil market it can only lead to greater leverage against the U.S. and the EU especially since we were hoping to use Russia against OPEC. This makes the success or failure of Iraq that much more important in the coming years while I'm sure they will sell us their oil the Russia/Saudi alliance will have a greater influence in the middle east than the U.S.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

A little editing for appearance, not content

Message to L-Hack:

I took the liberty of editing your post, since the long links were pushing the right-side banner off the page. I've left the links, just changed the text in between the tags.

To all our loyal readers:

Despite what someone else on this site will tell you, academics are not lazy. If we are, then why am I so tired?

I've been finishing up papers for my seminars, and getting ready for finals, so the left voice isn't going to be heard for a little bit.

L-Hack is reading Privatization and Public-Private Partnerships by E.S. Savas right now, and I just finished a critique of that book, comparing it to some of the work done by Donald Kettl in Sharing Power: Public Governance and Private Markets. It should make for some good debate in a couple weeks.

Something hit me the other night as I was working on this paper. For the better part of the discussion, it was a debate between competition versus conquering asymmetrical information as the key to successful privatization. I wanted to incorporate some other perspectives into my analysis, and I was thinking about an article by Matthew Crenson about Popular and Personal Democracy.

As I'm writing about how things like vouchers reduce the need or opportuntity for collective action, I felt guilty. How could I deviate from the economic discussion? Then it hit me - why can't a public administration scholar, a political scientist, talk about citizens, government, and roles in society? In fact, why aren't more of us talking about it?

I've been working with a friend on a lecture about using the tools of economics as a part of Critical Race Theory, and he said it - it's all about economics now. We've put the virtue of the free market over everything else, without question or criticism. Forget about values like citizen participation and collective action - if we deny market choice to citizens, the goals of our government are misplaced!

I'm going to have more to say about this in the coming months...

Monday, November 29, 2004

Power Line: What ever happened to Steve Gardner?

Twenty-four hours later, Gardner's employer, Millennium Information Services, informed him via email that his posiiton with the company was being eliminated and that his services were no longer required. Gardner says that he has since seen the company advertising for his old position.

Do you think this only happens to Republicans?

Read this on Slate about a woman fired for having a John Kerry bumper sticker on her car. Problem is, Steve Gardner is all speculation - it's quite possible he was laid off to make room for someone younger and cheaper to employer. Age discrimination - yes, political discrimination - no.

Funny thing is, if it was a politically motivated firing - THAT'S PERFECTLY LEGAL IN THIS COUNTRY! Why not tell the guy he's fired for supporting George Bush and eliminate any potential wrongful termination charge.

If you make the argument that the company was worried about bad publicity hurting their business, then every conservative argument about the supremacy of the free market is hypocritical.

"Companies will hire and promote minorities - if they're good people, they can't afford not to and stay competitive." - this is the argument that's always used to discredit affirmative action, quotas, and any race/gender equalization program. If this Millenium Information Systems is good at what they do and cheaper than the competition, then Bush supporters have no choice but to give them business, as rational choice actors, even if they disagree with the politics of the company.