Monday, May 23, 2016

Last Call For Bad Morning Vietnam

Last night I watched the HBO movie about Lyndon Johnson's 1964 presidential run, All the Way. Bryan Cranston definitely deserves an Emmy nod for his performance as the embattled Texas Democrat, and Anthony Mackie played MLK, Jr.  The film very much centered on their relationship as both the Civil Rights battle and Vietnam War were heating up.  It's a good movie, I recommend it.

Which brings us to today, more than 50 years later as another US president seems to think that arming Vietnam again with US weapons is somehow a good idea.

As US President Barack Obama announced the lifting of the decades-long embargo on sales of lethal weapons to Vietnam, he seemed at pains to explain the decision "was not based on China or any other considerations". 
Yet his mention of China reveals some of the greatest security concerns brewing in Hanoi. 
Since a brief but bloody border war in 1979 that cost thousands of lives, Vietnam-China relations have been bumpy to say the least. From being Vietnam's biggest ally, ironically, in the war against the United States, China has increasingly been seen as a dominant, and at times, threatening neighbour. 
Recent tensions in the South China Sea have added to the growing mistrust. Vietnam protests against what it sees as excessive Chinese maritime claims and supports the court case brought against China by the Philippines. Not only does China's growing assertiveness in the area challenge Vietnam's sovereignty, it could greatly affect its fishery, oil and gas activities, too.

I'm not sure what President Obama's game here is, but the notion that this is not "based on China" is not complete garbage like it seems at face value, Of course this is about protecting Hanoi from Beijing's navy, happily building their own airstrip islands across the pacific to project power.

But if there is somehow another country involved, it's actually Russia:

It is no secret that Vietnam is trying to boost its maritime defensive capability. Its largest arms contract to date with a foreign country was the $2bn purchase of six kilo-class submarines from Russia. 
A large number of patrol and missile ships and fighter jets have also been purchased from Russia, as Vietnam's military spending more than doubled between 2004 and 2013. It is now the eighth largest importer of weapons in the world.

"Better for Vietnam to be buying weapons from us than Putin" isn't exactly the kind of thing Obama should want to be remembered for, but here we are neck-deep in the realpolitik quagmire once again, hooray!

No way this will come back and bite us in the ass or anything.  Hey, those US jobs in the TPP have to be paid for by selling some sort of good or service, and that apparently includes military equipment to Hanoi. See, new markets!

New markets, and same old mistakes.  Sigh.

Bernie's California Love

To be honest, California's "jungle primary" rules are a flaming hot mess, and I definitely see why Bernie Sanders supporters are suing for extended party primary registration up to the June 7th vote.

A federal lawsuit alleging widespread confusion over California's presidential primary rules asks that voter registration be extended past Monday's deadline until the day of the state's primary election on June 7. 
"Mistakes are being made," said William Simpich, an Oakland civil rights attorney who filed the lawsuit Friday. 
At issue is whether voters understand the rules for the presidential primary, which differ from those governing other elections in California. 
Unlike statewide primaries — where voters now choose any candidate, no matter the political party — the presidential contests are controlled by the parties themselves. Democrats have opened up their primary between Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to voters that have no political affiliation, known in California as having "no party preference." 
But the lawsuit alleges elections officials in some of California's 58 counties aren't making that clear to these unaffiliated voters. 
"There's mass confusion," Simpich said in an interview on Saturday night. "This is a situation that really shouts out for some uniformity." 
Simpich said a judge should require state elections officials to conduct a broad public awareness campaign about the voting rules before May 31, the deadline for requesting a ballot by mail. 
And to ensure unregistered Californians aren't disenfranchised in the presidential contest, the lawsuit asks voter registration be extended from its deadline on Monday until June 7, the day of the election. 
There is no indication yet of whether a judge will agree with the suit.

Yes, this reeks of enlightened self-interest for Team Bernie, but the point is that it's not just red states that have issues with voting (Gosh, if there were only something like a national Voting Rights Act that would establish equal standards for all US voting, preferably legislation that hadn't been completely gutted by the Supreme Court recently.)

Sure, this is all about helping Bernie's vote (and delegate) totals in the Golden State, but it doesn't mean the changes aren't necessary.  California's primary system really is confusing and the rules need to be made more clear, and considering one in seven US voters live here, it's rather important to the nation that this gets fixed sooner rather than later.

So yeah, here's hoping the suit allows more people to vote and vote correctly in the state's primary. I'm no fan of open primaries, but if that's the rule of the state, it needs to be clearly enforced and made clear to voters that this is how the primary works. That's on the state to perform, and if they're not doing the job, then the federal government needs to step in.

It's the same principle that applies to voter ID laws, they are there simply to disenfranchise, and again, the feds need to step in.

Having said all that, Sanders is still lying to his supporters about his chances in interviews in California.

“Here’s the math,” he said. “there are polls that came out recently where Hillary Clinton actually lost to Donald Trump. So part of the math, is which candidate stands the best chance to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States? — and that’s me.” 
If he does win the California primary, does he expect a divided convention? 
I think we have a realistic chance in the sense that if we do really well in California, and in the other five states, and the non-state primaries, it will be possible for us to get 50 percent of the pledged delegates,” Sanders said.

Sure, he just has to win more than 80% of the remaining delegates.

That's "realistic" right?

The Viennese Gambit, Or Make Austria Great Again

With Sunday's votes in Austria's presidential election, far-right nationalist candidate Norbert Hofer has a slender lead against centrist Green Alexander Van der Bellen, and the final vote tally will be decided by absentee and mail-in ballots still being counted.

Austria is split. The soft-spoken, charismatic Mr Hofer, sometimes described as a wolf in sheep's clothing, caused turmoil in Austrian politics when he won a clear victory in the first round of voting in April.

But now his rival, Mr Van der Bellen from the Greens, has caught up. The far right has profited from deep frustration with the established parties of the centre left and the centre right in Austria. And in recent months, it has been boosted further by fears about the migrant crisis.

If Mr Hofer wins, it could have an impact far beyond Austria's borders - possibly giving momentum to far-right and Eurosceptic parties in other EU countries.

According to the interior ministry's final count of votes cast at polling-stations(in German), Mr Hofer took 51.9% to 48.1% for Mr Van der Bellen.

Postal voting accounts for 750,000 ballots, roughly 12% of Austria's 6.4 million eligible voters, said Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka.

"None of us wished for this," Mr Hofer said when he and Mr Van der Bellen were interviewed by ORF after the vote on Sunday.

"After all, both of us wanted to have a good night's sleep but it is so exciting. I've been in politics for a long time but I've never experienced an election night like this one."

Whoever won, he said, would have "the job of uniting Austria".

Mr Van der Bellen said that if he were elected president he would be welcome in all member states of the EU.

"I have been pro-European during the five months of campaigning," he said. "I made clear how important the European Union is for freedom, security and prosperity - also in Austria."

In the first round, Mr Hofer secured 35% of the votes, while Mr Van der Bellen polled 21%.

The two rivals had engaged in an angry TV debate earlier in the week, described as "political mud-wrestling" by commentators.

If this sounds familiar, there's a similar tune being played by Hofer's Freedom Party here in the States, and it sounds an awful lot like Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric.  We'll see where the voters stand after the mail ballots have been counted, but don't be surprised if the winner here wants to build a wall, kick those people out of the country, and want to Make Austria Great Again.

The same anger brought on by demographics in Europe is the same as the flames being stoked here, and the results may scorch a whole lot of Europe and the US before they are contained.

[UPDATE] : The BBC now saying that the postal votes are showing a Van de Bellen win.  Austria barely avoids a right-wing nationalist disaster.

For now.


Related Posts with Thumbnails