Monday, 26 September 2011

From the Narco-War

My fascination with the Mexican Narco War has only kicked into higher gear thanks to the latest series of Breaking Bad (probably one of the finest things on screens of any size). If you're not watching it, you're a bad person, there you go, I said it.

This post isn't intended to posit anything particularly important, but is rather just to draw together a selection of things which I've been reading recently on the topic:

Boing Boing had an excellent selection of images from a meth lab South of the border. I have no idea what I'm looking at when I see something like this, but I'm pretty sure just from the quantities of chemicals in the background of some of the shots its a pretty massive operation.

This report by Dr. Robert J. Bunker (who also writes for the inimitable and invaluable Small Wars Journal) makes for grim reading, making a strong strategic argument for the US to rethink its position on the Middle East, suggesting instead that the emphasis should be on dealing with the growing danger from the South. The title "Criminal (Cartel & Gang) Insurgencies in Mexico and the Americas: What you need to know, not what you want to hear" speaks to the simple truth that no one wants to deal with the problem, even as it gnaws its way into the marrow of Mexican society.

Finally, an article from the Guardian (dated 2008, but still enormously relevant) on how Guinea-Bissau has become the world's first Narco State. With countries like Mexico slowly losing the battle against cartels it's possible that this small West African state won't be the only country which is run for and by criminal enterprise.

I will be writing a piece in the near future, revisiting the world of 3D printing, and its potential impact on conflicts like the one in Mexico, but that will have to wait for another day.

Good news from the Republican Campaign trail?

I had another post in mind for tonight but got distracted by reading this excellent piece by Nate Silver, on the potential entrance of Chris Christie into the Republican race for 2012.

Previous readers will know I have a fondness for Christie myself, and have written about his a couple of times. Silver discussed in depth the potential for Christie to enter the 2012 race, something which I think many moderate Republicans will want. Speaking as a right wing moderate (with Libertarian seasoning) I've been pretty horrified by the Republican field this year, it seems dominated by the frothings of Rick Perry and Bachmann, with Mitt Romney doing his best to see interesting and like he has a policy position.

Silver asks the important question of where would Christie syphon votes from if he did enter the race. Personally my view would be that he would displace Romney, who he shares the most common policy ground with. However, I think he would also provide a fresh, dominant voice taking a more coherent and sensible policy platform, which would draw away from the Perry/Bachmann crazy camp.

The media narrative would also be supportive, Christie is relatively well liked by the right wing media, but has done well in not creating significant enemies amongst the left wing (or at least that's my perception). Particularly as the race moves beyond its initial "entertainment" phase, to the period in which candidates are actually expected to be candidates instead of clowns, Christie is likely to be able to argue that the moves he has made in New Jersey could be scaled up to a national platform.

He would also be one of the few candidates who would be likely to appeal on a national platform in the general, something which at the moment I don't believe anyone is able to do. Floating voters, it seems, are unlikely to be drawn to any of the existing candidates and will either vote for Obama (again) or simply not vote. A moderate Republican with a strong story to tell on fiscal reform (albeit at a state level) would appeal to many, particularly if he is able to well articulate his positions on issues like gun control and immigration, where he is to the left of the Republican mainstream (but not so far out of touch as to wholly alienate him from the Republican base).

It also shouldnt be forgotten that Christie has already done a little bit of work on presenting himself as a potential successor to Obama (more on that below)

Silver does a solid analysis of several of the core policy issues being discussed at the moment and where Christie stands on them:

Gun Control. New Jersey, a mostly suburban state, tends to take a moderate position on gun control, and Mr. Christie has in the past as well. In 2009, Mr. Christie’s campaign rebutted a claim by his Democratic opponent, Jon Corzine, that he stood with the N.R.A. by pointing out that Mr. Christie supported the assault weapons ban and opposed concealed carry laws. A statement on Mr. Christie’s campaign Web site in 2009 said that he supported New Jersey’s existing gun control laws, which are fairly strict.

The Environment and Global Warming. During the 2009 campaign, Mr. Christie sometimes critiqued Governor Corzine’s performance on the environment from the left, and he won the endorsement of the New Jersey Environmental Foundation, the first statewide Republican candidate to do so in 30 years.

More recently, however, Mr. Christie withdrew New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program. But while so doing, he stated explicitly that global warming was real and manmade and endorsed the views of the consensus of climate scientists. Mr. Christie has also opposed plans to drill for oil off of New Jersey’s coast.

Immigration. In 2008, Mr. Christie, then a United States attorney, stated that “being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime.” The statement drew a harsh critique from CNN’s Lou Dobbs, who called for Mr. Christie’s resignation, and is a good bet to make a reappearance in one of his opponent’s campaign commercials should Mr. Christie enter the race.

Mr. Christie has received an F from NumbersUSA, an organization that favors greater restrictions on both legal and illegal immigration.

Social Issues. Mr. Christie is an opponent of both abortion rights and same sex marriage, but his campaign Web site in 2009 stated that he had “no issue with same sex couples sharing contractual rights,” an apparent reference to New Jersey’s existing civil unions law.

In 2010, Mr. Christie broke with other prominent Republicans by accusing his party of “overreacting” to the proposed construction of an Islamic mosque and cultural center near the ground zero site, although he also criticized President Obama’s position on the issue.

‘Post-Partisan’ Branding. Although in some ways Mr. Christie’s outspoken, no-holds-barred style might seem like an antidote to Mr. Obama, whom Mr. Christie has criticized for weak leadership, there have also been times when Mr. Christie’s messaging has resembled that of the president.

One noteworthy example is a video that Mr. Christie’s campaign released in the closing days of the 2009 campaign. It featured extended and positively framed clips of Mr. Obama, who was more popular then, and interspersed images of supporters of Mr. Christie and Mr. Obama, implying that Mr. Christie would be in the legacy of Mr. Obama’s mandate for “change”.

So there you have it. At this stage it seems unlikely Christie will throw his hat into the ring. Personally I think he was hoping he could wait until 2016, and go head to head with a new Democratic challenger, rather than against and incumbent president, however it's entirely feasible that he could decide now is the time. A 2012 run might even help him in 2016, revealing weaknesses and gaps in his platform which could be plugged in the following four years (assuming he doesn't win)

Fingers crossed, if only because it might inject some real energy into a primary season which seems to have become mired in the petty bickering of people who barely scrape together credibility inside their own party, let alone on the international stage.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Its been a while...

Its been some months since my last attempt to relaunch the blog and despite best intentions that failed rather dramatically. However, I've now left the job which was consuming the vast majority of my time and am about to embark on a week off and then on to a new job which I think will give me a significantly better work/life balance, so its my intention to try and pick things up where I left off.

Over the next few months I'll be looking to reconfirm my objectives in starting this blog, that is to discuss, at a level I feel comfortable with, campaigning, strategy, digital communications and topics of that nature. There'll also be plenty of "hey, this interested me" pieces, on things like Anonymous, good bits of fiction I've been reading, and the other myriad things which cross my path day to day. However, I want to get back to basics and really do what I intended when I started here.

I'll also be looking to do more commentary pieces and responding to things I've read on other blogs. So we'll see how it goes over the next few weeks and months as I get back into the swing of a life which (hopefully) won't be dominated entirely by work.