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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Egypt, America and Ratification

With the referendum today, it is useful to compare how these two countries (Egypt v. USA) ratified their constitutions. The results may surprise you.

 constitution written in secret
constitution written openly on television 
 Openness allows opponents to know what to organize against
constitution ratified by special convention constitution ratified by all eligible voters
 Referendum means the people decide their fate. And when Rhode Island did this the people rejected the USA!
 constitution ratified by 9 of 13 states (67% of vote)
constitution ratified by majority of voters (`51%)
 If state conventions are presumed to be representative (even if they aren't; just ask the anti-federalists), then a 2/3 vote is more legitimate

Poor, poor Nurse Saldanha

Nurse Saldanha infamously took the prank call that exposed the medical condition of an English Princess. She was found dead a few days later. I knew before they said it that it would be suicide. That nurse was not just a victim of a prank. She was destroyed by the sheer weight of communication of the incident. Blown way out of proportion by a mind too sensitive to the unreal world. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Egypt, Islam, and constitution

Have the Cairo protesters read the new document? It is an improvement over the old one. If anything it is too ambitious, even liberal (in the classical sense of limiting the executive).

Or, is it being implemented wrongly? Morsi is accused of becoming a dictator for the transition period but no new constitution is welcomed by everyone. Even the USA required all kinds of tricks to overcome the anti-federalist opposition (e.g. it was developed entirely in secret while in Egypt it was all done openly on television).

Yes Islam is recognized in the document as it must be Egypt. (It has a broad social basis in Egypt; the demands of the protesters do not).

HOWEVER what Islam means exactly for Egypt and its political system NEED NOT be specified. Why not have a council of religious experts or Al Azhar advise on matters and then have the legislators, PM, and President translate it into policy? No need to foreclose options ahead of time. Taking pride in your heritage is one thing, ensuring prosperity is another. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Master showmen of crisis

Experts are already correcting the mythology of the fiscal cliff. It will not affect investment all that much since most stock ownership is not subject to taxation (401k, pension funds, etc.). Indeed its real effects are likely to be much less than predicted, which is not surprising.

There is an increasing divergence between real and virtual. Example, good news for Main Street does lead to Wall Street gains, and vice versa. (I wonder too whether the big US birth rate drop is related to this phenomenon, more virtual contact on Facebook but less real contact; that is a topic for another post).

What's cute is how the Boehner, Geithner, Obama and the rest go on like there is a major decision over the virtual crisis known as fiscal cliff.

If there is a major decision to come in 2013it  is how can the two parties USE this so-called crisis to get the things they really want; permanent Bush tax cuts and Medicare reform and a slew of other favors for constituents and interest groups.

Interesting too that this crisis had to be manufactured and hyped to get to the point where some policy changes can happen.

That is likely to be the future of Western politics for some time to come. Postmodern political formula: hyped crisis, then policy change (e.g. Euro debt crisis allows for austerity).