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Post A New Berlin Wall in Ukraine?
Created by John Eipper on 04/22/14 9:02 AM

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A New Berlin Wall in Ukraine? (Bienvenido Macario, USA, 04/22/14 9:02 am)

WAISers have asked: will East Ukraine "flare up"? Is it a 1917, 1939 or 1961 playbook? (See, among others, Cameron Sawyer's post of 21 April.)

I think Boris Volodarsky is right. It'll be the August 1961 playbook. I'm guessing everyone in Europe, to the frustration of anti-Russia Ukrainians, will eventually accept what is basically the relocation of the Berlin Wall to Ukraine.

Putin prefers the closest thing to a Cold War and Ukraine is the new Berlin. Since the US is obviously the least ready with globalization among the G-8 nations, and the way US foreign policy is conducted alternating between a left-leaning Democrats and conservative, religious right Republicans, the US might reap more rewards than Russia at the expense of Ukraine.

Whatever Putin is after, let's hope it will be limited to the eastern half of Ukraine and the whole Crimea until 2016. And let us hope the next US president, whether a Democrat or GOP, would be required to set aside funds for qualified private consultants or brain trust. This situation will always be the case until US presidents get familiar with globalization.  We need to shift to a parliamentary form of government, where the chief executive's party controls the legislative, and lead the country beyond the two-term limit.  Such an executive could be forced to step down and call for elections without having to face criminal charges.

The US is greatly handicapped by the presidential system, the root cause of this systemic crisis. It's time for the presidential system to go. The Obama-Romney election was the most expensive in history to the tune of $6 billion. The Obama-McCain contest was $700 million cheaper. Still while America can spend $6 billion on marketing, advertising and packaging of the products, i.e. presidential candidates, we can't afford a penny on product improvement of presidential brain trust. This is where the problem lies.

JE comments:  Bienvenido Macario makes two points:  that the US is woefully out of tune with the realities of globalization, and that it would benefit from a parliamentary system.  As for the first point, can we reconcile this interpretation with the United States being the world's policeman--even if it has become increasingly isolationist of late?

The US embracing a parliamentary system is a non-starter.  Are the advanced parliamentary democracies (say, Europe or Japan) any less dysfunctional?

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  • Parliamentary vs Presidential Systems (John Heelan, UK 04/22/14 12:59 PM)
    When commenting Bienvenido Macario's post of 22 April, JE asked: "The US embracing a parliamentary system is a non-starter. Are the advanced parliamentary democracies (say, Europe or Japan) any less dysfunctional?"

    Having observed the "Mother of Democracy" in action for more decades than I wish to admit, I have always admired the US constitutional separation of powers--Executive, Legislative and Judicial--even though over time human nature and vested interests have narrowed that separation at times.

    On the other hand, I have noticed that the leaders of European democracies have tried to nudge them towards a presidential approach. One can think of Thatcher's political dominance, Blair's "Sofa Administration," and the "Berlusconi method." So, although, both approaches claim to be democratic, is not realpolitik making the difference between US and European constitutional become narrower?

    JE comments: By this interpretation, the Presidential system is taking over.  Perhaps because the office smacks more of old-school imperialism?  It would be interesting to compare the number of parliamentary vs. presidential systems that have emerged in the "new" democracies of the last 30 years--particularly in E Europe and Latin America. Can anyone provide this data?

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  • Parliamentary vs Presidential Systems; Campaign Finance (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 04/23/14 6:21 AM)
    I believe that we already talked about this, but the US government does not need to be supported by a parliamentary system, which can also be a complete failure (see Italy). What it needs is a good professor of history/geography, as well as the abandonment of the usual arrogance that it is always right. As Morgan Scott Peck correctly said: "We were so wrong because we never seriously considered that we might not be right."

    JE's Humble Opinion:  What the US system needs most of all is sensible campaign finance reform (i.e., limits and democratization). 

    So far it's passed under the WAIS radar, but earlier this month the Supreme Court decided in McCutcheon v FEC that no limits can be placed on individual contributions to federal campaigns.  I see this as the final nail in the coffin assembled under Citizens United. In this brave new climate, a cynic might say: instead of traditional elections, why not hold eBay-style auctions?  The candidate raising the most money wins.  This would even have a salubrious effect, as the money could go to charity or deficit reduction, instead of wasting it on attack ads and other nonsense.

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    • McCutcheon v FEC (Harry Papasotiriou, Greece 04/23/14 11:12 AM)
      On 23 April, John Eipper wrote that "the Supreme Court decided in McCutcheon v FEC that no limits can be placed on individual contributions to federal campaigns."

      Actually, the old limits remain on the contributions that an individual can give to one candidate's campaign. This SCOTUS decision eliminated limits to the number of candidates to which an individual can give contributions.

      JE comments: My thanks to Harry Papasotiriou for setting the record straight. I should have studied McCutcheon more closely.  The five-member majority of the Supreme Court seems to be applying an extremely wide definition of "free speech" to election campaigns.  Will it be just a matter of time until all limits are removed?  This (as I understand it) is Clarence Thomas's view.

      Isn't bribery also an expression of free speech?

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      • Is Bribery Free Speech? (David Duggan, USA 04/23/14 2:08 PM)
        When commenting Harry Papasotiriou's post of 23 April, JE speculated about bribery as an expression of free speech. Yes, except it's a crime (like treason or conspiracy): where the object need not have been completed.

        JE comments: I was being rhetorical, but I suppose every crime is a form of "self-expression." My overarching concern with the Supreme Court's recent interpretations of campaign finance is that the division between legitimate contributions and outright bribery is growing ever slipperier.  Contribute the maximum amount to a party's full slate of candidates, and I can guarantee that your phone calls will be answered.

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      • McCutcheon v FEC (Robert Whealey, USA 04/23/14 4:03 PM)
        I conclude that the two cases Citizens United (2010) and McCutcheon (2014) have established the US as a plutocracy. The democratic Constitution has been put on hold. Yet "where there is life there is hope."

        JE comments:  The nation has been spared the horrors of campaign finance anecdotes for a year and a half, but mid-term elections are only six months away.  These Plutocratic States of America...?

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    • Campaign Finance in US (John Heelan, UK 04/26/14 3:28 AM)
      When commenting Eugenio Battaglia's post of 23 April, JE decried the US Supreme Court's ever-loosening interpretations of campaign finance limits. He then went on to (rhetorically) propose replacing elections with eBay-style auctions: the candidate with the most money is declared the winner.

      But in the US, isn't it already the case that the candidate raising the most money usually wins?

      As I wrote in 22 August 2012: "As of 31 July 2012, it seems that Obama has the bigger [war] chest with his $348 million compared to Romney's $192 million. More interesting, the makeup of Obama's comprises 40% from small donors, 61% from large donors compared to Romney's 19% and 81%, respectively. Then there are the Super PACs that can raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. The majority of the major Super PACs currently support Romney."

      JE comments:  Here's John Heelan's full post:


      At that time I asked what US presidential candidates had raised less money than their opponents and won.  This has happened twice:  Ronald Reagan in 1980 raised less than Jimmy Carter (quite surprising); and in 1996, Bob Dole outraised the triumphant Bill Clinton.  So it has been done, but it probably won't happen again:


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