Monday, November 17, 2008

Putin Pulls a Bloomberg

From the Moscow Times:
Putin's Constitutional Junta

What is most interesting about the term increases for State Duma deputies to five years and for the president to six years is the reaction to these changes. We heard hearty, prolonged applause by the Kremlin lackeys in the audience when President Dmitry Medvedev made his announcement in the state-of-the-nation address on Nov. 5. On the other hand, ordinary Russians are strangely silent on the issue...

There are two reasons why Putin rushed to change the Constitution only six months after stepping down as president. First, he sees the political and economic dangers of falling oil prices. The house of cards built on an eight-year oil boom is crumbling. Second, Putin understands that as the crisis develops, there could easily be a fierce battle among opportunistic politicians and businessmen to seize troubled assets.

Putin must act now before it is too late. In only six months, a rival group could be formed as an alternative to his siloviki to take advantage of the public discontent and power vacuum caused by the crisis. If this group becomes powerful enough, it could even rally around Medvedev and convince him to dismiss the prime minister based on the government's failures in handling the crisis.

This threat may seem farfetched, but Putin cannot completely dismiss it. When oil was more than $100 per barrel, the Medvedev-Putin duo could get away with its ersatz, or "sovereign," democracy. But during a financial crisis, it will be much more difficult to keep pulling the wool over the people's eyes.

Putin believes that during troubled times, the government and the Kremlin must be in the hands of a benign autocrat who is totally immune from critics and an opposition. Amid a state of emergency, the nation's leader needs to have a full mandate for six -- or, even better, 12 -- years.

This looks as if Putin is carrying out a constitutional junta. The only difference between his junta and the one in Latin American is that Putin is taking pre-emptive steps now to avoid a military coup later. This way he can maintain a semblance of democracy by packaging the coup in constitutional trappings...

Only difference is the people in New York have by no means been silent.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Why Is Bill de Blasio Running for Public Advocate?

Why Is Bill de Blasio running for Public Advocate, rather than for a third Council term or for the Borough President seat he had been running for prior to the Mayor's power grab? We don't know.

We understand that he is afraid of Marty's war chest and popularity, though if Bill de Blasio thought he was the right man for that job prior to the power grab, presumably he'd think so now regardless of Marty's love in parts in of the borough.

If he was the man for the Public Advocate job prior to the term limits fight, then why wasn't he running for that office then? And if he wasn't the man for that open seat then, why is he the man for that open seat now? He's not.

His explanation sheds little light on the question. He told the Courier Life chain of papers (not on line yet):
"The reasons (for running or public advocate) are straightforward and a lot of it is the experience I just went through in my leading the efforts against Mike Bloomberg extending term limits. It points out we need elected officials who stand up and express viewpoints of the people."

"The safe thing would have been to stay in the Council, but I think I have something to offer in the public advocate job, and we need people who can stand up to the mayor and I've proven I can do it. That's how I look at the world. To organize the people to defend their interest."

Well, we don't remember Bill standing with the people, or organizing the people other than his leadership on the term limits fight (and even that can be considered self-serving and political gamesmanship.) Standing with the people, we think, would mean challenging the obnoxious Markowitz despite the risk of defeat.

Sure, de Blasio has at times expressed tepid criticism of Atlantic Yards, but overall through the years he has been an unconditional supporter, and while he has meekly questioned the project at times he has never "organized the people."

We'll see how he approaches Atlantic Yards on the Public Advocate campaign trail.

He says he can stand up to the Mayor, as the term limits fight proved, but when else has he stood up to the Mayor and how can he stand up to the Mayor when he's afraid to even stand up to Markowitz?

We'll stick with Norman Siegel for Public Advocate, as he has been the shadow Public Advocate for at least the past five years, during which time he has made it clear why he's the right person for the job. De Blasio, on the other hand, just decided he is the right man for the job because he is afraid of Markowitz and because Gotbaum won't run again. Those aren't good reasons.