IPS Blog

Averting Civil War in Thailand

As an individual concerned with events in Thailand, I am not sure if a plague-on-both-your-houses stance toward the Red Shirts (who support ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra) and the Yellow Shirts (who oppose him) is enough. There is no magazine more anti-populist than The Economist. Yet this is what it says in an editorial in its most recent issue:

The origins of the bloodshed can be disputed…But the underlying causes of political deadlock are not: they lie in the persistent refusal of Thailand’s elites to accept electoral defeat at the hands of Thaksin Shinawatra, deeply flawed but nonetheless popular prime minister. He was turfed out in a coup in 2006 and went into exile. Against the odds, a party loyal to him did better than any other in an election in 2007. A year later, it was forced out of office by yellow-shirted mobs and convenient court rulings.

Mr. Abhisit can hardly be surprised that he now faces the same tactics. He is also guilty of hyporcrisy. In 2003 he called on the then prime minister to resign afte two yellow-short protesters had died. In general, the pro-Thaksin red shirts have shown greater discipline recently than the yellow shirts did then. The red shirts also have a stronger case: that the Prime Minister and his cobbled-together ruling coalition lack a popular mandate. It would be humiliating, but Mr. Abhisit should offer an early election. Better to cede power that way than in a coup or bloody insurrection.

My sense is that what we have in Thailand is clearly class warfare, with the rural and urban lower classes shedding their reputation for docility. History works in strange ways, but, whatever the reasons why, the classical left was unable to capture the support of the lower classes whereas Thaksin was able to do so. My sense is that Thaksin’s corrupt practices, while certainly to be criticized, count much less than the fact that he became, despite himself, the expression of the voice and anger of the poor–an anger that is now being expressed in the streets of Bangkok. The Red Shirts, in my view, are on right side, both in terms of their struggle against class injustice and in their claim to be the rightful claimants to political power owing to their electoral majority.

I have arrived at the conclusion that Abhisit should call for elections right away and that the losing side–which is likely the anti-Thaksin side–should respect the results of the elections. This may no longer be a sufficient condition for avoiding civil war, but it certainly is a necessary condition for it.

From the Frontlines: May 10th, 2010

BP oil spill. From the Seattle Times.The seven stupidest statements made about the BP oil hemorrhage.

BP’s first plan to contain the spill failed, but Alabama and Mississippi lawmakers still support offshore drilling.

Glenn Greenwald has an impressive roundup of articles questioning Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s credentials. But another Salon author wonders if the “liberal case against” Kagan is overblown.

In Iraq, at least 65 people were killed and 243 injured in a series of attacks. And the Taliban announced a new offensive starting today, against foreign troops, security contractors, and the Afghans that work with them.

Community health care clinics are a main source of care for the U.S. poor. With the reform bill’s passage, what is their future?

Left-wing parties celebrate victory in Germany.

In Greece, protesters focus their wrath on the IMF, as a “majority of Greeks not only see it as the harbinger of harsh economic reforms but the symbol of foreign occupation.”

From the Frontlines: May 7th, 2010

Deregulation and carcinogens, racial foreclosure gaps, and the Fed audit: today’s news and notes.

Might want to reconsider how “microwaveable” your Tupperware is: Nicholas Kristof highlights a new report that shows the connections between industry deregulation and increased cancer rates.

Why is the foreclosure rate three times higher among blacks than whites? IPS scholar Dedrick Muhammad appears on CNN to discuss.

Danny Schecter’s new movie, Plunder, shows that the story of our economic collapse is even darker than you’d think. Truthdig has the preview; we’ve got the film screening in DC.

After the BP oil spill, 55 percent of Floridians now oppose offshore drilling. Almost a year ago, 55 percent were for it. Via Think Progress.

Score one for government transparency: Dean Baker reports that Sen. Bernie Sanders reached a deal with Sen. Chris Dodd to get the GAO to audit the Fed. “Any interested journalist, academic, blogger or generic snoop can read through the data and find exactly how much money Goldman Sachs got, at what interest rate, with what collateral and when they paid it back.”

New Yorkers will gather outside of Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev’s New York store this Saturday, to protest his involvement in human rights violations and settlement building in Gaza.

How will the British elections affect Africa and the Global South?

A Blog for the Rest of Us

One of our goals here at the Institute is to link scholarship and social movements. Our staff members travel all around the United States and the world to connect with laborers, farmers, organizers, officials, and activists who speak up for change.

The goal of this blog is to continue these linkages. You want to see a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world, and so do we.

The IPS Blog will:

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Campaigning at Dairy Farms

Low milk prices having been hammering the nation’s dairy farmers, including those in New York’s 24th congressional district, where Republican Candidate Richard Hanna is challenging Democrat Michael Arcuri. According to a May 7 article in the Little Falls, NY Evening Times, Hanna said the area is at a “crossroads in terms of farming.” New York dairy farmer Gretchen Maine’s March 29 OtherWords op-ed addressed some of the same challenges. “Dairy farmers don’t want a handout, just the fair prices we deserve,” Maine wrote.

Assessing the BP Oil Disaster

“This disaster is a wakeup call,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said during a visit to the Gulf Coast. “We need to stop the expansion of offshore drilling, immediately.” You can read the rest of his statement online, as well as his recent OtherWords op-ed, which underscored the need for Congress to reinvigorate the Clean Water Act. We are planning to run an op-ed by Daphne Wysham, a column by Donald Kaul, and a cartoon by Khalil Bendib about the BP oil disaster in our next editorial package on Monday May 10.

Terrorists’ Right to Bear Arms

The Huffington Post’s Dan Froomkin reports that Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Susan Collins (R-ME) balked during a hearing at supporting new legislation that would prevent suspected terrorists from buying guns. Also, Froomkin noted, a “Government Accountability Office report out today disclosed that from February 2004 through February 2010, individuals on the terrorist watchlist were involved in firearm or explosives background checks 1,228 times. Of those, 1,119, or 91 percent, were allowed to proceed because there were no legally disqualifying factors.” But never mind that, “We’re talking about a constitutional right here,” Graham said. It’s a surprising position to take so soon after the failed Times Square bombing. And a good reason to read William A. Collins OtherWords column, Gotta Get Me a Gun.

Family-Unfriendly

Arizona’s controversial immigration law may damage a lot more than the state’s image, as Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva argued in his OtherWords op-ed. It could also break up families. As Michelle Chen reports on the Colorlines blog, a new study by child advocacy group First Focus finds that more than five million American children have at least one parent who is an undocumented immigrant. “Arizona’s new racial profiling legislation could open up countless opportunities for local law enforcement to break up families by putting undocumented parents on the fast-track to deportation,” Chen writes.

Priority Check

The War Resisters League produced a pie chart that shows how much of our tax revenue funds warfare. By the group’s calculations, the government channels 54 percent of the $2.65 trillion it spends each year on military activities. In his recent OtherWords op-ed, Joe Volk suggested taxpayers ask lawmakers this question: “Will Congress keep Pentagon and military contractors rolling in dough, or will it begin to invest in real security to protect the United States from the threats of the 21st century?”

But Would Restaurants Have to Serve Libertarians?

Dr. Rand Paul, son of Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul, is a leading candidate to replace Kentucky’s outgoing Republican Senator, Jim Bunning. He’s seizing on the same citizen anger that fuels the tea partiers (Sarah Palin has endorsed him), but as Kentucky’s largest daily newspaper, the Courier-Journal, reports, “despite his independent thinking, much of what he stands for is repulsive to people in the mainstream.” Were it up to Dr. Paul, for instance, it would be perfectly legal for a restaurant to display a “Whites Only” sign. The Courier-Journal reported of Dr. Paul, “he personally would not agree with any form of discrimination,” but believes it is our right as private citizens. In America, Dr. Paul maintains every business should be permitted to conclude help wanted ads with “No gays or Hispanics.” The wide support of Rand Paul loudly confirms OtherWords columnist William A. Collins’ suspicion that America needs to do a lot more than elect an African-American president to create intercultural harmony.

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