Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Abraham Accords. Peace Between Israel and the United Emirates and Bahrain

First Egypt in 1979, then Jordan in 1994, and now the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have signed peace agreements with Israel, establishing normal diplomatic relations, and launching cooperative economic and other arrangements. Saudi Arabia permitted a commercial El Al flight over its air space, from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi. More Arab countries are in the queue to sign peace agreements with Israel. All of this in addition to the Serbia-Kosovo deal.

Trump has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of the Norwegian Parliament, for the Abraham Accords, and Magnus Jacobsson, a member of the Swedish Parliament, for the Kosovo-Serbia resolution. Peace prize nominations from Scandinavians are high praise.

Accolades have poured in, even from some anti-Trumpers.

Peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors has been one of the goals of every Secretary of State. Some spent days shuttling back and forth between Israel and the Palestinian leadership. The rise of Iran and the recalcitrance of the Palestinian leadership to accept any offer has rendered the Palestinians irrelevant. As Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban famously said, the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Now they are on the outside looking in. Maybe young Palestinians will instigate an orange revolution of their own and move to make peace with Israel and concentrate on bettering the lives of their people.

The Abraham Accords were signed at 1:00 PM EDT on September 15, 2020. As I post this comment, 48 hours have passed. I looked to see what all the former living Secretaries of State have said about this historic agreement. 

There are seven living Secretaries of State, or rather, the great George Shultz and six others, three Democrats and three Republicans, who served in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. All six all have Facebook and twitter pages, some more up-to-date than others. Shultz only has an inactive Facebook page.

To my surprise, none of the six posted or tweeted any comments on the Abraham Accords. Perhaps none of them wanted to acknowledge Trump’s foreign policy achievement. Maybe one or more will issue statements later. Still, rather disappointing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Politics On The Farm (Affectionately Known As Stanford)

Every election cycle I report political donations and votes cast by thousands of faculty, staff, and students living in housing on the Stanford campus (zip code 94305).  Political donations are reported to the Federal Election Commission and are reproduced on Open Secrets.

As of August 21, 2020, 957 donations from individuals living in zip code 94305 totaling $1,624,071 were given to candidates, political parties, political action groups, and other politically-oriented organizations for the 2019/20 election cycle.  Some persons gave two, three, or more donations, each of which is recorded separately.

Donations to Republican candidates or Republican-linked organizations amounted to $14,600.  Since Open Secrets only lists 500 donations (payment is required for the complete list), it’s reasonable to suppose that a similar amount was given by the remaining 457 donations.  This presumption puts total Republican political donations around $27,000.  Stanford residents gave 1.66% of their political donations to Republicans.

In comparison, Stanford residents gave 98.34% of their political donations to Democrats.

Stanford is among the most diverse universities in America in every category but one, political orientation.

On November 4, 2020, I will report vote totals and total political donations for 94305 residents.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Is The United States Becoming A Banana Republic?


Some pundits assert that the United States is becoming a “Banana Republic” under President Donald Trump.  Is this so?  Is this a fair metaphor?

First, some definitions.

A "republic" is a state in which supreme power is held by the people who are ruled by their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a  monarch.

What is a "Banana Republic?"

The historical description was coined by the American writer O. Henry (author of the Cisco Kid) who described Honduras and neighboring countries dominated by American fruit companies, in which business, political, and military elites ruled those countries for their private benefit by exploiting a large, impoverished working class.

Here are two political science definitions of “banana republic.”

(1) A small, poor, politically unstable country, often reliant on a single product or limited resource, governed by an authoritarian regime, characterized by corruption, and exploited by foreign corporations in collusion with local government officials.

(2) More generally, any exploitative government that functions poorly for it citizenry (whether reliant on a single export product or not), while disproportionately benefiting a corrupt elite group or individual,

Because “banana republic” refers to an unstable, authoritarian system of government, we need a measure for its antithesis, “democracy.”

Since 2006, the Economist Intelligence Unit has published an annual Index of Democracy.  The Index assigns countries to four categories:  (1) full democracy, (2) flawed democracy, (3) hybrid system—a mixture of democracy and authoritarian, and (4) authoritarian.  Categories (1) and (2) are not “banana republics.”  Categories (3) and (4) are partially or fully authoritarian.

Let’s put to rest the contention that the United States is becoming a “banana republic.”  In the EIU index, 20 countries qualify for category (1) full democracy.  The U.S. ranks 25, near the top of category (2) flawed democracy.  Hybrid regimes begin with Albania, ranked 75.  The U.S. is nowhere near becoming a “banana republic.”

Here are the top 15 net exporters (imports minus reexports) of bananas by value in 2019, its ranking in the democracy index, and the value of net coffee exports for countries that are also major coffee exporters.

As to bananas, consider the following table.


Country          Net Banana     Democracy       Net Coffee
                         Exports             Index             Exports

Ecuador            $3.9 billion           2
Philippines         1.9 billion            2
Columbia           1.6 billion            2               2.6 billion
Costa Rica         993 million           1              254 million
Guatemala        942 million           3              663 million
Dominican         433 million           2
  Republic
Panama            353 million            2
Ivory Coast       340 million            3
Honduras          301 million            3               1.1 billion
Mexico              270 million            2             182 million
Cameroon         256 million            4
Peru                 152 million            2              617 million 
Vietnam           138 million            4               2.4 billion
Ghana                98 million            2
India                  78 million            2

True “banana republics” include Guatemala, Honduras, Cameroon, and Vietnam, the first two ranked hybrid, the latter two ranked authoritarian.  However, since coffee exports dwarf  banana exports in Honduras, perhaps it should labeled a “coffee republic.”  Vietnam is a coffee authoritarian state.  Coffee exports also exceed banana exports in Columbia and Peru.  The latter two countries are classified as flawed democracies, not hybrid or authoritarian, so they are neither “banana” or “coffee republics.”

By the way, the U.S. is the world’s largest net importer of bananas at $2.3 billion, followed by China and Russia at $1.07 billion.  Americans eat, not produce, bananas.  Those who assert the U.S. is becoming a “banana republic” are wrong on every count of the charge.  However, because of their never-Trump, anti-Trump obsession, even some otherwise respectable scholars fall victim to this error.