Articles by Taylor Dibbert:
March 28, 2013 by Taylor Dibbert
A few months ago a letter was sent to my permanent address in Dallas. I’ve been thinking – intermittently – about its contents for a couple of months. The letter came from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Among other things, it reminded me that attending a top policy school is not necessarily compatible with pursuing a career in the public or non-profit sectors – something that many SIPA alums do.
The letter, dated on December 6, was from a MPA (class of 2014) candidate. Having spent his “childhood in and out of over 30 foster homes in Washington State,” this is a man with a story to tell. After graduation he will return to DC (where he worked for several years) and “work on child advocacy and make significant, lasting improvements to the foster care system.”
December 4, 2012 by Taylor Dibbert
On December 1, Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) assumed the Mexican presidency amid a flurry of protests against the party, whose previous 70-year rule defined the country’s authoritarian past. Yet it’s difficult to imagine that the new president’s term could be worse than the unmitigated disaster of his predecessor’s, which was marked by a dramatic militarization of Mexico’s drug war, widespread human rights abuses, and tens of thousands of deaths.
Aware of pervasive war weariness in Mexico, Peña Nieto has offered mild improvements over outgoing President Felipe Calderón’s approach to drug violence. According to CNN, the new president “has pledged to focus more on reducing violence and less on catching cartel leaders and blocking drugs from reaching the United States,” a policy that could reduce the violence associated with the power vacuums left by killed or captured kingpins. More recently, a top Peña Nieto advisor also intimated that the legalization of marijuana use in the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington could augur changes in Mexican drug policy as well.
November 5, 2012 by Taylor Dibbert
The Republican Party Today and the Romney Campaign
The Republican Party is in a state of disarray and needs to change. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, and the extreme positions from which he is now trying to distance himself, provides insights into this situation. It is not surprising that Governor Romney tacked hard to the right during the Republican primary and is now emphasizing a more moderate brand in his latest incarnation of himself.
Nonetheless, I am concerned about a range of public policy issues: the deficit, a disastrously dysfunctional Congress and the rising cost of higher education. I am also worried that there is no overarching strategy that underpins American foreign policy today. Yet, as this election cycle painfully draws to a close, what bothers me the most is the current state of the Republican Party and its dismal prospects for the future.
November 2, 2012 by Taylor Dibbert
In August of this year, I had a tooth that was hurting a lot. I’ve had several root canals done in Central America. I knew that I’d been given the opportunity to internationalize my mouth yet again. I had been to see this dentist before. His office is on Havelock Road in Colombo 6. (Actually, after taking another look at his card it looks like he has two offices. He’s listed another location on Kirula Road in Colombo 5).
The afternoon I arrived for the procedure, the dentist’s office was teeming with people. Some were undoubtedly walk-ins, meaning that they would not be going before me. But it looked like several others actually had appointments. By the time I got in to see the dentist he was more than an hour behind schedule.
I lay down. He took a quick look. He already suspected that I needed a root canal in my back-right tooth, the one on top. He’d seen my dental x-rays from the day before. He opened up that tooth, said “Oh, well, there’s no blood. That means your tooth is already dead.”
September 28, 2012 by Taylor Dibbert
For political junkies, US presidential debates can be both exciting and formulaic.
There are too many restrictions and candidates invariably pull out numerous stock phrases that sound excessively scripted. However, there’s also the possibility for drama, doublespeak and, most entertainingly, mistakes or miscalculations. The first of the three presidential debates, moderated by Jim Lehrer, will be held in Denver on October 3rd. It will cover domestic policy. The economy and jobs should dominate the agenda, but questions on healthcare and “the role of government” will also receive significant attention.
September 20, 2012 by Taylor Dibbert
Barack Obama inherited a mess, but his presidency has been, by most historical standards, a massive disappointment. Obama has had some foreign-policy successes, but most Americans could not care less about foreign policy. Besides, he has alienated the left-wing of his party by perpetuating (and even expanding upon) many of the counterterrorism policies of his predecessor.
Obama is telling the American public that we need to move “Forward” and that Mitt Romney would be a step backward for a host of reasons. It would appear that Obama’s strategy is working.
September 3, 2012 by Taylor Dibbert
I’m not surprised the Republican National Convention (RNC) was light on policy but what was surprising was that it was so light on policy. I don’t think I’m the only one who was disappointed.
I wasn’t expecting the RNC to have the feel of a Brookings panel discussion, but I was still expecting the speeches to have more substance. I was hoping to hear a clearer delineation of the way forward for this country if Mitt Romney were elected president. But I didn’t hear much of that. Instead I heard more platitudes and generalizations. I heard more talk about American greatness and the unyielding virtues of free enterprise.
August 31, 2012 by Taylor Dibbert
Former Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) hates to lose.
Narrowly defeated in Mexico’s 2006 presidential election, AMLO refused to recognize the results. Obrador demanded a recount, declared himself the winner and occupied Mexico’s City’s central square (the Zócalo) and other streets for several months. While such actions did little to curry favor with the incoming National Action Party (PAN) administration, his protests did enjoy widespread support from Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) supporters.
April 19, 2012 by Taylor Dibbert
President Barack Obama is talking big (again). This time it is about immigration. At the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Obama has said that he would deal with immigration reform during the first year of his second term. Now all he has to do is get reelected. Not surprisingly, Obama is trying to brand Romney as an extremist on this issue, suggesting “that Romney supports laws that would potentially allow for people to be stopped and asked for citizenship papers based on an assumption that they are illegal.”
Hispanic voters helped Obama immensely in 2008; that is no secret. According to a Pew Research Center Poll, 64 percent of Hispanic men and 68 percent of Hispanic women voted for Obama four years ago. Obama recognizes the significance of this and know that the influence of Hispanics extends well beyond states like Florida, New Jersey and Nevada.
April 16, 2012 by Taylor Dibbert
I recently read an interesting and smart piece on one of Foreign Policy’s blogs which charted some notable policy shifts among current Latin American heads of state as it relates to drugs. It is true that, more than two years ago, the former leaders of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico all (rightly) claimed that the “war on drugs” had been unsuccessful. It is also true that the current presidents of Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala (among others) have also called for a rethink on the current prohibition regime.
In addition, Adam Siegel, of Eurasia Group, rightly points out that leaders like Guatemala’s Ottó Pérez are not deriding current drug policies because they are champions of individual liberty. Rather, Pérez and company want to suffocate the cartels and staunch the violence that continues plague the region, especially Central America.
January 29, 2012 by Taylor Dibbert
A few months ago, President Barack Obama was celebrating the “profound” relationship between the United States and Honduras. This happened in spite of the fact that current President Porfirio Lobo’s rise to power was aided by a June 2009 coup. Even though Obama publicly denounced the coup, the administration’s response was timid. It did not take the Obama administration long to warm up to the ouster of democratically elected Manuel Zelaya. Sure, the US briefly halted some foreign aid (around $30 million), but the effect of that was negligible. Besides, remittances from the US to Honduras topped $2 billion that year.
Respect for human rights and the rule of law have deteriorated since Lobo took office in 2010. A lack of media freedom and the intimidation of journalists have not helped.
January 8, 2012 by Taylor Dibbert
Ron Paul finished a disappointing third in the Iowa Caucuses. He is unlikely to win upcoming primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina or Florida. He probably will not win February caucuses in Nevada or Maine either. Even if Republicans are unable to decide on a candidate by that time, Paul’s influence in the primary will have waned considerably.
Were Ron Paul to run as a third-party candidate in November, Republicans would have even more to worry about than they do now, which is saying something. Paul would surely pull votes away from the Republican candidate (probably Mitt Romney) and help Obama. This might not matter much in states like Texas, California or New York. But it would matter a lot in swing states like Ohio and Florida.
December 29, 2011 by Taylor Dibbert
Guatemala’s civil war was, by far, Latin America’s bloodiest—leaving approximately 200,000 people dead. A United Nations-supported truth commission found that more than 90 percent of the human rights violations were committed by the military, including over 600 massacres in primarily indigenous villages.
Since the conclusion of the war in 1996, the pursuit of accountability has not gone well. This past August, a Guatemala City judge sentenced four former soldiers to over 6,000 years in prison, for having participated in a massacre in 1982. This was a good thing, but it is nowhere near enough.
December 23, 2011 by Taylor Dibbert
In Central America, the Peace Corps is getting leaner. The organization has recently announced that it will be pulling out of Honduras. The Peace Corps has also put a hold on sending new training groups to Guatemala and El Salvador. There is no question that these countries are dangerous. Honduras, for example, has a murder rate of nearly 82 people per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest in the world.
The safety of Peace Corps volunteers has been an intensely debated topic on Capitol Hill recently. Earlier this year, the House and Senate unanimously passed the Kate Puzey Volunteer Protection Act of 2011.
December 16, 2011 by Taylor Dibbert
Well, it happened. This past November, Spain’s Socialists (PSOE) got hammered at the polls and (after failing twice before) incoming Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the nation’s conservative Popular Party (PP), got his absolute majority in Congress. Next week he will be sworn into office. Now what?
There is little doubt that the incoming Rajoy administration will move quickly to reform Spain’s economy. Rajoy spoke about this idea at length during his campaign. Nevertheless, his plans for economic reform were high on rhetoric, but lacked specificity.