International Protests Against Mass Surveillance

International Protests Against Mass Surveillance

TODAY, February 11, 2014:

International Community Unites to Protest Big Brother.” (Katitza Rodriguez, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2014/02/11)

Protesters rally for ‘the day we fight back’ against mass surveillance.” (Adam Gabbatt, Guardian, 2014/02/11)

Yes We Scan by walt74, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, "Yes we scan. Deal with it. United we progress toward a perfectly monitored society. Obey us. Control. Trust us. Trust us. Trust us. Repeat. We are watching you." ,Source: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/nerdcoreblog/8989863112/
Yes We Scan by walt74, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, “Yes we scan. Deal with it. United we progress toward a perfectly monitored society. Obey us. Control. Trust us. Trust us. Trust us. Repeat. We are watching you.” Source: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/nerdcoreblog/8989863112/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The Day the Internet Didn’t Fight Back.” (Nicole Perlroth, NYTimes.com, 2014/02/11) – Major web sites did not participate. But I think the effort is still worth it.

George Zimmerman – Trayvon Martin Case Devolving Even More Into Absurd Media Spectacle

The George Zimmerman – Trayvon Martin case is devolving even more into an absurd media spectacle

Picture: "Why don't you just switch off the television set?," id-iom, flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0), changes made: cropping, caption, color adjustments, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/
Picture: “Why don’t you just switch off the television set?,” id-iom, flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0), changes made: cropping, caption, color adjustments, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

Just when I thought that the tragic case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin could not become any more bizarre, I am proven wrong again.

After we saw Zimmerman posing at a gun manufacturer shortly after being acquitted of murder charges for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman selling ‘patriotic art’ of dubious originality, and Zimmerman being arrested for threatening his ex-wife and her father with a gun, there is now this: a boxing match in the making between rapper/actor DMX and George Zimmerman.

The aggressive politicization, the racial circling of wagons stoked by polemic media in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s death now seems to culminate in the ultimate absurdity–a celebrity boxing match based on the premise of symbolically pitting black America in the form a (former) gangsta rapper against Zimmerman, the light-skinned Hispanic defended by a large swathe of trigger-happy conservative white males.

All of the above merely adds insult to injury.

Whereas Zimmerman, now walking as a free man, clearly lacks any tact and tries to make a quick buck off his new-found celebrity paid for by the death of an unarmed black teenager, boxing promoters are circling like vultures over the tragedy in order get theirs, too.

And does rapper DMX think that if he were to knock out Zimmerman, in reality, but at the same time symbolically, like in the cartoonish heroes and villains portrayed in American wrestling, that would counter the black thug stereotype that was at the heart of the developments leading to Trayvon Martin’s death?

I think that this celebrity boxing match, if it actually take place, is death-sploitation of the worst kind.

Check out this clip from TheLipTV:

Most Germans Oppose More Military Interventions

Reichstagsgebäude (Berlin) kurz vor herbstlichem Sonnenuntergang. Jürgen Matern / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0 http://www.juergen-matern.de/ | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reichstag_building_Berlin_view_from_west_before_sunset.jpg?uselang=de
Reichstagsgebäude (Berlin) kurz vor herbstlichem Sonnenuntergang. Jürgen Matern / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0 http://www.juergen-matern.de/ | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reichstag_building_Berlin_view_from_west_before_sunset.jpg?uselang=de

Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s new Minister of Defense under Chancellor Angela Merkel, recently argued in favor of more frequent military interventions by the German armed forces in the world. A demand to that regard has repeatedly been made by governments of other allied countries in military alliances like NATO, for instance the U.S.

However, the German population as a whole is not so keen on participating in more wars. According to a recent poll by German public TV network ARD, 61% are against sending German troops to crisis-stricken regions around the world, while 30% are for more such involvement.

Read more:

Germany to play bigger military role.” (The Local Germany, 2014/01/27)

CCC, digitalcourage, Internationale Liga für Menschenrechte verklagen Bundesregierung wegen Untätigkeit nach Snowden-Leaks

Reichstagsgebäude (Berlin) kurz vor herbstlichem Sonnenuntergang. Jürgen Matern / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0 http://www.juergen-matern.de/ | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reichstag_building_Berlin_view_from_west_before_sunset.jpg?uselang=de
Reichstagsgebäude (Berlin) kurz vor herbstlichem Sonnenuntergang. Jürgen Matern / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0 http://www.juergen-matern.de/ | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reichstag_building_Berlin_view_from_west_before_sunset.jpg?uselang=de

Der Chaos Computer Club, die Internationale Liga für Menschenrechte, digitalcourage e.V. und weitere Personen haben Strafanzeige gegen die Bundesregierung wegen Untätigkeit nach der Veröffentlichung der Snowden-Leaks erstattet. via netzpolitik.org

TIME Magazine Nominates Edward Snowden As Runner-Up To The ‘Person Of The Year’ 2013

TIME magazine nominates Edward Snowden as runner-up to the ‘Person Of The Year’ 2013.

Yes We Scan by walt74, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, "Yes we scan. Deal with it. United we progress toward a perfectly monitored society. Obey us. Control. Trust us. Trust us. Trust us. Repeat. We are watching you." ,Source: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/nerdcoreblog/8989863112/
Yes We Scan by walt74, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, “Yes we scan. Deal with it. United we progress toward a perfectly monitored society. Obey us. Control. Trust us. Trust us. Trust us. Repeat. We are watching you.” Source: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/nerdcoreblog/8989863112/

It is an obvious choice. Time magazine nominated NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as one of the candidates for their person of the year 2013. The winner is Pope Francis, the “people’s pope.” Other runner-ups include LGBT activist Edith Windsor, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and GOP Senator Ted Cruz. It is generally a list based on significance, not on sympathy.

TIME magazine calls Snowden the “dark prophet” and the “doomsayer of the information age.

Being rather skeptical about Pope Francis’s capability to convince the Christian god to intervene on our behalf against the intelligence services (and while at it, why not pray to make terrorism disappear from the earth altogether), I personally would have given the ‘person of the year’ award to Snowden. But perhaps such a choice would have been to controversial for Time magazine.

Independent of what one may think about particular disclosures by Snowden through outlets of investigative journalism, his leaks have arguably been the second defining moment of the information age after the invention of the World Wide Web in the 1990s. Snowden has shown us that even democratic states are working to crush the cyber-libertarian utopia of the early Internet, using our communication infrastructure against us to establish a soft totalitarianism by surveillance.

In the grand scheme of things, we as citizens of the world must be thankful for having at least a discussion about mass surveillance, one that we would not be having at all if the intelligence services that supposedly are there to protect our democracies had had their way.

Glenn Greenwald Interview On BBC HARDtalk

Glenn Greenwald Interview on BBC HARDtalk

On November 28, 2013, journalist Glenn Greenwald, known for reporting on the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden, gave an interview to BBC HARDtalk, a format known for tough questioning that does not accept standard talking points.

The interview takes place at a time when the UK government, partly under pressure from the U.S., tries to attack the Guardian newspaper, i.e. shoot the messenger, for exposing the NSA’s and GCHQ’s blanket mass surveillance of the world’s citizens.

Read more:

Britain targets Guardian newspaper over intelligence leaks related to Edward Snowden.” (Washington Post, 2013/11/29)

DOJ Spied On Associated Press’s Telephone Records To Track Down Whistleblowers

DOJ Spied On Associated Press’s Telephone Records To Track Down Whistleblowers

Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department secretly obtained two months worth of telephone records of the Associated Press, reports the Associated Press.

The AP calls the DOJ’s action an “unprecedented intrusion.”

Here is what news agency Reuters reported.

According to the Guardian, the Obama administration wanted to find out the source of an “alleged Yemen terrorist plot story.”

Here is a report by Think Progress on the background of the DOJ’s action. According to them, the AP’s reporting on a foiled terrorist plot in Yemen “put AQAP [Al-Quida in the Arabic Peninsula] on notice that the CIA had a window into their activities.”

Here is the ACLU’s statement on the matter.

Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project said the following:

Obtaining a broad range of telephone records in order to ferret out a government leaker is an unacceptable abuse of power. Freedom of the press is a pillar of our democracy, and that freedom often depends on confidential communications between reporters and their sources.

Read more:

The Law Behind the A.P. Phone-Record Scandal.” (Lynn Oberlander, New Yorker, 2013/05/14)

Outrage Grows Over Justice Department Seizure of Associated Press Phone Records.” (Greg Mitchell, The Nation via Alternet, 2013/05/14)

 

 

Zero Dark Thirty: CIA Propaganda Piece

Zero Dark Thirty: CIA Propaganda Piece

Kathryn Bigelow’s 2012 movie Zero Dark Thirty, which depicts the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, is in some ways a CIA propaganda piece, according to a report from Gawker.

Based on declassified memos from the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs, which is the agency’s propaganda operation, the major revelation is that the CIA directly pressured director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal to take out scenes that would portray the CIA in a bad light.

And so Bigelow and Boal did.

What are the contents/scenes taken out that the CIA objected to?

  • Participation of CIA operatives in the torture (I am not buying the euphemism ‘enhanced interrogation’) of detainees in the opening scene
  • Intimidation of detainees with dogs
  • A drunk CIA officer firing an AK-47 rifle into the air at a drunken rooftop party in Islamabad
  • The CIA analyzing videotaped interrogations of tortured detainees

Apart from the CIA’s influence revealed through the memo, the movie falsely suggests in its opening scene that it was torture that ultimately led to the revelation of Bin Laden’s location. This powerful image created by a product of popular culture retroactively works to legitimize the practice of torture in the public mind.

Read and see more:

CIA requested Zero Dark Thirty rewrites, memo reveals.” (Ben Child, Guardian, 2013/05/07)

Newly Declassified Memo Shows CIA Shaped “Zero Dark Thirty”‘s Narrative.” (Adrian Chen, Gawker, 2013/05/06)

[Video] “Zero Dark Irresponsible – Killing Bin Laden With Blinders On.” (TheLipTV, 2013/11/26) – FIlm critic Peter Rainer criticizes Zero Dark Thirty for not contextualizing the torture scenes of the movie in the ‘Global War on Terrorism.’ In particular, he notes the absence of any mention of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as responsible for America’s torture policies.

Torture and the hunt for Bin Laden

Torture May Have Slowed Hunt For Bin Laden, Not Hastened It.” (Dan Froomkin, Huffington Post, 2011/05/06) – A study by the National Defense Intelligence College found that “rapport-based” interrogation works best, even with hard-boiled detainees.

Anti-Muslim Bigot Violently Attacks Cab Driver In Northern Virginia

Anti-Muslim Bigot Violently Attacks Cab Driver In Northern Virginia

In Northern Virginia, an aviation executive violently attacked a cab driver, who happens to be an American military veteran, for being a Muslim.

According to a report from the Washington Post, cab driver Mohamed Salim, a veteran of the Iraq War, picked up Ed Dahlberg, owner of Manassas-based Emerald Aviation at a local country club. When Dahlberg noticed Salim’s name, he called him a terrorist, threatened to kill him, and then broke his jaw.

Apparently, Dahlberg’s hatred of Muslims runs so deep that he believes that all of them are jihadist terrorists and he feels personally entitled to go on a violent crusade against random people.

If these allegations are proven in court, Dahlberg is truly one of the most disgusting men in America.

Nativisms, then and now

Historically, this type of resentment against certain minority groups at particular points in time is well-known in America. Think of the nineteenth century with its anti-Asian stereotype of the “Yellow Menace”, the anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic Nativism, or the Red Scares of the twentieth century. After 9/11, the violent jihadist has become the stereotype du jour for Muslims.

Feeding you fear and paranoia

Personal responsibility aside, a large portion of the blame for violent incidents like this one has to go to far-right media outlets such as Fox News, or more specifically to figures such as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Pamela Geller, or Robert Spencer.

With their hateful rhetoric, these organizations and individuals spread fear of all Muslims among their audiences, and feed paranoid fantasies about holy wars. Whenever a member of their audience takes them by their words, of course, the above mentioned wash their hands in innocence.

Bigotry does not help in the fight against terrorism

To point out the obvious, none of this dangerous nonsense in any way helps to fight the actual threat of jihadist terrorism. If anything, the rhetorical perpetuation of a hostile climate might lead to the alienation of some American Muslims, with unintended consequences. In the long run, this sort of bigotry could lead to the radicalization of more people. Who in their right mind would want that to happen?

Read more:

Muslim cabdriver alleges assault by passenger who cited Boston Marathon bombing.” (Joe Stephens and Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, 2013/05/01)

Vicious Assault On Muslim Cab Driver Caught On Camera.” (Hyacinth Mascarenhas, PolicyMic, 2013/05/02)

 

FBI-Driven Government Task Force Proposal Aims To Fine Tech Companies For Not Wiretapping

Provide wiretapping capabilities to hand over your (customers’) data to the FBI or be fined, Google and Facebook

The Washington Post reports on a government task proposal that aims to punish tech companies for not providing wiretapping capabilities for law enforcement officials. The FBI, which is the driving force behind this push for more more surveillance, justifies its demands with the need to counter  a “going dark” problem, a “gap between authority and capability” in regards to online surveillance. The FBI mentions not just terrorism, as might seem likely briefly after the Boston Marathon Bombing, but also transnational narcotrafficking and child prostitution.

If successful, this initiative would not only concern Internet giants such as Google or Facebook, but potentially any tech company that collects user data. And that includes practically any new free-to-use online service.

This initiative by the FBI takes place in the context of a much larger secretive push towards extensive online surveillance (see below).

Read more:

Proposal seeks to fine tech companies for noncompliance with wiretap orders.” (Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post, 2013/04/29)

U.S. gives big, secret push to Internet surveillance.” (, CNET, 2013/04/24)

Auf deutsch:

Internetüberwachung in den USA: Strafen für Unternehmen, die keine Daten liefern?” (, Netzpolitik.org, 30.04.2013)

USA: Mit geheimen Anweisungen das Internet überwachen.” (, Netzpolitik.org, 26.04.2013)

 

Margaret Thatcher’s Death and Legacy

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Death and Legacy

On April 8, 2013, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died at the age of 87.

The death of the ‘Iron Lady,’ former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher might seem a little off-topic for a blog on American politics and culture. But on second look, it might not be that far-off at all.

During the 1980s, conservative politics ruled the transatlantic relationship. The Cold War was still very real, the Iron Curtain was standing firmly, and both the White House (since 1980) and Downing Street 10 (since 1979) were inhabited by anticommunist leaders bent on pursuing neoliberal economic policies while defying the Soviet Union and defeating its real or imagined proxies abroad.

Thatcher was the first female prime minister of Britain and the first woman to be head of state of a major European country (see the New York TImes obituary linked below).

In recent times, there had been some renewed interest in Thatcher in the wake of the 2011 biopic The Iron Lady starring Meryl Streep.

President Obama had but nice things to say about Thatcher in his statement, as it is customary with such public condolences. Obama called Thatcher a “true friend” of America, “an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance,” and noted her extraordinary accomplishment as a woman leader in global politics. So far, so good. But once one puts aside the expected reverence for the deceased and takes a hard look at Thatcher’s political record and the actions she was ‘unapologetic’ about, things start to get ugly.

Some Of My Best Friends Are Military Dictators

Some of Thatcher’s foreign policy low points from the vantage point of general human decency include befriending military dictators such as Chilean General Augusto Pinochet, who provided military support to Britain during the Falklands War, and whom she defended until the end as the man who “brought democracy to Chile,” never mind that he accepted the pro-democracy referendum only after being granted lifelong immunity from prosecution for his human rights abuses during his reign from the 1973 coup d’etat onwards.

Thatcher also did not consider it necessary to push for sanctions against the South African Apartheid regime. Instead, she called the African National Congress of Nelson Mandela, then still incarcerated, a “typical terrorist organization.” The organization did have a military wing, but Thatcher’s relative benevolence towards the white supremacist Afrikaner government clearly puts her on the wrong side of history on this issue.

Judge for yourself where the Iron Lady’s priorities and sympathies lie.

Here is assorted  coverage on Margaret Thatcher’s death and her political legacy, part of which includes Thatcher’s political relationship with Ronald Reagan:

Inequality before and after Thatcher: what really happened.” (George Eaton, New Statesman, 2013/04/09) – Eaton shows that critics who say economic inequality rose more under Blair than under Thatcher are wrong. He also backs it up with a graph from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an independent think tank.

Margaret Thatcher and misapplied death etiquette.” (Glenn Greenwald, Guardian, 2013/04/08) – Greenwald does not buy the notion that opponents of Thatcher’s should not speak ill of her in the wake of her dead, especially because her admirers exploit her death excessively.

Margaret Thatcher, former British prime minister, dead at 87.” (Fred Barbash, Washington Post, 2013/04/08) – Obituary that talks about transatlantic cooperation with the Reagan White House in deploying nuclear missiles in Europe and other foreign policy activities, such as the Falklands War. It also talks about her domestic policy approach characterized by antiunionism, privatization, and cuts to the British welfare state.

‘Iron Lady’ Who Set Britain on a New Course.” (Joseph R. Gregory, New York Times, 2013/04/08)

Thatcher, Reagan and Their Special Relationship.” (Nicolas Wapshott, New York Times, 2013/04/08) – Article from the NY Times that highlights Reagan and Thatcher’s political relationship. Wapshott characterizes their act on the world stage as sometimes being a game of “good cop, bad cop,” whereas Reagan played the bad cop and Thatcher portrayed the more upbeat saleswoman of the same policies.

Margaret Thatcher: The lady who changed the world.” (Economist, 2013/04/08)

The Iron Lady vs. The Iron Curtain: Photos of Margaret Thatcher from her days as one of the world’s foremost cold warriors.” (Foreign Policy, 2013/04/08)

 

Tributes Pour In for Margaret Thatcher.” (By and , New York Times, 2013/04/08)

Bradley Manning’s Speech To The Military Court In Ft. Meade

The Freedom of the Press Foundation has published the audio recording of Private First Class Bradley Manning’s statement to the military court in Ft. Meade on his motivations for leaking documents to whistleblowing website Wikileaks.

Listen to the audio and read more here:

Finally: hear Bradley Manning in his own voice.” (Glenn Greenwald, Guardian, 2013/03/11)

Help Spread Bradley Manning’s Words Across the Internet.” (Micah Lee, Freedom of the Press Foundation, 2013/03/12)

Guardian and BBC Arabic Reveal Pentagon Involvement In Iraqi Torture Centers

An Investigation By The Guardian and BBC Arabic Reveals Pentagon Involvement In Iraqi Torture Centers.

The abyss of US military involvement in torture in Iraq widens. According to a report by the Guardian and BBC Arabic, top US military brass was well-informed about Iraqi torture centers.

The expert for the dirty work: An ex-special forces organizer of deaths squads in El Salvador in the 1980s

The Pentagon brought Colonel James Steele to Iraq. “Who is this man?” you ask. Steele is a special forces veteran who spent his time in the US military, among other things, setting up right-wing death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s.

In Iraq, according to the report, Steele organized setting up Iraqi torture centers for detainees of the insurgency.

Petraeus knew about torture

Another top military advisor, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked together with Steele in the detention centers and—this is where it gets interesting—reported directly to General Petraeus.

It follows that Petraeus knew exactly what kind of abuse was going on, and let it happen.

WikiLeaks as threat to the official war narrative

The Guardian’s report is in part based on material that was leaked to WikiLeaks. It is not hard to see why the Justice Department is currently attempting to make an example of Bradley Manning and get their hands on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

As the dirtiest secrets of the Iraq war are revealed, the liberation narrative begins to unravel. Top military officials stand embarrassed, for they have been caught red-handed as ruthless condoners of torture. But as the maintenance of the facade of democratic values is elementary in order to win the home front, whistleblowers are quickly declared enemies of the state.

‘We’ are becoming ‘them’: Torture poisons our democracies

Reading the details on the practices in the Iraqi torture centers is frankly disturbing. It is all the more disgusting to learn that ‘we,’ i.e. the ‘West,’ and US military officials at the highest levels in particular, were completely fine with this.

It does not take much to realize the unbearable hypocrisy of it all. Not only is torture morally wrong, it is also ineffective, because victims will say anything to make their suffering stop.

Here in Europe, we have the best historic example of this: witch hunts in early modern times. Tortured victims would accuse neighbors or others they did not like of being witches just to save themselves. But that is besides the point.

If in this century’s ‘war on terrorism’ realpolitik prevails über alles, then the line between ‘them,’ the maligned autocratic rogue states, and ‘us,’ the liberal democratic West, becomes thinner and blurry to the point of being barely distinguishable.

And if we are not watchful, there might come a day when the next Mubarak or al-Assad has a more familiar-sounding name and speaks our own language. But then it will be too late.

Neocons, I beg to differ

Here is where I disagree with the neoconservative world view behind the Iraq war: I do not think that the end always justifies the means. And I doubt that the end of fighting terrorism can be achieved by becoming torturers, or having detainees tortured by proxy.

As for building a democracy, I am skeptical about how torture prisons constitute a solid foundation in this regard. But then again, the attachment of the neoconservative architects of the Iraq war to democratic values is questionable.

Torture enablers should be in prison

I do not know at which point the George W. Bushes, the Dick Cheneys, the John Yoos, the Donald Rumsfelds, or the David Petraeuses of the world became attached to this kind of amoral thinking, but when you read what is now publicly accessible, these men were not at all troubled by deploying torture and constructing a legal framework to make it seem legit. To the contrary. But torture is still wrong.

And to the big disgrace of the Obama administration and the Holder Justice Department, which I put high hopes in, none of these crimes had any consequences for the perpetrators.

In an ideal world, all of those who enabled the torture regime, including European government officials, would spend the rest of their days in prison for crimes against humanity. Call me naive, but not to speak up against this evil would make me an accomplice.

Read more:

Revealed: Pentagon’s link to Iraqi torture centres.” (, , and , Guardian, 2013/03/06)

 

Talk Radio Host Calls For Nationalist Party With Charismatic Leader

American talk radio is a phenomenon of its own with no comparison in the German media landscape. This is likely due to less strict broadcasting regulations on the US side of the Atlantic, especially since the fall of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine in 1987, a much broader definition of freedom of speech in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution in general, and the comparatively longer distances traveled in cars in the US. All of the above factors into the popularity of AM talk radio, especially political talk formats.

For the past decades, American talk radio has predominantly been the domain of angry white male conservative populist agitators, among them figures like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, who have made a fortune feeding their audiences’ fears of American decline, multiculturalism, and the whole palette of issues subsumed under the term culture wars. A key trope of most far-right talk radio hosts has always been the claim of defending ‘freedom,’ a term so vague in the arsenal of political rhetoric that it can easily be loaded up with the most illiberal ideas, not in the meaning of liberal as in political ideology, but as in the theoretical political concept.

Case in point: Recently, conservative talk radio host Michael Savage has called for a new “nationalist party” with a “charismatic leader.” Talking about the decline in popularity of the Tea Party Movement, the conservative populist movement that had emerged along with the 2008 election of Barack Obama as president, Savage said that “the rudiment” of that new party might be found among their ranks. Savage, who was born to Russian-Jewish parents, used the analogy of a “King David” that was needed to unite the American Right. Savage, who calls President Obama a “quasi-pseudo-crypto Marxist” thinks that the Tea Party Movement was not right-wing enough and that a new party should challenge the Republican party from the right on a platform of “borders, language, and culture.”

If that sounds eerily authoritarian, it’s because it is!

A severe economic crisis. Extreme nationalism. Calls for a charismatic leader. Writing from Berlin, I hear the jackboots stomping in my head.

Read more:

Jewish Wingnut Wants Nationalist Party With Charismatic Leader.” (Ed Brayton, Dispatches From The Culture Wars, 2013/01/10)

Radio host Michael Savage calls for ‘Nationalist’ third party to challenge GOP. “(Geoff Herbert, syracuse.com, 2013/01/07)

Conservative Radio Host: America Needs A New ‘Nationalist Party’ With A ‘Charismatic Leader.’” (Anjali Sareen, Mediaite, 2013/01/06)

Top Conservative Radio Figure Calls For Nationalist Third Party.” (BuzzFeed, 2013/01/06)

Background:

Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt.” (Umberto Eco, New York Review of Books, 1995/06/22 via The Modern World)

 

Odd Political Moves: John McCain’s Benghazi Press Conference Edition

I also demand a hearing into which hearings
I should have attended while demanding more hearings.
– Liberal blog Daily Kos summing up John McCain’s press conference on Benghazi1

Former GOP presidential candidate Senator John McCain recently gave a press conference on the Benghazi terrorist attack, demanding more investigation of the incident. When a CNN reporter pointed out to McCain that, instead of giving a press conference, he might be attending a confidential briefing at the Senate Homeland Security Committee, of which he is a member, McCain lost it. Oh my…

[Update]: “McCain Backs Away From Benghazi Conspiracies.” (Think Progress, 11/20/2012)

After Obama’s Reelection, The “Grand Bargain” Is Next On The Docket

Barack Obama remains the President of the United States for the next four years. What is on the domestic agenda in American politics next?

The “Fiscal Cliff” and the “Grand Bargain”

Republicans in Congress plan to hold the approval of the federal budget hostage, as they did last time. What do they want? The continuation of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and severe cuts to social programs that benefit the less fortunate in the name of deficit reduction. Most interesting about this is that the freshly reelected president and Democrats have signaled their willingness to largely go along with Republicans.

In what is known as the “Grand Bargain,” Democrats including Obama have proposed to slash programs such as Social Security to decrease the federal deficit, in order to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” i.e. the blockade of the federal budget by the GOP. Other than one might think from the Democrats’ campaign rhetoric, the focus is not on tax increases for corporations and the wealthiest individuals.

To understand why Obama would support policies that seem to run counter to his campaign promises of even a few weeks ago, namely to put his support behind the struggling American middle class, one has to reach back into his not-too-distant past. And there it lies, in the open: Obama is a neoliberal. 1 2 3

It is visible in the people he appointed to his economic team during the first term in office, the ways in which the financial industry was not heavily regulated after the financial crisis, and the way a public option was given up on early in favor of an industry-based model during the health care reform negotiations.

The irony of it all is that Obama the neoliberal, who pretends to be an economic progressive (liberal) during election season, is decried as everything from a socialist to a communist by the far-right commentators on talk radio and the Republican propaganda machine of Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch that is Fox News.

Economically, Obama’s current proposals represent but a gradual difference to what a Romney/Ryan presidency would have wrought, but it is not qualitatively different. The interests of the super-wealthy are not touched by Obama and the Democratic Party.

The swift willingness to compromise with a Republican Party that has been playing hardball since day one (of Obama’s first term), combined with the Obama administration’s notable toughness towards its progressive supporters, reoccurring at the beginning of this second term, makes one wonder whether this is after all a game of good cop, bad cop. If Republican proposals seem extreme from a middle class perspective, the Democrats’ slightly less harsh plans all of a sudden look friendly in comparison. But it is a view from within a moving train.

[Update] My judgment of the situation was perhaps a bit too harsh. According to the New York Times (December 2), the Obama administration now forces the GOP to come to the table first with a serious offer, not the other way around like last time. Obama now wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans in order to reduce the federal deficit.

Read more:

Divided House Passes Tax Deal in End to Latest Fiscal Standoff.” (Jennifer Steinhauer, New York Times, 2013/01/01)

“GOP’s Latest Fiscal Cliff Offer: Permanent Extension Of Bush Tax Cuts For The Wealthy.” (Igor Volksky, Think Progress, 12/12/2012) – Business as usual.

Following the Debt Talks-Interactive Feature.” (Alicia Parlapiano and Josh Keller, New York Times, 2012/12/06) – A nice graphic overview of what Democrats and Republicans each offer in the current talks on the federal debt and budget.

Criticized as Weak in Past Talks, Obama Takes Harder Line.” (Peter Baker, New York Times, 12/02/2012)

The cold, hard realities behind Medicare cuts.” (Politico, 12/02/12)

Inside the talks: Fiscal framework emerges.” (Politico, 11/29/12)

[Fact check] “Facts Falling Off the Fiscal Cliff.” (FactCheck, 11/14/2012)

Fiscal Cliff? Obama Urged Not To Panic.” (Dan Froomkin, Huffington Post, 11/13/2012)

[Op-ed] “Why the Grand Bargain Is One-Sided and Totally Unfair.” (Cenk Uygur, Huffington Post, 11/12/2012)

White House Grand Bargain offer to Speaker Boehner Obtained by Bob Woodward.” (NBC News, 11/11/2012)

[Op-ed] “Let’s Not Make a Deal.” (Paul Krugman, New York Times, 11/08/2012)

Liberals fear grand bargain betrayal if President Obama wins.” (Carrie Budoff Brown, Politico, 11/02/2012)

Obama vows debt-cutting ‘grand bargain,’ immigration reform in Des Moines Register interview.” (Olivier Knox, Yahoo!News, 10/24/2012)

  1. Op-Ed: “Kill Lists and Giant Triplets: Obama and the Neoliberal Government.” (Tolu Olorunda, CounterPunch, 11/08/2012)
  2. Obama 2006—”Too many of us have been interested in defending programs as written in 1938.″ (Gaius Publius, AmericaBlog, 05/01/2012)
  3. “No Economic Team of Rivals On Obama Staff: Rubin’s Manic Neoliberals Dominate.” (Steve Clemons, New America Foundation, Huffington Post, 02/28/2012)

Obama Wins Re-election! Here Is My Big List Of Links, Continually Updated. (2012)

President Barack Obama won his re-election in 2012 with an impressive lead of 332 to 206 electoral college votes after taking the most important swing states inluding Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. The polls pointed towards this outcome, but the race had remained close until the end.

Here is my big list of links to articles about the 2012 presidential election. I will continually update it as I find new material.

Obama’s victory speech:

Romney’s concession speech:

News Coverage of the 2012 Presidential Election Outcome:

Among liberal commentators, but also some conservative voices, a narrative is beginning to emerge that the GOP lost because it kept appealing to racism, religious fundamentalism, and conservative populism among its base, all of which had been culminating in the Tea Party Movement, which had emerged with the 2008 election of Barack Obama. To get a glimpse at the GOP of 2012, and to see the ideological elements mentioned above, one may go to YouTube and re-watch the past primaries, or the video documents of CPAC 2012.

[Statistics] “For Second-Term Presidents, a Shorter Honeymoon.” (Nate Silver, New York Times, 2013/01/19)

[Campaign Finance] “Obama campaign final fundraising total: $1.1 billion.” (Byron Tau, Politico, 2013/01/19)

[Demographics] “Add This Group To Obama’s Winning Coalition: ‘Religiously Unaffiliated’” (Liz Halloran, NPR, 12/09/2012)

[Demographics] “Romney Advisor Stuart Stevens Brags About Winning Wealthier Votes.” (International Business Times, 11/29/2012)

[Demographics] “The GOP’s Real Concern in the 2012 Results: Losing the Middle.” (Dante Chinni, Patchwork Nation, 11/29/2012)

[Demographics] “Top Romney Adviser Brags About Losing Poor, Minority Voters To Obama.” (Benjy Sarlin, Talking Points Memo, 11/28/2012) – “The implied argument that poorer votes are inferior seems to undercut the campaign’s central message over the last two years: that Romney’s top concern was providing jobs for the jobless.”

[Demographics] “Former Florida GOP leaders say voter suppression was reason they pushed new election law.” (Dara Kam and John Lantigua, Palm Beach Post, 11/25/2012) – This speaks for itself and is really shameful in a democracy.

How President Obama Won a Second Term.” (Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, 2012/11/23) – “Political strategist James Carville breaks down where the Republicans went wrong – and what it means for the future.”

[Demographics] “College Republicans At Historically Black Colleges And Universities Struggle To Connect With Romney.” (Rodney Holcombe, Huffington Post, 11/19/2012)

Republicans Mourning for Mitt Romney? Not So Much.” (Michael Falcone, ABC News, 11/17/2012) – Since Mitt Romney lost, the GOP is giving him a cold shoulder.

[Demographics] “Gay Vote Seen as Crucial in Obama’s Victory.” (Nate Silver, New York Times, 11/15/2012)

Romney Blames Loss on Obama’s ‘Gifts’ to Minorities and Young Voters.” (Ashley Parker, New York Times, 11/14/2012) – A professional politician complaining about another professional politician for making promises to voters to get elected—now that is quite amusing. As if Mitt Romney’s own party did not try to win the election by promising ‘gifts’ in the form of tax cuts to its one core constituency that really matters, i.e. the class of ultra-wealthy donors.

[Op-Ed] “Democrats had a better grasp of political reality in 2012.” (Los Angeles Times, 11/08/2012)

Adviser: Romney “shellshocked” by loss.” (CBS, 11/08/2012) – It took the Romney campaign a while to realize that they did indeed lose.

Fox station tells Romney supporters how to ‘beat the traffic’ to Canada.” (David Edwards, The Raw Story, 11/08/2012) – Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction, as they say. And for a local Fox News station, the re-election of Barack Obama means that the apocalypse has come. So what is their advice to Romney supporters? Fleeing to Canada, ironically a country with more ‘socialist’ government programs than the US.

[Audio] “Republicans Review Election Results For Insight.” (npr, 11/08/2012)

[Op-Ed] “The Republican Party Needs to Ditch Fox News If It Wants to Win.” (Mother Jones, 11/07/2012) – The demographics of the US work against a GOP that constantly employs race-baiting and embraces fundamentalist religion.

Barack Obama’s odyssey continues.” (Guardian, 11/07/2012)

Obama Victory Could Spell End Of Conservative Supreme Court.” (Forbes, 11/07/2012)

The 2012 presidential election: Obama’s win raises questions for Republicans.” (Economist, 11/07/2012)

Why Romney Lost: Conservative Commentary Roundup.” (Forbes, 11/07/2012)

Obama Powers to Re-Election Despite Weak Economy.” (RealClearPolitics, 11/06/2012)

Obama pulls out reelection in hard-fought battle.” (Los Angeles Times, 11/06/2012)

“Obama reelection: Grind-it-out win.” (Politico, 11/06/2012)

Obama wins a second term as U.S. president.” (Washington Post, 11/06/2012)

OBAMA WINS SECOND TERM.” (Atlantic, 11/06/2012)

The Rise of the Poll Quants (or, Why Sam Wang Might Eat a Bug).” (Tom Bartlett, Percolator Blog, Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/05/2012) – How statisticians have risen in the public sphere due to their predictions on political elections.

Recap of the 2012 Presidential Campaign:

How President Obama Won a Second Term.” (Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, 2013/01/23) – Democratic political strategist James Carville breaks down the second Obama presidential campaign.

[Op-Ed] “Hope and Change: Part 2.” (Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, 11/07//2012) – Friedman says that the GOP lost this time and last time because it moved so far to the  right that it lost the political center.

21 moments that defined the campaign and America.” (CNN, 11/06/2012)

[Op-Ed] “What Propelled Obama to Victory and Sent the Plutocrats and Racists to a Brutal Defeat.” (Alternet, 11/06/2012)

[Op-Ed] “The Real Loser: Truth.” (New York Times, 11/05/2012) – “[T]he Romney campaign has placed a big and historic bet on the proposition that facts can be ignored, more or less, with impunity.”

Social Media-Related Coverage:

Campaigning And Social Media Reactions To Obama’s Victory

How Obama Knew How You’d Vote, Even Before You Did.” (Dan Rowinski, readwrite.com, 2012/12/17)

Meet the Obama campaign’s $250 million fundraising platform.” (Kyle Rush, 11/27/2012) – A web developer who worked on Obama’s online fundraising platform writes about his experience building the project.

What President Obama Can Teach You About Social Media.” (Brett Relander, Social Media Today, 11/26/2012)

“[Jersey Shore reality TV celebrity] Snooki’s Facebook Fans Were More Likely to Say They Voted Than Mitt Romney’s.” (Rebecca J. Rosen, The Atlantic, 11/19/2012)

Racism: Racist Teens Forced to Answer for Tweets About the ‘Nigger’ President.” (Jezebel, 11/09/2012) – Some white teenagers show very ugly racism as a reaction to Obama’s re-election on Twitter.

Where America’s Racist Tweets Come From.” (The Atlantic, 11/09/2012) – Unsurprisingly, it is worst in the Deep South.

The 6 Best Overreactions To Obama’s Win.” (Think Progress, 11/08/2012) – America’s right-wing talk radio hosts go over the top after Obama’s re-election, as was absolutely to be expected.

2012 Presidential Election: Insight and Context with Wolfram|Alpha.” (Wolfram|Alpha, 11/07/2012) – From the blog of answer engine Wolfram Alpha.

The 7 Tweets That Defined Election Night 2012.” (Huffington Post, 11/07/2012)

Facebookstories/Vote.” (Facebook, 11/06/2012) – A graphical representation of how Facebook users votes.

Humor

The Internet wouldn’t be what it is if the 2012 presidential election didn’t spark numerous political memes. Here are the post-election ones:

[Meme] “Meet “Drunk Nate Silver.” (BuzzFeed, 11/08/2011) – The New York Times’ statistician becomes a Twitter sensation. Like Chuck Norris Facts for political junkies.

[Meme] “White People Mourning Romney.” – A Tumblr blog featuring pictures of white Romney voters shocked by their candidate’s defeat.

Deutschsprachige Berichterstattung zum Ergebnis der amerikanischen Präsidentschaftswahl 2012:

Informationsportal des Deutschlandradios zu den Präsidentschaftswahlen 2012

Das USA-Bild der Deutschen – Alles nur Zyniker.” (The European, 11.11.2012)

Wahlen in den USA: Im Westen nichts Neues?” (Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, 09.11.2012)

[Kommentar] “Unsere Obama-Liebe ist infantil.” (Jan Fleischhauer, Spiegel Online, 08.11.2012) – Der konservative Kolumnist bei Spiegel Online ist der Meinung, die Deutschen würden die USA gerne “auf den Knien [. . . ] sehen”, seien geradezu besessen von Amerika-Bashing, übertrieben den Niedergang der USA im Allgemeinen maßlos und seien nur deshalb von Obama in den Bann gezogen, weil er vermeintlich das Gegenteil von allem was sie an Amerika schlecht finden verkörpere.

US-Präsidentschaftswahl: Die Multikulti-Sieger.” (Spiegel Online, 08.11.2012) – Über den Einfluss von Latinos, Schwarzen und Frauen auf den Wahlsieg Obamas und die Zukunft der Politik in den USA.

[Audio] “Berliner Reaktionen auf USA-Wahl.” (Deutschlandradio Hintergrund, 07.11.2012)

[Audio] “Das waren die US-Wahlen 2012.” (mephisto976, 07.11.2012) – Interview mit Prof. Dr. Crister S. Garrett von American Studies Leipzig.

[Audio] “Interview Prof. Detlef Junker (Heidelberg Center for American Studies).” (Deutschlandradio Hintergrund, 07.11.2012)

Liveticker US-Wahl: Obama: ‘Das Beste kommt noch’.” (Frankfurter Rundschau, 06.11.2012)

[Audio] “Super Tuesday bei mephisto 97.6.” (mephisto976, 06.11.2012)

US-Wahl: Barack Obama bleibt Präsident.” (Zeit Online, 06.11.2012)

Wahl in Amerika: Obama als Präsident wiedergewählt – Romney gesteht Niederlage ein.” (FAZ, 06.11.2012)

Präsidentschaftswahl in den USA: Obama II.” (taz, 06.11.2012)

[Kommentar] “Untergang des amerikanischen Imperiums.” (Jakob Augstein, Spiegel Online, 05.11.2012) – Der Verleger des linken Freitag über die Macht des Kapitals in der amerikanischen Politik und das Unvermögen der Obama-Administration, den Kurs ihrer Vorgänger grundlegend zu ändern.

Die Präsidentschaftswahl 2012 und Social Media

Obama: Wahlsieg dank Big Data und Analytics.” (Harald Weiss, silicon.de, 08.11.2012)

US-Wahl: Fünf Learnings rund ums Social Web.” (Uwe Baltner, SMO14, 08.11.2012)

Infografik vergleicht Online-Wahlkämpfe Obama und Romney.” (Markus Beckedahl, Netzpolitik.org, 07.11.2012) – Eine grafische Darstellung des Online-Wahlkampfs von Obama und Romney mit Schwerpunkt auf Smartphones.

Obama, Herrscher der Daten.” (Matthias Kolb, Deutschlandfunk Diskurs, 05.11.2012) – Bericht über die entscheidende Bedeutung der genaue Auswertung von Daten über Wählergruppen im Präsidentschaftswahl 2012.

Countdown zur US-Wahl: Noch 17 Tage: Wie Twitter den US-Wahlkampf banalisiert.” (Malte Lehming, Tagesspiegel, 20.10.2012)

Rückblick auf die Präsidentschaftswahl 2012:

Obama gegen Romney: Wahrheit verliert, Lüge gewinnt.” (Spiegel Online, 06.11.2012) – Wie beide Kandidaten im Wahlkampf gelogen haben und Wähler ihrerseits belogen werden wollen.

 

 

Last Minute Update On The Presidential Election

The Huffington Post calculates that Obama gets 271 electoral votes, and Romney gets 191 electoral votes (a candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win) (November 6). A summary can be found here.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog estimates a 92% chance of winning for Obama (November 6).

Real Clear Politics’ estimate: Obama 201 electoral votes, Romney 191 electoral votes  (November 6).

Alright, that’s all for now. Not that my endorsement matters in any way, but I hope that tomorrow, the next President of the United States will be the current one. Let’s see if that happens.

You can find more background information on the 2012 presidential election in my previous posts, for instance here.

 

 

A Mere Two Days Until the 2012 American Presidential Election

On Tuesday, November 6, the 2012 presidential election will finally be decided. What is the latest state of affairs? The prospects of the incumbent, President Barack Obama, seem to increase towards the finishing line of this election cycle.

How Likely Is It That the Current POTUS (President of the United States) Will Also Be the Next?

The Princeton Election Consortium has calculated a 98.2 percent chance for Obama to be re-elected.

Statistician Nate Silver at the New York Times has calculated a 83.7 percent chance for Obama to win the Electoral College (November 2, 2012).

Nevertheless, polls do not amount to anything if voters do not show up at the voting booth or cast an absentee ballot. So what are the odds here? According to Gallup, voter turnout will be slightly lower than in 2008 and in 2004 (October 30, 2012).

Meanwhile…Robo-Calls, Commies Love Obama, and Voting Machine Software

While the chances of the Romney campaign are decreasing, there is no shortage of election shenanigans that may or may not be directly connected to said campaign (in some cases they are clearly not). Here are some examples of dirty campaign tricks of late:

Robo-Calls:

In Massachusetts, voters reported robo-calls encouraging them to vote on the wrong date, i.e. one day after the election.

Red Cross Annoyed By Romney Disaster Relief Campaign Stunt:

The Red Cross was not amused about the Romney campaign’s window-dressing of a rally as disaster relief effort through busing in canned goods in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy.

Abe Lincoln’s GOP Loves Black Voters:

A recent Super Pac ad tries to persuade African Americans to vote for Romney because the Republican Party freed the slaves—in the nineteenth century. While that is technically correct (Abraham Lincoln was a Republican), a quick glance at a quality American history textbook will reveal the historic realignments that have taken place in the American party system. Especially since the 1960s, the GOP, along with Southern Democrats (Dixiecrats), who soon joined the GOP, has deployed the Southern Strategy: appealing to white racism to peel off voters from Democrats. In short, the Republican Party of 1865 is not the Republican Party of 2012.

(Dead) Latin American Socialists and Communists For Obama:

In Florida, one of the important battleground states, the Romney campaign attempts to appeal to older anti-communist Cuban American voters in a Spanish-language ad by associating Obama with Fidel Castro (via his niece, who says she would vote for Obama), Ché Guevara (via a background picture from an EPA email featuring the famous portrait), and Hugo Chavez (who said that he would vote for Obama if he were American). In reality, the relationship between the actual socialist President of Venezuela, and Obama, who has been called a socialist by political opponents, has never been that cozy. Since July of 2010, there is no US ambassador in Caracas and no Venezuelan ambassador in Washington, respectively, because Chavez did not accept Washington’s appointee, due to his previous anti-Chavez remarks.

Voting Machines Get ‘Experimental Software Patches’:

In Ohio, another important swing state, Secretary of State Jon Husted plans to install “experimental software patches” on voting machines, which, due to a legal loophole, do not have to be certified in any way. Civil rights groups are worried about the potential for manipulation.

Vote For Romney Or Face Eternal Damnation:

All these prior arguments in favor of Romney may or may not help him win against Obama on Tuesday. But if that is not enough, there is still the biggest gun of American politics: the Christian God.

Not associated with the Romney campaign, but in support of him, are some clergymen. Their argument: Vote for Romney or face God’s wrath. Of course, they are not telling their flock whom to vote for—that would, in theory, endanger their tax-exempt status as a church. But their hints are not all that subtle either.

In September, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield, IL, wrote in an email to his parishioners that voting for a Democrat might “plac[e] the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”

In late October, another Roman Catholic Bishop, David L. Ricken of Green Bay, WI, wrote in an email to his parishioners that voting for a party supporting “intrinsically evil actions” including “homosexual ‘marriage'” (which Democrats support) “could put your own soul in jeopardy.”

Also in late October, former Republican presidential candidate and Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee narrated an ad framing the upcoming election as a “test of fire” wherein “[y]our vote will affect the future and be recorded in eternity.” You can watch it here:

Desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose.

You can find more background information on the 2012 presidential election in my previous posts, for instance here.

 

 

Round 4: Romney and Obama’s Third and Last Debate Covers Foreign Policy

Tonight (October 22, 2012), President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney hold their third and final debate, this time at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, and with a focus on foreign policy. During the last debate, Romney already attacked Obama’s foreign policy to some extent, for instance by (falsely) claiming that the president had not called the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 an act of terrorism—the respective transcript produced by the debate moderator proved Romney wrong on this allegation.

Topics that will certainly be on the agenda tonight: Iran’s nuclear program and relations with China. Other issues which I assume will not be discussed, even though they merit serious debate: the expanding drone wars under the current administration in the ‘war on terror,’ in particular so-called signature strikes, and the conscious decision of the justice department not to hold accountable the architects and enforcers of the torture regime in said ‘war on terror,’ which sets a precedent for future administrations. So let us see what the two candidates have to say.

[Update: They did talk about drones and Romney agreed with President Obama’s current policy.]

You can watch the debate here:

The complete final debate on YouTube:

The YouTube election hub also has a plethora of political videos here.

You can also watch the complete third Obama-Romney debate at the New York Times, which has a handy running transcript next to the video.

You can also watch the complete third Obama-Romney debate at the Washington Post, which has a handy running transcript next to the video.

2012 Election Central has a schedule of all 2012 debates here.

Fact-checking:

Fact check: Claims about Syria, Libya, Iraq scrutinized.” (USA Today, 10/23/2012)

Fact checking the third presidential debate.” (Washington Post, 10/23/2012)

Fact-checking Websites:

factcheck.org

politifact.com

Romney All Wet on Ships.” (FactCheck, 10/26/2012)

False Claims in Final Debate.” (FactCheck, 10/23/2012)

Fact-checking the third presidential debate.” (PolitiFact, 10/22/2012)

Fact-checking foreign policy.” (PolitiFact, 10/21/2012)

Fact-checking taxes in the presidential race.” (PolitiFact, 10/15/2012)

Presidential Debate Fact-Check and Updates.” (New York Times, 10/16/2012)

[Infographic and analysis] “Obama’s Numbers: Statistical measures of the president’s term to date.” (FactCheck, 10/08/2012)

How to Prime Your BS Detection Skills Before the Presidential Debates.” (Lifehacker, 10/03/2012)

Debate Coverage:

Post-Debate:

[Memes] “About Those Horses and Bayonets ….” (New York Times, 10/23/2012)

A Good Debate for Obama, But Can He Stop Romney?” (Atlantic, 10/23/2012)

Obama’s Two Most Revealing Moments In Last Night’s Debate.” (The New Republic, 10/23/2012)

Romney’s Big Navy Guru Made Millions From Building Ships.” (Wired, 10/23/2012)

Romney’s Final Debate Message: I’ll Be A Better Obama.” (Talking Points Memo, 10/23/2012)

The foreign-policy debate: A win for Obama.” (Economist, 10/23/2012)

[Memes] “Top 5 final-debate memes: ‘Horses and Bayonets,’ and more.” (The Week, 10/23/2012)  via @TheWeek

Obama Unlikely to Get Big Debate Bounce, but a Small One Could Matter.” (New York Times, 10/23/2012)

Obama wins final debate, but does it matter?” ( CNN, 10/23/2012)

Obama, Romney go on attack in final debate.” (USA Today, 10/23/2012)

Presidential debate 2012: 7 takeaways.” (Politico, 10/23/2012)

Obama and Romney Bristle From Start Over Foreign Policy.” (New York Times, 10/22/2012)

Romney Disappoints GOP Base.” (Mother Jones, 10/22/2012)

[Video] “Obama To Romney: The 1980s Called — They Want Their Foreign Policy Back.” (Talking Points Memo, 10/22/2012)

Pre-Debate:

5 Facts To Commit To Memory Before Tonight’s Foreign Policy Debate.” (Think Progress, 10/22/2012)

6 questions that will settle the election.” (Politico, 10/22/2012)

Foreign Policy Debate Puts Focus on Leadership.” (New York Times, 10/22/2012)

Obama vs. Romney: How they plan to win.” (Politico, 10/22/2012)

Presidential debate: 5 things to watch Monday.” (Politico, 10/22/2012)

German Language Debate Coverage:

Drittes Fernsehduell: Romney grenzt sich ab – gegen Obamas Vorgänger.” (FAZ, 23.10.2012)

Letzte TV-Debatte: Staatsmann Obama landet Punktsieg.” (Zeit Online, 23.10.2012)

TV-Duell : Obama punktet mit Souveränität.” (taz, 23.10.2012)

[Podcast] “Swingin’ America – Endspurt im Wahlkampf.” (hr2 Der Tag, 22.10.2012)

Countdown zur US-Wahl: Noch 17 Tage: Wie Twitter den US-Wahlkampf banalisiert.” (Malte Lehming, Tagesspiegel, 20.10.2012)

Background information:

[Podcast] “Obama Plans Another Campaign Marathon For Monday.” (npr, 11/05/2012)

[Podcast] “Red State Blue State.” (This American Life Episode 478, 11/01/2012) – This episode covers how the current hyperpolarized political climate in the US affects families and friends who find themselves in opposite political camps.

Democracy denied: Millions of Americans blocked from voting.” (Al Jazeera English, 10/28/2012)

A Comprehensive Timeline Of Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy Positions During The Campaign.” (Think Progress, 10/22/2012)

The Federal Bailout That Saved Mitt Romney.” (Rolling Stone, 08/29/2012)

[Podcast] “For Many Florida Ex-Cons, Voting Booth Is Off-Limits.” (npr, 10/22/2012)

U.S. Foreign Policy Data Roundup: Candidates and Issues.” (Gallup, 10/22/2012)

An update on the electoral map after the first presidential debate from Talking Points Memo (October 16, 2012):

[Infographic] Here you can find the electoral map from the New York Times.

3 states that may decide the election.” (Politico, 10/15/2012) – Ohio, Florida and Virginia

The Catholic ‘Swing’ Vote.” (Pew, 10/11/2012)

[Podcast] “Science and the 2012 Election.” (Point of Inquiry, 10/15/2012)  – A discussion about the candidates’ positions on matters of science

Debates: Leaked Debate Agreement Shows Both Obama and Romney are Sniveling Cowards.” (Gawker, 10/15/2012)

[Podcast] “All That Stuff Before The Debate.” (My History Can Beat Up Your Politics, 09/12/2012) – A discussion about the intensely scripted nature of presidential debates

[Video] “As Obama, Romney Hold First Debate, Behind the Secret GOP-Dem Effort to Shut Out Third Parties.” (Democracy Now, 10/03/2012)

Do the US presidential debates matter?” (BBC News, 10/03/2012)

Election 2012: Your Free Ticket to a Popular Stanford Course.” —Stanford University lets you watch a lecture series about this year’s presidential election and broader themes behind political campaigns in the US (via Open Culture)

First Debate Often Helps Challenger in Polls.” (New York Times, 10/03/2012)

[Audio] “How Politicians Get Away With Dodging The Question.” (npr, 10/03/2012)

[Podcast] “How Presidential Debates Work.” (Stuff You Should Know, 11/10/2011)

How Presidential Debates Work.” (HowStuffWorks, 10/13/2010)

[Memes] “2012 United States Presidential Election.” (Know Your Meme) – The Internet is even capable of exploiting the funny bits of presidential elections

German Language Background information:

Amerika wählt: Was sind die Swing States?” (FAZ, 06.11.2012)

[Podcast] “Harvard-Ökonom: US-Mittelschicht steht immer mehr unter Druck.” (Deutschlandradio Kultur, Ortszeit, 05.11.2012)

[Podcast] “Praise The Lord! Aber nur, wenn’s opportun ist.” (Deutschlandradio Kultur, Politisches Feuilleton, 05.11.2012) – Wie amerikanische Politiker Religion für den Wahlkampf nutzen

[Podcast] “USA vor der Wahl – wohin steuert die Supermacht?” (Deutschlandfunk Kontrovers, 05.11.2012)

Prognose zur künftigen US-Politik: So sieht Amerikas Zukunft aus.” (Spiegel Online, 04.11.2012)

[Podcast] “Romney versus Obama: Die USA vor der Präsidentschaftswahl.” (Deutschlandfunk, Hintergrund, 04.11.2012)

[Audio] “US-Wahlsystem verständlich erklärt.” (MDR Info, 02.11.2012)

[Podcast] “Sondersendung mit Rop Gonggrijp über die US-Wahlen und Wahlfälschung.” (Alternativlos Folge 28, 01.11.2012)

[Podcast] “Das Streben nach Glück – Anspruch und Wirklichkeit: Amerika vor der Wahl.” (Deutschlandradio Kultur Lesart, 28.10.2012) – Die Diskussionsrunde nimmt Bezug auf Mark Twains kürzlich nach hundert Jahren der Geheimhaltung veröffentlichten “Geheimen Biographie” sowie David Remnicks Obama-Biographie “Die Brücke – Barack Obama und die Vollendung der schwarzen Bürgerrechtsbewegung”, im Original “The Bridge – The Life and Rise of Barack Obama” (2010).

[Video/Podcast] “Brennpunkt USA – Eine intellektuelle Spurensuche.” (Schweizer Fernsehen, Sternstunde Philosophie, 24.10.2012) – In der philosophischen Sendung des Schweizer Fernsehens interviewt Barbara Blasch amerikanische Intellektuelle wie Noam Chomsky, Katja Vogt und Michael Walzer zur Lage der Nation kurz vor der Präsidentschaftswahl 2012. Auch als Audioversion im Podcast-Feed der Sendung.

Debattenkultur: Warum wir Amis keine kritischen Denker sind.” (Zeit Online, 02.10.2012)

 

Round 3: Romney vs. Obama, The Rematch

Tonight (October 16, 2012), President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney will have their second debate, this time at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. In their last debate, Romney came across better prepared and ‘won’ on style, not necessarily on substance. The big question concerning this debate is therefore: Can Obama be a match to Romney this time as a performer?

You can watch the debate here:

Here is the debate, courtesy of the YouTube Politics channel:

If you are short on time, here is the debate in 100 seconds, courtesy of Talking Points Memo:

The YouTube election hub has a live stream of the debates here.

You can also watch the complete second Obama-Romney debate at the New York Times, which has a nifty running transcript next to the video.

You can also watch the complete second Obama-Romney debate at the Washington Post, which has a nifty running transcript next to the video.

2012 Election Central has a schedule of all upcoming debates here.

Fact-checking:

Why The Charge That Obama Is ‘Anti-Business’ Is Ridiculous, In Three Charts.” (Think Progress, 10/22/2012)

At Last Night’s Debate: Romney Told 31 Myths In 41 Minutes.” (Think Progress, 10/17/2012)

Debate fact check: Hofstra presidential debate.” (Politico, 10/17/2012)

Debate fact check: Revisiting claims on jobs, education.” (USA Today, 10/17/2012)

Fact-checking Websites:

factcheck.org

politifact.com

Fact-checking taxes in the presidential race.” (PolitiFact, 10/15/2012)

Presidential Debate Fact-Check and Updates.” (New York Times, 10/16/2012)

[Infographic and analysis] “Obama’s Numbers: Statistical measures of the president’s term to date.” (FactCheck, 10/08/2012)

How to Prime Your BS Detection Skills Before the Presidential Debates.” (Lifehacker, 10/03/2012)

Debate Coverage:

All Post-Debate Polls Give Obama Clear Win.” (The Nation, 10/17/2012)

Analysis: With gloves off on TV, did rivals connect?” (USA Today, 10/17/2012)

‘Binders full of women’ meme spreads.” (Politico, 10/16/2012)

‘Binders full of women’: Romney’s four words that alienated women voters.” (Guardian, 10/17/2012)

Obama, Romney Campaigns Square Off in Debate Rematch.” (Wall Street Journal, 10/17/2012)

The second presidential debate: An aggressive rematch.” (The Economist, 10/17/2012)

Obama goes on offensive, turns debate with Romney into argument.” (Washington Post, 10/17/2012)

Second presidential debate: Six takeaways.” (Politico, 10/17/2012)

CNN Poll: Nearly half say Obama won showdown.“(CNN Political Ticker, 10/16/2012)

Romney stunned by debate moderator’s fact check on Libya attacks.” (The Raw Story, 10/16/2012)

5 Facts You Should Commit To Memory Before Watching Tonight’s Debate.” (Think Progress, 10/16/2012)

Debate Rules Bar Follow-Up Questions—From Everyone.” (Slate, 10/16/2012)

In second presidential debate, style is likely to trump facts.” (Los Angeles Times, 10/16/2012)

[Video] “[Green Party Candidate] Jill Stein Arrested Before Hofstra Debate, Campaign Reports.” (Huffington Post, 10/16/2012)

Presidential Debate: Five things to watch.” (Politico, 10/16/2012)

Town Hall Format Poses Risks for Obama and Romney.” (New York Times, 10/16/2012)

Candy Crowley’s role in debate questioned by Romney and Obama.” (Guardian, 10/15/2012) – Both candidates do not want follow-up questions from the debate moderator

Voters Divided Over Who Will Win Second Debate.” (Pew, 10/15/2012)

Voters Equally Favorable to Romney, Obama.” (Gallup, 10/16/2012)

German Language Debate Coverage:

[coming up]

Background information:

An update on the electoral map after the first presidential debate from Talking Points Memo (October 16, 2012):

[Infographic] Here you can find the electoral map from the New York Times.

3 states that may decide the election.” (Politico, 10/15/2012) – Ohio, Florida and Virginia

The Catholic ‘Swing’ Vote.” (Pew, 10/11/2012)

The Federal Bailout That Saved Mitt Romney.” (Rolling Stone, 08/29/2012)

[Podcast] “Science and the 2012 Election.” (Point of Inquiry, 10/15/2012)  – A discussion about the candidates’ positions on matters of science

Debates: Leaked Debate Agreement Shows Both Obama and Romney are Sniveling Cowards.” (Gawker, 10/15/2012)

[Podcast] “All That Stuff Before The Debate.” (My History Can Beat Up Your Politics, 09/12/2012) – A discussion about the intensely scripted nature of presidential debates

[Video] “As Obama, Romney Hold First Debate, Behind the Secret GOP-Dem Effort to Shut Out Third Parties.” (Democracy Now, 10/03/2012)

Do the US presidential debates matter?” (BBC News, 10/03/2012)

Election 2012: Your Free Ticket to a Popular Stanford Course.” —Stanford University lets you watch a lecture series about this year’s presidential election and broader themes behind political campaigns in the US (via Open Culture)

First Debate Often Helps Challenger in Polls.” (New York Times, 10/03/2012)

[Audio] “How Politicians Get Away With Dodging The Question.” (npr, 10/03/2012)

[Podcast] “How Presidential Debates Work.” (Stuff You Should Know, 11/10/2011)

How Presidential Debates Work.” (HowStuffWorks, 10/13/2010)

[Op-Ed] “Kill Lists and Giant Triplets: Obama and the Neoliberal Government.” (truthout, 09/08/2012) – A leftist critique of Obama’s neoliberal policies and continuities of the Bush-era “War on Terror.”

[Memes] “2012 United States Presidential Election.” (Know Your Meme) – The Internet is even capable of exploiting the funny bits of presidential elections

German Language Background information:

Das Streben nach Glück – Anspruch und Wirklichkeit: Amerika vor der Wahl.” (Deutschlandradio Kultur, 28.10.2012) – Die Diskussionsrunde nimmt Bezug auf Mark Twains kürzlich nach hundert Jahren der Geheimhaltung veröffentlichten “Geheimen Biographie” sowie David Remnicks Obama-Biographie “Die Brücke – Barack Obama und die Vollendung der schwarzen Bürgerrechtsbewegung”, im Original “The Bridge – The Life and Rise of Barack Obama” (2010).

Debattenkultur: Warum wir Amis keine kritischen Denker sind.” (Zeit Online, 02.10.2012)

October Halftime: And Now For Something Completely Similar

In the press landscape, the Biden-Ryan debate last week (October 11, 2012) was for the most part counted as a strong comeback for the Obama campaign, following the president’s lackluster performance against Mitt Romney the week before (October 3, 2012). Biden pointed out the glaring factual flaws of his opponents arguments. You can find some links detailing these in my last post here. So what is left for the Romney campaign between now and the second presidential debate tonight in Hempstead, New York (October 16, 2012)? For one thing, it is damage control. In an attempt at portraying himself as a compassionate conservative, as opposed to the long-time follower of Ayn Rand that he is, Paul Ryan went to a soup kitchen in northeast Ohio for a photo op showing him and his family cleaning some dishes. That did not go so well, as the artificiality of the whole maneuver was quite apparent:

Charity president: Paul Ryan “did nothing” at soup kitchen photo-op.” (CBSNews, 10/15/2012)

Charity president unhappy about Paul Ryan soup kitchen ‘photo op’.” (Washington Post, 10/15/2012)

According to the head of that apolitical charity, Ryan entered the soup kitchen without permission. And here is how he characterized what followed:

He [Ryan] did nothing. He just came in here to get his picture taken at the dining hall.

On top of that, the pots and pans Ryan and his family ‘cleaned’ for the photo op “did not appear to be dirty.”

As of October 13, 2012, Ohio leans slightly towards Obama (51% versus 46%), according to a PPP poll.

[Infographic] Here you can find the electoral map from the New York Times.

Round 2: Ryan vs. Biden (10 October 2012)

The second televised debate of the 2012 presidential elections is scheduled for tonight (Thursday, 11 October, 2012), featuring Vice President Joe Biden and challenger Paul Ryan. After the last debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, which a majority of commentators from all sides saw as a victory (at least on style) for Romney, it is going to be quite interesting to see, in my opinion, what debate strategy the Obama camp will choose this time around.

9 Ways to Watch the Vice Presidential Debate Online.” (Mashable, 2012/10/11)

C-SPAN has the debate here.

The YouTube election hub has a live stream of the debates here.

You can also watch the complete first Biden-Ryan debate at the New York Times, which has a nifty running transcript next to the video.

Here is the full debate, courtesy of the YouTube Politics channel:

Here is a brief update from Talking Points Memo about the state of public opinion polls before the Biden-Ryan debate (2012/10/10):

Fact-checking Websites:

factcheck.org

politifact.com

Veep Debate Violations: Ryan, Biden rough up the facts in their one and only meeting.” (FactCheck, 10/12/2012)

Fact-checking the vice presidential debate.” (PolitiFact, 10/11/2012)

Vice-Presidential Debate Fact-Checks and Updates.“(New York Times)

What Everyone Needs To Know Before Watching The VP Debate.” -Paul Ryans positions and actions prior to the debate, with linked sources. (Think Progress, 10/10/2012)

How to Prime Your BS Detection Skills Before the Presidential Debates.” (Lifehacker, 10/03/2012)

Debate Coverage:

[Op-ed] “Blame Obama For Libya, But Don’t Blame Bush For 9/11.” (Slate, 10/16/2012) – “[T]he Republican Party line [in 2002] was that anyone who accused the president of neglect or deceit was unpatriotic.”

Biden, Ryan Square Off on Foreign Policy, Economy in Debate.” (Wall Street Journal, 10/12/2012)

[Op-ed] “The Vice Presidential Debate: Joe Biden Was Right to Laugh.” (Rolling Stone, 10/12/2012)

Vice presidential debate: 7 takeaways from Danville.” (Politico, 10/12/2012)

6 Must-See Moments from the Vice-Presidential Debate.” (Daily Beast, 10/11/2012)

Biden Pins Ryan Down On Taxes: ‘Oh, Now You’re Jack Kennedy?’” (Talking Points Memo, 10/11/2012)

Biden v. Ryan: The Old Pro Takes On the Lying Kid.” (Alternet, 10/11/2012)

Joe Biden Addresses 47 Percent During Vice Presidential Debate.” (Huffington Post, 10/11/2012)

Joe Biden goes after Paul Ryan in lone VP debate.” (Politico, 10/11/2012)

Joe Biden’s Passion Trumps Paul Ryan at Vice-Presidential Debate” (Daily Beast, 10/11/2012)

[Video] “Woman At VP Debate Calls Obama A Communist.” (Talking Points Memo, 10/11/2012)

5 things to watch in VP debate.” (Politico, 10/11/2012)

Six Things to Watch For in Biden-Ryan Debate.” (New York Times, 10/10/2012)

German Coverage:

US-Wahlkampf: Biden punktet im TV-Duell gegen Ryan.” (Zeit Online, 12.10.2012)

TV-Debatte der Stellvertreter im US-Wahlkampf – Biden dominiert das Unentschieden.” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 11.10.2012)

Background information:

Pre-Debate, Biden, Ryan Share Lackluster Favorable Ratings.” (Gallup, 10/11/2012)

Vice Presidential Debates Rarely Influence Voters.” (Gallup, 10/10/2012)

[Podcast] “When Veeps Attack.” (My History Can Beat Up Your Politics, 10/07/2012) -A discussion of the history of vice presidents and their challengers in American presidential debates

[Podcast] “How Presidential Debates Work.” (Stuff You Should Know, 11/10/2011)

How Presidential Debates Work.” (HowStuffWorks, 10/13/2000)

German Language Background information:

Das Streben nach Glück – Anspruch und Wirklichkeit: Amerika vor der Wahl.” (Deutschlandradio Kultur, 28.10.2012) – Die Diskussionsrunde nimmt Bezug auf Mark Twains kürzlich nach hundert Jahren der Geheimhaltung veröffentlichten “Geheimen Biographie” sowie David Remnicks Obama-Biographie “Die Brücke – Barack Obama und die Vollendung der schwarzen Bürgerrechtsbewegung”, im Original “The Bridge – The Life and Rise of Barack Obama” (2010).

Debattenkultur: Warum wir Amis keine kritischen Denker sind.” (Zeit Online, 02.10.2012)

Scripted Reality: The 2012 TV Debates Between Romney and Obama

Tonight (October 3, 2012), the first TV debate between President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney in Denver, Colorado was will be broadcast on American TV and on the Internet.

2012 Election Central has a schedule of all upcoming debates here.

The YouTube election hub has a live stream of the debates here.

You can also watch the complete first Obama-Romney debate at the New York Times, which has a nifty running transcript next to the video.

Here is the debate divided into five parts, courtesy of the YouTube Politics channel:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

 

Fact-checking:

Suddenly Centrist: The New Moderate Mitt Romney.” (Think Progress, 10/10/2012)

The Lying Precedent.” (New York Times Editorial Page, 10/10/2012) – Not particularly about fact-checking per se, but a compilation of video clips, including ads from the Obama campaign, illustrating how Mitt Romney changes his political positions opportunistically throughout the campaign, from “severely conservative” to “moderate.”

Romney Wants Voters To Believe He’s A Moderate. It’s A Little Late For That.” (The New Republic, 10/08/2012) – Op-Ed arguing the same point as the New York Times editorial above.

At Last Night’s Debate: Romney Told 27 Myths In 38 Minutes.” (Think Progress, 10/04/2012)

Romney Goes On Offense, Pays For It In First Wave Of Fact Checks.” (npr, 10/04/2012)

Fact-checking Websites:

factcheck.org

politifact.com

Fact-checking the Denver presidential debate.” (PolitiFact, 10/03/2012)

How to get the facts during the presidential debate.” (PolitiFact)

Presidential Debate Fact-Check and Updates.” (New York Times)

How to Prime Your BS Detection Skills Before the Presidential Debates.” (Lifehacker, 10/03/2012)

Debate Coverage:

A Clash of Philosophies.” (New York Times, 10/04/2012)

Romney goes on offense, forcing Obama to defend record.” (Washington Post, 10/04/2012)

Romney’s Threat to Big Bird Sows Confusion Abroad, and Feeds It at Home.” (New York Times, 10/05/2012):

“Most Americans think public broadcasting receives a much larger share of the federal budget than it actually does [polls and data linked in article].”

Romney Promises To Cut Taxpayer Funding For PBS (But Says He Still Loves Big Bird).” (Forbes, 10/04/2012):

“That [funding for PBS through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)] [i]s less than 1% of the budget. Way less. It’s about 1/100th of a 1%.”

The federal budget in the fiscal year 2011 was $3.69 trillion, according to the New York Times.

Colorado presidential debate: 5 things to watch.” (Politico, 10/03/2012)

Obama and Romney, in First Debate, Spar Over Fixing the Economy.” (New York Times, 10/03/2012)

Obama-Romney Debate: Mitt Romney Stays Light On Detail.” (Huffington Post, 10/03/2012)

Pundits Hammer Obama’s Debate Performance.” (Huffington Post, 10/03/2012)

Romney Backs Away From Own Tax Plan.” (Talking Points Memo, 10/03/2012)

[Poll] “Romney Maintains Economic Edge Heading Into Debates.” (Gallup, 10/03/2012)

German Language Debate Coverage:

Präsidentschaftswahlkampf: Romney punktet im Fernsehduell gegen Obama.” (FAZ, 04.10.2012)

TV-Duell Obama Romney: Präsident ohne Passion.” (Zeit Online, 04.10.2012)

Background information:

[Podcast] “Science and the 2012 Election.” (Point of Inquiry, 10/15/2012)  – A discussion about the candidates’ positions on matters of science

[Podcast] “All That Stuff Before The Debate.” (My History Can Beat Up Your Politics, 09/12/2012) -A discussion about the intensely scripted nature of presidential debates

[Video] “As Obama, Romney Hold First Debate, Behind the Secret GOP-Dem Effort to Shut Out Third Parties.” (Democracy Now, 10/03/2012)

Do the US presidential debates matter?” (BBC News, 10/03/2012)

Election 2012: Your Free Ticket to a Popular Stanford Course.” —Stanford University lets you watch a lecture series about this year’s presidential election and broader themes behind political campaigns in the US (via Open Culture)

First Debate Often Helps Challenger in Polls.” (New York Times, 10/03/2012)

[Audio] “How Politicians Get Away With Dodging The Question.” (npr, 10/03/2012)

[Podcast] “How Presidential Debates Work.” (Stuff You Should Know, 11/10/2011)

How Presidential Debates Work.” (HowStuffWorks, 10/13/2000)

German Language Background Information:

Das Streben nach Glück – Anspruch und Wirklichkeit: Amerika vor der Wahl.” (Deutschlandradio Kultur, 28.10.2012) – Die Diskussionsrunde nimmt Bezug auf Mark Twains kürzlich nach hundert Jahren der Geheimhaltung veröffentlichten “Geheimen Biographie” sowie David Remnicks Obama-Biographie “Die Brücke – Barack Obama und die Vollendung der schwarzen Bürgerrechtsbewegung”, im Original “The Bridge – The Life and Rise of Barack Obama” (2010).

Debattenkultur: Warum wir Amis keine kritischen Denker sind.” (Zeit Online, 02.10.2012)

2012 Presidential Election: A Few More Weeks To Go, What Happened So Far?

With the 2012 Republican and Democratic party conventions behind a few weeks, and still some time to go until the actual presidential elections in November, let’s recapture what happened in the meantime.

After the Democratic National Convention, President Obama’s approval numbers increased slightly, a phenomenon known as the ‘convention bounce’ by pollsters.

Mitt Romney did not reap a convention bounce of that magnitude after the Republican National Convention.

How does the electoral map look after the conventions? Among the important swing states, Virginia and Ohio have become slightly more favorable to Democrats. That means 31 more electoral votes for President Obama.

Talking Points Memo explains (09/20/ 2012):

Read more here.

As Gallup reports, one in five swing state voters may change their vote on election day (09/21/2012).

According to a new CBS poll (09/26/2012), prospects look brighter for Obama at the moment in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida.

According to a new Washington Post poll (09/25/2012), Obama leads in Ohio and Florida.

Coverage of Ohio:

Ohio County A Historic Predictor Of State’s Vote” (npr, 09/29/2012)

Scramble For Ohio Has High Stakes For Romney” (npr, 09/29/2012)

At the same time, in important swing states like Florida or Ohio, a battle is fought over voter registration, with Republicans framing the issue as preventing voter fraud, while Democrats see it as an attempt at disenfranchising minority voters.

Florida’s voter purge explained” (Washington Post, 06/18/2012)

Voter ID laws: the Republican ruse to disenfranchise 5 million Americans” (Guardian, 08/10/2012)

Ohio Lawmaker’s Quest to Fight Voter Disenfranchisement” (PBS, 09/ 20/ 2012)

“GOP Quietly Hires Firm Tied to Voter Fraud Scandal for Work in Battleground States” (The Nation, 09/26/2012)

“RNC cuts ties to firm after voter fraud allegations” (Los Angeles Times, 09/27/2012)

As opposed to the situation in Germany, where there is a mandatory national ID (Personalausweis), which is used for identifying at the polling place, in the American system there is no such mandatory document. Citizens could so far identify with a host of other documents, such as driver’s licenses. Also, German voters do not have to register as supporter of a particular party prior to voting. Instead, they walk into the polling station, identify, and then cast their vote—nobody knows for whom. Thus, in the US, there is an incentive for parties to register as many voters for their side, and potentially to disenfranchise the other side’s supporters.

Here are developments in the Romney campaign, including amusing/worrying bloopers:

During a TV interview with ABC in mid-September, Romney estimated that a household income of $250,000 should be considered a “middle income,” one that would benefit from tax cuts, should he be elected president. In sharp contrast to Romney, the Census Bureau lists as a median income household those in the range of $50,000.

Still, as Gallup reports, one third of lowest income voters support Romney (09/18/2012).

On September 18, a secret recording of Romney at a fundraiser was leaked to Mother Jones magazine, in which Romney characterized 47% of Americans, which he believes are all Obama supporters, as “dependent on the government” and that his job was “not to worry about those people.” The day the recording was released, the Romney campaign put together an emergency press conference at 10:30 pm.

College students, for one, are not amused.

German Coverage:

US-Medien läuten Romneys politisches Ende ein” (Spiegel Online, 18.09.2012)

When the US Ambassador to Lybia and several embassy staff were killed in an attack by radical Islamists after an anti-Islam video went viral, Romney used the occasion to blame President Obama.

At a press conference, while discussing alternative energy sources, Romney praised Adolf Hitler’s idea of using liquified coal as a fuel source. This, of course, does not imply that Romney endorses any other of Hitler’s ideas, but might still be a somewhat unfortunate political move.

On September 19, while giving an interview to Spanish-language TV network Univision, Romney appeared to have tanned in order to appeal to Hispanic voters. Also, a Univision anchor stated that the Romney campaign demanded a favorable audience for the occasion.

On September 27, Mother Jones magazine published an old video of Mitt Romney as CEO of Bain Capital. In this flashback to the 1980s, Romney explains how Bain Capital “harvests” companies for profit.

And here is what happened in the Obama campaign:

Obama has difficulties in getting the approval of military veterans.

On September 23, Obama claimed in a TV interview that “Over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but 90 percent of that is as a consequence of” President George W. Bush’s policies and the recession.” Fact-checking website PolitiFact rates this as ‘false.’

Indian tribes, with more clout and money, find an ally in Obama” (Los Angeles Times, 09/24/2012)

Obama Against the World” (Mother Jones, 09/24/2012) – How world events beyond Obama’s control might influence his prospects for reelection

A videotape from 2007 of then-Senator Obama after hurricane Katrina saying “the people down in New Orleans, they don’t care about as much” was found. (Politico, 10/02/2012)

10 quotes that haunt President Obama” (Politico, 10/02/2012)

I will do my best to keep up with the news and post updates continuously.

The 2012 DNC Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina

Last week, the RNC finished its party convention in Tampa, Florida. Now it is the Democrats’ turn to present themselves to American voters, nominate their presidential candidate (same as the old), and convince them of their agenda. I will update this post as the convention develops.

Official website: http://www.demconvention.com

On youtube: http://www.youtube.com/DemConvention

Below you can find some of the big speeches given at DNC 2012.

Michelle Obama:

News Coverage:

Michelle Obama DNC speech: Obama’s life makes him understand” (Politico, 9/4/2012)

First Lady to Extol First-Term Record in Convention Kickoff” (New York Times, 9/4/2012)

First lady lauds Obama’s values, vision” (Washington Post, 9/4/2012)

The ‘New Obama’: Michelle Keeps Hope Alive” (New Yorker, 9/5/2012)

German:

Michelle lehrt Amerika die Liebe zu Obama” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 05.09.2012)

Julian Castro, Mayor of San Antonio:

News Coverage:

Julian Castro: Obama 2004 redux?” (Politico, 9/5/2012)

Charlotte energized by Michelle Obama, Castro” (Politico, 9/4/2012)

Who Is Julián Castro, the Democratic Convention Keynote Speaker?” (The Atlantic, 9/4/2012)

Julián Castro’s Impossible Task” (New Yorker, 9/5/2012)

Democrats appeal to women, Latinos, young people on first night” (Washington Post, 9/4/2012)

Democrats place gay marriage on convention platform” (USATODAY, 9/4/2012)

5 speakers to watch at the Democratic National Convention, Day 1” (Washington Post, 9/4/2012)

DNC 2012 Speakers and Keynotes in Charlotte, N.C.” (Politico, 9/3/2012)

Bill Clinton:

News Coverage:

Anatomy of a Speech: Bill Clinton” (New York Times, 9/5/2012)

Clinton Delivers Stirring Plea for Obama Second Term” (New York Times, 9/6/2012)

[Chart] “Conventional wisdom: A comparison of key words spoken by the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates during their convention speeches” (Washington Post, 9/6/2012)

In a Barn-Burning Speech, Bill Clinton Leaves Romney-Ryan Bleeding on the Ground” (Alternet, 9/5/2012)

Five Takeaways From Wednesday At The Democratic Convention” (NPR, 9/6/2012)

[Podcast] Common Sense with Dan Carlin #236 – “Trapped by the Inflexible Mind” (9/6/2012)—”Jobs are the main subject of both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, but Dan explains why both parties refuse to discuss the real reason good jobs are in such scarce supply.”

German:

Parteitag in Charlotte: US-Demokraten nominieren Barack Obama” (Zeit Online, 06.09.2012)

‘Lasst Obama im Amt’” (taz, 06.09.2012)

Barack Obama:

News Coverage:

Obama convention speech: Downsizing the dream” (Politico, 9/7/2012)

Why Obama’s Speech Was Dull” (The Atlantic, 9/7/2012)

Barack Obama Speech At 2012 Democratic National Convention: Perseverance Replaces Change” (Huffington Post, 9/6/2012)

In Democratic convention speech, Obama vows ‘our problems can be solved’ — with more time” (Washington Post, 9/7/2012)

Obama convention speech: Downsizing the dream” (Politico, 9/7/2012)

Obama Presses Plan to Revive Economy at Convention” (Wall St. Journal, 9/7/2012)

German:

[Podcast] “Obama gegen Obama? Wahlkampf eines entzauberten Präsidenten” (hr2 Der Tag, 06.09.2012)

Joe Biden, Vice President:

Fact-checking of DNC speakers:

Clinton And Other Dems Did Some Cherry-Picking, Fact Checkers Say” (NPR, 9/6/2012)

Democrats Unleashed Some ‘Dubious Or Misleading Claims,’ Fact Checkers Say” (NPR, 9/5/2012)

Democratic Disinformation from Charlotte” (PolitiFact, 9/5/2012)

Day 2: More Convention Canards” (PolitiFact, 9/5/2012)

Bill Clinton’s night at the Democratic convention” (PolitiFact, 9/5/2012)

On final night in Charlotte, Obama takes the stage” (PolitiFact, 9/6/2012)

A Selection of Speakers at the RNC Convention in Tampa, Florida

The Republican National Committee just officially nominated Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential candidate. But besides Romney and Paul Ryan, a variety of conservative speakers were trying to get their message across. Here is a selection of speeches, including the big one by Romney. I also collected some commentary and fact-checks of Romney’s and Ryan’s speeches.

Mitt Romney:

Commentary on Romney’s nomination:

Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital” (Rolling Stone, 8/29/2012)

Mitt Romney, Capitalist Saint” (The Atlantic)

“Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech – RNC as it happened” (Guardian)

“Mr. Romney Reinvents History” (New York Times)

“Romney’s Speech: The Softer Side of a Hard-Right Campaign” (Mother Jones)

Romney Vows to ‘Restore’ U.S.” (Wall Street Journal)

“The presidency: So, Mitt, what do you really believe?” (Economist)

“Why 2008 Obama is Mitt Romney’s best friend” (Washington Post)

German language coverage of Mitt Romney and the RNC Convention:

“Die Krönung ist vollbracht” (taz, 31.08.2012)

Was von Romneys Getöse übrig bleibt” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 31.08.2012)

Nach dem Republikaner-Parteitag: Romneys simple Botschaft” (FAZ, 31.08.2012)

Romney gegen Obama: Schlacht um Amerika” (FAZ, 31.08.2012)

Podcast (.mp3): “Gläubig, konservativ und stinkreich? Obamas Herausforderer” (hr2 Der Tag, 28.08.2012)

Du gehörst hier nicht hin” (Über dem Umgang des RNC mit Anhängern von Ron Paul) (taz, 30.08.2012)

“God, Guns and Gays” (taz, 29.08.2012)

Fact-checking of Romney’s speech:

FACTS MATTER: The Ultimate Guide To Mitt Romney’s Convention Speech” (Think Progress)

“Facts Take a Beating in Acceptance Speeches” (New York Times)

Romney’s Big Night” (Fact-Check.org)

Mitt Romney page at PolitiFact

Paul Ryan:

Commentary on the factuality of Ryan’s speech:

“6 Worst Lies In Paul Ryan’s Speech” (Think Progress)

“Did Paul Ryan bend the truth? And does it matter?” (Washington Post)

The Caucus: Fact-Checking Ryan’s Convention Speech” (New York Times)

How The Media Soft-Plays Paul Ryan’s Lies: ‘Factual Shortcuts,’ ‘Perceived Inaccuracies,’ ‘Questionable Claims’” (Think Progress)

Paul Ryan Has Some Fibs He Just Isn’t Willing To Give Up” (Slate)

Ryan’s Most Outrageous Claim” (Think Progress)

“Ryan’s VP Spin” (Fact-Check.org)

The Paul Ryan Speech: Five Hypocrisies” (New Yorker)

“Wednesday night at the GOP convention: the running mate and more” (PolitiFact)

Why the GOP loves Ryan’s ‘deceiving’ speech” (Politico)

Paul Ryan page at PolitiFact

German language coverage of Paul Ryan:

“Alles Obamas Schuld!” (taz, 30.08.2012)

Ann Romney:

Reince Priebus, RNC Chairman:

John Boehner, House Speaker:

Chris Cristie, Governor of New Jersey:

Clint Eastwood:

Commentary:

If Clint Eastwood is Mitt Romney’s Secret RNC Speaker, It’ll Be No Surprise” (Think Progress, 8/30/2012)

Politics of Clint Eastwood’s empty chair” (CNN, 9/3/2012)

(German): “Wahlkampf für US-Republikaner – Clint Eastwood spricht mit leerem Stuhl” (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 31.08.2012)

Condoleezza Rice:

GOP Primary All-Stars:

Rick Santorum:

Mike Huckabee:

Newt & Callista Gingrich:

News Coverage of the RNC Convention In General:

Five Takeaways From Tuesday At The Republican Convention” (NPR, 8/29/2012)

Key Speeches From the Republican National Convention” (New York Times, 8/29/2012)

The 2012 Party Platforms

Party platforms outline how a political party sees itself at a certain moment in time. They are a document of what the party in question wants to stand for. In the US, political parties publish their platforms every four years prior to the presidential election.

News coverage:

Party Platforms Are Poles Apart in Their View of the Nation” (New York Times, 9/4/2012)

Here is the 2012 Democratic Party platform.

Key Points:

  • support of same-sex marriage (for the first time)
  • opposition to privatization of Medicare
  • opposition to privatization of Social Security
  • language dropped that says Jerusalem is the capital of Israel (because Palestinians also claim it as future capital)UPDATE (9/5/2012): Democrats put back in the notion that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and a reference to God, after three (!) rounds of not-so-clear voice votes. Watch it here:http://youtu.be/bjdj6K3yoR8

    This happened after intense criticism from the Romney camp. The official US position is that the final status of Jerusalem is still a matter of negotiations. This is also why the US and other states have their embassies in Tel Aviv. Barack Obama, however, has voices his belief that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.  Within the context of US elections, the new Democratic position is to be seen as an attempt to court conservative Jewish voters and Christian Zionists.”Democrats add Jerusalem and God to 2012 platform” (The Raw Story, 9/5/2012)
    Democrats reinstate “God” and Jerusalem language in party platform” (CBS, 9/5/2012)
    Democrats Restore Language Declaring Jerusalem Israel’s Capital” (New York Times, 9/5/2012)

The Republican Party discussed is currently discussing their latest political platform at the RNC convention in Tampa, Florida. It is available here not yet available.

Prior to its release, the New York Times already has some information concerning its content here and here. It is generally considered to be more conservative than previous platforms.

Key Points:

  • banning all forms of abortion
  • banning pornography (read about it here)
  • opposing Shari’a law (read about it here)

Over at the American Presidency Project, you may read the 2012 party platforms and earlier documents. Here is the 2008 GOP platform, and here is the 2008 Democratic platform. And even though elections mostly come down to a contest between Democrats and Republicans, there are third parties in the US, and they do have platforms, too.

Read the 2012 platforms of the Green Party here, Constitution Party here, and of the Libertarian Party here.

While observers are waiting for Mitt Romney’s big acceptance speech at the GOP convention, here is a flashback to April of this year, when Romney won the Republican primaries:

UPDATE: You can see Romney’s acceptance speech and more on the RNC convention in this blog post.

The Texas GOP Versus Critical Thinking in Schools

Texas State Capitol: North side by night. By Kumar Appaiah (http://www.flickr.com/photos/akumar/4195756025/) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

It is probably a truism to say that these days there is extreme partisanship and division between the different political camps in the US. There are broad ideological differences regarding the right way to govern the country. But sometimes, things happen that seem to go way beyond mere disagreement on a particular policy matter.

Exhibit A:

In their 2012 party platform, the Texas GOP argues against teaching students critical thinking skills in public schools.

The full section reads as follows:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

You can read about HOTS here and here (pyramid chart), and about Outcome-Based Education here.

Higher Order Thinking Skills, based on the works of educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom (1956), are a taxonomy that establish a pyramid of thinking skills, from basic to advanced levels:

  • knowledge
  • comprehension
  • application
  • analysis
  • synthesis
  • evaluation

I fully admit that I am not familiar with the minute details of the educational system(s) in the US, but I was truly amazed that something I had assumed would be valued by most people regardless of their politics, would be so overtly attacked by one of the major political parties, if only on a state level.

Indeed, a student armed with critical thinking skills will ask many questions. And it is possible that, when presented with facts and the mental tools to evaluate them, students may arrive at different conclusions than their parents regarding any given issue at some point in the future. But such is the price of education. Is it not a good thing to be able to make up one’s mind independently?

The Argument From Authority and Democracy

As the Fallacy Files blog explains, the appeal to authority, also known as argumentum ad verecundiam (argument from respect/modesty (Latin)) is a logical fallacy structured in the following way:

Authority A believes that P is true. Therefore, P is true.

Note that the authority is not required to present any good reasons for its position.

I assume that the Texas GOP, perhaps instinctively, correctly understands that a citizenry trained in critical thinking will be less susceptible to arguments from authority. In the beginning, these arguments are necessarily coming from parents, but later in life the crowd of authority figures widens to include other public figures, such as the local clergy, news anchors, or politicians. Certainly, this makes it more difficult for authorities to defend the state of affairs, be it social or political. If the targets of their messages ask “Why do you think this?,” then the authority in question is forced to justify their position. “Do as I tell you, because!” becomes increasingly unconvincing.

That might be an unpleasant annoyance for those without good arguments, but it is necessary in a free and open society.

For a democratic society, an uncritical citizenry poses a fundamental problem. If citizens do not develop the mental capabilities to evaluate statements or actions by public figures, then their ability to hold elected representatives or any other authorities accountable diminishes.

Progressive American educational reformer John Dewey (1859 – 1952) formulates this argument in his Democracy and Education (1916) (Chapter 7) in the following way:

The superficial explanation is that a government resting upon popular suffrage cannot be successful unless those who elect and who obey their governors are educated. Since a democratic society repudiates the principle of external authority, it must find a substitute in voluntary disposition and interest; these can be created only by education.

Dewey also notes that education in a democracy is a prerequisite of social mobility. Preventing the education of the broader population, on the other hand, works towards establishing a hierarchical, static, class-based society, and is thus intrinsically undemocratic:

A society marked off into classes need be specially attentive only to the education of its ruling elements. A society which is mobile, which is full of channels for the distribution of a change occurring anywhere, must see to it that its members are educated to personal initiative and adaptability. Otherwise, they will be overwhelmed by the changes in which they are caught and whose significance or connections they do not perceive. The result will be a confusion in which a few will appropriate to themselves the results of the blind and externally directed activities of others.

A 2011 study1 by Georgetown University seems to confirm this notion from a century ago for the near future, as far as predictions of the future based on current trends go. According to its findings, by 2018 almost two thirds of all occupations in the United States will require a college degree. On the face of it, Higher Order Thinking Skills as conceptualized by Bloom are essential to mastering college. Reading fairly complex texts and extracting concepts and ideas are going to be extremely difficult without some form of prior training. But as Dewey’s argument illustrates, the ability to think critically has implications far beyond mere personal future economic prospects.

Anti-Intellectualism in the 2012 Presidential Primaries

During the 2012 Republican Primary, Rick Santorum lambasted President Obama as a snob for wanting to enable more Americans to get easier access to some form of higher education. Pushing for this would be an elitist endeavor and out of touch with the average American. He also claimed that college education would lead to religious students losing their faith,2 which he, as an ultra-conservative Catholic, disapproves of.

But expanding higher education to larger parts of the population rather than limiting it to a tinier part is, by definition, neither snobbish nor elitist. What can be observed in this piece of political theater is an anti-intellectual populist gesture promoting the antagonistic image of an overeducated (liberal) elite in order to mobilize the resentment of blue-collar voters.

On a closer look, it becomes quite clear that for many of the the major players in the GOP, by whom, for the purpose of this argument, I just mean potential presidential candidates, agitating against higher education is but a political prop.

The hypocrisy on the part of Santorum, most of all, is that he himself holds several college degrees (a B.A. in political science, an M.B.A., and a law degree). In fact, most major Republican contenders at the time held advanced college degrees. Ron Paul has an M.D., Newt Gingrich has a Ph.D., and the victor of the 2012 Republican presidential primaries,  Mitt Romney, has an M.B.A. and J.D. from Harvard. 3

How serious can you take a person who tries to discourage you from pursuing higher education because only sinister elites would be interested in such a thing, only to tell you the next moment that they themself are heading for the ivory tower? Not very much, in my opinion.

Even the most famous Texas politicians are no strangers to higher education. POTUS #43, George W. Bush, who was, on the one hand, depicted by his opponents as intellectually challenged, but on the other hand also forged his own public image as anti-intellectual, down-to-earth Texas cowboy, holds an M.B.A. from Harvard and a B.A. in history from Yale. It does not get much more ivy league than this.

The idea that democracy’s prospects are not bright when education is held in low regard is not new. Today’s Texas GOP might revisit the advice of POTUS #3, Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826):

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Reform

On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s health care reform, stating that the individual health care mandate was a legal form of taxation. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. enabled the 5 to 4 vote by joining the liberal side of the court.

Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.
– Chief Justice John Roberts

This article from Politico has a handy chart that shows how the health care law looks like after the ruling.

The cause of repealing ‘Obamacare’ had been a key mobilizing issue for the GOP and the Tea Party Movement since the law was enacted in 2010.

Here is an incomplete collection of news articles on the Supreme Court’s ruling:

NY Times here, Washington Post here, Huffington Post here, Wall St. Journal here, Politico here and here (key quotes from the ruling), SCOTUSblog here, Think Progress here, USA Today here, Daily Beast here.

Politico’s analysis of Justive Roberts’ motivations can be read here. In brief, some professional observers think that the conservative-leaning Roberts’ surprising decision has to do with creating his own legacy, a “Roberts Court,” and deflecting critics’ arguments about a Supreme Court characterized by conservative judicial activism.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who had introduced an almost identical individual health care mandate in Massachusetts as Governor, continues to campaign on repealing ‘Obamacare’ despite the fact that he had earlier advocated for the Massachusetts health care reform to become a model for national health care reform.

The Obama administration highlights this inconvenient fact in their campaign ads against Romney.

One of Romney’s arguments is that “Obamacare adds trillions to our deficits and to our national debt.” The fact-checking website PolitiFact rates Romney’s statement as ‘false.’

At Politiwhoops, a website of the Sunlight Foundation, you can read all the tweets deleted by politicians who were against the health care reform. Some of them falsely tweeted that the Supreme Court had repealed the individual mandate.

American Studies Leipzig Graduate Conference 2012

Tomorrow I will be going to American Studies Leipzig’s third graduate conference, organized by the second year MA students.

This year’s topic is “Global Games, Global Goals: Locating America in the Cultural, Social, and Political Realms of Sports.”

As the website describes it, the conference

will explore different notions of sports in a forum integrating students and professionals. Since sports touches upon many aspects of life such as politics, media, popular culture, history, and health, it offers a myriad of possible research foci. In fact, American sports and sport lifestyle(s) influence cultures around the world while simultaneously being subject to influences from other cultures as well. The study of sports within an American context is thus not limited to the national level: Sports organizations, sports gear enterprises, and athletes of all possible types operate internationally, making the topic of sports highly relevant on a global scale.

As a ‘veteran’ conference organizer (I was part of the organizing team in 2010), I am of course very excited to see how this year’s MA class manages to pull it all off. I am confident in this year’s organizing team, as the previous conferences went quite well.

I am also curious about the presentations and certain to learn about many aspects of sports that I had not thought about earlier. If I find the time, I will put up some more posts after the weekend.

John C. Hulsman on the Upcoming 2012 U.S. Presidential Election and U.S. Foreign Policy

This Tuesday [March 27, 2012] I attended a talk on “The Upcoming U.S. Presidential Elections and U.S. Foreign Policy” by Dr. John C. Hulsman, who is a Senior Research Fellow at the The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS). The talk was held at the Bibliotheca Albertina, the main university library in Leipzig, and presented by the AmCham Forum of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany.

Hulsman, who described himself as a left-leaning Republican, has worked for a number of think tanks, among them the bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, the conservative Heritage Foundation, and the German Council on Foreign Relations.

In his talk, Hulsman argued that five issues were crucial to current developments in US foreign policy:

  • the decline of the US economy
  • the decline of the European economies
  • the Arab Spring
  • rising powers such as India and China
  • the question of an Iranian nuclear program

Elections and Political Views in the US

Concerning the elections, Hulsman said that polls show that more more Americans consider themselves conservatives [He was probably talking about this Gallup poll].

Independent Voters in the US

Presidential elections in the US, Hulsman mentioned, are won by courting independent voters, who are neither attached to Democrats or Republicans.

These independents are disaffected and are most concerned about the economy.

In 2008, independents were largely for Barack Obama. Before the crash of investment bank Lehman Brothers, however, John McCain was ahead of Obama in the polls with independents.

In 2010, independents swung back to Republicans, mainly because of opposition to the Obama administration’s health care reform bill.

To independents, Hulsman explained, the health care reform was another ‘entitlement,’ which they dislike, and they felt that their main concern—the economy—was neglected.

[Here is a Pew poll from April 2012 on general election preferences.]

Economic Troubles Illustrated

To illustrate the severity of economic troubles in the US, Hulsman gave these examples:

One third of Americans have no retirement savings. When the Social Security system was initiated, life expectancy was much lower than today. During the 1990s, many who owned real estate, such as a house, felt this was securing their retirement.

One fourth of all homes in the US are now ‘underwater,’ meaning that homeowners owe the bank more in mortgage than the house is worth on the market. The house thus loses saving potential and becomes a drag for the owner. Hulsman said that the Hayekian idea (after classical liberal Austrian economist Friedrich August von Hayek) would have been to just leave the keys and get out of the house.

One fifth of all savings were wiped out during the financial crash that started in late 2007. Hulsman stressed that in a federal system such as that of the US, it is important to examine the respective figures for state and local levels to get the full scope of the financial crisis’ impact.

If the US economy would not grow by eight per cent, it would not be able to cushion these problems.

Anger at Washington and the Labor Market

Hulsman explained that part of the general dissatisfaction of voters with the Washington establishment is the great disparity of experiences in the labor market.

Jobs within the Washington political class are generally very secure, and it is hard to get fired. On the other hand, regular employees and workers get fired very easily in the US, compared to Germany.

The economic difficulties of the US, Huntsman noted, might produce a spillover effect with ramifications for foreign policy, due to constraints on the federal budget. The high costs of war and nation-building [see below] come under closer scrutiny in this climate.

The Republican Primaries in Early 2012

In January 2012, Mitt Romney was twenty points ahead with independents in the polls.

This time, more Republican primaries allocate their delegates proportionally.

By doing so, they adopt the Democratic system of primaries, wherein two candidates fight for the nomination.

Splitting the Republican Vote with Culture Wars

A problem for Republicans in their relationship with independent voters is their focus on ‘culture war’ issues such as abortion, contraception, and the separation of church and state. For instance, Rick Santorum has put the issues of contraception and state-church separation front and center in his campaign. This does not fit well with independents, who worry most about the economy.

As of March 2012, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are splitting the conservative vote. This is beneficial to Mitt Romney, who is considered the more socially moderate Republican candidate.

Romney, Hulsman noted, does not like to talk about social issues. He is simultaneously forced to move to the right o social issues in order to appease conservatives, while trying to avoid alienating independents.

Hulsman bets his money on Romney becoming the Republican nominee in the end.

Obama’s campaign narrative to counter Romney will be that he stopped the ‘Great Depression.’

Partisan Differences in Foreign Policy

How would Republicans and Democrats differ on foreign policy?

Hulsman said that Republicans are always to the right of Obama and the Democrats, for instance on the issue of Israel.

Current Challenges in US Foreign Policy

Dealing with a Multipolar World

An ongoing general challenge for the US is how to deal with the new multipolar world, exemplified by the rise of countries such as Brazil, India, China, South Africa, or Malaysia.

The European financial crisis the tensions with Iran are examples of issues that the US cannot control alone. This is a new situation for the US and makes the Obama administration nervous.

The Arab Spring

Hulsman was skeptical about the long-term success of the Arab Spring, saying that he viewed it in Burkeian terms. History shows, he said, that the most well-organized groups prevail in revolutions. In Egypt, this would be the Muslim Brotherhood and the army. While Hulsman was optimistic about the situation in Tunesia, he had a very bleak outlook about developments in Syria.

Obama’s foreign policy style, Hulsman held, is basically one that focuses on limiting losses.

Iran, the US, and Israel

Hulsman noted that the US government realizes its own security interest does not equal Israeli security interest, even if both are close allies.

To illustrate this point, Hulsman explained that the US and Israel have different red lines in considering military action against Iran.

For Israel, an Iranian capability to build a nuclear weapon would be a reason to attack. For the US, the actual possession of nuclear weapons would be that flashpoint.

In Israel, the hawkish faction around Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Avigdor Liebermann want a military strike, but cannot get a majority of the population behind them without US support.

In addition, several former Mossad chiefs have publicly argued against attacking Iran.

In the US, public opinion is such that 75% strongly support Israel, but also do not want a unilateral strike. In Israel, the number concerning a unilateral strike is similar.

If Iran would at some point in the future have a nuclear weapon, nuclear proliferation would spread throughout the Middle East, especially the gulf states.

A bombing of Iran would have terrible results, according to Hulsman. If Israel attacked Iran unilaterally, that would perhaps set back the Iranian nuclear program for a year. But the high price to pay would be that hope for peace in the Middle East would be gone for a generation. Already now, an Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz has caused a spike in oil prices.

Currently, Washington talks to Tel Aviv to convince the Israelis to get more time to let the sanctions on Iran work.

Hulsman told the audience to behold the coming September, because the chance of a military strike at this time would be fifty-fifty.

Afghanistan

Concerning Afghanistan, Hulsman, who is opposed to neoconservatives, held that it was a case of failed nation building, with a cost of $ 1 million per soldier per year. He said that failed nation builders always claim they need more time and money.

The US, the EU, and Global Influence

On the US as a global ordering power via the EU, Hulsman said that if the EU wants to play a greater role, it needs to spend more on defense. He said that the US cross-subsidizes European defense, while European nations spend very few on defense, and more on their social systems.

Here is a video from the US Embassy in Germany featuring John C. Hulsman talking about the 2012 elections:

Yay, I am Going to the Leipzig Book Fair (Leipziger Buchmesse)

The Leipzig Book Fair (Leipziger Buchmesse) is one of the biggest of its kind in Germany (the other heavyweight being the Frankfurt Book Fair), with a long tradition going back to the mid-eighteenth century. This year it takes place from March 15 to March 18.

According to the official booklet (Strukturdatenbroschüre 2012, available on the official website), there will be over 2,000 exhibitors from 36 countries this year. In 2011, 163,000 visitors, among them 45,000 trade visitors were attending. Not too bad!

As a Leipzig humanities graduate looking for a job, this seems like a good place to go. I will buy me a ticket for the whole four days and immerse myself in the experience.

During the past years, I had sporadically been visiting some reading events, which are scattered all across town at various venues in Leipzig during the book fair. Until now, I did not fancy going to the fair ground directly because I thought it would be much too crowded. I shall see first hand this time.

I am particularly interested in Friday, March 16, which is scheduled as Career Day (Karrieretag). There will be quite a few talks on the state of the publishing industry and career opportunities. I hope to get a few ideas and talk to some professionals in the field. Yes, this will be my attempt at networking. Wish me luck!

When I get back from the action, I will write some more posts about my impressions.