Posts tagged ‘usa’

3 August 2010

Elena Kagan and international law: a European moment

Every now and then, “Europeans” become a united entitiy, marvelling at something in US American politics. This week’s European moment for me concerns the recent confirmation hearings of Elena Kagan, discussed in an editorial in today’s New York Times.

At one point, Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican of Iowa, noted with scorn that Harvard Law School, where Ms. Kagan had been dean, required first-year students to study international law. Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican of Oklahoma, asked why Ms. Kagan thought it was acceptable to use foreign law to interpret the Constitution, which she retorted was almost never the case. Senator Jon Kyl, a Republican of Arizona, summed it up: “I’m troubled by it,” not because foreign law would create a United States precedent, but “because it suggests that you could turn to foreign law to get good ideas.”

Heaven forbid. Looking  a-b-r-o-a-d  for good ideas.

Tags: , ,
5 November 2008

Election word train

The New York Times’ interactive word train shows voters/readers/users’ emotions during election day.

What One Word Describes Your Current State of Mind?

Throughout Election Day, readers submitted the words that best described their moods. This page updated hourly with the most popular choices.

2 October 2008

McCain and Obama on Russia

US observers react to comments made by McCain and Obama on Georgia during the presidential debate.

For Edward Goldberg in the Washington Times, the drastic over-simplification of the conflict in South Ossetia is irresponsible:

McCain’s ‘sloganeering’ on Georgia irresponsible

U.S. citizens basically have only two choices in elections – simplicity rules. But the issues facing America are nuanced and complicated. And nowhere is this more true than in foreign policy.

The situation in Georgia and the Caucasus is a prime example. How easy it was for Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, to reduce a complex problem to simple sloganeering when he stated, “We are all Georgians.” The immediate implication was that Georgia is the current equivalent of Cold War Berlin.

But this is not only a misreading of history and a misunderstanding of where Russia is today in its historic cultural conflict between westernization and despotism. It is also an example of irresponsible sloganeering from someone who wants to lead the United States.

Patrick Shirak on not only described the two candidates’ presentation of the conflict to the US voting public as ‘over-simplified’ but also as ‘dead wrong’:

McCain & Obama Are Both Wrong on Georgia

The next American president, together with the efforts from European allies, must address failed strategies of the past in order to prevent the West (and Georgia for that matter) from stumbling into an expanded war in the Caucasus.

After watching the first presidential debate between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, one of the only lasting thoughts on my mind was how over-simplified they present the ongoing conflicts in Georgia to the American public, and how dead wrong they both are in seeking to address them. […]

The conflict that erupted in South Ossetia in August, very well could have started in Abkhazia earlier in the year.  These regions have been involved in two very unique secession struggles with the central government in Tbilisi since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  The fact that these regions continue to provide sparks of violence in the volatile Caucasus is testament to the failure of international and Georgian policies towards them.

The attempts to reunite Georgia according to its Soviet borders have over the last fifteen years have focused on 1) isolating South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the outside world, 2) refusing to recognize the legitimate concerns of the local populations, 3) incorrectly addressing the conflict as solely and primarily between Russia and Georgia, and by 4) stubbornly following dogmatic policies long after they have already shown themselves to be failures.

The next American president, together with the efforts from European allies, must address these failed strategies of the past in order to prevent the West (and Georgia for that matter) from stumbling into an expanded war in the Caucasus.

With thanks to Johnson’s Russia List for the texts.

27 September 2008

Applied discoursology

Applied discoursology posted on sweet-indiana‘s livejournal blog:

*Republican Sociology 101*

If you’re a minority and you’re selected for a job over more qualified andidates, you’re a token hire.
If you’re a conservative and you’re selected for a job over more qualified candidates, you’re a game changer.

Black teen pregnancies? A crisis in black America.
White teen pregnancies? A blessed event.

Grow up in Hawaii and you’re exotic.
Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers and you’re the quintessential American story.

If you name your kid Barack, you’re unpatriotic.
If you name your kid Track, you’re colorful.

A Democrat who picks a VP without fully vetting the individual is reckless.
A Republican who doesn’t fully vet is a maverick.

If you are a Democratic male candidate who is popular with millions of people, you are an arrogant celebrity.
If you are a popular Republican female candidate, you are energizing the base.

If you are a younger male candidate who thinks for himself and makes his own decisions, you are presumptuous.
If you are an older male candidate who makes last minute decisions you refuse to explain, you are a maverick who shoots from the hip.

If you are a self-made man who recently finished paying off school loans, you are an elitist, out of touch with the real America.
If you are a legacy graduate of Annapolis, married to money, and don’t know how many homes you own, you are one of us.

If you attend a church on the south side of Chicago, your beliefs are extremist.
If you believe in creationism and don’t believe global warming is man made, you are strongly principled.

If you kill an endangered species, you’re an excellent hunter.
If you are raped and have an abortion, you’re a murderer. (And you had to pay the police for your own rape kit.)

If you spend 3 years as a community organizer growing your organization from a staff of 1 to 13 and your budget from $70,000 to $400,000; become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review; create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new African American voters; spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor; spend nearly 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people and becoming chairman of the state Senate’s Health and Human Services committee; then spend nearly 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of nearly 13 million people, sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works, and Veteran’s Affairs committees; and manage a multi-million dollar campaign; you are woefully inexperienced.

If you spend 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with fewer than 7,000 people, then spend 20 months as the governor of a state with 650,000 people, you’ve got the most executive experience of anyone on either ticket.

14 September 2008

The Fox Effect

Sarah Palin again. Rather than the CNN Effect, perhaps its better to call it the Fox Effect. In her ABC interview, Palin linked Iraq to the 9/11 attacks in the US. Despite a complete lack of supporting evidence, it seems that this is still common understandig in the US. A Harris poll of US citizens in October 2004 found that:

– 62 percent believe that Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al Qaeda (a claim which Vice President Cheney has made more than President Bush).

More surprising perhaps are the large numbers (albeit not majorities) who believe claims which the president has not made, and which virtually no experts believe to be true:

– 41 percent believe that Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001.
– 38 percent believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded.
– 37 percent actually believe that several of the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11 were Iraqis.

An in-depth analysis of a series of polls conducted in 2003 by the Program on International Policy (PIPA) at the University of Maryland and Knowledge Networks found three significant misperceptions among the US public:

– 48% incorrectly believed that evidence of links between Iraq and al Qaeda have been found,
– 22% that weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, and
– 25% that world public opinion favored the US going to war with Iraq.

The polls also found that the level of misperception correlated to the main source of news. 80% of Fox news viewers voiced at least one of these three misperceptions:

So, if the CNN Effect leads policy makers, the Fox Effect leads viewers who elect politicians… and sometimes apparently politicians themselves.

5 September 2008

RNC and BBC World

BBC World reporting on the Republican National Convention. About 8pm Berlin time.

Good long piece: television news tackling new trends in journalism by inviting two bloggers into the studio. One Democrat blogger and one Republican (balance is still key in the journalistic epistemology). So far, so good. Interesting though, that despite the length and breadth of the comments (go Sarah Palin), there was not a word — no question, no blogger comment – on the protests accompanying the RNC, nor was there any mention of the journalists, bloggers, videomakers, etc. arrested during the convention. Wonder if The Daily Show mentioned those?

4 September 2008

Democracy in America

A double move. On the one hand, the country widely lauded for protecting free speech and democracy is arresting and manhandling journalists, bloggers and videomakers — at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minessota. On the other hand, that same country has one of the most active, well-developed and co-ordinated network of activists ready to stand up and do something about it. Even if the mainstream media are largely ignoring the issue.

Within 24 hours, over 35,000 people signed’s letter

to demand that press intimidation cease immediately and that all charges against the media workers be dropped.

They’re now looking to reach 50,000 signatures.

2 September 2008

Amy Goodman arrested

Amy Goodman – host of Democracy Now! – and other journalists and photographers were arrested in St. Paul yesterday, as they were covering protests at the (US) Republican National Convention. (Update: seems Goodman and Democracy Now! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar have been released)
FreePress has a form you can fill in to ‘demand that press intimidation cease immediately and that all charges be dropped’. Your message will be delivered from the freepress website to:

  • St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman
  • Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner
  • St. Paul City Attorney John Choi
  • Host Committee of the Republican National Convention suggests this text:

Dear [Decision Maker],

I strongly condemn the arrests and harassment of journalists covering the Republican National Convention. We call upon St. Paul officials to free all detained journalists and drop all charges against them. These include arrests made during police raids in the days prior to the convention and, on Sept 1, of Associated Press photographer Matt Rourke, Democracy Now! anchor Amy Goodman and her two colleagues Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar.

Independent journalists have been targeted, pepper-sprayed and held at gunpoint during these raids. We call on the mayor and local authorities to rein in these aggressive and violent tactics.

Arresting and detaining journalists for doing their jobs is a gross violation of free speech and freedom of the press. Journalists must be free to do their jobs without intimidation.