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Praise for President Bush in German Paper

In his column "America, you do it better" about the immigration debate, the Washington D.C. correspondent of the Financial Times Deutschland describes President Bush's immigration policy as even more courageous than the German Green party's position:
Doch wo in Europa rechte wie linke Regierungen fast unisono Missmut über Spaniens Masseneinbürgerungen äußerten, findet die Legalisierung Illegaler in den USA auch im rechten Lager mächtige Fürsprecher - vorneweg den Präsidenten, einen Rechten, der in der Einwanderungspolitik einen Kurs fährt, der in Deutschland selbst manch Grünem zu mutig wäre.
Thomas Klau compares German and American attitudes to immigration and concludes that Germany can learn a lot from the US how to successfully integrate immigrants. His column in German, translation by Google, via Apocalypso.
The German media is frequently accused of Anti-American bias, which is often correct. However, all articles concerning the integration of immigrants that I have read have been praising the U.S. criticizing the German track record.

Mas Protestas: What Connects Immigration and US-Latin-American Politics

It was the textbook example of agenda setting: As soon as President Bush restarted the debate over (illegal) immigration, the majority of US-Americans considered the matter of greater importance than the war in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of US citizens and non-citizens, legal and illegal, demonstrated on the streets from Washington D.C. to Washington State, often broadening the protest to include anti-war and anti-Bush statements. The fact that 461 bills concerning immigration and immigrants are currently pending in 43 state legislatures underlines that this is a smouldering issue, ready to be roused before the midterm election.
In his article Latin America's Left Turn in the May/June 2006 edition of Foreign Affairs the former foreign minister of Mexico, Jorge G. Castañeda, links the US immigration debate to its and Europe's policies towards Latin America:
Continue reading "Mas Protestas: What Connects Immigration and US-Latin-American Politics"

Immigration and Naturalization Reform in the U.S. and Germany

Edit Copy has a round up of the press coverage of President Bush's Oval Office address on immigration on Monday.
Immigration policy reform has been a controversial issue lately, especially in the U.S. South. Some liberals seem to be concerned that the proposed guestworker program will not give immigrants a fair chance of citizenship, while some conservatives consider it tantamount to an amnesty for illegal immigration. Yet some business- oriented conservatives favor the guest worker program, while labor oriented liberals oppose immigration in general because they worry about depressed wages for low income Americans.
In recent weeks, several US newspapers have pointed to Germany's guestworker program as an example of failed integration and social problems. The Atlantic Review's earlier post already mentioned Fareed Zakaria's piece in the Washington Post. Colin Nickerson wrote a good article about the German guest worker program in the Boston Globe (via Dialog International). However, both Nickerson and Zakaria and others failed to acknowledge the changes in the German immigration policy and the modernization of the nationality law in 2000. German laws are now more similar to U.S. laws than before. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior:
As of 1 January 2000, a child born in Germany to non-German parents automatically acquires German citizenship at birth. The principle of citizenship by place of birth (jus soli) was introduced with the Act to Amend the Nationality Law of 15 July 1999 and is subject to the following conditions: that at least one parent had lived legally in Germany for at least eight years prior to the birth, and that at the time of the birth, that parent had a permanent residence permit. In this way, approximately 191,000 children of non-German parents had acquired German citizenship in addition to that of their parents by the end of 2004. (...) The modernization of nationality law has also made it much easier for foreigners to become naturalized German citizens: They are eligible for naturalization after having lived legally in Germany for eight years if they have a permanent residence permit, declare their allegiance to the free and democratic order, are able to support themselves and their family members, and have not been convicted of any criminal offences.

Germany Sends Country Band to Eurovision Song Contest

Germans voted for the country band Texas Lightning to represent Germany at the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday. 39 European countries (including Israel) participate. The contest will take place in Athens. Some 300 million people watch it (incl. online) and millions cast their votes nationally by phone. Announcing the votes takes ages and is a comical must-see. Texas Lightning's song "No No Never" about never leaving a partner has been in top of the German charts and is better than most of Germany's previous Eurovision Song Contest contributions.
This should give some food for thought to those who think that Germans dislike cowboys, country music and Texas.
The band is based in Hamburg in the North of Germany. The song was written and is sung by Jane Comerford, who was born in Australia, but has lived in Hamburg for 25 years and teaches music at Hamburg University.
Texas Lightning's bilangual homepage contains much more information. Youtube has the video.
UPDATE: Due to popular demand here are the links to their CD at Amazon.com and Amazon.de.
UPDATE: Texas Lightning only got the 15th place. Unfortunately, Europeans prefered the horror rockers from Finnland.

Books About the Bush Administration Reviewed by NYT

New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani:
In recent months a floodlet of books has been published about President Bush, his administration and the war in Iraq. They range widely in perspective: there are books by reporters, by administration insiders and by counterterrorism and economic experts; books with conservative, liberal and nonpartisan points of view; books that offer a wide-angle window on the administration; and books that zero in on particular aspects of the war in Iraq. Yet taken together with earlier volumes, these books create a cumulative and, in many respects, surprisingly coherent portrait of the Bush White House and its management style. Authors as disparate as the Reagan administration economist Bruce Bartlett, the New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, the Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes and the New York Times reporter James Risen point to ways in which this administration has discarded past precedent, and illuminate its penchant for circumventing traditional processes of policy development and policy review. (...) Virtually every book about the war in Iraq -- whether by a reporter, or a military, intelligence or Coalition Provisional Authority insider -- is replete with examples in which expert advice was ignored or rebuffed by the administration.
Continue reading "Books About the Bush Administration Reviewed by NYT"

Looking at Success in the Middle East and Worrying about US Isolationism

Writing for the National Review Online, Victor Davis Hanson discusses whether the seven states in the Greater Middle East have become more or less of a threat since 9/11. He concludes that the situation is messier, but better than before:
Few argue that Afghanistan or Iraq is worse off than when under the Taliban or Saddam. Nor is Syria in a stronger position. Despite their respective nuclear and petroleum deterrence, both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are ever more sensitive to the dangers of Islamic radicalism. Libya no longer poses the threat of using WMD against its neighbors and is less likely to fund international terror. Iran is the wild card - closer to success in obtaining the bomb, but closer as well to becoming isolated by international pressure and the events that it cannot quite control across the border in Iraq.
Hanson worries about increasing isolationism due to the Bush administration's "unpopular work of trying to restore hope to the Middle East", while "the aloof Europeans pose as the moderate alternative":
A new strain of what we might call punitive isolationism is back ("more rubble, less trouble"), in which we should simply unleash bombers when evidence is produced of complicity in attacks against Americans, but under no circumstance put a single soldier on the ground to "help" such people who are "incapable" of liberal civilized society.
The hard Right is candid in its pessimistic dismissal of American idealism and worries that a new muscular Wilsonianism will lose the ascendant Republican majority and betray conservative values. The Left buys into the neo-isolationism since it means less of an "imperial" footprint abroad and more funds released for entitlements at home - as well as a way of tarring George Bush and regaining Congress.
A Pew and Council on Foreign Relations survey from November 2005 "finds a striking revival of isolationist sentiment among the general public":
Fully 42 percent of Americans say the United States should "mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own." That represents a sharp increase since 2002 (30 percent), and is on par with the percentage expressing that view during the mid-1970s, following the Vietnam War, and in the 1990s, after the Cold War ended.

Good and Bad News for the Bush Administration at the Domestic Front

A firm victory and a tough questioning for President Bush were mirrored by the two front-page articles of the New York Times on May 11th: The good news for the administration: With a 54-44 vote, the Senate has approved a 2-year extension for Mr. Bush's tax cuts until 2010. "The tax bill, which President Bush is expected to sign as quickly as possible, could set the stage for budgetary heartburn in the years ahead," comments the author, Edmund L. Andrews:
Renewing all those tax cuts again in 2010 would cost hundreds of billions of dollars a year, posing excruciating budget choices for the next president as the nation's baby boomers become eligible for billions of dollars in Medicare and Social Security benefits. (…) A permanent solution, most experts say, would require an overhaul of the tax code, but neither Mr. Bush nor Congressional leaders want to touch the issue this year. The overwhelming share of the tax cuts the Senate voted to extend will flow to the wealthiest taxpayers. People earning $1 million a year would save about $42,700, and reap about 22 percent of the total tax cut, according to the Tax Policy Center, a research group in Washington. People earning $40,000 to $50,000 a year would save about $47 and receive less than 1 percent of the benefits.
But while the GOP rejoiced about this Senate decision, President Bush came under pressure over a new media report on alleged phone surveillance of American citizens at home: 
The president sought to defuse a tempest on Capitol Hill over an article in USA Today reporting that AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth had turned over tens of millions of customer phone records to the N.S.A. since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. (...) The N.S.A. had created an enormous database of all calls made by customers of the three phone companies in an effort to compile a log of "every call ever made" within this country. The report said one large phone company, Qwest, had refused to cooperate with the N.S.A. because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer information to the government without warrants.
The report, the NYT continues, "has rekindled the controversy about domestic spying." As indeed it did: both weekly newsmagazines, Time and Newsweek took up the issue on their front page. And according to the latest MSN poll, 53 percent of Americans think the NSA's surveillance program "goes too far in invading people’s privacy," while 41 percent see it as a necessary tool to combat terrorism.

Endnote from Joerg: Germany has its own spying scandal. According to Deutsche Welle, a confidential parliamentary report said that the German Intelligence Service BND had
spied on far more journalists working for German publications than was previously known and had recruited reporters to spy on their colleagues in order to get to the source of damaging articles. The BND's activities reportedly dated from the early 1980s until as recently as last year. (...) Some of Germany's most prestigious news organizations including the weekly Der Spiegel have admitted in the wake of the affair that some of their staff worked for the BND and provided information on colleagues from other publications as recently as last year. (...) Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a former federal justice minister and member of the opposition free-market liberal FDP likened the affair to the methods of the Stasi, the secret police of former Communist East Germany.

Germany's Outgoing Ambassador to the U.S. discusses the War on Terrorism

After five years as Germany's ambassador to the US, Wolfgang Ischinger is concerned about the potential of a clash of civilisations:
An even more complex challenge confronts us: radical Islam and the likelihood of even greater terrorist threats and a potential for escalating political, cultural and religious tension between the West on the one hand and the Muslim world on the other.
In his farewell article in the Washington Post Finding Unity On Terrorism (March 2006), Ambassador Ischinger seems to strongly criticize U.S. policy:
The dream of transforming the entire region by getting rid of Saddam Hussein and creating democracy through elections has turned out to be elusive. In Iraq, Iran, Egypt and the Palestinian territories, recent elections have actually tended to strengthen radical political groups. While the very holding of elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories is a success, these developments have so far not contributed to regional stability -- on the contrary.
But then he argues:
In short, there is more than enough fuel available in the region to further stoke the radical fire. What is new is that the battleground of this emerging larger conflict will most likely not be in the continental United States, as was the case on Sept. 11, but rather in the European-Mediterranean space: Europe, or Europe's back yard. What is also new is the element of personal fear beginning to descend upon Europeans -- as it descended upon Americans on Sept. 11. This is the fear inspired not only by terrorist train bombings in London and Madrid but by political assassinations in the Netherlands and, more recently, the dramatic escalation of the cartoon controversy in Denmark.
The German embassy provides more information about Dr. Ischinger's five years of service in Washington D.C.  Germany's new ambassador to the United States is Dr. Klaus Scharioth. His latest post was State Secretary of the Foreign Office. Ambassador Ischinger has held many high-ranking government positions as well. He worked closely with President Clinton's Balkan envoy Richard Holbrooke on the Dayton Peace Accords.