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Transatlantic Obsessions

Europeans and Americans should mind their own business. That's the main thesis of watchblogs for Anti-Americanism and French-bashing.
Blogs like Davids Medienkritik complain that the German media is obsessed with America's real and imagined wrongdoings, while blogs like SuperFrenchie complain about the American media's obsession with France's domestic politics. So, I guess, it is time to acknowledge that both Europeans and Americans have their obsessions about their distant relatives on the other side of the Atlantic. Prejudices and unfair reporting is not unique to one side, as some people sometimes seem to claim. It is not rocket science to come to this conclusion, but I guess it serves as a good reminder.
Still, it remains weird and unfortunate that the German media is soo obsessed with the United States and that the US media is soo obsessed with France. Both country's media outlets would do good to reduce the obsessions on some silly topics and cover more important issues like poverty in our own countries and around the world, wars and conflicts in Africa, how to increase energy efficiency etc.

Two relevant quotes from the watchblogs: Flocon asks in SuperFrenchie: "Will you please mind your own business?"
The recent presidential elections in France have been a renewed opportunity for most of the American MSM to display a permanent feature that is to be found in many articles reporting on our country: an obsession which translates into an incessant set of criticisms about how France is run, particularly its economy. Above all, the 35-hour workweek, the 5-week paid vacation and the free and high-quality healthcare and educational systems seem to be particularly unbearable to those many journalists, columnists and reporters who also seem to have trouble understanding why the labor market is regulated, why workers are entitled to social rights and protections, and even sometimes are allowed to go on strike.
Likewise, Ray D. has listed some "Pet issues common in German media coverage of the United States" in Davids Medienkritik:
# Perceived American religiosity.
# Perceived American obsession with guns and violence.
# The death penalty.
# The perceived excess and superficiality of American capitalism and (non)culture (i.e. fat people, the super rich, SUVs, fast-food, M-TV/hip-hop culture, Hollywood, corporate scandals, buy-outs and "excessive" profits.)
# Perceived social inequality in the United States (i.e. amerikanische Verhaeltnisse, poor Americans are starving and freezing to death or at least struggling with 2-3 jobs and no health insurance while the rich live it up. Perception that America has no social safety net or a woefully inadequate social safety net.)
# Perceived American unilateralism/exceptionalism (i.e. Iraq, Kyoto, ICC, Guantanamo)
# Perceived American "hurrah" patriotism or "hyper" patriotism (i.e. flag-waving).
# Perceived American paranoia/overreaction about terror and obsession with security and the "war" on terror and the perceived willingness of Americans to sacrifice key civil liberties (the Patriot Act has become a favored target) and take extrajudicial actions involving torture, renditions, etc.
# The perception that the Bush administration controls (or at least dominates) the media and can somehow intimidate media into following the party line. The perceived view that there is a lack of diversity of opinion in US media and that FoxNews, talk radio and blogs are the menacing conservative vanguard of what all US media are becoming or have already become. (i.e. US media are "gleichgeschaltet" or in lock-step.)
# Anything that casts a negative light on the US military (i.e. Abu Ghraib, trials of US troops, bombings or killings of civilians real or imagined).
# Anything that casts a negative light on the Bush administration.
# Iraq is a disaster-quagmire-catastrophe-debacle perhaps unparalleled in human history. Iraq = Vietnam = defeat and humiliation for America, the US military and Bush.
# The perception of the US as an imperial hegemon out to expand its global power and military-industrial complex while using democracy as a convenient (yet false) excuse to do so. Oil = blood = Halliburton = war.
I do not fully understand the irrational obsessions with the US and France. I sort of know why it is popular, but I do not fully understand the feelings.
Besides, I also do not fully understand why soo many Americans and French are interested in reading about the latest Anti-American headline or the latest French-bashing comment every single day. No, I am not envious of the huge readership of Medienkritik and SuperFrenchie, but I simply fail to fully understand the huge interest into such single topics. Anti-Americanism and French bashing are pretty boring to me: The same magazines and the same politicians make the same stupid statements. Why do I want to read about (more or less) the same stuff every single day?

Germany's Most Important Trading Partners in 2006

Germany's Federal Statistical Office:
The most important countries of destination for German exports in 2006 – as in the previous year – were France, the United States and Great Britain. German commodity exports to France had a value of EUR 86.1 billion (share of 9.6% in total German exports), those to the United States EUR 78.0 billion (8.7%) and those to Great Britain EUR 65.3 billion (7.3%).
Germany is not just exporting a lot of goods, but also a lot of its citizens: In 2006 the largest emigration wave out of Germany took place since 1954. Switzerland, the United States, Austria and Great Britain are the most popular destinations. So far I have only found German language articles about the latest statistics: Financial Times  Deutschland and Statistisches Bundesamt

Americans Appreciate France

Watching America has translated a Figaro article:
Gone are the days of Francophobia and “with us or against us” on Iraq. For 80 percent of Americans polled in a survey conducted by the French-American Foundation - an NGO dedicated to strengthening Franco-American relations - it is “very important” or "somewhat important” to maintain good relations with France over the next few years. But a significant majority (62 percent) say they are unaware of how the Presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy will affect ties between Paris and Washington.

Jack Bauer for President and John McLane for VP

Joseph Farah, the editor of World Net Daily, is another right-winger, who believes that what works in a TV series will work in reality as well. A quote from his editorial in WorldNetDaily [via Sadly, No!] criticizing John Edwards:
How about we decide as a nation to win? What if we decided today to kick the butts of our enemies – and then leave? I'm not talking about a little "surge" in military forces in Baghdad, mind you. I'm talking about taking the handcuffs off our troops. I'm talking about Jack Bauer-style interrogations of captured enemy combatants. I'm talking about carpet-bombing the rug makers in Persia who are manufacturing the explosive devices killing out troops. I'm talking about getting our hands dirty to achieve victory.
Bruce Willis' fourth Die Hard movie will be released on June 27th. Let's see whether John McLane will replace some of the Jack Bauer worship. Or the fans have to recruit Jack and John for the 2008 presidential elections. Continue reading "Jack Bauer for President and John McLane for VP"

Germany Confronts the United States and Russia

The Moderate Voice quoted the New York Times earlier this week:
In unusually harsh language, Bush administration negotiators took issue with the German draft of the communiqué for the meeting of the Group of 8 industrialized nations, complaining that the proposal "crosses multiple red lines in terms of what we simply cannot agree to."
This "unusually harsh language" apparently does not stop Merkel: "Germans prepare to fight U.S. on climate change," writes the International Herald Tribune on May 27th:
Germany and some of its partners in the Group of 8 leading industrial economies are bracing for a major conflict with the United States at a summit meeting next week, with the Bush administration expected to block a declaration on global warming, European officials said over the weekend. (...) Merkel will hold talks with the U.S. House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, on Tuesday in Berlin in which climate change will be one of the main issues. Pelosi, who recently established a new House committee on energy, said she wanted to find "common ground" over energy with the Bush administration. Pelosi, making her first trip to Europe since her election, said she wanted "to keep the door completely open to working with the president on the issue of energy independence and global warming," according to The Associated Press. The Europeans have great hope that the Democrats in Congress will take a much more aggressive attitude toward climate warming.
Is the above mentioned hope in the Democrats justified or wishful thinking?

"Germans enter new phase in relations with Russia," headlines the International Herald Tribune:
But Merkel's tense exchanges with Putin over human rights and other contentious issues at a Europe-Russia summit meeting last week underscore how much has changed - at least in tone.
Continue reading "Germany Confronts the United States and Russia"

Atlantic Review in May

Earlier this month, the Atlantic Review wrote about these issues:

A Socio-Physical Look at Transatlantic Relations:
Europeans are taller than Americans
Berliners are faster than New Yorkers
Germans are as fat as Americans

Germany:
"Germany Rediscovers the US as a Partner"
Those Evil Anti-Semitic Germans
Minimum Wage in Germany and the United States
Germany has Europe's most Dirty Power Plants

Anti-Europeanism and Anti-Americanism:
America Has Become "Politically Radioactive"
Anti-Europeanism
International Conference about the Collapse of Europe
The Collapse of Western Civilization
Four Myths About Transatlantic Relations

US Domestic Issues:
Muslims in America
Tom Tancredo in Republican Debate on Torture: "I'm looking for Jack Bauer"

Military Strategy:
Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan: Germany's Defense Minister Criticizes US Policy
Are the US Rules of Engagement too "Trigger Happy"?

Iraq War:
German Intellectuals "flawed reasoning" behind the Support of the Iraq War
Retired British General: UK and US Must Admit Defeat and Leave Iraq

International Economics:
Drug Traffickers Prefer the Euro
Wolfowitz and the U.S. Right to Appoint the World Bank Presi-dent

US Foreign Policy:
Democrats Authorize Iraq War Funding to Increase Minimum Wage
Joseph Nye Wants a Smarter Superpower

The Collapse of Western Civilization

I have recently written in the Atlantic Review about an incredibly smart, international conference devoted to the "Collapse of Europe?", which will take place in California next month. As payback, Alex Harrowell discusses "The Disunited States: America’s Collapse?" in A Fistful of Euros. Who is going to collapse first? :-)
European Strategic Headquarters, WSI Brussels Blog, and the The Moderate Voice weigh in as well.

Democrats Authorize Iraq War Funding to Increase Minimum Wage

CNN about the comprise between Republicans and Democrats:
Congress passed the first increase in the federal minimum wage since 1997 late Thursday as part of the measure for supplemental funds to fight the war in Iraq. The minimum wage portion of the legislation provides for a increase - over a two-year period - to $7.25 an hour from the current $5.15.
Scot W. Stevenson explains the issue of the US minimum wage in his German language Blog USA Erklärt, which was just nominated for the prestigous Grimme Online Award. Congratulations, Scot! There are several categories. Users can vote for the Publikumspreis here.

Germany does not have a statutory minimum wage, but the issue is debated. Euro 6.50-7.50 are in the discussion. The Atlantic Review wrote about it.