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Plutocracy: US Media Concerned about the Political Influence of the Super Rich

Conventional wisdom used to be that Europeans envy the rich, while Americans hope to emulate them. Now, Americans are increasingly concerned about rising inequality and the influence of the tiny elite of the super rich.

Plutocracy is a very popular topic of discussion in the US media at the moment. I am quite surprised.

It can't be a coincidence that even mainstream and center-right publications like Foreign Affairs, The American Interest and The Atlantic write about it extensively right now:

Continue reading "Plutocracy: US Media Concerned about the Political Influence of the Super Rich"

Arizona Shooting Victim Was a 9/11 Baby

Making a tragedy even more sad, the NY Times reports:

Christina Green was on the student council of her elementary school, so on Saturday her mother's friend thought she might enjoy seeing government in action: the local congresswoman meeting with constituents outside a supermarket near Christina's home.

"I allowed her to go, thinking it would be an innocent thing," said the girl's mother, Roxanna Green, 45.

It did not turn out that way. A gunman shot Representative Gabrielle Giffords, leaving her in critical condition, and his fusillade killed six people, including Christina, a 9-year-old who loved animals and volunteered at a children's charity.

She was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and she was proud of it, her mother said, because it lent a grace note of hope to that terrible day. "It was an emotional time for everyone in the family, but Christina's birth was a happy event and made the day bittersweet," her mother said in a telephone interview from their Tucson home.

Christina, who was born when the family was living in West Grove, Pa., was one of the 50 "Faces of Hope" representing children from 50 states who were born on Sept. 11. Their images were printed in a book, with some of the proceeds going to a Sept. 11 charity.

Stop Reading Tom Friedman: Reason #354 and #355

I am sure, I am preaching to the choir here: Friedman is totally overrated..

Dan Drezner: "Psssst... Tom Friedman... texting is really not the problem"

Salon: "The War Room Hack Thirty is a list of our least favorite political commentators, newspaper columnists and constant cable news presences, ranked roughly (but only roughly) in order of awfulness and then described rudely. Criteria for inclusion included writing the same column every week for 30 years, warmongering, joyless repetition of conventional wisdom, and making bad puns." (HT: Andrew)

ENDNOTE: Needless to say, the Economist is always a great read and the best adult magazine. So many English language publications wrote this week that Germany "ended" the military service. The Economist's newsletter got it right: "Germany is to suspend military conscription from next July. It will remain in the constitution but the move ends what has been a cornerstone of post-war German identity."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ecological-Industrial Complex

Environmental policies produces more inequality than neoliberal ones, says Malte Lehming in the Wall Street Journal. He works for Der Tagesspiegel, which has published the provocative German original (HT: Ava). He acknowledges German leadership in the green industry:

In 15 years, according to a government-sponsored study, green technology will overtake the automobile industry as Germany's core industry. A multi-billion-dollar market has developed, and Germany is the leader in many emerging branches, with a worldwide market share in green technology of around 16%. Some 1.5 million Germans already work in the green industry.

This progress, however, comes at the expense of the working classes:

The Greens like to portray themselves as fighting against the excesses of capitalism. Now it's clear that the ecological-industrial complex increases inequality more than neo-liberal policies ever could.

Meanwhile a very different situation in the United States, home of the so-called "military industrial complex." The midterm elections are bad for America's green industry and the future of the US economy in general, writes Carnegie Fellow John Judis in The New Republic. His article on the Lost Generation is among the most negative assessments of the Republican gains at Congress:

America's challenge over the next decade will be to develop new industries that can produce goods and services that can be sold on the world market. The United States has a head start in biotechnology and computer technology, but as the Obama administration recognized, much of the new demand will focus on the development of renewable energy and green technology. As the Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans understand, these kinds of industries require government coordination and subsidies. But the new generation of Republicans rejects this kind of industrial policy. They even oppose Obama's obviously successful auto bailout.

Instead, when America finally recovers, it is likely to re-create the older economic structure that got the country in trouble in the first place: dependence on foreign oil to run cars; a bloated and unstable financial sector that primarily feeds upon itself and upon a credit-hungry public; boarded-up factories; and huge and growing trade deficits with Asia. These continuing trade deficits, combined with budget deficits, will finally reduce confidence in the dollar to the point where it ceases to be a viable international currency.

Strong stuff! Both articles!. Germans are screwed in the short run, Americans in the medium run? And in the long run we are all dead. Speaking of which: Is Obama a Keynesian?

Obama Uses anti-Americanism in Election Campaign?

First Gerhard Schroeder was accused of using anti-Americanism to win an election. Now the British Telegraph's Toby Harnden claims that Obama echoes Europe's anti-Americanism to win the midterm elections: 

Bill Clinton spoke like a Good Ol' Boy from the Deep South, ate junk food and enjoyed trashy women. He was clever, but he did not look down on people. Obama, by contrast, has become a parody of the Ivy League liberal smugly content with his own intellectual superiority and pitying the poor idiots who disagree with him. It is an approach that shares much with the default anti-Americanism of British and European elites, who love to mock the United States as a country full of gun-toting, bible-clutching morons. (.)

Joining the Europeans in mocking ordinary Americans for their supposed idiocy may play well at big-dollar fund-raisers. In adopting this as a political strategy, however, the Democrats could be the ones who end up looking stupid.

WTF? No wonder the article received more than 400 comments since Saturday.

"Rally to Restore Sanity" and the "March to Keep Fear Alive"

Jon Stewart is getting better and better. He is going to stage a rally in Washington DC against extremists on both sides of the political spectrum. And Stephen Colbert wants to keep fear alive. Very funny video below, after about the first minute of blabla. 

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Anti-European Schadenfreude Rising?

When Foreign Policy featured an article on Anti-Europeanism in the United States as "Today's FP" cover, I got intrigued, but I was disappointed when I read this article Guardian columnist Simon Tisdall, which currently is FP's most read piece of the week. Old arguments about the Iraq war debate and last year's Obama trips to Europe.

Here are the more interesting paragraphs regarding the reason for Anti-European attitudes:

Fear, envy, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism, cultural inferiority-superiority complexes, trade, political and military rivalries, and America's quest for identity all fed anti-European feeling as the new country sought to differentiate itself from the old countries whence most of its people came. Many of these phenomena remain relevant today.

"Expressing one's anti-European sentiment can be a way of building up and displaying one's American identity and patriotism," said Patrick Chamorel in a European University Institute study published in Italy in 2004. "Anti-Europeanism has always been part of American exceptionalism, which defined itself in contrast to European history, politics, and society."

It would be easy for Europeans to shrug off America's Europhobic generalizations and mischaracterizations if they were exclusive to would-be-intellectual neoconservatives, Bible Belt evangelists, and provincial Midwest xenophobes. But ever since the European Union dropped the ball in the Balkans in the mid-1990s, a potent mix of influential American thinkers, policymakers, and commentators have given anti-Europeanism a new respectability that cannot be dismissed out of hand. On the major issues that preoccupy Americans -- defense, security, terrorism, intervention, free trade, sovereignty, and nationalism -- the argument that Europe has lost its way has gained in influence. And as a debt-laden European Union stares at the fiscal abyss, one can almost feel the schadenfreude emanating from across the pond.

"Almost feel the schadenfreude emanating"? Does it get any more vague than that? Read the FP article Venus Envy and come back here to comment, if you like.

Will Soccer Bring an End to American Exceptionalism?

We discussed American exceptionalism during the 2006 world cup: Soccer in German-American Relations and Soccer is for Losers?

Soccer is getting increasingly popular in the US, which some conservative Americans don't like. Is America becoming less exceptional now?

Or is it the other way round: Americans need to feel less exceptional before soccer becomes more popular and they win the world cup? A Brazilian paper translated by Watching America concludes with such a pretty loaded question:

If Americans are able to abandon the idea of being chosen by God to save the world, if these citizens are open to the fact that they are identical to all other human beings and therefore do not have a clear target or are not necessarily superior or virtuous, then could it be possible for America to someday soon join the rest of the species and celebrate the most beautiful sport of our time with the rest of the world? Or is it inconceivable that within a few decades, this country could finally win the World Cup?