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How Many Like Steve?

Steve Coll - whose book on the Bin Laden family we plugged - laments the 'end of civilisation' on his The New Yorker blog:
Before takeoff, as usual, I had thumbed through my email on my BlackBerry. As the in-flight wireless signal popped up on my laptop (fourteen dollars, including tax) I remembered all of what was left undone and decided to sign up.


I note that the Very Important Book, whose last hundred pages I had expected to finish before landing, sits tucked into the seatback pocket in front of me, in no particular danger of being read. My mission now is not to forget about it altogether and leave it on the airplane. These airliner tubes, with their confined hours-long intervals, had been a last refuge from the grid, a sort of enforced library reading room. Those of us in the bound-and-printed intellectual-property creation racket had best reconsider tweeting.
Sound familiar?

When I review my yearly Christmas reading - it is, again, the season - the Worldchanging book from last year sits in the shelf as an occassional reference, while I'm due for a third start-over of Against the Day, a novel I received two years ago. Both wonderful books, but not the type to easily read from cover to cover (I did manage a number of shorter books in between). A dismal record. This year, the reading will be somewhat less... liberal as I've settled on Drezner's 'All Politics is Global'.

Social Welfare in Europe and North America

This is a guest post from Andrew Zvirzdin.  Originally from upstate New York, Andrew is currently pursuing a Master's degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, Italy. He previously studied at Université Libre Bruxelles, University of Rome Tor Vergata, and Brigham Young University. He has worked on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament and as an Assistant Editor for Scandinavian Studies. Andrew specializes in political economy, international finance, and EU–US relations.

Andrew ZvirzdinFreedom Fries are out of style, but Europe is still taking a beating this campaign season. Republicans are gleefully using Barack Obama's recent visit to Europe as evidence that he wishes to import European-style welfare states back to the United States “to grab even more of our liberty and destroy our hard-earned livelihood,” as Mike Huckabee recently put it.

Just how evil are European welfare states compared to the United States?

OECD data indicates that the differences may not be as large as we may think. Consider two key indicators:
Continue reading "Social Welfare in Europe and North America"

Dealing with the Past in 'New Europe'

Guardian correspondent Jonathan Steele has an interesting piece about the different significance Lithuania attaches to the victims of Communism and of Nazism. He describes walking through the 'Museum of Genocide Victims':
But as I moved from room to dismal room, I had a growing sense something was missing. Vilnius was once known as the Jerusalem of the North. What about the Jews? Did their fate not merit remembrance? In a corridor I eventually found a placard with a brief, though telling, mention. It gave estimates for the victims of Lithuania's Soviet occupation and of the Nazi one as well. The number summarily shot, or who died in prison and during deportation in the Soviet period, reached 74,500. During three years of Nazi rule from June 1941, those killed amounted to 240,000, "including about 200,000 Jews".
It is worth noting that this is a general issue throughout the former communist countries of Europe. It is not hard to predict that countries will tend to play up their own victimhood and not discuss their complicity in a genocide. This was also the initial reaction of the West European countries that were occupied by the nazis. Over time, however, that has been replaced by a more critical narrative.

"Germany's Intolerant and Militaristic Culture"

"Support for the far-right National Democratic Party quadrupled in local elections in the eastern state of Saxony on Sunday. In the village of Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna, one in four voters chose the NPD," writes Spiegel International.

Michael van der Galien of the PoliGazette blames Germany's culture for these election results. He also claims that most of his Dutch compatriots "basically believe that what happened in World War II was not an 'accident,' but a logical result of Germany's intolerant and militaristic culture."

Such accusations will not lead to more German troops for Afghanistan, more burden sharing within NATO or a higher defense spending, which have been long-standing demands by the United States and other NATO allies. Instead these accusations contribute to the dominant feeling among the majority of Germans that we should not participate in any wars on foreign soil anymore.

Well, the Dutch press -- in contrast to their US or Canadian counterparts -- has not called for more German troops for Afghanistan. I thought the reason was that they understand that there just is not enough support among the rather pacifist (a better term might be: "war-weary") German public. Though, perhaps van der Galien is right and "the Dutch" are really concerned about the next invasion by their xenophobic and militaristic neighbors and therefore they don't want the Germans to play a stronger military role in Afghanistan, but I doubt it. I think he exaggerates Dutch concerns regarding Germany.