Saturday, 28 April 2012

“How did things ever get to this point?”

Well, Stuart Carlson offers an excellent explanation…

sc120427

This is not the first time Democrats have ineffectually watched as right-wing policies, bills, and laws have been enacted around the United States. The image of the donkey sleeping on the job is, in this instance, extremely apt.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

“No reason” to graduate with debt…?

That’s a quote from an AMERICAN Congresswoman! Apparently, she thinks it’s unreasonable for students to graduate with high amounts of debt – not recognising that university in the United States is insanely expensive, and that for the majority of those who attend have to take out loans in order to make tuition payments and living expenses.

I may be able to see how a UK student could graduate from a UK university without debt (this will be less likely once the fees hike kicks in), but given the cost of even in-state tuition in America, that is out of the price range of a good number of Americans. Unbelievably dense statement from that Congresswoman.

Oh, and Candidate Weathervane has again switched a position – just keep watching to the end of the above clip. He was for freezing student loan repayments rates at the low rate, but only after he was against them, and when only the Republican voter was his audience. The sound of flip-flops will get ever-louder now that Romney’s sown things up. It’ll be like it’s summer on a boardwalk.

Friday, 20 April 2012

“Becoming China’s Bitch” by Peter D. Kiernan (Turner)

Kiernan-BecomingChinasBitchTen “Catastrophes” America Must Avoid Right Now

A Manifesto for the Radical Center. America is frozen. We have failed to face our nation’s most crucial challenges – and we are about to pay the price. When it comes to solving our country’s problems, we have become utterly paralyzed: bipartisanship has lulled us into a deadlock, preventing us from taking action. Yet we can no longer ignore the inevitable catastrophes or hand them off to Washington to fix – they must be addressed now, or we will suffer the long-term consequences.

An unflinching manifesto exploring five factors that have sustained our national paralysis, and uncovering the ten challenges that pose the greatest threat to the future of America. Presented from a Centrist perspective, these ten impending catastrophes include our semiconscious dependency on China, our lack of a centrally coordinated intelligence effort, our downward-spiralling health-care system, and the continually expanding problem of illegal immigration.

Kiernan’s book is split into two parts. Each is further divided into clearly identified and self-contained chapters. In the first part, Kiernan identifies five reasons he believes America is so divided. In the second part, each chapter deals with a different “catastrophe” that is facing America. The book is filled with plenty of one-liners – some excellent, some a bit glib. This is only a minor complaint, as the book is one of the most accessible on American politics I’ve read in a long time. However, while accessible and an enjoyable read, I did not think it offered that much in the way of really new information or prescriptions. So, a book with merit, just not enough to stand out in a crowded field.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Rare, Good IR Humour…

Speaks volumes:

sc120413

How fortuitous…

crsbr120412

Nobody can really say they’d be surprised by this, right? One of his employees did, after all, say it was going to happen. A pity, as I would respect him more if he didn’t so blatantly disrespect those he’s conning into voting for him…

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Weekly Round-Up

Something I’ve been doing over on my fiction blog, I’ve decided to offer a round-up of interesting politics-related links every week. There’s not specific focus, save “politics”. There will undoubtedly be more links to articles about American politics as that is, after all, where my academic and intellectual interests lie.

The Atlantic: “Stuck in the ‘90s: Conservative Media Still Defines Itself Against the MSM” by Conor Friedersdorf [Article]

The article’s stand-first is interesting: “Right-wing outlets often fail to inform their audiences or set an agenda because they're too busy trying to counterbalance liberal coverage.” This actually contradicts an Atlantic feature a few months back that showed, quite clearly, that FOX is very good at setting an agenda, sticking to it, and inserting a particular set of daily talking-points throughout their day’s programming.

Friedersdorf’s article jumps off from an article by Mother Jone’s Kevin Drum, which concludes: “If you inhaled nothing but conservative media, you'd think that African-Americans are endlessly pampered; that racial animosity is simply an invention of the 'victim industry' these days; and that the white working class is the real object of oppression.” Friedersdorf agrees, but says it comes from a different place to what most people assume: “Coverage has less to do with racial attitudes than with how conservative media conceives itself.”

Both print and broadcast conservative media have “self-consciously set out to counterbalance the mainstream media by supplying facts, arguments, and insights absent from its outlets. The impulse was once understandable…it’s an impulse that is more and more counterproductive every year, because it no longer makes sense to imagine an audience that is captive to liberalism in the newspaper and on the nightly news.”

Friedersdorf’s conclusion: “The days of liberal control of mass media is over.”

The Big Idea: “The Boxer Rebellion & the Great Game in China” by David J. Silbey [Article]

A rare moment of cross-over of two of my favourite things, in this article historian Silbey talks about the challenge he faced when writing his new book about the Boxer Rebellion: “The famous maxim says that history is written by the winners. But happens when the other side not only doesn’t write a history, but can’t?”

The responsibility when writing history, Silbey says, “is to get the past right, or get it as right as we can. There is no freedom to fictionalize or to invent things. Instead, there is the iron straitjacket of what has already happened. So what should I do when the past left nothing behind?” In order to get to know his subjects more intimately, but lacking the material to do so, he decided to delve deeper into their world.

A very interesting article.

Foreign Affairs: Game of Thrones as History” by Kelly DeVries & Game of Thrones as Theory” by Charli Carpenter [Articles]

These two articles were an interesting surprise, and I stumbled across them only while checking for to see if there was a new FA issue…

DeVries, a medieval military historian, opens his article with a paragraph guaranteed to make some fantasy fans irritated, so just be aware before clicking through to the article that he isn’t as up on the modern Fantasy genre as he is on Military History. Moving on. The author examines the assertion that Martin’s world is a realistic and accurate representation of Medieval Europe, and comes to the conclusion that it actually isn’t very realistic, and that this is actually a very good thing: “As a historian of the period, I can assure you that the real Middle Ages were very boring – and if Martin’s epic were truly historically accurate, it would be very boring too.”

For those with a little understanding of International Relations theory, I’d also recommend Carpenter’s piece, which tries to look at the novel and HBO series through a Realist lens – while the two media “are laced with Hobbesian metaphors, Machiavellian intrigues, and Carr-like calculations of power”, the author nevertheless finds that “the deeper message is that realism alone is unsatisfying and unsuccessful”.

I should warn you that there are a few spoilers in these two articles.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

When Democrat-vs.-Republican Media Works

“Politics is too divisive.”
“Democrats can’t talk to Republicans.”
“Reasoned debate and discussion is dead.”
”Political debate is toxic.”

These are common themes today, and any quick survey of the news media in America – from MSNBC to Fox News, Wall Street Journal to The Nation – and it’s not hard to see how these interpretations have become accepted wisdom. This is not to say that political discourse is more divisive now than it has ever been (it’s really not), but it’s true that Washington, D.C., atmosphere appears to be toxic if you just consume news media.

Yesterday, however, there was a rare moment of calm debate and discussion. It appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show – which, I must say, is possibly the best news show on television – when Maddow interviewed Rick Santorum’s senior campaign strategist, John Brabender. The discussion was calm. Maddow allowed Brabender to finish his sentences, didn’t steam-roller him, and responded professionally and politely. They accepted their differences. I think Maddow made a lot of excellent points (Brabender was unable to respond convincingly to Maddow’s questions about Santorum’s claims about California university’s not teaching American history and, most importantly, the Netherland’s euthanasia laws and statistics). It’s time for America’s news media to pay attention to and emulate Rachel Maddow’s approach and style of interviewing. [Lawrence O’Donnell and Ed Schultz, in particular, could do with taking inspiration from her example…]

Monday, 2 April 2012

“The Newsroom” – New Sorkin TV Series (Trailer)

I am so very excited about this…

Politics and the media? This is right up my street, and I am very, very much looking forward to this.

Maybe with the show on HBO, this won’t be cancelled as quickly as Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and also allow Sorkin to write, direct and produce the show he’s always wanted to produce – unfettered by restrictions that exist on non-Cable channels.