Monthly Archives: September 2013

Government Shutdown? No Big Deal, Apparently

The U.S. government is heading for a shutdown, but it may not be as serious as it sounds. In WSJ’s Washington Wire blog, Damian Paletta writes that there have been 17 partial government shutdowns in the past 37 years. The longest one – in 1996 – lasted 21 days. None of these shutdowns had any major consequences.

This doesn’t mean there’s no reason to worry. With the Tea Party dominating the House, the odds of an agreement may well be slimmer than they were in the past. Here’s the link:

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2013/09/29/for-most-presidents-shutdowns-a-rite-of-passage/?mod=WSJ_hps_LEFTTopStories

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A Historic Election Result in Germany

The result of today’s parliamentary election in Germany marks a significant political shift, and not just because the liberal/libertarian party FDP failed to gain seats for the first time in its history. The chart in the link below shows the results of Germany’s parliamentary elections since World War II. At every election between 1949 and 1990, generally right-wing parties (CDU, CSU, FDP and others) together won more than 50% of the vote. Then came Germany’s reunification, which spilled in many left-wing voters from formerly socialist East Germany. In each election after 1990, the right failed to reach 50% (although it still managed to form CDU-FDP coalition governments in 1994 and 2009). There was reason to believe that reunification had shifted the composition of the electorate permanently to the left. But in today’s election, right-wing partiesĀ  – CDU/CSU, FDP and the newly formed AfD – won around 52% of the votes, according to preliminary results. Only time will tell if this result is an exception, or if it indicates a more permanent shift of the electorate back to the right.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9b/German_parliamentary_elections_diagram_de.svg

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Misperceptions about U.S. gun violence

Most Americans think gun violence has increased, even though it has actually decreased significantly since the 1980s, The Economist writes. The magazine explains this with a rise in highly publicized mass shootings, which may give people a wrong impression of general gun-violence trends. But it’s also possible that this reflects a widespread sense that things are getting worse and America is in decline. The right tends to complain about an alleged erosion of American values and dismantling of the free market, while the left sees a growing income gap as a sign that the U.S. is getting a worse place to live in. Realizing that some things are actually getting better might do America’s political discourse good.

Here’s the link: http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21586585-mass-shootings-are-up-gun-murders-down?fsrc=scn/tw/te/pe/massshootingsareupgunmurdersdown

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The Other 9/11

Today marks the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but in Chile 9/11 is associated with another event: 40 years ago today, Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected, socialist President Salvador Allende in a U.S.-backed military coup. Allende died the same day – officially a suicide, but quite possibly murder. Pinochet went on to rule the country for 17 years as a ruthless dictator who tortured and killed thousands.

September 11, 2001 led to a dramatic shift in U.S. domestic and foreign policies, as policymakers decided their country should never again be vulnerable to terrorism. But perhaps the U.S. can draw a lesson from Chile’s 9/11 as well. Backing murderous dictators may make sense at the time, but will eventually come back to haunt Washington. The U.S. support for Pinochet has done much to undermine America’s credibility abroad. Its implicit backing of Egypt’s generals – through continued military support – is bound to further erode the myth that the U.S. is a global defender of democracy.

Here’s a photo of Allende on the day of the coup: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/picture/2013/sep/11/photography-chile-coup-salvador-allende

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Does a History of Racism Discredit Anti-Interventionism?

Noah Berlatsky takes the longer view and notes that anti-interventionism (or isolationism) has been championed by the U.S. far right since Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, which essentially associated the Union with military intervention. Racist southerners subsequently tended to oppose interventions abroad that were meant to help non-whites. But what complicates the matter further is that foreign interventions were often driven by a similar kind of racism – the notion that other races couldn’t take care of themselves. In the end, Berlatsky finds that both isolationism and interventionism have racist roots and are therefore highly questionable. A thought-provoking piece, although the really interesting question would have been to what extent these racist traditions shape today’s discourse, for example on Syria.

Here’s the link: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/09/the-awkward-all-american-marriage-of-anti-interventionism-and-racism/279525/

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