A Liberal Realignment?

Super Tracker

I'm supposed to give a couple of speeches on the Presidential elections in the coming weeks, so you'll have to tolerate a few more posts about U.S. politics. As of mid-November, I plan to start pretty much ignoring politics again.

Until then, though, there will be posts like this one, in which I quote U.S. center-right commentator Ross Douthat on one possible long-term implication of the yesterday's vote in the U.S. House of Representatives: 

The stock market continues to drop. Some version of the bailout passes in the next week. The American economy staggers into a recession, but passes through the storm without 1930s-style suffering; the Republican Party is not so fortunate. Even though most Americans claim to oppose the bailout … the House GOP's obstructionism is widely viewed as having worsened the economic situation; the fact that these are contradictory positions does not faze an electorate that wraps all of the country's current troubles up, ties them with a bow, and lays them at the feet of the Bush-led GOP. John McCain loses by a landslide in November. The Democratic Party regains years or even decades worth of ground among the white working class, consolidates the Hispanic vote, and locks up a large chunk of highly-educated voters who might otherwise lean conservative. The much-discussed liberal realignment happens. And a politician running on a Ron Paul-style [laissez-faire] economic platform does very, very well in the GOP primaries of 2012.

From your lips to God's ears, Ross!

[llustration: National Super Tracker poll aggregator from fivethirtyeight.com]

A Liberal Realignment?

Super Tracker

I'm supposed to give a couple of speeches on the Presidential elections in the coming weeks, so you'll have to tolerate a few more posts about U.S. politics. As of mid-November, I plan to start pretty much ignoring politics again.

Until then, though, there will be posts like this one, in which I quote U.S. center-right commentator Ross Douthat on one possible long-term implication of the yesterday's vote in the U.S. House of Representatives: 

The stock market continues to drop. Some version of the bailout passes in the next week. The American economy staggers into a recession, but passes through the storm without 1930s-style suffering; the Republican Party is not so fortunate. Even though most Americans claim to oppose the bailout … the House GOP's obstructionism is widely viewed as having worsened the economic situation; the fact that these are contradictory positions does not faze an electorate that wraps all of the country's current troubles up, ties them with a bow, and lays them at the feet of the Bush-led GOP. John McCain loses by a landslide in November. The Democratic Party regains years or even decades worth of ground among the white working class, consolidates the Hispanic vote, and locks up a large chunk of highly-educated voters who might otherwise lean conservative. The much-discussed liberal realignment happens. And a politician running on a Ron Paul-style [laissez-faire] economic platform does very, very well in the GOP primaries of 2012.

From your lips to God's ears, Ross!

[llustration: National Super Tracker poll aggregator from fivethirtyeight.com]

A Quick Prediction

A quick prediction: we will soon see the idea of one form or another of a Tobin Tax (a tax on financial transactions, originally proposed by American economist James Tobin) transform itself from a hobbyhorse (g) of the left-wing group attac into a serious proposal advanced by mainstream European political parties.


Whether the same thing will happen in the USA remains to be seen, but I’m not holding my breath.

Send Them Back As Missionaries

The atheistical fool!

At a wedding this weekend, I met yet another German who spent a high-school year abroad in the U.S., and came back a bit nonplussed, to put it mildly. She was placed with a family in a small town in a rural part of Indiana. There, she learned excellent English, and was introduced to baseball games, barbecue, apple pie, and…Jesus. 

She was placed with a Lutheran family, which seemed like a good fit, since she herself was a "Lutheran" (that is, Protestant) German. But, as she soon found out, there are followers of Luther's teachings and there are American Lutherans. Her student-exchange host family spent all day Sunday at the church (Bible study, potluck dinners, etc.) and sometimes attended services during the week. They always invited her to come along, and clearly expected her to say yes. They asked about her views on issues such as abortion, sex education, etc. Eventually, all the God talk made her uncomfortable, and she begged off more and more religion-related activities. This caused friction, and the relationship broke down entirely. She requested a transfer to another family before Christmas.

You might chalk this up to bad luck. But I've now heard versions of this story from dozens of Germans. Usually, they add that their student-exchange host family was friendly and accommodating, and that they learned a lot. But the omnipresence of religion is intimidating. The host families often declare the German exchange students' views to be shockingly lax, and invite the student to impromptu Bible studies to help the poor German understand "Jesus' plan for their lives" better. 

The exchange students can't escape or parry this proselytizing. They depend on their host family for everything, and are often placed in towns or suburban developments which don't resemble European neighborhoods (i.e., you need a car to get anywhere). Since their English is far from perfect, they find it difficult to disagree with their host families (or make excuses) without seeming rude. By the time the student year abroad is at an end, they're convinced — to put it bluntly — that the U.S. is a nation of religious zealots. For the rest of their lives, they describe their experience to many people who've never visited the USA.

Now, a little religious proselytizing is hardly the worst thing that could happen to a German exchange student in the U.S. But shouldn't student-exchange programs take this factor into account? The programs seems to run mostly by private volunteers and non-profits. I'd be interested to know if there's a code of conduct that requires host families to sign a contract respecting exchange students' religious autonomy. A short search reveals at least one group that explicitly advertises for American host families to "Be a Host Family for an Exchange student and send them back as a missionary for Jesus." (!)

Are the foreign exchange students being told about their host families' religious views when they sign up? Are Germans unwittingly getting drawn into explicitly proselytizing programs? Is that because they don't catch the signals that would tip 0ff Americans that this is a religious group, or because the organizations hide their mission? I'd be interested to know if readers have had similar experiences.

[Picture: "The atheist, the fool, who grinningly cares not at all," from the "Mystery of Life" sculpture group in the Forest Lawn Cemetery, Glendale, California.]

Urgent Helping Required for 100%-Safe Transactin

[h/t JTG]

 

From: "Hank Paulson" <henrympaulson.treasury.gov@gmail.com>

Date: September 23, 2008 10:07:54 PM PDT

To: johnQpublic@aol.com

Subject: From Henry M. Paulson – Urgent

From: Henry Paulson

Date: 9/23/2008

Subject: Urgent transaction – need your help

Bright Greetings Dear American:

 

I need to ask you to support an urgent and important business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

 

I am Ministry of Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had a crisis that has caused the need for a large transfer of funds of 700 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

 

I am working with renowned Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

 

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

 

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive you're information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

 

Wonderful salutations to you cherish friend from Republic of America.

 

Yours Faithfully,

Minister of Treasury Paulson

Urgent Helping Required for 100%-Safe Transactin

[h/t JTG]

 

From: "Hank Paulson" <henrympaulson.treasury.gov@gmail.com>

Date: September 23, 2008 10:07:54 PM PDT

To: johnQpublic@aol.com

Subject: From Henry M. Paulson – Urgent

From: Henry Paulson

Date: 9/23/2008

Subject: Urgent transaction – need your help

Bright Greetings Dear American:

 

I need to ask you to support an urgent and important business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

 

I am Ministry of Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had a crisis that has caused the need for a large transfer of funds of 700 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

 

I am working with renowned Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

 

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

 

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive you're information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

 

Wonderful salutations to you cherish friend from Republic of America.

 

Yours Faithfully,

Minister of Treasury Paulson

A Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

First, many thanks to everyone who responded to my bleg about Tatort. I really appreciate all the helpful links and insights.

There'll be light blogging for the next few days, since I'll be visiting one of my favorite countries,  Belgium, to see a wedding. This will be a welcome relief from the news, which I've been following with morbid fascination. The U.S. seems to be matching Belgium crisis for crisis these days.

I'd prefer to draw a veil of discretion before the unseemly events taking place across the Atlantic, but civic duty and manly, nettle-grasping forthrightness compel me to provide you with the following links:

1.  Apparently, the Secretary of the Treasury actually went on bended knee inside the White House yesterday:

In the Roosevelt Room…the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for [a bipartisan legislative] package [to address the fiscal crisis] over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange.

2. Meanwhile, the stupefying Sarah Palin, who really is the Vice-Presidential nominee of the Republican Party, seems none the wiser after weeks of careful coaching (including from Germany's favorite Realpolitiker, Henry Kissinger).

Here's Palin responding to a question about her experience dealing with The Foreign Countries:

3. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen lays into the kind of American exceptionalism that Palin stands for: 

But exceptionalism has taken an ugly twist of late. It’s become the angry refuge of the America that wants to deny the real state of the world.

From an inspirational notion, however flawed in execution, that has buttressed the global spread of liberty, American exceptionalism has morphed into the fortress of those who see themselves threatened by “one-worlders” (read Barack Obama) and who believe it’s more important to know how to dress moose than find Mumbai.

That’s Palinism, a philosophy delivered without a passport and with a view (on a clear day) of Russia. Behind Palinism lies anger. It’s been growing as America’s relative decline has become more manifest in falling incomes, imploding markets, massive debt and rising new centers of wealth and power from Shanghai to Dubai.

4. And finally, Sam Harris on the American brand of anti-elitism that made Palin possible: 

Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

I believe that with the nomination of Sarah Palin for the vice presidency, the silliness of our politics has finally put our nation at risk. The world is growing more complex—and dangerous—with each passing hour, and our position within it growing more precarious. Should she become president, Palin seems capable of enacting policies so detached from the common interests of humanity, and from empirical reality, as to unite the entire world against us.

A Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

First, many thanks to everyone who responded to my bleg about Tatort. I really appreciate all the helpful links and insights.

There'll be light blogging for the next few days, since I'll be visiting one of my favorite countries,  Belgium, to see a wedding. This will be a welcome relief from the news, which I've been following with morbid fascination. The U.S. seems to be matching Belgium crisis for crisis these days.

I'd prefer to draw a veil of discretion before the unseemly events taking place across the Atlantic, but civic duty and manly, nettle-grasping forthrightness compel me to provide you with the following links:

1.  Apparently, the Secretary of the Treasury actually went on bended knee inside the White House yesterday:

In the Roosevelt Room…the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for [a bipartisan legislative] package [to address the fiscal crisis] over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange.

2. Meanwhile, the stupefying Sarah Palin, who really is the Vice-Presidential nominee of the Republican Party, seems none the wiser after weeks of careful coaching (including from Germany's favorite Realpolitiker, Henry Kissinger).

Here's Palin responding to a question about her experience dealing with The Foreign Countries:

3. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen lays into the kind of American exceptionalism that Palin stands for: 

But exceptionalism has taken an ugly twist of late. It’s become the angry refuge of the America that wants to deny the real state of the world.

From an inspirational notion, however flawed in execution, that has buttressed the global spread of liberty, American exceptionalism has morphed into the fortress of those who see themselves threatened by “one-worlders” (read Barack Obama) and who believe it’s more important to know how to dress moose than find Mumbai.

That’s Palinism, a philosophy delivered without a passport and with a view (on a clear day) of Russia. Behind Palinism lies anger. It’s been growing as America’s relative decline has become more manifest in falling incomes, imploding markets, massive debt and rising new centers of wealth and power from Shanghai to Dubai.

4. And finally, Sam Harris on the American brand of anti-elitism that made Palin possible: 

Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

I believe that with the nomination of Sarah Palin for the vice presidency, the silliness of our politics has finally put our nation at risk. The world is growing more complex—and dangerous—with each passing hour, and our position within it growing more precarious. Should she become president, Palin seems capable of enacting policies so detached from the common interests of humanity, and from empirical reality, as to unite the entire world against us.

Tatort = Volkspaedagogik?

I was talking with an Austrian sociologist the other day, and he told me something interesting: that the German detective series Tatort is guided by a set of principles that determine how it portrays violent crime in Germany. The idea is to present millions of TV viewers with an image of the root causes of crime that will dampen their desire for retribution and harsher penalties. Therefore, criminals on Tatort almost always commit their evil deeds because of outside forces, such as mountains of debt, cultural expectations, social deprivation, mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. Thus, one of the goals of Tatort is to counteract the idea that criminals are intentional evildoers. This colleague said that this is a well-known fact about Tatort, but wasn't able to point me to a source right off-hand.

Given my previous posts on West German and East German detective series (plus academic interests), I'd really be interested in a written source that would bolster the argument that Tatort scripts have a "popular education" purpose. Thanks in advance for any help.