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Live blogging the GOP Iowa Debate

Saturday, 10 December, 2011

The last few days have not been lacking in newsworthy events.. I’ve read a lot of reactions to the European Council Summit and Cameron’s “veto” etc.. and have a lot of thoughts but haven’t as yet produced anything blog worthy. Equally, the President’s Osawatomie speech caused a bit of a stir, and I’ve been going over some thoughts on that as well. Anyway, the best way to get over the blog-block is to jump right into something so I’ve decided to try my hand at live blogging. This will inevitably be a GOP debate like any other, but I’m interested to see how the ideas factory that is Newt Gingrich will perform as the new undisputed front-runner.

I’ll post thoughts on the proceedings below:

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The Woolf Inquiry

Thursday, 1 December, 2011

So I received an email yesterday from the LSE reminding me yet again that my alma mater faces seeing its credibility reduced further as a result of its questionable and enigmatic relationship with Libya and the Gaddafi family and to notify me of the publication of the Woolf Inquiry, the independent assessment of said relationship. The report identifies some rather serious shortcomings in institutional oversight and ethics and also admits to the existence of possible impropriety in the amount of assistance provided to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi while writing his Doctoral dissertation, though final judgement on the status of his degree was not within the scope of the inquiry. All interested parties should read the report in its full form, as well as the response by the LSE council.

I feel to some extent that it would be wrong to fault the LSE for accepting Saif at the Msc level in the first place. Equally, I don’t take any real issue with the “optimism” employed by the Philosophy dept insofar as acceptance to the PhD is concerned; surely there are plenty of non-academic factors that influence admission decisions, and if a particular candidate seems well placed to say affect a certain amount of positive change in the world, I don’t see why that shouldn’t play into admission. We certainly shouldn’t pretend that the admissions process is otherwise blind and that this sort of preference doesn’t happen already — better that it be towards training candidates who might one day become reform-minded political leaders than towards individuals who might be the next CEO of Barclays.

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But they’re not wrong!

Thursday, 1 December, 2011

A harsh critique of the GOP presidential field from Der Spiegel

“Africa is a country. The Taliban rule in Libya. Muslims are terrorists. Immigrants are mostly criminals, Occupy Wall Street protesters are always dirty. And women who claim to have been sexually molested should kindly keep quiet…

Welcome to the wonderful world of the Republican Party. Or rather: to the distorted world of its presidential campaign. For months it has coiled through the country like a traveling circus, from debate to debate, from scandal to scandal, contesting the mightiest office in the world — and nothing is ever too unfathomable for them… These eight presidential wannabes are happy enough not only to demolish their own reputations but also that of their party, the once worthy party of Abraham Lincoln. They are also ruining the reputation of the United States.

They lie, deceive, scuffle and speak every manner of idiocy. And they expose a political, economic, geographic and historical ignorance compared to which George W. Bush sounds like a scholar. Even the party’s boosters are horrified by the spectacle…

Platitudes in lieu of programs: in serious times that demand the smartest, these clowns offer blather that is an insult to the intelligence of all Americans. But as with all freak shows, it would be impossible without a stage, the U.S. media, which has been neutered by the demands of political correctness, and a welcoming audience, a party base that seems to have been lobotomized overnight. Notwithstanding the subterranean depths of the primary process, the press and broadcasters proclaim one clown after the next to be the new frontrunner, in predictable news cycles of forty-five days.”

Sharp, for sure: but how wrong exactly is the assessment? Both parties have seen their rough patches, but I think it’s fair to say the GOP has reached a new low.  Where is the party leadership? Surely there are sane voices out there that can provide a counterweight to the never ending not-Romney primary. Europe’s broadsheets are never short on criticism of the drama and colorful personalities that characterize US politics, but here they drive the point home: this is the party of Lincoln we’re talking about.. TR and Eisenhower once graced the ticket. Now it’s a race to the bottom.

(h/t Daily Dish)


Foreign Policy Absurdities

Wednesday, 30 November, 2011

I’ve only just recently managed to watch the GOP presidential hopefuls duke it out over foreign policy / national security etc, and while I’m, unsurprisingly, hardly moved by their grasp of foreign affairs (save potentially for Jon Huntsman), I don’t exactly find myself outraged either. It may be that watching all 70 of the other primary debates has left me difficult to disappoint. Certainly, I find it frustrating that nearly all of the candidates for the presidency put forward by a major political party struggle to show some semblance of level-headed, informed analysis of current international issues; but, at the end of the day, I don’t have to pick one of them to represent my party. I would be much angrier if I was a Republican…

Were I a Republican, I would likely be inconsolable, instead of highly amused, once alerted to Hermain Cain’s Vision for Foreign Policy and National Security as I was earlier today by Seth Masket. I thank him for bringing attention to what is undoubtedly the crown jewel of Cain’s manifesto: the image illustrating the US’s strategic relationships (complete with Cain’s illuminating legend), which also doubles as a map of global Facebook connectivity. Firstly, and most evidently, I have no idea how Facebook and US global strategic relationships are connected and why, though apparently possible, they must be represented on the same map. This is absolutely baffling. I don’t think the Cain campaign could have made his presentation via this map look any more like absolute bullshit. I don’t exactly feel the need to go on about this.

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Agency, inequality, and the populists

Wednesday, 16 November, 2011

Will Wilkinson has a now two week old post over at Big Think contrasting the Occupy movement and the Tea Party on the “ideology of responsibility” that has really had me thinking. There is a very appropriate discussion of the close ideological relationship between Conservatism and Libertarianism on the point of personal responsibility, despite the fact that in the realm of “moral sentiments,” traditionally Libertarians have experienced much closer ties to traditional Liberalism. Wilkinson: “…their patterns of moral sentiment and judgment make libertarians look a lot like liberals who care a great deal about liberty and not very much for suffering. Like liberals, libertarians don’t put very much emphasis on the “binding foundations” of the moral sense–obedience to authority, in-group loyalty, and a sensitivity to moralized purity and disgust–which play a large role in conservative moral sentiment and judgment. This makes libertarians look like a lot like especially freedom-loving liberals with slightly hard hearts.”

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Monday, 10 October, 2011

Photo Credit:

So #occupywallstreet has been raising hell and making the news for a few weeks now, and I will take this opportunity to admit my initial skepticism and slightly elitist denouncement of the character, though not the spirit, of the movement. I found the contrast drawn by the occupiers between themselves and the Tahrir Square demonstrators as self-glorifying and generally distasteful given the seeming lack of urgency on the part of the Wall Street movement. While entirely sympathetic to those feeling disenfranchised and seeing no other recourse other than to publicly demonstrate their disaffection, I had a hard time getting past the incoherent platform, the lack of clear demands, and the discourse of anti-politics.

But, I’ve had a change of heart..

This change of heart really accelerated after reading Will Wilkinson’s contribution to the discussion at Democracy in America. Such a simple commentary, yet very instructive. W.W. is most insightful in asking: “When life is both boring and lived within a matrix of maddening institutions, why not get together with thousands of like-minded folks, scream about it, screw up traffic, get arrested, whip one another into a frenzy of self-righteous indignation, spit on some people, provoke the jackboots, and maybe even wreck some stuff? Why is that not a good idea?”

Why isn’t it a good idea? And, truthfully, I can’t think of any reason why it isn’t a good idea to let the world know that you’re angry with the way things are; why you don’t think we’re living the best life possible. The occupation was visited yesterday by the one and only Slavoj Zizek, a social commentator for whom I have immense respect for. His exhortation to the crowd was, I thought, very fitting. Movement’s like #occupywallstreet aren’t about setting up some sort of communist utopia or reveling in anti-Capitalist, anti-American sentiment…but are, at their best, about accepting the current state of affairs, the current social contract, as insufficient and broken, and starting the conversation of what we will set up to replace it. To quote Zizek: “There are truly difficult questions that confront us. We know what we do not want. But what do we want? What social organization can replace capitalism? What type of new leaders do we want?”

I still hope that #occupywallstreet gets to the point of synthesising its myriad of voices and begins to rally around some sort of policy agenda. This is primarily because I believe the real strength of the movement is not its potential to directly impact policy making but instead in engaging a wider constituency in thinking and talking about the wrongs we see in our social organization and how to move forward. On this point, I see a profound contrast with other movements claiming to represent populist resentment, i.e. the Tea Party. I see #Occupywallstreet, at its core, as firstly a far more inclusive movement than the Tea Party. Secondly, and far more importantly, the progressivist message of OWS hardly compares to the reactionary and severely distorted narrative of the Tea Party and as such distinguishes the occupation as the movement infinitely better placed to engage in the discussion of transcending our broken social contract. I wholeheartedly agree with Krugman in that, unlike the Tea Party, #occupywallstreet has got it right and is angry at the right people.

The dismissal of the movement by the political right only serves to highlight the disingenuousness of their desire to affect any real political change. Unfortunately, the political left seems to be having a very hard time figuring out what to do with the occupation as well. The sentiment expressed by W.W. earlier is all the more pertinent given the reluctance of the political system to validate the frustrations of the occupiers: when you feel there is nothing left for you to do, why not take to the streets? If simply supporting higher taxes on the rich makes you an extremist…why not become one for real?

Europe and its discontents: Eurozone in crisis

Wednesday, 28 September, 2011

Another installment over at! 

The project of European integration is often likened to riding a bicycle; only by moving forward will you be able to keep from falling off. It might appear that this mantra was written precisely for crises like the one presently plaguing the eurozone. German Chancellor Angela Merkel finds herself at centre-stage again this week as she attempts to muster the votes necessary in the German parliament to ratify the expansion of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) agreed by European heads of state in July. The agreement has been heavily criticized by the German public and is seen to place a greater burden on the German people in order to bailout the profligate nations of southern Europe. While the measure is expected to pass, recent polls show nearly 75% of the population are against increasing German contributions to aid struggling European economies. Recognizing the importance of the German vote, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou travelled to Berlin yesterday in an attempt to reassure sceptics that his government will continue to make the sacrifices demanded it, including very unpopular austerity measures and large tax increases, in order to secure further financial assistance. Speaking to representatives from the Federation of German Industries, Mr. Papandreou promised that Greeks “will soon fight our way back to growth and prosperity after this period of pain.”

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