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Archive for September, 2013

Lecture: Pres vs. PMent System, Bureaucracy, and Why Elections and Parties in Authoritarian Regmes

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Three significant APCG themes in this lecture

How German voting works

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Germany’s voting system is so confusing that Germans get confused by it. Basically, everyone gets two votes. According to some opinion polls, most Germans still believe that their “First” vote is more important than their “Second”. But it isn’t. Half of the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, is directly elected from one of Germany’s 299 constituencies, the other half is assigned by proportional representation. Here’s the difference:

  • The First Vote is for your local (direct) candidate. Whoever gets the most votes in the constituency gets a seat in the Bundestag.
  • The Second Vote is for a party list in your state. Results from the second vote will decide each party’s proportion of seats in the Bundestag

That’s the easy part. The hard part is how this second half is actually distributed. Because there are other rules:

  • A party can only get into the Bundestag if it gets at least five percent of the Second Votes, OR: if it gets three directly elected representatives, in which case it gets a few extra mandates.
  • You can also get extra seats because of the Überhangmandate rule. If a party gets more directly elected MPs than it is entitled to by the percentage of Second Votes it got, it is assigned a couple more seats to make up for it. At the moment, in fact, there are 22 Überhangmandate in the Bundestag – and the total number of seats is 620.

The chancellor is not elected by the people, but by the Bundestag’s members once the election is over.

The Value of the Stock of Slaves

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

In 1836, cotton from the South accounted for 59 percent of this country’s exports. Effectively, in the run up to the Civil War, our leading export was produced by slave labor. This cotton enriched our country financially and powered us into the modern world. “Whoever says industrial revolution,” wrote the historian Eric Hobsbawm, “must say cotton.”

The men and women who grew this cotton not only enriched through their labor, but through their very flesh. At the onset of the Civil War enslaved black people were valued at $3 billion, more than all the factories, railroads, and the productive capacity of America combined. This wealth was traded throughout the South regularly, and that trade enriched America even further.


What We Learned From the Korean War

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Is Korea still, as it was called then, the Forgotten War? Unfortunately it is. But it shouldn’t be. The objectives, the conduct, and the conclusion of that war are significant in too many ways. This anniversary provides an occasion to remember them, and to honor those who served in that war.

What happened to the environmental movement?

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Adam Rome’s genial new book, “The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-in Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation” (Hill & Wang), brings to life another era. We’re as distant from Earth Day as the Battle of Gettysburg was from James Monroe’s reëlection, and Rome evokes a United States that feels, politically, like a foreign country. There were a number of liberal Republicans. Most active members of environmental groups were hunters and fishermen. The Sierra Club was an actual club that required new members to be proposed by old ones. The Environmental Defense Fund was two years old. Things like bottle recycling and organic food were exotic.

The Debate Behind U.S. Intervention in World War II

Friday, September 20th, 2013

73 years ago, President Roosevelt was mulling a third term, and Charles Lindbergh was praising German air strength. A new book looks at the dramatic months leading up to the election of 1940.

How Hollywood Helped Hitler

Friday, September 20th, 2013

In devastating detail, an excerpt from a controversial new book reveals how the big studios, desperate to protect German business, let Nazis censor scripts, remove credits from Jews, get movies stopped and even force one MGM executive to divorce his Jewish wife.

Drawing on a wealth of archival documents in the U.S. and Germany, he reveals the shocking extent to which Hollywood cooperated and collaborated with the Nazis during the decade leading up to World War II to protect its business.

Indeed, “collaboration” (and its German translation, Zusammenarbeit) is a word that appears regularly in the correspondence between studio officials and the Nazis. Although the word is fraught with meaning to modern ears, its everyday use at the time underscored the eagerness of both sides to smooth away their differences to preserve commerce.

How much military is enough?

Friday, September 20th, 2013

The U.S. once regarded a standing army as a form of tyranny. Now it spends more on defense than all other nations combined.

Between 1998 and 2011, military spending doubled, reaching more than seven hundred billion dollars a year—more, in adjusted dollars, than at any time since the Allies were fighting the Axis.

The decision at hand concerns limits, not some kind of national, existential apocalypse. Force requires bounds. Between militarism and pacifism lie diplomacy, accountability, and restraint.

CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran

Friday, September 20th, 2013

In contrast to today’s wrenching debate over whether the United States should intervene to stop alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, the United States applied a cold calculus three decades ago to Hussein’s widespread use of chemical weapons against his enemies and his own people. The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted

Obituary: Boris A. Berezovsky

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Boris A. Berezovsky, once the richest and most powerful of the so-called oligarchs who dominated post-Soviet Russia, and a close ally of Boris N. Yeltsin who helped install Vladimir V. Putin as president but later exiled himself to London after a bitter falling out with the Kremlin, died Saturday.

Mr. Berezovsky was a Soviet mathematician who after the fall of Communism went into business and figured out how to skim profits off what was then Russian’s largest state-owned carmaker. Along with spectacular wealth, he accumulated enormous political influence, becoming a close ally of Mr. Yeltsin’s.

With Mr. Yeltsin’s political career fading, Mr. Berezovsky helped engineer the rise of Mr. Putin, an obscure former K.G.B. agent and onetime aide to the mayor of St. Petersburg who became president of Russia in 2000 and last May returned to the presidency for a third term.

After his election, Mr. Putin began a campaign of tax claims against a group of rich and powerful Russians, including Mr. Berezovsky and Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, an oil tycoon, who remains jailed in Russia.

Mr. Berezovsky fled to London, where he eventually won political asylum and at one point raised tensions by calling for a coup against Mr. Putin.

Here is is NY Times Obit