Tag Archives: germany

Elections in Germany: Forecasts and Polls

The election campaign in Germany is about to gather speed with less than 30 days left until election day. I assume we’re going to cover that in more depth soon, too. For now, I can direct you to the Hertie School’s Expert Blog on the German Federal Elections in 2013 in case you have not checked it out yet. They cover a plethora of topics from labour market policies and the German Energiewende to gender equality and family policy.

So let me do the kick-off for some posts that will appear on this blog over the next couple of weeks. Yet, this is not about politics but looks at polling and forecasting in the German case, thereby briefly touching upon some of the recent trends of the German political landscape. I will point out some of the flaws of both polling and forecasts. However, don’t misread the point: I’m not against polls and forecasts as such and have lots of fun following the respective discussion throughout the year. But we should not overemphasize these results, either, as both do not come without problems.

Continue reading Elections in Germany: Forecasts and Polls

Links: Voting reform, Forecasting, PRISM, Germany

gerrymandering-smbc
Detail from “A Simple Proposal to Stop Gerrymandering”, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Summer break has begun in Germany. Wherever you are, enjoy your time in the sun! In case you’re stuck inside (or using a handheld device instead of just relaxing in the park), here are some links:

  • One of my favorite web comics has an episode on how to reform voting disctricts; it involves strict rules, is based on incentives and public scrutiny, and leaves little room for corruption.
  • The forecasting competition in which I take part (Good Judgment Project) is about to kick off season 3. I plan to cover the next steps here on the blog, in particular because I have now been promoted to “super forecaster” status. Please consider reading part 1 and part 2 of my coverage so far.
  • Edward Snowden’s fate is still undecided and the news about U.S./UK surveillance will probably keep going. For Germany, there is a new angle to the whole story in the aftermath of interior minister Friedrich’s visit to Washington: “many were critical of his trip, saying he was given little information and came across like an obedient school boy” (SPIEGEL).
  • Friedrich is now under fire for suggesting that several terrorist attacks on German soil have been avoided thanks to PRISM; a statement that was not backed up by facts. He also neatly summarized the ‘let’s give up civil liberties for counter-terrorism’ logic: “The noble intention of saving lives in Germany justifies working with our American friends and partners …” (my translation; via law blog)
  • Chancellor Merkel, on the other, is extremely careful not to say anything at all in her recent interviews on the topic.

Links: Big data, Climate policy, Filibuster, Germany

Texas Senate (Public domain via Wikimedia)
“The Senate Chamber of the Texas Capitol” Source: Wikimedia (public domain)

Today’s links somehow focus on U.S. politics. But all of the topics matter globally, so please bear with me. Also, we’re pleased to announce that the Economist is as unhappy about the lack of German strategic thinking as we are.

  • Evgeny Morozov on the perils of Big Data: “there is an immense—but mostly invisible—cost to the embrace of Big Data by the intelligence community (and by just about everyone else in both the public and private sectors). That cost is the devaluation of individual and institutional comprehension, epitomized by our reluctance to investigate the causes of actions and jump straight to dealing with their consequences.
  • Obama didn’t really talk about climate policy in his Brandenburg Gate speech, but he did so yesterday. The excellent Duck of Minerva covers the main points and adds interesting links with further information.
  • By now everyone must have heard of the filibuster in Texas, right? For a nice summary and an appreciation of the crowd in the Senate building, check out The Monkey Cage.
  • Fun fact: Did you know that all U.S. states except Nebraska have upper houses?
  • Bonus fun fact: In Nebraska, the unicameral state legislature is called Legislature, but the representatives call themselves … Senators! (Wikipedia)

In line with our negative assessments of German strategy and leadership in the last weeks (ex. 1, ex. 2), please make sure to check out the Economist’s recent special report on Germany, the “reluctant hegemon”:

“On the euro, Germany’s competitiveness agenda is insufficient, and based on a distorted reading of the country’s own history. And Germany’s energy policy is less an example of bold leadership than of an ill-planned unilateralism that illustrates the country’s deep reluctance to think strategically about international challenges.”

Don’t worry, there are some more positive bits in there. The whole thing is available through the navigation on the right hand side of their website.

Security Saturday: The A-Word

German observation team in Afghanistan (By John Scott Rafoss (090121-M-6058R-004) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons”)
Last week, I was reminded of an exceptional issue of the German newscast heute journal a couple of years ago. Before talking about his next topic, anchorman Claus Kleber had directly addressed his audience: “Please do not switch now. Because we know that if I now utter the words conflict, Israel, and Palestine, we will immediately lose some ten thousand viewers.”

I often have a similar feeling when it comes to discussing the Western involvement in Afghanistan. Basically, no one wants to talk about it anymore. The prevailing mood – at least in Berlin – seems to be: Let’s just get out of that far-away country and forget it as soon as possible.

Continue reading Security Saturday: The A-Word

Security Saturday: Who cares about Syria?

By Voice of America News: Scott Bob report from Azaz, Syria. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In his speech at the Freie Universität Berlin, Peer Steinbrück (SPD) made clear he opposed any arms transfer to the Syrian opposition. As is the case with the German government, he did not offer any alternative policy options. German politicians have long warned of an escalation of the conflict, but few have come up with specific proposals what the country could do to avoid it. As Markus Kaim (SWP) argues in an interview with the newspaper Südkurier, Germans are particularly good at telling others why their ideas won’t work, while not coming forward with an alternative. But is this enough for a country that size? Continue reading Security Saturday: Who cares about Syria?

Steinbrück’s Missed Opportunity

Peer Steinbrück at FU Berlin
Peer Steinbrück at FU Berlin – June 4, 2013

Peer Steinbrück, the Social Democratic challenger to chancellor Angela Merkel in the upcoming election, gave a speech at Freie Universität Berlin on Tuesday. You can watch it online (in German). This was not meant to be a typical campaign talk, but a speech on the “guidelines of social democratic foreign and security policy”.

The speech was disappointing. For people familiar with the issue area, in particular the first half of the speech seemed very much rooted in the general wisdom, or rather, the commonly shared worries about the state of the world. Steinbrück failed to clearly distinguish his position from vague and all too familiar boilerplate statements. Europe is important for Germany and a historic achievement that should be cherished. International law and the UN Security Council must be considered in decisions about employing the German army. Drones that kill people are undesirable. Oh my, who would have thought?

Steinbrück was unable to clarify how and why his positions represent social democracy, let alone an alternative to Merkel-style realpolitik. His dismissive response when asked about this weakness: “If a social democrat gives a speech, than this a speech about social democratic positions.” Well, what might these positions be? Continue reading Steinbrück’s Missed Opportunity