Tag Archives: USA

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

Sunday afternoon – Some food for thought for the ‘elite education enthusiasts’ in Europe that always use the likes of Yale and Harvard as best practice examples!

“Our best universities have forgotten that the reason they exist is to make minds, not careers” writes William Deresiewicz in his article “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education“. The author makes quite some interesting points about what students learn in so called “elite universities”. Although he falls short of putting the problem in a wider social context, he nevertheless makes it clear that not everything is as perfect with these institutions as many (in Europe) want to believe.

It’s worth reading.

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Obama, Berlin and the world

So what did we expect from Barack Obama’s foreign policy speech in Berlin?  Since Barack Obama is not even the official democratic candidate yet, and obviously not the US President, I think expectations were hugely exaggerated. Apart from that, the following list of expectations sums it up (at least for me):

  1. Great visions for the future of everything: yes.   – Policy details: no, not really.
  2. Great rhetoric: yes.  – Great visuals for his campaign: yes, definitely.
  3. Bush-bashing: no. – And a “Berlin surprise”: Oh yes please.

And what did we get? (You can read the transcript of the speech here)

1. What about “visions”: well, sort of. Barack Obama spoke about many global problems and a lot of shared responsibilities and the need for cooperation. Not more, not less. Of course freedom played a big role (George W. Bush would have said the same!). Also the importance of immigration is something Europe needs to learn! Interesting maybe the issue of nuclear disarmament. I haven’t heard any politician to call for that in the last decade or so. Of course he did not go into any detail (it is election campaign time! not a good time for details). However, the “big visionary moment” of the speech was missing. But considering what could have gone wrong with such a speech, I guess it was OK. But of course symbolism prevails over content in every election campaign…

2. What about “great rhetoric”: First of all, I think the rather short speech was well constructed. The second part was better than the beginning. But I also found that the family background did not really work (maybe he should have started with something else and talked about it later? ). I liked the idea of a “world citizen” (what do you expect with that blog name…?). The delivery was very professional but, again, the big moment was missing. BUT the visuals for the campaign were great (and eventually that matters at the moment): They can suggest that he is respected and hugely popular in Europe (the crowd of 200 000 was impressive, right? ) which might give him some foreign policy credibility in the US. But that depends on the spin of the campaign…

3) Obviously no Bush-bashing abroad which is unthinkable in the diplomatic world. So what about the “Berlin surprise”: Nothing really. Basically he used Ernst Reuter and the Berlin airlift for his speech trying to put it in context with globalisation and global challenges. Not a bad idea. But then again, since expectations were huge I doubt that he could have delivered a real “surprise”. Maybe next time…

Anything else?

Well, from a European perspective we can take note that he knows about the EU and he generally thinks highly of global institutions and international cooperation, which is good to know. But I think the really remarkable thing is the pure existence of this event, a kind of “globalisation of US election campaigning”. I think we will see similar events in the future! As somebody on German TV said “It seems that he is the candidate for the world presidency”.

Update: Here is the video of the speech:

Kosmolinks #13

  • “Leak of latest European Commission proposals for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, known as the ‘health check’. These proposals will form the basis of an internal Commission discussion on 14 and 15 May 2008. The agreed proposals are due out later in the month.” –  Is this the first online leak of an important EU document?

  • A new balkan blog with this hilarious post: “In the early days of the siege of Sarajevo in the mid-1990s, a photo of a half-ruined post office with three items of graffiti written on its wall captured the imagination of the world. The first graffito read “This is Serbia!”; the second stated “This is Bosnia”. And someone scrawled underneath, “No, you idiots, it’s a post office!”

  • Very interesting article about Jeffrey Berman, Barack Obama’s director of delegate selection…

  • Andrew Duff (MEP) on the Lisbon Treaty and the upcoming referendum in Ireland and why the Irish eurosceptics are wrong.

  • “Global Power Europe” makes the case for a more decisive European approach towards Ukraine. And this “firm commitment” is EU accession..

  • Another shocking story on human rights in the US: “The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged.”

  • A CEPS research paper that looks at “serious limits across three strands of democracy policy – the magnitude of incentives offered in return for democratic change, the degree of critical pressure exerted for democratic reform and the scale of European democracy funding.”

  • This interactive map developed by CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe shows 50 damaging projects planned or already underway in Central and Eastern Europe at a total cost to EU taxpayers of €10 billion.

  • The new Lisbon treaty is (probably deliberately!) very vague on the issue of a EEAS (European External Action Service). Indeed, clarity is something else, as some of the rather basic things still need to be solved, for example the interaction between the Council, the Commission and the member state staff, the role of the European Parliament, the formal title of the head of the missions and the formal title of the delegations…as well as the question “where the EEAS and the foreign policy chief will be situated.” Luckily, only in 2010 the final proposal need to be finalised.

  • Good and comprehensive analysis of the election results in Serbia.

  • “Do we—Europeans—have the political vision and will to make it happen? Do we want to remain the shapers of history, or would we rather continue under the delusions so ruefully picked apart by people like Kagan?” (…) On the present trajectory, of declining European military budgets; ill-equipped and under-prepared armed forces; poorly crafted foreign and security policies, particularly on the part of European Union Member States like Germany, Italy and Spain, one could be forgiven for thinking that the European Union’s future looks rather bleak. And as Kagan warns us, we need more than hope to prove them wrong…”

Kosmolinks #10

Here we go again! A (small) selection of interesting links I collected during the last few weeks:

Two articles that remind us of the last couple of years in US politics: Think Progress » The legacy of Bush’s presidency & Iraq: The War Card – The Center for Public Integrity

Here is an interesting article on The Unravelling of Russia’s Europe Policy

Brendan Donnelly writes on the Social Europe Blog about The Reform Treaty and its Impact on the EU Institutions

ECAS blog asks: Why are there transitional arrangements for Romanian and Bulgarian workers?

The Centre for European Reform analyses Poland’s bold new foreign policy

And last but not least, two research papers: The role of UK academics as security
‘experts’ for news media
and Leading think tanks in the world (.pdf)

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Total Denial

Total Denial is an amazing documentary about an historic lawsuit connected with the UNOCAL/TOTAL oil pipeline in Burma. One of the few screenings of the film took place in Brussels on Friday (organised by Avocats Sans Frontières), check out the official movie page here for more dates and details:

Total Denial is the story of a historic lawsuit: Fifteen villagers from the jungles of Burma bringing suit against a giant oil corporation for human-rights abuses, in U.S. courts. After ten years of fierce legal battles, the impossible victory.”

At the same time the outcome of the lawsuit will change the legal framework for corporations worldwide. For the first time a company was sued for human rights violations committed overseas. Even though this case was possible in the US under the Alien Torts Claim Act (a law introduced in 1789!) similar cases are pending in Europe (for example in France and Belgium). Here is the trailer:

After the movie the director Milena Kaneva shared her thoughts about the implications of the movie with the audience which was indeed an inspiring and very interesting experience. However, the movie is still in need for some additional funding and support (distribution, DVD production…) … so if you have a some spare money or if you know a potential funding institution go to the sponsorship section of the official homepage… (Normally I do not use this blog for fundraising purposes but this is an exception: this documentary is definitely worth it!)

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The European Dream

Thanks to analyzingEU (somehow the post disappeared in the meantime…) I found this speech by Jeremy Rifkin, the founder of the Foundation of Economic Trends. If you know the stuff by Jeremy Rifkin you know what you get, if you don’t just give it a try! He is a quite influential advisor, a best-selling author and he is certainly a good speaker. However, he is also known to have started many controversial debates. Times magazine once called him “the most hated man in science”. This lecture (wasn’t it the same he delivered at the European Youth Summit in Rome?) is based on Rifkin’s book ‘The European Dream‘ which was published a few years ago.

Unfortunately the quality of the video could be a bit better given that the European Journalism Centre was involved in the production…(But I accept this excuse 😉 )

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The Czech perspective

Europe needs a Ronald Reagan” says Karel Schwarzenberg.

And also “peace through strength” seems to be on the agenda in the Czech Republic…and not the need to “shift the arms race into a peace race“…

This banner can be found just opposite of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague:

Prague