Tag: American Politics (page 2 of 2)

YouTube and Politics

As some of you may recall, I began my blogging career on the Duck by commenting on the political impact and appropriation of YouTube. Back then it was citizens using YouTube to ask questions of the Presidential candidates. Now President Obama is doing with YouTube what FDR did with radio.

Good thing my colleagues up here in the Pioneer Valley have organized a conference on the way YouTube is impacting US politics, so that I don’t have to divert attention from my real research agenda to follow up on the kinds of questions I asked in that long-ago post. The “YouTube and the 2008 Election Cycle in the United States” conference kicks off tomorrow at University of Massaschusetts-Amherst, and I urge you to check it out.

Reasons why I’m excited about this event, though I’m not an Americanist:

1) The 2008 Presidential campaign was historic not just because of the outcome, but because of the process: the breadth of re-engagement by both American voters and global civil society, largely through the netroots. Speakers include Max Harper, who ran Obama’s Change.gov media campaign last year; and the Communications Director for the House Judiciary Committee. I’m bound to learn a lot about how IT is reshaping political culture.

2) Political scientists are paying much too little attention to Web 2.0 – not just YouTube but also other technologies that are revolutionizing the relationship between producers and users of information. This interdisciplinary crowd seeks to actively and rigorously study the politics of this transformation in the US context. How might IR scholars follow suit?

3) The conference is an organizational marvel, actively integrating Web 2.0 into the activities in novel ways. Like requiring presenters to create YouTube video versions of their research, which will be broadcast during the reception; and allowing audience members to post feedback and commentary directly onto the web-versions of the slides using Diigo (boy, ISA could take some pointers from these folks).

4) Also, the presentations will also be webcast live using Panopto for those not able to attend, which means we could discuss some of it here. Check out the program and online papers (each of which comes with its own YouTube video) and consider tuning in to some of this over the later part of the week.

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The Colonial Fleet Colonizes UN Headquarters

I kid you not. The Chicago Tribune reports the following:

“On March 17, there will be a “Battlestar” retrospective at the U.N. in New York and a panel discussion of how the show examined issues such as “human rights, children and armed conflict, terrorism, human rights and reconciliation and dialogue among civilizations and faith,” according to Sci Fi.

The “Battlestar” contingent on the panel will consist of executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, as well as stars Mary McDonnell (who plays president Laura Roslin on the show) and Edward James Olmos (Admiral William Adama).

UN representatives on the panel are Radhika Coomaraswamy, special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; Craig Mokhiber, deputy director of the New York office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and Robert Orr, assistant secretary-general for policy planning, executive office of the Secretary-General.

The panel will be moderated by “Battlestar” fan Whoopi Goldberg.”

Comment away.

P.S. Hat tip to Greg Niermeyer, Polsci 121-A student and bigger geek than me.

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Mother In Chief? Not Exactly Your Typical Feminism, But…

Michelle Obama is doing something very interesting. She is taking back family values from the right.

According to Reuters:

Michelle Obama brings the skills of a corporate lawyer to the White House as first lady to President-elect Barack Obama, but she says her priority will be her role as ‘mom-in-chief’ to the couple’s two daughters. Michelle Obama, 44, was a passionate advocate for her husband’s candidacy, but she says she would not want a direct policy role in an Obama administration.

To those for whom breaking the gendered glass ceiling would have felt as or more transformative than seeing a US President of color, this “Mother-in-Chief” approach could seem like a regressive subordination of women’s political equality to racial equality. By this standard, Palin, with all her flaws, would have been a better feminist role model – to say nothing of Hillary Clinton, who would have combined a gender-egalitarian agenda with her trail-blazing role as the first female Commander-in-Chief. By comparison, Michelle Obama may seem at first glance to be defining her role no differently than Laura Bush, a help-meet rather than political partner. Perhaps this is a throwback to an earlier age. Perhaps feminism has been traded for racial equality in this election.

Think again. The fact that people have assumed that Michelle would take on a formal political role as first lady only underscores how normative women’s political participation is today. Her unwillingness to prioritize that over her duties to her children is not a step backward but a step forward for the feminist movement: what Michelle is modeling is not indifference to politics, but policy attention to work-life balance, the missing element in the first feminist revolution. As the same news-article relates:

She also says she hopes to focus ways women maintain a work-family balance and the needs of military families, and she could act as an informal adviser to her husband as she has been during the campaign.

This is the future, not the past. In the race to promote women as full citizens, too little attention has been spent by liberals considering how to support those same women in their dual roles as mothers – to say nothing of providing incentives for their male partners and spouses to do their share of child-rearing and eldercare while participating fully in civic and economic life. Many barriers persist. Today, for example, while women overall are approaching pay equity with men, the wage gap in the US between mothers and non-mothers is greater than between women and men—and it’s actually getting bigger.

So says Moms Rising.org, a growing movement of progressives aiming to prioritize children and families in the new America. Besides fair wages and an end to discrimination against mothers in hiring decisions, Moms Rising calls (among other things) for paid sick days and family leave for parents, for family-friendly work environments, for the right to breastfeed in public spaces, affordable healthcare and childcare, and a rating system for afterschool TV shows. In short, the goal is to build a culture that treats child-rearing as a form of service to the nation rather than an expensive hobby.

Perhaps ironically, the discourse of strengthening and prioritizing family has been largely associated with the right, where this very noble goal has been shackled at times to a gender discourse that emphasizes the role of fathers as breadwinner and mothers as homemakers. But creating the conditions for work/family balance for both men and women achieves the same goal without retrenching old gender inequalities. Part of Sarah Palin’s appeal was her seemingly flawless balance between being a power player in public and at home. Combine this imagery with a policy agenda to make it easier for less privileged women – and men – to do the same, and you begin dismantling the kinds of institutional barriers that have kept women out of the highest office.

This is what Michelle Obama will be bringing to US political culture as a First Lady.

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Child: Labor

Perspectives on Politics just published a depressing assessment of the prospects for women in the academy, placing much of the blame for the glass ceiling on the “intractable tension between professional success and family duties.” The section of the article concludes:

“Virtually every woman with children [interviewed] noted the difficulties in balancing career and family. Mary and Gale remind us that family versus career is a human problem, not just one with which women wrestle.”

Hear, hear. While the authors conclude that there is little evidence that society or political science as a profession is taking it seriously as such, one might make the same argument about the study itself, which looks at women in the profession, rather than parents in the profession, including fathers, for whom – at least for that small but growing percentage who takes on half the work at home – may be even more disadvantaged career-wise. (It would have been great to see the sex-disaggregated statistics.)

The authors aren’t alone: a new Caucus within the ISA that is seeking to address family issues within the profession calls itself “Mothers in IR,” reifying the idea that parenting is primarily a women’s issue; at my insitution, the Child Care SubCommittee lobbying for more family-friendly policies is subsumed under the Gender Equity Committee rather than mainstreamed into the Benefits and Welfare process. No wonder the issue isn’t taken very seriously.

In my mind, all this is a huge part of the problem. That’s why, on Father’s Day this week, I was happy to see the New York Times report in-depth on families, mostly working professionals, who have come up with creative arrangements for splitting child-care 50/50 in order to support one another’s careers. The article presents a balanced view of the impacts of equal parenting on the career choices of both men and women, as well as many examples of how it can work and what employers can do to make it easier for fathers and mothers.

But. Even here, it matters quite a lot how you define “work” versus “fun” in child rearing. Dr. Sampson Lee Blair, a sociologist who studies work/family dynamics at University of Buffalo is quoted in the NYT article:

“The social scientist’s definition of child care “is attending to the physical needs of a child — dressing a child, cooking for a child, feeding and cleaning them,” Blair says. It doesn’t include the fun stuff, like playing and reading and kissing good night.”

Hello: I say, reading at night is work, too, for three reasons.

A) It is of value to the kid; it doesn’t matter whether it’s fun or not – I also love my job as a teacher, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get paid.

B) Sometimes, it’s not fun, lying in bed with a book at 8pm when you’re exhausted but know you need to get back up to troll around on blogs watch the Daily Show prep for class and have to struggle to stay awake while you do it – that can be work.

Part of the problem is that society wants to exclude from the definition of “work” anything that society thinks we’re supposed to want to do unconditionally out of love, regardless of how hard it is or what its actual economic value. This assumption needs to be challenged of caring work done by both sexes. My husband may love to garden and fix things, but that doesn’t mean I should discount these contributions to our household as “hobbies.”

In her (once again, inaptly titled) book The Price of Motherhood, Ann Crittenden offers a better definition of the the economic value of the labor it takes to raise children well: the price you would have to pay someone else to do the work for you.

What if we calculated the cost of this labor of child rearing as a percentage of GDP?

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Political Metaphors Not Firing on All Thrusters?

Some commenters on my recent post about emotions in IR are a little flustered over the difference between Klingons and Vulcans in Star Trek.

Representative David Wu of Oregon offers a clarification from the floor of Congress:

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Beating around the Bush

Cross-posted on my blog.

The noted political scientist Aaron Wildavsky (now deceased) wrote in 1966 that the U.S. “has one President but two presidencies: one for domestic affairs and the other is concerned with defense and foreign policy.” He continued, “Since World War II, presidents have had much greater success in controlling the nation’s defense and foreign policies than in dominating its domestic policies.”

While some challenge Wildavsky’s argument, there is a lot of truth in it. This is because Presidents have tremendous power to dominate the national agenda, relatively immune from interest group and congressional politics. The President is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the top diplomat, and the head of a vast security and intelligence bureaucracy. Presidents simply have huge informational advantages over political opponents.

Vietnam (and Watergate) generated some important challenges to presidential power. Congress used its power of the purse to generate more than a few meaningful checks on the chief executive’s authority. However, as events since 9/11 have demonstrated, it is quite difficult for a President’s political opponents to achieve many successes when they are the minority party in Congress.

However, domestic opposition to the administration’s policies is starting to grow. As I’ve blogged before, an “Iraq syndrome” may well limit presidential freedom of action. The so-called “Bush Doctrine” seems to be effectively limited by the failings of its first test in the Middle East. Over 1700 Americans have died; well over $200 billion has been spent; and stability seems to be out of reach. Oh, and the lack of WMD does not help supporters of preventive war.

So, what opposition should you notice?

Well, to begin, 122 House Democrats have signed a letter to President Bush authored by Representative John Conyers concerning the Downing Street Memo, which I blogged about last week in this space:

If the disclosure is accurate, it raises troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of your own Administration.

The letter includes 5 questions directed at the current occupant of the Oval office. Bush may ignore them, but his opponents are using them.

Indeed, over half a million citizens signed petitions asking the President to respond to these questions. Conyers took them to the White House today. The Pew Research Center reported earlier this week that the general public has turned against Iraq:

The steady drip of negative news from Iraq is significantly undermining support for the U.S. military operation there. With the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq exceeding 1,700, there is widespread awareness of the rising American death toll. As a consequence, baseline public attitudes toward the war are gradually turning more negative. Support for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq continues to inch up ­ from 36% last October, to 42% in February, and 46% currently.

The web, of course. has played a key role in generating this opposition to Iraq policy. MoveOn collected signatures, others asked questions. From the Knight Ridder story:

“All we’re asking is to know the truth,” said John Bonifaz, co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org. “Some of his supporters want to say it’s a question of failed intelligence. If that’s all it was, so be it.”

But if not, said Bonifaz, “then the American people and the U.S. Congress deserve to know.”

Good luck trying to read their website; I couldn’t connect. Apparently, the site is generating a million hits per day!

BTW, please don’t think that I’m trying to discourage you, à la Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”

In any case, this growing public doubt about Iraq feeds the congressional opposition. Today, according to a Reuters press report, North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones and Hawaii Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie submitted a resolution calling “for the Bush administration to develop a plan by the end of this year to pull out all American troops from Iraq and to begin the withdrawal by Oct. 1, 2006.”

The White House already rejected this suggestion and the measure isn’t expected to go very far in the Republican-dominated Congress. This is hardly surprising, given Dick Cheney’s recent declaration that the Iraqi insurgency is “in the last throes.”

However, we should expect Democrats to pound this issue for the foreseeable future. Rep. Maxine Waters has just announced the formation of an “Out of Iraq” caucus. With about 20 other House Democrats, the likely recruits of that caucus, Conyers also held a “forum” today (the Republicans wouldn’t call a formal hearing) investigating the implications of the Downing Street Memo. At the forum, Conyers said: “If these disclosures are true … they establish a prima facie case of going to war under false pretenses.”

Don’t read too much into Conyers’ legal/Latin phrasing. While Ralph Nader and Kevin Neese wrote an op-ed in the May 31 Boston Globe urging a public debate about impeachment of Bush and Cheney, I do not expect Democrats to waste time and resources on such an endeavor.

After all, in 1974 and 1999, one party controlled the Congress while the other party held the White House. Bush isn’t going to be impeached, but he is facing more serious and vocal opposition in Congress, backed by public opinion.

Bottom line: Iraq just might be a winning campaign issue in 2006 — and 2008.

Filed as:US Foreign Policy; Downing Street Memo; and Iraq.

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