German Election 2013

Edit 2: Merkel won by landslide. Her speech:

“Heute wird gefeiert – morgen wird gearbeitet.” (Today we celebrate, tomorrow we work).

Edit: Merkel set to win – http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/merkel-wins-third-term-in-general-election-exit-polls-suggest-a-923755.html

Background reading/in-depth articles.

Live blogs (in English):

Infographic – http://wahl.tagesschau.de/wahlen/2013-09-22-BT-DE/wahlmonitor/index.shtml (in German but you’ll be able to figure it out anyway.


So I don’t usually write in the first person, and maybe I should, but in this case it’s due to an individual milestone  rather than a quest to make Political Deficit more personal. Recently, a journal of which I was an editor for was published, and given a formal launch.

An award we were given by the university.

An award we were given by the university. More photos here .

You can find the full journal here . The two articles chosen in my section were:


Comments & Curios VI

So, as the picture above might suggest to those who know what Irish weather is usually like, summer is almost upon us. That means Sun, and more time to write and read! Anyway, here’s what I found interesting in the past week.

Firstly, there’s a press translating service for english-speaking Russia watchers! Much like presseurop.eu (which translates the best of the European media into 10 European languages daily) or inoSMI (which translates English articles into Russian), The Russian Spectrum performs a service previously lacking. Go to and check it out.

Jay Ulfelder gave a very interesting speech at TEDxTbilisi , on a subject that was covered well on his blog a while back .

Also, there’s an article by a student in Belfast who previously lived in Israel/Palestine. Gary Spedding writes Lessons for a fruitful peace process from Northern Ireland , in the Israeli 972 Mag .

Lastly, Kingsbury of New Republic challenges media hyperbole in Every President Since Nixon Has Been ‘Nixonian’ .


Chemical Weapons in Syria

So, there’s been recent reports of chemical weapons being used in Syria. This raised a few questions, and was seen as a ‘red line’ for intervention in the West. For this, I think it’s fair to add a few points of context and why this will probably make intervention less probable than it would seem to be. Also, I should say now that my stance is non-intervention in Syria, something you can see in my previous posts .

Most importantly, as soon as several politicians called chemical weapons a game changer, there were always going to be those on the rebels side who would want to stage a false flag attack to gain support. Analysts from the bottom-up predicted this (e.g. here ), something that actually comes out looking quite rational (especially when you consider the array of factions involved against Assad ).

First of all, countries such as the UK and the US need to recognise that the battle isn’t black and white; there is a tendency to idolise those fighting against enemies as freedom fighters, such as the Muhajideen against the Soviets, many of whom were later rebranded as ‘terrorists’.

In fact, the evidence points now that instead of one side using chemical weapons, and generally being the ‘bad guys’, both sides do. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that he had evidence the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in April ( source ), and yesterday UN human rights investigators reported that rebels had used the nerve agent Sarin ( source ).

So, this also turns into another claim made of the rebels that was said to be categorically wrong by those in the media. Here’s a list someone else made of some of the claims so far, that were later proved right:

  1. Rebels armed with advanced conventional weaponry such as AT, mortars, AA, grad rockets.
  2. Foreign fighters present.
  3. Foreign countries are financing the war (Qatar, Saudi Arabia…)
  4. Foreign countries are assisting entry and providing training to rebels (Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia…)
  5. Syria is fighting terrorists. (Al Nusra, and other extremist groups)
  6. Rebels have used chemical weapons.

What this ends up looking at, is a painful and no-win war. Of course, this is only from an outsider’s perspective, but it seems that siding with either the rebels or Assad means siding with those incompatible with the norms and values of the West, and that sitting on the sidelines means we’re just going to ‘let people die’.


Gun Deaths? A Loaded Question

As a European, it can be too easy to chide the US for its obsession of guns. The caricature of a gun-toting, murdering, ‘hick’ is one that is all too acceptable in the UK and abroad. Most often accepted as proof of this, is the ratio of gun deaths per capita versus the amount of guns, as shown below.

Gun deaths vs ownership

Gun deaths vs ownership

However, some of the largest amount of gun deaths come from suicides. So what does it look like without that? Gun homicides plotted against gun ownership is shown below.

Gun homicides vs gun ownership in the OECD.

Gun homicides vs gun ownership in the OECD.

The above chart helps calm the debate a bit, at least among OECD countries. The chart below shows a trend in gun homicides, that the most common signifier isn’t actually the rate of gun ownership, but of course gang violence and even wars.

Note: I mainly sit on the fence for this issue, but this is a repost of Mark Reid’s graphs here, which I think are important to the debate http://mark.reid.name/blog/gun-deaths-vs-gun-ownership.html

Republican Principles in 18th c. Britain

233 years and 4 days ago, John Dunning MP successfully moved a motion that stoutly attempted to make firm Parliament’s sovereignty.

This was a key stage in Britain’s democratic and republican growth, the motion stated that:

“the influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished”

& that

“it is competent to this house to examine into and correct abuses in the expenditure of the civil list revenues, as well as in every other branch of the public revenue, whenever it shall appear expedient to the wisdom of the house so to do”

Edmund Burke may have best described the ‘Crown’ in this context as a system of patronage and undemocratic secrecy that continually threatened to undermine the people-power of Parliament. Dunning my also have seen it this way, as the ‘Crown’ was acquiring a worrying amount of executive powers that would bypass Parliament in political decisions. This was in conjunction with the unpopular monarch, George III, who continually attempted to exercise undue influence on the democratic process.

Dunning is a lesson to modern British and foreign republicans, who all too often focus on one aspect of a state’s constitution and ignore other abuses of power. In Britain for example, there are still threats to republican values that are not through the monarchy or the Crown but in Parliament itself. The motion was successful, despite the 18th century Parliament being in many cases unrepresentative and simply corrupt. If a historical and weak Parliament could create such a bill as this, it is not hard to believe that the same may yet happen in modern times.


‘Right to be forgotten’ is not worth fighting for

Following very real concerns created by governments attempting to violate basic internet privacy, some of which were stopped by the EU itself, when the British government seeks to opt out of EU rights for internet users people understandably become worried. In fact, headlines created quite emotional reactions:

daman345 : The UK ought to f**k off on this one. That sounds like an important right to have in the online world.

oldtymer : What do you expect from this government? They will always put the interests of the huge corporate user before the rights of their citizens.

ryebonfire : Why on earth should the MoJ oppose this? Given that there should be sensible exceptions for State records, everyone has a right to the privacy of their personal data.

Others went as far to call it Orwellian, but is it scaremongering or yet another authoritarian policy on part of the government? For one thing, the idea of a ‘right to be forgotten’ is simply impractical.

The concept will either be overbearing or in actual fact promise very little. Richard Allan, a regional Facebook director for policy, said:

“we have concerns about about the workability and consequences of a mechanism where organisations start sending each other instructions about data that needs to be removed. Our worry is that it will take up resources and won’t be effective.”

Simply put, if an embarrassing picture is put online and spread to multiple sites it becomes both impossible to track and near infinitely time consuming to request takedowns. According to some sources, the law could cost the UK over £400m a year in total according to justice minister Lord McNally .

There are some parallels between this and copyright takedown, sites like Youtube have to cooperate with laws on copyright but lack the resources/incentive to do effectively, hence, they have automated systems that delete/block videos or accounts after a certain amount of requested takedowns. This automated system can be combatted if your personal details are filled in claiming ownership of your own video, but due to this can also be abused to silence those taking controversial stances who fear letting their personal information become public ( see here , for example). It is not unreasonable to suggest that the same kind of ‘doxxing’ could happen with any of these new proposed laws.