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2005-11-25

Admin notice 

Dear readers, due to changes in my daily schedule blog posts may appear more irregurlarly in the future. As most of my readers now seem to come here from RSS-aggregators, I hope this will cause no major inconveniences. Other visitors, please consider adding this blog to an aggregator [for example bloglines] to prevent visits to an unchanged page.

Also, since occasionally weird stuff has been published here over the last 20 months, the archives are from now on not directly browsable from the main page, though of course they remain searchable. The main page will show the three most recent entries, rather than 15 as previously. Yes, I'm starting on a new job :-)

UPDATE 28.12.: Archives are back. No need to throw out the baby with the bathwater yet.

2005-11-17

Green judgement day 

..in Vienna was the 15th of November. The newly elected Green members of the Vienna city-council had to vote who of them would fulfill which of the more important speaker-roles during the next five years (result here [DE], for insiders). Stage set for a confrontation between the left-wingers [Fundis], who were in the majority, and the moderates [Realos]. Yes, the two camps exist, don't let yourself be convinced otherwise. And here are some juicy public quotes from leading Viennese Green politicians:

14.11. Peter Pilz on his weblog [DE]:
At the [national party] congress [last weekend], power was at stake as well. A group around the Viennese city councillor Margulies tried everything at the congress and lost everything. ... After their defeat, some people now have to decide: do they want to continue like this or are they finally ready for a political debate: with programmes, ideas, and proposals. But maybe that is asking for too much.
15.11. Martin Margulies in the comments to Pilz's posting:
a small man with a thick cigar, or truly fact-based - truly real - truly pilz ... one has to thank people like peter pilz for the fact that the greens keep developing their ideas - after all he has already taken all possible positions on all questions of importance - flip-flop pilz or in other words
a small man with a thick cigar
15.11. Maria Vassilakou quoted in Kurier [DE] newspaper:
"This is an internal matter." The success of the candidates of the left wing was "an almost logical development."
16.11. Marie Ringler on her weblog [DE]:
Wow. Today I realise once again how much politics resembles an episode of "Dynasty". All ingredients are there: love, hatred, intrigue, treason... How are the voters supposed to still maintain their trust?
17.11. 16:45 Christoph Chorherr speaks out for the first time, in an interview with DerStandard titled "Green Chasm: Realo - Irrealo" [DE]:
the latest internal elections for [important roles] are "no compromise, they do not signal the necessary political relaunch - they are a defeat for the ability to produce politics [Politikfähigkeit]." ... One councillor had declared [referring to respected moderate Sigrid Pilz]: "Since you are in the wrong clique [Seilschaft], I will do everything so that nothing becomes of you." ... [According to Chorherr] one had to "develop the vision of a sustainable, innovative city, and that is not possible if one makes a resolution with a vote of 22:19, which is then repeated in a docile manner by everyone."
And how does your correspondent feel about this? I'm certainly not neutral. Maybe it is true what a commenter [DE] recently wrote at eDemokratie.ch:
Being a party member requires readiness to suffer.
[Parteimitgliedschaft bedingt Leidensbereitschaft.]

2005-11-11

Gene Sperling: Passion for Growth 

From the new book by Gene Sperling, who served as National Economic Advisor under Bill Clinton:
The Democratic Party should disband if it ever stops being the party that stands by the little guy, leads the fight against racial and economic disadvantage, sticks by working families when times are tough, and takes on those with privilege who don't play by the rules.

Yet when the public only hears Democrats taking on powerful interests or fighting for those who have fallen on hard times, they may believe that progressives' and the Democratic Party's passion is limited only to helping those in distress, and not to spurring economic growth and helping families create wealth. Democrats cannot just be the party for you when something bad happens. They also need to be the party of your optimistic aspirations. Friends are most important during hard times, but most of us want friends who support our dreams and hopes as well.

...

Continuing to push for a growing economic pie should be critical for those who believe in an America that always makes room for more people from diverse economic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds who want to work hard to move up into the broad middle class. Simply put: it is easier to have a melting pot if it is a growing pot. When the economy stagnates, competition for a set number of jobs and resources becomes a war for scarce resources that can break down along racial and ethnic lines.

That is why the failure to "grow together" increases the risk that we will "grow apart" and become divided as a people competing for a shrinking pie of resources and opportunity.
This reaches me via Marginal Revolution, where Tyler Cowen among others makes this comment, which pains me considerably:
I just don't believe that any political party can be mass-captured by the intelligent and brought around to sanity. Parties exist, in part, to enforce feelings of interpersonal solidarity and to make people forget about critical thinking. We cannot avoid parties in a democracy, but there is already too much interest in parties as a vehicle for ideas.
As for Sperling's remarks, I cannot read them without thinking about the ongoing youth unrests in France, as well as the seemingly deeply entrenched xenophobia of a sizeable part of the electorate here in Vienna.

2005-11-06

My first time: general meeting of the Vienna party branch 

That was exhausting! Today I participated in the 55. general meeting of the Vienna branch of the Austrian Green party. For seven hours we voted the list of candidates for the next nationwide election in autumn 2006, position after position, with five minute presentation slots plus five minutes for questions for each candidate. The first two places were uncontested, the incumbents got 84% (Glawischnig-Piescek) and 96% (Öllinger) respectively. Then it got tight for the remaining two to three realistic seats. The runoff for fourth place was decided by a result of 171:169 votes - for the winning side, every single vote mattered! Had one of the delegates voted differently, we might have another candidate in the next parliament. This proves what I believed when I decided to join the party in spring, namely that voting within an internally democratic party is much more effective for the individual than participating in general elections, where the chances of changing the result with one's single vote are almost null.

This is not to say the whole experience was all satisfying. It is no fun to find out that your own political position is pretty far from being in the majority among the delegates. It seems that also these politically savvy voters often vote for candidates that are like them, not least on a biographical level. Whether somebody's analyses and proposals are right or not, or whether somebody is competent in what he or she does, does not matter as much as it should. As the Vienna Greens have always been in opposition, there is also some degree of celebrating contrarians at the expense of candidates who can develop workable solutions for real problems.

Lesson: If one wants to move something in politics, being right (even if we assume you are) means nothing. In a radically democratic setting [Basisdemokratie] such as the Green party, one also has to develop and implement a step-by-step plan for how to convince hard-to-impress peers, delegates, the party, before--many years later--one might eventually get a real chance to talk to the public. A long road. Is it worth trying?

2005-11-01

What elections do to socialdemocrats 

"The SPD slaughters its chairman by mistake" is how the media describe what happened in Germany yesterday. Franz Müntefering, the seemingly unassailable Schröder-buddy, SPD-chairman, and designated vice-chancellor has said good-bye to the party job (his government-job may be the next to go) after suffering a resounding 14:23 defeat for his candidate Kajo Wasserhövel for the job of party-general-secretary, a position traditionally appointed by the chairman.

The source of the trouble is 35-year old 'left-winger' Andrea Nahles, who dared to run against Müntefering's favorite. Until recently Nahles was leading an election-weblog here [DE]. She is now portrayed unfavourably by almost everyone with the means to do so, for example German political weblog lautgeben.de [DE]:
My first contact with Andrea Nahles was an unpleasant one. I had drunk too much and suddenly a voice in my ear, which was not supposed to be there. At least so I thought. Andrea Nahles is neither particularly pretty, nor could she be called pleasant company. With her loud mouth she always proclaims how important the Left supposedly is in the SPD, that the values of socialdemocracy are in danger and that anyway too many people are far too neoliberal. One may agree, or one may not. In any case one never ever wants to hear that from the mouth of Andrea Nahles, the party-careerist from Rheinland-Pfalz.
In the same vein, public broadcaster ARD showed a picture of Nahles posing as a scantily clad bodybuilder. I almost feel sympathy for her.

In contrast to the German chaos, the Austrian socialdemocrats are basking in the glory of their three recent regional election wins. It now looks as if the next general election expected in autumn 2006 is theirs to lose. They are running a feel-good mid-term poster campaing with the slogan "Austria deserves a better future [DE]", and suprisingly their lame regional branch in Carinthia province, where politics is still dominated by local tycoon Jörg Haider, has just elected an eloquent and promising new leader, 40-year old Gaby Schaunig [DE].

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