The normally Republican-phobic continent is taking a surprising shine to the lead GOP candidate, which it sees as a champion against the fringe
Mitt Romney, the GOP forerunner, met with fanfare on his recent travel to Europe./ Reuters
The presidential primaries look a little different from across the Atlantic, and not necessarily in the way that you'd expect. The coverage isn't an Obama love-fest as it was early in his presidency, nor is it entirely GOP-bashing. That said, mainstream Europe -- whose open antagonism toward the Republican party appears to have faded somewhat since the Bush years ended, despite an uptick during the health care debates -- is clearly fascinated by the current split in the Republican party. And, in the split, thus far Europeans would prefer Romney.
The European media has presented a fairly clear narrative of the primary to date: Romney's the leader but he doesn't excite Republicans -- that's the basic message. Perhaps because there's been less discussion of individual polls, there's been less hype about the as-yet short-lived leads by Herman Cain, Ron Paul, or Rick Perry. That also means, though, that there's been less journalistic reveling in the wackiness of what European (as well as some American) publications tend to portray as the wild-eyed Republican fringe. There's a hint of wariness, but it's not the full-blown incomprehension, derision, and fear that has occasionally been expressed on Continental op-ed pages.
But what Europe really does seem interested in is the split in the Republican party. "The Iowa presidential primaries reveal deep divisions among the Republicans," proclaims German paper Die Welt. An opinion in French Le Monde riffs on "Mitt Romney and the fatwas of the Republican Party." Libérationdescribes the "Christian right" as "torn," while Spanish El Paíssuggests Obama may be "tak[ing] advantage" of the Republican divide.
Thus far, European media voices have also expressed a strong preference for Romney over the other contenders. Clemens Wergin, for example, writes for Die Welt that the results in Iowa "show how uncertain the conservative movement in America is of its own identity." Mitt Romney represents the "classic, pragmatic, business-oriented branch." Then there's the "Christian, archconservative" side represented by Rick Santorum. Ron Paul "stands for the anti-state, radical libertarian impulses of America and for many populist reflexes. At the same time he's the candidate from whom there is the most to fear."
If that wasn't clear enough, how about this summary: "the good news from Iowa is that in this highly social conservative and less diverse state the moderate Romney can still win." Wergin adds that the "bad news" is that Paul is still a factor at all:
The Paul phenomenon makes it clear that there is an eerie potential for anger in the current conditions in America [...] It is an anger that above all feeds on the fact that the classic midle class dream of mobility in America is being dashed. Even well-educated young Americans today have huge problems getting a job appropriate to their training. [...] The vote in Iowa shows that conservatives in America apparently still don't know what they want to be: culture warriors? Isolationists? Moralists? Tied to the economy? Anti-establishment populists? Thus the Republican primary system is still good for some surprises.
The editorial board of French paper Le Monde pulls even fewer punches: it sees the difficulty Romney is having gaining support as evidence of the "ultra-right drift" in the Republican party (El País, to compare,calls it "petrified on the right"). Write the editors: "This is worrying for the U.S. -- and the rest of the world."
The standard negative narrative for Romney in the U.S. is that he's a chameleon, changing positions according to political expediency. Most liberals in America didn't take his liberal drift while governor of Massachusetts any more seriously than Republicans take his conservative drift at present. But that's not the way Le Monde sees it. The French paper sees Romney fundamentally as a moderate who "is winning only by aligning himself with the new catechism of the [Republican] party."
Previously, this narrative goes, Romney was "a New England Patrician [...] He governed Massachusetts form the center, with talent. He installed a universal system of health insurance. He defended the rights of sexual minorities, as well as that of women to abortion. He practiced a balanced budget policy. He was careful to defend the environment." Now, "he has conformed to what The Economist calls a 'list of fatwas' making up the new Republican creed." Now, "Romney is no longer the centrist he was in Boston. He no longer believes in climate change. He's opposed to abortion and gay marriage."
This French offering may be the starkest and most anti-conservative of the prominent views, but it's worth noting that the point of the article isn't to glorify Obama in contrasts. Though the final sentence admits the Republican drift is probably good for Obama, "it's bad for American democracy."
Therein lies the key to understanding this kind of European thinking. While it's important to realize this is all analytical shorthand -- Europe as a whole does not think with one mind, and even opinions on the same general path tend to diverge on specifics -- it's hard not to read a common thread in some of the media coverage of the Republican primaries. Contrary to what some might think, the tone even in condemnations isn't one of pure disdain: this is not a case of Europeans looking down their noses at Americans' Tea Party antics, the unstated view being that they'd never occur in Europe.
Arguably, it's precisely because Europe has seen its own Tea Parties that the media is so wary of America's right wing. No, this is not just another Nazi comparison: people often forget that Hitler was hardly Europe's only brush with fascism or populism gone wild. There are the extreme examples -- the French Revolution, France's July Revolution of 1830, the Revolutions of 1848, the Paris Commune, and on. But there's also a Christian right in Europe today: for example, Jean-Marie Le Pen's Tea-Party-like opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, and immigration. Despite the strong trend of European media wariness toward people like Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Ron Paul, European opinion and historical experience is clearly quite diverse. And that may be exactly what's informing the current across-the-water fascination with the Republican split.
Einstein’s gravitational waves rest on a genuinely radical idea.
After decades of anticipation, we have directly detected gravitational waves—ripples in spacetime traveling at the speed of light through the universe. Scientists at LIGO (the Laser Interferometic Gravitational-wave Observatory) have announced that they have measured waves coming from the inspiral of two massive black holes, providing a spectacular confirmation of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, whose hundredth anniversary was celebrated just last year.
Finding gravitational waves indicates that Einstein was (once again) right, and opens a new window onto energetic events occurring around the universe. But there’s a deeper lesson, as well: a reminder of the central importance of locality, an idea that underlies much of modern physics.
The bureau successfully played the long game in both cases.
The story of law enforcement in the Oregon standoff is one of patience.
On the most obvious level, that was reflected in the 41 days that armed militia members occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns. It took 25 days before the FBI and state police moved to arrest several leaders of the occupation and to barricade the refuge. It took another 15 days before the last of the final occupiers walked out, Thursday morning Oregon time.
Each of those cases involved patience as well: Officers massed on Highway 395 didn’t shoot LaVoy Finicum when he tried to ram past a barricade, nearly striking an FBI agent, though when he reached for a gun in his pocket they finally fired. Meanwhile, despite increasingly hysterical behavior from David Fry, the final occupier, officers waited him out until he emerged peacefully.
Today’s empires are born on the web, and exert tremendous power in the material world.
Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t had the best week.
First, Facebook’s Free Basics platform was effectively banned in India. Then, a high-profile member of Facebook’s board of directors, the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, sounded off about the decision to his nearly half-a-million Twitter followers with a stunning comment.
“Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades,” Andreessen wrote. “Why stop now?”
After that, the Internet went nuts.
Andreessen deleted his tweet, apologized, and underscored that he is “100 percent opposed to colonialism” and “100 percent in favor of independence and freedom.” Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, followed up with his own Facebook post to say Andreessen’s comment was “deeply upsetting” to him, and not representative of the way he thinks “at all.”
Ben Stiller’s follow-up to his own comedy classic is a downright bummer, no matter how many celebrity cameos it tries to cram in.
You don’t need to go to the theater to get the full experience of Zoolander 2. Simply get your hands on a copy of the original, watch it, and then yell a bunch of unfunny topical lines every time somebody tells a joke. That’s how it feels to watch Ben Stiller’s sequel to his 2001 spoof of the fashion industry: Zoolander 2 takes pains to reference every successful gag you remember from the original, and then embellish them in painful—often offensive, almost always outdated—fashion. It’s a film that has no real reason to exist, and it spends its entire running time reaffirming that fact.
The original Zoolander, to be fair, had no business being as funny as it was—it made fun of an industry that already seems to exist in a constant state of self-parody, and much of its humor relied on simple malapropisms and sight gags. But it was hilarious anyway as a candid snapshot of the fizzling-out of ’90s culture. Like almost any zeitgeist comedy, it belonged to a particular moment—and boy, should it have stayed there. With Zoolander 2, Stiller (who directed, co-wrote, and stars) tries to recapture the magic of 2001 by referencing its past glories with increasing desperation, perhaps to avoid the fact that he has nothing new to say about the fashion industry or celebrity culture 15 years laters.
Carly Fiorina’s exit from the 2016 race could stifle debate over gender equality across the political spectrum.
When Carly Fiorina dropped out of the presidential race, she took the opportunity to talk about the meaning of feminism—or at least advance her own definition of the term. “A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses and uses all her God-given gifts,” Fiorina wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday. The message was familiar for Fiorina, a Republican candidate who used her most recent moment on the national stage to argue that women in America still face an uneven playing field.
Fiorina’s assertions lent credibility to the idea that gender inequality is not merely a lament of the political left, but a reality to be confronted by Republicans and Democrats. That message opened the door to debate over what kind of policy platform might best improve quality of life for women in America. Now that Fiorina has exited the race, it seems extremely unlikely that any Republican presidential contender will take up the mantle of talking about feminism and the challenges women face. The debate that Fiorina fostered will be far less prominent as a result.
When four American women were murdered during El Salvador’s dirty war, a young U.S. official and his unlikely partner risked their lives to solve the case.
On December 1, 1980, two American Catholic churchwomen—an Ursuline nun and a lay missionary—sat down to dinner with Robert White, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. They worked in rural areas ministering to El Salvador’s desperately impoverished peasants, and White admired their commitment and courage. The talk turned to the government’s brutal tactics for fighting the country’s left-wing guerrillas, in a dirty war waged by death squads that dumped bodies in the streets and an army that massacred civilians. The women were alarmed by the incoming Reagan administration’s plans for a closer relationship with the military-led government. Because of a curfew, the women spent the night at the ambassador’s residence. The next day, after breakfast with the ambassador’s wife, they drove to San Salvador’s international airport to pick up two colleagues who were flying back from a conference in Nicaragua. Within hours, all four women would be dead.
Though the senator may be running as a moderate, his proposal is anything but.
Senator Marco Rubio is running as the acceptable moderate among the three leading Republicans presidential candidates, compared to Senator Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. But as the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reported yesterday, his tax plan is not moderate, and it is scarcely acceptable.
Rubio’s proposals would deliver a $1 million tax break to the richest 0.1 percent of the country in its first year and slash government revenue by $6.8 trillion over the next decade. To avoid adding to the deficit, it would require “unprecedented” spending cuts, according to TPC. But that’s not all. Rubio has also called for higher military spending, delayed cuts to Medicare and Social Security, and a Balanced Budget Amendment. To appreciate the impossibility of balancing the budget while raising military spending and slashing taxes at unprecedented levels, try running a marathon while fasting.
In New Hampshire, he won working class men without college diplomas—and most every other demographic group.
Earlier this year, when Mona Chalabi wanted to describe a Donald Trump voter in The Guardian, she conjured a 45-year-old male named Michael who never attended college, works 9-hour days as an exterminator, and earns $33,000 per year. Trump “is more popular among Americans that are white than those who aren’t, and more popular among Americans with penises than those without,” she wrote. “Often, these white men are also working or middle class and middle-aged.”
The New Hampshire primary didn't contradict that conventional wisdom. The billionaire won among voters who never attended college; the working class; and the middle-aged.
Then again, Trump won almost every other demographic, too.
The exit polls couldn’t be clearer. As Ramesh Ponnuru put it, “They raise questions about what we think we know about the Trump phenomenon.” Since the Granite State is so white, it didn’t test the candidate’s performance among minorities. But Trump proved an ability to best all his rivals among the following groups:
The number of American teens who excel at advanced math has surged. Why?
On a sultry evening last July, a tall, soft-spoken 17-year-old named David Stoner and nearly 600 other math whizzes from all over the world sat huddled in small groups around wicker bistro tables, talking in low voices and obsessively refreshing the browsers on their laptops. The air in the cavernous lobby of the Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was humid, recalls Stoner, whose light South Carolina accent warms his carefully chosen words. The tension in the room made it seem especially heavy, like the atmosphere at a high-stakes poker tournament.
Stoner and five teammates were representing the United States in the 56th International Mathematical Olympiad. They figured they’d done pretty well over the two days of competition. God knows, they’d trained hard. Stoner, like his teammates, had endured a grueling regime for more than a year—practicing tricky problems over breakfast before school and taking on more problems late into the evening after he completed the homework for his college-level math classes. Sometimes, he sketched out proofs on the large dry-erase board his dad had installed in his bedroom. Most nights, he put himself to sleep reading books like New Problems in Euclidean Geometry and An Introduction to Diophantine Equations.