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Friday, October 19, 2012

Euroskeptic Spoilers in the Council: Two-Tracks as a Solution

During its meeting in October 2012, the European Council decided to move forward on the legal underpinnings of a banking supervisor at the ECB. The position was officially accepted at the next meeting in December. The position was designed to be responsible for overseeing the banks in the states that use the euro. Some of the debate between state leaders at the October meeting involved when the supervisor would be up and running. The issue of timing was particularly relevant and indeed pressing at the time because federal bailout money would flow directly to banks only once a supervisor is in place. To the extent that Spanish banks desperately needed additional capitalization to cover their bad debts, the ability of the Council to come up with legislation for a supervisor position in a timely manner—the upcoming German election notwithstanding—was crucial to stabilizing the market not only in the E.U., but internationally as well. The Council's members can be subjected to critique in this respect.
The full essay is at "E.U. & U.S."

Is the Commission Blackmailing Britain?

In October 2012, the Daily Online reported, “Brussels officials are threatening to hit Britain with millions of pounds in fines in retaliation for pulling out of pan-European justice and crime policies.” It is the element of “retaliation” that was particularly provocative in the state known for its outspoken Euro-skeptic element. The E.U. cannot afford such an atmosphere to foment. Moreover, the dual-track trajectory should be fostered rather than retarded by the E.U. Government, due to the very different notions of the E.U. among the states.

Thirty-One states are subject to E.U. Justice powers.   Source: Danish Presidency of the Council of the E.U.
The complete essay is at "Is the E.U. a Federal System?"


ALL 135 POWERS BRITAIN WANTS THE E.U. TO RETURN TO THE STATE

Council Act of 26 July 1995 drawing up the Convention on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests
Council Act of 27 September 1996 drawing up a Protocol to the Convention on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests
Council Act of 19 June 1997 drawing up the Second Protocol of the Convention on the protection of the European Communities' financial interests
Joint Action 96/277/JHA of 22 April 1996 concerning a framework for the exchange of liaison magistrates to improve judicial cooperation between the Member States of the European Union
Joint Action 96/610/JHA concerning the creation and maintenance of a Directory of specialized counter-terrorist competences, skills and expertise to facilitate counter-terrorist cooperation between the Member States of the European Union
Joint Action 96/698/JHA on cooperation between customs authorities and business organizations in combating drug trafficking
Joint Action 96/699/JHA concerning the exchange of information on the chemical profiling of drugs to facilitate improved cooperation between Member States in combating illicit drug trafficking
Joint Action 96/747/JHA concerning the creation and maintenance of a directory of specialized competences, skills and expertise in the fight against international organized crime, in order to facilitate law enforcement cooperation between the Member States of the European Union
Joint Action 96/750/JHA concerning the approximation of the laws and practices of the Member States of the European Union to combat drug addiction and to prevent and combat illegal drug trafficking
Convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union
Council Decision 2003/642/JHA of 22 July 2003 concerning the application to Gibraltar of the Convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union
Joint Action 97/339/JHA of 26 May 1997 with regard to cooperation on law and order and security
Joint Action 97/372/JHA of 9 June 1997 for the refining of targeting criteria, selection methods, et. and collection of customs and police information
Joint Action 97/827/JHA of 5 December 1997 establishing a mechanism for evaluating the application and implementation at national level of international undertakings in the fight against organized crime
Council Act of 18 December 1997 drawing up the Convention on mutual assistance and cooperation between customs administrations (Naples II)
Council Act of 17 June 1998 drawing up the Convention on Driving Disqualifications
Joint Action 98/427/JHA of 29 June 1998 on good practice in mutual legal assistance in criminal matters
Joint Action 98/699/JHA of 3 December 1998 on money laundering, the identification, tracing, freezing, seizing and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds from crime
Joint Action 98/700/JHA of 3 December 1998 concerning the setting up of a European Image Archiving System (FADO)
Council Act of 3 December 1998 laying down the staff regulations applicable to Europol employees
Council Decision of 2 December 1999 amending the Council Act of 3 December 1998 laying down the staff regulations applicable to Europol employees, with regard to the establishment of remuneration, pensions and other financial entitlements in euro
Council Decision 2005/511/JHA of 12 July 2005 on protecting the euro against counterfeiting, by designating Europol as the Central Office for combating euro-counterfeiting
Council Decision 2009/371/JHA establishing the European Police Office (Europol)
Council Decision 2009/934/JHA of 30 November 2009 adopting the implementing rules governing Europol's relations with partners, including the exchange of personal data and classified information
Council Decision 2009/935/JHA of 30 November 2009 determining the list of third countries with which Europol shall conclude agreements
Council Decision 2009/936/JHA of 30 November 2009 adopting the implementing rules for Europol analysis work files
Council Decision 2009/968/JHA of 30 November 2009 adopting the rules on the confidentiality of Europol information
Council Act of 3 December 1998 laying down the staff regulations applicable to Europol employees
Council Decision of 2 December 1999 amending the Council Act of 3 December 1998 laying down the staff regulations applicable to Europol employees, with regard to the establishment of remuneration, pensions and other financial entitlements in euro
Council Decision 2005/511/JHA of 12 July 2005 on protecting the euro against counterfeiting, by designating Europol as the Central Office for combating euro-counterfeiting
Council Decision 2009/371/JHA establishing the European Police Office (Europol)
Council Decision 2009/934/JHA of 30 November 2009 adopting the implementing rules governing Europol's relations with partners, including the exchange of personal data and classified information
Council Decision 2009/935/JHA of 30 November 2009 determining the list of third countries with which Europol shall conclude agreements
Council Decision 2009/936/JHA of 30 November 2009 adopting the implementing rules for Europol analysis work files
Council Decision 2009/968/JHA of 30 November 2009 adopting the rules on the confidentiality of Europol
Council Decision 2000/261/JHA of 27 March 2000 on the improved exchange of information to combat counterfeit travel documents
Council Decision 2000/375/JHA to combat child pornography on the internet
Council Framework Decision 2000/383/JHA of 29 May 2000 on increasing protection by criminal penalties and other sanctions against counterfeiting in connection with the introduction of the euro
Council Framework Decision 2001/888/JHA of 6 December 2001 amending Framework Decision 2000/383/JHA on increasing protection by criminal penalties and other sanctions against counterfeiting in connection with the introduction of the euro
Council Act of 29 May 2000 establishing the Convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters between the Member States of the European Union
Council Act of 16 October 2001 establishing the Protocol to the Convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters between the Member states of the European Union
Council Decision 2000/641/JHA of 17 October 2000 establishing a secretariat for the joint supervisory data-protection bodies set up by the Convention on the establishment of a European Police Office (Europol Convention), the Convention on the Use of Information Technology for Customs Purposes and the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement on the gradual abolition of checks at the common borders (Schengen Convention)
Council Decision 2000/642/JHA of 17 October 2000 concerning arrangements for cooperation between financial intelligence units of Member States in respect of exchanging information
Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA of 15 March 2001 on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings
Council Framework Decision 2001/413/JHA of 28 May 2001 combating fraud and counterfeiting of non-cash means of payment
Council Decision 2001/419/JHA on the transmission of samples of controlled substances between Member States
Council Framework Decision 2001/500/JHA of 26 June 2001 on money laundering, the identification, tracing, freezing, seizing and confiscation of instrumentalities and the proceeds of crime (repealing Articles 1, 3, 5(1) and 8(2) of Joint Action 98/699/JHA)
Council Framework Decision 2001/500/JHA of 26 June 2001 on money laundering, the identification, tracing, freezing, seizing and confiscation of instrumentalities and the proceeds of crime (repealing Articles 1, 3, 5(1) and 8(2) of Joint Action 98/699/JHA)
Council Decision 2002/187/JHA of 28 February 2002 setting up Eurojust with a view to reinforcing the fight against serious crime
Council Decision 2009/426/JHA of 16 December 2008 on the strengthening of Eurojust and amending Decision 2002/187/JHA setting up Eurojust with a view to reinforcing the fight against serious crime
Council Decision 2002/348/JHA of 25 April 2002 concerning security in connection with football matches with an international dimension
Council Decision 2007/412/JHA of 12 June 2007 amending Decision 2002/348/JHA concerning security in connection with football matches with an international dimension
Council Decision 2002/348/JHA of 25 April 2002 concerning security in connection with football matches with an international dimension
Council Decision 2007/412/JHA of 12 June 2007 amending Decision 2002/348/JHA concerning security in connection with football matches with an international dimension
Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA on Combating Terrorism
Council Framework Decision 2008/919/JHA amending 2002/475/JHA Council Decision 2002/494/JHA of 13 June 2002 setting up a European network of contact points in respect of persons responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes
Council Decision 2002/494/JHA of 13 June 2002 setting up a European network of contact points in respect of persons responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA
Council Framework Decision 2002/946/JHA of 28 November 2002 on the strengthening of the penal framework to prevent the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence
Council Decision 2002/956/JHA of 28 November 2002 setting up a European Network for the Protection of Public Figures Council Decision 2009/796/JHA of 4 June 2009 amending Decision 2002/956/JHA setting up a European Network for the Protection of Public Figures Council Decision 2002/956/JHA of 28 November 2002 setting up a European Network for the Protection of Public Figures Council Decision 2009/796/JHA of 4 June 2009 amending Decision 2002/956/JHA setting up a European Network for the Protection of Public Figures
Council Decision 2003/170/JHA of 27 February 2003 on the common use of liaison officers posted abroad by the law enforcement agencies of the Member States
Council Decision 2006/560/JHA of 24 July 2006 amending Council Decision 2003/170/JHA of 27 February 2003 on the common use of liaison officers posted abroad by the law enforcement agencies of the Member States
Council Framework Decision 2003/568/JHA of 22 July 2003 on combating corruption in the private sector
Council Framework Decision 2003/577/JHA on the execution in the European Union of orders freezing property or evidence
Council Decision 2003/335/JHA on the investigation and prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes
Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA
Council Decision 2004/731/EC of 26 July 2004 concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and Bosnia and Herzegovina on security procedures for the exchange of classified information
Council Decision of 2004/843/CFSP 26 July 2004 concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and the Kingdom of Norway on security procedures for the exchange of classified information
Council Decision 2005/296/CFSP, JHA of 24 January 2005 concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the security procedures for the exchange of classified information
Council Decision 2005/481/CFSP of 13 June 2005 concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine on the security procedures for the exchange of classified information
Council Decision 2006/317/CFSP of 10 April 2006 concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Croatia on security procedures for the exchange of classified information
Council Decision 2006/467/CFSP of 21 November 2005 concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Iceland on security procedures for the exchange of classified information
Council Decision 2007/274/JHA of 23 April 2007 concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and the Government of the United States of America on the security of classified information
Council Decision 2008/568/CFSP of 24 June 2005 concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Union and the Swiss Confederation on security procedures for the exchange of classified information
Council Decision 2010/348/EC of 17 November 2009 concerning the conclusion of the Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the European Union on the protection of classified information
Council Framework Decision 2004/757/JHA of 25 October 2004 laying down minimum provisions on the constituent elements of criminal acts and penalties in the field of drug trafficking
Council Decision 2004/919/EC of 22 December 2004 on tackling vehicle crime with cross-border implications
Council Common Position 2005/69/JHA of 24 January 2005 on exchanging certain data with Interpol
Council Framework Decision 2005/212/JHA of 24 February 2005 on Confiscation of Crime-related Proceeds, Instrumentalities and Property
Council Framework Decision 2005/214/JHA of 24 February 2005 on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to financial penalties
Council Framework Decision 2005/222/JHA of 24 February 2005 on attacks against information systems
Council Decision 2005/671/JHA of 20 September 2005 on the exchange of information and cooperation concerning terrorist offences
Council Decision 2005/681/JHA of 20 September 2005 establishing the European Police College (CEPOL) and repealing Decision 2000/820/JHA
Council Framework Decision 2006/783/JHA on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to confiscation orders
Council Framework Decision 2006/960/JHA of 18 December 2006 on simplifying the exchange of information and intelligence between law enforcement authorities of the Member States of the European Union
Council Decision 2007/845/JHA of 6 December 2007 concerning cooperation between Asset Recovery Offices of the Member States in the field of tracing and identification of proceeds from, or property related to, crime
Agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on the processing of Passenger Name Records (PNR) data by air carriers to the United States Department of Homeland Security
Council Decision 2008/615/JHA of 23 June 2008 on stepping up of cross-border cooperation, particularly in combating terrorism and cross-border crime
Council Decision 2008/616/JHA of 23 June 2008 on the implementation of Council Decision 2008/615/JHA on stepping up of cross-border cooperation, particularly in combating terrorism and cross-border crime.
Council Decision 2008/617/JHA of 23 June 2008 on the improvement of cooperation between the special intervention units of the Member States of the European Union in crisis situations
Council Decision 2008/651/CFSP/JHA of 30 June 2008 on the signing, on behalf of the European Union, of an Agreement between the European Union and Australia on the processing and transfer of European Union-sourced passenger name record (PNR) data by air carriers to the Australian Customs Service
Council Framework Decision 2008/675/JHA of 24 July 2008 on taking account of convictions in the Member States of the European Union in the course of new criminal proceedings
Council Framework Decision 2008/841/JHA of 24 October 2008 on the fight against organised crime
Council Framework Decision 2008/909/JHA of 27 November 2008 on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to judgments in criminal matters imposing custodial sentences or measures involving deprivation of liberty for the purposes of their enforcement in the European Union
Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law
Council Framework Decision 2008/947/JHA of 27 November 2008 on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to judgments and probation decisions with a view to the supervision of probation measures and alternative sanctions
Council Decision 2008/976/JHA of 16 December 2008 on the European Judicial Network
Council Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA of 27 November 2008 on the protection of personal data processed in the framework of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters
Council Framework Decision 2008/978/JHA of 18 December 2008 on the European evidence warrant for the purpose of obtaining objects, documents and data for use in proceedings in criminal matters
Council Framework Decision 2009/299/JHA of 26 February 2009 amending Framework Decisions 2002/584/JHA, 2005/214/JHA, 2006/783/JHA, 2008/909/JHA and 2008/947/JHA, thereby enhancing the procedural rights of persons and fostering the application of the principle of mutual recognition to decisions rendered in the absence of the person concerned at the trial
Council Framework Decision 2009/315/JHA of 26 February 2009 on the organisation and content of the exchange of information extracted from the criminal record between Member States
Council Decision 2009/316/JHA of 6 April 2009 on the establishment of the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) in application of Article 11 of Framework Decision 2009/315/JHA
Council Framework Decision 2009/829/JHA of 23 October 2009 on the application, between Member States of the European Union, of the principle of mutual recognition to decisions of supervision measures as an alternative to provisional detention
Council Decision 2009/902/JHA of 30 November 2009 setting up a European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN) and repealing Decision 2001/427/JHA
Council Framework Decision 2009/905/JHA of 30 November 2009 on accreditation of forensic service providers carrying out laboratory activities
Council Decision 2009/917/JHA of 30 November 2009 on the use of information technology for customs purposes.
Agreement on mutual legal assistance between the European Union and the United States of America
Agreement on Extradition between the European Union and the United States of America
Council Decision 2009/933/CFSP of 30 November 2009 on the extension, on behalf of the European Union, of the territorial scope of the Agreement on extradition between the European Union and the United States of America
Council Framework Decision 2009/948/JHA of 30 November 2009 on prevention and settlement of conflicts of exercise of jurisdiction in criminal matters
Council Decision 2003/169/JHA determining which provisions of the 1995 Convention on simplified extradition procedure between the Member States of the European Union and of the 1996
Convention relating to extradition between the Member States of the European Union constitute developments of the Schengen acquis in accordance with the Agreement concerning the Republic of Iceland's and the Kingdom of Norway's association with the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis
Council Decision 2008/852/JHA on a contact-point network against corruption
Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 1985
Council Decision 2000/586/JHA of 28 September 2000 establishing a procedure for amending Articles 40(4) and (5), 41(7) and 65(2) of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 on the gradual abolition of checks at common borders.
Council Decision 2003/725/JHA of 2 October 2003 amending the provisions of Article 40(1) and (7) of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 on the gradual abolition of checks at common borders
Council Decision 2000/586/JHA of 28 September 2000 establishing a procedure for amending Articles 40(4) and (5), 41(7) and 65(2) of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 on the gradual abolition of checks at common borders.
Council Decision 2003/725/JHA of 2 October 2003 amending the provisions of Article 40(1) and (7) of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 on the gradual abolition of checks at common borders
Council Decision 2008/149/EC of 28 January 2008 on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Union, of the Agreement between the European Union, the European Community and the Swiss Confederation on the Swiss Confederation's association with the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis
SCH/Com-ex (93) 14 on improving practical judicial cooperation for combating drug trafficking
SCH/Com-ex (96) decl 6 rev 2 (declaration on extradition)
SCH/Com-ex (98) 26 def setting up a Standing Committee on the evaluation and implementation of Schengen
SCH/Com-ex (98)52 on the Handbook on cross-border police cooperation
SCH/Com-ex (99) 6 on the Schengen acquis relating to telecommunications
Decision of the Executive Committee of 28 April 1999 on liaison officers (SCH/Com-ex (99) 7 rev. 2)
SCH/Com-ex (99)8 rev 2 on general principles governing the payment of informers
SCH/Com-ex (99) 11 rev 2 (agreement on cooperation in proceedings for road traffic offences)
Council Decision 2005/211/JHA of 24 February 2005 concerning the introduction of some new functions for the Schengen Information System, including in the fight against terrorism
Council Decision 2006/228/JHA of 9 March 2006 fixing the date of application of certain provisions of Decision 2005/211/JHA concerning the introduction of some new functions for the Schengen Information System, including the fight against terrorism
Council Decision 2006/229/JHA of 9 March 2006 fixing the date of application of certain provisions of Decision 2005/211/JHA concerning the introduction of some new functions for the Schengen Information System, including the fight against terrorism
Council Decision 2006/631/JHA of 9 March 2006 fixing the date of application of certain provisions of Decision 2005/211/JHA concerning the introduction of some new functions for the Schengen Information System, including the fight against terrorism
Commission Decision 2007/171/EC of 16 March 2007 laying down the network requirements for the Schengen Information System II
Council Decision 2008/173/EC of 18 February 2008 on the tests of the second generation Schengen Information System
Council Decision 2007/533/JHA of 12 June 2007 on the establishment, operation and use of the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II)
Commission Decision 2008/334/JHA of 4 March 2008 adopting the SIRENE Manual and other implementing measures for the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II)
Council Decision 2008/328/EC of 30 November 2009 amending the Decision of the Executive Committee set up by the 1990 Schengen Convention, amending the Financial Regulation on the costs of installing and operating the technical support function for the Schengen Information System (C.SIS)
Commission Decision 2009/724/JHA of 17 September 2009 laying down the date for the completion of migration from the Schengen Information System (SIS 1+) to the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II)



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Putin Takes on Big Tobacco

In political economy theory, democracy is said to have the drawback of excessive consumption of public revenues at the expense of investment, such as in infrastructure relevant to foreign direct investment. Latin American countries were contrasted negatively with the Asian newly industrialized economies, whose relatively strong states could buffer popular calls for more in entitlements so that more could be invested in infrastructure attractive to foreign multinational companies. The implication is that a tradeoff exists between democracy and economic development.
 
Apart from the economic aspects, the question may be whether a representative government can resist popular calls for more money to be spent by the government on popular consumption. In the U.S. case, it can be asked whether the fiscal stresses on Social Security and Medicare are due more to demographic factors (i.e., an aging population) or democracy itself. The ability of representative democracy to maintain a viable economy and republic in the long term is at issue.
 
Accordingly, Putin’s less than democratic approach to ruling Russia may have a bright side. Even though nearly 40% of the population smoked in 2012 and the world’s four big tobacco companies controlled 90% of the Russian market, the Kremlin was pushing strong anti-smoking legislation through the legislature. Besides the question of whether such legislation should be at that level in an empire-level federal system (there had been legislation at the republic level), the fact that the government was standing up to big business and 40 percent of its population (60% of Russian men) can be attributed to a strong state resisting popular pressure literally for consumption. This is not necessarily bad, as people do not always know what is best for them.

 
 
Even in democracies, checks exist against “excessive democracy.” The Electoral College and the U.S. Senate are two such institutional checks at the federal level in the United States. The electors in the College were to check popular pressure to elect someone who is not in the best interest of the people. In the wake of an attack, for instance, the people might want a president who will invade the offending country (or another). The electors may say, “hold on, that’s not in your own best interest so we are going to elect someone else—someone who will resist that momentary urge.”
 
Popular passion can also have considerable sway in the U.S. House of Representatives because each member is up for re-election in two-year intervals. It was to be annual, but in the eighteenth century travel time made that unrealistic at the empire level (whereas annual elections suffered no such obstacle for state legislatures). The six-year term in the U.S. Senate was meant to check the influence of the passions of the moment that can sway the House. So, too, the appointment of U.S. Senators by the state governments rather than directly elected by the people was so designed. The subsequent popular election of the senators has thus weakened this check.
 
In short, if it seems that elected representatives, including the American president, cannot say no to additional entitlement programs or to Wall Street, the relatively-undemocratic federal government of Russia might be found to have a few pluses even though putting down the democratic impulse of protest is hardly laudable. Perhaps the ideal is a government that is democratic yet of a strong enough state to withstand or at least check the passions of the people to consume more. Smoking is indeed a case of consumption that is not in a person’s or society’s best interest. Putin can indeed be credited if history will show that his government did indeed stand up to big tobacco and the large minority of smokers in Russia.

Source:

Lukas Alpert, “Kremlin Cracks Down on Big Tobacco,” The Wall Street Journal, October 16, 2012.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Presidential Debates

Just weeks before the 2012 elections in the U.S., the New York Times observed, “In 1960, John F. Kennedy was trailing Richard Nixon as they stepped into the crucible of the first nationally televised debate. While Kennedy soared, Nixon stumbled and never recovered. Network television played a definitive role, but those were very different times. There were three networks, not 500 channels, and the consumer Internet was still very much on the drawing board of the future. Half a century later, televised debates remain relevant, but the ritual is up against an always-on informational stream that surges with political messages.”
 
Indeed, $2.5 billion was being spent on the U.S. presidential election alone. It could even be said that the political conventions and the debates themselves had become pre-arranged “political messages” and thus part of the advertising.

In the second presidential debate of 2012, for example,  the candidates were primarily oriented to covering all their memorized talking points rather than answering questions posed by the voters invited for that very purpose as part of the "town hall" format. As it happened, the candidates talked so much that very few of the people's questions were asked. All that talk might have been justified had there been a focused and sustained back-and-forth limited to contending counter-arguments to specific points.

I was stunned at how rarely "debating" was even attempted. The candidates even dismissed the moderator when she tried to focus the "debate" by returning the particular candidate to the question that had been asked by the audience. The candidates' lack of respect for the moderator and the people asking the questions was displayed by the ease and quickness with which the candidates deviated in favor of their own talking points. It was as though the "debate" was a series of control battles between a candidate and the moderator. This indicates that insufficient direction was enforced by the moderator.

I was also stunned at the extent to which both candidates presumed that their role in the debate  included being able to overrule the moderate and run it as if they were not subject to the rules. Making matters worse, at a few points the moderator actually moved on to a new question and topic when the candidates had begun to focus on specific points and counter-points in a real back and forth. Even the moderator did not understand fundamentally what a debate is.

To take one example of the dysfunction in the debate, a voter asked Obama what he had accomplished in office that impacts the voter's ability to afford ordinary things needed in life, like food. Obama mentioned killing Bin Laden even though no economic link is salient between that killing and the price of bread. It was instead an opportunity for Obama to get out all of his talking points on a more general topic. Romney replied to particular points made by Obama on his accomplishments in office, but here too the focus on the economic aspect of the voter's question was insufficient. Then Obama deviated even from discussing his own record to criticize Romney's, which was not within the scope of the question. I believe the moderator went to a new question rather than enforce compliance with the original question and direct Obama to reply to one of Romney's specific counter-points on Obama's economic accomplishments in office. From my vantage-point, it was like looking at an arrangement severely out of balance and yet seemingly incapable of self-correction.

Particularly troubling to me was the lack of respect shown by the candidates for the invited voters with respect to their questions, and for the moderator with respect to her authority. When a voter asked who in the State Department had decided to reduce security in the U.S. embassy in Libya prior to the attack that killed the ambassador, neither Obama nor Romney came close to providing an answer. Instead, the candidates sparred over Obama's statements after the attack. This example also illustrates another way in which the moderator fell short.

Questions about why Obama thought at first that the attack was due to protests over a video produced in California are not as important as questions concerning Obama's policies on Iran and Syria, for example. Looking back at the presidential debates in the 2000 race would probably show too much attention on controversies that are only of the time; had there been more substantive debate in foreign policy, voters might have been better able to anticipate Bush's eventual invasion of Iraq. That is to say, a cost of the moderator selecting rather limited controversies because they are hot at the time of the debate is that the voters are deprived of being able to anticipate future policies of the candidates.

My thesis is that the presidential "debate" format and operation are deeply flawed from the standpoint of what it is to debate. Even to deem one candidate as "the winner" is an absurdity if the "debate" does not pass muster in terms of what a debate is. That the media runs with this absurdity anyway indicates just how out of touch we are on what constitutes debate. Just because insiders do not fix the problem does not mean that it cannot be fixed.  

As a possible reform bearing on the operation, the moderator could receive training from debate experts on how to run a debate (with some allowances for the fact that the candidates do not bring in folders of supporting evidence, though maybe doing so would help them to focus). At the very least, the moderator should be able to turn off the microphone of a candidate once he has swerved off  the question on the table or from the last "on point" contention made by the other candidate. The moderator should certainly have that ability when as in the second debate a candidate talks over the moderator in order to ignore the moderator's decision. "But I just need to respond to . . ." should trigger the moderator into "mic-cut" mode.

 In short, a debate is characterized by a true back and forth that is focused and sustained (i.e., contained) on particular points oriented to a question. A debate is not “all over the map," where the candidates bounce around even within a given topic, like two hyperactive boys unable to concentrate (and with a moderator as though heavily sedated or impotent). It is therefore worth asking whether the presidential (and VP) debates at least as of 2012 were debates at all, as distinct from two people simply getting their respective messages out in pre-established talking points. Under the circumstances, it is astonishing that the media self-servingly promotes the "debates" as crucial to the outcome of the election.
 
It is of course in the economic interest of the media and its paid “commentators” or “experts” to populate the airwaves with “the next debate is crucial!” before the next debate. The media could get away with the manipulation were it not for the lack of any self-restraint in the claims. For example, the media claimed in the run-up to the VP debate that that debate would be crucial—perhaps even a game-changer—because Obama had lost the first presidential debate of the general campaign (i.e., after the primary season, or year). That political scientists had reported time and again that voters do not vote for president on the basis of the vice-presidential candidates was apparently missed by the media in its unquenchable thirst for still more viewers.

                                            Americans in "The Federal City" watching a debate in 2012. Civic togetherness?  NYT
 
Indeed, as the New York Times suggests, even the electoral significance of the presidential debates was being overplayed. The Huffington Post reported that even after his “loss” in the first debate, President Obama continued to show an edge in battleground states. That is to say, the media’s claim in the wake of that debate that once again Romney was in play (vindicating the media’s view that the debates matter!) had been a momentary over-reaction. At the very least, the media was missing the forest for the trees (or branches).
 
Two contending forces could be pointed to as decisive. The "debates" are not salient in either account. On the one hand, pro-Obama supporters could point to the following as game changers: 1.) Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic Convention answering the Republican criticisms of Obama from the Republican Convention, and 2.) Romney’s leaded closed-door comment that it would not be his job as president to worry about the 47% of Americans who did not owe income taxes in 2011 and thus refuse to take responsibility for their lives (preferring to be dependent on the government) were the game-changing events in the election of 2012. On the other hand, a Romney supporter could point to the following forces: 1.) a general sense among Americans that Obama had caved into Wall Street or been generally weak as president, and 2.) the "pocket-book" (i.e., lack of an economic recovery). Neither of these possible scenerios has the debates playing a prominent role in the the voters' decisions of who to vote for.

The media’s hype on the debates was just that—self-interested manipulation akin to “pay attention to me!” With most of the American electorate having made up their minds before the debates, the post-debate polls showing significant shifts should have been read very skeptically, especially given the limitations of polling (e.g., by state vs. aggregated, “likely voters,” cell phones, no call lists, etc.) and the margins of error, which the media constantly ignore because definitive headlines sell.  
 
Indeed, the report a week after the vice presidential debate that Obama still held an edge in battleground states was itself an invalid claim, given the margin of error. The Huffington Post used the headline even while stating in the article itself that the finding is within the margin of error and thus spurious! The electorate is nearly blind to the errors and uncertainty in polling, especially in relation to the financial-interest of the media in misusing poll “data.”
 
Unfortunately, the presumption of truth tends to go with having a microphone and television camera. Reason takes a back seat behind the lights on the stage of a “debate.” The media keeps the electorate on the edge of their chairs for months on end, as if each bend in the road were on a political cliff. You better watch! There might be a crash! It is American Gladiator on steroids, and the masses are content to be spectators to a spectacle. I suspect that the subtle shifts throughout an electorate that constitute the will of the people on election day do not hinge on a series of orchestrated talking-points whether in a convention or “debate.”
 
Furthermore, the historical trajectory of the presidential debates over fifty years was toward “talking points” even without regard to the moderator’s question, in lieu of a sustained back and forth on a specific point to be debated and only then to be followed after some time by another point of contention in a debate that is moderated. In other words, after fifty years of presidential debates the viewers had no idea how far the spectacle had drifted out to sea. That something is called a debate does not mean that it is a debate. Moreover, just because the media characterizes a given social reality as true or actual does not necessarily mean that it is, particularly when the media’s interest is in play. Truth itself manifested as social reality should be viewed as a problem rather than as a given.
 
Stepping back finally, my thesis can be read as an indictment of the shift away from the emphasis on electing independent electors to the Electoral College by state, which was intended to serve as a check on excessive democracy. Election campaigns in extended republics (i.e., empire-scale) have so much distance between the candidates and the electorate, given the size of the latter and the extended geography of multiple republics, that democracy can be subject to media manipulation and demagoguery (enabled by the lack of sustained back and forth on specific points of contention in the debates). This is why the delegates in the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787 opted for smaller electorates (i.e., in the states) to elect their own electors, who in turn could meet with the candidates and cast more informed ballots without being beholden by their respective electorates to vote for a certain candidate.
 
Put another way, hundreds of millions of people are necessarily reliant on the media for information on the candidates for empire-wide office. The candidates in turn can essentially market themselves as a brand that can be quite contrived or artificial (e.g., the McCain campaign’s efforts to give us a certain view of Sarah Palin even as the campaign knew she was not qualified to be president).
 
My analysis in this essay is essentially geared to pointing to the expected decadence in electing an empire-level office directly. Jose Barroso, president of the E.U. Commission, was at the time proposing that his office be popularly elected by citizens of the E.U., and thus he was unwittingly subjecting the E.U. to the same sort of flaw. At root, Barroso was misconstruing the nature of the E.U. as a federal empire-level/scale union in applying that which is well-suited to the level of the E.U.'s republics.
 
As an alternative to the media spectacle that is the U.S. presidential election, Americans might consider reforms that would emphasize and protect the electors in the Electoral College, or replacing it with a combination of state officials and members of Congress (who are themselves elected and thus based in democracy!) to meet in order to choose the president. Both means are consistent with historical federal theory, whereas the direct election route is not. In other words, the reductionism to polls and talking points is to be expected; it confirms the judgment of the majority of the delegates who were at the federal convention in 1787. In short, they understood what the United States were much better than the modern electorate and officials do today. This is the basic problem facing the American polity, in my view.
 
If I am correct, we as a people have lost touch with what a federal, empire-level/scale union is, and so we do not even realize when we have gone far off course. For instance, we do not understand the particular risk that goes with consolidation at the federal level. We do not understand that what works electorally at the state level may not work in the context of a combination of such republics; a step-wise leap is involved, with qualitative as well as  quantitative differences. It is as though we were on a ship without a rudder, and yet we presume we must be on course so we keep going ahead. We continue with the status quo, happily going through the electoral-season rituals as though we were a dead beetle still moving along—the legs still twitching. It is indeed a horrible spectacle in the light of day, even if everything seems just dandy to the vast majority of the electorate that is to select the next president. Sadly yet tellingly, none of this is subject to debate.
 
Sources:

David Carr, “TV Debates That Sell More Than Just Drama,” The New York Times, October 15, 2012.

Mark Blumenthal, “2012 Polls Continue to Show Close Race Nationwide, Obama Edge in Battleground States,” The Huffington Post, October 15, 2012.