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The Tally Ho

Monday, May 31, 2004

Next Stop, Moynihan Station

Perhaps my favorite thing about living in New York is walking everywhere I go. You can walk miles and miles everyday and not think anything of it, which is very liberating. Owning a car involves parking, fixing wear and tear, insurance, and sitting on your butt in traffic – all things I would rather never do again. $70 a month and you have unlimited subway and bus rides. So I have been trying to follow public transit issues.

Amtrak was set to move into their new Manhattan station, Moynihan Station, in the James A. Farley post office between 8th & 9th Avenue and 31st and 33rd Streets. The idea for the move is to relieve the pressures at Pennsylvania Station not only on Amtrak, but also on New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad – as all three have seen steady increases in ridership. One of the hold ups is that Amtrak currently owns their space in Penn. Station, thus no rent. If Amtrak were to move into the Farley building, Amtrak could end up paying $3.9 million for the space. While the Northeast Corridor line runs in the black, that is still a hefty sum of money - especially when they already own a space. One possibility has Amtrak staying in Penn, with NJ Transit moving to Farley. While the Times article on Friday by Michael Luo and Charles V. Bagli wrote that some think Amtrak is really just positioning for a better deal, someone will take that space. The fact that there are plans to build a new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson means this is a prime location for decades.

Besides the purely practical aspect, there is also the aesthetic aspect. There are two things I believe are essential for dense urban living. First, an ample amount of public space – like Central Park and Riverside Park. Second, I think there is a need to pay tribute to our cultural and architectural pasts. Seeing how unimpressive much of post WWII construction is, the Farley post office building is an impressive piece of architecture complete with a row of Corinthian columns. If it were not for Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Grand Central Terminal would be a cheesy ugly thing with a bowling ally. Penn. Station was knocked down… one of Manhattan’s lost beauties. If the post office needs to leave the Farley building, NJ Transit or Amtrak needs to move in so there is no repeat of the disaster that knocking down Pennsylvania Station was.

"It’s a chance to redeem ourselves after tearing down one of the most beautiful stations ever built, the original Penn Station," said Peg Breen, President of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. "You ask any of the current passengers whether they want to come up in the current drab building or into a new Moynihan station.”

Update: Picture of the Farley Building


Moving and the Warrior Diplomat

Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, retired General Anthony Zinni was a featured guest. While it was interesting, he did not criticize the president, he criticized the people around him that presented the president with the case and plans for Iraq. Zinni basically said that the president has a terribly difficult job and must rely on the people around him. It almost sounded as an attempt to separate Bush, his cabinet, and the Iraq war. How is the president not responsible for Iraq? He appointed these people. He chose to value their judgment. Therefore, he is ultimately responsible for the good and bad in Iraq. Blaming the neo-cons for dominating and steering policy does not change that fact of who the president is and what he signed off on. If Iraq continues to go in this direction, are we going read and hear more blame the underlings talk? I think this is sadly humorous because in 2000 I remember hearing Bush supporters rationalize voting for him by saying that “he will be getting great advice from the great cabinet that he is putting together.” Apparently this has reversed.

Tony and Terra finished packing their stuff for their move to San Diego, via a month long trip in Europe. They would have not made it on time today without help. T&T were two of the first three people that I met in New York (going to a Yankees game, actually). It is always hard to say goodbye – especially when you know you didn’t get to know people as much as you would have liked to. It makes me start to think about my own future. Chances are (or I should say I prefer) if or when I leave New York City I will stay in the Northeast or head West to Northern California. In any case, I wish them the best. They made my transition to New York easier… now I have friends in San Diego. The more friends I have in different places the better. Maybe Tony will post from Europe – but I wouldn’t count on it. Next the Snoozer moves...

Thursday, May 27, 2004

hello... i'm david

It seems the MTA here in New York is ready to ban cameras in the subway. Who’s going to document all the old lady-Elton John impersonating-Jewish folk song singing-subway performers, eh Steve? Of course this is all about the terrorists trying to take away our freedom, right? Even Mayor Bloomberg is against this and that guy hates kids so you know this is bunk.

Speaking of the Bloomberg… The mayor should reconsider his stance on denying a permit for the 29-August protest of the Republican National Convention (see United for Peace article). While I won’t participate in the protest one way or another in this protest I feel disgusted by this clearly partisan decision on the part of the mayor. Don’t get me wrong, I would protest but I’ll probably be on an airplane flying back from Texas to see my family and friends just before school starts. Wait a second! Plane back from Texas!?!? I wonder who my fellow travelers will be? Perhaps I will be protesting after all with a captive audience. I wonder if that sort of behavior is considered domestic terrorism and I got to wonder if cameras have been banned on flights too.

Gotta run. Going to catch Christian Fennesz and Keith Rowe at Tonic.

Le Retour du Roi

No, I'm not talking about Elvis...I thought Steve might be a bit more at ease if I take this moment to post. For those of you who don't know, international shipments of technology goods is a bit tricky. It all began one May day in 2004...

A long time ago in a continent Americans used to know, there was a young, strikingly handsome university student facing a 1 week deadline on his undergraduate thesis that serves as a prerequisite for graduation from his French university. Sitting in the rare, second level of his dimly-lit neighborhood cafe, sipping espresso, smoking his occasional stress-relief cigarette, our main character typed furiously and feverishly the words to his thesis, "International Education in an International World: Two Continents, Two Schools, Two Programs...A Case Study." In the middle of his sip of real coffee (as European coffee doesn't compare to the feces Americans drink), our character notices that his wonderfully crafted piece-of-shit Dell laptop from the turn of the millennium (which has had every technological ailment possible) had crashed under a blue screen of death. Now, being well-read and tech savvy, our friend knew that it could very likely be the Sasser worm. So, he returned to his "L'auberge Francaise" to resolve the problem. After putting his work on hold for three days, reformatting his entire computer 5 times, and resolving every known software issue, our, now very stressed, main character concluded that it must be hardware. After a trans-Atlantic phone call to the techy at his father's company, a new laptop (4x the performance of the original) was set via FEDEX from Southern Illinois to Paris, France. Now, it wasn't carelessly sent. It was sent "International Priority" with a must delivery in 3-5 days. It arrived in Paris the next day. Our student friend was notified that his package would be delivered the next day and to remain in his apartment between 9am-noon. When the package didn't arrive, Fedex was called, but no one seemed to know where the package was. It was now labeled "regulatory agency delay" but our character was told that it would most likely arrive the next day at the same prescribed time. No package. Another phone call. Enter Sylvie. Sylvie is the wonderfully bitchy lady that works at FEDEX's customs relations desk. This fine French woman informed our friend that he must now supply a copy of his passport, proof of residence, and the original purchase receipt to prove that it was more than 6 months old and so he would not have to pay import taxes amounting to more than 300 euros. So, our character quickly gathered the requisite information and faxed his new friend Sylvie the documents. She, however, did not care to work past 445 and did not receive them from the fax machine and did not notify our main character otherwise. Another phone call to Sylive. Remember, our character is negotiating in French. Sylvie explains that she didn't receive the fax, etc and that our friend must resend the information that day otherwise the package would be shipped back to the U.S. Now, for exchange students in Paris there are two options to send a fax. 1). Ride the metro to the university (90 minutes round trip) or 2). pay 6+ euros per fax at La Poste. Flash to today. A full 14 days after shipment, 13 days after its arrival in Paris, 8 fax attempts, and hours of phone calls at his expense, the package is scheduled to arrive between 9am and noon today. It is now 12:30 Paris time. Still no word from FEDEX. FEDEX HQ can rest assured that they will hear "strongly-worded statements" in a "strongly worded letter" from our main character and that some kind of retribution is in order for a shipment that cost more than $200 to send and another $100 in phone calls and faxes, passed 4 delivery dates, etc, etc, etc. Thus ends the story of the FEDEX disaster. I guess our friend will have to wait and see if the damn thing ever shows up.

Ciao,

--Nico

Sad

At the end of last week people had put signs in various places trying to find out if anyone had seen 21-year-old Sarah Fox, a student at Julliard. She was last seen leaving her apartment to go for a jog. By Saturday, and again on Monday, I noticed that her friends and/or family had hit just about every bus stop and subway stop I saw with new signs offering a $10,000 reward. After seeing all of these signs I commented to my buddy that she must have had friends that cared a great deal for her. A few months ago I remember similar signs for another young woman who eventually turned up and everything was fine. When I checked the local news tonight on my way out, I read that Sarah Fox was found in Inwood Hill Park. The police are treating her death as a homicide. I feel terrible for all of her friends and family that plastered the city with posters and searched the parks hoping to find her. It is just something you hate to read. There is not much else to say.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Trying Things Out

Blogger software really makes this easy. One hardly has to know HTML to put together a blog – only need to know it to change font size, colors, etc.

I miss Nico. He has disappeared. I know Nick had computer problems, and then another issue involving his computer, but he lives in Paris. Since I haven’t seen him on IM or Skype (internet telephone – Free!) in weeks, I haven’t heard from him. BTW, Skype is a real nice program. I would call him, but the reality is I only use a cell phone – and while I have the urge to use call him right now, its 2:19am in Paris. Maybe Nicky took his own advice...

In any case, last week I went to see Ida (turn off popup blocker) with Naysayer and 801 at the Knitting Factory. I had a good time, as usual. Even if the music wasn’t your thing it was for a good cause, Rock’n’Roll Camp for Girls.

A few days later I saw two local bands at the Luna Lounge. Both Mercury Stars and Loaded Dreams were fun despite the long day of work with little sleep, a gathering in Brooklyn, and the well proportioned glass of Jameson that pushed me further into a nice blissful calm.

Lets see how this post comes out on the new template…

Under Construction

This site is currently going through some changes. Please leave some comments about the visual changes.

Update: The blog really looked good up until about 25 minutes ago. The template is not responding to the colors or haloscan comments. I hear it is working on Safari, but not on Explorer (not surprising) or Mozilla. So I am hoping it passes. If not I will have to try a new template.

Our friends over at Prison Notebooks seem to be having a similar problem. Their comments are from blogger, thus not affected is my guess.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

What is a Modern Republican?

You probably read about the battle of words between Dennis Hastert and John McCain this week. In an interview Hastert was questioned by reporters about McCain’s comments regarding tax levels and spending in Iraq, inferring that Americans are being asked to sacrifice little during the Iraq war (McCain has not been on board with BushCo’s tax plans). As the reporter started his question referring to a speech by McCain, Hastert responded:

Hastert: “Who?”
Reporter: “John McCain”
Hastert: “Where’s he from?”
Reporter: “He’s a Republican from Arizona”
Hastert: “A Republican?”

Hastert then says if he wants to see sacrifice go to Walter Reed and Bethesda. That is a pretty snarky thing to say to someone held as a POW during Vietnam when he didn’t serve for whatever reason (This seems to be BushCo’s MO). McCain responded, "All we are called upon to do is not spend our nation into bankruptcy while our soldiers risk their lives. I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility. Apparently those days are long gone for some in our party."

I often hear from individuals that will not vote for Bush say, “What does Kerry stand for. Are you excited about this guy?” Copious discussions exist on this, and many of you probably have been involved in one. But the McCain/Hastert back and forth made me wonder about the future of the Republican Party. Also, why not apply those feelings towards the Kerry candidacy towards the Bush re-election campaign? What do Bush and the national GOP stand for, and are people excited about this guy? Here in NYC we have had back to back Republican mayors in Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg in a city that must be 4:1 Democrat, but nationally? Has the national GOP become nothing more than reactionary, cultural conservatism, and corporate cronyism? After almost three year and a half years of Bush, we see a deficit that has spiraled out of control, the problems concerning the case the US made for going into Iraq, the post war planning, loss of life…, the Plame Affair, the energy taskforce, decreasing environmental standards, NCLB and funding, the growing size of the federal government, the expensive and questionable Medicare bill (and the illegal "covert propaganda”), the proposed gay marriage amendment, and our foreign policy concerning traditional allies. What have we done to make America’s infrastructure better? Anyone can make a list, and argue about it, but that is not the point. So with the ’04 election seemingly a referendum on BushCo., I would honestly like to know the reasons why Bush should receive my vote for a second term. Is the current direction of the Bush Administration what American conservatives want from the Republican Party?

Mark Your Calandar

Theater for the New City presents:

The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts
Fri. Sat. Sun. May 28th, 29th, and 30th.
Poetry, dance, music, film, youth groups, writers, comedy… It is Free!

155 First Avenue at 10th Street
New York City 10003
212.254.1109

Check out their website for the more details, here

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Morning News

So I woke up late this morning. On the radio was BBC World Service. The talk was about the ABC News Story featuring Sgt. Samuel Provance that there is indeed an ongoing cover up of prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib. Not only that, but it was not a “few bad apples (did you really believe that in the first place?).” The guest commentator was Michael Goldfarb of WBUR, Boston. He discussed how talk radio has been pushing the “few bad apples” talking point, and how influential US talk radio is. In reference to this, Goldfarb also commented on how Americans like to believe their own myths. Perhaps that is why there is more outrage in Britain about not finding any stockpiles of WMD, or movable trailers, or whatever reason was given to invade Iraq – and then not executing a real occupation plan. Also speaking on his war experience is Sgt. Jimmy Massey in this article from the Sacramento Bee. Thanks to Daily Kos diarist Wes F.

I have become increasingly interested in visual media/visual culture and the impact that it has on opinion. One of Brian Lerher’s guests this morning was Chris Hedges, author of War Is a Force that Gives us Meaning. Hedges was booed off the stage a year ago as the commencement speaker at Rockford College (click here for text). Check the archives for the full interview. One part of the interview caught my attention. Mr. Hedges commented that not seeing what has happened to the wounded or dead influences our opinions. The wounded we see are not usually the ones that survived a car bomb but were severely wounded (also check out his article in The Nation last year). It made me think about the impact of the prison abuse pictures, pictures of the Vietnam conflict, school shootings, and the photos of New York City tenement houses by Jacob Riis. Why is it that we seem to be more moved by the visual image as opposed to the written word? Obviously this is one reason why there was an uproar over Ted Koppel reading the names of our deceased soldiers and the refusal to show pictures of caskets.

Incertus blogged about Jon Stewart's graduation speech at William and Mary.

Nick is in fact alive and well. He has had technical problem, and now a customs problem! He should be back soon.

Update: This is the latest This Modern World...

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Happy Birthday

First off, I want to say happy birthday to my brother in Chicago. Unfortunately Jason Schmidt of San Fran pitched a near perfect game, so my bro couldn't celebrate with a cubs win. This is my brother's last birthday as a unwed man, and I have been given the important task of best man (why not groom of honor? whats this best thing anyway?) for this special occasion. I hope you liked your sci-fi metal works. I ear that you were taken to a pretty swanky place for dinner... It is also my Aunt's birthday. Happy birthday to you both! And my uncle's surgery is said to have went just fine. Rooster had something to celebrate too. Too bad the Rooster is leaving New York for at least a year! All in all, a pretty damn fine day.

Sifting Through the Garbage

…and the Press

Sifting through someone’s garbage that apparently moved from my building, David found the latest issues of the Economist. Their cover of Bush several months ago was classic. But in this issue it didn’t take long to read something that caught my attention. In discussing Bush’s economic idea they conclude, "With the deficit already huge, set to reach almost $3 trillion over the next decade, the republicans’ grand plans do not add up. You cannot cut taxes yet further, let alone divert payroll taxes into individual retirement accounts, without inviting a fiscal catastrophe." This article, titled At last, a vision at home, finishes the article comparing team Bush’s optimistic neo-cons having to confront reality in Iraq, so will their economic team. Well, you can read it yourself.

Next article up is by Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff, titled Memos Revealed War Crimes Warning. It is about how the top White House attorney warned BushCo that their promotion of unorthodox methods could mean the US being prosecuted as war criminals. One reason, "…1996 law passed by Congress, known as the War Crimes Act, that banned any Americans from committing war crimes—defined in part as 'grave breaches' of the Geneva Conventions… 'it was difficult to predict with confidence' how Justice Department prosecutors might apply the law in the future. This was especially the case given that some of the language in the Geneva Conventions—such as that outlawing 'outrages upon personal dignity' and 'inhuman treatment' of prisoners—was 'undefined."' We have seen the tactics the US uses on Iraqi prisoners, who are supposedly protected by the Geneva Convention. Does anyone else wonder what may one day come out regarding prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, where people are not protected? What is the US eventually going to do with these prisoners? “In the end, after strong protests from Powell, the White House retreated slightly. In February 2002, it proclaimed that, while the United States would adhere to the Geneva Conventions in the conduct of the war in Afghanistan, captured Taliban and Qaeda fighters would not be given prisoner of war status under the conventions.” Was this directive more about protecting the current administration from a future administration from prosecuting?

Friday, May 14, 2004

nuts

Sumbitted for your approval: A Peanuts Cartoon

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Media Matters

As many of you may have already seen, David Brock’s Media Matters has taken an offensive against right wing political commentator Rush Limbaugh. The advertisement includes testimony by Donald Rumsfeld, including calling the torture of prisoners "un-American." It then quotes Rush Limbaugh basically saying that it was just "an emotional release" and that it was just some initiation no different than the Skull & Bones. Here is the link to the ad. These are things that need to be funded. This is a direct challenge to the pundocracy that has overtaken real journalism. There are 2500 less journalists in the US than 10 years ago. If Americans are going to treat pundicrats as journalism instead of entertainment, then correcting and exposing their bs is a must. Media consolidation has played a role in the expanded presence of Rush Limbaugh, and a counter weight is necessary. But Media Matters will also deal with the cable news programming.

I would like to thank Sarah for giving me training wheels for HTML so I could make the Template changes I desired.

Check out this site of an unmutual that read the Tally Ho.

Diet & Spirits

“Supersize Me”…..But how do you reverse that? Is it possible in a place where fast food is offered on every corner, and available in school lunch programs? What happened to eating wholesome foods that were offered not too long ago and why do we eat the foods we eat now-a-days. Growing up in the 80’s fast food was a reward. Today some people eat 3-5 times a week. I don’t get it. Have parents become so lazy that they don’t care what kind of behaviors they are teaching their children, or can we blame it on outside influences that spend millions of dollars in advertising that gets us to that 99-cent menu at the nearest fast food joint?

So how are we fixing the health trends that are prevailing? Today’s society would say that Atkins, South Beach and the Zone hold the answers to reverse the effects of high fat foods. Go to any market and you can buy anything that’s “low carb”. Eat as much of it as you want and you don’t gain weight. We have the need to drive the biggest car on the road. Does anyone see the trend? We are a society based on consumerism…eat a lot, drink a lot. We have learned to do everything in excess including how we eat. We have lost control and it’s showing in the many waistlines across America.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Wednesday Writings

First, I want to thank JenAtl, Ekim, and future Ohio Congressman Jeff Seemann for stopping by and posting. Check out their sites.

Second, my person (and hero) of the month is Morgan Spurlock. His film Super Size Me not only was frightening, but hysterical! It is not often that the audience at the end of a film claps like they did. I can not believe that anyone would put their body through the month of hell that Mr. Spurlock put his through. I can not stand fast food, and if I consume it more than twice a year I would be shocked. The last time I ate fast food was in December, and I felt like crap the rest of the day. To do this multiple times a day for over 30 straight days is crazy. I will most definitely come back to this movie at a later time (especially about school lunch programs, soda machines in schools, etc.), but until then, Kudos to Morgan Spurlock. If I ever run into him, I would be honored to by him a Big Mac… just kidding, a beer. In any case, I highly recommend seeing this movie. Here is a link to the trailer if you don't watch it off his site.

One of my least favorite people this month is Senator James Inhofe. During the Iraq torture hearings, Mr. Inhofe is quoted as saying "…I'm probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment." He continues, "The idea that these prisoners, they're not there for traffic violations. If they're in cell block 1A or 1B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents, and many of them probably have American blood probably on their hands and here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals." Kos points out that according to this Red Cross document, this is not the case. Kevin Drum highlights this portion: "Certain CF military intelligence officers told the ICRC that in their estimate between 70% and 90% of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake." Thanks to Kos for the discussion.

It is already too warm here. Can someone bring a cold front?

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Welcome Guests

I posted a link to dKos. Maybe some of you floated over here. Leave suggestions if you like.

Public Radio

Is It Local Anymore?

A lot has been made of Bob Edwards being released from his duty as host of NPR’s Morning Edition after 25 years. Many people seem angry about it, and I have read that if Cokie Roberts or Juan Williams ends up as Edwards replacement, they will no longer donate to their public radio station. I defended donating to your local public radio station because NPR is not just Morning Edition or All Things Considered. It also is Car Talk, On the Media, Thistle and Shamrock, Tavis Smiley, Wait Wait, and much more. My station, WNYC, also carries BBC Radio’s World News Today, and programming from Public Radio International. Locally, the Brian Lehrer and Leonard Lopate shows are two of the best talk format programs on the air. If you are upset about NPR replacing Edwards, still donate, but attach a note about how you do not want to support Morning Edition, or the commercial underwriting of programs. Don’t take out your frustration of NPR on Brian Lehrer or Leonard Lopate.

This made me realize again that public radio is not local radio. Aside from the local news updates, the Lehrer and Lopate shows, and a few others, the station carries a lot of syndicated programming. Unless I happen to be home, I listen via the internet at work. Live streaming allows Lehrer and Lopate available not just nationally, but world wide. Thus, as more public radio stations offer their programs on the web, including archived programming, users can hop from station to station looking for the program they are interested in at that moment. While I doubt it will happen (or maybe I don’t want to think about it), will we see public radio consolidate? Perhaps maybe someone will be inventive enough to create a website that provides links to local public radio personalities and their archives on the web.

As far as links, check out today’s Brian Lehrer interview with Bill Moyers. Moyers is retiring this year, and made an interesting comment about about there are 2500 less reporters today than 10 years ago. He also gives his opinion on the double standard of that exists for liberal journalists. Also check out Mr. Lehrer's interview with Paul Rieckhoff, the National Guardsman that gave the DNC radio address two weeks ago. While you are at it, check out this special Culture Storm: Life and Politics in the Election Year. And my last link is a burried post by Nick, Bombs over Baghdad = Bombs over Europe, that i wanted to read again.

Student Life

For those of you who live it and for those of you who aren't too old to remember it, it is that time of year again. Yes, you know. It is Spring finals. Term papers, theses, exams, projects, etc, etc, etc...they seem to pile on top of one another. But, this posting is less about such tasks/projects/events but more in reaction to a conversation I had with Steve the other day. It is prompted because of the effects that this time of year has on the psyche and the lives of students. A French magazine that I often read (the title slips my mind currently as there are several free publications distributed at University) featured an article last week discussing these very effects. To paraphrase in a quote (as direct translation is somewhat difficult), "It is the time of year again. The time when everyone bought their spring fashions, girls begin to look sexy, and guys work to attract them. Then comes exams and papers. Spring fashions are forgotten, social life disappears, and even the best couples fight almost to the point of separation over the smallest, petty disagreements. But, we know that this will pass. In two months, there will be no more papers, girls will be sexy again, boys will chase girls, and couples will be back in love. We just have to wait and hope our lives survive that long." Too true. It seems like everyone I know is pulling out his or her hair, stressing about their tasks, graduation, jobs, relocation, etc. Then, their stress bleeds into their relationships and friends and lovers quarrel endlessly. Steve mentioned that this is not simply a French phenomenon--I think it applies to all students who take their studies, and themselves, seriously. So, with six weeks to go, I, like my peers, am just holding on and hoping that I can survive long enough to get my life back. Likewise, good luck to all of my fellow students out there...

--Nico

Monday, May 10, 2004

It's Easy to Say

From an American perspective it is easy to say that the nation-state is an "outdated, flawed, basically racist concept." However, a key flaw in American thought is in the tendency not to remove ourselves from our own situation. The differences between nation-centric European thought and Nation-centric American thought lie, in my opinion, in history. America is the European Union of the 1800s-1900s. We are the "melting pot" that you always hear about. I, myself, am a European mutt. To call me anything but American would be a disgrace to my Italian, Irish, British, German, Polish, etc etc ancestry. While this melting pot concept is at the root of our history, it is a new page for Europeans. And, while The New World's 500+ years of history seem like quite a long time to us, it is mere days for Europeans. It is foolish to expect Europeans to disregard their histories and cultures. It is natural for them to be concerned about immigration--hell, Americans get upset about immigration and it is part of all of our pasts. But, Europeans live in cities built by their ancestors who built some of the world's greatest cultures and civilizations that have enriched billions of lives but they walk their streets without hearing their mother tongue, smell restaurants serving every kind of cuisine except French, German, Italian, etc, pay 50% income taxes to support the poor and starving immigrants that flock to their social systems designed to provide for domestic healthcare, jobs, etc(systems that most liberally-minded Americans would kill for), and wake up each day to a Europe that is becoming increasingly homogenous. I would personally love to have a culture like that to hold on to. Call the thinking antiquated or racist. But, it is rational. It is not an anti-immigration policy--Europe has embraced millions of immigrants from around the world--it is a concern for the preservation of heritage, history, and lifestyle in the face of globalization. This theology is not a Le Pen or a Hitler way of thinking. This isn't hostility and racism. This isn't about removing peoples and diversity. This is about retaining cultural identity in the face of growth and change. The eventuality of the EU relies on mutual respect. Immigrants must respect the culture they are moving in to and host countries must respect immigrants' origins. I once said that I'm not very American. A French friend responded that I am very American but, "you represent America in your own way." Europeans now have to learn to represent 25 countries in "their own way." If that is not reason for justified anxiety, then my perception of the place in which I live is misguided.

For another perspective on the future of the EU and concerns over the addition of poorer countries and immigrants, check out the International Edition of Newsweek for May 10, 2004. While Newsweek may not be the most scholarly of publications, it covers the story pretty well. Also, for other views, read any British, French, German, etc newspaper from the last two months.

--Nico

Follow Up about EU Expansion

The following is from Craig who posts on NAAS. It is a response to Nick's post, An Unwelcome Celebration, that was too long for the comment section.
________________________________

Another American perspective:
Walking the two blocks from my car to the office this morning, I passed two three-flat condo buildings being constructed by a work crew of about 25 men. I noticed that all of the conversations underway at the work site were in Polish, the native language of much of the construction industry in Chicago. The Northwest Side has seen a steady flow of Polish immigration since the end of WWII. At the heart of current tensions between Washington and Warsaw is the Bush Administration's refusal to give the Poles, today one of our closest allies, the same freedom to travel to the US as the British, because "too many" Poles overstay their tourist visas and become illegal immigrants. The policy is ridiculous. Polish immigrants in my neighborhood don't make me any less American, why would Polish immigrants in Germany make them any less German?
The economic and political benefits of expanding the EU are clear - in fact, a future integrated Europe stretching from Ireland to Siberia could be the greatest superpower the world has ever known - a high tech, developed superstate with 750,000,000 citizens. The issue, as always, is ethnic "purity".
The nation-state is a relatively new development in European history, which supplanting a centuries-long tradition of multi-national empire a few hundred years back. In most cases, the ideal of the nation-state has coincided with the reality of state which have existed with substantial ethnic minorities within their borders. In WWII, however, ethnic cleansing on ALL sides and the redrawing of borders substantially increased the degree to which ethnicity corresponded to political borders. (Poland's once substantial Jewish, German, Gypsy, and Hungarian populations disappeared, leaving a state that was over 97% Polish, unheard of in the history of this previously diverse nation). Since the war, however, populations have continued to drift, as they always do. Now, those in the West are concerned about a flood of new migrants from the East and beyond.
Well, boo hoo. Germany's working age population is falling, and the standard of living will fall precipitously over the coming decades unless its workers are replaced by immigrants. So what's the big deal. Besides Hitler, who says German should be all Germans, anyway? An influx of Turks, Poles, and Romanians could revitalize Germany the way Mexicans, Asians, and Eastern Europeans have given new life to formerly declining areas in Chicago and Queens.
The nation state is an outdated, flawed, basically racist concept. At one time, ethnic solidarity was used well by Socialist parties to create some of the best social welfare and health care systems on the planet. But in the 21st century, ethnically based states seem like an anachronism, standing in the way of social progress, and increasingly, economic progress as well.
Like the city, the multinational empire is an ancient form of social organization that deserves to be given another chance.

- Craig
______________________________

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

Maybe I spoke too soon on American public opinion. I wake up today and see that the new poll shows Bush's approval rankings slipping drastically and the Kerry/Bush matchup to be dead even. Sometimes I love new information...

Apologies,

Nico

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

What's Another $25 Billion?

Who is searching for reasons NOT to be American at this point? I've been thinking, and I thought that maybe I'm a bit harsh on Americans, foreign policy, education, and BushCo. Afterall, even my French counterpart finds a couple redeeming factors amongst us in her weak moments. Then, as I was starting to think that we aren't really that bad, I take a look at the headlines...impending proposal for an additional $25 Billion in "Defense Spending." First, exactly what are we defending? Second, it was mentioned that "war costs exceed expectations." What were our expectations? Were they based on significant, realistic planning?...every article I have read says they weren't. So, we're "stuck in a moment we can't get out of" (thanks Bono) and no one in the world wants to be there with us...I wonder why? Regardless, I am writing a research thesis on international education in America. So, what would the nation's educators do with $25 Billion in additional funds this year? Would America be a better place in the long-term? I can't even recall what the total cost of this "war on terrorism" is (as I don't have time to adequately research to write in the Blog) but our defense spending is out of hand. What I find amazing is that the voting base buys into this "crusade." Look around, we've lost our international allies, we still have an increasingly second-class education system, we still have no real public healthcare, we still have limited government programs for the poor, we have deficit-spending states who can't afford transportation infrastructure, we have an aging power system, we have real social and moral issues to address, we have a topsy-turvey economy, we have a slumping job market, we have increasing costs of living, we have an exploding deficit, etc, etc, etc. Yet, BushCo is favored with decent job approval figures and personality support. What has this administration done for the American people (apart from the $500 I get on my tax refund)? And, while we're digging ourselves a hole to oblivion, what's another $25 Billion?

Is Disney Protecting

A Tax Deal with Jebya?

This month Michael Moore will present his new film "Fahrenheit 911" at the Cannes Film Festival, but we in America may be waiting until a new distributer is found. Disney has owned Miramax for about a decade and is forbidding Miramax from releasing the film, which they legally can do. Jim Rutenberg's article Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush in the New York Times states:

"Mr. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said that Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would anger Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures there.

"Michael Eisner asked me not to sell this movie to Harvey Weinstein; that doesn't mean I listened to him," Mr. Emanuel said. "He definitely indicated there were tax incentives he was getting for the Disney corporation and that's why he didn't want me to sell it to Miramax. He didn't want a Disney company involved."

Disney executives deny that accusation, though they said their displeasure over the deal was made clear to Miramax and Mr. Emanuel."


Why would the Governor of Florida be upset? Rutenberg continues,

"Mr. Moore said the film describes financial connections between the Bush family and its associates and prominent Saudi Arabian families that go back three decades. He said it closely explores the government's decision to help members of the bin Laden family leave the United States immediately after the 2001 attacks. The film includes comments from American soldiers on the ground in Iraq expressing disillusionment with the war, he said."

A new book by Craig Unger also discusses this relationship (link here). Whatever you think of Moore's work, it is clear that his movie will be as lucrative as his last film, Bowling for Columbine was, and his last two books Stupid White Men and Dude, Wheres my Country were. I don't have much else to say other than I hope not allowing Miramax to release this film is not really about the power of an angry governor and losing tax breaks. After last weeks controversy over Nightline anchor Ted Koppel reading aloud the names of the fallen soldiers in Iraq, and Sinclair Broadcasting pulling it in some or their markets, it raises more questions about news media consolidation and the power of entertainment corporations and political families. I think Frontline does some of the best work, but how many do you know watch PBS for their news? It would be nice to have a BBC independent media in the US. In Geoffrey Wheatcroft's article in the June 2004 Atlantic, "The Tragedy of Tony Blair", he claims that even after the Hutton report the BBC is trusted 3:1 more than the government. Anyway, my guess is Moore will find a distributor even if the movie isn’t any good (good isn’t the point or the controversy). It will make money for someone.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Flashback/Randomness

First, you have all probably read about the pictures of prisoner abuse at the hands of US soliders and the soldiers for hire (which is the second largest force in Iraq). Lets have a flashback to the October 2003 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. Mark Bowen (Black Hawk Down, Killing Pablo, and an Atlantic Cover story Tales of the Tyrant ) wrote an excellent article, The Dark Art of Interrogation.

Baseball: These are dark times. My Cubs and Red Sox seem to be losing their way. For Boston, it is understandable in some ways. Obviously, no Nomar or Trot Nixon for a few more weeks. With Todd Walker going from Beantown to the Chitown, the offense has struggled. Even with having a lack of offensive pop - the Red Sox losing four when you have Pedro, Schilling, and Wakefield is not good. Now for the Cubs, the bullpen hasn't been great this week, but the seem to be able to stay in first despite Farnesworth blowing two in three days. Borowski still has an ERA near 6, but La Troy Hawkins who was stolen from the Twins is still great. 2.13 ERA! As with the last three years, Cubs-BoSox world series. The end of times is near. And yes, as a New Yorker I do appreciate the Yanks. I will sit in the bleachers and cheer for them. And if they make the WS and it isn't against the Cubs I will likely be at the bar. Nick is a St. Louis fan...

Craig from NAAS sent me a great article about the West Side last night. Here is the link to the New York Times article "Obsessed". Also, here is another funny link C sent me.

Its been busy for everyone this time of year, but more after Friday I hope.

Update: Here is a link to an interview with Bowden about torture. I though of Nick because the first line starts with an Orwell quote.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

An Unwelcome Celebration

As it is the 2nd of May, I feel that it is my duty to relay some discussion I had yesterday regarding the inclusion of the 10 new members of the EU.

Perspective 1: A French Student

She is opposed to the EU expansion on the premise that none of the Central/Eastern countries are "developed." She sees the inclusion of the millions of new "European" citizens as putting a large burden on the revenues and taxes of westerners. Citing lack of developed industries, cities, etc and lower standards of living/higher poverty levels, she feels that the new countries will be draining the EU of funds to pay for their new infrastructure and to subsidize welfare disbursements to the millions of poor in the new 10 members. In addition, there are large concerns in France and Britain regarding free migration of peoples from the East into already mature and stagnant western job markets. Enter perspective 2...

Perspective 2: A middle-aged British man.

While passing few judgments during the conversation, there are concerns regarding immigration to Britain, France, and Germany and the "short-term" consequences that it will have on local economies. "Bad for my generation, good for yours" sentiment.

Perspective 3: The American...Me.

Okay, I understand the concerns mentioned above. However, I think it would be unreasonable to omit the benefits. For the mature, stagnant economies of Britain, France, and Germany, it serves as a boundless opportunity for growth. In order to join the EU, each of the companies have to have been performing in a satisfactory economic and political manner (based on elections, employment, growth, currency fluctuations, etc). In addition, many of the countries in the new 10 have been posting doubled-digit economic growth--flash to France with growth far below that of the U.S. (who is boasting 4%). The Western economies stand to gain fortunes from exploiting the new sources of low-cost, low-tax labor and raw materials as well as restriction-free retail markets. I know that I want to cry over a couple thousand immigrants. If Americans were suddenly give a new set of markets like this, American business may become unstoppable. For western Europeans, it means that they may be able to realistically compete with the American economy in the long-term...If not surpass it.

Perspective 4: The Hungarian.

My Hungarian roommate has mixed feelings regarding his country's accention into the EU. While young financiers with specialties in Hungary and Hungarian language (like himself) stand to make a fortune from the expansion. He, like many easterners, is perhaps a bit weary of economic growth when it will most likely be owned and dominated by westerners looking to exploit his country's economy and work force.

Conclusion:

As with everything the EU does, there are mixed emotions. But, it is to be expected given centuries and millennia of history and cultural differences. Perhaps the question that is essential to the true success of the EU is, can Europe realistically overcome its heritage to emerge as a truly "European" market? Ask a Latvian, a Hungarian, a Brit, and a Frenchman and your answers are likely to be starkly different. Now, try to implement standard currency, taxes, regulations, economic policy, agricultural, and environmental regulations and you might understand the challenges that the EU--and its citizens--face.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

The Nature of the American People

The following is a post from Fray, the poster is Trope. Here is the link (text below).

______________________

"I shared a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated," Mr. Bush said. "Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people." He added that the actions of a handful of soldiers should not taint the tens of thousands who serve honorably in Iraq. Mr. Bush emphasized that the investigation into the case was moving ahead. "I think they'll be taken care of," he said.
(Quoted from a NYTimes.com article, 05/01/04)

Such is my addiction to blogs that when I read this quote on my daily email news digest, I looked around for the "Comment" link. 'Cause as we all know, any good webpage nowadays has a comments feature. Not finding one, I guess I'll just comment here.

Mr. Bush, these photos, by definition, DO reflect the nature of American people. American people are sometimes cruel and unthinking and ignorant of JUST HOW HUMILIATING these actions may be to prisoners of a certain religious background. Being "the American people" does not confer upon us any special moral privilege. These photos and the well-deserved shame surrounding them only serve to illustrate that.
Your statement today serves your role as a politician, not as a commander-in-chief. A politician immediately jumps up to the microphone spewing promises to his audience in hopes of currying favor. "I think they'll be taken care of," indeed. A real commander-in-chief would call the offending American soldiers, IN PERSON, and ask for their resignation. (This is precisely why the term "dishonorable discharge" was created.)He would then go to the prison (or send someone acting on his behalf) to institute more humane treatment and offer apologies to the families of those soldiers who were humiliated in public. Those soldiers who we saw stripped naked are men serving their country, as you do. They deserve basic respect, even if you cannot trust them enough to let them walk free. And THEN the commander-in-chief would address the general public, explaining the incident and how it was addressed. "I think they'll be taken care of" is insulting to us and should be humiliating to you. Don't think about it. Fucking TAKE CARE OF IT yourself and then come talk to us.

(/rant) Okay, back to your regularly scheduled blog.

EDIT: It gets worse before it gets better; this article states that many newspapers did not run the photos or the story for several days. Propaganda sheets, indeed. Here's the link to the actual article. NYTimes.com requires a registration, but it's painless. They will not spam you, ever. Go read it.

-Trope