Saturday, October 15, 2005
Vargas Llosa in the Middle East
Friday, October 14, 2005
Leftists are in good company
„Public health, the protection of children and mothers, fighting against beggers, the welfare of wanderers, and community development”
John Ray points out something that leftism has tried to hide, and in fact pin the same on their political opponents: the leftist/ collectivist origins of fascism. Using social welfare or just about anything as the lure just as Communism and Democratic Socialism have (both European concepts), the notions were geared to construct dependency and silence independent ideas.
It’s repetitious reappearance are too great for even the modern, very angry left to hide, as ¡No Pasaràn! has pointed out in this series of posts on Guardian hate-monger Steve Bell who has lost all bearing or reason when it comes to facing the thoughts behind his feelings.
Why won’t the fist-pumpers who
Shall We Overcome?
A Black Look at Black America
On the one hand, we are CEOs at AOL Time Warner, American Express and Merrill Lynch; we have served as secretary of state and White House national security adviser; we are mayors, police chiefs, best-selling novelists, MacArthur fellows, Nobel laureates, professors, billionaires, scientists, stockbrokers, engineers, toymakers, inventors, astronauts, chess grandmasters, dot-com millionaires, talk show hosts, actors and film directors; Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists (as is yours truly). We are inescapable in the fabric of America's lived experience and defy easy categorization. The GDP of black America is $631 billion. Homeownership is close to 50%. The number living in poverty is 25%, which is too high, of course, but a vast improvement over indigence of the past.So writes Charles Johnson, a professor of English at the University of Washington in Seattle and the author of "Middle Passage" and "Dr. King's Refrigerator and Other Bedtime Stories".
But there is a second, disturbing profile that reveals too high a percentage of black men being AWOL as fathers and husbands; as disappearing from our colleges (UC Berkeley's 2004-05 freshman class had only 108 African-Americans out of 3,600 students, with less than 40 males, and not one black among the 800 entering students in engineering); as graduating from high school with an eighth-grade level of proficiency in math and reading; in prison, on probation or on parole (a third of black men in their 20s). …
It seems that after decades of supporting and building up our daughters, sisters and wives, we are finally willing to acknowledge a national "boy problem" in general, one with devastating consequences for black males in particular. That belated recognition, our "leaders" seem to be saying with yet another media-courting march, might be too little too late. We have already allowed the talent, resources and genius of two generations of young black men who might have enriched this republic to be squandered by gang violence, by poor academic preparation, by the lack of good parenting and by the celebration of an irresponsible "thug life" that is ethically infantile and, predictably, embraced by a notoriously values-challenged entertainment industry.
Two things could not be more clear in 2005: First, without strong, self-sacrificing, frugal and industrious fathers as role models, our boys go astray, never learn how to be parents (or men), and perpetuate the dismal situation of single-parent homes run by tired and overworked black women. The black family as a survival unit fails, which leads to the ever-fragile community collapsing along with it. Second, our black predecessors (particularly Booker T. Washington with his corny but unfailingly correct "gospel of the toothbrush") understood from the era of Reconstruction until the late 1960s how indispensable was the black family for sustaining a fight against racism that by its very nature can only be measured in centuries, and for ensuring that our progress toward liberation, personal and political, would not be lost in but a single generation as it now threatens to be.
The columnist William Raspberry has lately urged black people to resist becoming trapped and limited by antique narratives about their lives. "For the first time in black American history," he wrote, "what we do is a greater determinant of our future than what is done to us. We need to teach that and preach that and shout that--to our young people and ourselves. We need to take note of the immigrants--including those from Africa and the Caribbean--who see opportunity where too many born here see only disparity."
The Day I Decided to Become a Bush-Basher
It's all Bush's fault.I had a dental appointment and there was a huge traffic jam.
It soon became apparent that if nobody was moving, it was because police officers were holding cars and vehicles back.
It wasn't only your run-of-the-mill traffic policemen, but CRS and soldiers and what looked like officers in civilian clothes.
What's going on? I asked a policeman.
He looked me over, as if trying to figure out whether I was some criminal or terrorist bent on mayhem. I must have passed the test, because he responded that America's secretary of state was visiting.
I have no idea if he got the identity of the distinguished visitor to France right, but when I arrived late for my appointment, I told my dentist the truth:
It's all Bush's fault.(If my appraisal of my dentist's reaction — and that of her assistant, as well as that of her secretary — is correct, that excuse for lateness has never been tried on her before…)
Dorks in Beeb-town
The BBC rubbishes the flat tax, but ignores the fact that its license fee has fewer curves than Kate Moss and her lines of coke.
In the mean time, as they report with more credulity than information on the earthquake in Pakistan and India, they trot out the same old desperate nonsense on hurricane Katrina just one more time for good measure with online documentaries that attract less attention on the web than on the air. This permits a higher than normal rate of Radio 4-ness to pollute the minds of anyone listening, baiting hatreds, and reviving fabricated class-warfare.
Remember how the superstitious were calling hurricane Katrina Allahs punishment against the US? What are they calling this earthquake? A humbling gesture and object lesson of those who didnt drink the Kyoto Kool-aid?
Why an 18-Month-Old Article Is Still Valid Today And What Protests to the Contrary Tell Us About the Protestors
I. The Dog That Didn't Bark
After brushing aside a key article (one of great consequence in that it refutes completely the msm's hand-wringing view of the war) due to the fact that it is not recent and that it allegedly stands alone and in spite (or because, rather) of the (very) strong and near-unanimous opinions of Iraqis expressed therein (Il est presque impossible, hormis chez les responsables baasistes déchus, de trouver quelqu'un qui soutienne la position de Paris dans la crise; La politique de la France reste très vivement critiquée par les Irakiens), suggestions arise that instead, a typical msm article written in the usual hand-wringing fashion is an irrefutable indicator of Iraqi opinion, as is a single question-answer in a poll that is… 15 months old.
The strongly-expressed opinions of Iraqis clearly spelled out in excruciating detail are brushed aside; the single questions — to which respondents usually have no more than three (yes, no, no opinion) to five (strongly agree to strongly disagree, less safe to more safe) choices — is supposed to be taken as gospel, ignoring the context (the poll was taken right after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke out).
Ignored also is the fact that poll questions are posed without necessary links between each other. But what may be most interesting are the questions not asked. Ergo:
None of the following questions seem to have been asked: "Was life better before the invasion?" or "Do/did you have more confidence in the Ba'ath party?" Furthermore, "Are you content with the disappearance of the Ba'ath party" (assuming that question had been asked, which it was not) and "Do you approve of the foreigners' presence in Iraq" is not the same as "Do you approve of the presence of the army which brought an end to the reign of a repressive dictator and his fascist régime?"
II. The MSM Seems to Choose Only Anniversaries to Present Viewpoints That Don't Coincide With Its' Heralded Opinions
Some might use this issue to accuse me of extrapolating and putting words in the Iraqis' mouths, but this is not simply an intellectual exercise: if there has been a poll that did not invariably indicate that a majority of Iraqis (usually, an overwhelming one) are better off than they used to be and that they feel more optimistic about their future than they ever had in the past, I have not heard of it.
Indeed, it is precisely because I seek out the Iraqis in their own words why I turn to the article in which, exceptionally, Le Monde decided to have its Baghdad correspondant ask the inhabitants about their views about the war.
Still, we are told that the Iraqis' near-unanimous support of the war is not good enough and we are asked, therefore, have there been any more recent articles allowing the Iraqis to speak their minds.
Well, as a matter of a fact, there have.
Just like Le Monde used the first anniversary of the war to ask Iraqis their opinion, the BBC used the second anniversary of the war to do the same. Here is its report on Iraqis facing new lives.
Although a few voices complained of the security situation, not one voiced regret for the overthrow of the previous regime.
Listen to Saad:
Let me describe our situation before the fall of the previous regime. We were like a sick, weak prisoner under the thumb of a cruel jailer.How can you react to this?
Then, suddenly and without warning, the gates of our prison were flung open. We were told: "Come on, you are free!"
… the moment of salvation came. Perhaps I shouldn't use the phrase "moment of salvation", for to do so implies we were expecting such a moment when in truth we were feeling hopeless.
Call it what you will, it happened and it was a magnificent thing.
Well, you can say that the report is six months old (instead of 18, in the case of Le Monde), and ask if there are any reports that are more recent than that one?
But hold on a minute. Think about it: what would you be doing, in this case and in that of Le Monde?
In both, you just happen to be putting into doubt information that happen to favor Bush and/or the United States.
In both, you just happen to be refraining from putting into doubt the msm commentators' that the situation in Iraq is "chaos", that it is full of "terror" and "massacres". (In fact, we were treated to a reader linking us to an msm article saying just that.)
And so, I suggest that we should ask ourselves not "Are there more articles of the sort (and what do they indicate)?" but rather, "Why aren't there more articles of the sort (and what does that indicate)?"
Because when you think about it, there isn't no reason there should not be more articles of the type; there is no reason msm reporters couldn't file mass interviews with common Iraqis every six months (instead of every year), every three months, or every three weeks, or every week…
Is there, now?
Except, of course, that the expressions of (relative) satisfaction contradict the overarching judgments of the editors in their Western city offices — you know, the ones using emotionally-charged words of the superlative kind (words like "chaos", "massacres", "terror") ad infinitum and the ones constantly referring to polls — but only when they oppose the war and America (or Bush).
So who has to give? The America- (or Bush-) bashers (including the MSM)? Or the Iraqi people For the America- (or Bush-) bashing msm, the questions seems to be a no-brainer. That is why we see so few msm articles devoted to the opinions of common Iraqi citizens. (That is, unless you happen to be a Pole born in communist Poland and raised on a diet of bad news about America and good news about anybody opposed to Uncle Sam.)
It is a sell-out attitude that spreads to the rest of the population, notably those… putting the information in this article into doubt.
III. The "But" Response on Automatic
Of course, this is missing the true meaning of the article; or, rather, the true meaning of the response I get from people I show the article to.
The people who usually castigate Bush and/or America show no interest in the article. Like the flight attendant, they brush off the evidence immediately. The little interest some show is to dismiss it, castigate it, or otherwise dispose of it (among other ways, by focusing on the date).
And in this respect, they join the company of the web browsers asking for more recent articles, n'est-ce pas?
Do you know when was the first time I heard doubt expressed about this article? It was not 18 months after it appeared. It was not 12 months after it appeared, it was not six months after it appeared, or 12 weeks, or six weeks.
It was when it appeared.
I was then asked, or told, rather, that we shall see how long the Iraqis cling to this opinion.
And when I pointed out that a Baghdad boy born in June 2003 had been given the first name George Bush, what response did I get? I was asked: "oh, is that still his name today?"
Now, choosing the name of one's child and the type of viewpoint expressed by nearly every Iraqi in Rémy Ourdan's article are pretty strong indicators of opinion, and yet the opinions are put into question.
This, of course, is a game that can go on forever. Do the Iraqis feel the same as 18 months ago can become, will they feel the same 18 months from now, and, will they feel the same in the next 18 years.
I think it is safe to assume that the same people's response to the above-mentioned Iraqi is, "Oh well, but how does Saad feel today?" And if we could produce him here now, the response would be, "Well, sure, but how will he feel in six (12) months' / six (12) years' / six (12) decades' time?"
In 2053, when George Bush Abdul Kader Faris Abed El-Hussein is 50 years old, they can ask, will he still be wearing that name.
So what does all this tell us? It tells us nothing about Iraqis' opinions. It tells us nothing about the war in Iraq or the country itself. It tells us only about the doubters.
Any opinion, and any fact, and every opinion, and every fact, must always be placed into doubt when it happens to, or seems to, favor the United States.
When polls castigate America (or Bush), you will notice that nobody asks, well how will the French feel about this 18 months later. (Of course, it is true that there is little chance that they will feel any different, given how used they have become to putting into doubt any positive information from Iraq that puts Uncle Sam in a good light.)
Often, when the positive information seemed irrefutable, I get this laconic comment:
Well, it's such a complicated story, we can't judge now, we will have to wait a few years before we can really know.Of course, this is falling back on the BUT argument, and it is more evidence of double standards. They did not bring up the complicated-story-impossible-to-judge canard when it came to praising the UN and Villepin and the crowds marching against America in the streets while castigating Bush and the "massacres" and the "chaos" in Iraq.
Needless to say, this is not an isolated case, far from it. Notice how very little was/is made of elections in which pro-war governments win the vote, and how polls, such as the Danish one, where a majority of people support the war are totally ignored (in marked contrast to those in which populations — often whose countries have no ties to the war at all — are opposed to the war). In the same vein, American polls where Bush's numbers are up are commented on laconically, but when the president's rate of approval goes down, this is commented on excitedly as evidence that the American people are coming to their senses. Not unsimilarly. Fox is castigated throughout the year, but when a news report calls the government's response to hurricane Katrina "shameful", every news outlet and every French blogger in America is sure to quote it.
This does not show interest in polls, or even in the news. Worse, this shows an absence of intellectual curiosity and a total lack of willingness for honest inquiry. What this shows is interest in the news only when it seems to favor their viewpoint and validate the (self-serving) opinion that (average or conservative) Americans (and their allies) are dumb, treacherous, and clueless while "we" humanistic souls are wise, tolerant, solidaristic, visionary, and (last but not least) lucide.
Articles in which Iraqi opinions are freely expressed do not reflect that, and so they are suppressed. (At least, until that time when their opinions will match those of the avant-garde left.)
Thursday, October 13, 2005
États-Unien? Are you kidding?
Since the EU is not all of Europe, I suggest that the only proper way of dealing with someone who insists on calling an American an États-Unien is to refer to them as Les Uniens.
The word America only appears in the state name of two nations the US and American Samoa. The insistence on wanting to call us something other than what we call ourselves is a kind of expression of frustration over the fact that unlike former African that theyve run into the ground, they have little to no power over the U.S (at least none that we dont go along with while laughing at the pious prigs behind their backs).
It is, after all a function of their convenience. Sometimes they are 25 nations when it suits them, and sometimes one mega-state called the EU.
Hows THIS for language savoir faire, peeps? Henh?
Justice is an image in the land where right and wrong are just ‘old hangups’
An EUvian court sees no problem in going after a retired dictator who gave up power, but holds out on the U.S. where the extradition of an Al-Queda bagman who committed racketeering is concerned.
«The ruling by the Hague District Court said the suspect’s “fundamental right” of unlimited access to a defence lawyer and immediate access to a judge may be compromised in the US. It cited a 2001 anti-terrorism order adopted after the terrorist attacks two months earlier.»Which means that they wouldn’t be able to extradite him to the UK, France, or to remain in the Netherlands itself. These nations have anti-terror laws that make the Patriot Act look like a recycling bylaw in Berkeley.
Never mind the fact that EUro worshipping twits think that the US is at war with a religion, and not just people abetting mass murder, but have themselves taken out their great theories of egalitarianism out on the outward expression of religion – never mind if it’s a good or bad person under that parrot cage cover.
How very, very, sophisticated. I’m sure they will eventually blame their illiberal laws on the US’ ‘tacit image’ (completely constructed in the press) soon when the facts don’t bear out.
Why Do They Hate Us?
If only Americans (thanks to Tom Pechinski) would learn from Europe's humanitarians and try to understand the Muslim world and begin to treat others (such as their Guantánamo prisoners) as humanely as, say, the French do, the whole world would come together as one…
Working hard or hardly working?
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Universal health care: a picture of the system in practice on its happiest occasion would shock Americans and Western Europeans alike
I recently came face to face with a level of Western ignorance that I hadn't encountered since the 1980s, when Russian immigrants were still a novelty to Americans. A British-American asked my father a question that could only come from someone who has known freedom his whole life: "Why did you leave Russia? Your family was there, you had a job, you had free health care. Why did you leave?" The questioner, a former editor with the New York Times, then proceeded to assert that today's Britain and U.S. are no longer free.After providing numerous examples of health workers, among other things, "yelling at her [mother] as soon as she walked in" to the hospital, Gorin concludes:
The exchange reminded me just how out of touch many who live in the free world are with the reality of life under tyranny--and why, therefore, so many Americans and Brits think nothing is scarier than war. On the subject even of that oft-cited "perk" of Soviet life, universal health care, a picture of the system in practice on its happiest occasion would shock Americans and Western Europeans alike.
We share the planet with North Korea and its ilk. As many intellectuals, academics and literary and Hollywood luminaries commented soon after 9/11--with some vindication in their tone--we do not live in a vacuum. Yet for the most part they, along with the isolationist right, seem indifferent to the suffering of tyranny's victims. They blithely champion the status quo, or in the case of Iraq the status quo ante, repeating only that Saddam Hussein wasn't a threat to us.More on health care in Britain and Canada…
Ding, Dong, the witch is dead.
Interior Minister and Brigadier General Ghazi Kenaan who spent years molesting Lebanon for no clear reason has killed himself after being questioned by the U.N. group investigating Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri's murder.
Bust out the good booze.
He also has a great deal to answer for in this age when mass graves are no longer a fashion accessory in the Arab world which much of Europe felt free to ignore for a little bit of oil.
Merde in France… Truly.
I believe that the theory has caught on in Canada.
E-nough! has more.
Europe: I've always thought of it as being America's outhouse
La Zéropa, incapable de maîtriser les flux migratoires qui s'abattent sur ses frontières, sous-traite la sale besogne auprès des marocains. Les européens cyniques, corrompus, et lâches, font appel aux bougnoules pour repousser les nègres. L'Europe, c'est trop la honte.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
I said Free the Pig, man!
“Members of staff” at BBC were offended by the cute little dude for “religious reasons” that they were trained to defend randomly…
Yes, that’s right – they are pissed about PIGLET.
Apparently being mild mannered and inquisitive doesn’t fit the activist lifestyle. You see, everyone else in the world has to conform. The existence of other things… disturbing things… is bad for their self-image of BEING the world. Are they that prejudiced that they won’t make space for a stutterer?
It’s the usual brilliance that shows itself in adults channeling their own nonsense on children – just like trying to make girls play with toy cars, and boys to play with dolls. It’s for the satisfaction of a handful of grown-ups. The closest thing that most of them have to children is the chip on their shoulders.
Message Ain't Gettin' Through to the Professional Cynics Group, Nizar
"We're trying to send a message to people outside Iraq that this is a real country, not just a hole for terrorists," said the [Baghdad film] festival's organizer, Nizar al-Rawi, a graphic designer who is president of the Contemporary Visual Arts Society here.
An old, babbling idiot
Gerhard fait sa pute
Fwance, ta littérature fout le camp
France's warped idea of "chick lit"
Sunday, October 09, 2005
America's Mexican Immigrants "Seem Wealthier Than I Am!" the European Visitor Exclaimed
The differences between American and European material wealth are now marked and growing — Americans increasingly enjoy larger homes, more cars, more appliances, cheaper food and energy, more advanced health care, and more disposable incomewrites Victor Davis Hanson in The American Enterprise.
A recent European visitor to my farm, a member of the professional and affluent class, was stunned when I showed him the new suburban houses and multiple cars of first generation immigrants from Mexico living nearby — in the poorest section of one of the poorest inland counties of rural California. “They seem wealthier than I am!” he exclaimed. In a global sense they really are, even without the subsidized train tickets, day care payments, and a government-guaranteed six-week vacation.
Some transatlanticists will grant these endemic problems, but assure us that Europe’s problems will be self correcting, that more conservative reformers will eventually retake power and mimic the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions to prune back government largesse and encourage renewed self-reliance — noting in addition that we have the same enemy in Islamic fascism. Nothing in Europe’s history, however, suggests that a moderate response to the current maladies is likely.
Popular frustration over Islamic terrorism and unassimilated minorities may grow, and Europeans could become tired of appeasing extremist mullahs and terrorists and begin looking for principled opposition based on real military power. A few politicians may warn of the dangers of a future Europe with only one worker for one pensioner, of a self absorbed society where children, religious fraternity, and hard work are seen as retrograde, or caricatured as American.
But it is just as likely that any European counter-reaction will be unproductive. Instead of calling for more American-style assimilation and intermarriage, critics could prescribe strict isolation of Islamic minorities. Re-arming could make Europe even more hostile, rather than promoting Western unity. The longer work hours, reduced welfare subsidies, increased transparency, and economic flexibility needed by Europe might be received by the masses not as necessary medicine, but as foul concoctions forced down their throats by the hated American competition.
It would be a misreading of Europe's elites to see anti-American complaints as isolated gripes which can be overcome through patient dialogue
Unlike some forms of bigotry, anti-Americanism is most virulent among Europe's elites. Everyday Germans and Brits and Italians tend to be more appreciative of American culture, economic achievement, and government than their political lords. But ordinary Europeans have relatively little influence on the direction of their societies. The thing about European governance most striking to American eyes today is its comparatively undemocratic nature. In much of the continent, elections mean little, unaccountable bureaucracies and elites commandeer the most important decisions, the same people hang onto power endlessly, and policies that would not survive the test of popular opinion are simply instituted by administrative fiat. To cite just one example, direct election of mayors has been blocked in many localities, with national authorities insisting on appointing local leaders themselves.It is not the first time that Zinsmeister has detailed his personal observances of "the whole panoply of Eurocharacters," along with their "vehemence and envy and certitude" and their "animus, jealousy, and willful spite":
Because of this unrepresentative politics, lots of ideas supported by a majority of the European public--like the death penalty--have no chance of becoming law. The tradition of a peasantry ruled by its "betters" endures in numerous ways. Many of these habits are actually being deepened by the European Union, where decision making is dominated by unrecallable mandarins serving appointments in Brussels, who regularly ram through laws that could never pass by popular referendum.
… An irresponsible preference for moral dudgeon over useful solutions is now a hallmark of European foreign affairs, argues Charles Krauthammer:
“A leftist judge in Spain orders the arrest of a pathetic, near-senile General Augusto Pinochet eight years after he’s left office, and becomes a human rights hero... Yet for the victims of contemporary monsters still actively killing and oppressing—Khomeini and his successors, the Assads of Syria, and until yesterday Hussein and his sons— nothing. No sympathy. No action. Indeed, virulent hostility to America’s courageous and dangerous attempt at rescue.”
Krauthammer's conclusion is that the European Left's "concern for human rights turns out to be nothing more than a useful weapon for its anti-Americanism."
For evidence that obstruction of the U.S. is more important to many European elites than making progress in the world’s most dangerous flashpoints, look no farther than Afghanistan. …
Truth be told, continental Europeans have been making themselves scarce during times of crisis for more than two generations. Their current claim is that lack of a U.N. mandate is what has prevented Europe from standing shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks. But the Old World’s failure to make any proportionate contribution to the war on terror is actually part of a long historical pattern. Consider their response the last time a large U.N.-commanded force went to war—in Korea.
After North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, the U.N. responded militarily. Of the 340,000 troops sent under U.N. control, how many of these do you suppose were European? About 5 percent. In the crunch, only Britain provided meaningful help, sending 14,198 soldiers at the Korean War’s peak. The next biggest European contribution? Greece, with 1,263. France followed, providing all of 1,119 troops.
The U.S., meanwhile, provided more than 300,000 fighters. Do the math and you’ll see something interesting: The Korean War alliance included 16 nations, and America supplied 88 percent of the military manpower. The Iraq War coalition included 32 nations, and 85 percent of the G.I.s were Americans. (Poland, Holland, and the Ukraine each contributed more soldiers to the Iraq War coalition than the French did to the Korean War.) See a pattern?
…Some considerable part of today’s European hostility toward the U.S. is born of frustration over their own failures, and jealousy of American success. …
Unfortunately, a combination of ideological stubbornness and blind anti-Americanism makes many Europeans resist the economic modernizations they desperately need. It’s as if, updating the old slogan, they’d rather be economically dead than red (if we use red in the Election 2000 sense to symbolize Reagan-Bush-style economics). The French have long caricatured the American economy as a free-market jungle, where fatcats prey and the weak perish. Recently, leftists in other European countries have adopted the French stereotype and sought to distance themselves from what they call “Anglo Saxon capitalism.”
The irony is that for all their insistence on portraying the U.S. as a land of fired workers, poverty, and economic insecurity, it is now Europe where unemployment is twice as high and four times as deep, where immigrants and the young have far fewer openings, where the ladder of upward mobility has fallen to pieces. In terms of spending power, home ownership, educational opportunities, and so forth, even relatively low income Americans are now demonstrably better off than typical Europeans …
Many of the economic choices, cultural initiatives, and foreign policy decisions being made in Europe today are animated by simple competitive envy.
… "It would be a misreading of Europe's political elites to see anti-American complaints as isolated gripes which can be overcome, one by one, through patient dialogue," warned Michael Gove, a perceptive editorialist for London's Times, when I visited his office. "Europe is not begging to differ in particulars, but beginning to diverge in fundamentals."
… We have conventionally thought of Europe as having about the same standard of living as Americans. This is less and less true. For the European Union as a whole, GDP per capita is presently less than two thirds of U.S. levels. America's poorest sub-groups, like African Americans, now have higher average income levels than the typical European.
[A] telling indicator of economic stagnation in Europe is the fact that many or most immigrants to that continent end up on welfare. In the U.S., almost all immigrants grab entry-level jobs, frequently more than one, and work their way up the economic ladder. The easy availability of work--indeed, our economy's insatiable hunger for additional laborers--is the main force that attracts immigrants to the U.S. in the first place.
Even corners of Europe that have resisted excessive government manipulation of the economy are now being dragged toward the statist norm by E.U. rules. Recently the European Court of Justice ruled that British employers must give all part-time workers four weeks of paid vacation, to align their policies with the rest of the European Union. In an effort to guarantee the "good life" by government edict, French, German, Dutch, and other continental finaglers have mandated short work weeks, long vacations, and fat social services, which has driven all dynamism out of their economies.
If no visible alternative loomed, citizens might not realize that better ways of achieving prosperity exist. But any European with eyes can observe that the United States makes very different economic choices, with very different results. Here is one root of the resentment felt by European elites, who would otherwise have a free hand to mold their societies according to their own visions. "The anti-American alliance," noted Michael Gove in the London Times earlier this year, "resents American economic success because it reminds them that their preferred cocktails of protectionism, state regulation, subsidy, and intervention constrict growth. America's practical success is a standing rebuke to their abstract beliefs."
A second divergence splitting Europe from America is defense strategy. When it comes to guarding the peace, current European leaders put all their faith in the endless talk, commissioneering, and resolution-writing of collective diplomacy--what they call "multilateralism" (a term nearly as feeble as the concept). Given Europe's history with the Treaty of Versailles, Neville Chamberlain's Munich Agreement, a biological weapons "ban" secretly violated with impunity by the Soviets and scads of other signatories, plus many more recent failures of "let's pretend" diplomacy in places ranging from Iraq to Rwanda to Bosnia, it's inexplicable that Europeans would bet all future peace on the security of parchment walls. But that's exactly what they're doing.
Charles Krauthammer diagnoses the problem this way: "After half a century under the American umbrella, West Europeans have come to believe that their freedom is self-generated. It is by now, they feel, a simple birthright, as natural as the air they breathe. When they see the United States slaying dragons abroad--yesterday Afghanistan, today Iraq, tomorrow who knows who--they see a cowboy whose enthusiasms threaten to disturb the perfect order of things, best symbolized by the hushed paper-shuffling at the International Criminal Court."
… American military spending now totals more than the next nine largest national defense budgets combined. Even more significantly, the U.S. now pays for almost 80 percent of the world's military R & D.
Without admitting it, the Europeans have essentially decided to rely on the U.S. to keep them safe. … Contrary to Euro myth, America isn't strong because it buys guns instead of butter. Military spending represents only 3 percent of U.S. GDP today. That's down from nearly 7 percent in the 1980s, a level we could return to almost instantly if any serious threat required that. America is powerful militarily simply because it is a highly productive nation, and utterly devoted to defense of its homeland.
… Wishful thinking will not man and equip a carrier battle group, build a missile shield, or otherwise instill the necessary awe in the world's tyrants.
Of course, most European elites deny such measures are necessary. To quote my British friend Mr. Gove again: "Europe's leaders seek to manage conflict through the international therapy of peace processes, the buying off of aggression with the danegeld of aid or the erection of a paper palisade of global law, which the unscrupulous always punch through. Europeans may convince themselves that these developments are the innovations of a continent in the van of progress, but they are really the withered autumn fruits of a civilization in decline."
A final, crushing, structural divergence separating America and Europe is demography. … Europe's disinterest in childbearing is a crisis of confidence and optimism. It is a spiritual indicator, reflecting millions of individual decisions to pursue self interest and material well-being instead of participating in the human future. These individual decisions will have profound collective effects.
… It's quite possible that in coming decades the European Union could simply lock up. The wrong-headed pressures toward centralization and state bureaucracy, the sheer cumbersomeness of its political mechanisms, the wide cultural gaps papered over by the union, could eventually lead to meltdown. How such a collapse might unfold is anybody's guess, but the possibilities are worrisome.
To American eyes, the most striking aspect of the European Union is its undemocratic nature. The E.U. apparatus is exceedingly closed and secretive. Relatively few of the confederation's important decisions are currently made by democratically accountable officials. On front after front, bureaucratic mandarins are deciding how everyday Europeans will live ….
Many Europeans, in a way Americans find impossible to understand, are willing to let their elites lead them by the nose. There is a kind of peasant mentality under which their "betters" are allowed to make the important national judgments for them. "Europe's leaders see themselves as wise parents, and their citizens as children," explains journalist and Briton Clive Crook. "In France, Germany, and the institutions of the European Union, elites take major political decisions and impose them on the voters without consulting them," summarizes John O'Sullivan. "Political elites feel that the people have no right to obstruct the realization of the European dream."
What happens to such a system of governance if things go wrong and popular unrest bubbles up is not clear. But the history of earlier multinational collectives in Europe, like the Hapsburg and Tsarist empires, Napoleonic France, the Third Reich, the Soviet Union, and the former Yugoslavia, is not soothing. And even if ethnic blow-ups could be avoided, a withered Europe would not be a good thing. Among other effects, "a weakened Europe is likely to grow more resentful toward America," warned British journalist Charles Moore in a lecture to the New Atlantic Initiative last year, "rather than blaming themselves."
Meriting Deconstruction: books on unconsidered themes prove a great attraction to the French since they are about their favorite subject — themselves
It turns out yet again that we have got the French all wrongwrites Mary Blume.
Take Sunday luncheon, which we imagine all lively chat and lovely food, adorably buttery grandparents, Papa expertly carving the roast, rosy-cheeked Maman with her casserole of steaming purée, children straight-backed and scraping their plates clean.
Dream on. A family meal is a social construct more complicated than the tasks involved would suggest, says the sociologist Jean-Claude Kaufmann, and its study is back where sexuality was before Freud. In fact, Kaufmann reminds us, historically there have been more taboos concerning food than sex.
In his latest book, Casseroles, amour et crises (published by Armand Colin), Kaufmann explains that the crises are existential and adds that in our secular society the sacrificial altar has become the kitchen stove. "Cuisine is sacrifice. There may be joy but there is also pain," Kaufmann said by telephone from Brittany, where he was planning his family's Saturday night dinner. …
Each meal these days is a test of whether family members have anything to say to one another, Kaufmann says, and the answer is usually no: one French family out of two watches television during meals. This may be just as well since table talk carries the risk of opening a Pandora's box of hidden resentments. Usually, Kaufmann says, the lid is left just ajar.
… A sociologist who wrote on such worthy subjects as life in housing projects, Kaufmann hit pay dirt, so to speak, in 1992 when he published a book on French attitudes to daily tasks such as ironing and emptying the trash. This was followed by books on similarly unconsidered themes which proved a great attraction to the French since they were about their favorite subject, themselves. The Latest Kaufmann, as headlines put it, now gains as much space in Paris newspapers and weeklies as a contender for the Prix Goncourt.
"I work in the ordinary and the banal," Kaufmann says. "It interests me and it interests more and more readers." He had thought that mealtimes would provide a droll light subject but found it complex and grave instead.
The complexity lies in the fact that French housewives dream that cooking will bring them happiness and love.
… the answer to a question that Kaufmann appended to his list during the study was surprisingly revealing: What would be your greatest dream? To give up cooking, most of them replied.
… There may be a bit of narcissism there, notes Kaufmann, who adds that cooking is not all virtue and grace.