A blog by an American expatriate living in the heart of New Europe

"It's a lateral transfer" -- George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Talking points

The Guardian:

Putin angry over Poland muggings
Vladimir Putin reacted angrily yesterday to news that three teenage sons of Russian diplomats serving in Warsaw had been beaten and robbed of their mobile phones in a park in the Polish capital.

President Putin called it an "unfriendly act that cannot be characterised as anything other than a crime".


"Russia is expecting an official apology," said Boris Malakhov, a spokesman from foreign ministry.

"What happened is outrageous and cannot be considered as an accident. There are obvious links with anti-Russian sentiments that have been encouraged in Poland, including unfriendly statements by Polish politicians."
-Gimme a break. Who hasn't this happened to in Warsaw? What really shows the anti-Russian sentiment is the smile everybody cracks when they talk about this story

Associated Press:

Poland's leader says nation-building has failed in Iraq
A coalition member says the nation-building effort in Iraq has "failed totally."
Poland's prime minister (Marek Belka) -- whose country sent 95-hundred troops to Iraq -- says "Many mistakes, major mistakes, have been committed."

He says it was wrong to base the postwar efforts on the model used for Germany after World War Two.

But he's not pessimistic. He says the political process is moving, and he hopes Iraq's different religious groups can work together to build an independent nation.

The prime minister says there's "much more of an Iraqi identity" among the country's three major groups -- Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds -- than people might think.
He'll be out of office soon anyway - but so much for stalwart Polish support.


Gore launches youth-oriented TV network, Current
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore launched his long-awaited cable network, Current TV, on Monday with short, fast-paced programs, or "pods," for Internet-savvy viewers 18 to 34 years old.

The debut of Current, which reaches 20 million homes nationwide, came more than a year after Gore led an investor group in buying the cable channel Newsworld International for an undisclosed sum from Vivendi Universal .

Billed by Gore as a TV outlet that encourages a "two-way conversation" with its audience, the network offers professionally produced segments and viewer-produced videos running from a few seconds to 15 minutes in length.
Well, I do have a short attention span - but doesn't everybody when it comes to Gore?

Here are two seemingly unrelated stories:


Teens Want to Bulk Up
Nearly a third of adolescent and pre-adolescent boys and girls frequently think about becoming more toned and more muscular, a new study suggests.

The research reveals that while boys may not be as prone as girls to becoming obsessed with weight loss, they are nonetheless similarly vulnerable to developing a different -- and just as serious -- form of body dissatisfaction.
Boston Globe:

Palmeiro flunks steroid test
Baseball's steroid era reached a new nadir yesterday when prospective Hall of Famer Rafael Palmeiro became the first major star in the game's history to be sanctioned for using an illegal peformance-enhancing substance.
The study found boys with such body dissatisfaction were more likely to misuse dietary supplements like creatine. We all want to be like our heroes... ("nadir"?)

Does this scare anybody else?-

The Boston Globe:

Death of charismatic leader sparks rioting
Events point to fragility of Sudan peace deal
Widespread riots erupted in Sudan's capital and several other cities yesterday following news of a helicopter crash that killed John Garang, the charismatic leader who survived 21 bloody years of Africa's longest-running civil war but died just three weeks after being sworn in as the country's first vice president. The government said 36 people died and about 300 were wounded in the violence.
I am convinced that Sudan is the next ultra-terrorist state waiting to happen...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is hard to tell whether the "nation building" has failed. It takes more than time than has passed so far to create a new and stable nation. After all, it took us almost 15 years to get to a working constitution from the declaration of independence. There are currently serious problems, but also some notable successes. Only time will tell. I just hope that the US lets the Iraqis have the type of government THEY want. I'm no Bush or Iraq war fan, but I do hope that this attempt at nation building succeeds for the sake of the long suffering Iraqi people. - Chuck

8/02/2005 09:55:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Welcome back Chuck, we've missed you.

As I've made abundantly clear, I share your reservations about both Bush and the War in Iraq. But my view is that now that we've made the mess, we have to clean it up. Both the Iraqis and our children who would otherwise have to deal with the consequences of a failed Iraqi state deserve that much.

So in light of the above, I find it reckless and irresponsible for Belka to have said that Iraqi nation building "has failed totally". That Saddam is out of power IS A GOOD THING. There are also signs that the Sunnis are entering the political fray, meaning that the natoin building is indeed on the right track. I also agree, of course, that we will need much more time before we can know whether it's been a success or not.

He's right however that there have been "many major mistakes" - How about underestimating the insurgency? Not sending enough troops? Disbanding Saddam's army? ... ugh

How long do you think it will take Chuck? And be careful when you say that the US gives the Iraqis the kind of government they want - What if they chose a theocracy? - Wouldn't you insist on a liberal democracy?

8/02/2005 10:27:00 PM  

Anonymous Chuck said...

i agree with what you said as to the mistakes that have been made, but let me respond to your question. As much as I would personally not like to see a theocracy in Iraq, if it was REALLY chosen by the Iraqi people through fair elections and not imposed through military force or thuggery, I would accept it. We in the west think we have the perfect form of government. Our form of government and our belief in it is based on a long history and solid traditions. It took us a long time to get where we are. There was a time in our history when Europe (at least in part) was ruled by the Church. It was a long and bloody road to correct the situation.

However, there is no such tradition in much of the Middle East and western South Asia (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.). The traditions there are also based on a long history of tribal relationships and Islamic influence and law. There is nothing in Islam that prevents a democratic theocracy. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, so let me explain what I mean. I am not using the term "theocracy" in the usual sense of a dictatorship by the clergy, but rather I mean a system that is based on religious belief; e.g., Sharia law. By democratic theocracy, I mean a system based on religious principles (in this case, Islamic principles), yet, in terms of its application to the common folk, would be responsive tbose very people.

I know that sounds alien to us because our history and traditions do not support such a course. But I think that the history and traditions of the area could support what I am describing above. The democratic form that I described would be a major change from the usual dominance of one point of view (Sunni or Shia). A democratic form that recognizes the political legitimacy of these different points of view is the logical next step in the history of one of the worlds great religions. Don't forget that the differences between Sunni and Shia points of view are not primarily religious, but rather political.

Let me ask you, would you accept the choice of the Iraqi people even it weren't a liberal democracy?

8/03/2005 05:54:00 PM  

Blogger Gustav said...

Well, giving them a proper choice would entail a liberal democracy, at least for one election. But let me dwell upon this sentence:

I know that sounds alien to us because our history and traditions do not support such a course.

BS. Our history and traditions WERE AND ARE that course, and I'm not talking about ancient history.

The Defense of Marriage Act - May 7, 1995

President Calls for Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage - February 24, 2004

Court Split Over Commandments - Justices Forbid Copies on Walls of Courthouses but Allow Monuments - June 28, 2005

Shaping politics from the pulpits - CANTON, Ohio — Pastor Russell Johnson paces across the broad stage as he decries the "secular jihadists" who have "hijacked" America, accuses the public schools of neglecting to teach that Hitler was "an avid evolutionist" and links abortion to children who murder their parents. - Yesterday

Frist not invited to evangelical rally - Today

Our politics practically ooze with religion, and religious ideas very often dictate the laws we pass. It's not unique to the US, of course. Just take Italians who recently refused to vote in a stem-cell referendum because the Pope told them not to. In Poland, most oppose abortion on religious, not legal, grounds.

A liberal democracy can have a healthy daub of religion (though I personally hate it). So yes, if that was the type of liberal democracy the Iraqis chose I would support it. If, in their first election, they voted to throw out democracy altogether and install an Iran-type government, I would be ardently opposed to that choice - for US and global security's sake.

It's good that's not likely to happen, since if it did, we couldn't afford to fight another war there. But the insurgents just might get that style of rule without putting it to a vote.

Guess we better get it right the first time.

8/03/2005 09:48:00 PM  

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