Friday, August 17, 2007

Europe and America Part III: How Europe Sees the Rest

Honestly, I began this entry as one big response to several comments in Matt Lewis' blog, but it has just grown out of hand... So, I'm separating it into several parts.Here's the comment page that started this whole thing:

I'm addressing this post to any reader interested, but the question was raised by Nee and El Gordo.

3.) How Europe Sees the Rest of the WorldI want to head off all of your criticism at the pass here, and say that I do not want to sound condescending, nor do I want to appear to lecture you all, since you all seem to be educated individuals. However, I have found some statements about the nature of Europe to really be in error.

"Europe criticizes the US more than China, Russia and Iran."

This is entirely untrue. If someone has told you this, especially someone on the radio or on television, then you should not listen to that person ever again. Europe is absolutely brimming with criticism for all three of these nations, and I'll address each one in turn:

a.) Russia:Europe is full of far more criticism for Russia than for the US, for the simple reason that Russia borders the EU on several fronts: with the Baltic states, Finland, Germany and Poland via Kaliningrad. The EU is scared to death of Russia, especially with the potential of Russian political aggression, intelligence service operation or energy threats. The Litvinenko case is a glaring example of how the EU and Russia are always just one week away from a diplomatic catastrophe. The EU has also raised more objections than any other nation regarding Russia's HR record, constantly blocking attempts by Russia to take part in EU activities. On the other hand, the EU realizes that by vilifying its largest and most powerful neighbor, reform will be less and less likely. In this sense, the EU alternately chastizes and makes up with Russia, hoping to defend its own ideological position while simultaneously pushing for a safer, more democratic Russia.

b.) China:I'll go out on a limb and say that Europe isn't the only country that suffers from a lack of criticism for China - the US is also in this camp. Actually, I'll go ahead and reverse myself and say that China is criticized less by the EU press than the US is, but I don't think that this casts the EU in a light that is especially worse than the one we enjoy here. So, ok, you got me. The EU doesn't criticize China as harshly as it should, by the EU's own standards, but then again, neither do we.

c.) Iran:Iran is not on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from Europe for the simple reason that Iran is just America's most recent boogeyman. Also, Iran is a major potential ally of the EU for several reasons:

1.) Iran, other than Russia, holds the largest reserves of natural gas in the world

2.) Iran is the only, the ONLY Islamic Republic that is actively reforming itself to become more free

3.) Iran harbors no intentions of following some sort of international nuclear jihadYet, the EU does still level a lot of criticism at Iran, despite these reasons. They do complain when Iran tries to announce some new nuclear program, or incites more destability in the region. EU sources also are upset that Iran is continuing to destabilize Iraq. US criticism is only about Iraq, but the Iran criticism is actually far more nuanced. So, no, Iran gets it worse than the US does from the point of view of the EU.

Also, the freedom that is mentioned in criticizing America is not a symptom of something that is wrong, but something that is right. Europe is America's most treasured international neighbor, which feels comfortable enough to criticize us as well as we feel comfortable in criticizing them. Are they freeloaders? Sometimes. Do they depend on us? Yes. Do they criticize us? Yes. Do we criticize them back? Always. Do we depend on Europe? Certainly.

Europe and America Parti II: How Europe Sees US

Honestly, I began this entry as one big response to several comments in Matt Lewis' blog, but it has just grown out of hand... So, I'm separating it into several parts.Here's the comment page that started this whole thing:

I'm addressing this post to any reader interested, but the question was raised by Nee and El Gordo.

2.) Europe's Perception of US

Mr. Nee and Mr. El Gordo, once again, I want to point out that I am not in complete disagreement with you about the perception of the US in Europe. First of all, I want to make it clear that Europe is a very diverse place, with nations that, until 60 years ago, were entirely focused on the destruction of each other. Europe is also host to many thriving and truly free societies, where an incredible diversity of opinions are expressed. There are many who adore America (especially in Poland), and many who do not (especially in France). I also want to say that most Americans are European in ancestry (at least 65% as far as the last census goes), which means that most of us are not that far removed from Europe itself, by blood or by culture. So, before I begin, I just want to be sure that when someone says "Europeans have this belief," they really need to be more specific as to which Europeans they are referring to.

Bearing this caveat in mind, I'll address my experience with European perceptions of the US.

The majority of Europeans that I have dealt with are middle-class professionals or students, from almost every country. The overall opinion of America is a little different from one country to another, with French, Spanish and being typically less approving, and British, Germans and Eastern Europeans more approving. What I have found is that most Europeans, regardless of their country of origin or status, are not opposed to America, but somewhat overwhelmed with us. They like US culture, US food, US music (sometimes), speak a certain degree of English, watch Hollywood movies, and keep track of US politics. However, the majority of Europeans that I have met do not approve of the way that the Bush administration has carried out its foreign policy, nor the way that the US has conducted itself in ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. For most Americans traveling abroad, and dealing with Europeans, I believe a similar point of view would be easily found.

Now, I want to address the complaints from the EU point of view. It should be remembered that the EU is an isolationist body, that only tries to interfere in local politics if another nation wants to become an EU member, or if there is some major domestic impact within the EU. The cardinal sin, in the EU's point of view, is to start a war without a very, very, very good reason. Iraq is the prime example of this. Remember that regional conflicts of this nature can spread very, very fast, endangering the very security of the EU ( The only thing that separates the carnage in Iraq from the borders of the EU is Turkey). Furthermore, regional conflicts (Eastern Europe, Balkans, etc) rapidly became entire global conflicts, involving all of Europe. Thus, looking at the potential consequences of a war with Iraq, and looking at all of the evidence, Europe feels entirely justified at criticizing US behavior in Iraq.

Furthermore, the perception of Iraq, or involvement in Iraq is such a sensitive topic in Europe, that it nearly led to the collapse of Blair's party, mitigated only by the PM's banishment. When it comes to Iraq, the European public is very, very, very serious.

Now, that being said, I also want to address non-Iraq-based anti-American rhetoric. Just bear in mind that there are a lot of countries that have protestors that really do not speak for the majority. In fact, in France and Germany, pointless political protest is something of a national hobby. Taking that into account, the real decision-makers and policy-shapers rarely are influenced by these kinds of temporary objections. Also, pro- and anti-American points of views are very handy wedge issues that can be used in local elections. A good example is the recent elections in France, when the Socialist party tried to discredit Sarkoczy's campaign as "pro-American." The pro-American news made it to the US, but Sarkoczy's real popularity was not tied to this. He was elected, because of his domestic economic plan of liberalization and ending protectionism, allowing the French economy to grow. In fact, he is pretty much what a Republican candidate would look like, if he were to run in France.

So, when it comes to Iraq, Europeans feel that they are entirely justified in their objections to the US, but when it comes to any other issue, take European criticism with a grain of salt.

Europe and America Part I: How We See Europe

Honestly, I began this entry as one big response to several comments in Matt Lewis' blog, but it has just grown out of hand... So, I'm separating it into several parts.Here's the comment page that started this whole thing:

I'm addressing this post to any reader interested, but the question was raised by Nee and El Gordo.

1.) Our Perception of Europe
So, before we continue to gripe about who owes who what, lets understand exactly where both sides stand.

Mr. Nee, and Mr. el gordo the first thing that I want to point out is that you seem to be looking at Europe from a very outdated point of view. World War II ended over 60 years ago, and Europe is entirely different. Remember that when you say that we arrived in Europe to save it, we only saved one half of Europe from the other half. Remember that Germany, Italy, Romania and Finland are all European countries. Furthermore, you seem to be ignoring the whole idea that for 50 years, America's prodigious nuclear arsenal, incomparable technological prowess and tireless intelligence kept Western Europe out of reach of the Communist Eastern Bloc. That event, likely more than World War II, shaped modern Europe.

Modern Europe is no longer a group of empires and semi-empires devising the most horrendous means of killing each other - culminating in the world wars that nearly destroyed Western civilization. Modern Europe, taking in part from the essential strucutres that comprised NATO, the G8 (then G6), and the EEC gave rise to the semi-national federation that currently dominates Europe, and will soon dominate the global economy, the European Union.Now, the EU is the bastion of true and free government, spreading the word and wisdom of democracy with, frankly, incredible speed and success (Eastern Europe for example). War on the Continent is now about as likely as another US Civil War.

However, even if I were to take your point of view for granted, I disagree that Europe somehow owes us a debt of honor for World War II. The Nazi regime truly deserved to be battered, smashed and thrown into the creatories of history, but if some other situation appeared anywhere else in the world, the United States would be honor-bound to intervene. Furthermore, the United State did not participate in the majority of the fighting during WWII. More than 75% of the ground war took place in Eastern Europe, between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht. US fighting, outside of Africa and Italy took place only after 1944, at the same time as Operation Bagration, where the bulk of fascist armed forces was annihilated by Zhukov in Belarus. If somethine like that happened in North America, then Europe would be honor-bound to intervene as well. As far as I am concerned, our involvement in WWII was not an investment, but a true and just cause. We rebuilt the entire Western world, which laid mostly in ruins, and saved them from Communism - that is where our credibility lies.

If the US has any major credibility for WWII, then it lies from the side of the Chinese, who we indirectly liberated from the Japanese by winning the war in the Pacific - but US-Asian mutual perceptions are a whole different discussion all together.

Furthermore, we owe quite a lot to Europe as well. It was thanks to a lot of French intervention that the United States was able to finally become independent. Furthermore, it was thanks to the European models of government and to European Enlightenment thinkers that our Founding Fathers had a suitable philosophy to create the basis of the finest nation on earth. In more recent times, Europe provided a staunch ally during the Cold War, and the unity of our two markets, EEC and the US, we were able to grow economically, forming the two most unstoppable economic powers in the history of humanity - the EU and the United States.We two continents are joined at the hip, inextricably dependent upon one another, as we always have been and as we always will be.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Meth and the Modern Age

After reading the comments by Elizabeth Hand on how every age has its appropriate narcotic
(, I wonder just how this relationship is shaped. Drugs have been a scourge of all civilizations since the beginning of the 20th century, often appearing at all levels of society. I would be hard pressed to assume that culture somehow shaped drug use, so much as how drug use has shaped culture.

For example, consider that the introduction of massive amounts of drugs from Southeast Asia and South America, beginning in the 1950s and being realized in earnest in the 1960s, fundamentally changed the way that American culture operated. With heightened drug abuse came heightened crime to support these habits. That ubiquitous local-politics issue, "tough on crime," which has shaped our political landscape for the last three decades, was essentially the result of a reaction to the products of major narcotics' introduction.

Also, I disagree that the burning pace of modern professional life is somehow responsible for meth use. Meth is taken like any other drug, as an escape from realty. The vast majority of meth users get hooked not to meet some sort of deadline, but in order to run from the same problems that crack users were running from in the 1980s and 1990s, or from those same problems that "mommy's little helpers" treated in the 1950s.

Let us also not forget that the drugs in question are almost entirely synthetic. There are herbal sources for certain ingredients, but the plants and meth labs mentioned in this article are not plantations of poppies, but major chemical operations that produce industrialized, streamlined, neurological explosives at stupefying rates. Furthermore, one of the authors of these two books commented on how he used meth as a way of helping him work, in essence, relying on this drug to shape him into a model employee. In this case, his use of meth pehaps shaped by his own needs, undoubtedly shaped his work - likely spreading the effect to his readers. Meth not only shaped the author, but his production.

Drug use is not so much a product of an age, but the producer of what we come to realize as the world we live in. Addicts fit neatly into our consciousness, providing our universal enemy. Authors that use drugs come to define and shape our culture, influencing the public through their own drug abuse. Addicted musicians, actors and artists continue this trend, and please our senses, but only through the medium of their habits. Meth, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, tobacco and every other chemical escape have played key roles in shaping our history - as they will our future.


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Meta Media and Theraputic Blogging

I honestly would prefer not to become a person who espouses the virtues of blogging as some sort of personal revolution. However, I would say that I have found my blogging thus far to be rather therapeutic. I have a lot of trouble discussing politics in a reasonable way, which is why I chose the name: the vehement moderate. Yet, as far as this constant posting is concerned, I think that it helps not only myself, but others, to be forced to try and frame their opinions in at least some sort of coherent way.

Media published about the media that interprets the media seems like an exercise in redundancy, but I do think that the role of the blog in modern society is not based on what sort of insight it can provide to the reading public, but what sort of insight it can provide to the reader. Long-distance proxy political discussions are healthier than brooding, or shouting, or taking to the same person day in and day out at work. Yet, the illusion that someone is actually reading this blog makes the blogger recast themselves in a way that they feel best represents their opinions and their personality - from the lifelong farmer that ruminates over how he has voted in the past few years, to the successful accountant that TyPEs in aLteRNATed CAPPPSSs!!! about how liberal conspiracies are designed to seize his Audi.

It's interesting how the endless anonymity provided by the internet forces people to take others almost exclusively at face value, subtracting for the ubiquitous skepticism that the internet engenders. This very anonymity, combined with the curiosity to explore issues deeper and more thoroughly make for a new form of media that resonates with the author and the reader in a new, compelling dynamic.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Purge or Pennance?

What we're seeing right now is nothing less than a complete revolution within the Republican party. If this posting was correct, then an entire generation of American politics is ending its role right now. Ever since the removal of Tom DeLay, the cracks on the edifice of Republican power have gotten longer and deeper. I truly wonder what will be in 2008 if such a massive part of national leadership, politics and campaigning all vanishes.
Perhaps that is the very reason that all of this is occurring? Are the Republican ranks being forced into retirement (purged) in order to make the slate as clean as possible for the upcoming 2008 election? Either that, or the Republicans have finally decided to do the honorable thing, to exit peacefully from office, leaving in their wake a trail of scandal, corruption and damage to this nation that has re-shaped the direction of American and global politics for the coming decade.