Archive for the 'USA' Category

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Quote of the Day

Abierce_1866 War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.

Ambrose Bierce

Unbelievable: Death Row for Self-Defense

Reading The Peking Duck, I find this story:

It’s in the middle of the night in Mississippi. A black guy, the name’s Cory Maye, never had anything to do with the police, is alarmed by intruders in the middle of the night. He shoots one of them out of angst for his baby daughter and himself. Turns out, the intruders were the police who broke into his house by mistake and the intruder killed the son of the police chef. The police were on a drug raid but got the wrong guy. A (mostly) white jury sentences him to death since the police rather chose to change their story about drugs, saying they found traces of it in Maye’s possession during the raid which they first concluded wasn’t the case.

If the facts are as reported, this was self-defense. I don’t have a gun at home and never would want one, but I’d be crazy if I don’t defend myself against any intruder who endangers me or my family. Maye gets the death penalty. Unbelievable.

I’ve written before about capital punishment, and my opinion didn’t change at all since then. In the contrary, almost every news item I read about capital punishment confirms my conviction that a flawed system must not be allowed to execute irreversible decisions about life and death.

Battlepanda: Outrage

Challenge Intelligent Design

There’s a lot of people who don’t think much of the ACLU, and there are others. But – in the case against Intelligent Design a.k.a. Creationism they’re doing 100% the right thing, no doubt about it. Combat it on all fronts, fight back, don’t let it pollute the hearts and minds of children. If this fails, another American key freedom is in dire danger.

The ACLU Challenge to Intelligent Design

News from Harvard

A worth while article why Harvard should be a role model for German universities by professor for Japanese Studies in Tübingen, Klaus Antoni:

Offener Brief aus Harvard

Crooks and Liars – Bittorrent

Since last week, I’ve been trying to get as much information about the hurricane Katrina disaster as possible. I’ve stumbled over a weblog that regularily publishes news snippets from CNN, FOX, MSNBC and others. Crooks and Liars by John Amato is very critical of the current U.S. government and the style of the postings might not be everybody’s taste, since they get explicit at times – but the weblog certainly raises a lot of valid questions about how the government responded to the disaster.

Seeing the number of videos they offer for download and the high number of visitors, I thought their server must have been under lots of stress lately. I emailed to the weblog’s author and suggested to use torrents for distribution. Bittorrent and similar clients are programs for easier distribution of huge files. Since many use them to download movies and songs, RIAA and MPAA are trying to sue operators of websites that host torrents, which are neccessary for clients like Azureus to “find” the file in question and download it. The websites that offer those torrents are quite easy to find, just google for it.

In spite of the entertainment industry opposition to the torrent technology itself, there are lots of legal uses, as can been seen at Legaltorrents, also, the beta version of World of Warcraft, Planetshift (a free, cross-platform MMORPG) and the fan-film Star Wars: Revelations have been made available through torrents. The basic idea this technology is founded on is great – everybody in the network shares his file with everybody else. In the end, everyone gets his file faster and supports others in doing so while the peers in the network with complete copies have a lower traffic load. Visiting Amato’s weblog again this morning, I found torrent files all over the place. I’m not a lawyer, but I assume the files offered there can be considered legal, at least in the U.S. (it might fall under fair use), but I’m curious about other countries, like Germany.

“Crooks and Liars” starts using torrent files

update: Why P2P is Here to Stay

update: NASA Blue Marble Project uses bittorrent

American Red Cross – Response

The coverage about Hurricane Katrina and the desastrous reponse – or to say better – initial lack of it and slow start stirred up even conservative politicians and media, reading through the net last night really surprised me.

What I don’t understand is how the U.S. government could fail in responding to this catastrophy? After 911, there must have been myriads of people thinking about what could happen to America and how to prevent it or act. In 2001 a scenario like what happened in NOLA was mentioned among the top three dangers to America. There’s a lot of coverage at CNN, but the really interesting information is in the blogosphere. Take Metafilter, Dailykos, Boing Boing and Crooks and Liars. The latter also publishes excerpts from U.S. television media.

There’s information which is hard to believe, like this, this, this, this or this.

One thing about the story over at Dailykos: This is an important sign for so many people all over the world, not only in the U.S., people in Europe and elsewhere who talked angrily about and repeated so many times about high levels Anti-Americanism everywhere: America is in distress and dire need of help. According to many people involved, like New Orleans Major Ray Nagin, the US government is moving far too slow, but a long list of countries all over the world, even Cuba, which has not the best relations to the US, offered help, countries like Sri Lanka, Jamaica and Afghanistan (!), which are not among the well-off themselves, offered help, immediate neighbors like Canada and Mexico as well as the United Nations and Europe, OAS and WHO, China, Japan, India and South Korea are offering all kinds of help. When people are dying, it is not important whether the victims are black or white, rich or poor, what nationality they are, people from all corners of the world rush to help and grant relief. Does it matter that the US government is not popular? No, right now it doesn’t, not at all, right now the only thing that is important is to get clean water and food, clothing, transportation etc. whereever it is needed. Quick:

American Red Cross – Responding to Hurricane Katrina

US accepts offer of UN help in Katrina aftermath

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has decided that no offer that can help alleviate the suffering of the people in the afflicted area will be refused.

Some 60 nations have offered help, from longtime American friends such as Japan, Germany, Canada, France and Britain as well as Cuban President Fidel Castro, who is willing to donate doctors and medicine and the Venezuelan government, frequently criticized by the Bush administration.

With the desaster unfolding and help still not arriving everywhere it should the offer of countries all over the world – and not only friends – it still good to know that international cooperation and the system and structures to facilitate it, namely the United Nations, are willing, capable – and exist.

US accepts offer of UN help in Katrina aftermath


Southern Bridge to Pag, Croatia, on September 11th, 2001That’s as close as I can get right now. I never had the chance to visit the place before the attacks, but I’ve been there last year during the Model UN simulation. The story began three and a half years ago. I was in Croatia, meeting my brother while he took a few days off from his internship at the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation office in Zagreb. On September 11th, 2001, we drove all the way down to the coast to meet with our aunt, to celebrate her birthday together. Like our uncle and her husband, she’s an architect who at that time happened to work on an infirmary at Pag, which is an island in the Adriatic Sea. The island is connected to the mainland with a long and high, newly constructed bridge. On our way there, I thought it looks much like the Moon, or perhaps Mars, because of the stone desert around us. It seemed dead, all of it. No tree, nothing but stones. The weather was warm, a blue sky, with a single cloud here and there, but it felt cold.

We met in the late morning hours, went out to eat sea food at a great restaurant and talked a lot about family stuff, how everyone was and enjoyed life. I think I’ve never eaten so much again. After a few hours my brother and I slowly had to drive back to Zagreb again, but just when we wanted to say goodbye, the radio was turned on but something wasn’t right. The reported said something about an attack on New York City, but after a minute or two it was still difficult to understand what was going on, just that it was a catastrophe. A neighbor ran by and we all went into his house. They had CNN turned on and we sat down, watching planes flying right into the World Trade Center. I can remember the shock when we watched it as if it was yesterday. I looked at my brother and he looked at me, in disbelief what we watched was real. I knew that when I looked at him, I saw what he saw. I watched myself.

We watched the reports for about an hour, the two building burning, people jumping out of the windows and in the end, how the towers collapsed. At a certain point we had to drive back. On the road, we listened to the radio: The first half of the day it played music as ever, but since the attacks were reported they only played slow, purely instrumental and melancholic pieces with the occasional interruption with the same news.

That afternoon I didn’t speak much, just looked outside the window … and perhaps tried to find something, not really knowing what I was searching. I could remember that a year ago, we had a ??? (party) in Shinya’s (one of our buddies) room of the international students dorm in Japan. Most of the nine Germans who were at Ritsumeikan University at that time were present, with one or two German girls who visited us. I don’t know why they started talking about it, but the ones who came from southern Germany/Bavaria exchanged their memories about where they were and what they did when Franz Josef Strauß died in 1988. One year later that afternoon I thought with this it is going to be the same way in the future.

I have a completely black T-shirt with New York City written in white letters. It was a present I got in 2000. The T-shirt’s meaning changed on September 11th, but that wasn’t the only thing.

Every year, I think of my aunt on her birthday as well as New York. Visiting the place itself last year made it much more clear what happened – although you couldn’t see much anymore (except a concreted square and memorial plaques), the feeling of being there was similar to an experience I had once in Germany. I was walking through a park when I noticed a small stone with a decayed inscription – it said that this was the place of a concentration camp outpost where people died in slave labor. A tragedy followed by six decades of history, but strangely it adhered to the place so that you could feel it – tonight I learned that the Ustaša regime established a concentration camp on Pag in 1941.

Where were you on September 11th, 2001?

Maki Teshima and Alex Liss: Congratulations!

Maki Teshima and Alex Liss were married for the second time at Gokonomiya Shrine in Kyoto, Japan on June 17th . Here’s the full collection of photos.Maki Teshima and Alex Liss

p.s.: How many I-House people are married?

Pew Global Attitudes

Pew Global Attitudes Survey published a snapshot of opinions around the world, Howard French reports concisely about an article by Brian Knowlton titled U.S. image abroad. Chirol over at Cominganarchy might be pleased (and possibly sad) to find his opinion in regard to Anti-Americanism to be widespread confirmed – although the U.S. image improved slightly, it is still in the red.

What I found interesting in regard to Germany that Germans don’t see themselves as popular as they really are.

They are much too self-deprecating. In fact, other Western European nations give Germany the highest global favorability ratings of any of the five leading nations (U.S., France, China, Japan and Germany) covered by the survey.

That reminded me of something Dr. Ruprecht Vondran said last year after a lecture on economic issues: Germans can’t and don’t define anymore who they are and don’t love they country any more. In Europe, they’re loosing their cultural and national contour. If you ask people about the British, French or Italians, they have a certain image in their mind. If you ask them about the Germans, it’s getting increasingly difficult. While I don’t see this much of a problem – define yourself as a European and you’ll be fine – I even see it as an advantage that pride is not a word(many) Germans connect with their country. I had a similar talk about the topic with Sir Francis in Japan some five years ago. Being proud of your country makes you vulnerable, since attaching emotions to such complex, amorph structures as countries leaves lots of opportunities to be criticized and in the course hurt. If you’re hurt, you’re open to revenge, and revenge and irrationality lead to arguments and possibly armed hostilities (sounds Yoda-ish, but I hope you get my point 😉 ). There’s nothing wrong with working hard to give something back to society, in the contrary.

Back to the survey: 80% of all Germans were certain that not using violence in the case of Iraq was right in 2003 and that opintion even increased since up to 87%. Between 2002 and 2005 Germany’s support decreased from 70% down to 50%, although I don’t think Germans sympathize less with Americans about what happened on 911, but there’s strong disagreement about implementation, targets, conduct…

Also, Canada was in spot one when the question was how western publics view the Americans – in the categories violent and rude, the relationship is deteriorating. Nevertheless, please correct me if I’m wrong, but I still see a difference between the U.S. government and its people. Of course, it got harder to differentiate between those two since George W. Bush’s re-election as all reasons why the U.S. government has been critized in the U.S. and abroad were already on the table before the election. It’s a democracy after all, so it’s not far off to say that the people have a reponsebility when it comes to their duly elected leaders. In the end, every people deserves the government they have, but I’m not so sure

Another bright spot in the survey:

In fact, even the French give Germany a higher favorability rating (89%) than they give their own country (74%). The Germans, however, return the favor, giving France a 78% favorability rating, higher than the 64% they give their own country.

If two countries that had serious …misunderstandings over centuries can get as close as they are now, I’d say that’s reason to be optimistic for all of Europe. It might be difficult at the moment, but there’s hope for the future. By speaking of which, one third in contrast to the rest of the country in Germany thinks immigration is a bad idea. I don’t want to get too far into demographics, xenophobia and national immigration policies, but that’s one of the big omissions our government has allowed itself. Being the son of immigrants myself, I have a slightly different angle on the issue than the afore mentioned two thirds. Those people are afraid to loose the way of life they’re used to, in case there are too many foreigners coming (the boat is full argument), but that is in my opinion rather a general problem than one connected to immigration. The German way of life changed drastically in the last 50, in the last 100 years, and the developement towards another drastic change is not stoppable. This country need skilled workers, people who don’t only cohabitate but bear children. Does future sociocultural, genetic or otherwise diversity scare you? Take a look at the mayor cities, almost 20% of Düsseldorf’s citizens are foreigners, and nobody can deny that life is good here. In fact, Düsseldorf is one of the wealthiest cities in Germany, just as one argument for the people who are afraid of decreasing economic strength. Diversity is not a threat, it is a neccessity – just as it is change. Call it progess.

The U.S. image abroad: Even China’s is better

Vandercook High School, Jackson, Michigan

That’s about as close as I can get to my old high school, I lived in Jackson for a half year back in 1995. Today, I looked around and found their website as well as my first driving instructor, Chuck Miller. I was in the last year of exchange students who were allowed to take the driving test in the US and drive for a year in Germany – that’s lots of driving experience for $12. The superintendent also looks familiar, but except them I didn’t find anybody else. I can remember that a Brasilian and a French student (Cedric?) went to the same school that year, I wonder what they’re doing now. I can remember one thing though – a girl I used to hang around with at school asked me whether we have TV sets at home (yes, and we have even color television sets), fridges and .. the last one I forgot, but it was funny, my (cassettes!) walkman – made in Japan – was thinner than the ones they used at that time. The overall knowledge about Europe was focused on America’s role in World War II, but when I think back about history education in my school in Germany, we had three years about WWII and the Holocaust and next to nothing about the time after 1945. Then again, German pupils have the advantage that American TV, music, movies and other aspects of culture regularily swap over to Europe, so usually they are informed about what’s going on on the other side of the pond.

For the curious of mind, Jackson is the birth place of the Republican Party in 1854, they held their first state convention there.

Google Maps – Vandercook High School, Jackson, Michigan

Terrorist or Freedom Fighter

Where is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? Since 9/11, the United States have been beating the big drum on the international level to fight terrorism. Now a terrorist – or freedom fighter, depending on your political view, policy and definition – who has been trained by the U.S. Army and was on the run for about 30 years, has been apprehended by the U.S. Homeland Security. Venezuela and Cuba requested his extradition and it is the U.S. government’s turn to act. Right now, Carriles is only charged with immigration-related crimes. If the government doesn’t measure up to its own words (“If you harbour terrorists, you are terrorists”), its credibility will suffer another hard blow. The San Francisco Chronicle suggested several solutions, the best one in my opinion was to hand him over to the International Criminal Court.

Profile: Luis Posada Carriles

That is the Thing

The daughter of Richard Feynman, one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, published her father’s letters. From the introduction:

When I was very young, I thought my father knew everything. Indeed, Omni magazine once declared him “The smartest man in the world”. Upon hearing this, his mother exclaimed,”If Richard is the smartest man in the world, God help the world!” My father was the first one to laugh.

Here’s how he experienced the first atomic explosion:

I was blinded by a terrific silver-white flash — I had to look away. Wherever I looked an enormous purple splotch appeared: it was just as bright when I closed my eyes. “That,” said my scientific brain to my befuddled one, “is an after-image caused by looking at a bright light — it is not the bomb you are looking at.” So I turned back to look at the bomb.

The sky was lit up with a bright yellow light — the earth appeared white. The yellow gradually became darker, turning gradually to orange. In the sky I saw white clouds from above the gadget caused by the sudden expansion following the blast wave — the expansion cools the air and fog clouds form — we had expected this. The orange got deeper, but where the gadget was, it was still bright, a bright orange, flaming ball-like mass. This started to rise, leaving a column of smoke behind, below looking much like the stem of a mushroom. The orange mass continued to rise, the orange to fade and flicker. A great ball of smoke and flame three miles across it was, like a great oil fire billowing and churning, now black smoke, now orange flame. Soon the orange died out and only churning smoke, but this was enveloped in a wonderful purple glow.

Another after-image I thought, but on closing my eyes it did disappear, and appeared on opening them again. Others said they saw it too, probably caused by ionised air produced in the great heat. Gradually this disappeared, the ball of smoke rising majestically slowly upward, leaving a trail of dust and smoke.

Then suddenly there was a sharp loud crack followed by resounding thunder. “What was that?” cried the man at my left, a war department representative. “That is the thing,” I yelled back.

‘This is how science is done’

Are You a Republican?

Here’s more fun:

Are you a Republican?

How We Would Fight China

Coming Anarchy posted the blogworld’s reaction to Robert D. Kaplan’s controversial cover story How We Would Fight China, which takes closer look to a possible cold war situation between the US and China.