December 18, 2009

ROAD TO SERFDOM VS ROAD TO HELL

In Copenhagen, Hugo Chavez got a standing ovation when he said this:

“our revolution seeks to help all people…socialism, the other ghost that is probably wandering around this room, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell....let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us.”

We're boned.

Read Conrad Black's When Summits Used to Matter.

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April 28, 2009

EXCEPTIONALISM

Mark Steyn:

In Europe, the president was asked if he believed in “American exceptionalism,” and replied: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”

Gee, thanks. A simple “no” would have sufficed. The president of the United States is telling us that American exceptionalism is no more than national chauvinism, a bit of flag-waving, of no more import than the Slovenes supporting the Slovene soccer team and the Papuans the Papuan soccer team.

Sigh.

I could write about why this is so disappointing, but Steven den Beste already did it better than I could.  Read The Cracked Mirror and American Exceptionalism.

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March 02, 2009

SALSA FAIL

Rachel Lucas' encounter with British salsa reminded me of our adventure eating at a "Mexican" restaurant in Germany. And those scare quotes are definitely needed. My husband ordered something like enchiladas and it came covered in European salsa, which he tasted and then remarked, "Um, this is marinara." I'll be darned if it wasn't. Straight up marinara on top of enchiladas. Oy.

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February 11, 2009

WITHOUT AN ACCORDION

A friend sent me this article -- U.S., France discuss Afghan war, avoid troops issue -- and told me to pay special attention to the last paragraph.

I dare you not to laugh when you read it.

[French Defense Minister] Morin has repeatedly said there are no plans to add to France's 2,800 soldiers [in Afghanistan], which make it the fourth-largest contributor to the operation after the United States, Britain and Germany.

"France's effort counts for more than just the number of men on the ground, first of all because they are better than the others," Morin said at a joint news conference with Petraeus after their meeting.

Bwhahahaha.

Now is the time to quote Jed Babbin:

Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. You just leave a lot of useless noisy baggage behind.

OMG, how absolutely French is that?

I sure as shootin' hope he didn't include American soldiers in the "others" that the French are better than.

Hahaha. Oh France, you make my sides hurt.

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December 04, 2008

BREATHTAKING

I don't watch American Idol or shows like it, but I happened upon a youtube tonight of the winner of the British version. Paul Potts is a real life Mr. Tanner, only with a happy ending.

This clip of his initial tryout for the show is excellent. You can just see the dread on the judges' faces when he says he's going to sing opera.

It is beautiful.

Why don't we get opera singers winning American Idol?

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November 07, 2008

EXCEPTIONALISM

A quote at the NYT from election night:

Indeed, for many who had watched this campaign from afar, there was a sense that the election was not just an American affair but something that touched people around the world, whatever their origin. "I want Obama to win with 99%, like Saddam Hussein," said Hanin Abu Ayash, who works at a television station in Dubai and monitored early returns on his computer.

Sweet merciful Jesus. I mean, that just makes me froth at the mouth and want to smash something.

I found that link via a thought-provoking post at The Volokh Conspiracy:

There are two versions of American exceptionalism. American-American exceptionalism is “we’re richer because we’re better.” European-American exceptionalism is “you’re better because you’re richer.” Both sides agree on exceptionalism, and just see different causes and implications. The Europeans expect us, on account of our wealth, to live up to (their) ideals, while we think that our wealth ought to prove to them that our ideals are better than theirs.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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October 01, 2008

OH NO HE DI-UHNT

Somebody send Sarkozy a copy of Basic Economics or Capitalism and Freedom. Apparently he needs a good economics lesson:

The idea of an all-powerful market without any rules and any political intervention is mad. Self-regulation is finished. Laissez faire is finished. The all-powerful market that is always right is finished.

I just keep reading that paragraph, open-mouthed at its stupidity. Or, as LT Nixon recently quoted, "What you just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I've ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

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September 17, 2008

AH, EUROPE

Anti-Americanism in Europe Fueled by Ignorance

For another thing, statistics show that Europeans are not nearly as well traveled in America as Americans are in Europe. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, some 11.4 million Europeans visited the United States in 2007, which is roughly 2.5 percent of the European population. (By contrast, a record 13.3 million Americans visited Europe in 2007, or roughly 5 percent of the U.S. population.) The lack of firsthand knowledge of the United States is arguably the biggest reason why ordinary Europeans cannot discern fact from fiction when it comes to America.

From the comments section: "Some of my most heated conversations were with people who claimed to know everything about the U.S. even though they never came here. For example, did you know the U.S. has 52 states?" Ha, I had the exact same discussion in Sweden. A guy insisted that Puerto Rico was a state and refused to listen to me when I said it is not.

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July 28, 2008

CITIZEN OF THE WORLD

In order to keep my eyeballs off the computer screen, I have been listening to Hugh Hewitt clips. But that's a bad idea because it just makes me come up with stuff I want to blog about.

I was listening to Dean Barnett and James Lileks talk about Obama's "citizen of the world" line.

I now puff my chest up and say that I was at the vanguard of this line of thought, having blogged about it two and a half years ago. (And getting exactly zero comments on the post, she adds, lest you think she really does hold herself in such esteem.)

Some commenter said yesterday that America's far left is Europe's moderate. I thought of that today in passing while reading Broca's Brain. I think people look at the world quite differently depending on how they classify themselves. If you think of yourself as an American, you see the world differently than if you think of yourself as a Global Citizen, as it seems most Europeans do. And if you think of yourself as a citizen of the universe, as Sagan does, you look at issues completely differently. Thus when Sagan talks of global warming, he thinks all humans should work together to prevent Earth's habitat from being like Mars. When an American talks about it, he typically thinks about what is best for the US first. I think the label you give yourself says a lot about how you deal with The Issues.

I agree with Lileks that when Obama calls himself "a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world," the emphasis is on the latter. And that it lacks any real sort of meaning and downplays his Americanness.

Really, there's nothing that turns me off quite as fast as when someone downplays his Americanness.

I am not a Citizen of the World. I live on this planet, but I am an American citizen. I don't really recognize this entity that Obama calls "the world," some sort of collective of human beings who all want the same things: peace, love, and kumbaya. I don't think that exists. I believe that human life patterns the Animal Planet channel, where each species vies for position and does what it takes to stay alive and get ahead. We accept that in the animal kingdom, but for some reason we think humans should all want to share and be humble. I wish we could accurately see human beings the way we accurately see marine life during Shark Week.

I am thankful to be a citizen of the greatest country on this planet. I wish Obama were too, instead of relegating it to second fiddle behind meaningless "We Are the World" tripe.

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March 07, 2008

THEY'VE HATED US FOR MORE THAN FIVE YEARS

Betsy Newmark quotes Michael Gerson today about anti-Americanism and how it's not all Bush's fault. It certainly is not. I lived in France in 1998-99, and lots of people hated Americans; French, Swiss, Croatian, Norwegian, Canadian, Swedish, and Russian students hated us alike. The Croatian student hated us because of Bill Clinton, because his family was in danger during the air strikes in 1999. And that wasn't unilateral cowboy tactics; that was NATO. I also lived in Sweden in the summer of 2001, before 9/11. People hated Americans, namely for Kyoto that summer. I blogged about the riots in Goteborg during the EU summit, in which protesters carried paper mache Bush puppets and chanted "Go home, Bush." This was before 9/11, before Iraq, before any of these lame excuses that we hear these days about why Europe hates us. They just do. They have for a very long time. Iraq was just the frosting on the cake.

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February 29, 2008

BOO-YA

Victor Davis Hanson rips on Europe in an interview:

JF: What is it that makes the U.S. and Europe so different from each other? From the outside, the two are often perceived as a monolithic unit: the West. Does this unity really exist, or are we talking about two separate worlds? Do you think the alliance between the U.S. and Europe is made to last, or is it no more than an illusion?

VDH: We have a common legacy, as the elections in France and Germany remind us. And we coalesce when faced by a common illiberal enemy — whether against the Soviet empire or radical Islam.

But after the fall of the Soviet Union, you diverged onto a secularized, affluent, leisured, socialist, and pacifist path, where in the pride and arrogance of the Enlightenment you were convinced you could make heaven on earth — and would demonize as retrograde anyone who begged to differ.

Now you are living with the results of your arrogance: while you brand the U.S. illiberal, it grows its population, diversifies and assimilates, and offers economic opportunity and jobs; although, for a time you’ve become wealthy — given your lack of defense spending, commercial unity, and protectionism — but only up to a point: soon the bill comes due as you age, face a demographic crisis, become imprisoned by secular appetites and ever growing entitlements. Once one insists on an equality of result, not one of mere opportunity, then, as Plato warned, there is no logical end to what the government will think up and the people will demand.

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November 09, 2007

WHO DOES THIS?

On the monorail on the way home from the Pajamas Media party last night, I ran into a large family from England. The grandfather was left without a seat near the family, so he came and sat by me. We chatted and joked about Las Vegas and differences he had noted between the US and England and also Canada, where he lives now. And then he said something that he thought the US was a nice country, and then he did that speaking-out-of-the-side-of-his-mouth fake whisper thing and said something like, "We aren't really so fond of that president of yours, but other than that it's a good country." Then he went on to say how the rest of his family was happy to get rid of Blair since he was in bed with Bush.

I was immediately reminded of the boorish German that Tim met while waiting for me at the train station.

I mean, really, who does this? Who thinks it's appropriate to insult the leader of a country in the first five minutes of meeting someone from that nation? I would never dream of doing this if I met a foreigner, and especially not in his country! I hated every aspect of living in France, and still I would never start bashing the country to a Frenchman I just met. It took me three years to tell my French relatives that I had a horrible experience in their country. Telling someone you just me is just so rude it's beyond my understanding.

I didn't even bother saying anything back to this man. Overall he was nice and I didn't want to make the conversation any more uncomfortable than it already felt. Plus, if you hate Bush so much that you have to mention it during a discussion of how interesting it is that you get free drinks in American casinos, then you're beyond hope for anything I could say.

But honestly, all I could think about was, who does this?

Sadly, lots of people. I told my husband this story this morning and rhetorically asked who does this, and he said, "Well, Americans have taught this man that this is acceptable behavior." When Kirstin Dunst says she'd kill Bush and Michael Moore says our country is the worst, then foreigners think that all Americans talk like this. We have taught the world that it's OK to bash us.

What idiots we are.

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November 08, 2007

VIVE LA FRANCE

I wanted to make sure to post this. I heard clips from Sarkozy's speech yesterday during my travels, and I admit I got choked up. What an amazing turn of events.

And I liked What Broken Fences? a lot. (Via Insty, whom I hope to meet tomorrow...)

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July 08, 2007

McDONALD'S IN FRANCE

Mary Katharine Ham has lots of jokes about an article on the French eating at McDonald's.

"We hate it and go to it. It's our paradox," a journalist for the French magazine Challenges, Alice Mérieux, said. "We're very anti-American in principle, but individually, if you're going to the movies and have to eat in 10 minutes, you go to McDonald's."

Yep, I saw this in action. When I was in my French language class, a Hungarian, a Czech, and I did an expose on McDonald's. We went around our French town and interviewed folks about their thoughts on McDonald's. Naturally, they all thought it was a despicable place with disgusting food. And naturally there was always a line out the door and onto the sidewalk.

What I thought was especially interesting was that the Hungarian and the Czech didn't really get the concept of the difference between fast food and restaurant food. I had to explain to them that Americans do indeed eat at McDonald's, but we don't consider it Fine Dining. We actually do have sit-down restaurants that we eat at. For them in their home countries, the price of McDonald's was the same as the price at a sit-down place, so the distinction was lost on them. They thought we considered McDonald's the same thing as a fancy restaurant. So at least I can say that I dispelled one misconception during my year in France: I taught a Hungarian and a Czech that McDonald's is not classy.

Of course, this is coming from the girl who ate at Steak n Shake for her senior prom...

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May 07, 2007

SWEET!

I am so excited about Sarkozy's win in France yesterday. I loved this roundup of photos and ideas at Publius Pundit. But despite the surge of energy I felt yesterday, PowerLine left me feeling nervous today:

The U.S. has now seen the leadership of both France and Germany pass to figures who believe, as a general matter, that American power is a force for good in the world, and not something that needs persistently to be constrained. Let's hope that in 2009 the U.S. still has a leader who concurs.

Oh yeah, crap. Please let us weather 2008.

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April 13, 2007

ROYALTY

I heard this story on the radio yesterday -- that British swans were turning pink and some American scientists found a cure -- and what struck me and made me laugh is that the swans on the Thames river belong to the Queen, because apparently in the 12th century the Crown claimed ownership. Ha! Royalty is so weird.

I'm reminded of my Swedish class; our teacher used to organize these debates about social issues, and they were always a lot of fun. But I'll never forget the time she tried to divide the class to argue for and against having a royal family. No one could think of a single reason to argue for it! So we ended up as a class debating the teacher. We kept asking her how a people who are so intense about equality and lagom could be content to pay up to 60% of their income in taxes while another family got a free ride. You see this dress Victoria is wearing? You paid for it! Our teacher clearly didn't understand our protestations, saying that Swedes liked the royals and thought it was a good tradition. But she didn't get any takers among the Americans to argue for royalty.

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April 11, 2007

THE VOICE OF GOD SOUNDS REMARKABLY LIKE EVERY OTHER EUROPEAN

I think the Pope should've chosen his words more carefully when he said on Easter that "nothing positive comes from Iraq." Tell that to the women Uday raped, the children who were released from prison, and the girls who are going to school for the first time. Noel of Cold Fury reminds us that the Pope was once a forced member of the Hitler Youth; maybe he'd do well to remember what American sacrifice can achieve. Michael Novak thinks that the Pope is having a hard time transcending his European outlook on the world, and writes:

The Coalition forces cannot oblige Iraq to form a successful, patient, slowly maturing democracy. But the Coaliltion forces are giving the people of Iraq the chance to do so — a rare and precious chance in the Arab world of the last one hundred years. Maybe the vision will not succeed. But do not say that the vision itself was not positive. It was, indeed, noble, and carried out with much self-sacrifice, heroism, and devotion to others. Many Coalition forces willingly laid down their lives for the liberty and human rights of people who had earlier been strangers to them. Do not, dear European friends, contemn nor trivialize these generous sacrifices.

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January 18, 2007

DRIVING

I was listening to Neil Boortz on the radio the other day, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about something he said. He was talking about speed limits, and apparently he's a big proponent of not having any. He says

The next time you're driving on an expressway keep track of the number of times you have to change what you're doing on the road because of a fast driver. How many times do you have to change your speed or your lane because someone is driving faster than you are? Now remember ... we're talking just speed. You may have to slow down because someone swerves into your lane .. but how many times do you have to change your speed or anything else about your driving technique simply because someone goes by driving ten or twenty miles per hour faster than you are.

Ahhh .. but how many times do you have to change what you're doing because of a slower driver? You're doing the speed limit in one of the left lanes, and suddenly you're behind a minivan going 10mph slower than you are. You have to (1) slow down, and (2) change lanes. Then you (3) speed up and then (4) change back into your travel lane after you've gone around the bluehair. The slowing down and lane often creates a ripple effect though the other drivers on the road. One of them may be caught off guard .. and a crash ensues.

Someone called in to the show and said that he drives an old VW bus and that he typically goes about 65 because his car can't handle higher speeds. Boortz told him that he has no business being on the expressway then, and he should stick to two-lane highways.

I've lived in a country with no speed limits. That doesn't really solve the problem. What Boortz apparently really wants is speed minimums. In Germany you could drive as fast as your wheels could take you, but there was still a steady stream of Dutch campers in the right hand lane going 65. So if I wanted to maintain a speed of, say, 80, I was constantly weaving in and out of campers going 65 and Audis going 95. I think I did more lane-changing and swerving in Germany than I do here in the US. Eliminating the speed limit in Germany didn't eliminate slow drivers; it just made the disparity even bigger. What Boortz appears to want is no upper limits paired with enforceable minimums. I'm not sure how we can force people to avoid expressways as they drive across the US.

German driving reminds me of French handwriting. When I lived in France, I was amazed that every French person seems to have the same handwriting. Apparently their handwriting training is strict, and they get graded on handwriting far longer than American kids do. I was even told they handwrite their job applications so employers can do handwriting analysis to find out their habits and tendencies. That's intense. So with the strict emphasis on following the rules of writing, they all end up with very similar penmanship. Same with German driving: the rules of the road are higher stakes than ours are since folks think nothing of driving 95 mph. Germans learn the rules and are much more likely to follow them. The traffic might be going pretty fast, but surprises and bonehead behavior is less likely.

Americans drive like their handwriting: everyone's got different rules going on. I think stricter adherence to the rules regarding lane changes and so forth is more important than speeds. You'll still have the pokey folks going 60 mph in the right lane, but at least they'll stay there!

Incidentally, I don't speed here in the US. I was comfortable driving 80 mph in Germany, but what I'm not comfortable with is getting a ticket. I set the cruise directly on the speed limit and get passed by nearly every car and semi out there. So folks are already speeding, regardless of what the signs say. Following the rules of the road will do more to prevent accidents than speeds do. Boortz says as much on his website, but he was focusing a lot on speeds on his radio show, which didn't sit right with me.

Actually, getting people to get off their damn cell phones would be a big step in the right direction. The first rule of driving is to Pay Attention...

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November 08, 2006

PIGS FLY

I thought of something I really miss about being in USAREUR.

pork-on-the-wing-s.jpg

Yes, I actually said that sentence; I can't believe it either. But it came to me in a revelation while I stood in the grocery store with cow blood all over my hands: I really miss the vacuum-packed meat. What is the deal with going to the store and getting covered in chicken and beef juice? This plastic-wrap-over-styrofoam doesn't work, people! It leaks! Which is gross and slightly dangerous. It's not healthy to be walking around covered in raw chicken, right? I hate that. I miss the days of clean packs of meat in the commissary in Germany.

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October 25, 2006

FISHBOWL

CaliValleyGirl is back in L.A. after living nine years in Germany. And she just took a trip to another planet: Alabama. You must go read her post before you keep reading mine. Go on, git.

I went to college in rural Missouri, population 17,000. Interestingly enough, we had a pretty big foreign exchange community. And I had this exact conversation with a French exchange student. He was dismayed that our town in Missouri never showed any foreign films in the local movie theater, because the locals would benefit from learning about other countries. Our local movie theater had three screens. Three. I tried to explain to him that his idea was not a very sound business move for a rural movie theater, but he insisted that everyone in France is educated about the United States, so we should educate ourselves about France.

I asked him why he didn't study abroad in Finland. He got a little puzzled and said that he didn't really know anything about Finland. Well, don't they have a culture that's worth learning about? Why wasn't he interested in learning about Finland? If he wants rural Missourians to learn all about France, then shouldn't he spend some time learning about Finland? Of course it's a silly juxtaposition, but it made the point that Finland is out of his experience. Learning about Finland might be interesting in and of itself, but it does nothing to really affect his daily life or his future. He was in the US to learn English in order to hopefully get ahead in the business world. What would it help him to learn about Finland, or a rural Missourian to see a French film? Not much in a practical sense.

Everyone wants others to know about and respect his culture. It's his, right? So it must be worth learning about! But "middle America" -- Jesusland, Flyover Country, Red States, or whatever you want to call us -- are really out of the average Californian or New Yorker's experience. I can't really fault them for not knowing about us, any more than I can fault a Frenchie for not knowing about Finland, but we do make up a big freakin' chunk of the country.

I have never been to California or NYC. (Before my mom interjects, I disclose that I went to NYC as an infant, but that hardly counts for my point here.) All I know about L.A. and New York comes from TV, the same way Europeans learn about the US. The disconnect is that my entire US experience, the America that I know, comes from living in Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, and South Carolina. That's the US I know, and it's quite different from CaliValleyGirl's US (living in Hawaii and California).

I'm happy she visited my version of the US. I'd like to visit her version someday too. I think it can help us establish common ground, which would be good for all 300 billion of us.

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