American Views Abroad

Friday, April 28, 2006
The late US poet Elizabeth Bishop has been discussed a lot recently because Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments by Bishop and edited by Alice Quinn has just been published. In the New York Review of Books Charles Simic, himself a poet, reviews this book and discusses Bishop's life and legacy. Simic reveals how Bishop 'was sure that most complicated experiences and ideas can be presented in the simplest possible way' and reveals how she 'could write a tough political poem without making a single, overt political statement.' Her poem The Armadillo follows with its first lines

This is the time of year
When almost every night
The frail, illegal fire ballons
Climbing the mountain height,

Simic writes: 'Has there ever been a more terrifying poem about the slaughter of innocents? If so, I can't recall it. ....We see what she sees and only grasp in the end how much all this is like the firebombing of cities.'

The entire The Armadillo and Simic's essay The Power of Reticence at

Wednesday, April 26, 2006
We are Globalized, But Have No Real Intimacy with the Rest of the World by Martin Jacques at argues that globalization's 'one size fits all' mentality cancels out respect for differences among cultures and peoples, creates a false sense of intimacy with the rest of the world thus laying the groundwork for intolerance. The example he highlights at the beginning of this essay -- how an American author wrote about Japanese culture in 1944 with respect -- is striking when, say, sitting down and reading through piles of Sunday New York Times Book Reviews. For the most part you can't shake off the impression that the US is so emerged in itself that the rest of the world is hardly present in any serious sense, unless, of course, it involves highpoints of US history.

Saturday, April 22, 2006
When GI Joe Says No, an essay originally published in The Nation, discusses the very crucial differences in the US military today compared with the Viet Nam war era. It points out that though many soldiers ship off to war despite serious political misgivings, they are not prone to resisting. The reason lies in how the military is organized today and the key words are 'unit cohesion----the ways the military uses solidarity among soldiers as a form of social control.' Further 'because they join of their own free will, they find it almost impossible to rebel. Volunteering implicates them, effectively stripping them of the victim status that conscription allowed.'

The author, Christian Parenti, highlights that 'understanding the world of the military is also important because it is a major force in the socialization of young working-class Americans.' More important: 'Since WW II military psychologists, sociologists and historians.....have agreed that soldiers fight not for justice, democracy or other grand ideas but for the guy next to them.
Unit cohesion is the real glue holding the US miliary together.'

The essay can be read at

Friday, April 21, 2006
A very unsettling, disturbing article appeared in the IHT business section on Wednesday. The headline: US pushes to limit generic-drug rights in trade pacts.

' came as a jolt in January when the United States asked Thailand to sign a free trade agreement that would, on paper, dilute its right to break patents and use generics. Washington said the agreement would save lives by spurring innovation and by making the multinationals more confident to sell drugs in the country. But Thai officials saw the proposal as a morbid bargain: either refuse the US offer and scuttle a trade deal with the United States worth billions of dollars, or accept it and lift the price of AIDS drugs beyond the reach of the poor. .... In effect, Washington is stitching together a parallel global patents system. The trade deals, negotiated in secret, attract little notice. But they have already been signed with developing countries battling AIDS, including six in Central America.'

However, in today's IHT a headline stated Profit rises at big drug companies: Sales growth offsets generics competition.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Examining the irrational roots of policy----Descent into Anger and Despair by James Carroll at

Monday, April 17, 2006
Summary of the Hearing on Iraq War Resisters, 14 March 2006 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg can be read at

Thursday, April 13, 2006
Peel away at the spin being levied at Iran. A strong dose of scepticism in light of everything that was so wrong on Iraq's non-existent mushroom clouds and WMD is essential to prevent another disastrous war of choice for dubious, misleading reasons. Juan Cole gets to the heart in On How Iran Can Now Make Glowing Mickey Mouse Watches at

It's chilling to read those not affected by the horrors, blood and chaos of war talking about it in distanced, abstract almost hygienic tones which can often be the case in the US media. Riverbend's blogspot has given a human face to those on the ground in Iraq at In one of the comments posted at the Juan Cole article, an Iranian woman has now decided to start posting at her blog after a three month break at She writes: '....I see that in this world I am nothing. And I absolutely can't do anything. World is in the scale of millions. People of less that some millions are not even seen in this huge equation. I don't walk, I'm being carried along with the millions of others, to anywhere huge fingers in the world point.

To anywhere huge fingers in the world point is almost poetic and from someone writing in a language which is not her mother tongue. Interesting to note these are two women writing. In very many parts of the world women and girls, however, are being exploited terribly. It hasn’t started making headlines yet, but there were two articles this past week on the role of prostitution and sex trafficking in connection with the upcoming World Soccer Cup in Germany. In the IHT Jessica Neuwirth writes about 'the multibillion dollar enterprise that brings Indian women to Saudi Arabia, Nigerian women to Italy, Filipino women to Japan and Russian women to Israel is now bringing women from all parts of the world -- an estimated 40,000 -- to Germany, where profiteers will cash in on the World Cup, the latest magnet for sex trafficking. ......Misconceived efforts to distinguish the women forced into prostitution from those who consent to their sexual exploitation fail to recognize the spectrum of coercion that draws on the force of poverty as much as the force of violence to bring women into the trade.'

Der Spiegel also ran Prostitution Will Increase Because of the World Cup at,1518,411064,00.html.
'Human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation is violence. Sex is one thing, prostitution another. The link between human trafficking and prostitution is obvious.'

Sunday, April 09, 2006
Sometimes, depending on the generation of the person, about the only thing he or she may know about Hamburg is that the Beatles got their international start here. It's a pity on one hand because there is so much more to Hamburg than the Beatles. On the other hand, it is a very interesting story. More on the man who brought them to Hamburg at

Friday, April 07, 2006
In a week in July 1943 over 40,000 men, women and children were killed in massive air raid bombings and in the devastating fire storms which immediately followed them in Hamburg. An exhibition -- Operation Gomorrha -- displays the works of three photographers who managed to take black and white pictures during the air raids and in the weeks thereafter is being held in the Ehemaliges Erotic Art Museum (The former Erotic Art Museum) at Nobistor 10 which is directly at the S-bahn station Reeperbahn. The exhibition is opened on Monday and Tuesday 11-14:30 and Wednesday through Sunday from 11-18 H till June 25th.

Sunday, April 02, 2006
From Baghdad Burning:

'.....The situation is so bad on the security front that the top two ministries in charge of protecting Iraqi civilians cannot trust each other.....'

'.....They've been finding corpses all over Baghdad for weeks now ---- and it's always the same: holes drilled into the head, multiple shots or strangulations, like the victims were hung. Execution, militia style. Many of the people were taken from their homes by security forces ---- police or special army brigades. Some of them were rounded up from mosques.'

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