American Views Abroad

Monday, July 31, 2006
Days of Darkness by Gideon Levy at

'How can one not be shocked by the suffering of the other, at our hands, even when our north suffers? .......Long before this war is decided, it can already be stated that its spiraling cost will include the moral blackout that is surrounding and covering us all, threatening our existence and image no less than Hezbollah's Katyushas.'

This article provoked many comments which can be read immediately following it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006
A first hand account from a US citizen, Eugene Sensenig, who together with his wife, is caught in the middle of the fighting and evacuation in Lebanon as written up in his local US town newspaper. Sensenig is a founding member of American Voices Abroad.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006
A torrid summer sizzles all over. A few days in Wolfenbuettel near Brunswick to visit an old friend brought a brief respite from all media news. Anything new happening in the world was answered with Nothing New, Same Old Thing: wars, bombings, more civilian deaths, you know, the usual. Completely missed the touchy-feely shoulder massage the US President gave the German Chancellor. Nothing surprises anymore. To quote a US professor in the media: 'Almost any male alive today knows that you don't offer uninvited massages to any female, much less the chancellor of Germany.' A number of articles in the US media used this incident to discuss cultural differences, particularly between southern and northern Europe and how the US used to follow northern Europe in leaving things at the shaking hands level, but now has opened up to the warmer climates ideal of embracing and kissing.

There is so little non-depressing news these days that having cultural differences being discussed is a highlight. Last week Robert Wright in the IHT wrote In Search of a Foreign Policy --- Progressive Realism:

America's fortunes are growing ever more closely correlated with the fortunes of people far away. This principle lies at the heart of progressive realism. A correlation of fortunes --- being in the same boat with other nations in matters of economics, environment, security --- is what makes international governance serve national interest. It is also what makes enlightened self-interest humanitarian. Progressive realists see that American can best flourish if others flourish --- if African states cohere, if the world's Muslims feel they benefit from the world order, .... if economic inequities abroad are muted so that young democracies can be stable and strong. More and more, doing well means doing good.

By coincidence, the same Robert Wright wrote in the NYT Book Review on May 14th in They Hate Us, They Really Hate Us reviewing Friendly Fire by Julia E. Sweig and America Against the World by Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes:

Americans, Kohut and Stokes write, tend 'to downplay the importance of America's relationship to other be indifferent to global lack enthusiasm for multinational efforts and institutions' and in general to have 'an inattentive self-centeredness unmindful of their country's deepening linkages with other countries. ......Americans may be bad at doing what Sweig recommends ----'seeing ourselves as others see us'---- but we're not alone in this. People in general have trouble putting themselves in the shoes of people whose circumstances differ from theirs. That's why the world is such a mess.

Do they ever. Daniel Gilbert in He Who Cast the First Stone Probably Didn't --- retaliation, retribution and revenge gives a fascinating insight into the human mind:

Research teaches us that our reasons and our pains are more palpable, more obvious and real, than are the reasons and pains of others. This leads to the escalation of mutual harm, to the illusion that others are solely responsible for it and to the belief that our actions are justifiable responses to theirs. None of this is to deny the roles that hatred, intolerance, avarice and deceit play in human conflict. It is simply to say that basic principles of human psychology are important ingredients in this miserable stew.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006
A year ago The Rev. DeForest Soaries, a Republican who served as the first chair of the federal Election Assistance Commission set up in the wake of the Florida fiasco of 2000, quit in disgust. The alleged purpose of this commission was to oversee ongoing reform of American voting laws, practices and technology. Soaries gave on interview in Rolling Stone Magazine in June 2006 which can be read at

Rolling Stone asked what led him to resign. His answer:

It was probably the worst experience of my life. I found that there is very little interest in Washington for true election reform. That neither the White House nor either house of the Congress seems to be as committed to guaranteeing democratic participation in this country as we seem to be in other countries. It's an embarrassment that we don't have a broad enough consensus among political leaders that true reform should take place. I could count the members of Congress on one hand that took these issues seriously.

This interview is short but very much to the point. The comments following are also worth reading. Perhaps more citizens should write their Members of Congress/Senate and ask them what they are doing about this as soon as possible.

Sunday, July 16, 2006
Via, a site which closely follows the security and administration of the US electoral process, truthout reports on the 'growing national outcry in calling for a swift and verifiable manual count of all 150,000 ballots cast in California's 50th District's bellwether June 6th special election.' According to the DNC's Voting Rights Institute Statement:

This is no longer about whether or not Busby (D) or Bilbray (R) won the election on June 6th. This is about the importance of verifying the facts related to election and voting machine irregularities in this race and the need to ensure an accurate count of all votes cast in this election so that the electorate may have confidence in the announced results in future

Further: In the race 'held to replace jailed Republican Congressman Cunningham, Bilbray declared himself the winner on election night, and was sworn into office several days later, before all votes had been counted, and nearly three weeks prior to the election being certified by either state or county officials.'

Very interesting is the fact that CNN 's Lou Dobbs, Court TV's Catherine Crier and Bilbray supporter and San Diego radio personality Rodger Hedgecock have been amongst the mainstream media figures to report on the debacle, decrying the security breaches in the election.'

The Brad Blog which has been reporting on this election since June 6th 'first revealed that the programmed, election-ready Diebold optical-scan and touch-screen voting systems used in the race were inappropriately sent home with poll workers before the election. The security breaches that occurred during those so-called sleepovers were in violation of new state and federal rules, laws and provisions issued in the last few months after recent discoveries confirmed dozens of extreme security flaws in the Diebold voting systems, confirming them to be exceptionally vulnerable to tampering.'

The entire three page article can be read at

Thursday, July 13, 2006
The World Cup provided a wonderful, much needed diversion from hard and brutal news. Reality is now setting in, but crossing lines with the World Cup were bits and pieces in the news about the upcoming Bush visit to Stralsund, about three to four hours away from Hamburg. Our original intention was to be part of the 'welcoming committee'. First though, a bit of background on the political dialogue at the breakfast table between me and my German husband before the 2000 election. He: The US is getting out of control. Me: Yes, there are very worrying aspects but believe me, when push comes to shove, we have our laws, Constitution, Bill of Rights which no one, certainly not a President, would ever violate.

Right --- don't want to be reminded about these words today.

I do recall back in the mid-nineties when a Senator was being particularly vile and outrageous about the UN asking a US diplomat whom I knew personally if they in the State Department and others in Washington were not concerned about how the rest of the world interprets all this. No, he said. Look, everyone knows it's local and nobody takes it seriously.

Right ---- perhaps we should have paid a lot more attention to such pandering to the locals in some parts of the US. No point rehashing all the details of the double standard we were living back then. The State Department was loyally expounding one of democracy's most basic elements --- one person, one vote. Locally, of course, the Electoral College is the law of the land and it is most definitely not based on a national one person, one vote.

In pre-November 2000 days I would have been reluctant to demonstrate when a US President visits the country I reside in. Today, after all that has happened, I no longer have any qualms about taking part, depending on who is organizing it and where and what kind of event he has been invited to. These last two weeks have been taken up with trying to keep up with all the security arrangements which very much intrude on the lives of those living in the city and area POTUS will be in. First, it was announced that his visit to Stralsund would be on Friday. Easy enough, book a hotel in Rostock for Thursday evening, miss only one day of work, spend the weekend on the coast, but take the train to Stralsund on Friday morning. Then, it was announced he will be there on Thursday. So that means getting up real early and driving in. Alas no, because it was specifically stated that many miles of autobahn and roads would be closed off, as well as beaches, waterways, harbors. The center of the town will be shut down completely, even those living there will not be allowed to leave their homes, no shops would be opened, bikes would not be allowed, but baby carriages would. According to the website of ARD, the first public TV station here: 'Bush met a crowd of handpicked Stralsunders who had undergone extensive background checks. A quarter of the crowd was made up of students from a nearby naval academy.' Nice way 'to get to know' the locals. We wondered if the trains would be re-routed which happened when he was in Mainz. We also asked ourselves what is the point of demonstrating when one has so many security hurdles to cross and so far away from the events planned. Here from the ARD website: 'An estimated 5,000 people intend to demonstrate.......but they'll mainly be protesting for their own satisfaction because just as in Mainz, Bush is unlikely to see any of the protesters, who've been relegated to the outskirts of the city.' In the end radio and TV reports on several hundred protestors.

There is another element that discouraged many from joining in. The invitation for Bush to visit Merkel's election district which is in a state run by a coalition of the SPD and the new Left Party turned the visit into more of a tug-of-war in very local affairs. Newspapers here reported on insults, invitations arriving very last minute, the PDS, a party with roots to the Communist Party of East Germany taking a prominent role in organizing the protests and the fact that his visit was mainly to give the local economy which is in a depressed state a boost.

Instead of demonstrating we decided to sign an open letter to Merkel that was published on page 5 of the local newspapers there, the Ostsee Zeitung organized by Friedens Forum. The letter can be read at under Iran Brief an Merkel zum Bush Besuch (left bar). It seemed a good way, under the circumstances, for organizations and individuals to make public an explicit statement to the German Chancellor asking her to urge Bush to work for a diplomatic solution with Iran and it reaches a far wider public. The executive committee of American Voices Abroad in Berlin also has an open letter to Merkel at

Sunday, July 09, 2006
POTUS comes to north-eastern Germany next week, to the gorgeous town of Stralsund.
In today's Fankurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) there is a tongue-in-cheek article in English on page 12 Welcome to McPom, Mr. President! Betram Eisenhauer has written up a State Department memo to the President. Subject: POTUS Visit to Germany, July 12-14, 2006: Here a few excerpts:


As requested, with your visit to Germany just a few days away, here's an overview of German facts and customs, with an eye on potential 'sticky points' (your phrase). ........

What They Think About You

We have good news and bad news for you. The good news is, Germans love many things about our country: Angelina Jolie, the Museum of Modern Art, Miami Beach, ketchup, democracy.

The bad news is, most of what Germans do NOT like about America they see in YOU: power (they call it 'Imperialismus'), faith in God ('Bigotterie'), and success ('Raubtierkapitalismus,' pronounce 'ROWB-tier-KAH-pi-ta-LIZ-mooz').

How bad is it? Many Germans think Michael Moore's 'Fahrenheit 9/11' is a documentary.

On the other hand, it could be much worse. You could be going to France.

The entire article can be read for 1,50 euro at Other topics covered include Where You Are Going, How German Politics Works, How to Impress People, What NOT to Say, What to Do There. Here Eisenhauer writes:

In Stralsund, you will meet some (your phrase) 'people like Angela' who can tell you about life behind the Iron Curtain. It will be a very intimate setting: a dozen of them plus you, the chancellor and 12,000 policemen.

Meanwhile, in a part of Stralsund NOT sealed off to the public German and American Peace Activists will be demonstrating. American Voices Abroad in Berlin is setting up a 'welcoming committee' and US citizens who would like to participate can get details at They call it Give Bush the Push.

Note: Raubtier - predator, beast of prey / Kapitalismus - Capitalism / Imperialismus - Imperialism / Bigotterie - bigotry, piousness

Thursday, July 06, 2006
Seymour M. Hersh in Last Stand -- The military's problem with the President's Iran Policy in The New Yorker. Hersh writes:

A critical issue in the military's dissent, the officers said, is the fact that American and European intelligence agencies have not found specific evidence of clandestine activities or hidden facilities; the war planners are not sure what to hit. 'The target array in Iran is huge, but it's amorphous,' a high-ranking general told me. 'The question we face is, when does innocent infrastructure evolve into something nefarious?' The high-ranking general added that the military's experience in Iraq, where intelligence on weapons of mass destruction was deeply flawed, has affected its approach to Iran. 'We built this big monster with Iraq and there was nothing there. This is son of Iraq,' he said. 'There is a war about the war going on inside the building,' a Pentagon consultant said. 'If we go, we have to find something.'

The entire article at

Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Today is America's 230th birthday, and on this occasion I wanted to write down what that means to me. The Fourth of July in 1776 is the day that America declared itself a nation with these words beginning the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

I find these words to be highly inspirational. I've always been proud to be an American, because of our ideals, the ideals implicit in these statements. They are humanistic ideals. They show a high respect for the individual. They place the individual over any government, with unalienable and sacred Rights as human beings. The Bill of Rights, written later, goes on to clarify these Rights, including the Freedom of Religion, Press and Expression (First Amendment), protection against illegal Search and Seizure (Fourth Amendment), the Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses (Sixth Amendment), the Right to Trial by Jury (Seventh Amendment) and others no less important.

America has had 43 presidents. Surely not every American agreed with every act that these presidents carried out. In my opinion, that is not important. It is not necessary. It is not our president who we should hold above everything, but the ideals written on that parchment. To me, a good American, one who loves his or her country, will share a belief in the high respect for the individual written into our defining documents, and not only a belief, one must live by these ideals, on a personal level as well as on a political level. If anything, it is an adherence to these ideals that make a country great, that set it apart from those entities and countries which do not. Stray from that course and days like this, the Fourth of July, become meaningless.

Wishing all a happy and safe Fourth of July.

Saturday, July 01, 2006
Take a look - a real close look - at what House Science Committee Chairman Boehlert (R-NY) had to say in a speech to the House yesterday:

The way the House is handling off-shore oil drilling today pretty much defines 'travesty'. For the first time in more than a generation, we are going to vote on opening the entire coastline of the United States to oil and natural gas drilling. You'd think that would be considered a rather major matter that requires some thoughtful discussion. ......The base bill was not filed until Monday .......Re-writing continued well into the night last evening........Massive changes in the bill that no one was able to see until after midnight.

Is this a process we can be proud of? It seems all one has to do around here is use the word 'oil' for the sanctity of the democratic process to simply slip away. The process we're using today gives new meaning to the phrase 'oil slick.'

Read the report on what's happening in our name, by our representatives at

Here is where you can take action and write or call your congressperson:

In California:

In Florida:

All other citizens:

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