American Views Abroad

Friday, March 30, 2007
High gasoline prices don't faze US drivers according to an article in the IHT.

'Experts note that people are driving longer distances to work because of suburban sprawl, the improvements in mass transit have fallen behind over the years, and the practice of driving to malls and ferrying kids around has become part of the US lifestyle. .....Our preliminary analysis is showing vehicle choice is less sensitive to gas prices today than compared with the 1970s. We might be buying fewer SUVs, but a lot of the shifting is to cars that are not appreciably more fuel efficient, such as minivans, according to Christopher Knittel, an economics professor at the University of California.'

A very disturbing disconnect -- the article claims oil imports supply about 60 percent of US needs. There is the war in Iraq, a danger that it expands into Iran, and the need to at least try to cooperate on climate change with the rest of the world, and yet even less change in habits than 30 years ago.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Only few books manage to absorb a reader entirely, almost like a punch in the stomach. The Echo Maker by Richard Powers envelopes a reader with its first sentences: 'Cranes kept landing as night falls. Ribbons of them roll down, slack against the sky. They float in from all compass points, in kettles of a dozen, dropping with the dusk.' The ancient beauty of nature on one hand, yet the single words leave images of other things that fly and leave one in shock and awe.

The human element starts off on a remote Nebraskan road where a young man suffers a severe head injury in a near-fatal car accident and wakes up from a coma unable to recognize his sister as such, though the woman he considers an impostor looks, sounds and acts just like his sister. She, in turn, is devastated by his inability to accept her and manages to get a prominent neurologist to examine him. He diagnoses an extreme case of Capgras Syndrome, but is unable to help the patient because his own sense of self starts to unravel. In short a novel about identity and memory, family, love and loss.

One of the best reviews of The Echo Maker is Margaret Atwood's In the Heart of the Heartland at Atwood points out how 'The Echo Maker may be read on yet another level: What is wrong with the 'self' of America? Has the true America been taken away, has a fake America replaced it? ......What are the essential ingredients that give a place or a country its identity, and that make a person a true version of him- or herself?' She then speculates brilliantly on the possible connection between The Wizard of Oz and The Echo Maker.

The environmental element is a third, equally important one. Part Five starts out with What does a bird remember? .....'The yearling crane's past flows into the now of all living things. Something in its brain learns this river, a word sixty million years older than speech, older even than this flat water. This word will carry when the river is gone. When the surface of the earth is parched and spoiled, when life is pressed down to near-nothing, this word will start its slow return. Extinction is short; migration is long. Nature and its maps will use the worst that man can throw at it. The outcome of owls will orchestrate the night, millions of years after people work their own end. Nothing will miss us. Hawks' offspring will circle above the overgrown fields. Skimmer and plovers and sandpipers will nest in the thousand girdered islands of Manhattan. Cranes or something like them will trace rivers again. When all else goes, birds will find water.'

Saturday, March 17, 2007
Was I a Good American in the Time of George Bush? asks Rebecca Solnit at

Meanwhile: A Soldier's Last Flight Hits Home by John J. McSheffrey, Jr.

'Most Americans are insulated and protected from the hard realities of the war because the US government tries very hard to hide from us what I witnessed that night. ....On most flights, as soon as that bulk-head door opens, there is a scramble to get off the plane. On Flight 1220, even though the door was open, an entire planeload of adults sat silently, waiting for the body to be removed. ....I did not witness a single dry eye on the plane.'

Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Interesting headline:

"Top U.S. general calls homosexuality immoral: report"

Nothing like having your priorities straight. What about war being immoral?

Friday, March 09, 2007
Guantanamo is Not a Prison - 11 Ways to Report on Gitmo without Upsetting the Pentagon by Karen Greenberg, Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security at the NYU School of Law and co-editor of The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib. Greenberg, along with two European journalists, 'took the infamous media tour of the facilities' at Guantanamo.

'I had no doubt that I was on a foreign planet or, at the very least, visiting an impeccably constructed movie set.'

Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on the Aguayo court-martial on the bottom of page one this morning. He was convicted of deserting and received a sentence of 8 months and a dishonorable discharge. Hamburg radio news reported on the possibly of him receiving seven years yesterday. Stars and Stripes article on the trail can be read at

The trial and conviction of Libby, Cheney's right hand man, was the one grabbing attention in the IHT today. The cover-up of lies plus the appalling conditions at Walter Reed and other veterans' hospitals leaves one numb. Sueddeutsche Zeitung first page also reported on the 110 pilgrims killed in a suicide bombing and at least 200 wounded near Hilla in Iraq. On and on it goes with no end in sight.

Amnesty International which sent an observer to Aguayo's court-martial has now declared Aguayo to be a 'prisoner of conscience' and calls for his immediate and unconditional release in a press release. 'Refusing military service for reasons of conscience isn't a luxury -- it's a right protected under international human rights law, ' said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International, USA. 'Agustin Aguayo wasn't just complaining about his assignment --- he clearly made the case that he objects to war itself. He should be released.'

Sunday, March 04, 2007
Court-martial proceedings for Agustin Aguayo, Army medic who applied for conscientious objector status during his first deployment to Iraq and now charged with desertion and missing movement, are set to begin Tuesday morning at the Leighton Barracks courtroom in Wurzburg, Germany according to Stars and Stripes.

Aguayo's case is being followed by the international press. Amnesty International is sending a delegate to observe the court-martial proceedings to learn further details about the case and assess whether Aguayo would be a prisoner of conscience if convicted and imprisoned. An interview with Helga Aguayo, his wife, can be read at

Vigils for Aguayo in Berlin and Wurzburg are listed in German at

Richard Forward, a member of the Munich American Peace Committee-AVA has set up a Spendenkonto for contributions:
International Aguayo Campaign
Kto: 330011807
Postbank Munchen - 70010080

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