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You Decide in 2004: Kerry or Scary?

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Terror and Liberalism

The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria

Polyarchy

Polyarchy by Robert Dahl

The Nazi Seizure of Power

The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen

Terror and Liberalism

Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman

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The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck

Archive


 

An International Inconsistency

Fareed Zakaria takes on the issue of how Bush has made America more hated today than at any other time:

"Traveling through East Asia last week, I noted how poorly most observers rated Bush's recent trip there. Even more striking, however, was the comparison repeatedly made between Bush's visit and that of Chinese President Hu Jintao -- with a thumping majority believing Hu had done better.

"In Thailand at the meeting for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, "there was no question that Hu was the better appreciated one," a Thai official said to me. "He outshone Bush in most of the attendees' eyes." The trips ended with the two making back-to-back visits to Australia. Bush was greeted with demonstrations, his address to Parliament interrupted by hecklers. Hu, on the other hand, got a 20-minute standing ovation from Parliament. "It is Hu's visit rather than George W. Bush's that will provide a lingering sense of satisfaction and security about Australia's place in the region," wrote the Australian, a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch and not given to knee-jerk anti-Americanism.

"What is going on here? How does the chief representative of the world's oldest constitutional democracy lose a popularity contest to the leader of a Leninist party?"


How? I think the answer gets to the root of why I could never support George W. Bush: no matter how flawless the ideals of his words are (and they often are if you really look at them which is why I recently compared some of his speech to that of great Democrats), his actions worldwide show how little he cares about what others think of America. This is a fundamental problem. Even if we don't need other nations, it is crucial that we not unnecessarily alienate the rest of the world.

The Bush administration has done little to show that it cares what the rest of the world thinks. That's something that should matter. Believe it or not, other countries do bother to consider what their fellow nation-states think. That's why our allies think so highly of the U.N. It's a forum for hearing the views of other groups of people. Listening to others has always been a winning virtue in America, yet its one that has fallen on deaf ears at the current White House.

"What is most dismaying about this state of affairs is that for the past 50 years the United States has skillfully merged its own agenda with the agendas of others, creating a sense of shared interests and values. When Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy waged the Cold War, they also presented the world with a constructive agenda dealing with trade, poverty and health. They fought communism with one hand and offered hope with the other. We have fallen far from that model if the head of the Chinese Communist Party is seen as presenting the world with a more progressive agenda than the president of the world's leading democracy."

It seems that today Bush only offers that one hand, the one that fights. He waxes eloquently about the other hand of hope, but if it were a tangible offer America wouldn't be losing popularity contests to Communist leaders. Bush has spoken about hope for a new Middle East, one where freedom and self-determination are the rule, but if his methods merged our agenda with the world's we wouldn't have much of the world against us today.

We can't get the world to love us. That would be nearly impossible. But we can try. Nearly a century of American presidents have been able to show that our leadership is in the interest of peoples across the globe. You might say that this was because of a united threat, Communism, but we face a similar, clearly defined enemy today in international terrorism.

Maybe during the Cold War it was acknowledged by all that the Soviet threat was actually a threat - something that some nations may still not acknowledge about international terrorism until it happens to them. But we shouldn't have to wait till al-Qaeda has hit every one of our allies for them to realize that the "war on terror" is in their interests too. It shouldn't be very hard to demonstrate.

But Bush has muddled that clarity through his defiant actions. He's spoken with passion about the common cause, yet his bullheadedness on the international level has proven just the opposite. Instead of the French seeing the Eiffel Tower as a vulnerable target of terrorism, they make snide remarks against American foreign policy and see themselves as Lilliputians against the American Gulliver.

It's sometimes hard to reconcile my strong opposition to Bush's actions with the words he puts forth. But such a contradiction shouldn't exist. We should care about what others think of America, it's important to our long-term credibility. Dominating in the short-term has proven itself to be the policy that leads to the downfall of many great empires. Until Bush can match his words with his actions I'll never support him. And the day he manages to do so, I won't feel ashamed to support him - for on that day he will have become a Democrat.

Don't hold your breath.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 10:24:00 AM


Thursday, December 04, 2003  

 

We Found The Jobs!

OK, so that moves the figure from -3,000,000 to -2,998,000 jobs created by the Bush economic plan. Way to go!


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 11:07:00 AM


Wednesday, December 03, 2003  

 

The Unseen Threat

Something to help you fall asleep at night:

"MANY SPY SATELLITE experts fear that the planned next-generation satellite system, which has encountered technical troubles and massive cost overruns and is now years behind schedule, will not be delivered before the old satellites die out."

...

"National security sources tell NBC News that U.S. spy satellites were pulled away from tracking al-Qaida in Afghanistan because of the war in Iraq. And, on some days, sources say the United States has no intelligence satellites at all watching Russia's nuclear arsenal."

Weren't we told that the war in Iraq wouldn't distract from the pursuit of al-Qaeda? So that was a straight up lie then, right?

And let's see a show of hands of those who are comfortable with us having absolutely no idea about who has control of Russia's poorly protected nuclear weapons. At least during the Cold War we knew who had their finger on the big red button. Now we wouldn't know a terrorist had initiated a launch sequence of a Russian nuclear missile until it was airborne.

Is it just me or were we actually safer during the Cold War than we are today?


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 10:44:00 AM



 

Bayram, Part II

After dropping my bag off at the hotel I took the metro out to the Istanbul Airport - like everything else in Turkey, it's named after Ataturk. It had been more than three months since I had seen Liz and I was excited. Her flight was delayed so in my excitement, arriving two hours early was a bit unnecessary.

That night we searched for bus tickets to Antalya at the bus offices near the Hippodrome. Since it was Bayram almost all the buses were full as Turks took a rare vacation. So, instead of making it to Antalya by Sunday or Monday we took the only other option that got us out of Istanbul: we went to Bursa.

Bursa served as the capital of the Ottoman Empire before the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Its history is rich, though the city is often forgotten by most tour groups and as a result has retained much of its local flavor. After a six hour bus trip which I thought would take no more than four, we arrived in Bursa late Sunday night. We were starving so we headed out to scavenge for food. It was now after 10pm, though from the looks of the bustling outdoor bazaar you would have thought it was midday. The streets were packed with Turks and salesmen set up their goods anywhere they could snag some space. We eventually found some food - some Bayram bread for Liz, a one million lira (~70 cents) chicken doner for me.

The next day we spent exploring the Bursa Bazaar and all that it had to offer. We checked out the Ulu Camii which was built in 1399. For lunch we found a cafe that was serving up gozleme, a quesadilla-like snack. In the evening we found a pastane (pastry shop) and sampled a few of the small cakes in the window.

On Tuesday we did much of the same and in the evening headed to the otogar for a overnight bus to Antalya. We groggily arrived in Antalya at about 8am and managed to find the city bus that took us the rest of the way into town. There we were met by the manager of a local pension who begged us to stay at his place. He showed us a beaten-up brochure and all looked swell. We arrived there, saw a dump of a room, but with an amazing view from the rooftop terrace. It looked out on the sunny Antalyan harbor with mountains rising from the shore just across the bay.

Our goal for the day was to get to the ruins of Termessos, the ancient city that managed to repel the armies of Alexander the Great and agreed on an alliance with the Roman Empire, not subjegation, due to its ridiculous position high in the mountains about 30 kilometers from Antalya. We found a scooter rental and signed up. This was going to be fun. We put our deposit down and we were off. We started at about 11am but managed to get lost in our quest to get out of Antalya for the next two hours. Eventually we found the right road and by then I was an expert on two wheels.

We zoomed up the mountain road towards Termessos as cars flew by us. We were unable to keep up since the thing seemed to top out at about 70 km/h. 30 kilometers and a thrilling set of switchbacks later we arrived at the base of the Termessos ruins. From there it was a one kilometer hike up the mountain to what was left of the ancient city. No wonder these people were never conquered, the path could only hold about three across - tops.

Termessos is known for its spectacularly situated theater. It was indeed amazing, with another mountain directly behind its stage and the massive valley off to stage left. We saw the remains of the Temple of Zeus and the Temple of Artemis and skipped across the Gymnasium where centuries before the people of Termessos had come to meet and discuss the politics of the day.

After seeing everything worth seeing we headed back down the steep path towards the parking lot. Of course when we got there our scooter decided it wasn't going to work anymore and I spent about 20 frustrated minutes trying the kickstart to no avail. After some Turkish students offered to give us a ride the thing suddenly started working and we hopped on before it changed its mind.

It was getting cold by then - the sun was on its way towards the horizon. My hands were fairly numb as I clutched the handlebars. Eventually we got down to a lower altitude where things warmed up considerably and we managed to find our way through the confusing streets of Antalya's old city and got the scooter returned with 15 minutes to spare. We were a bit wind blown by this point and we searched for a restaurant to get a good dinner with a good view. We found one which was built partially into the Roman harbor walls.

That night we froze half to death since apparently heat is extra - though no one bothered to tell us this when we checked in. The next morning we abandoned our plans to try to get to Kas or Patara and decided to stay in Antalya for the day. We headed down to the harbor where dozens of boats were ready to head out for one and two hour tours of the bay. We found a small boat and relaxed for the next two hours as it meandered along the Mediterranean coast.

After the boat trip we grabbed some Turkish ice cream - which is suspiciously thick - and enjoyed watching the seasoned Turkish tourist hasslers try to convince pasty, flustered Dutch vacationers that they really did need to spend their Euros on a boat cruise.

I had planned to get a leather/suede jacket sometime during the trip and had planned to get it in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul since that would most likely offer the largest selection. However, naive as I am, I thought I could go into a leather store in Antalya and come out having bought nothing. As a result I now have a nice brown suede jacket that I'm still getting used to.

That evening found another restaurant with a solid view and quality cheap food before heading off to Antalya's otogar for another overnight bus, this time back to Istanbul for two days. It was Thanksgiving in America and our families were lighting up my cellphone to ask if we had had turkey in Turkey on Thanksgiving. If only.

We got into Istanbul 12 hours later and lugged our bags around Sultanahmet looking for another hotel. This time we found one that was run by an American ex-pat who gave us a good deal and promised us a massive breakfast that would consist of more than the usual cucumber-tomato-bread-hardboiled egg-tea breakfast.

That afternoon we headed to the Grand Bazaar where we managed to run into Renee, another student from my program, and her parents and grandmother who were visiting over the holiday. We checked out every row of nargile, carpet and backgammon board shops. As afternoon turned to evening we headed down the hill towards the spice bazaar. Along the way the crowds were thick and the vendors loud. We made a struggled loop through the crowd near the 400 year old Yeni Camii (New Mosque) and then headed back up the hill towards our hotel.

That evening we found another pastane and got some Baklava and enjoyed eating it with the tiny forks that came with it. Our hotel had satellite TV and we sat back and watched the anti-war BBC report that President Bush had made a secret Thanksgiving visit to the troops in Iraq. They were having fits admitting that it was a good call. Hilarious.

On Saturday we had a great breakfast, complete with french toast and real live maple syrup. It's amazing the things I miss after three months away from the States.

We took a taxi to Ortakoy, an artsy area down by the Bosphorus' edge where we grabbed some huge topping filled baked potatoes and picked up a few prints of Ottoman Istanbul being sold for a few million on the sidewalk. After a while we started walking to Dolmabahce Palace, but unfortunately it closed at 3pm and we got there 45 minutes too late. Oh well, it would have been expensive anyway. Before heading back to the Sultanahmet area I picked up a gigantic Turkish flag from a vendor on the street and a Fenerbahce scarf for future dorm room decoration.

That evening, our last night together, we found a decent restaurant and then, again, got some desserts.

It was a great week. It was Liz's first time out of the country and Turkey is full of places to be explored - some more touristy than others. Bursa was nice for its genuineness, Antalya for its beautiful weather and quaint back streets, Istanbul for its history of tragedy and perserverance. Once again Istanbul has been tested, and no doubt once again it will rise to meet the challenge.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 8:15:00 AM


Monday, December 01, 2003  

 

Bayram, Part I

This past week, while American families gathered for the Thanksgiving holiday, Muslims around the world marked the end of Ramadan with the three day celebration known as Bayram. Since Bayram fell on a Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday this year classes at METU were canceled for the entire week, giving me a good eight days to travel around Turkey with Liz, my girlfriend of almost three years.

I took an overnight bus from Ankara to Istanbul and arrived in Taksim, the pulse of modern Turkish culture, at about 7am last saturday morning. I had spent three weeks in the Taksim area at the beginning of my time in Turkey and knew the area pretty well. Since it was so early on a weekend morning there was almost no one in Taksim square or on Istikal Caddesi, the long pedestrian steet that teems with Turkey's youth 24 hours a day. I headed down Gumussuyu Caddesi in search of a bus company ticket office so that Liz and I could get out of Istanbul quickly on our way to Antalya on the Mediterranean coast.

Unfortunately most of the offices weren't yet open, but I noticed that the street had actually been closed. The German Consulate is on that street and the building itself is just a few meters from the edge of the road - an ideal target for any future car bomb attacks. However, I was a bit worried by the fact that the way the Turkish police had blocked off the street was with nothing more than cones at the entrance to the street, and red and white police caution tape around the consulate itself. Now, I'm not expert in physics, but I don't think plastic caution tape is going to stop a suicide driver and his ton of deadly cargo. Clearly the Turks have a ways to go in terrorism prevention.

When it became apparent that I wasn't going to find any bus tickets, I began my walk across Istanbul towards Sultanahmet in the old, historic part of the city. Walking down Istikal Caddesi with hardly a soul in sight was a bit eerie. Every other time I've walked down that street it's been crowded with a vast assortment of people. From slick-haired Turkish teens on the prowl to fully covered Iranian tourists, Istikal Caddesi is the place to be to see the transformation of Turkish society right before your eyes.

About halfway down the street is Galatasaray Square where I had been several times to endulge in the wonderful chocolate souffles at Öz Süt. This time though, one of the windows was blown out from the force of the blast that destroyed the British Consulate just a week before. While the consulate site is inaccessible and guarded by police, the damage of the bomb can be seen on the buildings up the street from it. Windows were blown, walls blackened, and cement cracked. And that was about two blocks away no less. How horrible.

I continued down the deserted street and found my way to the Galata Tower. It is in the shadow of this 14th century tower that the Neve Shalom synagogue has stood for the past half century. When I found the site I was actually underwhelmed by the magnitude of the blast. Windows were blown out and window frames hung precariously over the site, but the buildings in the immediate vicinity of the blast seemed far less damaged than I imagined.

It certainly was an odd experience to see the site of an al-Qaeda terrorist attack firsthand. It's hard to see the worldwide implications of such an attack when its horrific result is right before your eyes. Just a block up the street from the synagogue site was a bakery where two men worked to get the day's bread finished up before sending it out to the street vendors. It was a surreal experience. On one block international terrorism had left its mark and on another Turkish life carried on as if nothing had changed.

It was right about then that I began to see the world how I imagine an Israeli sees it: terrorism isn't something that can be fully stopped, it can only be reduced. Therefore in order to not live a life full of fear, you have to be able to persevere and continue to live your life. The best you can do is be responsible and cautious, but in the end you can't let those who wish to destroy your way of life succeed.

I headed down the hill from the Galata neighborhood and hiked it over the Galata bridge, through Eminönü, and up the bustling streets of Istanbul's old city to Sultanahmet. The hotel that I found offered me a room for 2/3 the normal price because their business was non-existant. It had been just two days since the second wave of attacks and the tourism industry was understandably nervous. The desk clerk told me that a British group had canceled their reservation (and presumably their entire trip) the day before and things weren't looking good for Turkish tourism if that trend remained.

I hope these bombings don't have a long term impact on Turkey's reputation. A large part of the national economy relies on foreigners dumping their vacation Euros on carpets, overpriced kebabs and entrance fees to view the remnants of the Roman and Byzantine empires. The Iraq War already dealt Turkey a solid blow, and al-Qaeda bombings won't help. But hopefully these attacks will be seen as isolated incidents that are highly unlikely to be repeated. Turkey has too much to offer to be neglected because of these unfortunate events.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 6:55:00 AM



 

Good Call

I just got back from Istanbul after a week with Liz as we saw the sights in Bursa, Antalya and Turkey's greatest city, Istanbul. I'll write more about that later, but during the week I managed to catch some BBC World and saw that Dubya made a secret trip to Baghdad to visit the troops on Thanksgiving.



To the person in the White House who thought this up: brilliant. To the White House that had to make it under the cover of darkness and without anyone knowing (not even Bush's parents!) because the country is still unstable and insecure: get on that. Now.


  posted by Kris Lofgren @ 6:37:00 PM


Sunday, November 30, 2003