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A European Saves Americans on Flight 253

The 9/11 attacks and the failed Christmas Day airplane bombing have two things in common: US agencies had enough information about the terrorists and could have intervened if they had properly analyzed and shared the information that they had, but instead another systemic failure - as President Obama called it - has occurred. Like with United 93 in 2001 it was again the passengers, in particular the Dutchman Jasper Schuringa, who subdued the Nigerian terrorist.

Yep, it was a European. And it is documented well. It is, however, not well documented what exactly happened on United 93. Nevertheless a movie was made that defames the German passenger Christian Adams as the "stereotypically weak-kneed Euro-pacifist," even though no information suggests that he acted that way. Hollywood should apologize by making a good movie about Flight 253 with a Dutch hero.

And while we are at it: The Dutch are also taller than Americans, probably because of better health care and more comprehensive welfare systems. So, perhaps Obama's health care reform will prevent further terrorist attacks ;-) Nah, I hope the systemic problems will be fixed. And to be fair: The system, including the much criticized No-Fly List, has probably prevented a few attacks, but such success can't be quantified and does not make headlines.

Endnote: Thanks to Robert Farley for the related post "But Bob Kaplan Said that Europeans Have Lost Their Will to Live!"

I used to be big fan of Kaplan, when he published The Coming Anarchy in the early 90s, but I got more and more disappointed by his writings since the turn of the millenium. I am not sure to which article Farley refers to. It could be this month column Let's Go, Europe about the "neopacifism" in a "debellicized Europe," which can only make a difference in the naval sphere. Or it is his November column The Fall of the Wall, where he argues that "We may have gained victory in the Cold War, but lost Europe to apathy and decadence in the process." Kaplan was so nice and took the 20th anniversary of the first ever peaceful revolution in Germany (our best contribution to the 20th century) as well as the revolutions in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which are now part of the EU, as an opportunity for Eurobashing:

What does the European Union truly stand for besides a cradle-to-grave social welfare system? For without something to struggle for, there can be no civil society—only decadence.  Thus, with their patriotism dissipated, European governments can no longer ask for sacrifices from their populations when it comes to questions of peace and war.

Of course, Jasper Schuringa's initiative on Flight 253 won't change Kaplan opinion about the decadent, neopacifist, debellized, unpatriotic Europeans.

German Parliamentarians Criticized for US Trip

The Guardian

A German diplomat has criticised a group of Bundestag MPs over their behaviour on a recent visit to San Francisco, accusing them of using a racial slur and of choosing sightseeing and shopping above meetings with US counterparts. Rolf Schütte, the German consul general in San Francisco, wrote to the foreign ministry in Berlin to express his outrage. His confidential letter, which is furious and frank in tone, has been leaked to the German press and created a public debate about the legitimacy of publicly funded foreign political trips and whether they should be more tightly controlled.

One of several articles in the German press: Die Welt: USA-Dienstreise wird für Politiker zur Blamage

Correction of the Guardian article: Not a member of parliament, but a parliamentary staffer is accused of the racial slur.

California: Today Gay Marriage, Tomorrow Meteors and Volcanoes

The California Supreme Court made a 4-3 decision this week that will legalize gay marriage in California, most likely effective within 30 days.  As reported by the New York Times:
This decision will give Americans the lived experience that ending exclusion from marriage helps families and harms no one,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, who noted that same-sex marriages were legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, South Africa and Spain.
The timing of this action, coming only months before the US presidential elections in November, have led to speculation on whether or not it will hurt the Democratic nominee.  Alex Altman wrote an article in Time Magazine asking, “Will Gay Marriage Help the GOP?”:
California Republicans are hoping that history will prove instructive. After Massachusetts became the first state to codify marriage equality in 2003, the G.O.P. spent the ensuing general election wielding the issue as a potent weapon. Thirteen states passed ballot initiatives to ban same-sex marriage — including Ohio, the battleground that tipped the 2004 election in George W. Bush's favor. Opponents of gay marriage in California have generated more than 1 million signatures to place on November ballots an initiative amending the state's constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.
Kai Stinchcombe, a PhD candidate in political science at Stanford University, and a very good friend of mine, created the popular Facebook group Gay Marriage Killed the Dinosaurs.  In his thoughtful analysis, Kai identifies 17 reasons gay marriage should remain illegal: Continue reading "California: Today Gay Marriage, Tomorrow Meteors and Volcanoes"

Empower the People of Myanmar to Help Themselves

My sister Daphne Wolf studied Burmese music in Yangon. Her music school is organizing relief aid. Daphne wrote this guest blog post:

Small and local aid agencies are best equipped to help the victims of cyclone Nargis because they are already operating on the ground. Donations to these agencies are more effective since big aid organizations are still struggling to access the affected areas.
Local relief groups such as the Music School Gitameit, are providing the most urgently needed first-aid supplies.

For two years I lived in Yangon, studying Burmese traditional music and teaching classical flute at the Gitameit Music Center, a private school founded by the American pianist Kit Young in 2003. I returned to Berlin in December 2007 to finish my masters in Musicology and Southeast Asian Studies.

My friends, former colleagues, and students all tell me that Yangon, the old capital, is widely devastated and that the fertile delta of the Irrawaddy River is still flooded:

Continue reading "Empower the People of Myanmar to Help Themselves"

Small Town in Sweden Accepted More Iraqi Refugees than the Entire United States

The United States has admitted less than 5,000 Iraqi refugees between April 2003 through the end of March while Sweden has accepted 34,000 since 2003 according to Congressman Alcee Hastings, chairman of the Helsinki Commission, an independent US government agency led by members of Congress.

The International Herald Tribune writes that the commission held a hearing with Anders Lago, the mayor of Sodertalje, Sweden. He said that his small city of about 80,000 was now home to nearly 6,000 Iraqis. "More refugees than the United States and Canada together."

The IHT also points out that "the Bush administration said Thursday it remained optimistic it would meet its goal of admitting 12,000 Iraqi refugees by the end of September."

Related articles in the Atlantic Community by Jan Bittner: Iraqi Refugees: The West Overlooks a Major Crisis and Iraqi Refugees: Open Western Doors to the Most Vulnerable, referring to the Iraqi Christians in particular.

Conscience Rather Than Profits

Dialog International presents an example of civil courage "that we can all applaud. Johannes Lohmeyer, manager of the Holiday Inn in Dresden (Germany) wrote a letter to the leaders of the neo-Nazi NPD."

The manager conveys his astonishment that the NPD politicians would choose to book rooms at an American hotel. Then he tells them that they are not welcome on his premises. Hat tip to Bernd for pointing it out and to David for the translation on Dialog International.

Speaking of profits: You can support the Atlantic Review by starting your Amazon shopping with click on the link on our website. See black button in the column on the right.

UPDATE: The banner in the top right corner on this website is not a paid advertisement, but a link to an interesting transatlantic project. Check it out.

NYT: "The 'Good Germans' Among Us"

The NY Times' 2nd most emailed article is currently Frank Rich's new column "The 'Good Germans' Among Us." He comments on yet another set of newly unearthed "secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture."

Rich agrees with Andrew Sullivan, who observed that America's "enhanced interrogation" is "the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the 'third degree.' It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation."

Rich concludes at the end of his op-ed, which also shows the newspaper reader with a halo:

Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those "good Germans" who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo.

Well, the Wikipedia entry on Godwin's law points out: "There is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a [Nazi] comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically "lost" whatever debate was in progress."

ENDNOTE: Why are Germans so critical of US policies in the war on terror, especially re the limits on civil liberties and these interrogation techniques? Why does the German media run so many editorials on US policies that are considered "Anti-American" by some observers?

Here's one reason: Because Germans have learned from history that they should be very critical of powerful governments rather than being "good Germans." The NYT reminds us of our historical reputation once again and provides a new motivation for Germans to criticize the Bush administration in order to proof that we have learned from our Nazi past and are now critical citizens rather than "good Germans."

Hopefully, one day Americans will use the phrase "a good German" as a reference to eating Vollkornbrot (wholewheat bread), recycling a lot, insulating your house, driving a small car or using your bicycle for grocery shopping.

America's Cultural Superiority

More than half of Americans say their culture is superior to others, according to the new Pew Global Attitudes Survey (pdf, p.44):

Americans are (...) more likely than most Western Europeans to think their culture is better than others. Over half of Americans (55%) agree with the statement, "Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others," a larger percentage than in Canada, Spain, Germany, France, Britain and Sweden. But Italians are even more confident than Americans in their cultural pre-eminence; 68% of Italians believe their culture is superior.

Question to our readers: Is this feeling of superiority the American equivalent to European Anti-Americanism? While many Europeans make themselves feel good by trashing America and by describing Americans negatively, many Americans -- according to the poll -- make themselves feel good by telling themselves that they are better than others.

Personal opinion: Most Americans that I have met are not arrogant and don't act as if they would feel culturally superior.

This year's polling results are similar to those from a PEW poll in 2004, which were mentioned in the Atlantic Review post The Superiority of American Culture and Sports, which discussed how several liberal and conservative US media outlets criticize the Soccer World Cup and European culture (nihilism, infantile, defeatist attitudes, etc). Yes, I understand if you mistrust polls. Most polls have some flaws. The critics of Anti-Americanism often point to examples of Anti-American statements to make their case. That method has flaws as well and is not representative or scientific.

SuperFrenchie comments on this poll: "Aren't we the ones that are supposed to be arrogant about the superiority of our culture?"

UPDATE: On the PEW question re cultural superiority, Central and Eastern Europeans responded like Americans (see statistics on page 97), i.e. the only significant difference is between Americans and Germans, French, Brits and Swedes.