Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Just so I make clear that I am not aloof to the politics of my host country, I want to note the recent election of Nicolas Sarkozy to the position of party head of the main center-right party in France, the UMP. I'll tell you one thing and maybe the only thing that I really like about Sarkozy thus far: that he challenges President Jacques Chirac, even if some of it is a show to get his backers energized--and there are a lot of them, as he is the most popular politician in France right now. The U.S.'s UMP equivalent, the Republican party (well of course, the GOP is more extreme right and the UMP and the GOP obviously disagree on several foreign policy issues, like Iraq) suppresses discord in the party as much as possible. Thus, when I hear people get enthusiastic about the possibility of a McCain or a Giuliani nomination for president in '08, I have to feel bad for their enthusiasm because the Republicans under Bush aren't letting a prominent moderate have any say in running the government and they sure aren't going to let a moderate win the S. Carolina primary or even the Iowa primary in '08. Meanwhile, here in France, Nicolas Sarkozy continues to keep Chirac and PM Jean-Pierre Raffarin on their toes, and even though I may not agree with the guy too often, at least the UMP has multiple power brokers.

U.S. Government to Ukraine: Don't run your elections like we do

The standoff in the Ukraine over the presidential election has been an incredible display of citizens rallying for fair elections, or maybe just for their "Viktor Y." to win. All the same, watching each candidate's supporters on the news, especially Yuschenko's is incredible. A country with such concerned citizens deserves a fair election.

This, of course, is what the Western European countries and the U.S. are demanding, but as the recent U.S. presidential election was mired with unfair voting conditions and partisan election officials like the Secretary of State for Ohio (and lest we forget the most infamous partisan of them all, Katherine Harris of Florida from Election 2000), the government lacks much credibility in its urgings that the Ukraine have a new election, even if these recommendations are correct.

This article goes through all of the problems in Ohio, such as the heavy shortage of voting machines in urban precincts when additonal machines were more than available in that county's board of elections office and the Republican-fielded election chargers who went out to heavily Democratic precincts to challenge voters, remniscent of the poll tests (and taking a cue from the Chief Justice of the United States', William Rehnquist's tactics in Arizona many years ago). So it's time the U.S. Republicans stopped talking out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to valuing the right to vote.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The Jerk

At the inauguration of former President Bill Clinton's new presidential library, George W. Bush tried to push his way in front of Clinton, even though the protocol was (and decorum would dictate) that Clinton to walk out first. Our current president, what a guy. Bush also reportedly uttered this musing about the library that next to the Arkansas River: "a submarine could take this place out." What??

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Line 14

I enjoy ticking off things while I'm here in Paris, that is, keeping track of what I have done. So far, I have been to 18 of the twenty arrondissements and taken nearly every Metro line.

I was at first appalled and later delighted at my most recent Metro line addition: Line 14. Line 14 is basically an underground monorail, so there is no train driver, and the inside of the train cars are the most spacious of any of the lines. Furthermore, there are only 8 stops on the train (compared to what seems like 50 stops on line 7), and the train speeds underground. Because of Line 14, I was able to get from the 16th Arrondissment on the West of Paris to the Bibliotheque Francaise-Francois Mitterand in the 13th, on the East side of Paris in 35 minutes. To quote Larry David, pretty, pretty, pretty good.

At first I thought that Line 14 was frivolous and somewhat defiant of other Metro lines. First of all, there just seems to be too much space in the car. I have gotten used to being crammed up next to my other vacant-eyed Metro compatriots, the concept of personal space withering away from my memory. Line 14 seems to acknowledge, however, that more space can be afforded to Metro riders. I don't know about that.

Also, like I said, there are only 8 stops on the Metro. If you need to go to Pyramides or Bercy, you're in luck, but want to get anywhere on the Left Bank--no Line 14 for you! It seems to both discriminate against Left Bankers or Left Bank destinationers. Still, a friend made a good point: it goes through several key Metro hubs in Paris, so even if you're not necessarily getting off at Gare de Lyon, you can transfer at Gare de Lyon and get there a lot faster than if you were taking Line 1 from La Defense.

Okay, clearly I'm a little too well-versed in le system Metro, so I'll sign off and admit that I have begun to plan ways to take the Line 14 as much as possible. What a gem!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Bush Lackeys "Steering" the Ship

So, with the mass exile of cabinet secretaries from the Bush administration and Bush's subsequent appointments of replacements, we are starting to get a general idea of what Bush wants of his second term cabinet secretaries and its exactly what he wanted of his first termers: the euphemism (though I still think it has a negative connotation) is loyalty, it really is lackeyism or cronyism. Condoleeza Rice, once rumored to have a somewhat reasonable, diplomacy-centered approach in fact proved to be I suppose the term is "hawkish" but most of all an unabashed defender of things that turned out not to be factual but that were nonetheless advanced by the Bush administration, especially the non-connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Quaeda.

Porter Goss is another example of a crony who appears to have obtained his job by sucking up to GW Bush. He is in the middle of a semi-purge of the CIA and has brought in some of his buddies and given them new posts.

Of course, any official, when given the chance, will to a certain degree be comfortable appointing people he knows and likes; however, the problem with Bush is that he and his administration have ignored or tried to affect truthful reporting on the part of agencies that are supposed to have a good amount of independence from the president, and every agency, should have that, especially the CIA. The last administration that appeared this bent on loyalty was the Nixon Administration, and we know what turned out from that. Hopefully there aren't enemies' lists being compiled with enemies the likes of Paul Newman.


My friend forwarded me a great article that, frankly, emphasized something so painfully obvious that it eludes most people, including me, until now: presidential candidates almost wholly ignore Urban America.

Now, I think a lot of this has to do with our electoral college system, which renders it crucial that a candidate get a majority of votes in a state (rather than try to accumulate votes across the U.S. through popular vote, which would make it more efficient to do as much urban campaigning as possible). Still, it can't be ignored that urban areas go strongly for Democrats and rural and "exurb" areas, well, don't. It also can't be ignored that the Republican party sometimes subtly but usually indiscreetly denigrates urban America, despite the cities' contribution to America's GDP, its tax base, its dynamism and culture, etc. etc. and so on.

Now, I understand that people who live in less dense areas won't see the benefit of taxes for social programs, mass transit, city cleaning crews, etc. the way people who live in urban or certain suburban areas do, but unfortunately, the people out in many of those sprawled suburbs and the southern and western rural areas get back more taxes than they give in the form of government programs and infrastructure (think roads, lots of roads) so those people down south and in certain western states are complaining like ingrates. As the article that I have quoted pointes out,

While red-state voters like to complain about "tax-and-spend liberals," red states are hopelessly dependent on the largess of the federal government to prop up their dwindling rural population. Red states like North Dakota, New Mexico, Mississippi, Alaska, West Virginia, Montana, Alabama, South Dakota, and Arkansas top the list of federal spending per dollar of federal taxes paid. And who's paying the most? Blue states. Cities--and states dominated by their cities. Welfare states, in contrast, demand federal money to fund wasteful roads to nowhere.

Not that I think this has much of a chance, but it would be great if Congressmen gave these people their wish: tax them less but redistribute the taxes that we urban and semi-urban people pay to benefit US. I call it the Voluntary Taxation for Ingrates plan. Of course, I don't want to exclude anyone in less populated areas who sees the benefit in keeping our air clean, our forests alive, maybe having better national train transport so we can journey from those rural areas to the cities and back, you all can come along! But the rural areas in the South and West, those that tend to offer the least, well, I wonder what they would think if they went without the revenues of productivity that comes from those of us who live in "Gomorrah." As my friend put it "Cities!"

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Ladies and Gentlemen, the 44th President of the United States

So this was the candidate that several million people propelled to victory, seeing him as a man of values.

(I think the "one finger salute" is the only salute Bush knows).
In other words, nothing has changed. Mr. Bush's victory onTuesday was not based on his demonstrated competence inoffice or on a litany of perceived successes. For all thetalk about values that we're hearing, the president ran acampaign that appealed above all to voters' fears andprejudices. He didn't say he'd made life better for theaverage American over the past four years. He didn't say hehad transformed the schools, or made college more care to the sick and vulnerable.
-Bob Herbert

Well, first of all, I will admit to my Election Day predictions being wrong. I think this is too bad.

Secondly, I will admit that I was quite depressed by Bush's reelection, and I still am disappointed in it, realizing all that it may portend, but I will say this: none of us know what is going to happen in the next four years.

Unlike some, who logically figure that it is in Bush's best interest to reach out to a divided electorate and an alienated group of international allies, I believe he will not even try, as he has never shown any interest in doing so in the past. He lost the popular vote (and likely the electoral vote) in the 2000 election and proceeded to act as if he had a mandate; in this election he won with a slight majority of the vote. He even declared, as a someone of his pettiness would, "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style." This is not the voice of a man who seeks to unite a fractured world, as Senator Kerry gracefully urged him to. This is the voice of a man determined to get his way.

When I think of the great leaders of our country, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, I realize that they all united our country in times of upheaval and crisis. Of course, there were still struggles, nothing is perfect, we cannot imagine a utopia of national unity, but as we try to figure out the 2004 election in its aftermath, it is clear that the victories came at the expense of national unity. We have one political party that is determined to use prejudice and base fear to drive people to the polls and ultimately vote for economic and foreign policies against their interest.

As for what to do now, I am not going to leave the U.S. (unless for some reason circumstances take me abroad) once I get back there in December. More than 55 million people came out to vote for John Kerry, lots of races where Democrats, often challengers, ran against Republicans in "Red" states, came very close, and the Democrats have just begun to mobilize and coordinate our activist groups and so on. Plus, more of the country agrees with us on the issues. We cannot abandon a country with core values as the ones that the Constitution was founded upon, and we cannot let a group of fear-baiters defile the Constitution (or perhaps, at least motivate people to vote for defiling the Constitution--I think the Republicans are more interested in passing their economic agenda than their social agenda).

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Alright, just a short word about the election. My prediction is that Kerry will win. Now, to analyze my prediction objectively, I will say that I have read mostly material that is favorable towards Kerry and I do try to tune out positive indicators for Bush. However, it seems that the Democrats have done great job with voter turnout, I have been told pollsters do not call cell phones--a voting demographic that is supposedly Democratic, and that undecideds tend to favor the challenger 3 to 1. However, everything is up in the air. I think Americans really do want a positive change, and I think Kerry has done an effective job in the last few weeks with associating himself with this ideal. I do hope there are no severe voting problems, but one positive to all of this talk about there being voting issues: I think there have always been problems with voting, but the fortuitous aspect of the 2000 election (and there are very few of these!) is that it really attuned our country to monitoring our votes. It seems like people are already much more prepared for everything from mundane technical difficulties to outright denial of voting rights than they have been in awhile. Cheers to that!