Friday, December 25, 2009

I HAVE MOVED

I have moved The Foreign Desk to Examiner.... (where they pay me...) and it is now called International Political Satire....so I invite you to check it out by going HERE:

Thursday, May 07, 2009

EURO-NIMBY

Been busy moving for the last month...but now I am LIVE! from Europe!! If you've been checking in, I appreciate it. And now...on with the show!

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Now that the show in Guantanamo Bay is winding down, there is the tiny little problem of what to do with the cast.

There is no question that there are some seriously bad dudes there. And what we are going to do with them remains the $64,000 question. But amazingly enough, there are a group of guys down there, who have done nothing wrong. Yes, you heard that right. Nothing wrong. They are innocent.

Here's what happened. Imagine, you're camping in say…Afghanistan after 9/11. Maybe not the best vacation destination at that time, but hey, the tickets had been bought, the mail and the newspapers had been stopped, so you gotta go.

But around that time, everyone in a camp in Afghanistan is presumed to be Al-Qaeda. Next, some Afghan tribesman fingers you and your buddies, you get swept up by the US military and badda bing, you're wearing an orange jumpsuit in Cuba. Even worse, you didn't pack any SPF-15 or the latest James Patterson novel.

To make things even more interesting, you're Muslim AND Chinese. In other words, an Uighur. Now the Chinese consider a lot of the Uighurs terrorists because they want to have their own gig in Xinjiang province. But because China has been on a tear these last five or six years and the US economy depends on China, my theory is, as a favor to Beijing, the US government decides that the best thing may be to keep you on ice for a while. I have no proof of this. Just thinking out loud.

So now it's 7 years later. You're still innocent and the US government has run out of reasons to keep you in prison and you are going to get released. But that Guantanamo pedigree is a problem. It's like a bad review that follows you around. Nevertheless, the US government starts pulling in favors. And who do we go to for favors? Our European friends. Yes indeed. Attorney General Eric Holder was here in Germany last week trying fob off as many Uighurs as the Germans would take.

Chancellor Merkel says that the Germans have an obligation to take them in, thus helping President Obama shut down Gitmo. But other German politicians haven't read the fine print…you know where the US government has classified these guys as NOT A THREAT, and are up in arms about taking in terrorists. A classic case of NIMBY…Not In My Back Yard. So that's the big debate over here in Germany these days: Whether or not to admit innocent men into the country. Kafka must be smiling somewhere.

I have a better idea. Release them in Beverly Hills, where they can get an agent and a lawyer. The lawyer will sue everyone for false imprisonment and the agent will negotiate the book and movie deal. And then they retire to the French Riviera.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Not happy with Sarkozy

PARIS- Boy, they DO NOT like President Sarkozy here. He is, how shall I say? Reviled? Yeah. That would be close. They see him as looking out only for the rich. Kind of a French Margaret Thatcher. Or....a George Bush. If George Bush had any intellectual curiosity.

Why do they not like him? Well, the French are very set in their ways. And change comes slowly here if at all. They are of the opinion that if it ain't broken, why break it? And some things are sacrosanct. Like vacations. And short work weeks. And that for the most part, shops are closed on Sunday. Seems reasonable. President Sarkozy wants to change that.

So tomorrow, there is going to be a big protest march and a 24 hour transport strike. Why? Well, according to the IHT, the strikes are "aimed at pressing the government to support workers better during the economic crisis."

But if you talk to the folks on the street, it is also a protest against Sarkozy. They just don't like the guy.

You have to remember that France is really close to socialism. They would probably deny it, but what else can you call a country that has short work weeks, national health and a government that supports workers in every possible way. If it sounds like ze duck....

But if this is socialism, then the US needs to learn a few things. Life is good here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

There IS a Docteur in the house!

PARIS -- So, arrived in Paris a few days ago. Maybe more. Not sure, as I was SICKER THAN A DOG and have lost all concept of time. No kidding. Seriously sick. So sick I'm looking for the emergency room.

Luckily, our friends here say, "no problem, we'll call a Doctor and he will come to you."

Pause. OK, long pause while our tiny American brains try to understand the simple sentence, "he will come to you." You know how a dog tilts its head when it doesn't understand something? That was us.

"What," we said.... "like...a...house call?"Imagine that. A Doctor? Actually coming to your house? The term house call stirred a distant memory. Maybe it was just a long lost Marcus Welby episode. We weren't sure. But we were about to witness something lost to the sands of time. A visit to your house by a doctor.

I realize this blog is mostly for political stuff, but you know what? Medical care is a political and a human right. And the Europeans take this sort of thing for granted.

Yes, Doctors still make house calls here. They actually come to see you where you live. Into your bedroom. Truly remarkable.

This is something that America needs to change. Doctors need to "get" the fact that they serve the sick and the needy, not just the rich and wealthy hypochondriacs. They need to get out of their offices, and go see how people actually live. I'm sure they will be able to prescribe a better treatment if they are able to see how people live.

There is something so basic and so natural about a Doctor making a house call. It's time that the American medical business get back to basics. And house calls are a great place to start.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Geithner Twitters from G20 Finance Conference in UK

#Nice flight on the way over. Had my own plane. Very cool being Treasury Secretary.
#Arrive at venue. Head over to welcome dinner. Unbelievable. It's a cash bar. Clearly Brits are trying to set the tone.
#Central Bank governors are drinking heavily. Not a good sign.
# Eastern Europeans buying lots of rounds. I get it, but doubt it will help.
#Getting ready for breakfast meeting. Still hung over from last night. Why do the English fry their tomatoes?
#Pretty solemn group for breakfast. Everyone subdued. Could use some bloody marys to lift spirits

Friday, March 13, 2009

Is it warm in here or is it just me?

LONDON - Not sure if you all were paying attention to what was being said at at the global conference on climate change in Copenhagen that just ended, but here is the statement they released:
"The climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. Rapid, sustained and effective mitigation based on global and regional actions is required to avoid dangerous climate change."
Now I'll grant you that that doesn't really sound like a call to arms, but hey, they're scientists. They deal in facts, not hyperbole. But if you read a little deeper into the piece in Britain's Independent newspaper, there was a quote from Lord Stern that didn't pull any punches. He warned of:
"Extended conflict, social disruption, war essentially, over much of the world, for many decades."
War? Over much of the world? For many decades?

Sure. When the oceans rise we lose coastlines. People will have to move. Probably by the hundreds of millions. Into your neighborhood. Onto your street. Probably lead to a few arguments.

But again, this all abstract. I mean, how will it impact you personally? I know I will be deeply affected because there are golf courses in low lying areas of Florida and Hilton Head I will never get to play because of man's inability to change. And if that isn't a call to action, I don't know what is.

Yes, I'm kidding. Sort of.

But most interesting was how much coverage this conference received. Now, granted it is early Saturday morning here in London, but a Google News search for Copenhagen only brings up European/Asian newspapers, wire services and a few cable outfits. The whole first page has no hits for American newspapers other than the New York Times. None. And that can't be good.

Like I said, is it warm in here, or is it just me?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Silence!

Greetings from London.

I'm here ahead of the G20 conference scheduled for April 12th. The Finance Ministers are here for the weekend for a warm up event. I, of course, am looking for any kind of G20 swag, but so far, nothing. Not even a t-shirt sighting that says, "My Finance Minister went to the G20 conference in London and all he came away with was this lousy t-shirt."

Speaking of London...

Disturbing piece in the IHT this morning by Christopher Walker who is the Director of Studies at Freedom House.

It's a scary piece and you should read the whole thing. But you're busy, and clicking on the link is a lot of work, so here are the first four graphs to get you started.

How are a few extraordinarily wealthy individuals from the most senior ranks of the world's most brutally repressive societies succeeding in muzzling free speech on major international issues? The unlikely answer is, simply, by "visiting" London.

In a dangerous twist of globalization, these litigants are taking the illiberal standards of environments hostile to free expression and projecting them into those countries that permit free and open inquiry. And more disturbing is that the preferred tool they are using to stifle the work of investigative journalists, researchers and publishers is English law.

An increasing number of well-heeled litigants - libel tourists - are using England's plaintiff-friendly libel laws to silence critics. Unlike American law, which sets a high bar for libel lawsuits, English common law puts the burden of proof on the defendant, who can be hit with enormous damages and legal costs.

To make matters worse, English courts have demonstrated a tendency to accept jurisdiction in these cases even when the plaintiff's connection to England appears wafer-thin. As a result, London has earned the dubious distinction of "libel capital of the world."

See? I told you it was scary. Now go read the rest of it. Please.

And while I am on the subject of censorship or just about spreading information in general that might not be to someone's liking....here is another piece in the IHT, that should make you shake your head.

Parwez Kambakhsh, a student journalist in Afghanistan was sentenced to 20 years in prison for "blasphemy after accusations that he wrote and distributed an article about the role of women in Islam."

Hey, he got off easy. The first time they sentenced him to death! 20 years was the result after they appealed the death sentence to the Supreme Court!

And he says that he didn't write the piece, he just downloaded it from the Internet. That damn pesky Internet.

But wait...there's more. More? Yes. Tuesday night, Javed Ahmad, a journalist in Afghanistan for Canadian television was gunned down.

So is there a point to this dreary post? Yup. Journalism is a tough gig. Getting the truth out is getting harder every day. In London they silence you with wigs and lawyers, in the wilds of Afghanistan they use a Kalashnikov. Different approaches, same result.

What...? So, sue me.