Posts Tagged ‘The New York Times’
This Wednesday will be the tenth anniversary of the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay. Opened by Bush and, despite all his campaign promises, kept open by Barack Obama, this camp represents the warped state the rule of law has been put into in the US by both these presidents.
The New York Times has an impressive op-ed by Lakhdar Boumediene, one of the most well-known former Guántanamo prisoners, who was held innocent and subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques for seven years before he was released by court order.
Boumediene was head of the Red Crescent’s humanitarian aid for children department in Bosnia-Herzegovina before he was captured off the streets on October 19, 2001 by the US Army, deported to Gitmo, and held incommunicado without recourse to a lawyer, the court system, or Geneva protections. While he was subjected to stress techniques, his two daughters had to grow up for seven years without him. Only when the Supreme Court intervened to stop the Bush administration’s lawless practices, Boumediene was granted access to court, found innocent, and released.
His case represents the entire argument against Guantánamo. No government on Earth should be allowed to indefinitely detain people and treat them like they want without any check by an independent judiciary. That is what we have human rights for. Barack Obama, moreover, is the president who has turned this once controversial policy into bipartisan consensus. Under this president, indefinite detention has even been signed into law.
So to remind everyone of this poignant fact, here’s the op-ed by Boumediene. There’s another one too, by the way, from yet another Guantánamo survivor, Murat Kurnaz.
ON Wednesday, America’s detention camp at Guantánamo Bay will have been open for 10 years. For seven of them, I was held there without explanation or charge. During that time my daughters grew up without me. They were toddlers when I was imprisoned, and were never allowed to visit or speak to me by phone. Most of their letters were returned as “undeliverable,” and the few that I received were so thoroughly and thoughtlessly censored that their messages of love and support were lost.
Some American politicians say that people at Guantánamo are terrorists, but I have never been a terrorist. Had I been brought before a court when I was seized, my children’s lives would not have been torn apart, and my family would not have been thrown into poverty. It was only after the United States Supreme Court ordered the government to defend its actions before a federal judge that I was finally able to clear my name and be with them again.
I left Algeria in 1990 to work abroad. In 1997 my family and I moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina at the request of my employer, the Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates. I served in the Sarajevo office as director of humanitarian aid for children who had lost relatives to violence during the Balkan conflicts. In 1998, I became a Bosnian citizen. We had a good life, but all of that changed after 9/11.
When I arrived at work on the morning of Oct. 19, 2001, an intelligence officer was waiting for me. He asked me to accompany him to answer questions. I did so, voluntarily — but afterward I was told that I could not go home. The United States had demanded that local authorities arrest me and five other men. News reports at the time said the United States believed that I was plotting to blow up its embassy in Sarajevo. I had never — for a second — considered this.
The fact that the United States had made a mistake was clear from the beginning. Bosnia’s highest court investigated the American claim, found that there was no evidence against me and ordered my release. But instead, the moment I was released American agents seized me and the five others. We were tied up like animals and flown to Guantánamo, the American naval base in Cuba. I arrived on Jan. 20, 2002.
I still had faith in American justice. I believed my captors would quickly realize their mistake and let me go. But when I would not give the interrogators the answers they wanted — how could I, when I had done nothing wrong? — they became more and more brutal. I was kept awake for many days straight. I was forced to remain in painful positions for hours at a time. These are things I do not want to write about; I want only to forget.
Check out Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman in the NYT on the response of both Wall Street financiers and Republican politicians to the Occupy Wall Street protests, aptly titled ‘Panic of the Plutocrats’:
It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.
And this reaction tells you something important — namely, that the extremists threatening American values are what F.D.R. called “economic royalists,” not the people camping in Zuccotti Park.
Consider first how Republican politicians have portrayed the modest-sized if growing demonstrations, which have involved some confrontations with the police — confrontations that seem to have involved a lot of police overreaction — but nothing one could call a riot. And there has in fact been nothing so far to match the behavior of Tea Party crowds in the summer of 2009.
Nonetheless, Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, has denounced “mobs” and “the pitting of Americans against Americans.” The G.O.P. presidential candidates have weighed in, with Mitt Romney accusing the protesters of waging “class warfare,” while Herman Cain calls them “anti-American.” My favorite, however, is Senator Rand Paul, who for some reason worries that the protesters will start seizing iPads, because they believe rich people don’t deserve to have them.
Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor and a financial-industry titan in his own right, was a bit more moderate, but still accused the protesters of trying to “take the jobs away from people working in this city,” a statement that bears no resemblance to the movement’s actual goals.
And if you were listening to talking heads on CNBC, you learned that the protesters “let their freak flags fly,” and are “aligned with Lenin.”
The way to understand all of this is to realize that it’s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.
Last year, you may recall, a number of financial-industry barons went wild over very mild criticism from President Obama. They denounced Mr. Obama as being almost a socialist for endorsing the so-called Volcker rule, which would simply prohibit banks backed by federal guarantees from engaging in risky speculation. And as for their reaction to proposals to close a loophole that lets some of them pay remarkably low taxes — well, Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, compared it to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.
Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.
This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.
So who’s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth.
What I think the best thing of Occupy Wall Street is is that it finally puts the financial malpractices of an industry very much related to the actual top 1 percent of super-rich people in the US, in combination with their rescue by 99 percent of tax payers (i.e., the public), on the democratic agenda.
But the fundamental injustice in pretty much the entire Western world nowadays is the fact that the welfare state, a scheme for the public good, is being dismantled as a result of costs made to save the financial industry. An industry that through its own corrupt schemes, not beneficial to anyone but themselves, has itself created the greatest economic recession since the nineteen-thirties. They should not be awarded bonuses. And poor, sick and unemployed people should not have to suffer for them. There is nothing ‘left-wing’ about that. It’s common sense. That’s why I would love to see these protests spread to Europe, even though I myself am in favour of a regulated form of capitalism.
Finally – not from Paul Krugman – to point out empirically how disparagingly vast the gap between the top 1 percent and the lower 90 percent in the US is, check out these stats from Mother Jones. The first shows the composition of the top 1 percent; the second shows their wealth.
I mean, seriously. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of wealth inequality. But you don’t need to be a socialist to understand that such a huge gap between rich, middle class (if not already vaporized) and poor is not beneficial to any society, let alone a democratic one. And this gap has widened exponentially in the last thirty years, it wasn’t there before. The most fucked up societies are the ones with sudden, huge material inequalities. With the exception of the UK, Europe’s not as bad as the US in this respect – but getting close.
Uit een advertentie in The New York Times van vandaag:
From the Galactic Empire Times:
Obi-Wan Kenobi, the mastermind of some of the most devastating attacks on the Galactic Empire and the most hunted man in the galaxy, was killed in a firefight with Imperial forces near Alderaan, Darth Vader announced on Sunday.
In a late-night appearance in the East Room of the Imperial Palace, Lord Vader declared that “justice has been done” as he disclosed that agents of the Imperial Army and stormtroopers of the 501st Legion had finally cornered Kenobi, one of the leaders of the Jedi rebellion, who had eluded the Empire for nearly two decades. Imperial officials said Kenobi resisted and was cut down by Lord Vader’s own lightsaber. He was later dumped out of an airlock.
The news touched off an extraordinary outpouring of emotion as crowds gathered in the Senate District and outside the Imperial Palace, waving imperial flags, cheering, shouting, laughing and chanting, “Hail to the Emperor! Hail Lord Vader!” In the alien protection zone, crowds sang “The Ten Thousand Year Empire.” Throughout the Sah’c district, airspeeder drivers honked horns deep into the night.
“For over two decades, Kenobi has been the Jedi rebellion’s leader and symbol,” the Lord of the Sith said in a statement broadcast across the galaxy via HoloNet. “The death of Kenobi marks the most significant achievement to date in our empire’s effort to defeat the rebel alliance. But his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that the rebellion will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi ’s demise is a defining moment in the stormtrooper-led fight against terrorism, a symbolic stroke affirming the relentlessness of the pursuit of those who turned against the Empire at the end of the Clone Wars. What remains to be seen, however, is whether it galvanizes Kenobi’s followers by turning him into a martyr or serves as a turning of the page in the war against the Rebel Alliance and gives further impetus to Emperor Palpatine to step up Stormtrooper recruitment.
In an earlier statement issued to the press, Kenobi boasted that striking him down could make him “more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”
How much his death will affect the rebel alliance itself remains unclear. For years, as they failed to find him, Imperial leaders have said that he was more symbolically important than operationally significant because he was on the run and hindered in any meaningful leadership role. Yet he remained the most potent face of terrorism around the world, and some of those who played down his role in recent years nonetheless celebrated his death.
Given Kenobi’s status among radicals, the Imperial Galactic government braced for possible retaliation. A Grand Moff of the Imperial Starfleet said late Sunday that military bases in the core worlds and around the galaxy were ordered to a higher state of readiness. The Imperial Security Bureau issued a galactic travel warning, urging citizens in volatile areas “to limit their travel outside of their local star systems and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations.”
The strike could deepen tensions within the Outer Rim, which has periodically bristled at Imperial counterterrorism efforts even as Kenobi evidently found safe refuge it its territories for nearly two decades. Since taking over as Supreme Commander of the Imperial Navy, Lord Vader has ordered significantly more strikes on suspected terrorist targets in the Outer Rim, stirring public anger there and leading to increased criminal activity.
When the end came for Kenobi, he was found not in the remote uncharted areas of Wild Space and the Unknown Regions, where he has long been presumed to be sheltered, but in a massive compound about an hour’s drive west from the Tatooine capital of Bestine. He had been living under the alias “Ben” Kenobi for some time.
The compound, only about 50 miles from the base of operations for the Imperial Storm Squadron, is at the end of a narrow dirt road and is roughly eight times larger than other homes in the area, which were largely occupied by Tusken Raiders. When Imperial operatives converged on the planet on Saturday, following up on recent intelligence, two local moisture farmers “resisted the assault force” and were killed in the middle of an intense gun battle, a senior Stormtrooper said, but details were still sketchy early Monday morning.
A representative of the Imperial Starfleet said that military and intelligence officials first learned last summer that a “high-value target” was hiding somewhere on the desert world and began working on a plan for going in to get him. Beginning in March, Lord Vader worked closely with a series of several different Admirals serving onboard the Death Star to go over plans for the operation, and on Friday morning gave the final order for members of the 501st Legion (known commonly as “Vader’s Fist”) to strike.
Kenobi and a group of his followers were eventually captured while fleeing the system, and taken aboard the Death Star, which was in the midst of surveying the recent environmental disaster on Alderaan. Darth Vader called it a “targeted operation,” although officials said four tie fighters were lost because of “mechanical failures” and had to be destroyed to keep them from falling into hostile hands.
In addition to Kenobi, two men and one wookiee were killed, one believed to be his young apprentice and the other two his couriers, according to an admiral who briefed reporters under Imperial ground rules forbidding further identification. A woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant, the Admiral said. Two droids were also reported missing.
“No Stormtroopers were seriously harmed,” Lord Vader said. “They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, I defeated my former master and took custody of his body.” Jedi tradition requires burial within 24 hours, but by doing it in deep space, Imperial authorities presumably were trying to avoid creating a shrine for his followers.
To be honest, I pretty much have my fill about the whole Bin Laden affair. This includes the revolting jingoism displayed by American politicians and establishment media such as the New York Times, as well as the ‘funny’ comics and internet memes. I wish we could turn to something else now.
Nevertheless, criticism must continue to be voiced, so here’s an op-ed by no one less than Noam Chomsky.
It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”
Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.
There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.
We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.
There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president.
Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders. It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”
There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.
Although I support the Libyan military intervention on the grounds that it averted humanitarian disaster, is limited, is international, and was UN-instigated, there are two huge elephants in the room. The first is the unclear goal of the mission (for more on that, see here). The second is that we don’t even know who the Libyan rebels are exactly, and what they want…
That’s actually a pretty big problem. In the cases of Tunisia and Egypt, it was clear to everyone with eyes to see that the protesters consisted of modern, peaceful, secular people from all sections of the population, who wanted to exercise their political rights (even though conservatives immediately painted them as fundamentalists). In Libya, though, demonstrations have turned into something that’s more like a civil war between two parties, of one of which relatively little is known. Who are the people taking over when Ghadafi’s gone?
The NYT addresses this problem. Although the article doesn’t really answer the question, a picture of a society that is way different from its neighbours emerges. While the rebel council makes rhetorical commitments to democracy and the rule of law, tribal strife also seems to play a big role in their struggle against Ghadafi. And they don’t always necessarily behave nicely either.
The question has hovered over the Libyan uprising from the moment the first tank commander defected to join his cousins protesting in the streets of Benghazi: Is the battle for Libya the clash of a brutal dictator against a democratic opposition, or is it fundamentally a tribal civil war?
The answer could determine the course of both the Libyan uprising and the results of the Western intervention. In the West’s preferred chain of events, airstrikes enable the rebels to unite with the currently passive residents of the western region around Tripoli, under the banner of an essentially democratic revolution that topples Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
He, however, has predicted the opposite: that the revolt is a tribal war of eastern Libya against the west that ends in either his triumph or a prolonged period of chaos.
“It is a very important question that is terribly near impossible to answer,” said Paul Sullivan, a political scientist at Georgetown University who has studied Libya. “It could be a very big surprise when Qaddafi leaves and we find out who we are really dealing with.”
The behavior of the fledgling rebel government in Benghazi so far offers few clues to the rebels’ true nature. Their governing council is composed of secular-minded professionals — lawyers, academics, businesspeople — who talk about democracy, transparency, human rights and the rule of law. But their commitment to those principles is just now being tested as they confront the specter of potential Qaddafi spies in their midst, either with rough tribal justice or a more measured legal process.
Like the Qaddafi government, the operation around the rebel council is rife with family ties. And like the chiefs of the Libyan state news media, the rebels feel no loyalty to the truth in shaping their propaganda, claiming nonexistent battlefield victories, asserting they were still fighting in a key city days after it fell to Qaddafi forces, and making vastly inflated claims of his barbaric behavior.
Read more (the second part of the article kinda nuances the importance of tribal culture to contemporary Libyan society, which today is predominantly urban and also educated).
Matthew Yglesias comments:
Completely leaving the question of US military intervention aside, back when the Libyan Revolution first turned violent I turned pessimistic about its prospects. You can understand why people take up arms against violent repressive regimes. But the fact of the matter is that armed conflict is generally a poor basis on which to establish a liberal democratic political order. Successful political transitions to democracy generally take place through exercises of non-violent “people power” as in the American South, the Philippines, Chile, Central Europe in 1989, and the general template followed in Tunisia and Egypt. Once a conflict is settled by violence and you’re in a dynamic where political power grows from the barrel of a gun, then you’ve either laid the groundwork for further civil conflict or a new authoritarianism under new bosses.
What is cooler than exploring forgotten urban underground constructions? Almost nothing. A while ago, we blogged about the “Freedom Tunnel” underneath Manhattan’s Upper West Side, that had turned into an ‘underground metropolis’ with organized homeless communities, as well as a haven for graffiti artists.
Now, the New York Times has a fantastic article about two underground urban explorers (one guy also climbed the Everest and walked the Poles), who make a five-day trip through sewers and metro tunnels from The Bronx to Queens. Here, they enjoy the underground architecture, encounter ‘mole people’ (people who permanently, illegally live underground) as well as other urban explorers.
This fascinating video details a trip they made earlier (the hopping besides the metro tracks is nervewracking; they also meet tunnel residents):
The NYT article can be read here. Some highlights of the story, which I recommend to read in full:
IT must have been the third or fourth day — time, by that point, had started to dissolve — when I stood in camping gear on Fifth Avenue, waiting as my companions went to purchase waterproof waders at the Orvis store. We had already hiked through sewers in the Bronx, slept in a basement boiler room, passed a dusty evening in a train tunnel; we were soiled and sleep-deprived, and we smelled of rotting socks. Yet no one on that sidewalk seemed to notice. As I stood among the businessmen and fashionable women, it dawned on me that New Yorkers — an ostensibly perceptive lot — sometimes see only what’s directly in front of their eyes.
I suppose that’s not a bad way to think about the urban expedition we were on: a taxing, baffling, five-day journey into New York’s underground, the purpose of which, its planners said, was to expose the city’s skeleton, to render visible its invisible marvels. The trip’s conceiver, Erling Kagge, a 47-year-old Norwegian adventurer, had ascended Mount Everest and trekked on foot to both the North and South poles. His partner, Steve Duncan, a 32-year-old student of public history, had logged more than a decade exploring subways, sewers and storm drains. Last month, the two of them forged a new frontier: an extended exploration of the subterranean city, during which they lived inside the subsurface infrastructure, sleeping on the trail, as it were.
Amazing. The sounds down here are even more impressive than the sights and smells: the Niagara-like crash of water spilling in from side drains; the rumble of the subway; the guh-DUNK! of cars hitting manhole covers overhead, like two jabs on a heavy bag. Steve says we’re only 12 feet beneath the surface, but it feels far deeper. The familiar world is gone: only sewage now, the press of surrounding earth, the anxious dance of headlamps on the water. Every 100 feet or so, an archway appears and we can see a parallel channel gurgling beside us with a coffee-colored murk. I shine my headlamp down and watch a condom and gooey scraps of toilet paper float by. I check the air meter constantly: no trace of gas, and the oxygen level is a healthy 20.9 percent. I ask Steve how he navigates down here; he laughs. “Hey, Erling,” he calls out, “you’re taking care of the navigation, right?” Funny.
Riverside Park, Manhattan
We just crossed the 125th Street off-ramp of the West Side Highway and plan to spend the night in an Amtrak tunnel in Riverside Park. Steve knows a woman who lives there — a “mole person” named Brooklyn. Today is Brooklyn’s birthday: she is 50. Erling met Brooklyn in August, on a scouting trip with Steve, and she asked him to return for a party. He has brought her chocolates — all the way from Norway — handmade by his daughters.
Brooklyn’s home is on the other side: dirt floors, concrete walls, a mattress and a milk-crate nightstand, burning candles, a poster of Lance Armstrong. A bicycle lies at the foot of her bed; clothing hangs from makeshift hooks. Beneath Lance Armstrong, there are newspaper clippings marking the death of Michael Jackson. Beside the bed, a huge pile of bottles — hundreds, it appears. Brooklyn describes these as her savings account: when money runs low, she redeems them for cash.
She is a wiry woman in a headband, stunned and pleased to see us. “I can’t believe y’all came for my birthday!” Gifts are given, whiskey passed around. Once again, we are a large group and sing “Happy Birthday.”
A strange news conference then ensues. Andrew, the videographer, directs: arranges Brooklyn in the candlelight, tells the NPR producer where to place his boom. Brooklyn tells her story to the cameras: her stint in the Marine Corps; the death of her parents; the loss of her house upstate; how she lived in the subway and was beaten by marauding kids; how she lived in a box until it was set on fire; how she found herself alone, on a bench in the park, and was lured to the tunnel by friendly cats. She has lived down here since 1982, she says, with six cats and a boyfriend known as B. K.
The party continues on the far side of the wall. More people arrive: Will the spotter, Will’s cousin and a guy named Moe. They, like Steve, are self-styled urban explorers. They talk of climbing bridges, running in subways. At one point, Moe confesses: “I really want to stop doing this. I’m 35. I want to be married and serious.” He sighs. “Then again, I’m saying this in a train tunnel. …”
The New York Times sings Canada’s praises for avoiding the messy strife over immigration raging across much of the western world with a fairly lengthy article contrasting the Canadian experience, and especially the Manitoban experience, with the U.S. It describes how the province went out of its way to attract more new arrivals in an effort to compete with larger Canadian cities Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver where immigrants typically settle:
(…) Demanding “our fair share,” Manitobans did something hard to imagine in American politics, where concern over illegal immigrants dominates public debate and states seek more power to keep them out. In Canada, which has little illegal immigration, Manitoba won new power to bring foreigners in, handpicking ethnic and occupational groups judged most likely to stay.
This experiment in designer immigration has made Winnipeg a hub of parka-clad diversity — a blue-collar town that gripes about the cold in Punjabi and Tagalog — and has defied the anti-immigrant backlash seen in much of the world.
Rancorous debates over immigration have erupted from Australia to Sweden, but there is no such thing in Canada as an anti-immigrant politician. Few nations take more immigrants per capita, and perhaps none with less fuss.
Is it the selectivity Canada shows? The services it provides? Even the Mad Cowz, a violent youth gang of African refugees, did nothing to curb local appetites for foreign workers.
“When I took this portfolio, I expected some of the backlash that’s occurred in other parts of the world,” said Jennifer Howard, Manitoba’s minister of immigration. “But I have yet to have people come up to me and say, ‘I want fewer immigrants.’ I hear, ‘How can we bring in more?’ ”
“From the moment we touched down at the airport, it was love all the way,” said Olusegun Daodu, 34, a procurement professional who recently arrived from Nigeria to join relatives and marveled at the medical card that offers free care. “If we have any reason to go to the hospital now, we just walk in.”
(…)Canada has long sought immigrants to populate the world’s second largest land mass, but two developments in the 1960s shaped the modern age. One created a point system that favors the highly skilled. The other abolished provisions that screened out nonwhites. Millions of minorities followed, with Chinese, Indians and Filipinos in the lead.
Relative to its population, Canada takes more than twice as many legal immigrants as the United States. Why no hullabaloo?
With one-ninth of the United States’ population, Canada is keener for growth, and the point system helps persuade the public it is getting the newcomers it needs. The children of immigrants typically do well. The economic downturn has been mild. Plus the absence of large-scale illegal immigration removes a dominant source of the conflict in the United States.
French and English from the start, Canada also has a more accommodating political culture — one that accepts more pluribus and demands less unum. That American complaint — “Why do I have to press 1 for English?” — baffles a country with a minister of multiculturalism.
Another force is in play: immigrant voting strength. About 20 percent of Canadians are foreign born (compared with 12.5 percent in the United States), and they are quicker to acquire citizenship and voting rights. “It’s political suicide to be against immigration,” said Leslie Seidle of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, a Montreal group.
The article does note that there are “some stirrings of discontent”, though it gives them pretty short shrift, and does quote an individual, Martin Collacott, from an NGO “that advocates less immigration”. Collacott argues that “There’s considerably more concern among our people than is reflected in our policies”. This is quite likely accurate for at least some parts of the population. Although even there note that the argument is not to cease or radically reduce immigration. Even Collacot notes “There’s literally no one in Parliament willing to take up the cudgel”.
The article, while playing into mythology of the ‘always nice’ Canadian, points to some factors that may explain why the Canadian experience might be successful:
The Manitoba program, started in 1998 at employers’ behest, has grown rapidly under both liberal and conservative governments. While the federal system favors those with college degrees, Manitoba takes the semi-skilled, like truck drivers, and focuses on people with local relatives in the hopes that they will stay. The newcomers can bring spouses and children and get a path to citizenship.
Most are required to bring savings, typically about $10,000, to finance the transition without government aid. While the province nominates people, the federal government does background checks and has the final say. Unlike many migrant streams, the new Manitobans have backgrounds that are strikingly middle class.
“Back home was good — not bad,” said Nishkam Virdi, 32, who makes $17 an hour at the Palliser furniture plant after moving from India, where his family owned a machine shop.
He said he was drawn less by wages than by the lure of health care and solid utilities. “The living standard is higher — the lighting, the water, the energy,” he said.
The program has attracted about 50,000 people over the last decade, and surveys show a majority stayed. Ms. Howard, the immigration minister, credits job placement and language programs, but many migrants cite the informal welcomes.
“Because we are from the third world, I thought they might think they are superior,” said Anne Simpao, a Filipino nurse in tiny St. Claude, who was approached by a stranger and offered dishes and a television set. “They call it friendly Manitoba, and it’s really true.”
One complaint throughout Canada is the difficulty many immigrants have in transferring professional credentials. Heredina Maranan, 45, a certified public accountant in Manila, has been stuck in a Manitoba factory job for a decade. She did not disguise her disappointment when relatives sought to follow her. “I did not encourage them,” she said. “I think I deserved better.”
They came anyway — two families totaling 14 people, drawn not just by jobs but the promise of good schools.
Every province except Quebec now runs a provincial program, each with different criteria, diluting the force of the federal point system. The Manitoba program has grown so rapidly, federal officials have imposed a numerical cap.
But Arthur DeFehr, chief executive officer of Palliser furniture, does see a lesson: choose migrants who fill local needs and give them a legal path.
With 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, he sees another opportunity for Manitoba. “I’m sure many of those people would make perfectly wonderful citizens of Canada,” he said. “I think we should go and get them.”
While I love DeFehr’s pragmatic attitude and think it may be a big part of the story of the continued success of immigration in Canada I am not as sure that any of the factors in the Times’ story fully explains, unto themselves or in combination, Canada’s seemingly more positive immigration attitudes or experience. The article glosses over the fact that there has been considerable evolution in Canadian immigration policy, processes and requirements. For example, the greater devolution to provinces to craft their own immigration agendas is pretty new. There have been changes in the point system over time, and indeed the point system itself was only created in 1967. And yet, Canada has a fairly positive immigration experience over a broader time span. This short presentation provides a much fuller description of this evolution examining eight periods of Canadian immigration history. So it seems to me there is something more at play here that the article does not dig into. Perhaps it is the very adaptability that the author make so little of that has led to the great benefits immigrations has bestowed upon Canada?
Recent polling seems to affirm the article’s general thrust, that there is no prominent anti-immigration thrust among politicians or most citizens:
More than half of Canadians (54%) said they think the number of immigrants coming to Canada is about right, up from 49% in 2004; Almost one in four (23%) said there are too many immigrants, down from 31% in 2004.
Though there are nevertheless signs of unease:
The firm also said that while 71% of respondents said they felt immigration was good for Canada, the number declined to 48% when asked if they thought it was good for their neighbourhood …
The article leaves much to desire in identifying the historical and current problems and/or concerns that plague the Canadian immigration system. As that presentation linked to above makes much more explicit than the Times article did, Canada has had shameful racist immigration policies in the past. But, there are also a number of issues that should currently be raising eyebrows. This Maclean’s piece makes clear that whatever the upside of attracting more middle-class migrants, that it is also leading to exclusion. Even if the article is correct this does not amount to simple racial profiling it seems as though it may be having a similar, if not the same, effect. That Maclean’s article also makes clear how recent policy shifts are delaying and limiting family reunification. To the degree that we are wanting to attract folks who will stay and become permanent citizens this seems rather misguided not to mention it is rather crude to begin with. Finally, very recent responses to mass human trafficking cases threaten to recast how we define and treat refugees, both rhetorically and in practice, including what rights we afford them. All of these items – and they probably only scratch the surface – ought to be giving us serious pause and none of them are explored in the Times article.
We have a terrible habit in Canada whereby, to the degree that we are seen to compare favourably to our southern neighbours on any matter, whether important or not, we tend to pat ourselves on the back and rest on these laurels, however dubious they are. A great example is political culture. For years we prided ourselves on the fact that we had not succumbed to the worst excesses of the kind of negative politics practiced in the States, believing that our politics were more rational, grounded in reality and suitably gentle. Assuming that this would always be the case, no matter that the differences were probably considerably more narrow than perceived, we did little to figure out what the actual differences were, why they existed and how we might protect them (to the degree we saw them favourably). Today there is virtually no light separating American and Canadian politics. Let’s hope that we don’t take our positive immigration experience for granted in a world where immigration seems broadly under attack, and instead start working to address already growing number of serious problems now.
Hi folks, I am new around here and going to contribute occasionally, at least until I bore the shit out of Maarten and Adriejan. That shouldn’t take too long…
Well, the NY Times has Bob Woodward’s new book in advance, as seems to be the normal course of events when Woodward has a new book to peddle. The new volume – Obama’s Wars – chronicles how the war in Afghanistan has divided the White House on matters of “policy, personalities and turf”.
So far we are just relying on the Times’, clearly quickly written summary, but it stands in pretty marked contrast to Woodward’s last effort on the Bush administration, The War Within: A Secret White House History. Where Woodward’s last expose on the Bush years detailed serious abuses of power including secret eavesdropping and assignation programmes, the coverage of the Obama efforts to date paints a picture of a poorly administrated, childish and trite mess:
…Although the internal divisions described have become public, the book suggests that they were even more intense and disparate than previously known and offers new details. Mr. Biden called Mr. Holbrooke “the most egotistical bastard I’ve ever met.” A variety of administration officials expressed scorn for James L. Jones, the retired Marine general who is national security adviser, while he referred to some of the president’s other aides as “the water bugs” or “the Politburo.”
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thought his vice chairman, Gen. James E. Cartwright, went behind his back, while General Cartwright dismissed Admiral Mullen because he wasn’t a war fighter. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates worried that General Jones would be succeeded by his deputy, Thomas E. Donilon, who would be a “disaster.”
Gen. David H. Petraeus, who was overall commander for the Middle East until becoming the Afghanistan commander this summer, told a senior aide that he disliked talking with David M. Axelrod, the president’s senior adviser, because he was “a complete spin doctor.” General Petraeus was effectively banned by the administration from the Sunday talk shows but worked private channels with Congress and the news media.
And the book recounts incidents in which Adm. Dennis C. Blair, then the national intelligence director, fought with Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, and John O. Brennan, the counterterrorism adviser.
During a daily intelligence briefing in May 2009, Mr. Blair warned the president that radicals with American and European passports were being trained in Pakistan to attack their homelands. Mr. Emanuel afterward chastised him, saying, “You’re just trying to put this on us so it’s not your fault.”
As for Mr. Obama himself, the book describes a professorial president who assigned “homework” to advisers but bristled at what he saw as military commanders’ attempts to force him into a decision he was not yet comfortable with. Even after he agreed to send another 30,000 troops last winter, the Pentagon asked for another 4,500 “enablers” to support them.
The president lost his poise, according to the book. “I’m done doing this!” he erupted.
To ensure that the Pentagon did not reinterpret his decision, Mr. Obama dictated a six-page, single-space “terms sheet” explicitly laying out his troop order and its objectives, a document included in the book’s appendix.
While none of this sounds like the serious breaches that characterized the Bush years, it does sound ridiculous. The description fits with a White House that is having great difficulty getting things done, including most recently its failed effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, sigh.
The New York Times has a sweeping and revealing article about the “shadow war on terrorism” the United States, under the leadership of Barack Obama, are waging. While everyone knows that drone raids are a frequent occurrence in Pakistan, and that missile attacks have been undertaken in Yemen, the sheer size of the global operations of the U.S. conducted by the Pentagon and the CIA against Al Qaeda is news. It ranges from the employment of unmanned drones and missiles to spy and commando teams, as well as the contracting of private soldiers; and the playing field is not only Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, but also Kenya, North Africa and central Asia. What is interesting is that this is a counterterrorism policy that is explicitly owned by Obama; although the Bush administration of course also conducted operations like these, they have grown in scope and intensity in the past one and a half years.
Analytically, I think the article makes an interesting point by pitching Obama’s shadow war against the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of entire countries. The rationale behind the Afghanistan war, of course, was the idea that the U.S. needs to have military control over a geographical area in order to prevent terrorists from attacking American soil; an idea that then almost necessarily leads to the nation building concept, and has gotten the West into a protracted, absurdly expensive war to which no end is in sight, and which has done much to discredit its image in the Muslim world. The disadvantages of the neoconservative view on counterterrorism should after nine years be pretty obvious.
On the other hand, a massive clandestine “shadow war” has its own negativities as well. The most important one is that it makes civilian casualties, just like invading countries does. In Yemen, for example, a December 2009 attack against an Al Qaeda camp with a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs is said to have killed more than 50 civilians. Aside from the obvious and inexcusable human tragedy such “covert actions” incur, one should easily be able to grasp how this affects Middle Eastern’s populations’ viewpoints of America, and the West. Secondly, the problem is you sometimes have to rely on local leaders whose bona fides can be questioned as well. Thirdly, a shadow war like this is essentially shadowy: this means, first, that the boundaries of international law between soldiers, spies and civilians become blurred (with consequences for the applicability of, for example, the Geneva Conventions) and secondly, that Congressional and judicial oversight on covert operations and military attacks is weakened, opening up the prospective of an uncontrolled Executive and military operating throughout the world. In the case of Anwar Aulaqi, a Yemeni Al Qaeda leader who also has the American nationality, the grave yet hardly-reported-on situation presents itself that the President here orders the execution through military means of an American citizen… Finally, the risks of contracting private fighters, like a weaking of accountability and control, are clear.
What I also thought interesting was the transformation of the CIA from an intelligence agency into what is almost a paramilitary organization. But read the article, it’s probably the most comprehensive overview of the “war on terror” as conducted today that is now available.
The New York Times:
In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.
The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya. The administration has worked with European allies to dismantle terrorist groups in North Africa, efforts that include a recent French strike in Algeria. And the Pentagon tapped a network of private contractors to gather intelligence about things like militant hide-outs in Pakistan and the location of an American soldier currently in Taliban hands.
While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama, who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the United States government have been publicly acknowledged. In contrast with the troop buildup in Afghanistan, which came after months of robust debate, for example, the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed.
Obama administration officials point to the benefits of bringing the fight against Al Qaeda and other militants into the shadows. Afghanistan and Iraq, they said, have sobered American politicians and voters about the staggering costs of big wars that topple governments, require years of occupation and can be a catalyst for further radicalization throughout the Muslim world.
Yet such wars come with many risks: the potential for botched operations that fuel anti-American rage; a blurring of the lines between soldiers and spies that could put troops at risk of being denied Geneva Convention protections; a weakening of the Congressional oversight system put in place to prevent abuses by America’s secret operatives; and a reliance on authoritarian foreign leaders and surrogates with sometimes murky loyalties.
The administration’s demands have accelerated a transformation of the C.I.A. into a paramilitary organization as much as a spying agency, which some critics worry could lower the threshold for future quasi-military operations. In Pakistan’s mountains, the agency had broadened its drone campaign beyond selective strikes against Qaeda leaders and now regularly obliterates suspected enemy compounds and logistics convoys, just as the military would grind down an enemy force.
For its part, the Pentagon is becoming more like the C.I.A. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret “Execute Orders” have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies. With code names like Eager Pawn and Indigo Spade, such programs typically operate with even less transparency and Congressional oversight than traditional covert actions by the C.I.A.
And, as American counterterrorism operations spread beyond war zones into territory hostile to the military, private contractors have taken on a prominent role, raising concerns that the United States has outsourced some of its most important missions to a sometimes unaccountable private army.
The whistleblowers’ website WikiLeaks has put 92,000 classified military reports on the war in Afghanistan online. This is the site that earlier this year published a classified CIA document on the manipulation of public opinion in Western Europe, and a video showing the shooting of innocents from an Apache helicopter in Iraq.
The publishing of these classified reports, covering a period from January 2004 to December 2009, constitutes one of the biggest leaks in US military history. According to The Guardian, however, most of the material is no longer militarily sensitive.
Beforehand, the New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel were given insight in the documents, and the websites of all three papers are now extensively reporting on them. According to the NYT, the reports show that the war in Afghanistan is going even worse than what is known from the official picture. The Taliban use heat-seeking missiles like they did in the 1980s, the Afghan army and police are not cooperating, and Pakistani intelligence and military are untrustworthy. There appear to be more secret ops than was known, and drone strikes seem to be pretty ineffective at times.
The Guardian puts the spotlight on the number of civilian casualties, that is way higher than was known, the increasing rate of Taliban attacks on NATO targets, and the support to the insurgence given by Iran and Pakistan. Here again, the conclusion is that the situation in Afghanistan is much worse than suspected. And that Obama’s surge is possibly failing.
See the NYT’s ”war logs” reporting here, and The Guardian’s interactive “war logs” here. Both have a lot of articles.
Here’s the leader of the NYT:
A six-year archive of classified military documents made public on Sunday offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.
The secret documents, released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year.
The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel were given access to the voluminous records several weeks ago on the condition that they not report on the material before Sunday.
The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001.
As the new American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, tries to reverse the lagging war effort, the documents sketch a war hamstrung by an Afghan government, police force and army of questionable loyalty and competence, and by a Pakistani military that appears at best uncooperative and at worst to work from the shadows as an unspoken ally of the very insurgent forces the American-led coalition is trying to defeat.
The material comes to light as Congress and the public grow increasingly skeptical of the deepening involvement in Afghanistan and its chances for success as next year’s deadline to begin withdrawing troops looms.
The reports — usually spare summaries but sometimes detailed narratives — shed light on some elements of the war that have been largely hidden from the public eye:
• The Taliban have used portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft, a fact that has not been publicly disclosed by the military. This type of weapon helped the Afghan mujahedeen defeat the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.
• Secret commando units like Task Force 373 — a classified group of Army and Navy special operatives — work from a “capture/kill list” of about 70 top insurgent commanders. These missions, which have been stepped up under the Obama administration, claim notable successes, but have sometimes gone wrong, killing civilians and stoking Afghan resentment.
• The military employs more and more drone aircraft to survey the battlefield and strike targets in Afghanistan, although their performance is less impressive than officially portrayed. Some crash or collide, forcing American troops to undertake risky retrieval missions before the Taliban can claim the drone’s weaponry.
• The Central Intelligence Agency has expanded paramilitary operations inside Afghanistan. The units launch ambushes, order airstrikes and conduct night raids. From 2001 to 2008, the C.I.A. paid the budget of Afghanistan’s spy agency and ran it as a virtual subsidiary.
And here’s The Guardian:
A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.
The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers’ website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and over 1,000 US troops.
Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama’s “surge” strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US navy sailors captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.
The war logs also detail:
• How a secret “black” unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for “kill or capture” without trial.
• How the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.
• How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.
• How the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of its roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.
What a nice feature piece in The New York Times about ‘the Dutch tradition of herring snapping’. Makes me wanna eat herring, although according to the article, I do not fit the age group to enjoy raw herring with chopped onions.
I am happy, though, that no reference is made to the un-Dutch habit of eating herring on a sandwich. This ignorant way of consuming herring not only spoils the fresh, salty taste of the fish, it’s also really an offence towards the product. Like putting ketchup on a delicately crafted piece of meat. Yeah, I really don’t like people who do that, such as blogger maartenp.
Over the years, France has built the November release of Beaujolais nouveau into a worldwide event, with wine drinkers eagerly snapping up bottles of what is, by most measures, a pedestrian wine. So if it can be done for cheap wine, then why not for herring?
The answer may seem self-evident, but not to the Dutch, who are trying to manage the same marketing feat with Hollandse Nieuwe (pronounced HO-land-suh NYEW-uh), or new herring, which arrives in local waters in the month of June. Traditions surrounding its appearance are as venerable as those of the French. Throughout the Netherlands, people throw new-herring parties, sharing the fish with neighbors and friends.
So important are herring to Scheveningen that the town’s coat of arms features three herring, each wearing a golden crown. In the old days the herring boats went out for the first catch decorated with flags, so now in mid-June the town decks itself out around the fishing harbor for Flag Day, with old Dutch games like stilt-walking and can-throwing, townsfolk dressed in traditional dress and puppet shows in the old local dialect.
The fish is eaten raw and slightly salted, in a bow to a tradition that long predates refrigeration. At booths around the harbor the herring fillets, first dipped in chopped onion, are lifted high while the diners snap their heads back like sword swallowers, then slip the herring down their throats, flushing it all down with shot glasses of ice-cold Korenwijn, a Dutch spirit distilled from malt and beer.
Though prized at home, the new herring is increasingly shipped abroad, mostly to Germany, where herring is consumed in immense amounts, but about five tons goes to the United States every year, to restaurants around New York, like the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal.
But if the world is being urged to try Dutch new herring, some here in the Netherlands itself, particularly among the younger generation, are demurring.
Russell Shorto at The New York Times has a lengthy, well-written and interesting profile on Job Cohen, the former mayor of Amsterdam from the Labour Party who a few months ago seemed poised to become prime minister, but is currently lagging behind in the polls.
What I like about the article is that it places Cohen in the context of the development of an approach towards the immigration and integration issue in Europe that takes a middle way between old-style multiculturalism, and the aggressive nationalism of Geert Wilders. This approach, which became official policy of the municipality of Amsterdam, was developed in cooperation with the University of Amsterdam, where political scientist Jean Tillie, based on the social capital theory of Robert Putnam that stresses the importance of networks and civil society for a succesful integration of individuals, did research on the radicalization of Muslim youngsters. As radicalization can be caused by social isolation, the strategy was to cooperate with networks of civic and religious organizations (mosques, schools, community groups) in order to combat it: the famous ’tea drinking’ in sometimes very conservative mosques that, as the article to its credit points out, has also given rise to controversy. The article also points out that Cohen’s similar handling of the situation after the murder of Theo van Gogh, equally, has become viewed as either a rightful, practical approach, or as appeasement.
I think the article is already outdated, though, with the attribution, still, of messianic qualities to Job Cohen. He is said to possess “a natural authority”, and “the capability to give some reassurance”. Yet, all these attributes seem to have vaporized in the past few weeks. The idea that Cohen “floats above the political fray” is also completely gone, as he is now one party leader among a dozen others. The notion of “the savior” still floats around in the article, and it is said that “some see in Cohen’s rise the possibility of a new Dutch society”, and even “a hint of how new national identies could form in Europe”. This is far too much credit, in my opinion. Indeed, I have never seen a public-political image made and un-made so fast as Cohen’s; its like Obama’s eclipse from savior to ordinary politician, cramped into a few weeks time.
And to be honest: I have never really understood this reverence for Job Cohen, and have tried to be critical from the beginning. It seems to me that it comes forth from some desperation in left-leaning Netherlands for a redeemer, a Dutch Obama. First it was D66′s Alexander Pechtold, then it was Job Cohen. But Pechtold, who came from nothing with a devastated party that seemed poised to implode, but through years of vocal and decent opposition against the increasingly rightwing trend grew into a national figure, in my opinion actually deserved it. Since he stepped down as mayor, Cohen did nothing but lean on his image as paternal administrator, and the “Yes We Cohen” hysteria that reigned particularly among college students. The one moment he actually opened his mouth, the magic was gone.
But more content-wise: Cohen’s apparent philosophy on managing the multicultural issue is one of big, practical government, really. It comes down to the government interacting with anyone it can find in society to manage the situation, subsidizing here and there, as long as everybody’s happy. While there is much to be said for this (very Social Democratic) approach, it also, in my view, can obscure issues such as the separation between church and state, and the public-private distinction. State subsidizing for two million euros a mosque in which possibly anti-Western, anti-state, violent messages are preached is crossing the border. And you have to wonder whether you want that kind of philosophy in a prime minister, however well-meant it is.
And of course I’d want him as prime minister, rather than anyone from the Christian Democrats or conservative liberals. But I’m not gonna vote for him. The one thing Cohen’s got going for him were his creds on personal authority and the multicultural issue, and of these I’m not totally sure I’m behind him. Concerning all other pressing issues, although I’ll read the party manifesto, the Labour Party just fails to convince me. I don’t even know what they’re about, today. So this time around, I’ll vote for something that I really believe in.
The New York Times:
[The] political landscape was transformed by the surprise entry of Cohen into the race to lead the country. In an electorate split up across a dozen or so parties, the Labor Party doubled overnight, from 11 percent in the polls to 22 percent, while Wilders’s numbers have dropped in several straight polls. Some see in Cohen’s rise the possibility of a new Dutch society, and with it perhaps a hint of how new national identities could form in Europe. In what would be confirmation of the worst fears of a Wilders, the new identity prototype has an inclusiveness that inverts the centuries-old formula. As the Jew and the Turk stood side by side with their fellow candidates — which included a good mix of other ethnicities as well as native Dutch — Cohen proclaimed, “This is the Netherlands!”
Cohen does not have a lock on the premiership. The polls have tightened in recent days, with the Liberal Party (which is actually mostly conservative) making gains. That seems largely a function of the economy, which has become a major worry, and many voters perceive the Liberals as having the soundest economic plan. But even political opponents frankly acknowledge the altered dynamics since Cohen entered the race. “Many people who thought they would never vote for Labor now say they will vote for Cohen,” said Frits Bolkestein, a former minister of defense and former leader of the Liberal Party. Hans Hoogervorst, another prominent member of the Liberal Party and a former finance minister, said of Cohen: “He has a natural authority, and he has the capability of giving some reassurance. And that is what people want.”
In Amsterdam, Cohen kept to his own agenda, at some remove from the national debate. Management of his intensely multiethnic city in the post-9/11 period led him to alter his traditional Dutch liberalism. Immigrants, he held, needed to become part of society, and that included learning the language and respecting the laws, and appreciating what he considers the paramount Dutch value, freedom. Newcomers, he told me, should study a Dutch canon of important historical events and figures. Cohen’s idea seems to have been to move away from the multicultural extreme while also avoiding the anti-immigrant extreme, to fashion a practical inclusiveness. He has repeatedly said that “Keeping Things Together” was his motto for governing the city. “I think he would be the first to say that keeping things together is more a strategy than a philosophy,” says Paul Scheffer, a Dutch sociologist who is one of the leading thinkers of the Labor Party but who has also been critical of Cohen. “What’s behind it is experience. He understands that the relationships between groups in our time are fragile. He has a modest ambition.”
Thus came the most contentious feature of Cohen’s tenure as mayor of Amsterdam: his decision to give a sympathetic ear even to insular and orthodox Muslim communities. “Drinking tea in mosques” became a term of derision used by those convinced this was exactly the wrong tack. When, in March, Cohen announced his intention to take over his party — and in effect to go straight at Geert Wilders in the coming election — Wilders castigated him as “tea-drinking, multiculti-coddling Cohen.”
The city has given support to a variety of immigrant and community organizations, including conservative mosques, with the idea of working together to fight radicalization.
At the same time, many who broadly support Cohen say he took the city too far in strengthening the social well-being of orthodox groups in order to stabilize and integrate them. “The city of Amsterdam and the Dutch government were subsidizing schools and organizations that were totally retrograde, that were teaching that women aren’t the equal of men and that Jews should be burned,” says Deborah Scroggins, an American journalist who is writing a book on Muslim women in the West. Paul Scheffer, the prominent Labor Party thinker, agrees. “The vision Cohen projects about the Netherlands, the inclusive idea, that’s definitely something we need,” he says. “But he should point out to certain parts of the Muslim community the obligations that religious freedom brings with it.”
The New York Times review of The Origin of Species, of March 28, 1860:
Embracing in the imagination this vast ensemble of organisms –this ocean of forms amid which creative energy has sported — we realize the magnitude of the problem that seeks to account for the genesis of these million fold incarnations of life. We touch, in fact, the grand and complex question of the Origin of Species — that mystery of mysteries, as one of our greatest philosophers has styled it.
With regard to this question the doctrine that has long prevailed is, that each species has been independently created. The idea of the permanence of species is, in fact, embodied in one shape or another in every definition of the term which has been framed. All the most eminent palaeontologists, CUVIER, OWEN and AGASSIZ among them, and all our greatest geologists, LYLE, MURCHISON and the rest, have unanimously, often vehemently, maintained the immutability of species. No article of scientific faith is of more canonical authority, and though some bold speculator like LAMARCK, or some ingenious theorist like the author of the Vestiges, has ventured to question the soundness of its basis, yet it has given no outward sign of instability, and is commonly regarded as one of those doctrines which no man altogether in his right senses would set himself seriously to oppose.
Meanwhile, Mr. DARWIN, as the fruit of a quarter of a century of patient observation and experiment, throws out, in a book whose title at least has by this time become familiar to the reading public, a series of arguments and inferences so revolutionary as, if established, to necessitate a radical reconstruction of the fundamental doctrines of natural history.
Interesting article in NYT on how young Chinese people use the internet:
The daily Web habits of a typical 18-year-old college student named Li Yufei show why American Internet companies, one after another, have had trouble penetrating what is now the world’s most wired nation.
Gary Wang, founder of Tudou, a video-sharing site.
He writes a blog, downloads Korean television shows, manages two Web sites devoted to music and plays an online game called Rongguang Hospital, at Baidu.com.
“I started doing a lot of this when I was about 11 years old,” says Mr. Li, a freshman at the Shanghai Maritime University. “Now, I spend most of my leisure time on the Internet,” he says. “There’s nowhere else to go.”
Google’s decision last month to remove some of its operations from China has overshadowed a startling dynamic at work in this country, a place where young people complain that there is not a lot to do: the Internet, already a potent social force here, has become the country’s prime entertainment service.
The surprising power of online communities in China has Communist Party leaders worried about the ability of online social networks to spread viral messages that could ignite social movements, and pose a challenge to the party and its leaders. They saw what happened to Han Feng, a midlevel party official in southern China, when his private diary was recently posted online.
In the diary, Mr. Han catalogued not just the hefty bribes he was taking, but detailed his sexual escapades with co-workers and mistresses. The ensuing online uproar led to his sacking and a criminal investigation.
“For the government, the scary part of the Internet is the unpredictable power of its organization,” said Yang Guobin, an associate professor at Barnard College and author of “The Power of the Internet in China” (Columbia University Press, 2009).
“Although people are there socializing, it can provide a platform for lots of other activities, and even turn political,” he said.
But young people in China say they are excited about the Web not because it offers a means to rebellion, but because it gives them a wide variety of social and entertainment options.
“The Web is really a reflection of real life,” says Gary Wang, founder and chief executive of Tudou, one of China’s biggest video-sharing sites. “What people do in real life is they go to karaoke rooms, they go to bars, they get together with friends and they shop. And that’s what they do online.”
Some girl writes a blog about life and being an insomniac, and gets an op-ed on the frontpage of the New York Times. How cool is that.
Ross Douhat of the New York Times is pitching Mitch Daniels for GOP Presidential candidate:
Set a group of plugged-in conservatives to talking presidential politics, and you’ll get the same complaints about the 2012 field.
Mitt Romney? He couldn’t make the voters like him last time … Sarah Palin? She’d lose 47 states … Mike Huckabee? Better as a talk-show host … Tim Pawlenty, Jim DeMint, Bobby Jindal, David Petraeus? Too blah, too extreme, too green, and stop dreaming …
But murmur the name Mitch Daniels, and everyone perks up a bit. Would he win? Maybe not. But he’d be the best president of any of them…
He’s admired by elites, but unknown at the grass-roots level. He’s a social conservative, and his gubernatorial campaigns have played the populist card successfully — but he lacks the built-in constituencies of other candidates. And his years’ carrying water for the Bush administration’s budgets would doubtless be used against him in the battle for the Tea Partiers’ affections.
For a Daniels candidacy to catch fire, what’s left of the Republican establishment, currently (if reluctantly) coalescing around Mitt Romney, would have to decide that he’s the better pick. That would mean gambling that the best way to defeat the most charismatic president of modern times is to nominate a balding, wonky Midwesterner who reminds voters of their accountant.
Stranger things have happened.
Reaction from George Packer of The New Yorker.