Category Archives: Europe

Will you be my friend? Tackling the problem of (un)popularity

Friends. Everyone needs them. No one understands our need for friends more than the people who we need as friends, as one former US ambassador explains.

You wrote a commentary in Britain’s Guardian newspaper in which you suggested that Europeans and the rest of the world should let the Americans know who they want for US president. Can world public opinion and the global media really influence the US elections?

They have already influenced the elections very strongly, by voicing concern over the way the [Bush administration] has conducted itself in the past eight years. You look at all the polls. America’s standing in the world had never ever been so low. These figures have registered everywhere in the United States. I hear this again and again from Americans — “our standing in the world is so low” — and that in turn has influenced American public opinion of the Bush administration’s policies.

Kornblum grasps what many of his fellow Yankees are perhaps just beginning to–that the right to elect a President of the United States ought to be, along with freedom of speech, free medical care, and habeas corpus, a universal right for all citizens of the world.

But are we acting too late? Can we regain the trust of the world by correcting this one injustice, or is a more extreme measure required lest our image becomes unsalvageable? The percentage of people around the world who view American influence favorably has risen slightly above the percentage who view North Korea favorably, but has not surpassed an abyssmal 35%. With numbers like that, Pig-pen has better chances of being invited to the ball.

Back when world opinion polls revealed that China is more popular than the United States, I fear we may have missed a golden opportunity…to become like China. Granted, our inexperience in central economic planning, our abnormal distaste of government persecution of religion, our reluctance to engage in activities like harvesting organs from unwilling subjects, and our total lack of imagination in the area of law enforcement are obstacles that would have to be overcome, but I am sure that with a positive “can-do” attitude that America is supposed to be famous for, we could adapt. At any rate, I think it is accurate to say that the United States would have an easier time adapting to Chinese-style rule of law than Iraq is having adapting to Western-style democracy.

There is another option I have not seen discussed, and it seems glaringly obvious once you think of it. A certain geographically close neighbor exists, the citizens of which hold a continually sinking opinion of the United States, and who can be assumed to be winning many friends, lovers, acquaintances, invitations to balls, etc. Yes, I’m speaking of Canada.

Should the United States apply to become a province of Canada?

It’s a hard question for many Americans to consider. I think we would find on balance many advantages of such an arrangement. Most importantly, world opinion of the United States, not to mention Canadian opinion of the United States, would surely improve by leaps and bounds. The idea is worth examination.

Braveheart blows

The first time I saw Braveheart I was for the three hour span, like everyone else, mostly entranced by Mel Gibson’s legs. Recently, when I watched the movie again my attention was allowed to wander enough to grasp the message it was trying to send. Shame on you, Mel, for producing this piece of propagandistic putridity.

The story begins with the English King Edwards the Longshanks restoring a much-needed peace between the English and the Scots. A short while later, when he instituted the ‘Prima Nocta’ (English lords may party down with Scottish brides) I thought, “Finally, somebody who gets free love!” We may never know if this daring policy would have been but one in a series of enlightened reforms that would have led the country peacefully out of the Dark Ages and into the warm progressive light of progress because William Wallace (Gibson) bull-headedly used a single murder as an excuse to preemptively launch a campaign of organized murder that would claim countless lives throughout its duration.


The most heartbreaking scene in the movie occurs before the big Battle of Stirling. Wallace had recruited from the poorest percent of the population a herd of mindless sheeple to bleed and die for him in the senseless slaughter soon to come–a kind of ‘troop surge’ to pointlessly prolong the conflict. But two of these men turned out to be true heroes. Stepping forth from personal puddles of urine they courageously refused to participate in the carnage, and even attempted to persuade their fellows to tuck their tails between their legs with them! As they told the military establishment to f*** off I stood and applauded. This was true bravery. But it was all for naught. Wallace turned his propaganda machine on full throttle to silence the protesters and the killing commenced as scheduled.

Wallace next laid plans for a unilateral invasion of the sovereign nation of England. As his army moved onto English soil without a timetable for withdrawal it was like watching the next victim open the basement door in a slasher flick. It may be true that Edward the Longshanks had done some bad things in the past, but he was getting old and wasn’t a threat to anybody! Every move on the part of the King towards peace and reconciliation was shot down and spat on by the Scots, making it increasingly clear that Wallace had wanted to go to war all along. Perhaps he harbored a ulterior motive? A desire perhaps to finish what his father, who appeared in the movie’s opening scenes, had started?

Of course the official casus belli was for ‘freedom’. The accursed word cropped up over and over in the film. Every time I heard it I winced not unlike a Knight who says Ni at the sound of the word ‘it’. How much blood has been shed throughout history in the service of that demon!

But the climax revealed that it was Gibson’s intent to glorify the lie. The arrest of the infamous war criminal at last brought an end to the tragic cycle of violence. While his sentence was carried out he bellowed that word at the top of his lungs, instantly killing all Knights who say Ni within an 80-mile radius. Thankfully, I was able to hold onto my wits long enough to stumble close to the VCR and pop in a Michael Moore tape before I passed out.

Geopolitical analogy of the day

“‘Americans are cowboys’, Europeans love to say. And there is truth in this. The United States does act as an international sheriff, self-appointed perhaps, but widely welcomed nevertheless, trying to enforce some peace and justice in what Americans see as a lawless world where outlaws need to be deterred or destroyed, often through the muzzle of a gun. Europe, by this wild west analogy, is more like the saloon-keeper. Outlaws shoot sheriffs, not saloon-keepers. In fact, from the saloon-keeper’s point of view, the sheriff trying to impose order by force can sometimes be more threatening than the outlaws, who at least for the time being may just want a drink.”

— Robert Kagan, Of Paradise and Power

Stereotypes are fun

A geographical guide to sin, originally printed in Times Online.

Here’s my own picks:

Lust – France
Anger – Arab countries generally
Pride – China
Sloth – Polynesian countries generally (based on my experience living in one!)
Envy – Britain
Gluttony – USA
Greed – Spain, hahaha

H/T to Chameleons on Bicycles

France Is Green

A radioactive tint of green. I had heard France was doing the nuclear, but I hadn’t realized they get 80% of their energy from it, the highest percentage in the world. WILLisms examines what this means for France in terms of CO2 emissions. Why can’t it mean the same for the US or Canada?