“What’s up with you?”

Feb 02, 2011 in News

wpid-puzzled2-2011-02-2-09-39.jpgLast night I watched the Fox News channel for a change. First the O’Reilly Factor and then Hannity. My political views don’t line up very well with this tv-channel but that’s why I like to watch once in a while: to see how the news is presented and interpreted on the other side.

Both shows mostly covered Egypt of course. O’Reilly started off with a diatribe against the Al-Jazeera news channel. He quoted and played several short clips to underscore his opinion that Al-Jazeera is anti-American, anti-semitic and strongly in support of islam extremism. One of his two guest pointed out that all these statements and views were from guests on Al-Jazeera programs not editorial comments. That distinction was lost on Bill O’Reilly.

He then went on to throw in “the far left” who are also anti-American, anti-semitic and either murderers or supporters of murder – that last part was not clear. I never understand the “anti-American”-label. What is anti-American? To me when it gets thrown into a political conversation it seems to stand for “I don’t like your opinion but I don’t know why. I am not able to articulate any rational counter arguments and I am embarrassed about that. Please accept my apology.”

During both shows there were moments when a guest would look with some bewilderment at the host like Tamara Holder on Hannity exclaiming “What’s up with you?”. You don’t see often that interviewees question the wherewithal of the interviewer. The role of guests on the O’Reilly Factor is mystifying. He didn’t let Alan Colmes speak or listen to him. Monica Crowley’s role seemed to be to agree with whatever O’Reilly was saying.

What surprised me was that Bill O’Reilly was quite enamored of Obama with regards to Egypt. Hannity not so.

Which brings me to the second topic of this blog post: American foreign policy. While I found Hannity simplistic in his view on Egypt – Tamara Holder rightly pointing out that’s not about the Muslim Brotherhood – also CNN has been stumbling about. Last Friday Wolf Blitzer asked the Egyptian ambassador to the US if Mubarak should have waited addressing the Egyptian people until after he had spoken with Obama. Really? The head of another sovereign nation should first consult with the US president before speaking to his/her own people!?

An example of where the US often goes wrong in foreign policy: it is not about the US. It is about the Egyptian people determining their destiny. This need to make everything about the US is to me one of the reasons why – especially in the Middle East and Asia – public opinion of the US is low. By inserting yourself into the debate and doing so with a self-centric view you set yourself up to be used as scape goat and bogeyman. And by inserting yourself into the problem, you become part of the problem.

It’s a no-win situation. There was no reason last Friday for the president of the USA to go on live television and make a statement. And there certainly was no reason to do so again last night. But if you do you must pick a side. With Obama’s speech last night, beautiful as the sentences were, he tried to stay in the middle of the road. This makes everyone directly involved in the crisis unhappy and it gives whoever comes out on top ammunition to steer up criticism of the US. If Mubarak manages to hold out he may well lean more towards the islamic extreme in response to the US not publicly supporting him. If the Muslim Brotherhood do win then they’ll use the speech to claim that the US tried to keep Mubarak in power and is against the people.

No other leader (Merkel, Cameron, Medvedev, Sarkozy) went on national television as far as I know. Think about it. Both CNN and Fox News anchors saying something like: “The world is waiting to hear the American position.” No, it isn’t.

There’s a high risk again of coming out at the wrong side of history. If you must insert yourself into a situation you need to pick sides. As here it seems very likely that Mubarak’s time is up then, well, call publicly for his resignation if you do have that urge to go on stage. Otherwise there’s a high risk of repeating history: supporting the losing team for much too long (the Shah of Iran). And if you insert yourself you become responsible for the outcome. At the start of the 2nd Gulf War, George Bush proclaimed that the US is not into nation building. Well, if you tear a country apart then yes you are, you’ll have to be.

How to do it right? Ronald Reagan’s appeal to Gorbachev: “Tear down this wall.”

After his arrest Saddam Hussein said during interrogations that his main worry was Iran; the US wasn’t on his radar very much. Which illustrates the pitfalls of a sell-centric view of the international world.

And that brings me back to Fox News and Al-Jazeera. O’Reilly implied that a network like Al-Jazeera should be banned because of their viewpoints. On the contrary, if that network’s opinions are really anti-American and so on then that is all the more reason to let them broadcast and watch them: to understand how others are viewing the US and acting upon, using whatever the US says or does.

Move on already

Mar 20, 2009 in Life

The AIG bonus brouhaha has really had its time in the spotlights.

Yes, it’s annoying that significant bonuses have been paid at a company that has received a very large amount of taxpayer money just to stay afloat. And yes, it is annoying that a good portion of those bonuses were paid in the parts of the company that were most in trouble and creating those questionable financial instruments. And yes, AIG is not the only one.

Sure, $165 million is far more money that the vast majority of us will ever make in our lifetimes. But it is a very small amount compared to the $170 billion that went into AIG.

All the activity in Washington, all the easy outrage from the senator and congress personalities to score easy, quick points through the press and media, bill proposals to try to recoup that money, to regulate how and to whom bonuses can be paid, calling for Geithner’s resignation all is a waste of our time and a distraction.

None of that helps us improving the economy or shorten any duration of a recession or depression. Spending all this effort and time to get back some of those millions does not help. Not having a Treasury Secretary at this moment and force President Obama to find and nominate another does not help.

Let it go, water under the bridge. It happened, tough. Move on.

Instead I much like the collective in Washington DC to focus on the job at hand: improve the economy.

When I was 81

Nov 05, 2008 in Cycling

Did my second TNUA ride last night. The weather was fantastic, I mean 60 degrees in November!? And the turn-out was in sync with that: 81 riders. How do I know there were 81? Well, I was number 81. These rides use a rollcall mechanism: everybody gets a number and once in a while the ride leader stops and we could down the numbers to check everybody is still there. It was a mad dash getting there in time. The ride takes off at 6:15pm from Adams Center. I left in time – that is until I got on my bike, switched on the front light and discovered the battery was dead. So first stumbled into Ride-Aid with bicycle and all (no locks), got new AAA batteries, out them in and then started on a time trial to cover the three miles or so to the starting point. I arrived there just after the group left and saw them crossing the road ahead of me. I joined at the back and then at the first roll call waited for the last number (“80”) and then shouted out “81!”

I first heard about these rides, every Tuesday evening from October 1 thru April 1, via BruceW’s blog last year. Then I couldn’t ride due to meetings until 6pm on Tuesdays. This season I came to the realization that hey, I’m the Director, I can move those meetings. So, some rescheduling and now I can make it to Adams Center in time (batteries not withstanding).
These rides are a lot of fun – even my first two weeks ago in pouring rain and 36 degrees weather. The ride leader, Scott Page of Full Moon Vista bike store, basically decides where we go and what we do. It’s a zigzag ride through Rochester, the parks, along the Genesee river or the Erie canal. The rides are not about speed or distance but about technique, agility and just having fun. Yesterday we also zigzagged through Mount Hope Cemetery (which cities allow/encourage cemeteries for recreational use, or have ones big and interesting enough to incorporate into a bike ride?). Entering the cemetery was easy but getting out a little trickier. The exit onto Mt Hope road was closed and so 81 riders ended up circling the inside perimeter eventually finding a small pedestrian gate on Elmwood Road to get out.

Before the ride I put new brake pads on the mountain bike. Quite necessary, during the previous TNUA ride they wore out completely leaving me with almost no braking facility for the last couple of miles – an entertaining experience in wet weather, in the dark. I also put the new wheelset with smooth tires instead of the big nobbly ones. While there’s a little offroading, much of the rides are on hard surface and until there’s snow it is nice to have a bit faster tires on the bike and I am very pleased how they corner. And as I am lazy, I rather quickly switch wheels than swap the tires on the wheels. The front suspension is still locked up from my ride a few weeks ago so still need to have Park Ave bike store have a look.

I got back a little before 9pm, showered and then watched the election on CNN-HD (I am quite impressed how CNN is using the wide screen on their hd channel to stream all kinds of simultaneous data and information at you). It was extremely exciting to see Barack Obama run away with the election. The passion, the hope, the excitement he has enticed during the long, long campaign is thrilling. While I am just too young to have experienced John F Kennedy (born when he was elected) it seems to me that there’s a lot of similarity. There are unpopular wars going on, there are cultural and scoial challenges and there is a new generation coming to the front. To see the immense crowd of 225000 people in Chicago awaiting his appearance, his speech, the scenes with his family on the stage – this was indeed for me a moment I am most happy to have experienced and indeed a moment that has the absolute “I remember where I was when…”; just like Nelson Mandela’s speech in Amsterdam, the falling of the Berlin Wall, when I decided I would propose to Rachel, and when van Basten scored the winning goal in the semi-final in 1988 (yeah, that one too, best Wednesday night ever!). Obama’s speech and the view of him standing there with his wife and two daughters made me wonder, hope that the days of Camelot are coming back to the While House.

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