US Politics

America’s Enabling Act? Catastrophic events and the suspension of the division of power in the USA.

Telepolis (in German) reports about the US “National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive” that was apparently ‘taken out with the trash’ by the White House Communications department on May 9, 2007, and, accordingly, apparently deemed too sensitve to explain even to US Congressmen, has not been approrpriately covered by the media. The directive is intended to ensure US governmental functionality in the case of “catastrophic events”, yet raises concerns for being weak on the definitions as well as giving only the Presidency the apaprently legally unchallengable power to invoke as well as recind this state of emergency.

An article published in the Boston Globe a month after the directive had been published details that even Conservatives who were involved in the campaign against former Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry are deeply critical of the directive. According to to the Boston Globe –

“[t]he unanswered questions have provoked anxiety across ideological lines. The conservative commentator Jerome Corsi , for example, wrote in a much-linked online column that the directive looked like a recipe for allowing the office of the presidency to seize “dictatorial powers” because the policy does not discuss consulting Congress about when to invoke emergency powers — or when to turn them off.”

Interestingly, the Congressman, Peter DeFazio, who is apparently a member of the U.S. House on the Homeland Security Committee and as such entitled to review classified material, asking to review details of the policy on behalf of some of his constituents who worried about “a conspiracy” being buried in the classified documents, told The Oregonian after his request was denied that

“[m]aybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right.”

Coming from a Congressman, that’s at least somewhat scary.

Germany, USA

A Friend in Need.

Markus of Dormouse Dreaming points to a comment by Richard Cohen, published today in the Washington Post. Mr Cohen is apparently travelling in Germany these days and his observations made him write a manual for future American administrations about “how to loose a friend.” While his observations are certainly accurate –

“… the indulgence that was granted other presidents is not offered Bush. It is his manner, his rhetoric, his bristling unilateralism that make the United States not so much an exceptional nation but a nation that demands exceptions [very well put, the ed.]. … With the collapse of the Soviet Union, German-American relations were bound to change. The common enemy was gone. But whatever differences were going to emerge have been exacerbated by the Bush administration’s haughty and abrasive style. Might may make right but, as America will discover when it needs them, it does not make friends.”

I would not yet say that Germany has been lost as a friend of the US yet. Although it has taken quite some time for the American administration to understand that when forced to choose between France and the US, it would certainly choose France.

With respect to Mr Cohen’s column, Markus is predominantly concerned About his interpretation of a bizarre, inconclusive poll saying that 20% of Germans believe that the official version of the events of 911 *could* not be the real one, and who do *not rule out* the possibility of American governmental involvement. By contrast, I am not concerned about this at all. And I don’t think this number would have been significantly lower without the American administration preemptively following Mr Cohen’s cliff notes about how to diss old Europe.

I have already written about the possible beneficial effects of intelligent conspiracy theories as well as the dead weight loss of stupid ones when I met a Japanese actress last year who explained to me that the Nazis were actually alien-run puppets – and she wasn’t kidding.

“Now you might reply that conspiracy theories can be valuable – some sort of intellectual modelling, an intelligent fictional exercise trying to identify fundamental causes behind the events that shape the world in our framed perception – even though evidently wrong, most of the times. But the important part of the last argument is intelligent – unintelligent conspiracy theories simply are pulp fiction. Moreover, unintelligent conspiracy theories are plainly dangerous, because they appear to be no longer checks and balances to a possibly framed official version of history but ot have become a “Matrix” themselves.”

Sure. But even unintelligent ones serve a purpose: when seemingly isolated events seem to shape history, many people will turn to conspiracy theories because they offer the comfort of some kind of deductive logic within their framework when the alternative would be to accept the rough, dark truth that chaos rules, that some mad individuals can change the world, and threaten our way of life, simply by using carpet knives, hijack some planes, and crash them into the World Trade Center.

As for the 20% who “want to believe” – of course I can’t prove this for no one will have a time series about the number of people (or Germans) who contemplate about the possibility of an American administration using force against its own people because of some secret agenda – I suggest that it is predominantly the discourse, and the tone, that have changed. Suddenly some people get offered microphones who did not before – this, of course, is a direct consequence of the current transatlantic communicative problems.

An American friend once told me that it is a mark of good manners “to say nothing, if you can’t say something nice”. Maybe less people would look for explanations that vilify President Bush and his team had they practiced abstinence as much as they preach it…

almost a diary, compulsory reading, oddly enough

The 16 most important events in world history.

Last week, while strolling down Les Champs Elysées, I entered the Virgin bookstore to have a look at recent French publications. I also wanted to have a look at the (in)famous French bestseller spreading the conspiracy theory that the Pentagon was not in fact attached by a plane. While that seemed to be as boring as expected, another one attracted my attention – a book that claimed to have identified the 16 most important events in world history: Les 16 majeures de l’Histoire : Les dates qui ont changé le monde by Pierre Miquel.

I think identifying the 16 most important events in world history would certainly be an achievement. I just doubt it is possible. And just by looking at the back of the book it became clear to me that this was just another attempt to benefit from the post 9/11 histeria: Miquel puts 9/11/2001 on par with the birth of Jesus Christ.

I think that – while I agree that nothing is quite as it was before 9/11 and it certainly was some sort of cataclysmic event for my generation – history’s verdict on the importance of the attack won’t be available for another few decades.

And one more thing – Paul Krugman, Princeton economist and NYTimes columnist – wrote back in February that, in his opinion, in ten years the Enron affair and its consequences for corporate governance in the US will be considered to have been far more important than the terrorist attacks. Now Miquel certainly does not appear to think that Enron is that important. And most people would probably agree that it will never be an event as important as the birth of Christ.

A friend of mine put the whole “nothing is quite as before” discourse in a very funny caricature, which you find below. The German caption reads: “… and even though nothing was as it was before September, 11th, Mr. Killian again had to run to catch the tube this morning…”. Quite right.

nothing as before

almost a diary, traveling, USA

Ground Zero. Again.

I hate it to write entries twice. The first version of this one was killed in the lovely Apple Falgship Store in Soho earlier this afternoon by my failure to honour the subtle differences in operating OS X (Ctrl & C resp. V on a PC is Apple & C resp. V on a Mac – you better keep that in mind…). So here we go again.

Today, on the way to the Staten Island Ferry I went to see Ground Zero. I wonder how many pictures of construction sites I had taken until today. The answer is probably – none. The construction site is massive. But if you’d take away some of the surrounding buildings built after the WTC, the pictures I took today would probably look quite similar to those taken during the early stages of the Trade Centre’s initial construction back in the 1970s. A visitor from outer space would certainly not understand why thousands of people would be lining this particular construction site at any given time. But everyone living on this planet knows why they honour the thousands of innocent people who either jumped or were buried under countless tons of concrete, steel and broken glass when the twin towers crumbled after being hit by two planes hijacked by Al Quaeda terrorists, on September, 11th, 2001. Everyone living on this planet knows what happenend, what was there and what is no longer.

But isn’t it interesting that empty space can mean so much? Isn’t it good to know that the meaning people attribute to the New York’s deep scar is much stronger than that of the supposed incarnation of materialism could have possibly been?

At Ground Zero, there’s a billboard attached to the scaffolding of one of the surrounding buildings. It says something like ‘the importance of things is not the size of the act, but the size of the heart’. Normally, that’s nothing but a cheesy line. But to those standing there, it does mean something. And to them, it’s true. But then, somewhere in the Middle East, there will probably be another billboard. Stating the same cheesy line or – the same truth. Next to a picture of Mohammed Atta.

And while it’s obvious who’s right and who’s wrong when you’re standing on Cortland Street – if this world can’t solve it’s bad case of heartache, it does not take much to predict that many more innocent people are going to die.

traveling, USA

Me & NYC,

It’s sunday morning, and I am sitting in a coffee shop on Tompkin Square Park in New York’s East Village writing my first blog entry from abroad.

Actually, there’s not a lot to be said as of yet. Yesterday night, I drank my first beer out of a paper bag, in the middle of Williamsburg Brdige, with an amazing view on lower Manhatten and up the East River. Then there was this strange homeless person telling us for about 20 minutes about how he had figured the 911 events out – conspiracy theories are always funny. If I had a digital camera, I could regale you with his appearance, but I don’t, so you’ll have to wait. Drinking beer out of a bag was a must-do in the US, of course. I had not yet done that. I really wonder why I did not do that in 1998.

I haven’t been to Ground Zero yet, but I will certainly do that at some point. Life here seems so detached from the 911 events, I can hardly believe it. Two Australians I talked to yesterday told me they hardly noticed anything even last Wednesday. But there are tons of flags and postcards. All the street-painters now have cheesy WTC paintings on stock. All the fire vans feature a waving US flag now. But that’s it.

traveling, USA

September 6, 1998,

is a day only very few people will be able to remember. I hardly could until I forced myself to. It was on that day, only three days after I first came to the United States, that I went up to the “Top of the World” as the visitor platform of the World Trade Centre was called. So far, I spent 36 hours in New York City and I did not see much of it yet (I will be there again this Friday). But I have seen the Twin Towers before they tumbled on that other, tragic day in September last year. This is a picture I took on September 6, 1998.

the twin towers

On September 11, 2001, I was luckily not anywhere close to the towers. But too many were. A lot has been said and written about how the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have been the triggers for the creation of the unipolar new world order (quite literally) which we are witnessing. And a lot more needs to be said and written and done.

But today is not for words or deeds. Today is a day of silent remembrance of the terror inflicted on thousands of innocent people, mostly Americans. I am grateful I did not lose anyone I know personally. But too many people I know did lose someone. I can hardly imagine their pain. And whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

almost a diary


Last year I volunteered in the staff of a British MP. Just after 9-11, over a pint, he wondered how Bin Laden had funded all his activities, apart from his inheritance of about 200m USD and the western (CIA/ISI) support for the Mudjahedin during the 1980s. Given the abysmal state of the Afghan economy and the non-exitent administrative skills of the Taliban, Bin Laden’s hand-outs had apparently become the most important source of income for the Afghan leadership, so he evidently had all the freedom to build Al Quaeda. Now the Times of London has found out about another source of funding, the State of Saudi Arabia. The summary of the article goes as follows:

Saudis paid Bin Laden 200m
Senior members of royal family paid Bin Laden not to attack targets in Saudi Arabia, and money was used to fund training camps in Afghanistan.


Porsche 911.

Porsche 911

I really wonder how Porsche market their 911 model in the US after, well, 9-11. I wanted to send them an email to ask but could not find email contact information on the website. Now I have two things to wonder…