Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Climate THREAT

I just arrived in Stockholm today. It is a beautiful city. Tomorrow, I'll be visiting the Rikksdäg, which is their Parliament. Be sure to check back to see what I have to report from that.

One very interesting thing that I have heard today came from a European Union meeting that just ended today. The meeting was on the Global Climate Threat. It was of note to me because it is different language than we are using in the US. Global warming, and climate change just don't accurately reflect the situation. I think that Climate Threat is the language we need to be using to describe the challenge that is before us.

I also want to pass on some information that I got from a friend with regard to the US action on the Climate Threat. Basically, it sucks. We are not making any significant effort to curb our consumption of oil or our production of greenhouse gases. Did you know that in the United States, we average the consumption of 25 barrells of oil per person each year? That really doesn't mean much unless you have something to compare it to.

So, let's compare it to China. Don't forget that China is one of the reasons that we (and by that, I mean the idiot we have as President) pulled out of the Kyoto Treaty. There, they average consumption of 1/2 a barrell of oil each year per person. That is 1/50 the amount we consume in the US. Yeah, so.......why exactly are we using them as an excuse? If you figure that out, please let me know.

We should look to leaders in this area to find creative ways that we can cut consumption of oil and set up sustainable initiatives to reduce the production of greenhouse gases. It's been done here in Sweden and in many other places. It is time we stepped up to the plate.

Riots, Marijuana, Love and Hate

Many of you may have heard about the riots that happened last week in Copenhagen. Although I was to travel there soon, I paid little attention to them. However, when I arrived, I started asking questions about it.

The desk attendant at the hostel I was staying at suggested that I visit Christiania. Maybe you have heard of it, but I never had. As it turns out, Copenhagen has its own little Freetown. And it has a colorful history.

The 85 acres or so used to be a military installation. After it was closed down then fence that was erected was torn down many times over so the citizens could enjoy the open space that was there. Eventually, the people took over the area and created their own 'independent' space to live.

It is very much a communal place. There are a few shops, more bars, a central meeting place, lots of dogs, and very colorful people. One person described it to me as a modern day hippy paradise. They might not be far off.

As I ventured into Christiana, I walked down a street that had been the site of some of the riots of the past week. As it turns out, there was a youth center that had been shut down by Copenhagen. The center was a place where young people hung out, partied, played music, and sometimes slept. The City had given the building to be used as such years ago. Then a couple of years ago, the City sold the building to a right wing group, which immediately began efforts to remove the youth from the building.

Of course they resisted. Things came to a head last week when they were forcibly removed and responded by throwing rocks at the police. The police responded with force and things elevated out of control. It is questionable if it was the young people at the Center that started the violence or some of their sympathizers.

I learned this after attempting to get many people in Christiania to talk to me. Apparently, they are always being asked questions. Finally, as I stopped into a small trailer to buy a guide, the two ladies there finally talked to me. And we had one heck of a conversation.

The people of Christiania have no trust for anyone, really. Their history is one of conflict with police and government. They have strong opinions about pretty much everything.

About four years ago, the government ended the sell of marijuana that provided much of the money to run the Freetown. Before that, Christiania was the biggest tourist attraction in Copenhagen. More people visited there than the Queen's Palace. Since then, the tourist trade has slowed significantly, likely causing financial hardship for them.

Although they live pretty much in seclusion, they are very aware of the outside world and have many opinions on such. I could never catalogue our entire conversation, but the most interesting part of the conversation was about US influence on Denmark.

They use the word 'hate' often. But, they don't mean it the way we do when we talk about politics and politicians. They mean it more like how we 'hate' to stub our big toe. It took me a few minutes to realize this. At first, I wondered what kind of snake pit I had walked into!

Needless to say, they are not big fans of George W. Bush. They accuse their conservative government of kissing Bush's ass far too often. They assert that is why they sent soldiers to Iraq.

Their biggest problem with Bush is that they believe his Administration interferes far too much in their politics. I am not entirely sure what they mean by that because I personally believe that his Administration has NO foreign policy besides war.

When I asked them about Bill Clinton, they said they 'hated him less.' All I could do is smile. They hated him less because he was a much more loving person and let the Danes be Danes.

Interesting, huh? I wish my words could capture the full experience. It was really neat. These people just wanted everyone to be happy and get along. While we talked, they smoke a big fat doobey. And they didn't skip a beat.

I would write more, but this is a long post already and I have to catch the train to Stockholm. I already missed the first one because I confused the departure time and the date. Oops.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

It's the Religion, Stupid

Okay....although I was already exhausted and borderline delerious, a nap gave me the energy to go out and seek some Danish opinion about the US. What I found was a pub with only two people in it: a 28 year old bartender who didn't mind being called 30 and a 50 year old musician. I had to suffer through a couple shots of a liquor called Fish (thankfully, it tasted better than it sounded) but, they were willing to talk. Lots.

The most notable thing to report about the conversation was that religion was a HUGE factor in their opinions of other governments. It wasn't whether or not people were religious in their personal lives. It was about what they heard them talking about with relation to governing.

Although they both disagreed on a range of topics of US and Danish policy, they both fully agreed that Bush was full of crap because he talked about religion all the time in his public speeches. They actually equated it to Muslim extremists, in that they are indoctrinated into doing crazy things in the name of religion. But, if they were actually allowed to live their lives, and decide for themselves the people they would be, then they wouldn't do things like acting as suicide bombers.

I was glad to get that point out of them, because at first, I thought they were just anti-Islam. But, once they made their point, I think they have a good one.

They pointed out that religion has no role in Danish politics. They pointed out that this was a reason that all people feel like they have representation in the government. Well, that, and that they have their crazy righties and lefties too. But, they insist that injecting religion into government is a bad idea.

Isn't that interesting coming from two Danes of two generations, talking to a son of a country that was founded on separation of church and State?

Okay, I'm going to bed for real now. It has kind of been more than a day and a half since sleep, but I look forward to being adjusted to the time tomorrow and kissing jetlag goodbye!

Tomorrow, I plan to go to the Danish Parliament and see if I can talk to someone there. Check back to see if it works!

Denmark and the Iraq Issue

It didn't take me long to find something to post about. It is almost noon here (which means it's 6am in Washington) and I haven't even taken a nap yet. So, as I wait for the room to be ready at the hostel that I am staying at tonight, I picked up The Copenhagen Post. It is the Danish news in English.

Guess what dominates the front page? You guessed it. That mess we got started in Iraq. Well, not we so much as that bunch of war mongering morons known as BushCo.

Anyway, did you know that Denmark has announced it is pulling its troops out of Iraq? I didn't until just a bit ago. Perhaps I am just delirious from exhaustion and forgot about it. But, it's more likely that Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's announcement was overshadowed by Tony Blair's announcement at approximately the same time.

Granted, Denmark only has 500 soldiers in Iraq. But, let's not cede that point to the people who continue to insist that our presence there is justified. Denmark has a conservative government. They were an early supporter of Bush. Now, at the same time, Bush loses the support of not one, but TWO important European allies in the Iraq war.

As if that's not enough, there is a second article on the front page dealing with Iraq. Last week, the Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshiyar Zebari, was in town to meet with Danish government officials and to celebrate the opening of the Iraqi Embassy in Copenhagen.

Of note:

"After meeting Monday with his Danish couterpart, Per Stig Møller, Zebari outlined some of the challenges facing Iraq, such as stabilising Baghdad. He tempered expectations of a recent move by US and Iraqi troops to crack down on militias, saying results would probably not be seen for a few months." (I can't get it to block quote! sorry.)

If this joker is saying we'll MAYBE see results in a few months, then that puts us well past the assumed deadline of summertime for this surge to show results or to start packing it up and bring our men and women home. But, he further says:

"We expect success, not defeat...If we fail in Baghdad, then the whole country will fail...."

So, is he saying if we can't stabilize Baghdad in a few months, then the whole country is lost? That is sure what it sounds like to me. Which further begs the question: What the hell are we doing sending tens of thousands more troops and support staff into a losing situation? If the conservative government in Denmark gets it, why can't Bush?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Headed to Europe!

Howdy! I just wanted to let yall know that I'm headed to Europe. I'll be visiting with a friend in Copenhagen who used to work at the Danish Embassy in Washington. Then, I'm off to Stockholm to visit a very good friend of mine who is a Swedish Member of Parliament (and the new Leader of the Social Democratic Party of Sweden) for her 50th birthday bash.

Along the way, I'm going to talk to as many folks as I can about their views of American politics. I'll make posts about it as often as I can. I'll have some particularly interesting things to write about once I get to Sweden. There, I've got some lunches and dinners set up with some of the brightest politics minds in the country.

I'm very excited about this trip and hope you'll come back to check out what I learn.

The first interesting this I found is here at Dulles International Airport. They actually have Fox News stores in the terminal. Interestingly, they sell these little stuffed bears that advocate Hillary Clinton for President in 2008. No other candidates have bears, including Republicans! Hmmm....has Fox News seen the light? I doubt it, but it's interesting nonetheless.

My flight leaves shortly. Hope you're having a great day!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Ann Coulter Pro Gay???

Everybody has been talking about the hate spewing out of Ann Coulter's mouth during her speech at the Conservative mecca/meeting, CPAC. Clearly, she's doing what she does best: talking trash that gets her attention and the adoration of the most hateful people in America.

I'm hesitant to give her the time of day or any attention at all. Heavens forbid I help propogate her vindictiveness. So, Let me just say that she's a hateful, worthless, person.

That being said, there is something that hasn't gotten any attention from her speech. After her now-famous Edwards/faggot comment, she said something even more interesting. She insisted that she and the Republicans weren't anti-gay, just anti-gay marriage.

In the comments that ensued, she basically said that, just like blacks, she couldn't believe that gays aren't Republicans. She said "gays make a lot of money and are victims of crime." And, that "Republicans are anti-tax and anti-crime."

Hmmmm.....was that a tacit endorsement of including gays, lesbians, and transgendered folks in hate crimes law? I think it is!

So, the real story is that the right wing devil herself has endorsed pro-gay legislation. She may have even inadavertantly suggested that she was in favor of the Employment Nondiscrimation Act.

Instead of giving her attention for her usual hatefulness, let's embrace her for coming around to support equal rights for the LGBT folks who she usually hates. Perhaps she'll find a way to put it into more clear terms in the future. Until then, I'll take what I can get from that usually worthless b****.