America and the World Cup

The whole world is caught up in the excitement of the World Cup, the global championship of soccer. This is a true world series, involving virtually every nation in the world, all of whom care passionately about it. Except the United States! We have a team, which opens the tournament Saturday in South Africa in a game against England, but who here is noticing?

What I want to know is this: Why is the United States so apathetic when it comes to soccer? You could say that it isn’t part of our culture, and yet our kids play it, and many parents take that very seriously. Do even soccer-playing kids follow the World Cup? Despite the low scores, soccer can be an exciting game. The scores are no lower than hockey–in fact, the games are very similar, except hockey is on ice–and that sport is a big deal in this country (ask Chicago Blackhawk fans, whose team just won that championship). So how do you account for America’s lack of interest in soccer, unlike virtually every other country in the world? We get all excited about the Olympics, even with less popular sporting events. Shouldn’t we get similarly psyched up about the World Cup?

UPDATE:  The American team took a 1-1 draw with England, which counts as a major upset!  England is ranked way up there as a contender for the championship, and a tie gives you a point and undefeated status in the tournament.  C’mon, everybody:  U-S-A!  U-S-A!  U-S-A!

War between the states?

OK, it’s not on the scale of 1862, but since California is threatening to boycott Arizona because of its new law  evicting illegal immigrants, Arizona is threatening to cut off California’s electricity.  Los Angeles gets 25% of its power from Arizona.

via Power Play Over Immigration Law | NBC Los Angeles.

The decline and fall of American power?

Richard Cohen says that America just doesn’t have much effect on world events anymore.  He starts with the President’s visit to the oil spill. . .

Everyone knew that Obama was merely showing that he was not George W. Bush. He was not going to ignore a calamity, especially one affecting New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. On the other hand, we all knew that he could not reverse the winds or cork the spill. In fact, he could do precious little except show that he cared.

This was a symbolic moment — the tide, menacing the coast with oil, moving its own way, just as events across the globe seem to be. We are accustomed to American presidents being supremely important if for no other reason than that they command the world’s mightiest military. But we ought to appreciate also that presidential importance, in terms of being able to influence events, is slipping.

In the Middle East, nothing Obama has done has made much of a difference. In Europe, the euro teeters. As critical as this currency is, it is far less important than the concept of European integration upon which it is based. We tend to forget that Europe is the home office of awful wars — twice in the last century we got involved — and if you include Russia as part of Europe, as some Russians insist, then we have to count the Cold War, too. As for Russia, it shrugs off American complaints and moves progressively backward — not a European democracy, just something else.

On the periphery of Europe is Turkey, seeking to reestablish some of the influence the Ottoman Empire once had in the region. It may also be reverting to a more Islamic state, possibly concluding that nearly a century of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's secularism is enough. Whatever the case, there isn't much we can do about Turkey, either. It no longer needs the United States as a Cold War ally, and it even blocked military access to Iraq at the start of the war. The waning pull of the American present can no longer match the pull of the Ottoman past. Israel,

China, too, is beyond our reach. In some ways, we need it more than it needs us. We owe Beijing money. We buy China’s goods. We respect its growing might. We rue our diminishing power. We muffle our concern over human rights. We are a superpower. But against what?

American conservatives look at the defeats and disappointments, and they fulminate about Obama. They call him weak and inept — and surely in some areas he has been both. But they are wrong in thinking that another person would make much of a difference. Times have changed. America’s power is diminished — relatively, for sure, but absolutely as well.

via Richard Cohen – A superpower — and a president — with declining clout.

Is this just liberal glee at America’s decline?  Or evidence of an ineffective government?  Or is this a good thing, a recognition that some things are beyond our control that is necessary for a realistic approach to the world?

Europe abandoning what America is embracing

From  Europe rewrites its rule book in creating fund to contain financial crisis:

The massive emergency fund assembled to defend the value of the euro is backed by a political gamble with an uncertain outcome: that European governments will rewrite a post-World War II social contract that has been generous to workers and retirees but has become increasingly unaffordable for an aging population.

So Europe is drawing back from the social democratic welfare state JUST AS the United States is adopting the social democratic welfare state.

Statehood for Puerto Rico?

Are we ready for a 51st state? Where would we put the additional star in the flag?

The House on Thursday approved legislation that could set in motion changes in Puerto Rico’s 112-year relationship with the United States, including a transition to statehood or independence.

The House bill would give the 4 million residents of the island commonwealth a two-step path to expressing how they envision their political future. It passed 223 to 169 and now must be considered by the Senate.

Initially, eligible voters, including those born in Puerto Rico but residing in the United States, would vote on whether they wish to keep their current political status or opt for a different direction.

If a majority are in favor of changing the current situation, the Puerto Rican government would be authorized to conduct a second vote, and people would choose among four options: statehood, independence, the current commonwealth status or sovereignty in association with the United States. Congress would have to vote on whether Puerto Rico becomes a state.

via House approves bill that would let Puerto Ricans vote on relationship with U.S..

What America owes to Haiti

Pat Robertson callously brought up the old legend that Haiti owed its independence from the French to a pact with the devil. That story probably originated as an attempt to answer the question how could a group of slaves in revolt defeat the French army that had conquered virtually all of Europe? Americans, whose country owes so much–including maybe its very existence–to that slave revolt, should credit not the devil but the Other Side.

In 1801, Napoleon Bonaparte, having defeated pretty much every European power except for England, turned his attention to the New World. He sent an army of nearly 50,000 troops to New Orleans to begin an occupation of the French holdings in America west of the Mississippi. His goal was evidently colonization. But some scholars think the reason he sent an army was to attack the British in Canada. While the army might have made its way up the Mississippi and through the wilderness to Canada, an easier way, with a surer supply of provisions, would have been to march through the United States. In fact, if Napoleon wanted to add the new country–which didn’t even have a standing army–to his empire, there was not much to stop him. Americans were on the verge of panic, including President Jefferson, who, though a supporter of the French Revolution, did not know what to do with Napoleon.

On the way to New Orleans, though, Napoleon ordered the fleet to stop first at Haiti to put down the slave revolt. The slaves of that colony, which had earned France much revenue from sugar and coffee, had risen up around the same time as the French Revolution, assuming that “liberty, equality, and fraternity,” applied to them as well. Under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the slaves won their freedom and established their own government. Napoleon resolved to crush it and put the slaves back into French service.

The vaunted French army, however, could not defeat the free Haitians! They faded away into the landscape, only to come back at night with their machetes, terrorizing the French soldiers. And then yellow fever struck. Napoleon sent reinforcements, but to no avail. Some 24,000 French soldiers died in Haiti.

With this, Napoleon gave up his American ambitions. Instead, he sold the French possessions in America to the United States, a transaction known as the Louisiana Purchase.

So if you are glad America’s independence was not snuffed out shortly after birth, and if you are glad you are not ruled by the French, and if you live in what used to be the Louisiana Purchase, thank the Haitians. You can do that by helping them in their hour of great need by giving here.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X