On Military Bases in Far-Off Lands

How does Cuba, do Cubans, tolerate the presence of the US military base in Guantanamo?

The question isn’t directed to the symbolism that Guantanamo has taken on throughout the world in the last 5 years, which has to make having the place on the end of one’s island being the approximate equivalent to finding a really huge pile of dog turds in one’s prize flower beds just as the garden committee comes for a photo shoot.

No, my question is the more primitive one, not geo-political, but just human — what could the reaction possibly be from a country and its people, who for 50 years have:

  • been routinely vilified and cast as evil by their northern neighbors (meaning us, the good people of the US of A)?
  • been economically boycotted?
  • been bombarded with lame propaganda?
  • basically received nothing from us but insults and grief, constantly?

Yeah, I wonder what Cuba thinks every morning on waking up, finding this gonad-heavy, frisbee-infested military base belonging to a country that hates it and is only there because of some sort of great-grandfather clause? It must be very humiliating. It must be infuriating.

I bet they even hate us for our freedom.

Anyway, after wondering about this all these years, there was a certain satisfaction this morning on reading a statement on the Reuters website by Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa saying that he would only renew America’s lease on its air base on Ecuador’s Pacific coast, if America would allow Ecuador to install a similar base near Miami, Florida. In his own words:

We’ll renew the base on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami — an Ecuadorean base. If there’s no problem having foreign soldiers on a country’s soil, surely they’ll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States.

Rafael Correa may not be a nice person, nor a good leader, I don’t know, but it is reassuring to hear a country’s leader say things out loud that ring true. The full article is here.

Echo of False Friends

It has just occurred to me that the word ‘start-up’, as it refers to a couple of geeks in a garage with an idea, so iconic of the froth years of the internet, creator of such success and so many failures, is such a powerful myth in France.

Here in France, it has become the word used to fill the unfortunate void created when the word ‘entrepreneur’, which was coined right here many years ago, was quickly abandoned by frenchpersonnes because of its irrelevance to anything that could ever actually happen under the French economic rulebook.

What fascinates about all this is that although frenchpersonnes talk, rather wistfully, about ‘start-ups’ all the time, most of them are actually thinking to themselves, ‘up-starts’.

So they got the syllables right but just reversed them. Faux amis, indeed.

False Friends and Other Liberals

There’s an expression in the French language, ‘faux amis’, that sounds much better than the english equivalent, ‘false friends’ or as the philologists like to say, ‘false cognates’.

It refers to words that mean one thing in French and something completely different in English. An example is ‘chair’, which you can sit on in English, but is flayed off your body by packs of rabid dogs in French, ie, ‘flesh’.

Another is ‘bras’, which is short for brassieres in English, but is a simple ‘arm’ in French. Interestingly, a bra in French is a ‘soutien-gorge’ (‘throat support’) and the word ‘brassiere’ which looks and sounds French, doesn’t even exist, although ‘brazier’ does exist and it means a BBQ pit. So go figure.

One of the most extraordinary faux amis, mainly because it is so archly, evilly faux, is the word ‘liberal’.

In America, a liberal is a creature who would like to help poor people, raise spending on infrastructure and healthcare, and sacrifice a little something personal to bring peace to the world and mitigate climate change. One American online dictionarary defines her as ‘favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.’ Although this might sound Christ-like, in truth, an American liberal is a leftie.

In Europe (which France is part of) and the Rest of World, a liberal is one who believes in free markets and trade, and thinks that there’s nothing wrong in making a decent (or better) living. A European liberal is a rightie.

In France, which is a very peculiar subset of Europe, the definition of a liberal has been enhanced to the point where a new name had to coined, ‘le néo-libérale’. A neo-liberal is someone who believes in free markets and trade, who thinks that there’s nothing wrong in making money (blahblah), but really only thinks about exploiting workers and children, eats babies for breakfast, and is most assuredly a member of a sinister, secret cabal hellbent on destroying French culture. There is something inherently Anglo-Saxon about neo-liberalism and that adds to the frenzy.

That is why François Fillon’s message to a major ruling party political conference yesterday, as reported by Le Monde, is so remarkable. M. Fillon, prime minister of President Sarkozy’s France came out and said:

N’AYEZ AUCUNE HONTE À ÊTRE LIBÉRAUX !

Do not be ashamed to be liberals!, he said to a roomful of cheering Frenchpersonnes. Go forth and work long hours! Take risks! Innovate!

I am expecting the Rush Limbaugh types of Old Europe, who in France are not neo-fascist jackboots but rather tired old elephants of the Old Left, to pull out their hair in protest, yell Scandal. This has never been seen in France.

Faux amis, indeed! Sometimes false friends are better then false enemies.

Sweet Energy Perspectives 1

Back in the late 80′s, early 90′s, when I was living happily ever after in Newport RI, US of A, I published a newsletter on my faithful MacPlus called the New Hydronics News. The NHN dealt with America’s appalling approach to energy use in the very specific domain of residential and commercial confort control, aka HVAC, aka heating/cooling systems.

I had 2 reasonable motivations for creating that monthly journal. One was that I was considered by some to be the ‘guru of heating in America’, and sustaining that honorific required that I publish (to better perish later). The other was that I was considered by most everyone else living in the amber waves of grain to be the devil incarnate, a greenie pinko commie, and thus, un-American in every way. Every month for 4 years, I challenged the heating community for its in-your-face, narcissistic profligacy that so characterized the US of A during the Reagan/Bush I years (and shows few signs of winding down at present), until one day, some guys in a pickup truck yelled out out me, “Hey pinko, if you don’t like it here, why don’t you move to, uh, mmm… France!” Which I think is what I did.

I remember in one issue of NHN, around the time of GBush I’s war on Iraq, I quoted Meyer, Travis McGee’s best friend in John MacDonald’s wonderful series of thrillers, when he said something like

The US has 6% of the world’s population and uses 30% of the world’s oil, plywood, white paint, peanut butter, rubber bands and suntan lotion. We want the rest of the world to love us, to emulate us. What happens if the wish comes true? Will 100% of the world’s population need 500% of the ressources we Americans use now? Has anyone besides me thought this through?

This he said in 1965 or thereabouts. When I quoted this 25 years later, the message was still as futile amongst the grass-roots of l’Amérique profonde.

Fast forward almost 20 years and no one outside the US of A doubts the wisdom of these words (even Australia is coming around). Incredibly, within the States, there are still so many people who can’t get their head around all this. Twenty years ago, GBush I famously said as he cheerleaded Iraq war I: ‘the American lifestyle is not on the table’.

With this as backdrop, and as we speed into the peak-oil era, where the only real comfort is the deeply human thought that catastrophe is only catastrophe if I’m still alive to see it, I want to start writing again about living in the world as though these things really matter.

I’ll conclude this first post with a citation from Berkeley Professor Tad Patzek, who writes about biofuel issues (thank you Oil Drum). He analyzes how much of the earth’s surface would be required to generate the energy requirements to drive a car 23000 km (15000 miles) a year with diverse energy options presently being considered by non-deniers.

1 m2 of medium-quality oil fields needs 620 m2 of corn fields to replace gasoline with corn ethanol and pay for the free energy costs of the ethanol production. [Putting this in perspective...], one can drive our example car for one year from ~30 m2 of oil fields, 90 m2 of photovoltaic cells, 1100 m2 of wind turbines, and ~18000 m2 of corn fields.

Has anyone thought this through?

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Mini-me?

I’ve just learned that there is another person on this planet with the name Denny Adelman. I don’t understand how this can be possible, but since I found his name on the internet, he must be real.

He sits on the architectural commission of a small suburb of Dallas TX USA and approves the construction of picket fences around lawns, swimming pools, and since he is in TX, just maybe between country borders, around immigrant campments, or to hide secret extraterrestrial vehicles that are carefully hoarded by secret government agencies, too.

Of course, I don’t really know what he’s like. Does he have a wife and kids? An SUV? Does he play golf with Carl Rove? Some questions will never find answers. Others are just as well without. I’ll let this one sleep.

Addenda: No Sleep for the Wary Department…

Googled myself for the first time (it’s not that I’m less vain than you are, just that the idea never occurred to me) and discovered that there are several Denny Adelmans wondering about the US of A. Bet I’m the only one in France, though.