11 – Helping Obama (21 Jan 09)

and a new Sampiemon column.

     Who in his or her right mind does not want to help Barack Obama succeed as President of the United States? Almost everyone in Europe hopes he does, so is the overwhelming general impression. And Europeans should help him, so write a number of American commentators. They should end their unwillingness to cooperate with Washington. What that means for the liberal hawks, over-represented among them, was conveyed by a Thomas Friedman column shortly after the election.
    This correspondent,

10 – Introducing Jan Sampiemon (21 Jan 09)

    One of the things to which this website hopes to contribute is an active European public sphere. I hope that others with an interest in political, economic, and social affairs, who lament the shortcomings of European media in providing a pan-European citizen forum, will want to do the same, so that we may establish new networks for relevant conversation.
     Too few European voices with something to say reach other Europeans even one border away. A collectivity of those could do much to offset the odd and undesirable fact that most of the world and much of Europe consumes “news” in the choices and sauces and in portions determined by American-British editors. While some of these editors are without question excellent, they themselves can benefit from choices and interpretations arrived at by journalists and essayists from outside the territories in which that wonderful language, which most of us use when meeting foreign friends, is the tool of daily conversation.
     One of those writers is Jan Sampiemon whose insights

9 – The Wastrel Son Of A Departed King (20 Jan 09)

or ingredients for a twentyfirst century Shakespeare 2 (see also portrait)

     This evening I will be joining three close friends who happen to be American to celebrate, in the words of one of them, the departure of the worst president ever. All my other American friends think of him the same way, although force of journalistic hedging habit prompts some to insert “one of” before “the worst”. And then, if my Tokyo friends have managed to stay awake – we are running 14 hours ahead of Washington – their attention will turn to the pomp and circumstance taking place over there. What they will see, as must occur to everyone else in the world watching the inauguration, is rather unlike the manner in which elected heads of government, as distinct from royal successors, take over in other countries.

8 – The Poverty of Hindsight (19 Jan 09)

    As the Bush years are now one day away from finally drawing to a close, what occurs to me is how much is lost in writing from hindsight. Sure, the gains that come with it are not open to dispute: often a better perspective as earlier unknown elements of the story fall into place, or revelations emerge that give it a dramatic twist. But there is something about the immediate experience of an event that, when conveyed with an effort, may contain knowledge about it that will be very difficult to recapture at a later stage. Which is why historians like diaries.
    Some knowledge just simply disappears. George Orwell

7 – The Clean Slate Illusion(18 Jan 09)

     “When it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future, as opposed [to] looking at what we got wrong in the past”, so said president elect Barack Obama when commenting on possible investigations of wrongdoing by the CIA and other American government agencies. I read this in the train to Tokyo (having just arrived from Shanghai) in the Daily Yomiuri. That paper, despite erratic editorial ups-and-downs,

6 – The Enemy Habit (Dec 08)

    One of the cardinal differences between the United States and most of Europe is rarely discussed. It concerns the political comfort that is derived from having enemies. Americans are not likely to discuss this because of a widespread assumption that they actually have genuinely threatening enemies. Europeans have, on the whole, not paid attention to the subject since most of them take it more or less for granted that not having enemies is preferable to having them, and assume that Americans can hardly disagree